Saturday, 30 November 2013

The Greatest Battle of Wits to Ever Happen Ever (Maybe)

Sherlock Holmes is one of the most iconic characters to ever appear in fiction. For this reason, movie directors have attempted to bring the famous detective to the big screen since, well, the big screen was invented. Lately, there have been two reincarnations of Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories that have captured audience’s attentions. First was the Hollywood creation with Robert Downey Jr. as the quirky detective, soon followed by BBC’s Sherlock, with Benedict Cumberbatch as the emotionless private eye. I thoroughly enjoyed RDJ as Sherlock, with all the mental play and plain strangeness, but Janelle recently got me hooked on the BBC version and now I can’t wait until the third season (or 4th…I can’t remember. Each season is about 3 episodes). Anyways, since they both ended at approximately the same point and this is really the only portrayals of Sherlock I know as I've never read the original books, I thought it might be fun to pit them against each other and see which is better.


SETTING and PLOT

Hollywood: Sherlock Holmes is set in the classic old English setting in which (I’m assuming) it was written. I’ve always liked it when movies incorporate time-appropriate ways of solving problems, and this is everywhere in these movies. Now, I’m no historian and I’d really have no idea if the things used were accurate to the time or books, but hey, it still looked cool. A good movie should force you to suspend your understanding of reality and skepticism for a few hours, and these 2 movies did that for me perfectly.

BBC: This series decided to take a new spin on the classic Sherlock, setting him in modern day London and giving him access to all the technology of our world. Everything is explained with a modern twist, from why Sherlock wears a deerstalker cap (also taught me what a deerstalker was), to the existence of the Hounds of the Baskervilles. Sherlock has access to forensics, cellphones, the internet, and really whatever he could desire, which really allows the audience to follow along with the story and believe that these crimes are solvable. It’s a new way to relate to Sherlock, and it’s done incredibly well.

VERDICT: Sadly, I’m a sucker for a good time piece. Good on ya, Hollywood. 
Hoolywood: 1, BBC: 0


SHERLOCK HOLMES

Hollywood: I don’t think you could have gotten a better depiction of the socially awkward, incredibly strange, and powerfully intelligent detective than Robert Downey Jr., somewhat recently famous for his depiction of Iron Man. He always looks like part of him is still lost in his own mind, always thinking, giving him a touch of crazy. He’s quirky to the extreme. He’s beyond brilliant. In many ways, he’s similar to another character he does very well. If Tony Stark was a social outcast and poor, you’d have Sherlock. Allowing the audience to see into his mind also helps us relate to him, removing some of the coldness that is often attributed (according to a YouTube video I watched) to Sherlock.

BBC: The modern Sherlock is portrayed by the incredible Benedict Cumberbatch, who I'd never really heard of before this, but is scheduled to play Smaug the Dragon in the new Hobbit movie. Rather than a quirky, lovable Sherlock, in this series you get an emotionless, rude, determined, and yet still lovable Sherlock. He’s hilarious. Cumberbatch’s Sherlock is incredibly blunt and honest with people, believing emotion only gets in the way. He is also beyond determined in anything he sets his mind to, 100% invested in a case. RDJ is also a very determined Sherlock, but always seems distracted, probably by his own thoughts. Cumberbatch is never distracted, only thinking of what is important at any given time, always appearing focussed. I just love everything he says. He’s a social outcast and abrasive, but he doesn’t care. He’ll do what needs to be done to get the job done.

VERDICT: This is probably the toughest one to judge. I love RDJ’s quirkiness, but also Cumberbatch’s perceived superiority. Maybe it’s because it was the first Sherlock I was exposed to, but I prefer Robert Downy Jr., even if Cumberbatch is more accurate.
Hollywood: 2, BBC: 0


JOHN WATSON

Hollywood: Dr. John Watson is portrayed by Jude Law, who's been in tons of dramatic movies, and I have to say this Watson is done very well. He is the common sense behind Sherlock, or at least he tries to be, trying to get him to be reasonable and not awkward, though rarely succeeds. He is a character of amazing patience and loyalty. Not only that, when Sherlock needs him, he reveals his intelligence and dexterity, being a capable fighter and detective, though still made to look a little thick by Sherlock. This Watson appears to be the perfect counterpart to Sherlock, and they create the perfect crime solving team. The only thing I have against him is his character doesn’t feel as deep as Sherlock’s. You don’t really get to know Watson other than as Sherlock’s partner, though a very effective partner.

BBC: Here, Watson becomes a Hobbit. Yes, Martin Freeman may never live that role down as Bilbo, but is that really a bad thing? In the modern age, Watson is Sherlock’s blogger, recording their adventures online for the public to enjoy, as well as providing some advertising. He’s an ex-military commander and doctor, and much more socially adept than his counterpart, often being left to smooth over situations that Sherlock has muddled up. However, this partnership feels less like a partnership and more like hero and sidekick. Watson is constantly left looking like an idiot after working with his friend, and often loses patience with Sherlock’s lack of sympathy. Still, when he is needed, he can perform admirably. I once read that Freeman plays a similar character in all his roles: “I should not have gone on this adventure.” He does it super well, and it’s often hilarious and authentic, but he still seems inferior to the magnificent Sherlock.

