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The 602 Club 16: There’s A Comic For That

tsc-016-th-squareComics.

On April 18, 1938 the world of publishing changed forever with the release of Action Comics #1 featuring the first superhero, Superman and in May of 1939 Batman was introduced to the world in Detective Comics #27. Since then, the proliferation of comics as been astounding. Leading to a world where comic book characters are everywhere, in film, on TV and ever conceivable type of merchandise. Yet many have never read the comics these icons come from.

In this episode of The 602 Club host Matthew Rushing is joined by Jose Munoz and Norman Lao to talk about the medium. We discuss what lead us to pick up our first comic, what we read monthly and why, our favorites and our recommendations as well as the pros and cons to continuity. Listen Here

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Owl Post 12-6-14

Owl Post 2-17-12

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A New Business Strategy: Treating Employees Well

flourNORWICH, Vt.–Call centers are not, typically, very happy places—especially around the holidays. Workers have quotas to make, and often sit in bleak cubicles, headsets on, plowing through calls from stressed shoppers, as they count down the minutes until lunch.

But the employees in this call center in Vermont are rosy-cheeked and—can it be?—smiling. They field calls about misplaced packages and gluten-free dough, while surrounded by orange and red Thanksgiving decorations and a wall lined with baking gear that they’re allowed to borrow. They still have quotas—10 calls per hour, per agent—but they know they won’t get fired if they spend 45 minutes talking to a woman with cancer about baking, as one agent recently did.

An Answer to the Novel’s Detractors

old-booksBefore we rush to condemn whole-hog the novel’s supposedly obsolete conventions, we ought look at how they function and what they do well.
Less than a hundred years ago, D.H. Lawrence called the novel “the highest form of human expression so far attained.” Jane Austen said that it had nothing to recommend it but “genius, wit and taste.” Today, even novelists themselves—maybe especially novelists themselves—are unlikely to make such large and unironic claims in favor of their art. It is no coincidence that many of the most exciting novels to have appeared in recent years—Karl Ove Knausgaard’s My Struggle series, Ben Lerner’s “10:04” and Sheila Heti’s “How Should a Person Be?”—have been distinctly un-novelistic, featuring protagonists who share many biographical details (and sometimes names) with the authors, and substituting the messiness of experience for conventional plots. Such “novels from life,” as Heti’s book was subtitled, reflect the authors’ exasperation with fictional artifice. “Just the thought of writing fiction, just the thought of fabricated character in a fabricated plot made me feel nauseous,” Knausgaard wrote in the second volume of “My Struggle.”
gotham105warehousemooney7598hires2jpg-9a7128_960wIs there anyone watching Gotham who could concisely summarize what’s going on in the show’s central overarching storyline—about the mob war between Carmine Falcone and Sal Maroni? The war connects to everything: the police corruption that plagues our protagonist Jim Gordon, the murder of Bruce Wayne’s parents, the machinations of lieutenants Fish Mooney and the Penguin. It’s tough to keep track of the sheer amount of behind-the-scenes machinations, and it’s tougher still to care. The show may even realize this. Ten episodes in, as it prepares to take a break until January, Gotham has transferred Gordon to work at Arkham Asylum among the city’s stranger criminals. That’s a promising new direction.

interstellar-poster11Interstellar, the new film directed by Christopher Nolan, attempts to say something profound about human relationships and meaning, a goal that by itself is worth celebrating. What the film tries to say is a little more ambiguous.

If Interstellar were a religious text, the dogma it encodes could be called something like “scientific romanticism.” This belief system would hold that science will solve all of our problems one day, even the ones that by definition resist empirical observation and thus exist outside the purview of science (see Sagan’s Contact for another dogmatic specimen). Scientific romanticism works well as a narratival contrivance, but when employed to spice up the lives atheists who otherwise think that they have a clearer-headed view of the universe than those troglodytic believers, it can expose the scarcity of meaning available to those who eschew belief in God.

The limits of buzz: How DC comics is winning its war with Marvel — on television

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Marvel Studios’ announcement this week about what we can expect for the next nine years generated a lot of excitement — and for good reason. Marvel is finally bringing a film about a female superhero to the silver screen with Captain Marvel, and a black superhero, with Chadwick Boseman as the Black Panther. Marvel knows how to create buzz and market its films — not just each individual one, but the whole collection of them. Each film lays groundwork for the next; each has inside jokes that only make sense if you’ve seen the previous. And audiences love it: A quick scan of the box office take for all of Marvel Studios’ films offers very, very big numbers. Maybe it’s not worth the hype, maybe the films could be better, maybe film franchises are destroying cinema. But it’s working.

It’s interesting, then, that Marvel’s success with film doesn’t translate to television. And I don’t mean that Marvel’s one television show airing right now — the awkwardly titled “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,” on ABC — is necessarily bad; it’s not great, but it’s fine. It’s more that DC, the Red Sox to Marvel’s Yankees, is absolutely killing it on television.

Fury at the Cross(roads): The Gospel in the Violence of History

1231428-furyThe most religious film many moviegoers will see this year will not be an inspirational story from a faith-based production company; it will be writer-director David Ayer’s WWII tank combat epic Fury. And in some ways Fury is also a more compelling narrative about redemption than many of the sermons preached from Church pulpits on any given Sunday.

