State of the Blog Address

Readers of Jarrodfinn.com,

I address you during a very important time in this blog’s history. It is….

Okay.. sorry. I can’t keep a straight face. And yes, I know. I’m a dork. Anyways I just wanted to briefly talk to everyone about my vision and plans for this blog.

First and foremost, I want the blog to be about you the readers. While most of the content will reflect my passions, I don’t want it to become self-indulgent. The most important thing to me is that you enjoy what you read. This means writing about the things you want to read about also. I have plenty of ideas, but I would love to hear from all of you.

Is there a video game I should check out? A movie or show I should watch? Maybe a band I have overlooked? Or a book I should read? Even a restaurant in Atlanta I should check out? Just let me know and I will write about it.

But this is just the beginning. I have a certain vision for this blog. My hopes, dreams even, is to build it into a website much like The Nerdist, or IGN, or Kotaku, etc. just with creative arts and theology added. Perhaps that is far-fetching, but I am willing to work hard towards that goal.

If any of you want to contribute, please let me know. If you have any ideas, please let me know. Most of all, keep reading and let your friends know about the blog.

Thanks!

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Review: Resurrection Series Premiere, “The Returned”

Last night a series that I have been excited about for the better part of six months premiered on ABC.

Resurrection, starring Omar Epps (House, M.D.), Kurtwood Smith (That 70’s Show), and Frances Fisher (Titanic), is thrust along by one single premise: What if someone you lost returned?

Being a seminary grad and one that is deeply rooted in theological and philosophical analysis, topics that bring into question the things that we believe and perceive to be true have always intrigued me. Since that is the case, my excitement for Resurrection came quite naturally. That intrigue, though, was not the sole reason for my excitement about the show’s premiere. I was excited because of the show’s source material.

Contrary to the belief of many viewers, Resurrection is not an adaptation of Les Revenants (The Returned), a French television show acquired by the Sundance Channel and currently in production of it’s second season. Instead, the show is based on Jason Mott’s novel The Returned; one of my favorite books of 2013. And in my opinion, a fairly adept adaptation of the novel thus far.

resurrection-abc-serie-trailer

Both begin in the same way. Eight-year old Jacob Langston (Landon Gimenez) appears, out of thin air, in a rice paddy field just outside of a rural Chinese village. He has no clue where he is, and stumbles into the village where the residents take care of him. Eventually the United States Immigration and Citizenship Enforcement and agent J. Martin Bellamy (Epps) takes on the responsibility of solving the mystery of Jacob’s appearance and where he is from.

This is where things begin to unravel. Jacob informs Bellamy that he is a from Arcadia, a small town in Missouri (a real town by the way).  Guided by Jacob, the two arrive at the boy’s home where he is reunited with his parents (Notwood and Fisher). Reunited after being dead for 32 years.

The remainder of the episode focuses on the efforts to determine whether Jacob is actually the Langstons’ son. Naturally his mother does not think twice about it and automatically jumps into gear to take care of her son. His father, on the other hand, has a rather hard time accepting that his eight-year old son has returned 32 years later no different than the day he died.

I won’t say much more as to not ruin the episode for you, but for the most part the show stays rather true to the source material. Even the mood of the show stays true to the writing in the book.

Mott’s prose, in the novel, is strikingly beautiful and strengthens the philosophical undertones of the story. The phrases turned by Mott reel you in like the perfected hook of a Top 40 song and then keep you close like the majesty of a timeless classic.

Not only does the show’s writing attempt to maintain the feeling of Mott’s writing, but so does the director. Of course a camera can never capture the same feeling that great prose creates, the intentional shots and progression of each scene certainly make an effort. Most noticeable is the show’s interpretation of the Langstons and Agent Bellamy, as the adaptation stays true to these characters in the book, except for a few minor changes.

LANDON GIMENEZ, FRANCES FISHER
ABC/Bob Mahoney

Lucille Langston, as Mott wrote her, quickly returns to being a doting mother simply overjoyed to have her son to take care of again. She does not even question how or why her son has returned. All she cares about is that he is there. Frances Fisher portrays her perfectly as you can feel the love for her son and the joy to see Jacob again sparkle in her eyes.