VERDICT: This is almost a tie. Law provides a partner to Sherlock, where Freeman is more of a sidekick and seemingly less useful, though he does show is invaluable to Cumberbatch. However, Freeman is far more personable and entertaining, while Law is less dynamic as a character. But I think Bilbo wins.   
Hollywood: 2, BBC: 1


JAMES MORIARTY

Hollywood: Portrayed by Jared Harris, who apparently is constantly a supporting actor, Moriarty hides in plain sight as a professor at the university. He appears old yet distinguished in his role as a professor, but is actually brilliantly ruthless. I, however, have a tough time taking him seriously because of his looks. He is significantly older than Sherlock, yet matches him in the fight at the end and they plummet off the cliff (spoiler…but not really). I kinda always assumed Sherlock had Moriarty bested, even though he’s supposed to be his equal in brilliance.  

BBC: This guy is messed up. Played by Andrew Scott, known for his incredibly role as a body on the beach of Saving Private Ryan (seriously, IMDB it. It's his number one known-for role), he also hides in plain sight at the beginning of the series. He later reveals himself to be testing Sherlock, and then begins to toy with him. Sherlock responds enthusiastically, even though there are lives on the line, because he loves the challenge. He doesn’t fail, but it shows how devious Moriarty is. Human life doesn’t matter. He just wants to prove that he’s smarter than Sherlock, and almost does (spoiler?). This Moriarty is much younger than Harris’ interpretation, and is far more psychopathic. Imagine if the Joker was English and had no makeup. He has the desire to destroy because he has the power to. Scott is scary.

VERDICT: Andrew Scott, no question. He proves he’s Sherlock’s equal. Half the time you have no idea who’s going to win. That’s the true definition of a mortal enemy.
Hollywood: 2, BBC: 2


MYCROFT HOLMES

Hollywood: Sherlock’s influential politician of a brother is played by Stephen Fry, who, if you don't watch any of his real life political stuff, is quite likable as a stuck-up British type, like Jeremy Clarkson from Top Gear. In much the same way RDJ is quirky, so is Fry, giving a bit of insight on how odd the family is, though Mycroft is much more socially adept than his brother because of his constant work with other people of influence. He’s still weird, though, which I thoroughly enjoy. Fry doesn’t play a hugely significant role in the second movie (his only appearance so far), but it was still memorable.

BBC: Mycroft loses his goofiness in favour of importance. Played by Mark Gatiss, who's appeared in a ton of British films and TV series, this Mycroft looks every part the influential person of power he is. Like his brother, he is emotionless and tends to hide from the public spotlight, but is often embarrassed by his younger brother’s actions. He is proper and distinguished, coming off as very English. That’s great for someone who is supposed to be one of the most powerful people in London, possibly the world, but still, he’s not very fun.

VERDICT: Stephen Fry. Both interpretations do a good job of showing family connections, with Fry and RDJ being strange and quirky, while Cumberbatch and Gatiss are emotionless and proper, as well as the tension between the brothers, with both Sherlocks hating to ask for help from Mycroft. I’m just a fan of the quirkier Holmes family.  
Hollywood: 3, BBC: 2


After a nail biting finish, the antique and weird Hollywood Sherlock Holmes has beaten the modern and very British BBC series Sherlock. Both of these shows are very well done, and it seems that where one lacks in one area, the other makes up for it. The movies have less character development, while the series provides some very dynamic characters. Law’s utility to Freeman’s personality. Gatiss’s distinction to Fry’s weirdness. Everything works so well together in each adaptation. Both have plans for more screen time, with a new BBC season coming out within a year and another Sherlock movie after that (I read writing has just begun…blame Marvel). Really, you can’t go wrong with either, and I thoroughly enjoy both of them, so go watch the one you haven’t seen. 

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Give Me My Blood Back!

Today I get to cross an item off my bucket list- donating blood. Normally, such an event would not garner mention in a blog. However, most people don't donate like I do.

It all began in Stats class. Lately, Stats has become increasingly...complicated (sample formula: px(x)=P[X=x]=(M choose x)*(N-M) choose (n-x) all divided by (N choose x)), so I've grown a little resentful of the class. Unfortunately, an assignment was due, so I had to attend.

My Stats friends, Rachel and Dakota, seemed overly excited about something when I sat down. Before I got the chance to notice, though, I was asked, "Are you going to donate blood? You should donate blood."

"...but I like my blood..."

"Oh, you replace the blood you give within around 50 days," replied Dakota. "They barely take that much, too, like 2 small bags." She then mimed a bag about the size of a baseball.

That didn't seem too bad. But still, I wasn't sold.

"I need my blood. I'm accident prone. I lose enough already without giving it away."

This excuse wasn't good enough either. In case I forgot, Dakota reminded me that I'll get it all back in about 2 months, and they don't take that much.

"I'm not a fan of needles."

"But the needles are small and you barely feel a thing," Rachel chimed in.

To be honest, this all seemed pretty good. I've thought about giving blood before, but usually for not very long because the blood I have is doing a fine job of staying inside me. I like my blood inside me. I don't even know what type I am.

