353. Apples

In the past few years, apples have gradually taken over my life. It began innocently enough. I began buying apples as a healthy snack. The next thing I knew, I was eating applesauce every morning with breakfast, drinking apple cider most evenings, and occasionally snacking on apple pie. Just as the first Adam was enticed by the fruit of Eden, so this Adam seems to have ensnared by apples.

Honestly, I never meant to become an apple aficionado. The fruit crept stealthily into my diet, and it was only a month or two ago that I realized how much of my daily intake was apple-based. I suppose there are worse vices.

My kitchen is perpetually stocked with apples.

This is basically what my kitchen counter looks like. (I may be exaggerating just a bit.)

After realizing my fondness for apples, I resolved to find the perfect variety. I had favored Gala apples for a couple of years, having chosen them over other varieties simply because I liked the name. It was time for me to abandon old habits and explore new possibilities. It was a journey—the Quest for the Perfect Apple.

From the start, I shunned Red Delicious apples. These deceptively-named fruits are disgusting. Their thick, bitter skins cover fruit with the texture of wet cardboard and no particular flavor. I also avoided Granny Smith apples. These emerald-green fruits are perfect for baking, but too sour to eat raw.

Thus my quest began with Jazz apples, which were tart but tough. I moved on to Pink Lady apples. These were more yellow than pink, and not particularly tasty. As much as I wanted to try Fuji apples, which are renowned for their sweetness and crispness, I couldn’t find any at the local grocery store.

In the end, I returned to Gala apples. These crisp, sweet, nice-smelling fruits are tasty, healthy, and relatively inexpensive. I average about one apple daily. “An apple a day keeps the doctor away,” and doctors have kept their distance so far. (There is one Doctor I wouldn’t mind meeting, but he once claimed that “apples are rubbish,” so I’m not sure we would get along.)

I’ve already mentioned my liking for applesauce and pie; I also enjoy apple butter, fritters, and dumplings. For a few wonderful, all-too-short weeks every year, a nearby Amish market sells fresh-pressed apple cider by the gallon. There are a ridiculous number of ways to enjoy this delicious fruit.

In conclusion, apples have really grown on me. (Pun intended. I’m sorry.) I am an apple fanatic to the core. (I’m so sorry.) In this case, the phrase “Adam’s apple” is perfectly apple-poe—I mean, apropos. (I’m so, so sorry.) If you disbelieve my fondness for the fruit, this blog post is full of examples—just check out them apples! (I’m so, so, so sorry.) I hope these puns haven’t left any of my readers upset or apple-plectic—apoplectic, I mean. (I’m so… never mind.)

For the record, bananas and avocados are also pretty good.

352. Thoughts on Marvel’s Daredevil

If you read the tagline for this blog, you may notice that television is conspicuously absent. Typewriter Monkey Task Force is a blog about “faith, writing, video games, literature, life, the universe, and everything.” When I discuss television, it falls into the same “and everything” category as muffins, snow, and fist bumps.

This blog has a number of posts about Doctor Who and kids’ cartoons, but hardly any for more serious shows. I seldom write about grown-up shows for the reason that I seldom watch grown-up television. Not for me the Breaking Bads and Walking Deads of modern programming; I prefer to relax with something pleasant, not tales of violence, crime, sex, or scandal.

A few times, however, a show for adults has come along that absolutely blows me away. The last one was Sherlock, the BBC’s outstanding adaptation of the old Holmes stories. This time it’s Marvel’s Daredevil, a recent Netflix original series. It does so many things right that I’m taking a post to list a few of them, along with some miscellaneous observations.

Marvel's Daredevil

First, a little background: Daredevil is based on a Marvel comic about Matt Murdock, a blind lawyer whose other senses are heightened to an incredible degree, allowing him to “see” without eyes. Every night, he hits the streets of Hell’s Kitchen, a neighborhood of Manhattan, to beat criminals senseless: a lawless lawyer, so to speak.

