Category Archives: Rant Alert

Just me ranting about whatever…

Rant Alert: Star Wars, Marvel Comics, & Reboots

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Okay, so the last six months or so have been pretty traumatic for fan-nerds. First, to pave the way for the upcoming new Star Wars movies, comics, shows, etc. it was decided by Disney’s Star Wars story group that all previous Star Wars Expanded Universe content would be labeled “legends” while everything produced by Disney from now on would be officially canon. Many understood the reasoning and were okay with it. A very vocal group of the fan community, on the other hand, started their own version of a digital rebel alliance and declared war on Disney’s Empire. Then, last week Marvel announced that their upcoming Secret Wars event would lead into Battleworld, where various incarnations of the Marvel characters would duke it out for survival resulting in a “new” main Marvel comics universe.  Speculation has since run rampant and the word “reboot” has been bandied about enthusiastically ever since. The problem is both announcements have lead to a lot of confusion and misunderstandings about what, exactly, is happening. Some of this confusion is due to the original announcements not being very clear or detailed about what is going to happen. A lot more is due to people completely losing their shit over what amounts to a reading comprehension failure. The following will attempt to clear some things up:

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Let’s start with Star Wars. Disney bought Lucasfilm and with it came the rights to Star Wars. Disney has since announced that both a new trilogy and a series of stand alone movies have gone into production. They have also released, or are currently developing, several TV shows, a new comics line from Marvel, video games, and novels. The problem is there’s a good 30 years worth of Expanded Universe content already floating out there in the form of novels and comics that have already exhaustively covered the events after Return of the Jedi all the way through a century after the battle of Yavin from A New Hope. That’s one hundred years worth of EU continuity. Some of those novels, and particularly the comics, were extremely well done, well loved by fans, and helped to keep Star Wars alive before, and even more so after the lackluster-downright hatred of, the prequels. The rest was mediocre to downright horrible. In fact, if most fans (and I am a HUGE Star Wars fan. I own pretty much all of the EU content available) are honest with themselves, for every great novel there have been a good five not so great ones. This is especially true in the last decade when Star Wars moved away from one shots and trilogies and tried to do long form stories that lasted for years.

So if you’re Disney, what do you do with all of that if you want to move forward with new material?  You start fresh.

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All of the pre-existing Star Wars EU has been re-branded “Legends” and is no longer considered to be canon (even though George Lucas was always very clear that as far as he was concerned, it was never canon). It’s now just considered fun “what if” stories or, as the name implies, tales from the Star Wars universe that may have nuggets of truth to them. The term they chose, “Legends”, is significant, and we’ll discuss why in a moment. So what is officially canon now?

star wars moviesThe Original Movie Saga

epsevenThe New Movies

clonewarsThe Clone Wars TV Series

starwarsrebelsStar Wars Rebels TV Series

61nnfCs+IFL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Marvel’s Star Wars Comics

starwarsnewnovelsAll Star Wars Novels Moving Forward (Starting with A New Dawn)

So why was it significant that they branded the old EU “Legends”? As John Jackson Miller, author of A New Dawn, pointed out “Legends” doesn’t mean it never happened or that elements of those tales might not be true.  Both he and Dave Filoni (Clone Wars, Rebels) have openly stated that the previous EU material is not off limits to any of the creators of future Star Wars content. They’re free to use or adapt any of it into this new continuity. The movies, themselves, have already borrowed elements from the EU. The capital world of Coruscant was first introduced in Timothy Zahn’s Heir to the Empire novel. The double bladed lightsaber Maul used in The Phantom Menace was first seen in Star Wars comics done by Dark Horse.  Both Clone Wars and Rebels have brought in elements from the EU as well: Holocrons, Darth Bane, Republic Commandos. In James Lucado’s new novel, Tarkin, he references events from his previous two Star Wars novels that were published under the old banner, Dark Lord and Darth Plagueis, thus bringing them both into canon.

So the old EU is not dead, and there’s still a possibility that elements, characters, or even story-lines that fans loved could still be brought into official canon through future content.

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Marvel’s upcoming Secret Wars is supposed to bring the Marvel Universe as we know it to a close. The main Marvel universe (616) collides with the Ultimate universe, and the result of the “Secret Wars” between the two universes will be Battleworld, where incarnations of the characters from major stories throughout Marvel history (Age of Apocalypse, Planet Hulk, Civil War, Pre-OMD Spidey, Ultimate Spidey,. etc.) will exist in different parts of the planet, with everyone duking it out for survival.

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…Yeah, it’s kind of confusing.

