New Video: Digression 16: Valentine’s Day Karaoke 2017 – ‘Some Guys Have All the Luck’ by Rod Stewart

By Nathan On February 16th, 2017 | 22 views

Here’s the other video. Enjoy!

Digression 16: Valentine’s Day Karaoke 2017 – “Some Guys Have All the Luck” by Rod Stewart

The annual tradition returns! This year’s song is a little different, though. Normally I sing what I like to call “hopeful songs of longing for love,” but this year I decided to go with a classic ’80s ditty that describes my love life to a tee. I’m sure it does for many of you, too. Enjoy!

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New Video: NERD RAGE! Episode 2: Fifty Shades ANGRIER!

By Nathan On February 16th, 2017 | 17 views

Since I haven’t posted in a while due to time and illness, I decided I would share with you the two newest videos on my YouTube channel. These include an overdue second episode of “NERD RAGE!” (wherein I once again dare to rant about a certain book/movie trilogy I hate) and my annual Valentine’s Day Karaoke video. Here’s the first. Enjoy!

“NERD RAGE!”
Hosted by Nathan Marchand
It’s been a while since I posted an episode of “NERD RAGE!”, so I decided it would be appropriate to make a sequel to my infamous #FiftyShadesOfGrey rant since that stupid movie has a sequel opening this weekend. I don’t get as crazy this time around since nobody got the joke the last time or chose to ignore it. #FiftyShadesDarkerSo bring it on, trolls! Bring. It. On!

Cheating Sleep

By Nathan On February 7th, 2017 | 158 views

“I’ll sleep when I’m dead!”

That’s a sentiment I’ve heard often in the last few years. It’s spoken by either workaholics or braggarts who pride themselves on being able to function on little or no sleep. The sad thing is this is usually seen as a good thing, especially in the United States, which has a culture that idolizes work. Honestly, in many cases, it’s nothing more than disguised greed.

There was a recent episode of Doctor Who entitled “Sleep No More” that touched on this. The Doctor and his Companion, Clara, come to a space station whose crew was conducting sleep experiments, but the station has now gone dark, most of the crew killed. The Doctor discovers that the crew was developing a means to allow humans to get through the day with less than an hour of sleep so as to increase productivity. He was angered by this, accusing them of trying to “cheat nature” in their arrogance. Then, in true Doctor Who fashion, the “sleep dust” (the crust often found in tear ducts after much sleep) all collected into murderous monsters thanks to that sleep-cheating process.

What intrigued me about this episode is its theme was something I’d been contemplating for a while at the time. Call me crazy, but I think God designed humans to require sleep as a means of keeping them humble. If they were able to function without it, they would either become lazy (or lazier) or, more likely, they would get to the same point they did with the Tower of Babel, looking upon their accomplishments and thinking themselves gods. (The sad thing is there are people now who, in one form or another, think this already).

However, research tells us that humans need at least seven to eight hours of sleep a night. Think about that: that’s a third of a day. Some look at that and, much like those scientists in that Doctor Who episode, say that’s a waste. What they don’t realize is that it’s part of an ideal balance for one’s life. For eight hours you sleep, and for eight hours you work. That leaves eight hours to spend doing whatever you want. Everything is equal. But as is typical with human beings, they want to tip that balance, and that often requires eating into sleep time. Heck, there’s at least one entire industry built around cheating sleep: energy drinks. From Red Bull to Monster to 5-Hour Energy, their marketing centers around giving you a boost to do more. That could be doing more work so you could have a bigger paycheck or staying up late playing video games. (These are just two examples). Unfortunately, as I’ve observed myself, people become addicted to energy drinks to the point that they can’t function without them. If they don’t have one, they crash, and they crash hard. Then they run the risk of drinking too many and overstimulating their hearts until they explode (their hearts, I mean. I doubt energy drinks make people explode). 😛

I’m not saying one should never use energy drinks or that one can always get eight hours of sleep a night. For example, parents with newborns will lose sleep because they must care for the baby. Some people also have health issues that can cause insomnia. Stuff like that aside, it’s best not to make a habit to lose sleep. It will catch up to you. Trust me, I know.

What do you think? Would humanity become more arrogant if it could function with little or no sleep? What would happen? Do you try to “cheat nature” by avoiding sleep? How has that worked out for you?

Ankle Pickers, Episode 4: No Teabagging Allowed (enhanced version)

By Nathan On February 2nd, 2017 | 30 views

“Ankle Pickers”
Hosted by Nathan Marchand, Sergio Garza, and Bill Miller

(You may have seen be post a version of this video earlier this week. I was having trouble with one of my video editing programs, but I wanted to have something posted, so I posted that version. Here’s the “complete” (or should I say “komplete”) version. Enjoy!)

