Saturday, July 30, 2011

A perfect storm of awesome

So, I've been getting back to the gym. I've also started Weight Watchers recently and they have a good app for counting points (so not getting into the whole points system, all I know is that my favorite burger at Hardee's is like 30 something points and so I have the BBQ Ranch Turkey burger which is 12). Now, this being said, I'm trying hard not to talk too much about Weight Watchers because it even annoys me sometimes.

But now about the perfect storm of awesome. There's an app for that. Literally. Back when I had an Android LG Ally, I downloaded the sweetness of workout apps from JEFIT. I mean, it rocked. Then I left my cell on top of the car and picked up the pieces later that day along HWY 44. I joined the crowd of Apple Zombies and got an iPhone as a replacement. But no JEFIT app.

One thing I could do though was watch podcasts from LIfechurch.TV while doing cardio on the bike at the gym. Then I added the Weight Watchers app. And then (cue the "Hallelujah" chorus) JEFIT released their app on the iPhone. This week has been a heaven of pain and joy. Why? This week alone, I've lost 5 pounds by following the Weight Watchers app, been getting my lifting/workout routine going with the JEFIT app and getting spiritually fed (which is hard as a pastor sometimes, I don't always get to hear others preach) while doing cardio.

That being said, wow, perfect storm of awesome this week for that. I'm working spiritual health and there's an app for that. No, seriously. The Today daily devotional is on the iPhone and also Android. Great way to do a short devotional in the morning. And then there's the Youversion Bible app. I've been listening to their audio Bible while doing long drives for hospital visits out this way (pretty much any drive is a long one in South Dakota).

What other apps are out there to help in your journey?

Thursday, July 28, 2011


So, if you're a regular USA Today reader, you might already know this, but for the uninitiated, I'll fill you in.

The day after Memorial Day, DC Comics, the oldest comics-publisher in existence and home of icons like Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and Green Lantern, announced that their entire publishing lineup (about 60-some titles) will be discontinued in September and replaced with 52 brand new series.

Now, a couple of questions need answering.

1. Why such an oddly specific number like 52?

Well, see, a few years ago, it was established that, within the universe of DC Comics, there were exactly 52 universes, consisting of the main DC Universe and 51 alternatives.

2. Hasn't DC done this already?

OK, that's probably something not a lot of you were asking. But a few of you were, and that's what counts! And yes, DC has done this thing before: twice in fact.

The first time was in 1985. See, by then, DC Comics has been publishing its roster of heroes and other titles for 50 years. As to be expected when publishing stories on a continuous basis every month for that long, there were a lot of mix-ups, contradictions, and bizarre errors.

A lot of this resulted from the fact that since the '60s, a Multiverse (a series of multiple universes with their own defining characteristics) had been used to allow creative teams to do whatever they wanted and play with characters anyway they chose. While this allowed them to reconcile the Golden Age/original versions of characters like the Flash with their modern counterparts, thus solving questions like "How can Batman still be a young guy if he fought during WWII? ", it also created a lot of mixups as to when a certain story happened in conjunction with others and turned off a lot of readers to DC over the years.

To fix this, DC turned to writer Marv Wolfman and artist George Perez, then making waves with their popular New Teen Titans series, to fix things. In response, the duo created the
12-issue series Crisis on Infinite Earths, which ended with the Multiverse (as well as Supergirl and the Flash) being completely destroyed, leaving just one Earth with one set of superheroes.

As part of this new "Post-Crisis" continuity, as it came to be called, new origins were made for Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman, and the Justice Society, the Golden Age super-team, was retconned so that they were simply the WWII-era predecessors to the modern heroes.

For the next 20 years, things went along just fine. Then, along came...Geoff Johns.

Geoff Johns, the guy on the left, is a writer from Detroit, Michigan. If that image up there doesn't clear it up for you, he's a HUGE fan of Green Lantern.

Anyway, he fits in this story because he started at DC in the '90s. From the start, with his long run on JSA (Justice Society of America), it was obvious that he cared about the long history of the DC Universe. To that end, in 2005, Johns, with artist Phil Jiminez, created the 7-issue series Infinite Crisis, which restored the Multiverse to the 52 Earths I mentioned earlier.

Now, why would DC do this if the stuff after "Crisis on Infinite Earths" worked just fine? Well, see, in the '90s, a phenomenon swept through comics that's since been labeled the "grim'n'gritty" movement: the idea that heroes and villains had to be darker, edgier, and ultra-violent. This resulted in a lot of violent storylines like the death of Superman and the crippling of Batman and the creation of characters like Spawn, who Dr. Peter Coogan once called "the corpse as superhero." Pretty violent stuff, huh?

So yeah, DC (and more specifically, Geoff Johns, who, as I said before, really likes Green Lantern) understandably wanted to make their comics less dark and more accessible for new readers to come in. But, because the Multiverse came back, so did a lot of the original characteristics of the heroes, resulting in the "soft reboot" where DC skipped ahead one year in the lives of all its characters (while simultaneously publishing a weekly series where they showed exactly what happened during the missing year), giving new and lapsed readers a jumping-on point.

Now, I've been reviewing the Superman books in this "New Earth" continuity for the website Trade Reading Order. I can't link to them because none of them have been put up yet, but so far, I'm enjoying what I'm reading. Unfortunately, others can't say the same. Many people were confused after "Infinite Crisis" as to what events during the preceding 20 years had happened and what hadn't. A third Crisis book, the bizarre, convoluted, and just downright incomprehensible "Final Crisis" (I'm not even linking to it, it's that weird), only made matters more confusing. Many people got outraged even further as subsequent events like Blackest Night brought back more of the grittiness and ultra-violence DC claimed they were getting rid of with "Infinite Crisis." So, they needed a shake-up.

And, personally, I'm supportive of it. Of the 4 monthly comics I get right now, only one is a superhero title: "Action Comics," otherwise known as the book that's been around for so long only 6 copies of the first issue still exist! I also just love the DC Universe. Some of my earliest memories are of watching the '40s Superman and '90s Batman cartoons and playing with my Batman toys. They just have great characters, great creators, and great stories to tell. So I'll be invested in this--you can be sure of that.

And I'm not upset that DC is reworking their line again. The superhero stories are modern-day myths, and the classical myths underwent a retelling and reenvisioning for every generation that heard them. I even wrote about 2 Superman revisions for the Superman Homepage, the world's biggest Superman fansite. Clearly, I'm on board with this sort of thing.

Whew...OK, that was a lot of history I threw at you folks. I know that. Sorry for throwing information at you on a Spiritual Sci-Fi Friday, but my point for telling all that is to give you some context.

Now that we've done that, here's the heart of the matter. DC doesn't like to call this "New 52" thing a reboot; instead, they're calling it a "relaunch" and a chance to make things new. Who's to say we can't do the same thing?

Occasionally, we get lapsed in our faith, stuck in a rut in our Christianity, just going through the motions. Some people, knowing how troubling this is, take drastic measures like going on mission trips or volunteering for church ministries to recharge themselves.

Now, obviously, that's not a thing that works for anyone. But for something that most of us know by heart, sometimes we need to step out of our comfort zones to shake things up and make us see Christ again.

We're told that "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart." But a lot of us don't. So, as I look forward to September and the new DCU, I'll be thinking just what to do with my whole heart.

I took a big step this week. I brought along my Bible on vacation this week so I always remember to pray. I was hoping to use the Bible itself, which didn't really work, but I know I needed to do something as drastic as that to shake me up and get me back to praying.

What about you? can you think of something you can work at for God with all your heart, maybe even something that is outside of your comfort zone?