An Announcement

Hey everyone, and by everyone I mean my small-but-dedicated core audience and the occasional person I manage to snag in with decent post-tagging, I have an announcement to make, if you couldn’t tell already. First of all, yes, that alliteration in the title is intentional. Second of all, I’ve decided to take a bit of a long-term break/hiatus from making new blog posts. While I definitely have the time and ideas to probably write several posts most weeks, I want to take some time to focus on some creative projects. I have no intentions of “abandoning” this blog, I’ll return to writing new posts eventually. There are just a few creative projects I’ve been really wanting to focus my time on. I have no idea when I’ll return to writing posts full-time again, I anticipate it to be sometime later this year, probably during Fall at the earliest. Make sure to follow my blog or me on social media for updates on when I do, or maybe even on one of my creative projects if I make decent progress. Thanks for reading my (extremely inconsistent) posts, and I’m looking forward to making new ones again in the future! For the time being my site will remain up, and all posts will be available to read. Feel free to comment on posts or contact me, I might get back to you in a timely manner. Maybe. Until then, see you later! Wait, that’s not quite how that works, wouldn’t it be write for you later?

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A Selection of the Strangest How-To Books on Amazon

Greetings presumed blog readers, today we’re going to have a fun blog post. If you’ve ever gone down the rabbit hole that is Amazon books, you’d know that there’s both some pretty cool stuff and pretty strange stuff out there. This is largely due to Amazon’s self-publishing features (it’s quite easy to do, check out my book I published) as well as it’s online nature that tends to cause some somewhat rare or otherwise unheard of books to be sold. Even if for some reason you have searched Amazon for weird books before, a genre you may not have considered is that of “How-To” books. A bit of a joke of a genre, How-To books can still be pretty useful, though in the age of the internet not quite essential. An Unexpected use of some, though, is to make the reader laugh, intentionally or unintentionally. Here are but a few of the highlights I’ve found (all of these are 100% real by the way):

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Some of these books are serious, some are satire, some are problematic, some are unintentionally funny. The world is a wide, wild place and it only makes sense there would be a variety of books to match that.

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The Banner Saga Playthrough Finale

Welcome to the sixth and final part of my playthrough of The Banner Saga! I know it’s extremely late, but I got distracted with my Sunless Skies Playthrough, which you can check out here.

If you haven’t watched my previous videos, I strongly suggest watching them before this one. You can find them here: Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, Part Five.

This video focuses on my (successful!) reattempt of the final battle, as well as the closing cutscenes. I even linger on the credits for a bit so you can listen to the fantastic soundtrack, if you want.

Thank you for watching my playthrough, please support the developers at Stoic Studios by purchasing their games and soundtracks.  The Banner Saga Trilogy is available on all major platforms (including smartphones) and is rated T for Teen.

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Four Reasons You Should Read the Acts of Thecla

I was originally going to publish this yesterday to coincide with International Women’s Day, but I went and saw Captain Marvel (Which was great! Go watch it!) instead. Either way, I’m still excited to share this weird and wonderful early Christian work with you.

For those of you who don’t know, which is probably most of you, this semester I am taking an Introduction to New Testament class. For the most part, it’s been a review of what I’ve already found in my own studies, but occasionally I’ll learn something cool/interesting. This week we were going over the Pastoral Epistles and the Deutero-Pauline Epistles, comparing them with Pauls letters. We also went over a little gem called the Acts of Thecla (also known as the Acts of Paul and Thecla) for another example of how the Pauline tradition continued. I was absolutely blown away by how crazy it was, but also how progressive (well, at least for the time) it was with gender roles/social norms. If I haven’t piqued your interest yet, here’s a few more reasons why you should check out this little-known but important text.