What it isn’t is a reboot.

Everywhere I look online people keep calling it a reboot.

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It’s not. A reboot, in comic terms, implies that they’re starting over fresh with a new continuity. That’s just not what is going to happen. The past, for any of the universes that collide, will still have happened. The characters that survive and end up in whatever the new Marvel universe looks like will still remember what happened, will still be the same characters they were before. Their history happened and affected them. It all still matters. This isn’t a New 52. They aren’t wiping anything out, they’re just blowing everything up. What we’ll be left with, from everything they’ve released, is a new Marvel universe made up of versions of characters from the 616, Ultimate, Age of Apocalypse, and whatever all thrown together. For example, the Wolverine of the 616 may be dead, but when this is over we could have the Wolverine from AoA or Old Man Logan alive and kicking. Miles Morales from Ultimate comics Spider-Man may be swinging around with a still-married Peter Parker. We don’t know for sure, but we’ll see.

But it’s not a reboot so please stop saying it.

I hope this clears some things up for those of you who have been wondering just what the hell has been going on.

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The Thick Man on Food: Cafe Telegraph

You’re hungry, you’re feeling lazy, and fast food of any kind sounds disgusting but you don’t want to go the same sit down places you always go to. It happens to us all. So what do you do? Sure, you could check Yelp and rely on the opinions of strangers; but I ask you, dear reader, who knows more about food than a fat guy?  In this ongoing series I’m going to review local Saint Louis restaurants that my wife and I have discovered where you can be sure to find tasty food well worth your time and hard earned cash.

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Where: Cafe Telegraph

Type of Food: Bar and Grill that specializes in pork BBQ.

Price: Middle of the road, but you get a ton of food for the money.

Fat People Friendly?: The booths are attached to the wall and will be a no-go for the extremely thick. Chairs at the tables are padded but get uncomfortable after a while.

Kid Friendly?: They do have a decent selection of food for the kiddos, and a few arcade games at the front of the store. Also, at Christmas time someone dresses as Santa Claus and comes through the restaurant periodically during the dinner rush to hand out candy. It was really sweet.

Review: My wife and I decided to give this little gem a try on a whim one evening when we were out with our son and didn’t feel like cooking. Boy are we glad we did. Cafe Telegraph has become one of our regular spots, and once you give their food a try it’ll become an out to eat staple you’ll want to tell your friends about. The menu offers a variety of typical Bar and Grill staples, like burgers and even Saint Louis style pizza, but the specialty here is the pork. They offer a variety of unique pork burgers that are both tasty and freaking huge. For example, the one pound Mary Mother Triple Bacon Burger made with ground pork and bacon, topped with two panko encrusted bacon strips, more crumbled bacon, onion straws, jalapenos, and gringo cheese dip (freaking delicious!) all on Texas toast. It comes with a side of your choice and costs $11.99. This was the first thing I ever tried and I could only finish half. Over the course of the last year my wife and I have tried quite a few of their various dishes, including their wraps, pasta, and various entree options like meat loaf and steak. Everything we’ve tried we’ve enjoyed. Especially the fried okra. It’s the best fried okra I’ve ever had. Ever!

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The Thick Man Reccomends: While you can’t go wrong with just about anything on the menu, the reason we go there once a week and have become Cafe Telegraph evangelicals to our friends and family is the Matt’s Big Bruiser Pork Steak. This monster is a 3 lb(!) pork steak with a sweet dry rub and two sides for $16.99. It’s slow cooked to perfection and practically falls off the bone. It is also the best BBQ I’ve ever had in my life. I say this as a man who grew up in Memphis, TN around Memphis BBQ.  Best. Pork. Ever. My wife and I split one of these bad boys whenever we go in and we both leave feeling stuffed. Two grown adults, one of them thick,  stuffed to the gills with delicious food for $17? That right there is a deal. We’ve dragged all of our friends and family out to Cafe Telegraph to give it a try, and they’ve all walked away with the same reaction. They’ve also all become regular customers. If you live in the STL area, or if you happen to come through, do yourself a favor and pay Cafe Telegraph a visit and give this a try. Tell them the Thick Man sent you.

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Down With the Thickness 2: Stay at Home Dad Boogaloo Part 1

DWTT Final Cover

I know this site has been really quiet these past few months. I’ve got a very good reason for that: on April 1st I got married to the most wonderful woman on the planet. Yes, that’s right. My wedding day was on April Fools.  We eloped, so the responses when we announced the good news on social media and through phone calls was about as entertaining as you’d expect. Every anniversary from here on out will be a ton of fun as well, I’m sure.

