The Internet Won’t Let It Go

Disney’s Frozen came out last year, but the Internet continues to obsess over “Let It Go,” the film’s most catchy song. Heck, even TMTF jumped on the sleigh bandwagon. Most of these fads die out in a few weeks, but “Let It Go” continues to echo round the Internet.

I keep stumbling upon great arrangements of the song. In addition to the electronic version I shared last time, here are a couple more.

The video above is yet another lovely piece from The Piano Guys, who were last heard round these parts rocking “Pachelbel’s Canon.” I haven’t the faintest idea how they managed to get an entire freaking piano into that ice palace, nor how they filmed all those sweeping shots, and I don’t really care. This blend of “Let It Go” with Vivaldi’s “Winter” gives me chills. (Pun intended. I’m so, so sorry.)

If classical music isn’t your thing, here’s a Weird Al-style parody from the adorkable comedy duo Debs and Errol based on Star Trek: First Contact, my favorite Star Trek film. (Sorry, J.J.) I’m not really a Star Trek fan, but this video made me grin.

Weird Al himself was apparently thinking of doing a Star Trek parody of “Let It Go,” but Debs and Errol beat him to it.

Question: Do you have a favorite version of this song? Let us know in the comments!

288. Why Louisa May Alcott Is Awesome

And while we’re on the subject of Little Women, I should mention that Lousia May Alcott is a wonderful author… especially when she’s not trying to be.

I’ve read only two books by Alcott, and they’re very different. Little Women is her most enduring work: a fine novel with a heartwarming story and relatable characters. Her other book, a little-known memoir titled Hospital Sketches, is short, messy and bursting with unbridled charm and humor. Alcott is remembered for her characters, but she was also quite a character herself.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you a lady who balanced humor with pathos and sense with sentiment.

I give you Louisa May Alcott, whose life and imagination were truly remarkable.

Louisa May Alcott

Little Women is a delightful novel, equal parts coming-of-age story and romance. In my (admittedly idiosyncratic) opinion, it feels like a pleasant mixture of Anne of Green Gables and Pride and Prejudice as its little women grow up, learn lessons, make their way in the world and find love. (Alcott’s ladies, unlike Austen’s, are rather likable.) All this wibbly-wobbly, icky-sticky sentimentalism is balanced by a refreshingly frank and sensible outlook. Every time the book comes close to being mushy, some wry witticism or unromantic plot point brings it back to earth.

As much as I like Little Women, I enjoy Hospital Sketches far more. It’s old-fashioned, unpolished and crammed with out-of-date language and obscure literary references. Needless to say, I love it.

Hospital Sketches is a memoir compiled from Alcott’s letters home during her time as a nurse during the American Civil War. Her novel Little Women is neatly structured and carefully worded. By contrast, Hospital Sketches gives the impression of being dashed off at high speed and in high spirits. It gives fascinating, often funny and sometimes touching glimpses of life amid the excitement and horror of war.

One of the things that strikes me most about Hospital Sketches is its relentless cheerfulness and optimism. Even the sadder parts of the book, which are very sad indeed, have a kind of poignant sweetness.

Both of Alcott’s books have a surprising balance of sense and sentimentality. Heaven knows I’m no feminist, but I admire the way Alcott brings together fiery emotion and cool pragmatism, especially in her memoir. She is even cheerful and sensible when breaking down in tears, crying, as she puts it, “in a very helpless but hearty way; for, as I seldom indulge in this moist luxury, I like to enjoy it with all my might, when I do.”

In conclusion, ladies and gentlemen, Louisa May Alcott is awesome.

287. About Storytelling: Intertextuality

As long as we’re talking about The Avengers, I want to point out that Marvel’s superhero stories have a lot in common with the Bible, Little Women and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Why, you can hardly tell them apart!

The similarities here are obvious… aren’t they?

(I also want to point out for the record that Jo and Donatello are the best March sister and Ninja Turtle, respectively. I’m just throwing that out there.)

These stories are extremely different, but they share at least one notable characteristic: intertextuality. This fancy (and somewhat dirty-sounding) word refers to the way an artistic work is shaped by another artistic work.

Still confused? I sure am. Let’s make it simpler by looking at these stories one by one.