As for Henry Langston and Agent Bellamy, I must say that the casting of Kurtwood Smith and Omar Epps, respectively, was an excellent job. Henry is a father clearly still hurting even 32 years after his son’s death, but came to accept that Jacob was gone. Accepting that fact seemed to harden Henry over the years; a hard exterior that only begins to fall away piece by piece the more time he spends with his son. henryjacobsreturnKurtwood Smith while hitting Henry’s hardened heart on the head, also seems to add a softness from the get go. He portrays a man in which the hard exterior seems to be a guise to hide how much he longs for his son. The return of his son simply shakes and confuses him. Should he be scared or rejoice that his dead son has returned?

When we are first introduced to Agent Bellamy in the book, he seems to be slightly aloof and more focused on doing his job; just figure out what is going on and get out of there. He does have a soft spot for children and begins to grow close to the Langstons and becomes a sort of confidant to Henry.

The writers of the show seem to have harkened mostly on the latter aspect of Bellamy’s character. From the onset one can tell that Agent Bellamy is one that cares deeply, and certainly has a soft spot for children. Epps plays perfectly into this. He is not skeptical like others, and readily accepts the possibility that Jacob’s return is some kind of miracle. In fact, throughout the first episode Bellamy becomes the one to remind Henry that perhaps just believing is the best way to approach the situation.

As with all adaptations, the creators and writers did take a bit of creative licensing with the show. Certain characters and relationships were changed. Characters were created just for the show. And some were introduced a little early or added to the town when they weren’t citizens of Arcadia. Fortunately this does not detract from the show’s story arch whatsoever. Loved ones are returning. It really doesn’t matter if a character in the book is slightly different in the show.

Now, I did have one problem with the book that seems to be fixed in the show. In the novel, Mott introduces a lot of characters, many of whom are returning loved ones of other Arcadia citizens or of other people throughout the world. They elude to this in the first episode, so I’m not giving anything away.

Anyways, the first 1/3 of the book can become overwhelming due to this fact. However, this is where adapting the book into a television series adds to the story. The writers can ease into everything that is going on. They can take their time building characters and the eventual chaos that comes out of loved ones returning all throughout the world.

What I am really excited about is how they will develop the answer to how and why people are  returning. There is never an explanation in the book. They just appear out of  nowhere. No rhyme or reason as to why. I went back and forth between different theories as to why they appeared, but nothing even remotely close to a hint was provided. Hopefully the show can do what Mott couldn’t.

In the end, Resurrection is by no means a perfect show, but I think it will do well. The ratings are already showing that it can. My only concern is the history of bad luck niche shows have had on ABC (see Pushing Daisies and Zero Hour).

Perhaps Resurrection will have better luck. After all, the hope to see a loved one again hits home for many, many people.

It certainly hits home for me.

A Nerd’s Confession

It has not gone without saying that I am a nerd.

I am an unabashed Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers fan. I still watch all the old episodes and follow the current season. Hell, I’m writing my own interpretation of the original series.

The video game universe has had me under its spell since I woke up Christmas morning 1989 to find an NES hooked up to the living room television. Some of my best ideas during graduate school came to me with a controller in my hands. Shhh… don’t tell my former professors.

I can talk about Superman, and the philosophical and theological undertones of the character/universe until I’m blue… and red… and yellow… in the face. You can even ask my girlfriend about how I turned into a young child the moment the Man of Steel trailer came on before The Dark Knight Rises.

I have the stereotypical celebrity crush on Felicia Day.

I even feel like I relate more to the contestants of TBS’ The King of the Nerds more than anyone else on any other reality show. But I have a confession…

And it may not sit well with you.

Just wait for it…

I have never watched an episode of Firefly. NEVER.

I’ll give you a moment. Go ahead. Shriek. Gasp. Do whatever you need to do.  Then let that hit you and sink in.

I have never watched an episode of Firefly. And I am a huge, HUGE Joss Whedon fan; even of the episodes he wrote for Roseanne. Yet my life has continued Firefly-less.

Don’t worry. My nerd card will be handed over peacefully and without argument. But I have a plan, an offer if you will, that could help me earn it back.

I will watch the show. All thirteen episodes.

Not only that, I will provide a run down of my thoughts after each episode. And then a final entry on my overall opinion of the show.

Does that work for you? I hope it does.

