Monday, July 27, 2009

Why Star Wars is better than Star Trek [Ryan]

Our world is full of conflicts — the Americans versus Iraqi insurgents; Israelis versus Palestinians; PETA versus actual carbon-based, food-eating life-forms; Twilight versus the free world. Beyond all of these is a conflict that touches the outer reaches of the galaxy.*

I’m talking about Star Wars versus Star Trek.

Let me be clear on one thing: I’m talking about the franchises as whole entities, not considering individual mediums. I mean, anyone with the brain of a B’omarr brain spider knows J.J. Abrams’ new Star Trek film is light-years — or parsecs — ahead of Attack of the Clones. But when you consider the big picture, what you see changes.**

Let’s begin. Let’s look at the depth behind each. What is Star Trek? I can understand the “boldly go where no man has gone before” allure — but there are some places that man was no meant to go, like Star Trek: Nemesis. (Did you see that one? Felt like someone had puked all the science fiction cliches they could think of all over the carpet.) Sorry, I couldn’t resist. Seriously, though, there are only so many times you can boldly go before you’re boldly rehashing old plot lines.

The there’s Star Wars. Entire books have been written on the mythology of Star Wars, how the saga brings the age-old story of the Hero’s Quest and places it in a galaxy far, far away. The light and dark side of the Force appeal to our innermost nature. Within each of us are light and dark, our own yins and yangs, and we cannot help but find ourselves immersed in a story that highlights the definition of humanity.***

Star Wars redefined special effects and the action sequences those effects could create. The hum of lightsabers could be heard as scarlet and green blades crashed while Captain Kirk was still shuffling around trying to defeat zipper-suited lizard men with nothing but his facial expressions and phasers that shot beams that appeared to have been drawn on the screen with a Sharpie.

Does anyone else think that, as a whole, Star Trek ships look goofy? The Bird of Prey being a possible exception, nearly any Star Trek ship of the line could have been designed by a monkey with a crate of Legos.

While we’re on the topic of vessels from the respective franchises, let’s not fret about who would win if vessels and forces from one franchise were to meet those from another; such a contest could hardly decide which one was better. (But if we were to use such a finicky method to decide superiority, Darth Vader could Force-choke the entire Borg collective and fling their dorky cube ship — remember what I said about monkeys and Legos? — into a moon before they could utter their tired “Resistance is futile” line.)

Both franchises have their weaknesses, especially in the dialogue department. I concede that I’d rather eat bantha poodoo than watch Anakin woo Padme by mentioning how her skin is soft, unlike sand (really, Anakin? Does that one work on Tatooine?), but the alternative from the other universe is to hear technobabble like this:

SCOTTY: Captain, we’re experiencing a hyperwarp electro-skype!

CAPTAIN KIRK: Only one thing we can do! Engage hypermatter polar thrusters and defibrillate the starboard filament decondensors!

SCOTTY: I can’t, sir! We’ve got a wee problem! The electro-nacelle preemptors are gravitizing to the point where the transmogrified crypto pistons are scrambled!

CAPTAIN KIRK: That sounds like a serious problem. Do we still have wireless internet, at least?

There you go: in one galaxy, a thrilling space opera full of love and betrayal, heroes and villains, action and intrigue. It’s the stuff dreams — and a lot of eBay-based collections — are made of. On the other end, you have a story full of promise but that get stale with every new inflation of Willam Shatner’s ego. ****

Join me. Together we will …

Yeah, you know.

* Or beyond the far reaches of the galaxy, if you count the Yuuzhan Vong incursion 25 years after the Battle of Yavin in Episode IV.

** Point of interest: the new Star Trek utilizes elements like man-eating creatures on a snow planet, a world-destroying superweapon that reduces a main character’s home to extragalactic rubble, and other Star Wars elements. Chris Pine, the guy who played the young Kirk, said he used Indiana Jones and Han Solo as his inspiration for his role. See,23739,25346545-7642,00.html

*** No idea what I just said. But it sounded cool.

**** Man, I hate that guy.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Give peace a chance: why germs aren't so bad [Ryan]

I’ve officially finished my time as opinion editor of Scroll, so my topics of choice are no longer confined by paltry things like truth or relevance. No, seriously, my feelings are mixed regarding my departure from the paper, but newspapers are going down the hole like faster than a super-powered ferret pursuing the Flash down a giant high-powered toilet (if you ever hear of a such a scenario existing in reality, please call me!) and I thought I’d try my hand with other mediums.