The Netflix show happens in the same world as all those Marvel movies from Disney—the MCU, or Marvel Cinematic Universe—but takes a more mature, grounded tone. One final note: Marvel’s Daredevil has no connection, thank heaven, to that dreadful movie starring Ben Affleck.

As promised earlier this week, here are my thoughts on Marvel’s Daredevil.

Be ye warned: Here there be minor spoilers.

The villain

The grand villain in Daredevil, criminal kingpin Wilson Fisk, is one of the best baddies I’ve seen on television. Too many stories disrespect their villains by treating them not as characters, but as plot elements. Fisk, by contrast, is a brilliantly developed character: menacing, memorable, and oddly vulnerable. Despite being “merely” a villain, he gets flashbacks and a love story—considerations usually reserved for the protagonist!

At first, Fisk seems completely in control. He fits the stereotype of the criminal genius pulling strings from the shadows. Only as the story unfolds is Fisk revealed to be an unstable, emotional mess of a man, a character with noble dreams and zero compassion. Fisk is a magnificent bad guy.

The booze

The characters in Daredevil drink with alarming frequency. It’s a wonder they manage to stay mostly sober for thirteen episodes. Daredevil‘s Matt Murdock and Iron Man‘s Tony Stark probably need an intervention.

The sidekick

Matt’s business partner is a wry young lawyer named Foggy Nelson. I expected Foggy to be shallow comic relief or the bumbling Watson to Matt’s Holmes, but he surpassed my expectations in every way. Foggy is certainly funny, and he lacks Matt’s poise, yet he winds up being a smart, independent, and thoroughly likable character.

Matt Murdock and Foggy Nelson

The fight scenes

I’ve become jaded toward practically every single fight scene in the MCU. I can only watch Thor or Captain America punch people in the face so many times before I lose interest. These fight scenes are bland and bloodless. The heroes, who are practically invincible, knock out nearly every enemy in a single punch. What’s the point?

Daredevil offers a superior take on fight scenes. Matt Murdock is breakable. Many of his battles end with Matt bruised, gashed, and bloodied. He is regularly bandaged and stitched up by a sympathetic friend. Because he’s not some invincible superman, his fights are tense and engaging in a way Thor’s or Captain America’s will never be. Matt is weaker than the average superhero, and his enemies are tough. When he knocks them down, they sometimes get back up and keep fighting—a refreshing change from the one-punch knockouts of Marvel’s movies.

Finally, the fights in Daredevil aren’t flagrantly choreographed dances. They’re all-out brawls. Matt gets tired. He stumbles. His fights have the weight, momentum, and wild physicality missing in the MCU’s other media. I like Marvel’s big-budget movies, but they have so much to learn from Daredevil.

The writing

Following up on things Daredevil can teach the rest of the MCU, its writing is really good. Marvel’s movies have plenty of heavy exposition, clever quips, and inspirational speeches, but not a lot of honest-to-God conversation between characters. When Daredevil‘s characters talk to each other, they sound like people talking to each other, not actors reading a screenplay. I know Daredevil has more airtime than the average Marvel movie, but the MCU could try to mix in a little believable dialogue with its jokes and expositions.

The violence

Daredevil is really, really violent. Its blood and broken bones are earned by the story’s mature themes and gritty realism, but this show sure ain’t one for the kiddos.

The religion

Matt Murdock is nominally Roman Catholic, and I didn’t expect to be impressed by the show’s treatment of religion. The media hardly ever depicts Christians well. To my astonishment, Daredevil offers an excellent Christian character in the form of Matt’s priest, Father Lantom.

Many Christian characters in secular media are broad caricatures of religion, but Father Lantom seems authentic in both his concern for Matt and his knowledge of Christian theology. In one scene, he discusses the doctrine of the devil in astonishing detail, mentioning the fact that Satan is the Hebrew word for adversary and alluding to the liberal theory (with which he disagrees) that the devil is merely a misinterpretation of Scripture.

This is heavy stuff for a superhero show. The show’s writers really did their homework, and I love the way they wove the religious motifs of the devil, sin, and redemption into Matt’s journey. I’m impressed by Father Lantom. The heroes of Daredevil aren’t saints, but the show’s informed, respectful depiction of religion is exemplary.