(UPDATE: I was informed that there are audio issues with this version of the video. Once again, I blame the video editor. My apologies, viewers. After posting this video *three times,* I’ve finally managed to fix the problem. Enjoy!)

It’s been a month, but the Ankle Pickers are back! In our highly topical episode, we discuss the recently-announced ban on teabagging at the Killer Instinct World Cup because losing players were threatening the winners with real-life violence. We discuss whether taunting altogether should be banned, then.

What are your thoughts on this subject? Should teabagging/taunting be banned?

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The Spark of Madness

By Nathan On January 19th, 2017 | 52 views

 

“You’re only given a little spark of madness. And if you lose that…you’re nothing.”

This was said by the late, great Robin Williams during one of his stand-up routines in the late 1970s. It started making the rounds again shortly after his death a few years ago, which was when I saw it. The routine was strangely ironic yet fitting because Mr. Williams was pretending to be himself as an old man.

All of that aside, what struck me were the words themselves. I’ve mulled them over in my mind many times since hearing them. They communicate something that, at least to me, is both obvious and yet hard to explain. They resound with me as an artist and raging creative. Considering I’m “weird” even compared to some of my fellow artists, I found those words even more poignant.

Artists—whether they be painters, writers, dancers, etc.—simply don’t think like everyone else. Their minds entertain all sorts of unusual possibilities. They revel in ideas and concepts. They obsess over how to explore those ideas in new ways. This makes them difficult to understand and, at times, to appreciate. Just think about the countless stories about young filmmakers or authors who grew up with blue collar parents who didn’t understand how their creative children could make a living with their art. Often they would pressure them to not pursue their dreams in favor of something “normal.” This would often force those artists to squelch their creativity and personality, making them deny who they were.

As a Christian, I believe I serve a creative God. He made mankind in His image. Part of that image is creativity. The “little spark of madness” Robin Williams spoke of? I think that’s a piece of the “divine spark”—the “breath of life,” as Genesis puts it—imbued into each human being by God Himself. To ignore this spark, to bury it, to “hide it under a bushel” (as the old song says), is tantamount to denying God, and by extension, reduces a human being to a machine.

As Mr. Williams said, it’s only a “little spark,” which I would say is a tiny piece of the overabundance of creativity possessed by God. He generously shares it with humans. But because of that, it is fragile and can be lost. Too often the world berates those who are creative, whether out of fear or jealousy or something else, not realizing that their personal little worlds are touched and enhanced by art. How often do those people come home from a long day at work and watch TV or Netflix? Without artists, there would be no content for them to consume. Even those who are Christians sometimes fail to see that God didn’t create a strictly utilitarian universe. A quick look out their window would show them this. For example, leaves turn bright colors in autumn not just because their chlorophyll is depleted in preparation for winter, but because God wanted that time of year to look like a unique, earthy tapestry.

If you’re a creative, you owe it to yourself to hold onto that “little spark of madness.” Don’t let anyone take it from you. That may be hard to do, but in the end, you’ll be doing yourself and others a tremendous favor. Art enhances life, and artists are the means by which that art can touch the world.

What advice would you give those who want to retain their “little spark of madness”?

My Top 5 Favorite Films of 2016

By Nathan On January 12th, 2017 | 101 views

Sorry, True Believers. I meant to post two blogs for you this week to make up for missing last week, but real life has a way of getting in the way, so for now, you get this. Please enjoy!

For moviegoers, 2016 was an often scatterbrained year, particularly for blockbusters. From the heights of Marvel Studios and Star Wars to the controversial Ghostbusters remake, it vacillated from exciting to abysmal.

So, for your reading pleasure, here are my top five favorite films of 2016. It was hard to narrow the list down since there were many films I enjoyed (including a few others didn’t). (Disclaimer: There were a few films I wanted to see that I didn’t around to, like Hacksaw Ridge, which may have changed this list. I just thought you should know).

5. Kubo and the Two Strings


A one-eyed boy who earns money to care for his brain-damaged mother by working as a bard. He plays music, which magically brings origami figures to life to illustrate his stories. Now dark forces are after him because he’s more powerful than he realizes.

This was the most surprising movie of the year for me. While it looked somewhat interesting in previews, I saw it mostly because my artist brother, Jarod, who’s a huge animation aficionado, wanted to see it. I’ve seen Laika’s other films, and while I liked them well enough, I wouldn’t call myself a huge fan. This movie, though, spoke to me. Not only did I enjoy the Japanese backdrop, but with story/storytelling being a key theme, I couldn’t help but resound with it. The stop-motion animation remains unique and superb, especially in this age of CGI. Plus, it’s bold in that it has a melancholy ending, which is rare for a family film. Plus, the theme song is the lesser-known Beatles song, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.”