My topic today is my lack of germaphobia.

I’m not sure what the real name is, but I don’t have a fear of germs. I once picked up a half-eaten bag of popcorn in a movie theater left over from the previous show, discarded some of the wrappers, and proceeded to happily eat away.

The ten-second rule doesn’t apply to me unless the food in question falls into something radioactive or onto a bathroom stall floor. Some people will balk at the thought of retrieving a morsel of chicken that has fallen to the dining room floor; I’ll still probably eat it. What I can’t see can’t hurt me (except Chuck Norris, naturally).

It’s all the same, right? My food, your food, it all has the same organisms who just want to be left alone to thrive in their peaceful microscopic utopia and smoke pot. (No, I don’t have scientific evidence to back this up. I would have thought the advent of things like Wikipedia would have erased such an outdated tendency.)

Contrast my habits to the habits of one of my brothers, who acts as if food someone has bitten off of has been contaminated with large amounts of terrorist-grade plutonium.

Now, there is one area where I agree with him: food found on bathroom floors is not edible. (It may not, technically, be food anymore, but that’s as far as I’m going to take that line of thought.) Bathrooms scare me. The germs thriving in bathrooms are of a completely different breed of microbe. The germs found on a piece of pizza that fell on the living room floor are as harmless as hippies; the ones in the bathroom are the al-Qaeda of microorganisms.

So there you have it — a semi-scientific treatise on the follies of most varieties of germaphobia. Don’t drop this on the bathroom floor.

(Dang! That last line only worked if this was printed in a newspaper.)

Uh … don’t drop your laptop on the bathroom floor. (Unless it’s a PC.)

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The choice between a voicemail message and a restraining order: a blog with barely a mention of Optimus Prime [Connor]

“Hi, you’ve reached Connor, who is NOT Ryan, Ladine, or Lucine.”

Allow me to explain my current voicemail message.

Apparently, my cell phone number bears an extreme resemblance to that of several other people. Multiple times in a week, occasionally multiple times in a day, I receive calls from people I have never met nor heard of. Most of these people ask for a guy named Ryan. I originally assumed that this meant my brother Ryan, since the phone number belonged to him until about a year ago. But no; Ryan confided that when he took calls, he first had to verify it was Ryan Kunz they were asking for, not this mysterious other Ryan. Sometimes these calls are social calls; sometimes, they’re definitely work-related. For a while there, I was receiving calls from the hospital, asking how his treatment went. I sure hope it went well.

Then there are the Ladine People, as I’ve named them. They call about twice a week, asking for somebody named Ladine. Frankly, I don’t think anybody old enough to still have been named “Ladine” would have a cell phone, but I haven’t pointed this out to the Ladine People. I used to answer these calls and patiently inform them they had the wrong number, but they just kept calling. Rather than file for a restraining order, I’ve just added them as a contact in my phone and have given up answering their calls. At least I can be secure in the knowledge that if I’m ever going through a difficult time and need someone to talk to, the Ladine People will be there for me, faithfully dialing the wrong number time and time again.

Finally, we reach my favorite. During third trimester last year, an elderly lady would call me every day during third hour. Seeing as I was in class, I only managed to take her calls and inform her of her mistake once or twice. She was always asking for someone named (I’m not making this up) Lucine, and would become very distressed when she couldn’t get a hold of Lucine. These eventually culminated in the Holy Grail of blogworthy voicemail messages, which I swear on Optimus Prime’s grave I am not making up:

“Lucine, Lucine, are you there? I need to talk to Ladine. Or your grandmother Nadine. . . This is Josine.”

It doesn’t get much more priceless than that. As much as I enjoyed these messages, though, they were clogging up my voicemail inbox and my phone memory. Eventually, I changed my voicemail to the one featured at the top, stating clearly that this was not Ladine, Lucine, or Ryan. Both Josine and the Ryan Club have pretty much ceased calling. The Ladine People, however, have faithfully continued calling AND LEAVING MESSAGES. To leave one of their messages asking for Ladine, they must first listen to a message stating that this is NOT Ladine. I have no explanation for this. I want to meet these people.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Lost in hypotheticals: Who would you take on a deserted island? [Ryan]

A few weeks ago, I wrote an editorial about not wasting time, about finding time in your college years for the things that really matter.

Somewhat ironically, I wrote the entire thing while watching a marathon of "Lost."

For the longest time, I was content with other TV shows. Watching Jack Bauer save the world every week was sufficient for my mind, even if he never used the bathroom or exhibited any kind of normal human function other than grimacing slightly every time he got shot in the chest.