Little Women is a novel by Lousia May Alcott about sisters growing up and getting married. It’s basically Pride and Prejudice, but better. (Fans of Jane Austen, please spare my family.) The first half of the book, which follows the March sisters as they become young ladies, loosely parallels The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan. As these little women read Bunyan’s allegory, they find it mirrored in their own pilgrimages from childhood to adulthood.

The Bible is packed with intertextuality. The number of times Scripture references itself is practically beyond count. The New Testament alludes constantly to the Old. Many books of Scripture cite passages from other books. Jesus Christ, as he hung dying upon the cross, quoted a phrase from the Psalms. Stephen, in turn, repeated some of Christ’s final words during his own execution. The Bible echoes itself constantly.

The Avengers is a tale woven from several different stories. Every one of its heroes has some kind of history; the film is built upon the foundation of other films. Without Iron Man and Thor and all those other Marvel movies, The Avengers probably wouldn’t even exist.

As for my favorite band of crime-fighting reptiles, well, the Ninja Turtles began as a parody of several gritty comics popular at the time. Even its details were drawn from the works it parodied: the Turtles’ teacher Splinter was a jab at a comic book character named Stick, and the villainous Foot Clan poked fun at a supervillain group called The Hand. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles exist as a lighthearted response to darker comics.

All these stories are shaped by other stories. So what?

Intertextuality can be either a brilliant asset or a horrible nuisance. It can give a story depth or make it incomprehensible.

The benefits of intertexuality are too many to list in a single blog post, so I’ll mention just a few. Referring to other works can establish a strong narrative framework, as in Little Women. The Bible shows how intertexuality can help explain and clarify ideas. In The Avengers, the way separate narratives converge in one big adventure is, if I may express it so bluntly, really freaking sweet. Finally, intertextuality can provide humor or insight in the form of parody or satire of existing works.

Of course, intertextuality can go wrong. G.K. Chesterton is probably my favorite author, and also really awesome, but he sometimes makes the mistake of assuming all his readers are just as smart and educated as he is. His book Orthodoxy is full of allusions to other thinkers, but without context or background these references only confuse ignorant readers like me.

We’re all shaped by other people. It’s only natural, then, for our ideas and stories to be shaped by those of other people.

Everything Wrong with The Avengers (in Three Minutes)

Hollywood can be pretty dumb. There, I said it.

I love movies as much as anyone, but I’ll be the first to admit they’re often packed with clichés, mistakes, bad performances, lousy dialogue, cheesy action scenes and sparkly teenage vampires. If only someone on the Internet had the courage to stand up and condemn these films for their faults!

Fear not, dear reader! We have such a hero: a true champion of snarking, nitpicking and being a jerk to movies. We have Cinema Sins.

Cinema Sins is a YouTube series that acts as judge, jury and executioner to condemn the problems in both recent and classic films. With extreme prejudice, Cinema Sins explains exactly what’s wrong with movies.

Take The Avengers. It wasn’t bad as superhero films go; director Joss Whedon wove a pretty decent tale from the tangled histories of five or six different heroes. Cinema Sins still manages to expose sixty-four sins in three minutes flat. Well played, Cinema Sins, well played.

As long as there are movies, they will have problems. And as long as they have problems, I hope Cinema Sins will be there to condemn them.

286. God is Not a Grump

I may be overanxious, but prayer kind of scares me.

Does any other person of faith feel at least a little nervous speaking to the creator of the universe? Heck, I get flustered interacting with random people on the Internet. Speaking to the Lord God Almighty is a good deal more intimidating. I mean, he made the starry heavens! He designed trees and molecules and wombats! He created coffee! (I believe coffee is the clearest ontological proof of God’s goodness.) I mean, seriously, the greatness of God is immeasurable, and it makes me nervous.

Yes, I know God loves me. Christian culture tends to emphasize the kindness, love and gentleness of Christ, sometimes to the point at which it forgets his harsher words and actions.

"Hey, man. Got Christ?"

Christian culture sometimes gives this impression of Christ, which is equal parts heretical and hilarious.

I generally make the opposite mistake. I remember the Lord Jesus brandishing a whip, killing trees and calling people snakes. I recall all those times in the Old Testament God pronounced curses on people and struck them dead.