My wife has a four year old son. We’ve been dating for three years so I’ve been around since he was a year and a half, so this isn’t an entirely new experience for any of us. There isn’t a time in his life that he can remember where I wasn’t a part of the picture. The only real difference is I’m around all the time now as opposed to just a few times a week. I didn’t think that the difference would be that huge of an adjustment. Boy was I wrong. I worked as a youth director for close to a decade. I’ve designed and run after school programs, summer camps, and various other types of youth programs. I’ve been around kids, taught kids, practically helped raise other people’s kids my entire adult life. Again, I figured helping to raise a step-son wouldn’t be that much harder. I moved in like I was the new sheriff in town, completely confident in my ability to be a stay-at-home dad.

Boy, was I REALLY wrong there, too.

Let me tell you, there is a huge difference between taking care of someone else’s kids and taking care of your own. For one thing, when it’s someone else’s bundle of joy you get to send their little whiny butts home at the end of the day. I’ve always been a pretty solitary person but I enjoy being with the people that I love. My wife is my best friend and I enjoy her company most of all, even if it’s just sitting on a couch together doing absolutely nothing. That said, when you’re married with a young kid very seldom do you have ANY time alone. At all. Not even in the bathroom when you’re taking the browns to the super bowl. No, I’m not kidding, single folk.

Not. Even. Then.

That’s been a huge adjustment for me. I didn’t realize just how alone I was and how much I’d gotten used to it until I got married and moved in with my new family. Now from the moment I get up until the moment my son goes to bed I have a tiny hyperactive person, often literally, all over me. My only breaks are when I can get him to play in the bathtub (hooray bubble bath and toys!) or to take a nap (prepare for war). Before my idea of relaxation was to spend an entire day reading the new Dresden book or playing a video game. Now my idea of a relaxing vacation is parking in the Dairy Queen parking lot and eating a chicken strip basket while listening to an audiobook for half an hour.

That’s not to say that the experience thus far has been bad. Far from it. It’s just been…tiring. More tiring than I was expecting. Like I said, there has been a period of adjustment for us all, along with all the other fun trials and tribulations of everyday life that crop up. Trying to get student loans taken care of and all the fun red tape that comes with it. My wife has switched jobs. I’ve gotten hurt a few times in the last few months- my knee and my back- reminders that I’m not as young or spry as I used to be, which is made even more difficult and frustrating when it keeps me from being the dad that I want to be. I’ve also had to get to know my kid all over again under a different paradigm. He’s just now developing a little personality and learning to communicate and I’m used to working with slightly older kids, so it’s been difficult to adjust my expectations from him. I don’t want to be too hard on him, but at the same time I don’t want to be a push over either. He is a super smart kid. I mean, REALLY smart. With that comes the ability to know how to get your way and he is not above using emotional manipulation to his extreme advantage. He’s also so smart that it’s hard not to get frustrated with him quickly when he has difficulty with “simple” things that you’d think he’d catch on to right away. That’s not his fault, it’s mine, and it’s something I’ve had to try and avoid doing. Patience is definitely something that I’m working on.

A lot.

My experiences with kids has certainly helped, but this new sheriff isn’t exactly Buford Pusser. It’s been a learning curve, and one I’m still riding. I’m going to make an effort to update here more often about my experiences as a new dad. As for the writing, I finished my latest novel and am in the process of working up query letters to send out to agents. It’s slow going, for obvious reasons. That said, I really think that this book is “the one”. It is I think, by far, my best work to date, and responses from test readers has been really positive. Hopefully I’ll find an agent, and shortly after that a publisher that feels the same way.

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Sci-Fi & Fantasy Books That Every Geek Should Read: Updated for 2015!

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I often find myself in need of a good book to read, but sometimes it’s hard to know where to look. Sometimes really great books and series fall through the cracks and you never hear about them; so I thought that I’d make a handy little guide for fellow geeks who are jonesing for something well written and entertaining. There are tons out there, and this list is hardly all-inclusive. These are just some of my very favorites from recent years outside of the obvious like Lord of the Rings, Hitchhiker’s Guide, Wheel of Time, Discworld, or Game of Thrones/A Song of Ice and Fire. The following are 10 series or stand alone books that I think every geek should read. The order of the list is not meant to be a ranking, as I love every single one of them for different reasons. Click the link in each of the titles to be taken to where you can find out more info and pick them up.

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1. The Dresden Files Series by Jim Butcher

What’s it about?