It’s one of those shows you simply can’t just stop watching.

I’ve recently gotten into the show, which, for those of you who haven’t seen it, is about a group of improbably good-looking people who end up stranded on a mysterious island.

(By “gotten into,” by the way, I mean, “become obsessed to the point where my Facebook relationship status should say, ‘in a relationship with "Lost"’”)

The fifth season ended earlier this semester, leaving my questions unanswered and my imagination running rampant. My questions things like these: Why is the island so hard to find (Maybe it’s because the island is only there if you believe in it, like Santa Claus or global warming) and what is the creature they call the monster?

And of course:

Who would I like to be stuck on a deserted island with?

The last one is a valid question, of course; the applications are many and the likely affective scenarios myriad. Who might add some hope, flavor or protection during the lonely days on a deserted island?

President Obama: If I was stranded with the President of the United States, especially our current one with his near religious following, the civilized world would waste no time rescuing us. Forget whatever harm his debilitating economic polices can do to already ravaged economy — they might even send an aircraft carrier to pick us up.

Jack Sparrow: We all know Jack would probably spend the entire time frolicking on the island drinking some sort non-alcoholic beverage, so of course I would join him in his good clean mayhem. Maybe, after fourteen Doctor Peppers, we would sing “A Pirate’s Life For Me” while dancing around a campfire.

Optimus Prime: If we’re allowing fictional characters, by the way, into this scenario, then of course we can allow Optimus Prime. I’m not sure what his practical use would be, honestly — but come on! He’s Optimus Prime! He wouldn’t be too much use in fishing or gathering wood, but you’d definitely be safe from any island-dwelling Decepticons.

Edward Cullen: The arrangement would be utterly perfect. First, he wouldn’t have to eat, so I could eat all the meager food. And speaking of food, he is so perfect he could probably conjure up a four-course meal by simply breathing on the sand. Lastly, if something ever happened to his food-producing ability, I could simply — in an act of poetic justice lauded by males everywhere — eat him.

Chuck Norris: Do I even have to explain myself?

Problem solved.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

A discussion of psychology and Optimus Prime: another blog possibly induced by eating too many Otter Pops. [Connor]

Recently I’ve been reading a book entitled The Color Code, by Taylor Hartman. It’s a psychology book detailing a method to understanding human behavior and actions: why we feel the way we feel and why we act the way we act. Pretty deep, huh?

In truth, it starts out pretty simple. There are four fundamental personalities, named after colors: red, blue, yellow, and white. Everyone, except maybe Disney’s Mitchell Musso, fits into one of these personalities. Each color has a unique set of traits, strengths, and limitations. Reds are aggressive and dominating, thriving on challenges. Blues are emotional, often altruistic, and center their lives on relationships and following their own moral compass. Yellows are fun-loving people who want to have a good time. Whites are laid-back people who like to stay out of the limelight and enjoy feeling secure. Up front, many people may seem to be a mix of the colors; however, everyone is driven by a single core motive, one central thing that they seek after. Reds strive to overcome challenges and gain power. Blues want intimacy: relationships, understanding, love, call it what you want. Yellows crave fun, whereas Whites want to feel secure. Since I started reading the book, I find it fascinating to select people and identify their personality color.

Which brings us to my central discussion. I made an interesting and disturbing discovery: even fictional characters will fall into one of the color categories. This has led me to a disturbing line of thought resulting in my identifying Darth Vader as a Red, for his aggressive, dominating personality; Obi-Wan Kenobi as a White, for his apparent need to stay independent while staying comfortably out of the spotlight, and Samwise Gamgee as a Blue, for his altruism-based effort to support Frodo Baggins in the quest to destroy the One Ring.

My mom let out a justified laugh when I admitted to having gone so far as to classify certain of the Transformers into colors. Optimus Prime, my personal hero, is another Blue, for his self-sacrificing, moral-driven mission to save Earth from the wrath of the Decepticons. (It’s sad to admit, but Optimus holds a special place in my heart. I was roused to tears by his go-down-swinging dying scene in the second Transformers movie.) Megatron, like many villains it seems, appears to be a Red.

I admit: it doesn’t get much nerdier than this. Applying principles of psychology to fictional (except in the case of Optimus Prime- don’t you DARE imply that he isn’t real!) characters. But I for one find it interesting, at the least, that made-up characters, even alien robots, can be grouped under categories of human personalities.

PS. I’m a Blue.

PPS. So is Batman.