When I pray, I sometimes can’t shake the feeling that God hears my prayers with the divine equivalent of a grumpy expression.

I'll listen to your prayers, but only because I have to.

“I’ll listen to your prayers, kid, but only because I’m contractually obligated by the Bible.”

Why do I struggle with this faint, annoying fear that God is a celestial grouch?

I suppose it’s because I’m painfully aware of my own faults, and not always forgiving towards the faults of others. It’s easy for me to assume that God, being absolutely perfect, is even less tolerant of our sins and failures. If I were God—which, fortunately for the universe, I am not—I wouldn’t be very gracious or patient.

Thus I often have what C.S. Lewis called a “vague, though uneasy, feeling that [I haven't] been doing very well lately.” This uneasiness makes me reluctant to pray or practice other spiritual commitments. It’s easier for me to bury my anxiety in unnecessary busywork, pointless procrastination or random YouTube videos. Quoth Lewis, “All humans at nearly all times have some such reluctance; but when thinking of [God] involves facing and intensifying a whole vague cloud of half-conscious guilt, this reluctance is increased tenfold.”

It was last week I was reminded, and not for the first time, that praying badly is better than not praying at all. “Next to trying and winning,” as I often say, “the best thing is trying and failing.” When I feel far from God, keeping my distance probably won’t help.

As for God being a grump, well, that’s nonsense. There’s a famous verse in the thirty-fourth chapter of Exodus. God appears in this passage and, being a gentleman, introduces himself: “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.”

These words are echoed throughout the rest of the Bible, and the “slow to anger” part jumped out at me as I read Psalm 145 yesterday: “The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love.” He responds with compassion, not contempt; grace, not disgust; gentleness, not grouchiness.

If God is truly gracious, compassionate and slow to anger, I think it’s safe to say he is not a grump.

285. Out-of-Context Quotes Are the Best Quotes

My younger brother John Michael and I have strange conversations—at least, they seem strange to anyone who overhears them. My bro and I consider them eminently meaningful and entirely sensible.

John Michael and I are best friends, and in our many conversations over the years, we’ve developed an idiosyncratic set of words, phrases, inside jokes and figures of speech that make perfect sense to us and no sense to anyone else on Earth.

With my brother’s permission, I’ve decided to share a few of our odder exchanges. These statements, questions and dialogues are fairly common in our conversations. In order to deepen the mystery, I haven’t specified who says what, leaving our cryptic discussions an impenetrable mystery.

Here, then, are some of the things spoken regularly in the household of the Stück bros. I could provide explanations, but really, what fun would that be?


“I’m going to be eaten by ravens now.”

“Okay.”


“I will slap you in the face.”


“We’ve managed to avoid drowning.”

“Good job!”


“That very well may have been the most humiliating moment of your life.”


“I’m awesome.”

“Buy some apples!”


“Set phasers to hug.”


“Pipsqueak.”

Shut up.”


“You stay creepy.”

“You know I will.”


“We must never speak of this again.”

“Agreed.”

Word Crimes

I had something completely different planned for today’s Geeky Wednesday post, but then stumbled upon this video last night and realized I must share it. As a blogger, I accept this as my inexorable destiny.

Weird Al has released another album of parodies, including this glorious riff on “Blurred Lines.” It’s all about English grammar and spelling. What nobler subjects can there be for song lyrics? There are also a couple of off-color jokes, but I’ll let them slide this time because, in case I hadn’t mentioned it, this is a song about English grammar and spelling.

Weird Al Yankovic, bless him, has been writing music for decades. I grew up listening to his silly songs, and I’m glad he still doing his thing.

284. TMTF’s Top Ten Toughest Dudes in Video Games

It would be tough to live in a video game.

Seriously, I wouldn’t last two minutes. If I were extremely fortunate, I might end up in a nice, nonviolent title like Animal Crossing or Professor Layton. I would more likely blunder into a racing game, fantasy RPG or first-person shooter and be run over, beheaded or blown to bits. Even family-friendly titles like Mario Kart offer plenty of opportunities for violence and mayhem. (Curse you, blue shells!)