The verdict

Marvel’s Daredevil is one of the best shows I’ve seen in ages. It isn’t as action-packed or colorful as Marvel’s other stuff, but I loved its serious tone, smart writing, and superb fight scenes. In all the right ways, Daredevil is a show for adults, and I highly recommend it.

351. I Am Quitting

A lot has happened since I took a break from this blog three weeks ago. I watched Marvel’s Daredevil on Netflix and acquired a beckoning cat figurine—oh, and I quit the job I’ve held for nearly three years.

Yeah, a lot has happened since I last wrote a blog post. This means today’s post is an extremely personal one. Brace yourself.

Well, first things first: my beckoning cat is wonderful. I’ve christened it Kogoro. It sits upon my bookshelf and waves its paw with leisurely dignity, welcoming high fives from passersby.

Maneki-neko

My maneki-neko, or beckoning cat, is supposed to bring good luck or something, but I use it mostly as a high-five machine.

That’s that for my beckoning cat, and I suppose I’ll save my thoughts on Marvel’s Daredevil for my next post. That brings me to the trivial matters of my impending unemployment and future plans.

For nearly three years, I’ve worked in a group home for gentlemen with disabilities in Berne, Indiana. I have been sort of a nurse, sort of a cook, sort of a housekeeper, and sort of a therapist, but mostly I’ve been a clown and a punching bag for eight special, needy, wonderful gentlemen. I’ll be officially resigned from this job by the beginning of May.

I have a number of reasons for quitting, but this is no place for me to describe them at length. I will state, for the record, that my decision has been pending for a long time. The gentlemen from the group home are one reason I’ve kept my job for so long, but a more selfish reason has been my fear of the future.

In spite of my English Education degree and teacher’s license, I’ve realized I don’t want to spend the next four decades teaching English. I want to work in writing, editing, and publishing.

However, since reaching that conclusion, I’ve been busy enough with work, blogging, and other commitments that I’ve made hardly any progress toward a long-term career. It has been hard enough maintaining the status quo of my day-to-day life: working, paying bills, helping support my younger brother, blogging, and drinking exorbitant amounts of coffee.

However, my workplace, which has always been stressful and a bit dysfunctional, has finally reached a point at which I can no longer meet its competing demands and unrealistic expectations. (In past months, I’ve occasionally been tempted to storm into my supervisor’s office, slam my hands against the desk Ace Attorney-style, and bellow “RAGE QUIT!” at the top of my lungs. I like to think my actual resignation is a little more dignified.) I think it’s time for me to let it go. I’ve mostly put off planning for the future, but my job is finally nudging me to move on.

What’s next?

For now, I’m applying for a part-time job while I look into career options. I’d like to build up freelance writing and editing on the side, and I’ll look for publishing internships willing to accept college graduates. With more time on my hands, I may write some fiction; anything is possible. I’ll continue to help support my younger brother. For as long as I remain in Berne, I’ll visit the gentlemen in the group home. Finally, I’ll continue blogging and drinking coffee and being silly—these things will probably never change.

I’m relieved to be moving on from my job, and excited to seek new opportunities. I’m also really scared. I am scared as heck, guys. It’s the same fear I felt upon graduating from college, and felt again upon ending my post-college visit to Uruguay and returning to Indiana. It’s a lost, shamed, lonely feeling—a nagging conviction that I really ought have it all figured out by now, or at least know where I should go from here. This feeling isn’t fair or rational, but I sure feel it, and it sucks.

I think Jon Acuff has the right idea when he suggests punching fear in the face. As scared and insecure as I feel, I mean to keep moving forward. At the very least, I mean to try. To echo my favorite apostle: I will always trust, always hope, and always persevere.

Long ago, when this blog was new, I wrote a post in which I quoted Anne Shirley from Anne of Green Gables: “My future seemed to stretch out before me like a straight road. I thought I could see along it for many a milestone. Now there is a bend in it. I don’t know what lies around the bend, but I’m going to believe that the best does.”