Fury is a slice-of-combat-life story that follows a few days’ action of a Sherman tank crew during the final campaign against Germany in April, 1945. The battle has turned into a seemingly interminable contest in which a defeated opponent refuses to quit, exacting casualties in pointless resistance. War weariness has exhausted not only men and equipment, but innocence and ideals. But Ayer, reportedly a Christian himself, isn’t just telling another war story. He is embedding and embodying the intersection of the grace of God with human history, history at its most violent and hellish.

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The 602 Club 3: Batman Babies

Gotham and The Flash.

DC Comics has taken over the TV landscape. Autumn 2014 has brought us two new series: Gotham on FOX and The Flash on the CW. It seems that the world cannot get enough live-action comics, and the networks and producers are happy to oblige. But now that we’ve turned our screens on, what do we think about the product?

In this episode of The 602 Club, host Matthew Rushing is joined by Norman Lao, Jamie Sanchez, and Daniel Proulx to talk about Gotham and The Flash, the characters, first impressions, criticisms, and delights. Plus, we also delve into the big DC cinematic universe announcement.

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Owl Post 10-27-14

Owl Post

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Broken: The Power of Conversion in Louie Zamperini’s Life

unbrokenLouie Zamperini’s amazing life is the subject of Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption. It has remained on the New York Times bestseller list for almost four years (a remarkable feat!), and on Christmas Day the much-anticipated movie adaptation is slated for release. Although it is one of my favorite books, I have to agree with Collin Hansen: “The title is all wrong.” After the war, Louie returned home a broken man.

Why Kids Sext

stock-footage-girl-using-mobile-phone-smartphoneIt was late on a school night, so Jennifer’s kids were already asleep when she got a phone call from a friend of her 15-year-old daughter, Jasmine. “Jasmine is on a Web page and she’s naked.” Jennifer woke Jasmine, and throughout the night, the two of them kept getting texts from Jasmine’s friends with screenshots of the Instagram account. It looked like a porn site—shot after shot of naked girls—only these were real teens, not grown women in pigtails. Jennifer recognized some of them from Jasmine’s high school. And there, in the first row, was her daughter, “just standing there, with her arms down by her sides,” Jennifer told me. “There were all these girls with their butts cocked, making pouty lips, pushing their boobs up, doing porny shots, and you’re thinking, Where did they pick this up? And then there was Jasmine in a fuzzy picture looking awkward.” (The names of all the kids and parents in this story have been changed to protect their privacy.) You couldn’t easily identify her, because the picture was pretty dark, but the connection had been made anyway. “OMG no f‑ing way that’s Jasmine,” someone had commented under her picture. “Down lo ho,” someone else answered, meaning one who flies under the radar, because Jasmine was a straight‑A student who played sports and worked and volunteered and was generally a “goody-goody two shoes,” her mom said. She had long, silky hair and doe eyes and a sweet face that seemed destined for a Girl Scouts pamphlet, not an Instagram account where girls were called out as hos or thots (thot stands for “that ho over there”).

The Power of Grace

lilaMarilynne Robinson tracks the movements of grace as if it were a wild animal, appearing for fleeting intervals and then disappearing past the range of vision, emerging again where we least expect to find it. Her novels are interested in what makes grace necessary at all—shame and its afterlife, loss and its residue, the limits and betrayals of intimacy.

In Lila, her brilliant and deeply affecting new novel, even her description of sunlight in a St. Louis bordello holds a kind of heartbreak: “When a house is shut up like that in the middle of a summer day the light that comes in through any crack is as sharp as a blade.” The notion that light might hurt—that illumination doesn’t always arrive as salvation, or that salvation might ache before it heals—echoes the novel’s articulation of a more personal kind of pain. “That was loneliness. When you’re scalded, touch hurts, it makes no difference if it’s kindly meant.”

The Flash: A Welcome Anti-Vigilante

_1394660692Selling a live-action superhero for teens is a tough gig these days for DC Comics. Their current offerings include a plethora of heroes, but few role models. Instead of the wholesome Clark Kent of Smallville or Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns, DC’s Superman du jour is Zach Snyder’s glum Man of Steel. In place of the tongue-in-cheek George Clooney, DC’s Batman is the morally troubled, forbidding rich-boy type played by Christian Bale. For adolescents who have outgrown Teen Titans, Marvel still dominates the market.

Doctor Who and faith: bigger on the inside

clara-capaldi-danny-series-8-2With series 8 referencing ‘heaven’, Nathan traces Doctor Who’s varied relationships with atheism and faith…

I was a massive Simpsons fan as a child. And when I say massive, I really do mean – huge. It’s still one of the more memorable moments prior to my wedding day: emptying out my childhood bedroom with my (now) wife, only for her to discover notebooks filled with minute observations about the show. Obscure number plates, birthdays of secondary characters, dates of key events and much more besides. Having already paid for the reception venue she couldn’t exactly retract her commitment to marry me, although my mind contemplated that possibility when she hyperventilated laughing at “little Nathan,” circa 1999.