With perils, pitfalls, monsters, explosions, blades, bullets, traps, tyrants or bottomless pits at every turn, life as a video game character must be tough. It makes sense, then, for video game characters to be tough dudes. Today, dear reader, we will look at ten of the toughest.

For the purpose of this list, toughness is defined as the quality of being durable, stoic, intimidating and that word I can’t use. The usual top ten list rules apply: only characters from games I’ve played, only one character per game series, no licensed characters from other media (e.g. Han Solo or Indiana Jones) and so forth.

Toughen up, ladies and gentlemen, as TMTF presents…

The TMTF List of Top Ten Toughest Dudes in Video Games!

Be ye warned, here there be minor spoilers.

10. Wobbuffet (Pokémon series)

Wobbuffet

At this point there are more than seven hundred Pokémon, representing all kinds of creatures and concepts. It makes perfect sense, then, that there is a punching bag Pokémon. In battle, Wobbuffet doesn’t ever strike first, but receives blows and then counterattacks. The stoic, patient way it takes its enemies’ attacks is astonishing.

9. Chell (Portal series)

Chell

Chell isn’t a dude, per se, but the mute protagonist of the Portal games is as tough as they come. Unfazed by deadly traps, frightening falls and the childish taunting of a deranged opponent, Chell solves puzzles and cheats death with a deadpan expression and stubborn silence that would make Clint Eastwood proud.

8. Link (Legend of Zelda series)

Tough Link

Link is an all-purpose hero, navigating dark dungeons, solving puzzles, defeating monsters and wielding an endless array of weapons with effortless aplomb. Neither horrifying enemies nor baffling riddles seem to trouble him in the slightest, and no obstacle or pitfall ever derails his adventures. Link would be much higher on this list if he were not so adorable.

7. Jim Raynor (StarCraft)

Jim Raynor

Jim Raynor—a man covered in tattoos and ammunition, and probably smelling of whiskey, tobacco and engine grease—is a marshal-turned-outlaw-turned-hero. Bringing together the grit of a Wild West lawman and the tactical brilliance of an admiral, this spacefaring marine is betrayed by humans, hunted by space monsters and feared by practically everyone.

6. Bowser (Mario series)

Bowser

Bowser may be surly, self-absorbed and not very bright, but there’s no denying he’s tougher than iron. This hulking monster survives eight plunges into molten lava in his first game alone. The games that follow subject Bowser to falls, beatings and all kinds of injuries, yet the only thing he ever seems to bruise is his ego.

5. Samus Aran (Metroid series)

Samus Aran

Samus Aran, like Chell, isn’t a dude, but that never keeps her from being resourceful, independent and ridiculously tough. Venturing alone onto enemy spaceships and hostile planets, Samus guns down the galaxy’s most dangerous criminals and escapes without a scratch. Truly, hell hath no fury like a woman with a laser cannon.

4. Tyrell Badd (Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth)

Tyrell Badd

Look at those bullet holes. Look at them. Even Tyrell Badd’s necktie has bullet holes. I can only surmise that the bullets, after passing through his tie, simply bounced off Badd. This hard-bitten homicide detective is a man of few words. Really, his coat says it all. By the way, that’s not a cigarette in his mouth, nor is he grabbing a gun when he reaches abruptly into his pocket. No, that’s a sucker in his mouth, and he’s reaching for a hand mirror. It’s a testament to his toughness that Badd makes even these effeminate items seem intimidating.

3. Leon S. Kennedy (Resident Evil 4)

Leon S. Kennedy

Nothing seems to faze this tough-as-nails government agent: not homicidal maniacs with chainsaws, not mutated monstrosities, not even the whiny college student he is sent to rescue. Leon S. Kennedy calmly and professionally handles every crisis, making every bullet count, thinking on his feet and suplexing anyone who gets too close. His tireless persistence and grace under pressure are remarkable.

2. Auron (Final Fantasy X)

I’m not sure I even need to say anything about this guy. Auron’s sword is nearly as big as he is, for heaven’s sake! He often fights one-handed simply because he can. His clothes are equal parts samurai and gunslinger, with an awesome pair of shades for good measure. Auron is noble and courteous, but takes no nonsense and will cut any obstacle into very tiny pieces. Oh, and one final thing: Auron is dead. Not even death can stop this man. He lingers for one final adventure simply because he has unfinished business in the land of the living. Heroes hardly get tougher than that!

