Friday, December 24, 2010

Link to Icon of the Week: The Nativity!

Over here at Pilgrim I made a post about the icon of the Nativity. I go through some of the general points about the icon, as well as some of the historical and iconographical development of the icon. Check it out!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Thoughts on God and Sexuality, Part 1-God

This post has elements of sarcasm and cutting humor, most of which (if you don't have a sense of humor) will horribly offend the people it's poked at. To those people who are offended, please be consoled by the fact that I'm a 22 year old man sitting in his parent's house while his friends are off galavanting around without him because he's a stick in the mud. If you can picture me sitting here depressed from missing his girlfriend and wishing he had more friends around then you should get the delicious irony of my statements, and laugh along with me. If you can't, well, go get a life.

To those of you who know me, I can probably read what you're thinking just about... now: Oh no, not ANOTHER rant from Nathan about something that he's talked himself hoarse about. I think I'll just tune him out. Naw, not quite. While I am infamous for linking God and sexuality in long-winded, sometimes scandalous speeches this is a bit different. Nate, the TITLE of your post says "Thoughts on God and Sexuality". How's that different? Time, my dear friends, time. It's been a long time since I've given my thoughts on this stuff, and even longer since I've last read anything Theology of the Body-related. The last year has given me a whole host of experiences, which I'm reflecting upon here in this blog. The last year hasn't changed anything, just given me a new way to look at it. In this little series I'm hoping to finally lock down thoughts of mine that have been racing through my mind for the past year. This is the first time the vast majority of you who know me have ever heard me say what I'm saying here, and possibly the first time any of my readers have thought about any of this stuff.

For the rest of you, who don't know me personally? Just sit back and relax, and be glad that you're only reading about my perspective on this stuff now. All you need to know now is that this is a series about God and His images, us, in the style of Theology of the Body. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Theology of the Body, it's a series of reflections authored by the late John Paul the Great, who linked the human body and sexuality to God. Theology of the Body taught that our very bodies and the way they operate is a sign of God, a visible sacrament. I was taught Theology of the Body at the tender (and not so innocent) age of 15 by Father Tom Loya, who learned directly from John Paul himself. To be honest, I believed what John Paul said from the moment I heard it. Something about it clicked in my soul and I knew that this was part of the answer that I'd been looking for. I'd been bullied a lot as a kid, and was taught Muay Thai at 12 to help me combat the people who were constantly attacking me. It was supposed to give me a backbone (I had never willingly hit or swore at anyone before) and discipline. It sorta worked. I wound up suppressing the first three months of actual training and walked out with the trademark mouth that most of my friends know me by now. Before Muay Thai I'd had a difficult time understanding intimacy and closeness, and being constantly forced to hit and be hit by people that cared for me did nothing to help my confusion. Theology of the Body felt like something that would teach me the reality and intimacy that I'd been needing so badly. This was my ticket out of my misery.

Well, sorta. You can lead a dog to the water but you can't get him to drink of it himself. I wound up only half absorbing the things I learned and came out with a strange vision of Theology of the Body not all that far from Christopher West's old views, which is not helpful to a teenaged boy. But time passes, and I'm 22 now. That means I've had 7 years of living, praying, arguing, quarreling, and sinning to reflect upon what I was taught. This is the philosophy that I've come synthesize from what I've heard. I can't guarantee to be correct, pure, or even sane, or even to have all the facts. I don't think anyone who has a blog or a collar can, it's not a luxury that can be afforded. But I can guarantee that this is truly what I think , and that if anything can be awarded to me it's my attempts to be sincere.

Now let's get started (Took ya long enough, didn't it???)

All things come from God, and therefore should be traced back to Him. Like any artist God has put reflections of Himself into His work. These reflections are not 100% accurate (like all artistic reflections) but they do exist. I'm thoroughly convinced that the sun's rising has something to do with the Father's begetting of the Son, for instance. How does that work? I have no idea, it's an intuitive sense that I have. Go ahead, call me nuts. But have the decency to call the crackpots known as author's historians, who seem to think that author's write their issues into their novels (like the people who seem to think that Dracula is about sensual evil in Victorian times. If these people had actually read the book they'd know this isn't true. But I digress) Suffice to say, if you don't have a monotheistic and Trinitarian view of the world then these essays are of no use to you. You won't find anything that will work, because you don't have the proper worldview to absorb my ideas. So, if that's the case, read on with that knowledge. Or go become Christian (that's probably the better of the options. But whatever).