"Alright, I think I can do that," I relented.

This seemed to please them, and they began to describe when they first gave blood, and how often, and why they liked it so much, and how much free food was going to be there. Then class started and all was forgotten.

Except by me.

After another class of more letters than numbers, most of which were upper and lower case x, Dakota and Rachel turned towards the tunnel that lead to the Education building and said goodbye. This made it a little awkward since I had decided to follow them to give blood.

"Oh, you're coming this way, too?" asked Rachel.

"Ya. Is this the way to Education? You convinced me to give blood."

"Really? You don't have to," she replied.

"Ya, I'd forgotten we'd asked you!" laughed Dakota. Hey, I love being forgotten about.

So I continued to follow them towards the blood clinic set up in the Education building, though they still seemed confused that I was actually coming. Was I not supposed to? Now I'm confused.

Just before going inside, I pointed to the two girls in front of me and said, "If I faint, I'm blaming you," and we all laughed. Who faints from losing too much blood?

Since Dakota hadn't eaten anything, we went down to the cafeteria and she grabbed a sandwich while I ate an apple I packed. I felt a little hungry, but I had a burger for lunch along with some juice. I was sure I was going to be fine, even though I was a bit nervous.

Finally, we lined up to give away the precious fluid of life in our bodies. I totally wasn't having second thoughts at this time at all. I let Dakota and Rachel go ahead of me, who already had their blood donor cards ready to go. When it was my turn, I was asked if I had donated before, which I said no. The guy behind the desk got a little gleam in his eye and happily grabbed the roll of stickers beside him.

"These are for first-time donors, so the nurses can tell who's never done it before and can help you out. Just put it on your shirt and you'll be good to go."

Great. I love being singled out in a crowd.

The next part was to get a blood test for hemoglobin and stuff. I scored a 179, which is apparently super high and an excellent score. But to get it, they had to prick my finger. This looked like it would hurt a little bit. The volunteer grabbed my finger and squeezed the tip of it, while holding a small pink stabbing device that resembled a really tiny USB drive. I know the finger tip is sensitive, so I braced for a sharp little pain, but instead of going for the tip, she angled my finger ever so slightly and quickly pushed the pink thing into the side, which clicked, then she threw it away and began to squeeze blood from my finger. There was zero pain. It was even kinda cool. Maybe this wasn't going to be so bad. Maybe sharp stabby things aren't to be feared, especially when they're pink. Maybe I'm nervous for nothing.

Now onto the survey. I only could answer yes for three of the first set of questions: Are you feeling good today, do you have a cold/flu/bug/whatever (getting over a cold), and have you been out of the country in the last year (Turkey and Greece trip)? There was one question about if I ever had a seizure or a coma or epilepsy or fainted, to which I said no solely on the fact of the first three. I had fainted a few times before, and even blackout out vision on a gondola once, but this made it seem more serious than I thought my incidents were. I did mention it to the interview lady, who seemed to think I should have put a yes there, but said it didn't really matter. It's quite rare for people to faint while giving blood.

Next was the interview about the more confidential things. Here, my blood pressure and heart rate were tested, both of which turned out fine. The lady interviewing and testing me complimented me on my large blood vessels. I can't say that's a first. She was really nice and helped relieve a lot of my nervous tension accumulated from waiting around. After having a nice chat about visiting Greece and Turkey and discussing the risk of malaria in such places (not in the places I was at, though) with the interview lady, I was ready to give blood. She handed me a bag of what seemed like 27 blood bags and 300 feet of tubes and told me to sit and wait for the nurses to call me. I thought I was only giving 2 bags. How much do they want from me? And just like that, I was nervous again.

Since I wasn't being called when I thought I should be, I began to read my book to kill some time. I started a new one on the life of Cicero, the famous Roman politician. So far so good. But before I could finish the page, I was up.

I was ushered to a large black chair that had a slight include to offer the maximum comfort...or, at least from something designed like a lawn chair. My arm was placed on the cushion on the side, then yanked up as the nurse began to weave the miles of tube around it. There were more nozzles than I ever could have imagined, and what looked like at least 2 different stems to flow into. Then the needle was revealed.

Small? Ya right. I've seem smaller plumbing pipes. It looked more like a straw with a needle, and it was going to be plunged into my arm. Wonderful. Then the nurse handed me a stress ball shaped like the earth. I giggled to myself. I had the whole world in my hand. She then told me to make a fist so the vein would stick up. As is my habit with any needle, I turned away before the nurse stabbed me. I felt it go in every inch. It was unpleasant, but not the worst needle I'd ever had. And just like that, blood began to pour out of me.

Besides the discomfort, it really wasn't that bad. I looked over at the guy beside me to watch him get stabbed (that doesn't bother me as much, for some reason), and saw blood spurt as the needle went in. I then wondered if mine had done that. I didn't see any blood on my arm, though, so I dismissed it. Rachel, now just finishing up giving blood, made faces at me, so I made them back. Then I noticed the nurse take some vials and stick them onto a part of the tube, one at a time, where they shot full of blood. I guess they wanted more than the bag, which was NOT baseball sized (more like 2 coke cans), but I didn't mind, because watching my blood shoot into them was kinda fun. Then I tried to get a good look at my blood bag below, but couldn't really see much. However, I saw enough to mentally claim, "Yeah, that's my blood." Yes, I'm a little weird.