  1. It’s counter-cultural. Rome and its provinces (including Judea) were a “single-sex” society, and it was commonly believed that women were an inferior version of men. Among the upper classes (which is whom the Pseudepigraphical Pauline letters were written to) women were expected to be “silent and submissive” (Sound familiar?) and relegate themselves to the private or home spheres. While they did usually have some say, marriages were arranged financial contracts between the eldest males of each family. Marriage was not for love, and certainly not for sexual pleasure (it was considered disrespectful to have sex with your wife for any reason other than procreation). Rather, it was for maintaining the “social order” and class system. Thecla, in stark contrast, rejects this as a whole and lives the life she believes is best for her.
  2. Socially and Theologically, it Reads much more like Paul than the Pseudepigrapha. Paul believed the world was ending soon and Jesus would return any day. He taught a radically egalitarian and ascetic worldview. As far as we can tell from his surviving letters, he was probably asexual and wasn’t a huge fan of marriage (but didn’t care that much if people did get married). He also references and affirms various female ministers and apostles. This clashes a lot with the letters forged in his name, which basically act as PR letters to the general Roman world (Hey, look at us, we’re not a threat, we’re preserving the Social Order even better than Non-Christ Followers). Unlike Paul, these authors were very concerned with preserving the family/class system around them, and they definitely didn’t believe the world was ending anytime soon (In fairness, they were right about that one). Despite being written almost a century later, we can easily see that the author of Acts of Thecla was a part of the original Pauline tradition, which eventually died out. Probably because they weren’t having sex or getting married, and you can only recruit so many people to a lifestyle like that.
  3. It Was a Very Popular and Influential Work Within Christianity. If you’ve studied Church history at all, especially the development of the modern canons, you know that early Christianity was very diverse and most of its ideas, especially the popular ones, didn’t make it into the “final cut”. We know from both the number of surviving copies and numerous references from at-the-time-contemporary scholars and Church fathers that Acts of Thecla was among the most popular for several hundred years. It was extremely influential, and at its peak, there was even a Church of Thecla. For a long time, she was even a Catholic saint and is still a saint among some Eastern Orthodox traditions. If Church history and the evolution of Christian faith/beliefs interests you at all, Acts of Thecla is a must-read.
  4. Did I Mention It’s Absolutely Wild and Crazy? If you’ve been paying attention so far, you might be under the impression Acts of Thecla was some serious, solemn work that has some relevant as well as antiquated teachings. But, that’s not all. It’s also hugely entertaining. The narrative is intentionally comedic and consists of a series of increasingly unlikely and over-the-top events. Arguably the climax of the story is when after surviving a battery of vicious animals in the local coliseum for refusing to marry her fiance and breaking Paul out of prison, she dives into a pool of ravenous seals (you read that right) and baptizes herself. It’s absolutely bonkers and incredibly progressive and I love it.

It’s easy to see why in spite of its popularity Acts of Thecla didn’t make it into any of the modern Biblical canons. While a life of celibacy and asceticism is not attractive or relevant to most modern readers, the tale of defying social norms, standing by your values, and choosing a lifestyle best for you remains timeless. For Christians and Secular readers alike it offers refreshingly feminist takeaway as well. If I’ve won you over and you want both and insightful and entertaining reading, the entire Acts of Thecla can be found at this link. Have a great day and a Happy Belated International Women’s day to you!

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Sunless Skies: Reviewing 2019’s Most Deliciously Written Game

A murdered sun. A monument to the first rat in space. Smuggling souls, stories, and time itself. Your Inconvenient Aunt. These are but a few of the horrors and wonders you will encounter during your time in Sunless Skies’ haunted and hilarious universe.

It is the early 20th century, and imperialistic London has spread its reach to the heavens themselves. Spread between four separate biomes, your journey will be one of survival and discovery, as you captain your own locomotive through space. That’s right, locomotive. Your space ship is a train.

Your time in Sunless Skies will be split between a text-based RPG and top-down survival horror exploration. Both are quite good, but it’s Failbetter’s exquisite words that are the main attraction.

Failbetter Games is well-known for their signature writing style, both within and without of the gaming community. Both the mundane and the extraordinary are told through small snippets of flavor text, keeping you coming back for more. Specific and ephemeral, silly and chilling, it often stands in ironic contrast to itself. Some stories are more important than others, but all are entertaining and create a great sense of world-building. Characters don’t have exact names, rather they’re brief descriptions such as “The Incautious Driver”, “The Clay Conductor”, or “The Inadvisably Big Dog”. More often than not they serve to show off the writer’s talent at wordplay than anything else. Sunless Skies doesn’t have much of an overall story, though there are about a half-dozen endings so far (more to come in free updates and probably DLC someday) you can achieve if you want. But largely, the narrative shifts from story to story, occasionally overlapping or connecting. It gives the game a very dreamlike, and occasionally relaxing quality. You’re just a traveler, floating through the cosmos, stepping in and out of people’s lives…

…Except when your not. Space is full of dangerous foes, both human and not. As you chug along through the vast reaches of the heavens, you’ll encounter hostile ships, bugs, monsters, and beings that you’ll either have to kill or be killed by. This is done in real time and involves dodging around each other and getting in shots with your weapons to eventually wear down the enemies hull or health. It’s fairly simple, but allows for a lot of depth and strategy if you want. Unlike its predecessor, Sunless Sea, Sunless Skies now has multiple combat difficulty settings, tailoring the experience for the most casual or hardcore players. Either way, you will die at some point, but that’s all a part of the fun. A legacy system passes on some of your items, progress, and experience to a successor captain. Even this though, can be turned off, instead when you die you’ll reset to the last port you were at. I’d recommend even novice players stick with the default option though, its far less punishing than Sunless Sea was a helps build a sense of dread.