What follows is my view of God, drawn as closely as possible from the Holy Fathers of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. If something in the Ecumenical Councils is stated it's held up as law in my worldview, and so what I say here is with that in mind. If I contradict

I apologize, it wasn't the intention. Without the following paragraphs none of my following posts will make much sense, and I heartily recommend referring back to the next few paragraphs while reading this series to keep the context fresh.

God is a community of three persons: Father, Son, and Spirit. God is, Himself, a family. TheFather begets the Son and then makes the Spirit proceed through the Son. Thus saith The (Western) Creed and the Scriptures. To hopelessly steal from Scheed (Theology and Sanity) the Father, in self reflecting, begets the Son. The Father then loves the Son, Who returns this Love, which is the Holy Spirit. And thus the Holy Trinity has existed from whenever. Our most normal thing (a family) is a reflection of God Himself, and always has been.

God is holy. I think we've butchered that word, resurrected it, and then re-butchered it. When we hear the word holy these days we think of those stupid Puritans who thought that our bodies are evil and we should be in church all the time (to those people who are like that and married I respectfully tell them to go get drunk and have sex with their spouses more often, from what I hear it's a good deal of fun, regardless of whether you combine the activities or not). Actually, that's not really what the word means. The word holy means set apart, special. Unique. Something totally different and incomparable. When the seraphim sing "Holy! Holy! Holy!" I always think "Unique! Unique! Unique!"(and suppress the temptation to add "New York" in my head...) This is possibly the most important part that I think we've forgotten in these days that no one thinks are as good as the McCarthy era. God is unique.

We are like God, not the other way around. This one's pretty simple. Instead of saying that God is anthropomorphized (made in our image) we are divinized (made in God's image). Everything we do is in imitation of God somehow. This includes our sexual organs and desires, which are reflections of the Trinity. Remember that when I say reflection I mean it in the same way that an artist's personality and passions are reflected in his work. It's not necessarily direct, or even all the way intact, and in some cases it's not even rational. But it's there none-the-less, and we should pay attention to it. Our free will allows us to imitate these qualities of God, and since we are like Him, logically speaking it's a good idea to act as true to our nature as possible, and imitate God as closely as we can. For when God is glorified so are we.

Our purpose (on this earth and in the next world) is to glorify God with every thought, word, and deed that comes through us. We are God's creatures and should act in a manner that agrees with who God is and what God does. Otherwise it's just not a very nice painting, now is it? To do things out of line with God's will is to contradict your point of existence as a being.

Those are my four paragraphs. Short, sweet, and to the point (unlike the rest of my writing). In the following weeks I'm going to comment on the following topics with these three paragraphs in mind:

Homosexual Actions

You ready? Good. Get ready next week, for my thoughts on Pornography. Keep something in mind for next week: is nudity itself all that sinful? If so, then why's there a statue of two naked people kissing at the top of this post?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Rage and Peace: Tomoya and Kyou

Like I've mentioned before, Kyou is a character I've had to come to terms with after a while. I think it's just something about tsundere characters that causes me to inherently mistrust them. I think I tend to view those characters as manipulative to some degree, and I tend to have little pity when they make emotional problems for themselves. When I rewatched the series, though, I began to develop just that: sympathy for Kyou, and for everything she has to put up with.

Violent Tempests
Really, you can wrap it all up in this scene, right here. If you see this scene and think "Gee, I don't get Kyou at all. She just needs to get over it!" then you probably don't like the Kyou arc. That used to be me. When I gave it a second look, though, I really began to understand just what Kyou was all about. And it's really contained right here, in this video.

Kyou's heart is powerful, and there's a lot of things she wants. Kyou's greatest struggle is trying to understand how to reconcile those desires. She's literally torn between her and her sister, between wanting her sister to find happiness and her own attraction to Tomoya. This scene is where it all comes to a head. Kyou herself gives Tomoya the command to stay away from her, so that Ryou can be happy. She then leaves him to follow up on it.