Harry Dresden is Chicago’s only professional wizard. It’s true. You can even find him in the yellow pages. This is, by far, my absolute favorite series ever. Whenever a new story comes out it’s like a personal holiday for me, and I don’t stop reading until I’m done. There are 16 books in the series so far, if you include the collection of shorts, Side Jobs. The 17th, Peace Talks, should be out sometime next year. It’s an urban fantasy series that features wizards slinging magic, one of the best takes on vampires I’ve ever seen, and just about every kind of boogidy-boo from any religion or myth you can think of. Harry is a witty, sarcastic badass, and a hell of a lot of fun. The series starts a bit slowly and it takes the first three books to set the foundation of the larger world that the series is built on; but even those first three books are tons of fun, and once you get started you won’t want to stop. As a bonus, the audio books are read by James Marsters (yep, Spike from Buffy/Angel) and he rocks it. Worth checking out.

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 2. The Iron Druid Chronicles by Kevin Hearne

What’s it about?

The Iron Druid Chronicles is another urban fantasy series that follows Atticus, the world’s only remaining Druid. He’s over 2000 years old and he still looks like he’s in his early 20’s and he manages to piss off vampires, witches, and just about every pantheon of gods there are and kick off Ragnarok in the process. Atticus is another fun character to follow, but it’s his dog, Oberon, who through magic can talk to Atticus, that steals the show. There are currently 7 books published with the 8th hopefully next year. Really fun, quick reads, especially if you need something to tie you over until you can get your next Dresden fix. This series has become a favorite of my wife and her friends after I introduced them to it through the marvelous audio versions read brilliantly by Luke Daniels.

Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey

3. Sandman Slim Series by Richard Kadrey

What’s it about?

Stark is a naturally talented magician who is betrayed by his jealous friend and sent to Hell. While in Hell he becomes the top gladiator in the arena and one of the chief lieutenant demon’s personal assassin. After killing his master and escaping Hell, Stark sets out to avenge the death of the love of his life and take vengeance on those who betrayed him… and that’s just the first book. The series is a gritty fantasy noir tale that’s much darker than the previous two on the list, but just as much fun to read. Kadrey gives us a really fun anti-hero in Stark, and paints a really creative take on Heaven, Hell, God, and the universe. There are currently 6 books in the series with the seventh set to come out at the end of July.

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4. The Joe Pitt Casebooks by Charlie Huston

What’s it about?

Sticking with the gritty noir theme we have the Joe Pitt casebooks by Charlie Huston. Joe Pitt is a rogue vampyre (yes, that’s how it’s spelled) who works jobs for the various vampyre clans of New York just to get by. These books are supernatural noir thrillers and are closer to horror than any of the previous series. As dark as they are, they’re still an excellent and fairly original take on the tired vampire genre and well worth a read. Comic fans may recognize Huston by his work for Marvel Comics, most notably Vol. 5 of Moon Knight. The audiobooks, narrated by Scott Brick, are also excellent.

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5. The Gentleman Bastard Series by Scott Lynch

What’s it about?

The Gentleman Bastards are a gang of elite con artists that pray on the nobility and break the “secret peace” that all of the gangs have with law enforcement of the kingdom of Camorr. The series is High Fantasy for people who are tired of the typical political boredom of the genre. Scott Lynch is a talented writer who injects a ton of humor into his stories, and the books themselves feature characters you love and settings that vary from a fantasy medieval Venice to the high seas. There are currently three books in the series, with more planned. I cannot recommend these enough.

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6. The Myth Adventures Series by Robert Asprin

What’s it about?

The Myth series was my introduction into fantasy as a child and I still love these books. Before Mr. Asprin died a few years ago the series had numbered in the 20’s (he wrote the last few along with another author), but the series itself started in the 1970’s. The books follow magician Skeeve and his friends on their various adventures through the dimensions. It’s a fun fantasy series very similar to Pratchett’s Discworld novels in tone. They’re also quick “popcorn” reads, so perfect if you want an entertaining story that isn’t too long.

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7. The Icarus Hunt by Timothy Zahn

What’s it about?

Zahn is probably best known for his work in Star Wars. The Icarus Hunt is a stand alone sci-fi thriller that follows down-on-his-luck pilot Jordan McKell and his alien partner as they’re hired by a wealthy billionaire to fly the mysterious ship Icarus and it’s cargo to Earth. Jordan and his crew quickly find themselves in over their heads  when they find out that the most powerful aliens in the galaxy are after them and their ship. Nothing, and no one, is what it seems in this book and it has an ending that truly surprised me with it’s twist. Great, great read.