I wonder what color coat I’ll be wearing at the end.

LEGOs: Toys or Therapy?

I have always marveled at models. Well, the finished products.

No. I am not talking about supermodels after Photoshopping.

I’m talking about the intricate model cars, hand-sculpted and hand-painted figurines, or model towns or battlefields. Or those little ships in bottles that you have build inside the bottle itself.

I could honestly sit and stare at these models in awe of the meticulous detail and talent that went into creating them. But I never understood how one could actually sit down and painstakingly build or paint these things. I just never had the patience to sit down and do the work myself.

All of that changed recently when I bought LEGO’s Back to the Future DeLorean set. lego-delorean-jul13-m

Originally my only reason I bought the set was my undying love for the movies. After all, it is the perfect trilogy. One of the few trilogies where the second movie is actually a good movie. In fact, I would argue that the Back to the Future trilogy is a perfect template for making good trilogies. I digress though.

I also bought the set because I thought it would look cool on my desk; something fun to look at while perusing Facebook or trying to crank out pages of my screenplay. Sometimes I just need something simple to make me smile, and now that it is finished it definitely makes me smile.

I found a lot more than I expected while building the set, and began to understand why those that build and/or paint those intricate models take the time to work on them. There is something extremely cathartic about the process.

Now perhaps a small confession is in order. I took a lot longer to build the set than most people. Instead of just whizzing through the process, I was very intentional.

IMG_0621Good music was playing. Every other electronic was turned off. And I sat at my desk with a pile of small LEGO pieces in front of me. For some reason it did not occur to me that the set would have so many small pieces. Don’t ask me why.

Regardless of the reason, and because I have a penchant for misplacing or confusing parts when putting things together, the next step was to sort out every single piece based on color, type of piece, and the designated amount of each piece in the set. Call it overkill. Call it obsessive. Oh well. I needed it.

My anxiety and stress level was at a rather high level that day, and the sorting alone served as almost a meditative preparation for actually building the DeLorean. About half an hour into the sorting I began to notice myself calm down. The stress began to level out, and the anxiety started to fade. Even more interesting was how focusing on finding different pieces and grouping them with matching ones pulled me away from my worries.

The sorting, though, was only the beginning of that therapeutic session.

For those that do not know this about me, I suffer from moderate clinical depression. I am on medication, and for the most part have symptoms under control. Every now and then I’ll have an episode that, thanks to the medication, I am able to pull myself out of much easier than in the past. However, as I am wont to do, I can find myself incredibly lost in my own head. Most times navigating my way out of my head can be easy. But there are times when it can be really hard. My own mind becomes a labyrinth (thankfully David Bowie is not at the center) that can deceive me at every turn. My mind distorts the truth and convinces me that I’m inadequate, not liked, etc.

The times when it gets really bad, there a very few people and/or activities that can pull me out of that labyrinth. Building the DeLorean, much to my surprise, joined that short list. With every piece that snapped into place, it was as though wall after wall in the labyrinth fell away.

IMG_0622

By the time I was finished I felt a happiness that lasted for the rest of the day.

This experience may be unique to me. It may not be. Regardless, it was an important and rejuvenating experience. I finally understood why model makers love their hobby so much. There is something special about building something from the ground up. There is something so incredible about knowing that I made this.

Even if I had to follow instructions.

Shaq is Back for Some More Fu-n

I’ll probably get some slack for this, but I was always a fan of Shaq Fu (SNES and Sega).

I mean I still think it’s among the worst games ever made, but that does not make it any less of a guilty pleasure for me.

Maybe it was because I didn’t take it seriously or because the game didn’t seem to take itself seriously. Or maybe it was because I was just a little better at the game than Mortal Kombat or Street Fighter.

Shhh. No comments from the peanut gallery. I redeemed myself by getting good at Killer Instinct.

Well it appears that not only is Shaq returning to the video game universe, he’s dusting off the old kung fu…. er…. Shaq fu moves.

According to Kotaku, Shaq and his team have announced plans for a sequel to Shaq Fu entitled Shaq Fu: A Legend Reborn. 

Take a quick look at the teaser:

 

Admittedly, I am a little excited for this. From what we can see in the teaser, the game appears to be true to Shaq’s sense of humor and personality.