It's a very different type of relationship from the Tomoyo or the Nagisa pairings. It's tumultuous and unsteady and very impassioned. It demands action from Tomoya. In the end, I can find that good and interesting as well. Every relationship, after all, reaches a sort of balance from one end of the spectrum to the other. The Tomoyo relationship began peacefully, and turned stormy, eventually stabilizing when Tomoya made his decision to grow up and take responsibility for his own life. The Kyou relationship begins violently, but everything clears up when Tomoya takes responsibility for his relationships, and chooses Kyou.

Stagnant Flames
This ending sees Tomoya in a really sticky situation. Youhei, in one of his rare moments of incredible intelligence and insight, rather sticks it to Tomoya for keeping it in this state. Kyou and Ryou both like Tomoya, and he's sort of trying to dance around the issue, pushing it off to avoid hurting them. He doesn't want to commit to something, and cause pain. Youhei points out that the longer he keeps it up, the more it'll hurt when he has to make a choice.

This is the significant point of the Kyou episode. With so many high-strung emotions going every which way on Kyou's part, there has to be a choice made. She's depending on Tomoya to choose, because it really is his call to make. And, compared to Tomoyo's chapter, what Tomoya winds up doing is rather pain-free. It's a neat resolution.

In fact, it's Kyou that goes through the most sacrifice here. She winds up disguising herself as her sister, on Ryou's suggestion, just to hear the truth from Tomoya. And it provides an avenue for Tomoya to make up for his mistakes. He makes his commitment, and this decision leads rather smoothly to the final resolution...

There's something interesting to be seen here, too, amidst the simple and happy ending. It's Kyou and what she says. She asks Tomoya if he really thinks she was the "right choice". She then tells him that she'll rest easy if he truly gets angry at that suggestion. It says a lot about Kyou. She's in reality a rather insecure person. With her passionate heart jerking her this way and that, she can't trust anyone else to stay with her. She needs reassurance. Since the language she speaks best is the passions of the heart, anger is simply another signal, for her. If Tomoya gets angry, that tells her that he really means what he says.

Oh, and there's one other video that I think would close this post nicely. It sums up Kyou pretty dang well.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Top 5 Anime Openings

I've seen these sorts of articles up and around the web (see Brandon's post) before, and I've always wanted to do one. So, without further ado....

Everyone who watches anime has favorite openings. Don't deny it, you do. Yes, you, the person who's reading this blog. If you watch anime you have a favorite opening. It's just the way it is. While we may like to believe that it doesn't matter that's not the nature of entertainment, because as humans we prioritize. If we didn't we'd just want our time on worthless anime (like Darker than Black or Myself; Yourself). Much is the same with the openings of these shows. I've been told that you can tell what an anime's about from the opening, and that if you want to understand the anime you just have to take a look at it's opening numbers to figure it out. I've never not seen this to be the case. So I pay attention to openings. Some do indicate what the anime's about so well that I can't help but like them. Some are just flat out awesome, and are sometimes the only thing that I enjoy about the show. Whatever the case, I have a set of 5 that are my favorites. And here they are, from the least favorite to the most.

5. Elfen Lied
No, I can't play the opening on this blog, it's not fit for general consumption. Go to Youtube, look it up, and tell them that you're 18 with an account. With that in mind, this is a beautiful opening. Yes, there are more naked women in it than in a classical museum. Notice how I said classical museum and not porn shop, because it's definitely not pornographic. I can hear some of the more conservative people I know (as well as rightly concerned parents) objecting to my classification of what's pornographic or not, but if the images that I see in this opening remind me of...

...this in style, structure, and intent, then how is it pornographic? Hint: it's not. You have the right to show your kids what you think is right, but please don't say this piece of art is pornographic for even a second, because I've seen more provocative paintings in Churches (Jesus holding his penis while on the cross, anyone??)

The music for this opening is completely sublime, sung with a full choir in Latin from start to finish. It's the most "classical" opening for any show I've ever seen, and that's what it makes it on to the top five.

4. Durarra

Oh my gosh, that bloody beat. It sinks into my body and I wanna dance. (I don't dance, it makes me very nervous) It's INFURIATING. But it's such an awesome opening! You can feel it, which is what music's supposed to do in the first place! It's the complete opposite of the show (Bones is known for doing slower work), but I can't help myself, damnit!