I’ve reached another bend in the road. What lies beyond? God only knows. Fortunately for me, I still trust God after all these years, so that thought is a comforting one.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to think about my future and give my beckoning cat a high five.

Adam Turns into the Hulk and Rants about Church Music

Caution: This blog post contains furious ranting. Sensitive readers, and readers averse to things being smashed, are advised not to continue.

Being a blogger is great fun, but it’s not without risks. In a small number of cases, frequent exposure to wireless Internet connections has caused bloggers to develop unexpected conditions. I am one of these unfortunates. I and at least one other blogger have become tragic victims of HBS (Hulk Blogging Syndrome).

What does this mean? Well, there’s really only one thing about HBS you should know: Don’t make me angry. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.

That said, today’s blog post is all about contemporary church music, and the way classic hymns are rewritten with new music or lyrics. Well, rewritten may be too kind a word. Hymns are mutilated. They are trampled upon. They are… ugh… I suddenly don’t feel well…

I… I…

BLOG SMASH!

BLOG SMASH!

ADAM IS GONE. NOW THERE IS ONLY HULK. HULK HERE TO DISCUSS CHURCH MUSIC. AND TO SMASH.

HULK DOES NOT LIKE MODERN CHURCH MUSIC. ITS SONGS SEEM MUSICALLY WEAK AND NONDISTINCT. THEY ALL SOUND THE SAME TO HULK. THEIR LYRICS ARE OFTEN NOT VERY MEANINGFUL. THEY ARE SOMETIMES DOWNRIGHT STUPID.

(HULK DISCLAIMER: SOME MODERN WORSHIP SONGS ARE FANTASTIC.)

MANY PEOPLE LOVE MODERN CHURCH MUSIC. THAT IS OKAY WITH HULK. HULK DOES NOT WANT TO BE PHARISEE. WHATEVER MUSIC BRINGS PEOPLE CLOSE TO GOD IS GOOD MUSIC.

CHURCHES ARE WELCOME TO THEIR NEW MUSIC… BUT LEAVE OLD MUSIC ALONE!

SOME OF US LIKE OLD HYMNS. “IT IS WELL.” “AMAZING GRACE.” “BE THOU MY VISION.” “COME THOU FOUNT OF EVERY BLESSING.” THESE ARE GOOD SONGS. THEY ARE FINE THE WAY THEY ARE. SOME PEOPLE FIND THEM TOUCHING AND MEANINGFUL, FULL OF BEAUTY AND TRUTH.

STOP TACKING ON NEW VERSES, CHANGING MELODIES, ADDING UNNECESSARY BRIDGES AND MAKING POINTLESS CHANGES.

PLAYING OLD HYMNS IN NEW STYLES IS FINE. HULK LOVE HEARING HYMNS PERFORMED IN CONTEMPORARY STYLES. THAT IS AWESOME. OLD HYMNS ARE AWESOME. GO AHEAD. JAZZ THEM UP. BUT DO NOT CHANGE THEM.

HULK RECENTLY WENT TO CHURCH. CHURCH SANG “IN CHRIST ALONE.” THIS IS NOT OLD HYMN, BUT IT IS BEAUTIFUL IN EXACT SAME WAYS. “IN CHRIST ALONE” HULK’S FAVORITE SONG. EVER.

CHURCH ON SUNDAY CUT OUT AN ENTIRE VERSE OF “IN CHRIST ALONE.” WHY? ADDED BRIDGE WITH WEAK MELODY AND THESE LYRICS: “Oh, Oh, Oh.” HULK NOT MAKING THIS UP. THOSE WERE WORDS ON SCREEN. “Oh, Oh, Oh.”

THOSE WORDS NOT AN IMPROVEMENT OVER THESE WORDS:

In Christ alone, who took on flesh: fullness of God in helpless babe,

This gift of love and righteousness—scorned by the ones he came to save.

Till on that cross as Jesus died the wrath of God was satisfied,

For every sin on him was laid. Here in the death of Christ I live.