And just like that, I was finished. Then nurse removed the straw-needle, which I again felt every inch, and told me to press a gauze pad on to heal it up. Well, that wasn't too bad. I think they only filled one bag, too. I'm practically done here.

Soon after removing the needle, though, I began to feel a bit light headed, which I took to be my body realizing that it just lost a lot of blood, and didn't consider it to be serious. I've felt light headed before, and usually recovered within a few seconds, so I didn't say anything.

"Dayton?"

That name. That's my name.

"Dayton?"

Why are they saying my name?

I looked around at the nurses standing around me. They kept saying my name. I wanted to say, "Ya?" but didn't. Couldn't. What was happening?

"Are you ok, Dayton?"

Finally, I felt I could speak. "Ya, I'm fine."

I then noticed I wasn't holding my gauze pad anymore. The nurse was. Why wasn't I doing that? I was also leaned way back in my chair that was originally upright. Then I noticed that there was another nurse standing beside me that wasn't there a few seconds ago. And another in front. The one beside me was wiping and arm my face with really nice, ice cold water.

"Dayton, you fainted on us."

Crap.

I couldn't believe I fainted. Well, not entirely. This would happen to me. But still, I fainted. It was more humorous than embarrassing, but only slightly.

My head felt warm, but the ice water was refreshing. The nurse apologized for messing up my hair, but I was ok with that. I've trained my hair to look amazing. Apparently, I caught everyone off guard. My complexion was normal and I gave no normal signs that I was about to pass out. But I have a real problem with subtlety. Within seconds of removing the needle, my body stiffened up and I was out cold. Thankfully, it wasn't while the needle was in.

I was then offered some juice and told to just sit and  relax for a few minutes to make sure I was ok. I felt shakey and a bit weird, but ok. Then I got up and joined Rachel and Dakota at the snack station.

You better believe I blamed them for fainting.

Monday, 11 November 2013

How to Fix Everything (or at least Stupidity)

I recently read an article titled "Abstinence is Unrealistic and Old-fashioned." You're probably thinking the same things I first thought when I saw the title: "Why the heck is a Christian guy posting this on facebook? Is there something I don't know about him? Has he fooled us ALL???"

Or something like that.

The article is actually a critique of the issue and in support of abstinence. It was a very interesting read, and made me think of the messages that our culture is sending us. Why would a teacher (spoiler alert) tell his student that abstinence isn't practical anymore, and it's better to explore sexuality? That's pretty alarming.

However, I found something even worse. One of the comments said something along the lines of, "I wouldn't have a problem with this is you stated it as your opinion, not as truth. Sex is important in a marriage, so you should practice. THERE IS NO RIGHT AND WRONG! I'M A BIG STUPID IDIOT! BLAH BLAH BLAH!"

At least, that's how I remember it.

Several other people had the same or similar issues with this comment as I do, judging from the endless list of replies to this person. A lot of them said exactly what I was thinking, but none seemed to touch on my biggest issue: the claim that there is no right or wrong. Yes, this person actually said that (in all caps, too). It's an issue I've had in some of my classes at the U of S here as well. The belief that there is no right or wrong, only personal experiences and mentality that shapes our individual morals.

Do you see the contradiction?

If you don't, that's ok. I was in a Philosophy class when this idea was first brought to me and it blew my mind. The contradiction is that to say there is no right or wrong is based on the belief that this statement is truthful, or right. So you shouldn't actually be able to say this with a straight face. It's a similar phrase to "There is no absolute truth," which is an absolute truth statement. It's an immediate contradiction, which renders the initial statement false. Even to follow the statement with everyone has their own morality is saying that right and wrong exists, just on an individual level.

Ok, so what about ignoring the first statement and focusing on personal morality? Consider the example of Hitler, or Stalin, or Pol Pot. These people acted on their own judgement. They believed that they were helping their nation/people by getting rid of the opposing force. For Hitler, it was the Jews; Stalin, political enemies; and Pol Pot...ok, so I don't know much about him, just that he's considered evil for some sort of genocide thing. Google it (I will later). Some researchers have even claimed mental impairments that allowed them to do these unspeakable atrocities, because no regular human could do that. This points to the existence of a universal standard to which people can be considered evil.

Therefore, if something can be considered evil, there must also be it's opposite, or at least the idea of it, which provides an understanding of what evil is. Evil is a comparative claim. We only consider Hitler to be evil because he is so far from our understanding of what good is. So if there is a universal evil, there is also a universal good. It is through this good that we base our understanding of evil from, not vise-versa. The Good is a topic that has been discussed since the time of Plato and Socrates. In fact, the beginning of Plato's Republic goes through this argument also exactly by taking three popular views and then refuting them one by one. These views are still almost parallel to the majority of views expressed today on the Good.

Hmm...that's interesting.