I love this song.

3. Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, First Opening
I liked the first FMA well enough, but openings were underwhelming. Honestly, I didn't like a single one of them. They all came off as very generic, cliched pieces of crap that could have gone in front of any other anime. Thus my opinion of the first FMA was influenced, which is a crying shame, because the first FMA was good. When I heard that Brotherhood was coming out I was rightfully skeptical. The first one had set itself up as a good anime, why did they need to do it again?

I stopped asking questions. This was exactly what I wanted to see. It's unique, powerful, and sums up the entirety of the show in a minute. One. Minute. Top that, original FMA. Oh wait, you can't? Didn't think so.

2. Higurashi

Do I need to say anything else? I mean, watch it. Just, WATCH IT. If that doesn't creep you out please see the exit out of humanity. Thanks. You won't be missed.

1. Clannad Afterstory Opening

I. STILL. CHOKE. UP. No, it didn't do that to me right away. This opening weirded me out a bit after Clannad's opening, at first. The first opening was fun and upbeat, and lended to the jolliness of the first season. I saw this opening, and thought "What the heck?" The show continued to use the opening though, and sank in. And then Afterstory started with the cryfest, which you can read about on my other blog, The School's Trees. And then I understood why they'd made this opening. It was a reminder of all the things that had been, and all the things I wanted back in the show. This is, without doubt, the best sum up of any show I've ever seen, the most beautiful anime opening that STILL makes me want to cry watching it.

Clannad Afterstory. Awesomeness.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Linky to Pilgrim

Up on Pilgrim Studios is my newest blog feature, Icon of the Week. Click to see my examination of the Prophet Nathan!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Christ the Savior-Part 1

Copied over from Pilgrim Iconography is my post on the first step of Christ the Savior! All iconography starts with darkest colors, eventually moving up to the bright endings that you guys can see if you pop over to my icon gallery. I haven't yet filled in the hair, and I still have to do the halo as well.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Christ the Savior Sketch

For those of you who don't look at my strictly iconography site here's the start of my next project, Christ the Savior:
I'll be starting on this icon tomorrow, so stay tuned for more pictures!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Elfen Lied

So, I know this anime's a few years old, but I wanted to give my take on it. Elfen Lied, for those of you who don't know, is an anime about a girl named "Lucy" who is a new type of human: a diclonius. These are humans who have horns on their heads and invisible arms named "vectors", which allow them limited telekinesis. These arms can also be used to cut things very cleanly, as you can see from the above picture. They've evolved from humanity in a sort of "hive" structure, where all but one is sterile. This "queen" can seemingly deactivate the powers of the others if she so chooses, and can mate with any human male to propagate the species. Lucy is the queen of this new race of humanity, and the story follows her adventures.

Now I'm not gonna get into too much detail in this review, because I'd prefer to give away as little as possible (well, no more than what I have given away) but I will say this. If you like tragedies, watch this anime. To say it's tragic is an understatement. So much happens, and while the ending could be considered happy it's only happy in a strong bitter sweet sense, the type of happy that you find after a tragedy because you need to find something to hold onto. The story is strong, the characters are really well done, and the music....

... is flat out amazing. If you watch this anime for anything, do it for the music.

Now that I've gotten the good out of the way, I'm gonna hit the stuff that anyone should know if they've never seen this anime before.

This anime is gory. None of your smarmy 300 crap here, this is actually dark, graphic, and disgusting. People die on a fairly regular basis with tons of blood to accompany it. So if you have a weak stomach or something like that do not watch. This isn't like a few anime where if you close your eyes it'll be over soon. Blood is a part of this story, and to ignore blood is to ignore the show.