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8. The Dune Chronicles by Frank Herbert

What’s it about?

Dune is probably an obvious no-brainer to a lot of you, but I’m still surprised by just how many people haven’t read the original novels and only know Dune by it’s really weird movie starring Sting. Dune is to sci-fi what Lord of the Rings is to fantasy. It’s a must read. Period. It was also a largely influential book for me personally, and it’s one of the things that really encouraged me to want to be a writer myself. There are tons of Dune books that have been written by Frank Herbert’s son and Kevin J. Anderson. They range from “decent” to outright horrible. The ones that I feel everyone should read are the original 5 by the master himself.

redshirts9. Redshirts by John Scalzi

What’s it about?

As any Star Trek fan knows, it was a running joke that on the Original Series that if a crew member was wearing a red shirt and was not a part of the main crew when the away team beamed down to the planet, they weren’t coming back. Red shirts were the cannon fodder for all the various monsters, out of control robots, and menacing alien threats that the crew encountered every week. This brilliant novel by John Scalzi doesn’t just put the focus on those poor bastards, but asks the question- what happens when they start to put two and two together and realize what’s going on? I don’t want to spoil any of the fun of the concept by giving too much away. Let’s just say that if you’re a fan of Star Trek, Galaxy Quest, or just sci-fi with a comical twist, this book is definitely for you. The audiobook is particularly fun, especially since it’s read by none other than Wil Wheaton.

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10. The Grimnoir Chronicles by Larry Correia

What’s it about?

The Grimnoir novels are set in an alternate-history 1930’s where magic is real and commonplace and turns everyday people (and a lot of famous figures from history) into superhumans. The Amazon quote calls it a cross of Twilight and The Maltese Falcon, and that makes me want to gut punch the guy who wrote it. It’s nothing like Twilight. No. Thing. A better comparison would be a cross between Heroes (the first season before it sucked) and The Maltese Falcon. The idea behind the Grimnoir novels is one of the most original, fun, and exciting ideas I’ve ever seen. I LOVED these books and the entire concept. It’s one of those things where I both love Correia for writing them, and hate him because he came up with the idea before I could. The series is three novels long (with an additional three short stories, two of which are audiobook-only and can be found on Audible) and the author himself just confirmed on Twitter that a new trilogy set in the 1950’s is in the works. Now is your chance to get caught up on the series. Trust me, you won’t regret it.

J.R. Broadwater is the author of the non-fiction book Down with the Thickness: Viewing the World From a Fat Guy’s Perspective, the sci-fi detective novel You Only Die Twice, the fantasy novels The Chosen: Rebirthing Part 1 & 2, and the superhero tale Just Super, all available now in digital and paperback formats. Sample chapters and more information about these books can be found here. Kindle editions are all available for $0.99.

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*Updated* Rant Alert: The Narrow Road- A “Struggling With Faith” Follow Up

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Hello everyone and happy holidays. It’s been a while since I’ve updated the site. I’ve been taking a bit of a break and focusing on some personal stuff here lately. With the new year I’ll be starting fresh and hitting the keyboard hard and I hope to be updating something here on a fairly regular basis again. I decided to break my silence today because I received a message earlier letting me know that someone had left a comment in an article I wrote back in July: Struggling With Faith and Belief. The commenter’s name is Rebecca, and she said that she had stumbled across the article this morning. I’ll go ahead and post her entire comment:

It’s Christmas Day. I found this page after a discussion with my agnostic husband. I was raised in the church. God seemed to “bless” me with an exceptionally analytical mind. I’ve been careening down this path towards unbelief for a few years now, asking those hard questions, trying to let go of the faith safety blanket. He gave us a thinking brain for a reason. I hold onto a thread of belief. This has taken me down dark roads. And many terrible things have happened over the last few years that add to the questions. Thank you for your honesty. My deeply spiritual mother has been the only “Believer” I’ve been able to be honest with about the depths of this struggle. I don’t know where I’d be without her. But even then, I need my own footing for when she’s gone. I hope you’ve found answers.

Rebecca’s comment really hit me where I’ve lived in the past few weeks, as I’ve had this very subject on my mind a lot lately. I’ve found that there are a LOT of people struggling with their faith. Most are afraid to talk about it with friends and loved ones because it’s not an easy subject to discuss. Most believers tend to go on the offensive whenever the subject is brought up, and most people who are struggling with these types of issues really don’t feel like getting into a heated debate where they’re bullied into toeing the line by well-intentioned people doing “God’s work”. It’s hard enough trying to figure this stuff out without feeling like you’re being interrogated or a lawyer fighting a court case. It’s a deeply personal thing. It’s a very difficult thing, especially if your spiritual beliefs have been a cornerstone of your life for a large period of time, as mine have been. My beliefs were more than just my religion, they’ve been my entire life the last fifteen years as I’ve went to school to study theology, psychology, social sciences, etc. in order to be a more effective minister, and as I’ve served in ministry both as a volunteer and full time as a licensed professional.