1. Naked Snake (Metal Gear Solid series)

Naked Snake

Naked Snake is the perfect soldier: an unstoppable combination of sniper, spy and infantryman. He sneaks through jungles and military bases, enduring harsh weather, surviving on rats and snakes, digging bullets out of his body with a knife and patching up his wounds before charging (or sneaking) back onto the battlefield. Snake defeats legendary soldiers, destroys massive war machines and prevents worldwide nuclear war at least three times. Then, tired of serving a corrupt government, he becomes a mercenary, creates his own nation-state and nearly conquers the world. (Note also his wicked eye patch.) There is no tougher dude in video games than this man.

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

283. The Storm and the Internet

As my dear readers have probably guessed, I like the Internet.

Seriously, the Internet is amazing: an invisible, intangible, worldwide web of information, news, pictures, videos and funny cat pictures, all accessible through a few clicks or keystrokes. Need something? Type it into Google or some other search engine, wait a few seconds and voilà! You have it! Even the world’s best libraries can’t compare to the Internet’s incredible speed, marvelous efficiency, up-to-date accuracy and comprehensive variety.

A couple of weeks ago, a strange thought drifted into my caffeine-addled mind. The Internet brings together the best (and worst) of humankind in one place. Anyone anywhere with an Internet connection can contribute to the Internet, building a vast and ever-expanding construct—something entirely artificial. The Internet is unprecedented. Nothing like it exists, or could possibly exist, in nature. It is a unique triumph of humankind, one only humankind could create and sustain. The Internet is something to which people, cultures and societies everywhere have contributed.

It made me think of the Tower of Babel.

Most of us know the story, I think. The book of Genesis in the Bible describes how humankind came together in an early age of Earth to build a tower to heaven. This building, the Tower of Babel, had two purposes. It was a monument to the pride of humanity and an anchor to prevent them from scattering across the world.

God, however, had other plans. He confounded the language of the people building the Tower of Babel. Construction halted when its builders couldn’t communicate, and humanity eventually spread over the earth as God had planned.

I’m not saying the Internet is evil—good heavens, no! I think the Internet is fantastic.

Nevertheless, I can’t help but notice its similarities to the Tower of Babel. The Internet has united humanity in a way Babel could not; thanks to online translators, even differences of language are not a problem! The Internet records the greatest accomplishments of humankind, and could even be called a monument to human achievement. It’s an artificial world ruled by immediate gratification, quick searches, streaming videos and instant communication. The Internet is a world over which humanity holds absolute sway.

Weeks ago, on the same evening I pondered the Internet and the Tower of Babel, there was a terrific storm. It was majestic, exciting, terrifying and awesome. Trees bent and thrashed in the wind. Rain dashed against my windows. Lightning flashed and thunder cracked. As I dozed off, a flash of lightning penetrated my curtains and closed eyelids to wake me up instantly—it was as though lightning had struck right there in my bedroom.

As I lay awake, I kept thinking about the neat, well-behaved world of the Internet and the wild, overwhelming world outside my window. The storm and its peals of thunder seemed almost like God laughing.

In the morning, appropriately enough, the Internet was gone.

It took nearly a week to have it fixed. In that time, I did more reading than usual. My younger brother and I leafed through my copy of Hyrule Historia and waxed nostalgic over our childhood memories. We enjoyed life without Internet. It wasn’t bad at all.

Now the Internet is back. I’m thankful to have it, and glad to be reminded that it’s just a tiny part of a much bigger, better world!

When Philosophers Play Football

As the World Cup draws to a close, we at TMTF wonder what would happen if philosophers played football, the glorious sport known as fútbol in my country and soccer in the US.

Fortunately, this is a question answered many years ago by Monty Python, a British comedy group made up of insane, brilliant gentlemen. Their decision to put Greek and German philosophers on a football field together was nothing short of genius.

Speaking of the World Cup, I have a confession to make. I haven’t watched it. Having grown up in Ecuador, I know I should like fútbol. I admire the game, I love the passion of its fans and I enjoyed playing it as a kid, but… I don’t like watching sports. Not even fútbol can cure my aversion to athletics.

I kind of like philosophy, though.