Monday, March 30, 2020

Fairy Tale Spotlight: Skepticism

I've spent a lot of time watching YouTube videos about various skeptics. They consist of the likes of James Randi and the very entertaining Captain Disillusion. Now as a person who actually believes in supernatural things, I, perhaps surprisingly, have a soft spot for skeptics and the very idea of skepticism. I just don't go down the same streets as they do, although I've been staying in the same area code for a while now.

I see professional skeptics as little sweepers that go around dusting things off. The reason this is a good thing is because there is quite a lot of deception out there. These guys are pretty good at showing that to us, and that isn't a bad thing. It helps. And even though it may make me seem like something of a jerk, I actually do revel in the exposure of a deception. It clears up the mystery and allows me to move on to the next. As long as the conclusion isn't based on an assumption, I take the skepticism seriously. Everything must be dealt with case-by-case.

Most skeptics end up as atheists. That isn't surprising. I mean... were you surprised to hear that? I certainly wasn't. Skeptics use worldly means to disprove worldly mysteries. How on earth could they ever prove something like God ever existed? Every claim is painfully easy to take down. Heck, much of the claims supporting the existence of God are wishy-washy at best. And once you nix the existence of God, everything else supernatural generally follows.

Skeptics can spend their entire careers desperately trying to find God but never actually making a success of it. But my problem with that is... it's a bit like trying to locate the man behind the curtain... but he was never really there to begin with. You can't really prove that God does not exist through skepticism; you can only prove he doesn't exist behind the curtain. But for many people, that is enough for them to become an atheist.

Long term skeptics get into a sort of healthy swing of things. They begin seeing the deceptions made by other humans. They learn their tricks. They start to become aware of how it all works. But in order to get started down this road, you have to at least be open to the possibility that the supernatural may exist. You give the event the benefit of the doubt and let it prove itself by its own merits. Open-mindedness is key here. You have to allow yourself to believe that anything is possible--even the impossible. But don't close your eyes. Look for tears in the fabric. When you find it, rip it apart.

Over time, however, that open-mindedness gets sullied by cynicism. They begin to think that certain things can't be possible. Pretty soon the world gets reduced to something, albeit fun for a time, but ultimately pointless. There is no reason for anything but that we all are just trying to survive and make the best of it. Nothing can really get better. All that there is left to do is just expose the world for the deception that it is and move on to the next. It creates a sort of spiritual blindness.

What will we ever do if something truly supernatural occurs? Will we even see it? Will we even care? The belief in impossible things can easily be mixed with a batch of healthy skepticism. They can work together. But you cannot lose that open-mindedness for even a second. Be open to the supernatural. Be open to God. Don't so quickly toss the idea of amazing things because you have seen it all before and found nothing. Just let it sit in the back of your mind... and if the sense is ever needed... you'll be able to cope. You'll be able to see.

Thank you for reading my blog! Did you enjoy it? Either way, you can comment below, or you can email me at You can also visit my website at Check out my books! Thanks!

James Randi
Captain Disillusion

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Fairy Tale Spotlight: Saludos Amigos

One of my absolute favorite Disney movies is the 1944 film The Three Caballeros. Every time I watch this movie I smile and enjoy every moment of it. It masters the art of music, color, and visual presentation. It combines beloved cartoon characters with actors in a way that rivals Mary Poppins. It is brilliant. It is also, in many ways, a documentary about (then contemporary) Mexico and Brazil at the same time. However there is a reason this movie is so good, and that had to do with a completely different movie.

The Three Caballeros is actually a sequel. I don't know a lot of people who know this. The movie stands on its own so well, and not a lot of people remember any other movie with these characters. Well, the truth is that, in many ways, The Three Caballeros was really it's own thing, but it was also the product of the movie that came before it. And that movie is: Saludos Amigos. (1942)

This has to be one of the stranger movies by Disney. It is very much a movie about itself. It is a movie about the famed Disney Imagineers traveling out to Latin America looking for inspiration for ideas and even new cartoon characters. It is a documentary about the very thing they were doing as it was filmed.

Engineering reminds me of the traveling poet. They would travel the world seeking inspiration for their writings. They would then deliver these in the form of spoken word or song. From that moment the inspiration travels on among the people and perpetuates in quite a remarkable fashion. Nobody really remembers the poet as much as the poem. That isn't a bad thing.