I’ve struggled with things off and on for a few years now, but it wasn’t until the last year when I started seriously questioning things and examining what I believe and why. I’ve come to terms with some things, as I mentioned in my previous article.  I’ve both seen and experienced far too much to question whether or not there is a higher power/God. I know that there is. Where I still find myself struggling is in the day to day things. The finer things. The technicalities. I’m not sure what I really “identify” myself as anymore. I find that the more I think about what Christians as a whole believe, why they believe, and how they live their lives and express those beliefs (and more to the point, how that affects those around them) I’m not so sure the label “Christian” fits so much anymore, or more to the point, I’m not so sure I like what it’s come to stand for to people. I find I have difficulty in judging my own life and the lives of those around me based solely on the Bible- a collection of books that were found, translated thousands of times in throusands of different ways, and that we can’t prove that is the “infallible Word of God” no matter how much many people may believe that it is. The entire Old Testament is completely suspect, given the historical inaccuracies, contradictions, and the fact that many of the earlier “origin” stories (such as the flood account, for instance) were lifted from other, older cultures.

The New Testament has more going for it in that we at least have a good portion of letters that we can pretty much confirm were actually written by apostles of the first church, namely Paul and Peter, but we also have four Gospels, the only accounts of Christ’s ministry while He was on the Earth, that weren’t written by those who were actually there, but were written close to a century after His death and named after apostles to lend credibility. Two of the four Gospels (Matthew and Luke) actually lift a good portion of their text word for word from a single unidentified source, Q, and the rest from the influence of the book of Mark, among others. John doesn’t even bother to do that. I guess he didn’t have the same cheat sheet they did.  That’s not to mention all the other apocryphal books that have also been found, often written by the same authors as those in the Bible, that didn’t make the cut for various political/spiritual/whatever reasons.

Anyway, it just doesn’t seem to be a very firm foundation to base an entire belief structure on- especially when said belief structure is used to determine how one should live their life and judge others by how they live theirs (even though the very texts themselves say specifically not to judge others, but then they kinda do, and so on. No wonder no one can freaking agree on anything). Personally, I just got tired of being down on myself and feeling guilty for being a normal human being. I got tired of being worried all the time about what everyone else would think of me and how I live my life and feeling like I had to put on this mask and be “perfect” for fear of losing my job. I got tired of seeing people passing down judgements on others, shunning them, shaming them, simply because they’re acting like the people God made them to be (God forbid! Don’t you know you must be like us?! One of us…one of us…). Its exhausting and disheartening and after well over a decade of it I’d just had enough of watching groups of people who profess to exemplify the love of God turning and feeding on each other like piranha.

That’s not to say that all Christians are that way, or even the majority. There are many who really do try to live good lives, that try to help others and be an example. They do very good works for those less fortunate than themselves. They try to live with integrity and compassion. That’s awesome. I also know quite a few non-believers who do the same just because they want to be decent human beings and don’t need God or a book to tell them to do it.

So that’s where I’m at right now. I’m still struggling to find the truth for myself. It’s an ongoing process and it’ll continue to be for the rest of my life, no doubt. I’m always open to a guiding hand or a word from On High, but until then I’m going to focus on living the kind of life that I think would make God proud- doing the best I can for my family and loved ones, treating others with respect and compassion, and always keeping an open mind while seeking the truth, not just jumping on the bandwagon and believing what’s easiest, the most popular, or the most comfortable. As before, I’m writing this not to goad anyone or to start a flame war/debate in the comment section. I’m writing it so that others like Rebecca can know that they aren’t alone and that there’s nothing wrong with using the brain God gave you to figure things out for yourself. It’s okay to doubt. It’s okay to ask questions. If it’s the truth and you are honestly seeking it, then you’ll find it (hey, that’s even Biblical!). Anyone who vehemently tells you any different is just afraid to do the same for themselves for fear of popping their spiritual safety bubble.

Have a safe and happy holiday everyone.