THESE WORDS ARE BETTER THAN “Oh, Oh, Oh.” WHY DID CHURCH STRIP AWAY BEAUTIFUL WORDS FROM HYMN AND REPLACE THEM WITH MEANINGLESS NOISES?

HULK NOT KNOW. HULK NEVER KNOWS.

HULK ASK ALL CHURCHES EVERYWHERE. PLEASE. LEAVE OLD HYMNS ALONE. THEY ARE FINE AS THEY ARE. PLAY YOUR NEW MUSIC. HULK GIVE YOU THAT. BUT GIVE HULK THIS ONE THING. MAKE ONE CONCESSION FOR HULK. YOU CAN HAVE NEW SONGS. DON’T RUIN OLD ONES.

PLEASE. PLEASE. HONOR BEAUTY AND TRUTH IN OLD HYMNS.

HULK OUT!

Whoa… I… what just happened? Why is there a mound of splintered wood where my desk used to be? Who ripped apart my shirt? Why are my typewriter monkeys fleeing in terror?

I suddenly feel sick, so I’m afraid I must cut this post short. Sorry. Now I’m going to yell at my monkeys for wrecking my bedroom, and then go put on some clothes.


This post was originally published on June 20, 2014. TMTF shall return with new content on April 20, 2015!

You Have to Burn the What?

Geeky Wednesday posts on this blog generally feature a song, picture, video or literary excerpt. Today’s post is a little different.

This particular Geeky Wednesday features a video game. Most games are far too long for this blog, but this one can be completed in a couple of minutes. If you don’t want to play it, that’s fine; I’ll explain in just a moment why this weird, wonderful little game is significant.

If you’ve ever played a video game, spare a few minutes of your life and give You Have to Burn the Rope a try. The game’s controls are up arrow key to jump, down arrow key to throw axes and left and right arrow keys to move left and right, respectively. (As with YouTube videos, a brief ad may play before the game begins.)

Go forth, brave reader, and burn the rope!

You Have to Burn the Rope is a joke, a critique of the video game industry or an exercise in postmodernism. I’m honestly not sure which it is.

Right from the start, the game gives the player the following facts:

  1. There’s a boss at the end of this tunnel
  2. You can’t hurt him with your weapons
  3. To kill him you have to burn the rope above

Thus the player proceeds along the tunnel and finds the game’s one and only boss, the Grinning Colossus. This towering enemy can’t be hurt by the player’s axes, leaving the player to snatch a torch from the wall and burn the rope above the boss. Burning the rope sends a chandelier crashing down upon the boss’s head… and that’s the game. You have burned the rope. The end.

As the credits roll, the player is rewarded extravagantly by this wonderful song.

“Congratulations!” exclaims the song. “You’re the hero we all wish we could be! You made it through the tunnel and grabbed that fire from the wall! You burned the rope and saved us all! Now you’re a hero! You managed to beat the whole damn game!”

The irony here is obvious. This short, easy game gives the player step-by-step instructions on how to overcome its only obstacle—heck, the game’s title gives away the only strategy needed to beat it—and then congratulates the player as though completing the game were an extreme challenge.

Since a friend of mine recommended You Have to Burn the Rope a long time ago, I’ve wondered what its developer is trying to say. Is the game an elaborate joke? Is it a protest of how modern video games are becoming too easy and rewarding players for negligible achievements? Is it a postmodern deconstruction of traditional video game design?

I don’t get it. All I know is that you have to burn the rope.


This post was originally published on March 12, 2014. TMTF shall return with new content on April 20, 2015!

A Lesson from Doctor Who

I often discover lessons in unexpected places. True, I learn from the Bible and wise people, but I also learn from Batman and webcomics about video games.

The Doctor from Doctor Who is not particularly wise—in fact, he has all the tact and maturity of a twelve-year-old boy—but he recently taught me an invaluable lesson.

This is not the face of a wise man.

This is not the face of a wise man.