At the moment, Shaq has an Indiegogo campaign going with a goal of $450,000.

Personally, I think this could be a fun game. But that’s just me.

 

The Video Games No One Ever Wants to See

I will be the first to say that I am not a fan of Pete Holmes. I find his humor elementary and quite obnoxious. Until this video there had only been one exception: his Ex-Men skit (he plays Professor X who calls in X-Men to his office and fires them).

In the video below, without ruining too much, Pete Holmes lists off fictional video games that no one knew about. The skit had me laughing, with the exception of his horrible Jerry Seinfeld impression. My favorite was probably Middle Age Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Would you play any of these? Which one made you laugh the hardest?

I challenge you to think of ones to add to his list.

Well… Hello There

You ask whether your verses are any good. You have asked others before this. You send them to magazines. You compare them with other poems, and you are upset when certain editors reject your work. Now (since you have said you want my advice) I beg you to stop doing that sort of thing. You are looking outside, and that is what you should most avoid right now. No one can advise or help you – no one. There is only one thing you should do. Go into yourself. Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread its roots in the very depths of your heart; confess to yourself whether you would have to die if you were forbidden to write. This most of all: ask yourself in the most silent hour of your night: must I write? Dig into yourself for a deep answer. And if this answer rings out in assent, if you meet this solemn question with a strong, simple ‘I must’, then build your life in accordance with this necessity; your whole life, even into its humblest and most indifferent hour, must become a sign and witness to this impulse. 

– Rainer Maria Rilke, Poet

I would like to start this blog, and greet all of you, with a simple “Thank you”. Thank for you taking the time out of your day, or evening, to stop and read. Thank you finding enough value in my musings that you willingly spend time with my thoughts.

With that said, let me introduce myself. As the blog’s URL suggests, my name is Jarrod Finn.

I am a recent graduate from the Candler School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta, GA where I received a Master of Divinity. I entered the program with every intention of becoming an ordained minister, but as we all experience at certain points in our lives, the paths we intend to take can turn out to be the wrong ones. But that is not the sole focus of this blog.

More than a theology nerd, or an academic, I am simply a NERD. I am a life-long gamer. I geek out over Superman and other superheroes. I have recently learned to accept, in all of its glory, the extent to which I am a MMPR fanboy.

I am a movie fanatic, a sports freak, and, as anyone that knows me would tell you, I am an extreme food geek. Most of all, I am an aspiring writer/screenwriter. It has been my dream for as long as I can remember. But for some reason I have always pushed this dream aside. Whether it is because of a lack of confidence in myself or the thought that establishing a career and making money would be more realistic, I have no clue. For whatever reason, I never seriously pursued my own dream. Or I would start, and just give up.

Recent events in my life (re: being let go from what I expected to be the beginning of my career) have afforded me the opportunity to seriously consider this dream. So, once the initial shock of unemployment began to slowly wear off (it still stings), and I needed something to alleviate the weight of bill collectors and student loan companies calling, I returned to my writing.

I finally decided that I was tired of giving up. If there was ever a time, this was the time to become who I feel I am: a writer. Most of all, I couldn’t live with myself if I ignored the overwhelming desire to write movies, or the desire to just write. So, I gave the proverbial finger to my fears, asked a friend to mentor me, and since then have been pushing toward my dream.

Most importantly, finally writing again has reminded me of the one thing I forgot. Throughout the good days, and the bad days, there has always been one constant: writing. Writing is the one thing that keeps me afloat. Writing is what helps me feel when nothing else can cure the numbness. Most of all, writing defines who I am. Sure. I’d love to get discovered. Sure, I’d love to have a script made into a movie and make tons of money. But that is not why I write. I write because turning a phrase or building a plot or writing beautiful exposition is what keeps me sane. Writing is the ultimate salve.

So… that is what this blog is for: my writing. While I do not want the blog to be a random hodgepodge, you will definitely see a variety of topics. I write about what I love, whether that is a movie I just saw, a project I just finished, an amazing meal I ate, the Power Rangers, et cetera.

Through this blog I want to set out on a journey to discover both old and new things about myself as a writer. Hopefully it is a journey that leads me to my dream. And I ask you to embark on this journey with me.

Writer | Gamer | Movie Freak | Foodie Extraordinaire | Major Nerd