So, really, societal beliefs really haven't changed much since ancient Greece. It's all repeats through history. The only thing that changes is the technology we use to express it. Every generation seems to believe that they are the best and most advanced, and the previous generation regards the present generation as the worst and most degraded people. Since people killed each other for sport in Rome and there were celebrations to gods that was basically sleeping around with everyone, I don't think we're getting that much worse. It's all our narrow perception.

So why do we still believe/do all these things if it's a) happened a million times before and b) been proven to be false by Philosophy?

Simple: education.

I believe our high school education could use the addition of philosophy classes. This might be in the form of an ethics class, or framed more in a historical context (history of thought). It could even be added to present courses, like Health or Social Studies or English. This would provide the basic knowledge of some elementary philosophical principles that would help students become much more knowledgeable and wise adults.

"But Dayton! Philosophy is hard! The language is difficult and the concepts can leave people even more confused! Even if they didn't, they would still need to find teachers qualified to teach these subjects! Your idea is impractical!"

Yes, so maybe this is a little impractical, but not as much as you might think. First, our generation is in the mess it's in now because of laziness. We don't want to work hard for our rewards. We want instant fame through a viral video. We want the instant pleasure of sleeping with dozens of people before marriage. If it's easy, we want it. But since when did something worth while come from not working? The YouTube celebrities put in hours and hours on projects. They spend their money on equipment in order to make better content and travel to spread their brand. It's not lazy stuff. Hard work=better rewards. Ask anyone who's ever worked for anything ever.

Besides, teens already look at Shakespeare in class. That language is tough and there are layers upon layers of thought and analogy that is definitely not all looked at in school. Yet we study it anyways in order to get a better understanding on literary works considered to be some of the greatest of all time. So throwing in a little Plato and his analogy of the Cave or discussion with the three perspectives on the Good wouldn't be that big of a stretch. As for effective teachers, well, maybe this would help get rid of the crappy ones like the one mentioned in the article I read if they were required to have taken Philosophy courses in college or university. Teachers should be developing minds in order to think for themselves, anyways, not shoving facts down throats. That's why I want to be a teacher. I want to get kids to think about things and discover the joy of learning. Cause learning is so cool. Getting your mind blown is awesome.

With the influence that media has on our society today, I think this is more important than ever. To add philosophy in school would be to combat the negative trends that are consuming the youth. What is the Good? What is Justice? Love? Wisdom? Prosperity? Philosophy addresses it all. They may seem basic, but the basic is always the last thing to be considered.


Friday, 18 October 2013

All the Kings Men, pt. 3

Saul woke everyone up at the crack of dawn. “Everyone up! We have some to Philistines to get rid of!”

All the soldiers groaned and pulled themselves out of their sleeping bags. Their stomachs were still empty and sleep had been the only thing that stopped them from thinking about it. Now that they were up, the entire camp was filled with the growls of hunger. But no one complained because no one wanted to make Saul angry.

All day they chased the Philistines. They found them in caves and bushes and trees and swamps, and Saul made them get every single one. At last, they killed the final ones that evening. They had been keeping all the supplies for the rest of the army at a small farmyard, but now that they wouldn’t need it anymore, the Israelites took it. There were enough sheep, goats, cattle and calves to feed an army, which was good, because a hungry army had been starving all day and was ready to EAT. They were so hungry that they killed the animals and starting eating them right there.

Saul stood over a fire, cooking his meat and watching his army enjoy a feast.

“Uh…Saul? Shouldn’t we…you know…drain the blood first?”

“Mmph?” Saul said, a huge chunk of steak hanging out of his mouth

“You know, drain the blood. Like what Moses commanded?”

Saul spit out the meat immediately. “Right! Drain the blood!” He looked down at the chunk on the ground, heard his stomach grooooawwwwwwl, and felt a little sad for a second. Then he shouted to his army,

“STOP! Don’t sin against God and eat meat with blood in it! Bring the animals over here to be butchered first!”

So the soldiers did what they were told. Then Saul built an altar to the Lord for sacrifices.

After everyone had filled themselves on food, they began to set up camp. Saul, his highest generals, and the priest were relaxing by the fire while their tents were being set up.

“Hey,” said Saul, “I head there’s some more Philistines to the south. Lets surprise them during the night and destroy and plunder the rest of them tonight!”

His generals glanced over at each other. “Is he serious?” They thought. But instead, they said, “Whatever you think is best.”
“Hey, I think we should ask God first this time,” said the priest.

So Saul asked God. “Shall we defeat the Philistines tonight? Will you help us kill them all?”

No answer.

Saul asked again. “My Lord, should we plunder and destroy the Philistines as soon as we are ready to? Will you help us?”

Nothing.

Then Saul became worried. “God’s not answering me! Something’s wrong!” He looked at his generals. “Go and figure out what was done. I want to know who sinned, what they did, why, and how. Every detail. I swear that whoever did this will die, even if it were my own son!”

The generals glanced over at each other and thought, “Is he serious?”, but they said nothing and simply followed orders. Everyone was woken up, but no one claimed they did anything wrong. The generals took this information back to Saul.

Saul had an idea to find out the culprit. “Jonathan and I will stand on this side, the rest of you on that side.” No one objected. Then Saul prayed, “God, show us who is guilty and who is innocent!”