Saludos Amigos is really a straightforward look at what it means to be an imagineer, and the proof of concept comes out in two years with the result of their journey: The Three Caballeros. They even show the moment when Jose Carioca was born, as a artist sketches him out. He comes to life in the next movie, and I think that is wonderful.

Even though The Three Caballaros is a superior film, it is a magical experience seeing the actual imagineering happen in the previous film. It really shows what humans are capable of when they use their imaginations. It creates things. The action of imagining creates reality. Disney got it right with how they went about this, and many wonderful stories came from it.

Unfortunately imagineering is a thing of the past. Disney claims that they still have imagineers, but from what I can tell, they are little more than just a board of idea-men. The good times are over, friends. A once great force of imagination has fallen. But the fruits of the old days are still available for now. I recommend both Saludos Amigos and The Three Caballeros in order as an example of the process and ultimate result of imagination. Enjoy!

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Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Fairy Tale Spotlight: Zoolander

Before I begin, I want to point out a couple guidelines to this blog. I'm not really here to spoil the movie. I'm not going to be talking about the plot-points and such. It's mostly going to be about the setting. Secondly, I have not seen the sequel, so I will be ignoring it entirely. With that said, let me begin.

I have for a while considered the movie Zoolander as a legitimate fairy tale. Even though it is a comedy intended to make fun of the often bizarre world of male modeling, the presentation of it strikes me more within the realms of fairy fantasy. If you can look past all the obvious humor, what you may find is that this movie is filled with fairy creatures that look similar to us... but clearly deviate away from what makes human beings what they are.

The movie places a distinction between a standard human being and a male model. The models are out-rightly depicted in a similar manner to an alien. They are entirely alien to this world. And that provides for a lot of humor, but it may also exist as a good example of the strangeness, the uncanny valley, we experience when we come face to face with fairy creatures in the woods.

Fairies operate on very specific pathways of thought and practice. They obsess over only the things that they are wont to obsess over. They cannot be changed, but they can learn and adapt. If you were to come across a fairy, they might look human and even speak your language, but you will notice that something is off.

Zoolander makes it very clear who the humans are and who the fairies are. Now... fairies are usually a lot smarter. The male models in Zoolander all seem to be idiots. But another way to look at it is that they are simply alien to our normalcy. They don't understand anything we do because they are not from here. You need only to look in their eyes to know that something isn't right... at least not right from our perspective. They don't belong here.

In reality, fairies are just what we call fallen angels and demon hybrids. Both of them are likely to give us strange feelings when we meet them. We'll notice that disconnect with our reality when we look into their eyes. The things they choose to talk about won't make much sense either. But whatever the case, they still function and do their best to adapt to our world.

I do recommend the movie. It is very funny and it was entirely intended to be a comedy to make fun of the stupidity that exists within the model industry. But just keep in mind that some works of fiction can be used as examples of other things. And in this case, I think Zoolander makes for a very good modern day fairy tale.

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Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Fairy Tale Spotlight: The Air Raider (Earth Defense Force)

When I was first introduced to the Air Raider class of Earth Defense Force, I thought it might be broken. It certainly did not feel very well balanced. Most of his weapons did not work and he seemed to die pretty easily. I felt like I was playing the Ranger class but severely broken. I soon, however, found out what the problem was: The Air Raider is intended as a support class.

If one is to make good use out of an Air Raider, you really need to to be playing the game co-op. Here are a few reasons why. Aside from being able to use a rather disappointing limpet gun, most of what makes the Air Raider great is their ability to call in vehicles and air strikes. But they are not allowed to do any of those things until a certain number of enemies have been dispatched. So at the moment each battle begins... they are a bit useless.

The games will allow you to play them in single player, but you are forced to go in with a limpet gun and take on the forces with only that lousy thing until you get can enough support to bring out a vehicle or a single air strike. At the end of the day, it is a bit too much work for them. And shame on the Earth Defense Force for putting so much on him, in that case.

No, the Air Raider is at his best when paired with either a Ranger, a Wing Diver, a Fencer, or a combination of all three. While the others do their beast in killing monsters, the Air Raider will soon begin providing support. Soon there will be air strikes, missiles, and gun turrets showing up. Tanks, helicopters, and other exotic vehicles will soon become available for the other players (and the Air Raider) to use. Everything soon becomes a bit more interesting and fun as the battle progresses.