Update: I wanted to clarify something. In my little rant above I didn’t mean to imply that I don’t believe in any of it or that the baby should be thrown out with the bathwater, so to speak. We have evidence that shows Jesus was a real person. We can historically back up events of His life, death, and the early church. We have a pretty good idea about what He taught, and it was all good stuff. The point I was making is the same one I’ve been making for a while-where I’ve really been struggling with my faith is not with God/Jesus, but with the church and the accuracy/authority of the Bible itself and where I belong. I believe that Jesus is who He said He was. I believe that the events depicted in the New Testament, specifically the Gospels, are probably a solid place to start. What I do not believe is that they are word for word accurate, infallible, and should be used like ammunition against other people. I do not think that they give people the moral authority to lord over other people. I absolutely do not believe that Jesus would want His followers to do so in His name, especially to the point of harming others. It goes against the very thing that Jesus exemplified in the Gospels that those same people love to quote to validate themselves. “The Bible says…” is not a valid excuse for hate or intolerance, and if you can’t think for yourself outside of what a book says and check with the inner conscience God gave you to tell whether something is right or wrong then I believe you shouldn’t open your mouth in the first place. I believe that a relationship with God is so much more than what’s on a piece of paper and where you plant your butt once or twice a week. I believe that my beliefs are just that- my beliefs, and that every single one of you reading this right now should examine things for yourself and make up your own mind, worry about your own relationship with God, and mind your own business as opposed to being more concerned with how other people are living theirs. That’s what I believe.

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Rant Alert: Struggling With Faith- Peace

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I’ve made no secret that I’ve been struggling with my faith for the past year or so. I’ve written a few articles on the subject in the past few months, and those articles have spawned quite a few comments and discussions both here and on Facebook, which is good. The whole point of my writing about where I was at and how I was struggling wasn’t to test other people’s faith or to cause anyone to doubt or stumble, but to offer a sense of comfort to others who may be going through similar experiences. All too often spiritual leaders such as pastors, priests, etc. feel the need to internalize a lot of the problems they experience, doubts that they have, or other struggles because they have a responsibility to the people that look to them for guidance and as an example. It’s a tremendous responsibility and it can put a lot of pressure on us. We’re human, just like everyone else. We struggle, just like everyone else. We have doubts, questions, moments of weakness, moments of anger, and moments when we’re just completely burned out- just like everyone else. For a long time I felt like I had to hide those things and put on a happy face because it would look bad professionally and could have a negative impact on others if I didn’t. Then I realized while that may still be true, it’s stupid.

People need to realize that no one is perfect. No one has all the answers. We’re all just trying to do the best we can with what we have to work with. I felt that it would be more beneficial to be honest about my struggles than it would be to pretend everything was peachy. I thought that maybe it might give other people who are struggling a sense of comfort to know that they aren’t alone, that they aren’t “wrong” for feeling like they do, and that it’s okay.

Well, it is. It’s normal. God doesn’t hate you for doubting or asking questions. He doesn’t hate you because you might get angry with Him and feel like life is unfair. He doesn’t hate you if you don’t drink the kool-aid and believe everything you’re told by people who claim to be Christian just because they have the word “church” on the sign in front of their building. It’s okay.

I’ve been completely burned out spiritually, emotionally, and physically. I’ve been lashing out and cutting myself off from everything. I’ve been doubting pretty much everything. Basically, I’ve just been struggling with deep depression and when you’re in that place it’s hard to not feel like your life has been a total waste and therefore you as a productive human being have been a total waste. My whole life for the past 16 years has been directly tied up in my faith. It’s who I was. It’s how I identified myself and found a sense of self-worth. When everything came crashing down for the third time in the last decade or so, I just imploded. It was a slow process, like watching an explosion disintegrate everything in it’s path in slow motion, but it eventually was complete and I was left feeling empty.

You know the old saying that doctors make the worst patients? Well, that works for pastors as well. Whenever someone would try to comfort me or offer me advice it just would make me more upset. It fed into that frustration I was feeling. This was something that was incredibly personal and that I had to work out for myself. It was between me and God and our personal relationship. Again, I’m not saying everything is peachy. I still have doubts and questions. That hasn’t changed. I can say, however, that I finally feel like I’ve reached a place of peace, spiritually. Me and God are cool again, and for me that’s more important than any of the other stuff. Let’s face it, we’re never going to have all the answers. There are questions that we just won’t know the answer to until we pass on from this life. At that point we’ll either move on to whatever comes next and we’ll find out how right or wrong we were about things, or we’ll just cease to exist all together and it won’t really matter anyway. Either way, we still have a life to live in the meantime.