There's an exceptional amount of nudity in this show as well, almost all of it being full frontal. Nothing sexual happens, which makes it easier to bear, but understand that there's almost as much nudity as there is blood (which is saying something). If you don't want your kids seeing a whole tone of boobs, butt, and such do not watch this show. The nudity does have a curious effect on the tone of the show, however. It brings a sort of innocence to it, and I'm not entirely sure why yet. I think it has something to do with the constant vulnerability that's insinuated by the nudity that makes the difference here. For instance, there's this point where two kids (guy and a girl) are playing in a stream and get soaked. They take off their clothes to have them dry, and sit down, back to back. The girl's emotional because it's the last time she'll see the guy for a long time, so she tells him so. Now (and this is a rarity) you don't see anything, but just the implication that these two are naked while having this conversation hits home a lot harder than if they were clothed. The same goes for the first five minutes of the show, where you see a naked woman tear soldiers limb from limb. The presentation is not pornographic (they don't zoom in or anything like that), but the scene of pure carnage is accentuated by this feeling of intimacy, like you're in the character's head, experiencing the things that would make them do something this nutty. Just keep these things in mind should you decide to watch the show, because if for any reason you're uncomfortable with nudity (regardless of if it's sexual or not) then you're gonna have a huge problem with this show.

Overall, I'd rate Elfen Lied an 8.5 outta 10. A damn good show that doesn't feel out of place with anything that it does.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Green Lantern Trailer

While I'm not a DC fan, this does look pretty cool. Or is it just my sense of nostalgia tingling?

Who knows, it might be good. We'll see.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Top Ten Characters, Real Number 1: Tomoya!

Tomoya Okazaki: the main character. Ah, so we’re finally at the end of all of this. I’ll admit, I was starting to go brain dead….. One more won’t kill me, right? Yes, it’s Tomoya, and I can’t think of anyone better to be placed at the top of the list. He’s the hero of our story. He’s the perfect hero, too. He’s a smart, solid guy, and he never slips up. No, that’s wrong; I’m thinking of somebody else. This guy, Tomoya, is probably one of the worst fits for the hero criteria I’ve ever seen. He’s a delinquent in school, he’s pretty much a lazy bum, and he’s got his fair share of mistakes to follow him around. This is what Tomoya is. He’s real. He’s a character that we can all relate to. I know we can, because we all make mistakes. Sometimes they’re huge. Sometimes they’re irreversible. Tomoya is forced to live his life with a past mistake constantly shadowing him. His right arm has only 50% of its use, because of something he had done some time ago, but his arm can’t be fixed, so he has to remember that mistake all the time. The only thing he could do was not make the same mistakes again. He builds himself up every day by changing the way he acts and the things he does. His progress is eventually what makes him our hero, a character that really stands out. Maybe he didn’t do anything big for the world, but he was certainly a sort of savior to those he was close to. In the end, Tomoya is just like any other person with his individual doubts, fears, and mistakes. It’s these aspects that make Tomoya human and make Clannad such a real story. It’s these things that make us human, that make us real. It’s Tomoya’s realism that makes him a bad hero, and that in turn makes him a perfect hero for Clannad… that makes sense, right?

Well, folks, here's the real deal. And Tomoya's place on this list is more than deserved. After all, this show is, in a very real way, about him. It's about his journey into adulthood, his journey to tragedy, and his redemption as a father. He walks a long and oft-troubled road, filled with pain and joy, failure and triumph. He's one of us.

He's also a jerk.

Well, he gets better. Tomoya's immaturity is strong, but at the same time he has strengths that await polishing. There is promise alongside his faults, and we get to watch that promise coming out and forming him as the series progresses. This is arguably the most powerful part of the series, as flaw after flaw is scoured away, until finally Tomoya can fulfill the single role entrusted to him.


You could say that the entire ending of Clannad hinges on fatherhood. Akio's dream was united with that of his wife, and passed down to Nagisa. Her dream met up with Tomoya's dream, and they passed it on to Ushio. Who knows how far back that deposit of dreams, of wishes, lay, and how big that wish was that Ushio received? Of course, Ushio needed something to spend the wish on.

The entire series shows us what that wish got spent on. It shows us the father that Tomoya became, and it shows us the father that he was to Ushio. It shows us the father that Ushio was willing to lay her life down for, and to spend her one wish for.

And he's not so much of a jerk, after all.

Though I can't concede that Tomoya is my favorite character (Akio still wins in my heart for that), I can't really argue that he's the most important character of the show. He is the main character after all. And what an interesting main character he makes as well!
If you couldn't tell, Clannad is all about Tomoya's transformation. Nagisa's transformation is important as well, but in the end, Tomoya's is the main concept (and this is a virulent Nagisa fan saying this!). 