4. Shin Godzilla (aka Godzilla: Resurgence)

A nigh-invincible giant beast comes ashore and wreaks havoc in Japan, forcing its leaders to battle government bureaucracy to save the country.

As a fan of the Godzilla franchise (so much so I’m starting a podcast about it), I wasn’t sure I’d get a chance to see this at all, but Funimation surprised everyone by giving it a limited two-week release in October. This was easily one of the strangest and most unique Godzilla films in years, thanks in large part to director/co-screenwriter Hideaki Anno, who created the (in)famous anime Neon Genesis Evangelion. He brought several of his collaborators from that series to work on this film, and it shows. There were points I felt like I was watching a lost live-action episode of Eva. Shin Godzilla satirizes government bureaucracy, showing how it slows things down in a crisis, and even non-Japanese audiences can appreciate that. There’s clear influence from the 3-11 disasters and the Fukushima meltdown, as Japan is dealing with an ever-evolving crisis. A marked departure in this film is the use of CGI and a little puppetry to bring the title monster to life, which upset some fans, but it still became a huge hit. The climax is a slam-bang thrill ride that is sure to please.

3. Doctor Strange

An arrogant has his hands irreparably damaged in a car accident, and during his travels to find a cure, stumbles upon a commune of magicians led by a woman called the Ancient One. She teaches him how to harness magic and, eventually, to combat dark forces intent on destroying the world.

Both Marvel and DC were pumping out movies in 2016, but Marvel Studios (not 20th Century Fox’s X-Men movies) came out on top for me. They took a risk with Doctor Strange, but they proved once again that they can make a compelling movie out of even their more obscure characters. Like their previous risky venture, Guardians of the Galaxy, it expands on the MCU and adds fascinating new facets to it. All the while, it remains entertaining, thought-provoking, and exciting. The director/co-screenwriter, Scott Derrickson, is, ironically, a devout Christian, and it shows. It explores deep themes of self-sacrifice, spiritual discovery, and self-denial in ways not typically seen in a Hollywood blockbuster (such as the secret to channeling magic being surrender). It’s also one of the most visually unique and engrossing films of the year (even if it does owe a little to Inception).

2. Captain America: Civil War

The Avengers are split when a U.N. sanction superheroes putting superheroes under government regulation is passed. Now Iron Man leads a team of heroes against Captain America and a rogue faction as they pursue a terrorist with a vendetta against Cap.

It was tough choosing between this and Doctor Strange, but in the end Civil War (aka Avengers 2.5) won out. Mostly because Cap is one of my favorite superheroes, but the film itself is remarkable. Like the comic that inspired it, the film examines a very real-world issue—government control—by playing “what if?” If superheroes existed, there would be attempts to control them. It begs the question: are superpowers any different than guns? Thankfully, it presents both sides of the argument, never vilifying either side even though this is technically a Captain America film and we’re meant to root for him. This is the darkest film in the MCU’s canon, with its climax being an emotional brawl not between both teams of superheroes (that was act two) but between Cap and Iron Man. Also, the villain, Zemo, is arguably successful. While he’s captured, he succeeds at turning the Avengers against each other and breaking up the team. With Infinity War just around the corner, who knows what will happen next.

1. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

A ragtag team of criminals, soldiers, and defectors defies the Rebel Alliance and infiltrates an Imperial Empire stronghold to steal the plans to a secret superweapon called the Death Star.

It may seem a little strange that Star Wars edges out my favorite superhero as my favorite film, but out of every movie I saw this year, this struck the best balance of risk, quality, and experimentation. This was the first of the Disney-produced “anthology films” for Star Wars. Unlike the other ones that have been announced, this one has an entirely new set of characters while familiar characters are relegated to bit roles. However, it does focus on a story long-known to fans: the famous “dead Bothan spies” mentioned in the original 1977 classic. The film succeeds not only in telling that story but in retroactively adding another layer to the original film. The biggest reason I love this movie, though, is how daringly different it is. It still has enough franchise trappings to be called a Star Wars movie, but it doesn’t have stuff like an opening text crawl or Jedi. It’s also the first time Star Wars, at least on the big screen, has delved in moral gray (with the possible exception of Revenge of the Sith). Star Wars traditionally likes black and white—Dark Side and Light Side, if you will—while Rogue One presents audiences with heroes who’ve all made morally-questionable choices. I also love Chirrut (played by martial arts superstar Donny Yen), who, while not a Jedi, relates to the Force in a manner more like faith than mysticism, which is a big departure.