The priest took 2 stones and scratched one side of each. He gave one to a general on the soldier’s side and he took the other. “Whoever’s stone shows the scratch, that side is guilty and the other is innocent”

He threw them in the air and when they landed on the ground, it was Saul’s stone that showed the scratch. It was either Saul or Jonathan. Then the priest cast the stones again to decide between them. Saul clenched his fists in anticipation. Jonathan swallowed hard.

The stones flew up in the air. Both men watched them fall to the ground. Then they hit with a soft thud.

Jonathan was guilty.

Saul glared at his son and crossed his arms. “Boy, what did you do?”

“I…I tasted a little honey when I was off fighting Philistines. But it was only a little! And I never heard your vow before? Does that deserve death” Jonathan was shaking, and he wiped sweat from his forehead.

Saul glared even angrier. “Yes.” He began to reach for his sword at his side. “May God strike me down if I don’t obey my own vows!”

Then his best generals burst out of the crowd. “Saul! Don’t do this!” They pleaded. Two of them stood in front of their angry king, while another reasoned with him. “Jonathan is the reason we did so well against the Philistines! Would you kill the hero of Israel?”

Saul paused. He opened his mouth to reply, “Y-“

“No, of course you wouldn’t!” His general continued. “As sure as the Lord lives, not one hair on his head will be touched! He is a hero! An instrument of God’s power! Three cheers for Jonathan!”

The crowd of soldiers surrounded Jonathan and carried him away, cheering him and God’s power. Saul was left all alone, in silence, sword in hand, glaring at the departing crowd.

He looked around at the abandoned camp and clenched his jaw. “Fine,” he said and sighed. “But I’m going home,” and he crawled back into his tent and fell asleep.


Back at home, a letter waited on Saul’s desk of a new threat against Israel and God’s final test of its king. 

All the Kings Men, pt. 2

Saul and Samuel had just gotten back to Saul’s home and started to do some fieldwork when they heard someone shouting, “King Saul!” Way out in the distance, they saw an army messenger running as fast as he could directly toward them.

“Oh, good,” thought Samuel. “A test for Saul.” He looked around and smiled. No piles of bags to hide in anywhere.

“King Saul!” he cried when he reached them. “I have terrible news! King Nahash of Ammon has captured the town of Jabesh-gilead! He is threatening to gouge out all of their right eyes for a truce, like he did to all the Israelites east of Jordan!”

Saul was silent for a few minutes. When Samuel looked over at him, his face was completely red, and Samuel swore he could see steam leaking from his ears. Suddenly, he grabbed his two plowing oxen, killed them right there and cut them up, and then gave a bunch of pieces to the messenger.

Samuel was terrified.

“Ew,” said the messenger.

“Suck it up!” yelled Saul. “Take these pieces all over Israel, and tell everyone you see that if they don’t join me against these monsters, they’ll look like my ox too!”

The messenger was so afraid that he picked up the pieces and ran off as fast as he could. Samuel stared at the rage mountain of Saul. “Impressive,” he thought. “Scary, but impressive.”

The next day, Saul traveled to Israel’s barracks in Jerusalem. When he got there, there was 330 000 men waiting for him, but no one would look at him because they were so scared of his anger. With his generals, he devised a sneak attack on the Ammonites and the next morning, secretly marched to the captive down and defeated them with ease. When Samuel heard, he knew that God had caused Saul’s anger and the people’s fear. “Humph,” he sighed. “I guess God knows what he’s doing. Maybe he won’t be so bad after all,” he grumbled.

Then came the Philistines.

The Philistines were very powerful and had for a long time hated Israel, but when they heard that this new king Saul was winning battles and threatening their power, they decided to destroy Israel for good. Saul and his men marched out to battle, but when they saw how many Philistines there were, they panicked and ran and hid in caves and holes and anything else that would fit a trembling soldier.  

Samuel had told Saul to wait seven days before they attack so he could get there and offer God a sacrifice to bless the battle, but after 7 days, there was still no Samuel and Saul’s soldiers were beginning to run away. This made Saul mad. He demanded, “Bring me the sacrifice stuff! If Samuel won’t do it, I will!”

Just as Saul finished, Samuel walked up over the hill. Samuel stopped, looked around, and saw the smoldering fire and smell of cooked meat.

“Saul…” he growled. “What…did…you…do?”

“My men were scattering, and you were no where to be seen, so I did the sacrifice and asked for God’s help to save my men, like a good king.”

“You idiot!” screamed Samuel. “You disobeyed God! And to think, I was beginning to like you! Now your kingdom will end and God has even already chosen someone else to take over, a man after his own heart. Not like you!” Then Samuel left the battlefield.

But Saul was determined to fight. “Never mind him!” yelled Saul. “We are ready to fight! Who’s left with us?”

“600, sir! And you and you son have the only swords!”

“Oh my.”

“How are we going to beat an enemy so big?” asked his soldiers.

“I have no idea,” Saul admitted, “But from now on, no one eats until we get our revenge!”

However, Saul failed to realize that there were only 598 soldiers around him. His son, Jonathan, and his armour bearer, had gone off to spy on the Philistines. While they were hiding, God gave them a sign that they could fight and win, because Jonathan had faith that God could.