I work in a group home for gentlemen with mental and physical disabilities. As you can imagine, my job is often amusing, sometimes heartbreaking and never predictable.

When I began working in a group home, I felt pity for some of its residents. Their lives are often dark and difficult. Some endure chronic physical pain. Most suffer from depression. Few are ever visited by friends or family. All of them are hurting in some way and few of them understand why.

At first I pitied only these gentlemen, but as months passed I realized they aren’t the only ones deserving of compassion.

Most of my coworkers are hurting. Some are divorced. Some have family issues. Many struggle with financial woes or health problems. I’ve heard tearful stories, bitter complaints and vicious arguments I wish I could forget.

Apart from work, I have friends facing heartrending difficulties: divorce, debt, depression, loneliness and grief.

I’m constantly surrounded by people whose problems I can’t solve, and I hate it.

At one point in Doctor Who, the Doctor and his friend learn that a person whose life they tried to save committed suicide. The Doctor’s companion is overwhelmed with grief. “We didn’t make a difference at all,” she says.

“I wouldn’t say that,” replies the Doctor, blinking back tears. He adds:

The way I see it, every life is a pile of good things and bad things. The good things don’t always soften the bad things, but vice versa, the bad things don’t necessarily spoil the good things or make them unimportant. And we definitely added to his pile of good things.

I may not be able to fix someone’s life, but nothing will ever prevent me from adding to his pile of good things.

I can’t fix my coworker’s marriage. I can’t take away the pain of the gentleman with arthritis or the hopelessness of the gentleman with depression. I can’t promise healing to a hurting friend.

I can, however, be patient. I can listen. I can pray. I pretend to be terrified when the gentlemen with whom I work tell me there are mummies in the cupboards or a mouse in my shoe.

On an afternoon a few weeks ago, just a day or two after I remembered this lesson from the Doctor, I was administering medications at work when a resident of the group home ambled up to me.

“This is for you,” he said with a grin, holding out a cup of coffee.

It occurred to me in that moment that I’m not the only one trying to add to the piles of good things around me.

Sometimes other people, even hurting people, add to mine.


This post was originally published on May 10, 2013. TMTF shall return with new content on April 20, 2015!

TMTF’s Top Ten Hats in Video Games

I recently learned of an indie game titled Fez. The game’s protagonist wears a fez, presumably because fezzes are cool. (We all know this.) This game reminded me that characters in video games have some pretty sweet hats.

As a gamer, blogger and proud owner of several hats, I believe it’s my solemn duty to decide which video game hats are the best.

The following rules apply: I’ll choose hats only from games I’ve played, and I’ll select no more than one hat from any game series. Only original video game hats are permitted: no hats from licensed characters like Indiana Jones or Donald Duck. Hoods, helmets, headbands, ribbons and all headgear except hats and caps are disqualified from this list.

Now, ladies and gentlemen, hats off as TMTF proudly presents…

The TMTF List of Top Ten Hats in Video Games!

10. Quote’s Baseball Cap (Cave Story)

Quote's Baseball Cap

Quote, the amnesiac hero of indie classic Cave Story, manages to look quite heroic in a simple baseball cap. The hat isn’t particularly fancy or elegant, but its bright white and red design helps Quote’s pixelated figure stand out against the muted blacks and browns of Cave Story‘s subterranean locales. On an entirely different note, do the buttons on Quote’s hat remind anyone else of Mickey Mouse’s shorts?

9. Cormano’s Sombrero (Sunset Riders)

Cormano's Sombrero

This Mexican gunslinger, who has been described as “either groundbreakingly inclusive or an offensive stereotype, take your pick,” is a playable character from Sunset Riders for the SNES. The game consists mostly of shooting stuff. Cormano’s skill with a rifle is belied by his sombrero, which is colored bright magenta and shaped like a taco. Never has the Old West been so fabulous!