J.R. Broadwater is the author of the non-fiction book Down with the Thickness: Viewing the World From a Fat Guy’s Perspective, the sci-fi detective novel You Only Die Twice, the fantasy novel The Chosen: Rebirthing Part 1 & 2, and the superhero tale Just Super, all available now in digital and paperback formats. Sample chapters and more information about these books can be found here. Kindle editions are all available for $0.99.

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Rant Alert: Superman/Batman Movie

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So SDCC is over for another year and there was a lot of great stuff announced that has me really excited: Amazing Spider-Man 2 is looking great, Black Canary will be in season two of Arrow, all of Marvel’s movie stuff- Cap 2, Guardians of the Galaxy, Age of Ultron. It was a great weekend. By far, however, for me the biggest announcement was that Man of Steel 2 will actually be Superman/Batman (I’m betting they’ll title it World’s Finest before it’s over).

Yep, that happened. Now I’m going to tell you why I think it’s a brilliant move on their part. It’s not quite how Marvel did it. Marvel built their world up by giving the major players all their own solo movies and then bringing them together for Avengers, and I still think that’s the best way to do it. However, in this case I think doing a Superman/Batman movie first is the right way to go.

First, we don’t need another Batman origin movie. Everyone knows that story. Everyone is familiar with who Batman is. No matter what interpretation of the character you look at, be it the comics, the Bruce Timm animated series (or any of the other 3-4 since), or the Burton or Nolan films that is the one consistent thing- Bruce was a rich kid who watched his parents get gunned down in front of him and he dedicates his life and fortune to making sure that doesn’t happen to anyone else. By introducing Batman in a Superman film it allows them to do a few things that we haven’t really seen before in a Batman movie- Batman as the criminals see him, the urban legend. If the movie, at least the first half, is from Clark’s perspective then we get to be introduced to this version of Batman in the same way that Clark is, and I think that’s a pretty cool way to do it.

Second, if a Justice League movie is going to work, it’s going to have to be built on a foundation and that foundation is Superman and Batman (and Wonder Woman). If you can’t get a Supes/Bats film to work, then Justice League isn’t going to happen. If it does work, then they could do a “Trinity” movie as a follow up to introduce Wonder Woman, and from there do a Justice League. I don’t know if that’s how they’re planning it, I’m just throwing it out there.

Third, it allows them to establish/address a few things that need to be addressed. This version of Batman needs to be the worlds greatest detective. He needs to be the guy that has a plan for everything, and then a back up plan if that plan doesn’t work, and then a backup for the backup. That’s who the Justice League Batman is and it’s the reason why he works as a “normal” man surrounded by a bunch of gods. He’s the smartest guy in the room. He’s the tactician. He’s the guy that found out a way to neutralize not just Superman, but every single member of the Justice League “just in case”. It’s the reason why the Nolan/Bale version of Batman just wouldn’t work. I love those films and I loved Bale as Batman, but that version of the character just wasn’t “that guy”.  Also, they’ve already said they’re going to address *spoilers, but if you haven’t seen the movie by now and you’re reading this you probably already know because it’s been harped on so much all over the internet for a month* Superman killing Zod. Who better than to throw that in Superman’s face than Batman? Superman comes down on him about how he operates, how he uses fear and intimidation, and Batman responds with “But I don’t kill.” That needs to happen.

The version of Batman that they really should be looking to for inspiration is the Bruce Timm version of the character from Batman: The Animated Series, Batman Beyond, Justice League, and Justice League Unlimited. For me, that is the very best interpretation of the character from any medium, comics included. That is Batman, and he works solo and as a part of the Justice League. In fact, if I could get everyone involved for this movie and the future ones to just sit down in a room I’d force them to watch Batman/Superman: World’s Finest and the entire Justice League/JLU series and then simply say: “Do that.” Seriously, Timm, Dini, McDuffy, etc. already did all the heavy lifting. They’ve already adapted the comics into a damn near perfect interpretation of the characters that works for all ages. JLU in  particular struck the perfect balance between light/dark, kid-friendly and mature storytelling. If DC really wants to have a franchise that can stand toe to toe with what Marvel has been doing they need to use what Timm  and company did on those animated series as their guiding star. Of course this is jut my opinion. Feel free to share what you think in the comments below.

J.R. Broadwater is the author of the non-fiction book Down with the Thickness: Viewing the World From a Fat Guy’s Perspective, the sci-fi detective novel You Only Die Twice, the fantasy novel The Chosen: Rebirthing Part 1 & 2, and the superhero tale Just Super, all available now in digital and paperback formats. Sample chapters and more information about these books can be found here. Kindle editions are all available for $0.99.

 

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