Suddenly, the ground shook!

“Earthquake!” cried the soldiers, and they began to panic. 

“Wait!” yelled Saul. “Do you hear that?”

In the distance, there was the sound of fighting. The soldiers creeped closer and saw that while they were busy running around, someone had freaked out the Philistines so much that they were killing each other.

“Charge!” cried Saul, and everyone rushed in and scattered the massive Philistine army, saving Israel once again.

At the end of the day, everyone was tired and weak from not eating. Since they hadn't killed ALL the Philistines yet, no one was allowed to eat yet. When Jonathan and his servant got back to the main group, he was confused at why no one was eating. He had found a bunch of honey in the forest and eaten some, but wondered why no one else had.

“Because your dad told us we couldn't until all his enemies were dead.”


Jonathan just shook his head. “Seriously? He’s going to screw over all of Israel with those kind of ideas.” 

Saturday, 22 June 2013

All the Kings Men, Pt.1

(A brief intro: This is the first part of a story I wrote for the AWANA children's church during the school year. It follows the the Biblical narrative of Samuel and Saul, with my own twist on it. Each week, I ended on a cliff hanger, which I hoped would keep the kids enthralled and help me avoid finding a new story each week. The title, however, is one I created now. Unlike my other story posts, this is already written, so I'll actually finish the story arc...eventually)


Samuel had been a pretty good prophet and ruler for Israel, but now he was old and his sons, who he had appointed as rulers, made a mess of things. So one day, the people of Israel came to Samuel and asked, “We want a king!”

Samuel was not impressed with this. Raising greedy sons had made him a grumpy old prophet. “What do you need a king for, huh? Why you doing this to me? I’m not good enough for ya?”

“We want to be like the other nations, who win battles and stuff with their king!” They whined.

So Samuel humphed and grumbled, “Fine! I’ll go ask God.” And he left, grumbling under his breath.
“These stupid Israelites don’t know what’s good for them, asking for a king! What about God as a king? Huh? Stupid Israelites…”

So Samuel prayed and asked God what he should do. And God said…

“Give them what they want.”

Samuel was shocked. “Wh…what?”

“Give them a king. They forgot that I’m their king a looong time ago. So do what they want you to do, but warn them how bad a king will be.”

When Samuel returned to the leaders, he said, “Alright, you hooligans, you can have a king, but be warned! A king will take away your sons for his army and personal service, your daughters for his cooks and cleaners, you best food, fields, slaves and livestock for himself and favourite generals. You’re gonna BEG to be free from a king when he comes.”

“Pff, whatever, just give us a king.”
“Ya! Lets win wars and stuff!”

Samuel just shook his head. “What ever you want.”

The next day, Samuel departed to find a king. Around supper time, he found himself in the land of Benjamin. Just as he was going to go eat, a huge, handsome man with a servant appeared. They looked out of breath and a little dazed from the heat. The man was the biggest man Samuel had ever seen; at least a head and shoulders taller than the tallest Israelite. “Excuse me!” said the tall man. “Do you know where the prophet is? We’ve been looking for our donkeys all over Benjamin and can’t find them and hoped you would help us.”

And then Samuel heard a voice.

“This is the guy. This is Israel’s new king.”

Samuel knew it was God, so he looked at the man, and asked, “What’s your name, son?”

“Saul”

“Well, Saul, you look tired. Come up and eat with me, and I’ll tell you where your donkeys are.”

Saul go all excited and ran off ahead. When Samuel met up with him, he told him to get on his knees, then he poured oil on his head.

“What are you doing?” asked Saul

“God says you’re the new king of Israel. Now you’ve just been anointed.”

Saul was completely silent. He was so shocked, he had nothing to say.

“Be at the temple tomorrow, and we’ll officially declare you king.” After supper, Saul went home, still in a daze from what he just learned.

The next day, Samuel stood at the front of the temple with a white envelope in his hand.

“Listen up!” he shouted. “God rescued all you ungrateful poopheads, from Egypt and lots of wars and pretty much everything else, but now you want a king. Fine! His name is in this envelope!”

All the tribes became dead silent. Samuel slowly opened the envelope…

“From the tribe of Benjamin…from the family of Matrites…son of Kish, your new king, Saul!

Everyone cheered, especially the Benjaminites. Then the cheering stopped, but Saul was no where to be seen. Samuel cleared his through and called again, “Your new king, Saul!” Again, the people applauded, but still no Saul. Then someone called out, “Here he is! In the baggage!”

Everyone turned to the pile of bags and coats, to see an embarrassed mountain of a man slowly stand up and shuffle to the front to accept the crown.


“Oh no” though Samuel. “Israel’s screwed.”

Monday, 3 June 2013

NHL Nightmare Draft (30, 29)

With the NHL doing a "Dream Draft" all throughout June, which, in honor of the 50th anniversary of the draft, they look at the best selection from each position of the modern first round. The modern first round thing I didn't completely agree with, since 2000 was the first year all 30 picks existed in the first round. However, it did get me thinking...what about the absolute worst drafts? Though most kids drafted in the first round have a great chance to make the NHL, there are always a handful of busts every year. Some players go in with huge hype, like Alex Daigle, but just never ban out. Others have scouts scratching their heads wondering, "what the heck?" Nevertheless, there's been a lot of bad picks in the first round over the years. And I'm gonna find the worst ones.