8. Shadi Smith’s Pork Pie Hat (Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney)

Shadi Smith's Pork Pie Hat

Not since Buster Keaton has anyone looked so good in a pork pie. Despite being a shifty character with questionable ethics, Shadi Smith is a really sharp dresser. There are many fantastic hats in the Ace Attorney series, from magician’s top hats to policewomen’s berets, but none seems more stylish or elegant than Shadi Smith’s classy pork pie hat.

7. Carmen Sandiego’s Fedora (Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?)

Carmen Sandiego's Fedora

As a child, I played Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego? on my family’s ancient black-and-white Apple Macintosh. (I’m pretty sure the above picture of Ms. Sandiego comes from another game in the series, but it’s the best I could find.) It was educational gaming at its finest: besides learning about geography and national flags, I got a taste of fashion from Carmen Sandiego’s criminally fabulous fedora.

6. Red’s Baseball Cap (Pokémon FireRed)

Red's Baseball Cap

This one was a toss-up between the hats worn by Red from Pokémon and Ness from Earthbound. Red won because his baseball cap is quite a bit cooler. (Besides, Red’s cap in the original Pokémon Red was the inspiration for Ash Ketchum’s iconic hat in the Pokémon anime.) Like Quote, Red takes a common item of casual apparel and makes it seem dashing and even heroic.

5. Agent Chieftain’s Stetson (Elite Beat Agents)

Agent Chieftan's Stetson

Elite Beat Agents is a wonderful rhythm game for the Nintendo DS in which government secret agents assist people in desperate need by invoking the inspirational power of song and dance. (Yes, the game is every bit as weird—and awesome—as it sounds.) Agent Chieftain, a senior agent of the Elite Beat Agency, flaunts a flashy Stetson that adds a dash of cowboy flair to his plain suit and tie.

4. Red Mage’s Wizard Hat (Final Fantasy III)

Red Mage's Wizard Hat

Although the Black Mages from the Final Fantasy series have neat hats, the Red Mages earn this place on the list with their gorgeous crimson hats adorned with snowy feathers. Other Final Fantasy characters have clunky helmets, dull hats or plain hoods. Red Mages alone uphold the lofty standards of fashion while defending their worlds from demons, dragons and other monsters.

3. Mario’s Flat Cap (Super Mario 64)

Mario's Flat Cap

How could I not include Mario’s cap? It’s indisputably the most famous video game hat in the world, and definitely one of the neatest. Mario’s cap from Super Mario 64 deserves special mention for giving Mario superpowers, including flight. Few things in video games have been more fun for me than soaring around the game’s locales with Mario’s winged cap. Like its owner, this hat is remarkable.

2. Professor Layton’s Top Hat (Professor Layton and the Curious Village)

Livewire-AGE

I have absolutely nothing to add.

1. Link’s… Cap? (The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap)

Link's... Cap

Link’s cap is one of the most iconic elements of the Legend of Zelda series. It’s instantly recognizable—seriously, how many legendary heroes wear green pointed caps? Link achieves an incredible feat in every Zelda game by looking cool in a hat that wouldn’t seem out of place on one of Santa’s elves. As much as I like it, I wouldn’t give Link’s cap the number one spot on this list if it weren’t for one detail: it talks. In The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap, Link is joined on his quest by Ezlo, an enchanted hat who gives advice, grumbles, cracks jokes and turns out to be one of the most engaging characters in the entire Zelda series. For its iconic status, surprisingly cool appearance and amusing dialogue—I can’t believe I’m saying this about a hat—Link’s cap is TMTF’s pick for the best hat in a video game.

O people of the Internet, what great video game hats would you add to this list? Let us know in the comments!


This post was originally published on April 8, 2013. TMTF shall return with new content on April 20, 2015!

Jesus Broke the Fourth Wall

Truly I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.

~ Matthew 26:13

One of my favorite storytelling tricks is called breaking the fourth wall. There was once a playwright, you see, who insisted on making his stage productions as realistic as possible. In a play performed on a stage with three walls, the audience must be the fourth wall.

Thus the fourth wall became a phrase describing the imaginary boundary between the audience and the performers, or (more broadly) between reality and fiction. When a performer acknowledges the audience, that fourth wall is broken. This trick is often used for comedic effect or even as a clever, self-aware way for fiction to communicate its meaning.