Speaking of dread, the Fear mechanic returns to Sunless Skies, with a few new modifications. Enemies aren’t your only, well, enemy in space. As you drift through cosmic horrors, you and your crew will gradually begin to build up fear. As your fear builds up, well, things begin to happen. Build your fear up enough and you will gain a semi-permanent nightmares point, which will cause more things to happen. Fear is actually pretty easy to manage and is not a threat on all but the longest of journies. Nightmares is a bit trickier, but there are some options to reduce them. Depending on where you are though, it may be a while until you reach one of said options. Normally you want to keep your fear as low as possible, but occasionally its fun to experiment by letting it build up. There are some pretty cool and terrifying story events that will come up, and the environment around you will begin to look and sound different as well.

Story and gameplay aren’t the only defining features of Sunless Skies, however. The art direction is also fantastic. As you explore outer space, you’ll notice the many-layered backdrop you fly against. Visual and audio cues add to the immersion. At ports, storylets and characters are illustrated with beautiful hand-drawn art. There’s never a dull scene, and some of the sights you’ll encounter are absolutely breathtaking. Sunless Skies is the kind of experience you can come away from and say “You wouldn’t believe the things I’ve seen”.

Sunless Skies is not a game for everyone, it is slow-paced, weird, and can be difficult at times, even on easier settings. However, if you want to talk with sentient mushrooms, smuggle barreled hours, or lose your mind, this may be the game for you.

Failbetter Games’ Sunless Skies costs $24.99 and is available from Steam, GOG, and Humble Bundle. Below I’ve included the Launch Trailer and my ongoing playthrough if you want to learn more.

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Discontinuing Google Plus Page

Hey everyone, just a brief announcement that due to Google shutting down Google +, I will be discontinuing all services with my page and shutting it down. This will have no effect on those Following my blog, its Twitter page, or posts on my personal Facebook page. Now, I strongly doubt many of you actually checked my Google + page, but I do know a few did regularly, so I thought it best to let them know. To the four to six people this will affect, sorry! Feel free to directly Follow my blog or check out my Twitter. As for everyone, I’m sorry for taking another hiatus, I’m almost done with several posts so I have at least a few weeks of content coming out soon.

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The Banner Saga Playthrough-Part Five

 

Hey everyone, and welcome to the penultimate chapter in my playthrough of the Banner Saga!

If you’re new to my playthrough but are interested in watching, I’d strongly recommend going back and watching Parts OneTwoThree and Four first.

In this episode, I play through most of Chapter 7, and promptly lose to the final boss because I’m very rusty at the game. Rook and friends are finally reunited, along with some new allies and potential foes. But they have little time for reunion, as Bellower is already here, and the final battle (at least for the first game!) is upon them.

Next time I will replay and (hopefully) beat the final battle, and watch the ending. Tissues recommended for the credits.

If you’ve enjoyed my playthrough so far continue to watch and please and support the developers at Stoic Studios by purchasing their games and soundtracks.  The Banner Saga Trilogy is available on all major platforms (including smartphones) and is rated T for Teen.

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One Year of Blogging!

Hey everyone, today is just gonna be a bit of a micro-post, but I just wanted to announce that apparently, I’ve been blogging for one year! I haven’t been keeping track myself, but WordPress just notified me when I logged in today. To both my small but dedicated core audience and the many occasional readers I receive, thank you for your support and taking the time to read my ramblings. I’m looking forward to another year of blogging (since I’ve already paid for another year of WordPress) and hopefully this year will have more frequent and regular posts. We’ll see! I’ll certainly try! This is getting awkward now so I’m just gonna stop!

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Top Tips for Bible Study This New Year

Well, it looks like once again my post is late, this time by about two weeks.  Oh well, what can I do? (maybe actually write them on time) So, here we go.

Today, I’m gonna go over a few helpful tips that may be useful to you’re interested in Bible study.  I’m fairly certain most of my readers are, though if you aren’t, feel free to skip this post.  Or don’t, you might still find it interesting.  All of these techniques I use on a regular basis and have found extremely helpful.