(Yea, this isn't what I usually write here on my blog, but it's my blog, and I like hockey, so there)

#30- Andy Rogers, Tampa Bay, D (2004)
This pick shows how far the NHL has come when scouting players since the (first) lockout. Rogers played on a very strong Calgary Hitmen team, which included the likes of Andrew Ladd, Ryan Getzlaf and Jeff Shultz. They were a hard hitting, big scoring team, and yet, Rogers ended his draft year with a very average 4 points and 89 PMs in 64 games. So he wasn't drafted for his offensive skills. Or his physicality. Why was he picked, then?

3 words: He was big.

Listed at 6'5" and 225 lbs (though probably lighter when he was picked- these are recent specs), scouts were high on him in 2004 because it's apparently rare to find someone with size and skating ability, which Rogers had plenty of. They saw a lot of potential, even though it hadn't really revealed itself in junior. But to play in the NHL, you had to be big, so the bigger the better, right?

Apparently not, unless your name is Zdeno. 2004 became the last time Rogers was a positive in plus/minus, and the closest he got to the NHL was in 2005, after the lockout, when he made 2 cuts in training camp before being sent back to Prince George. Then-coach Tortorella was impressed with the big defenseman, but didn't want to place a 19 year old in the lineup so quickly.

Rogers never got the chance again. He debuted in the AHL in 2006/07 with Springfield, and put up more unimpressive stats until he was traded in 2009 with Olaf Kolzig, Jamie Heward and another pick to Toronto for a guy named Richard Petiot. I looked up his stats and they're similar to Rogers, if not a bit better. That's a lot of players for another unproven defenseman...oh, wait, what's his size? Hmm, 6'4" and 210 lbs? Interesting.

To be fair, Petiot did increase his production with his new team, cracked the roster in 2009, and continues to play and get chances. The same can not be said of Rogers, who, after being released by the Marlies (Toronto's AHL affiliate), he just kinda stopped playing.

Of the 2004 first round, Rogers is one of 2 players who never played in the NHL. In 2005, Tampa had another chance to net their defenseman of the future, since it was a very deep draft. With the 30th overall pick, they drafted Vlad Mihalik, who ended up playing 15 games and getting 3 assists. How did they go wrong again? Well, Mihalik was 6'7" and 240 lbs. You do the math.

Interesting fact: all the worst picks I considered were from the WHL. Sad.

#29- Daultan Leveille, Atlanta, C (2008)
Believe it or not, I remember watching this draft. Yes, I am a nerd. The commentator said that Leveille was one of the fastest prospects in the draft. However, the pick was a risk to begin with. Atlanta had the third overall, which they took Zack Bogosian. Leveille was ranked 48 by the ISS and had a over a point per game (56 in 45) with his team. A Junior B team, mind you.

I'd imagine the same comparisons were drawn to Leveille as were made of Mark Jankowski last year. Sure, he's productive, but he hasn't faced tough competition against men. What can he do against bigger players?

Leveille went to Michigan State after being drafted and played the whole year as a freshman, which I'm told is impressive. He continued to improve, though in 2011 he was dealing with the death of his brother and his production dropped off a bit. Yet he still put up 18 points over 35 games, which is pretty good for college.

Then things started going south. He faced a significant injury in his senior year, limiting him to 21 games and 9 points. The Thrashers decided not to tender a qualifying offer, and he became a free agent. Montreal picked him up and he made his AHL debut with Hamilton this year after playing in the ECHL, where he wasn't spectacular. However, he only lasted 19 games before being sent down again to the East Coast, where he ended this year.

Hockey's future still considers Leveille a prospect, even though he's more on the bust side of things. He's still trying to crack an NHL lineup and actually getting a tiny bit closer every year. The reason I consider him the worst was that he still hasn't played an NHL game. The two other worst 29th overall picks were goalies (Toivonen for Boston in 2002 and Munro for Chicago in 2001) that have bounced all around the minors and NHL. Goalies are notorious for being unpredictable in their development and known for taking forever to even be ready. For this reason, very few first round picks are wasted on these players. When they are, teams are usually ecstatic over them (Fleury, Bordeur). According to one source, Bruins fans thought they had found their goalie of the future in 2005...for about 5 weeks. Then Toivonen injured his ankle and was never the same. Munro also had flashes of brilliance and was pegged as "the goalie of the future" as well, though he never could stick with the big league. Chicago didn't really have much confidence in him, though, as he was never given a qualifying offer and was only signed when their starter, Thibeault went down with an injury. Both goalies now play in Europe and look as though they ain't coming back.

Sources:
www.hockeysfuture.com
www.hockeydb.com
http://www.rawcharge.com/2012/10/29/3573130/andy-rogers-hockey-former-tampa-bay-lightning-prospect
http://www.hockeyjournal.com/news/bruins/Original_Six-_Bruins_worst_first-round_draft_picks