Okay, I think I need to stop before I rave about this for hundreds of words.

Do you agree with my list? What were your favorite films of 2016?

Digression 15: My Tribute to Carrie Fisher

By Nathan On December 30th, 2016 | 43 views

The year 2016 ends with yet another tragic celebrity death, one that has left the nerd/geek community in mourning: Carrie Fisher, who famously played Princess Leia Organa in the Star Wars saga. In this video, I share some of my memories of Carrie Fisher, most notably when I met her at Indiana Comic-Con 2015.

What are your memories of Carrie Fisher?

Music: “Funeral Pyre for a Jedi” by John Williams
Fonts Courtesy of www.Dafont.com

Ankle Pickers, Episode 3 – What We Want in ‘Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite’

By Nathan On December 22nd, 2016 | 56 views

“Ankle Pickers”
Hosted by Nathan Marchand, Sergio Garza, and Bill Miller

It’s been a few weeks since PlayStation Experience when Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite was announced, but we decided we had to say something about it! Bill wasn’t able to join us, so this time a very excited Sergio and Nate talk about what features and characters they’d like to see in this next entry in the “Vs.” series.

What about you? What/who do you want in Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite?

Please comment, subscribe, and share!

I’m Going on Hiatus (sorta): An Announcement from Nate (YouTube Channel Update)

By Nathan On December 16th, 2016 | 53 views

You’ve probably noticed I haven’t been posting videos as often as I used to. There are reasons for that, which this video explains. Don’t worry–I’m not going away completely.

Writer vs. Storyteller

By Nathan On December 13th, 2016 | 110 views

People often use the words “writer” (or “author”) and “storyteller” interchangeably, but I would argue they aren’t always synonyms.

This goes back to a conversation I had with a schoolmate in college about Stephen King. She made the statement that King wasn’t a great writer, but he was a great storyteller. I knew what she meant instinctively. It required a fairly nuanced definition and understanding of these terms.

To put it simply: a writer is someone who is excellent with the stylings and mechanics of language, whereas a storyteller is someone whose tales can compel and interest audiences.

We’ve all at one point or another read (or seen) stories that excelled at one of these areas at the expense of the other. A book/author may have great “purple prose,” as we in the industry like to call it, but the story itself is boring, trite, and /or cliché. In other words, it’s style at the expense of substance. It’s a common complaint with many modern blockbuster films, which often seem more interested in fancy cinematography and eye-popping special effects than in telling a story.

On the other hand, there’ve also been stories that are irresistible page-turners but are either hampered by writers who lack the talent to tell them well or writers who choose to use cheap tricks in telling them. To put it another way, the stories have great ideas that don’t find full expression because the author is either unable or unwilling to have them reach their full potential. To use a film as an example of the former, I’d site 1986’s Highlander, which had a great world and concepts but was hampered by almost borderline schlocky filmmaking. For the latter, I would cite The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown as an example. It was a fast-paced page-turner, but it relied on things like cheap cliffhangers at the end of chapters (i.e. “He opened the door, and…”) in order to keep people reading.

In order to be a truly great author, one must strive to be both a good writer and a good storyteller. This, admittedly, is a difficult thing to achieve, especially when improving each area requires different exercises. Style and mechanics can be developed through education and practice. Reading books like The Elements of Style and studying other authors’ writing styles can help one become a better writer (just make sure you don’t copy other authors to the point you become a watered down version of them, which will get you nowhere). However, becoming a better storyteller is a bit more difficult. It requires learning how to generate ideas and/or looking for new spins on old concepts. This is the sort of stuff editors are looking for when they hear pitches from authors. Perfect grammar and poetic prose will only get them so far; what truly matters to them is, “What is the story?” This, as my schoolmate hinted at, is probably what propelled Stephen King through most of his career. He has an uncanny ability to dream up compelling concepts, most of which involve making everyday objects terrifying.

In the world of speculative fiction franchises, there are often creators who fit into one category or the other. People like Gene Roddenberry, creator of Star Trek, and (more infamously) George Lucas, creator of Star Wars, were incredible world-builders and visionaries, but they weren’t the best writers. They needed to surround themselves with other people to help fill in their gaps. It was when they tried to overstep the bounds of their talent that things would go wrong. That, too, is another way to help yourself as an author: have people around you who can help fill in your blind spots. These usually come in the form of beta/alpha readers and fellow writers. It’s also a great way to build community, and God knows writers need as much community as they can get, what with their penchant for working in solitude.

Am I splitting hairs with this? What do you think is the difference between a writer and a storyteller, if any? Which end of this spectrum are you on? What advice would you give about filling in your gaps as a creator?