It occurred to me not long ago that Jesus seems to break the fourth wall, so to speak, in the Gospels of Matthew and Mark. The story is a familiar one. Days before his crucifixion, Jesus is anointed with perfume by a woman. His disciples are indignant: “Why this waste? This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.”

Jesus gives this touching reply: “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me. When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial.”

Then things get awesome as Jesus breaks the fourth wall.

“Truly I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”

In simply speaking those words, recorded in the Gospels of Matthew and Mark and later preached to countless people over many centuries, Jesus made them come true.

As much as I’d like to assume Jesus specifically meant the Gospel of Matthew or the Gospel of Mark when he said “this gospel,” history tells us otherwise. The word translated gospel in this passage—and later applied to the books of Matthew and Mark—means good news. By “this gospel,” Jesus was speaking broadly of the good news of his life, death and resurrection—not of a specific Gospel in the Bible.

All the same, I chuckle every time I read that passage. Jesus was a man of miracles. He walked on water, healed the sick, raised the dead and did what no one (as far as I know) has ever done outside of fiction.

Jesus broke the fourth wall.


This post was originally published on April 17, 2013. TMTF shall return with new content on April 20, 2015!

Haircuts Are Evil

Like taxes, haircuts are are a necessary evil.

Every few months, I glance in the mirror and despair, for my hair needs to be cut. It’s pretty easy for me to tell when I should hit the hair salon. When my hair starts to look like Justin Beiber’s iconic (and idiotic) hair helmet, I know it needs to be cut.

I’m sometimes tempted to ignore the Beiber resemblance and let my hair keep growing, but one thought pulls me back to safety from the brink of madness.

I will never, ever have a mullet.

My hair has generally been a mess. Once, in middle school, I tried styling it with gel: a mistake that shattered my fragile self-esteem into tiny, tiny pieces. Since then, I’ve occasionally attacked my hair with a comb and left it at that.

If you tell me I need a haircut, I will glare at you with cold, bitter fury. And then I'll go get a haircut.

If you tell me I need a haircut, I will glare at you with cold, bitter fury. And then I’ll probably go get a haircut.

The problem with haircuts is that they bring scissors, razors and other sharp objects very close to my eyes, ears and other things I’d rather not have cut off or gouged out. My fears are not baseless. At least one hair stylist has drawn blood—repeatedly—giving me good reason to fear anyone who brandishes bladed implements anywhere near my face.

Are haircuts evil? Yes. I will prove it. Let us turn to Scripture, brethren, for our answers.

Most of us know the story of Samson, who let his hair grow as a symbol of devotion to God. When his hair was cut, Samson lost his divinely-given strength. He was surrounded, powerless to resist. His tormentors blinded and enslaved him. In the end, Samson ended his own life. (This is all in Judges 16.) All of this happened because Samson got a haircut. A haircut killed him!

Don’t even get me started on Absalom. He was a really bad dude. He also had his hair cut regularly. An evil man who got haircuts? Coincidence? Coincidence?!

With this vast and comprehensive wealth of Scriptural evidence, I believe I’ve proved that haircuts are evil.

(No, I’m not being serious. Please put down your Bibles and/or heavy stones before someone gets hurt.)

In the past two years, I have found one consolation to make haircuts bearable. The Tenth Doctor from Doctor Who has some sweet, sweet sideburns. Although my paltry sideburns are not worth comparing to the good Doctor’s, they’ve definitely grown on me. (Pun intended. I’m so, so sorry.) Haircuts are awful, yet they keep my sideburns neatly trimmed. Neat sideburns put me ever so slightly closer to achieving the splendor of the Tenth Doctor’s hairstyle.

Saving the universe? Bah! A negligible accomplishment compared to having such awesome hair.

THOSE SIDEBURNS.

Maybe haircuts are worth it after all.

Then again… maybe they’re not.


This post was originally published on May 2, 2014. TMTF shall return with new content on April 20, 2015!