  1. Understand Genre: One of the biggest mistakes I’ve seen many people make (I’m guilty of having made this mistake myself) is not recognizing the genre of a book in the Bible.  A book’s genre will greatly affect its meaning and value.  The Bible is a diverse collection of documents and ideas written over thousands of years, so pinning down a single book can make it much easier to understand.  Is it history, wisdom, parable, prophecy, apocalypse, gospel, myth, a letter (and which type of letter) or even a collection of erotic poetry (I’m looking at you Song of Songs).  These are just a sampling of the genres found in the Bible.  If you aren’t sure of a book’s genre, look it up, you’ll find plenty of helpful resources available online.
  2. Attempt to understand the original intent: Unfortunately for many of the books in the Bible, it’s difficult to decisively determine the original author’s meaning.  For some, it’s not even possible.  This is why we have over 40,000 denominations today, even though we’re all basing it off of (mostly) the same books.  In spite of this, don’t give up hope!  We can certainly try!  Researching the context in which a book was written can prove very useful, and we have a wealth of commentaries, some dating back to within decades of when these books were written, others from the top Biblical scholars of today.  Often times meaning can be distorted or even lost in the translation process.  Luckily, the everyday user can now find resources that will allow them to compare copies of the original texts with modern English.  If you’re extra-curious, turn to some extra-biblical texts.  These can help open your eyes to the world around the Biblical authors and understand events, culture, and social norms that may have influenced them.
  3. View the Bible Through the Lens of Christ: Some of you may be familiar with the term “hermeneutic”.  While this may sound like a technical, esoteric term, it really isn’t.  All a hermeneutic is is the viewpoint or perspective through which you study the bible.  There are many different hermeneutics out there, all of which are useful for extrapolating different meanings from the text.  One of my favorites is to view the Bible through the lens of Christ and his teachings.  As the Bible is so big and full of so many different ideas, I find this helpful in digging up truth that can be applied to my life.
  4. Midrash Aggadah: Study the Bible like Jesus!: Better yet, why not study the Bible like Jesus!  Due to the ambiguous nature of some portions of the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament), Jews had (and still have) a variety of study techniques for different situations.  One such tool is Midrash Aggadah, and it just so happens to be one of those favored by Jesus in the Gospels.  Rather than focusing on the legalistic nature of a passage, Midrash Aggadah attempts to find and extract the moral meaning or message from it.  Jesus would use this to find radically different and sometimes even new meaning from the same texts those around him were studying.  This isn’t just for the Hebrew Bible though, it’s also useful when studying the New Testament as well.
  5. Pray: Different groups of Christians have different opinions on the purpose and usefulness of prayer, but one thing that most agree on is for guidance from the Holy Spirit, or presence of God.  If you’re feeling puzzled by a passage, take a break, pray, and come back to it later.  You might just stumble upon a meaning you missed earlier.
  6. Study with Other Believers: One of the perks of being a part of a religious group (i.e. church) is being a member of a collection of different people.  Each of you comes from a different walk of life with their own unique traits and experiences.  By discussing your studies together, or even studying together, you can share your insights with others, and likewise, hear from them.  You might just be surprised by what you hear, and in a good way!
  7. Don’t Be Afraid to Get It “Wrong”: I would agree with the statement that there is objective truth in the Bible, and that many passages have a definitive intended meaning.  But if there’s one thing we’ve learned throughout history and even today, is that this meaning can be difficult to find, and that not everyone is going to agree.  This is ok.  The purpose of your Bible study isn’t to find this objective truth, because frankly, it’s impossible.  Rather, it should be to build your relationship with God and other believers, and to find truths that apply to your life.  Many Bible passages were written with the intent of having multiple meanings, this is even built into the very language much of it was written in.  So when you and your peers come to different conclusions, don’t be discouraged, but encouraged.  With the right mindset, you might just learn something new.

So here are seven tips for a new year, I figured that’s a good number.  I often employ a very academic approach when studying the Bible, which some of you may find unfamiliar or even uncomfortable.  That’s fine.  What works for me will not necessarily work for you.  I do hope, however, that for those who are interested, I’ve inspired a year of discovery and reinvested interest.  And who knows, you might even employ a trick or two that I’ve discussed today.

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New Posts Coming Soon

Hey guys, sorry for not posting anything these last couple of weeks!  I’ve been on break from school, and spent a lot of time visiting with friends and family.  I probably could have fit in a post or two, but it just didn’t end up happening.  I promise to post something by the beginning of next week, even if it’s just a short snippet or game playthrough.  Happy New Year!

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