Clannad, in the end, is all about how Tomoya becomes a husband and father. At the outset of the series, it's easy to see that he's basically incapable of being a good father. He's a lazy delinquent who doesn't care about school or much of anything else besides goofing off with Sunohara. Throughout the series, though, he evolves into a man who works hard for a living, yet still comes home to be a great father, raising a young daughter alone (though with Akio and Sanae's invaluable assistance). How does this change in Tomoya occur? I think it's from his relationships: predominantly Nagisa, of course, but Akio and Sanae are invaluable, and even Shino in her getting Tomoya to connect with Ushio; plus one can't forget Ushio herself. And those are just the most major ones: all his relationships help effect his transformation. Thus all the characters in Clannad, in the end, are important to the extent that they effect Tomoya's transformation.

Tomoya is the character of Clannad. Without other characters, Clannad wouldn't be the show it is, but it would still be there; without Tomoya, Clannad wouldn't exist at all. Tomoya's lack of husbandly and fatherly qualities is the conflict of the show, and it is resolved as he gains these qualities through his relationships.
In conclusion, Tomoya is Tomoya...just what constitutes the person of "Tomoya" evolves throughout the series. And the progress of that transformation is what makes Clannad the masterpiece it is.

There are many characters that I like in anime: Mustang and Ed from FMA, Simon from Gurrenn Lagann, Near from Deathnote, and many others. But the only character that I've truly connected with was Tomoya Okazaki. 

It's not that there aren't more amusing, wise, or mature characters. If that was what I was looking for I would have picked Akio. It's not even that I like him (I do), or that I think he's terribly amusing. If I was looking for that I'd have picked Fuko (who was number 3 on my private list, btw). It's not even that I find him powerful and wish to have a child half as cool as him (Ushio fits that to a T). It's that when I watch Tomoya I find my own logic at work in him. I don't even know how to sum it up into words, it's such a powerful case of commiseration. 

But I know I can communicate this: When I watch Tomoya I'm watching myself, in all the glory and flaws. I have never not struggled with the things that Tomoya does, and I find myself coming back to watch him overcome his problems and cheer him on. When Jamie broke up with me I found an ally in Tomoya, another person who'd lost something very important, who also had no idea how to communicate that to others, who didn't want to trouble other people with it, who wanted to give up but didn't have the cowardice to do it. With Tomoya I found the strength to move again and, regardless of how weak that may sound, it's helped make me the man I am today. And for that I can't be too grateful.

Ok, guys.  Here's the real deal.  I do find Botan rather amusing, but the truth is that first place, in my opinion, really should go to someone else a, less furry?  Seriously though, joking aside, it is true that the question of who my favorite character was wasn't a hard one for me to answer.  Last spring, a friend and I were talking about Clannad.  In the midst of the conversation, my friend asked me the very same question I'm answering now, who my favorite character in Clannad was.  The answer that I have now is the same as the answer I gave to my friend last spring.  First place in my mind has to go to Tomoya.  I'm not completely sure why.  It's true that there are many characters more exciting, engaging, and amusing in Clannad.  There are many characters that are more unique.  

Tomoya is, in essence, just a regular guy.  He's a regularly messed up, unhappy guy to whom something very regular and ordinary happens to, but somehow, out of this regularly ordinary situation, something truly amazing comes about.  In other words, amazingly, dreams do come true for ordinary people.  They come true for people who are unhappy.  They come true for people who have given up on the world.  They come true for people who are too pissed off at what they know is true to even begin to look or to hope.  So the question is, if the sometimes seemingly impossible can come true for an ordinary person like Tomoya, a person who doesn't even believe enough to look for it, can it come true for me too, a person who's not sure if she's got the guts to try?  Can it be true for my friend?  My sister?  The neighbor across the street?  As I watched Tomoya, the ordinary, quiet, angry guy live through the story of Clannad, the answer I got was, yes.  Yes, it can happen to my neighbor, my sister, and my friend.  No, it doesn't matter if they think it can or not.  Yeah, there's reason to hope because the most amazing things come from to ordinary people; they come to people like Tomoya, like you, and like me.  

We've all got a chance.... 

Thanks to everyone who helped write this up with me, you're all awesome! I couldn't have done it without you, and isn't that what Clannad is about?
-Liam Francis Traveler