Not to be overlooked is another very queer ability of the Air Raider. They have the ability to create lock on points for missile launchers. And it is a bit more than that. They can make these points work more efficiently. Working in tandem with classes that support missile launchers, they can decrease the time the missiles take to lock on and also increase the distance they can get a lock. You'll soon find new and creative ways to help the other players out.

Armor-wise, the Air Raider kind of sucks, but don't worry. The other players can sometimes form a little bromance with their cute little Air Raider who gives them free things for killing monsters. It is very common for the other classes to be protective of the little Air Raiders. So if you get into trouble, just call out for help, and the other players in the game will often come to your rescue.

I totally enjoyed playing the Air Raider in co-op. I know support sounds boring, but I spent so much time in giant tanks, mech walkers, and bringing down hellfire from the sky itself to care. Hell, I could even direct a satellite laser where to fire! None of the other classes could do that. Who knew the smallest person on the battlefield had the powers of heaven in the palm of his hand? Freaking brilliant.

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Monday, March 16, 2020

Fairy Tale Spotlight: The Fencer (Earth Defense Force)

One of the most difficult things about playing the Earth Defense Force games is that everything is trying to kill you. And on top of that, there are a lot of things trying to kill you at one time. It is very easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer mass of enemies that can pile on top of you and tear you apart. When armor is in doubt or you just wanna feel like a real tough guy, there is always the Fencer class to help you out.

The Fencer class is a human locked into a suit of power armor. They are tough, heavy, and are the only class that can dual wield weapons. But these weapons! They are not weapons intended for all you regular folk. These are weapons that were meant to be mounted or placed atop a large vehicle... but the fencers can hold them in one hand!

I tell you that there is nothing like holding a howitzer cannon in both hands and blasting them one at a time into a crowd of approaching giant bugs. The shells just blow through them like water. The power armor is doing all of the work. All you have to worry about is pulling that trigger. Seriously, this is probably the manliest class in the whole game.

Because of their extra weight, the Fencer moves really slowly. Even though they can take a massive amount of damage, they can still get overwhelmed. To make up for this, the suit is equipped with booster jets that can either propel the Fencer forward... or up... straight up. In this way, the Fencer can move around the battlefield quickly but still in short bursts of speed. Since these jets have a cool down time of about three seconds, you can still get stuck. (Three seconds doesn't seem like much, but it feels more like ten seconds in the heat of battle.)

Easily, the Fencer class gets all the most devastating weapons. Whether they be giant Gatling guns, super shotguns, or back mounted missile launchers, these weapons hit hard and leave the enemy wishing they had stayed home. The only way to take out a Fencer is to overwhelm him, but even if they manage to kill him, it will cost them countless forces in the process.

I adore the Fencer class for their might. They are one of the four extremely balanced classes in Earth Defense Force. Sometimes you just wanna feel like a tough guy, and the Fencer will always fit the bill.

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Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Fairy Tale Spotlight: The Wing Diver (Earth Defense Force)

Is Earth Defense Force a fairy tale? To better answer this question, we should ask if the game series has fairies in it? That is debatable, but it would still be correct to say that it has Spriggans. What are spriggans?  Cornish plant fairies as far as lore is concerned, but in the case of Earth Defense Force 5, they are a legendary group of flying women known as the Wing Divers.

Unlike the Ranger class, who are all doomed to remain bolted down to the earth as they strive desperately for greatness, the Wing Divers can leap up into the air and fly about with perfect freedom. According to the game's lore, the reason the class are composed of entirely women are because of their lighter body weight and graceful economy of movement. They are proud creatures who zip about and attack the invading monsters from all sides, always finding and exploiting their weak points. There is no place a Wing Diver cannot go. Everything is exposed to them. This is their advantage.

But with every advantage comes a drawback. The mighty Spriggans are woefully fragile. A simple flick of Godzilla's tail would be all it would take to end a Wing Diver's life. Every bone will break. All equipment will be destroyed. That will be their end. Not to mention their susceptibility to giant spider webs.

Agility... swiftness... quick thinking... these are all important virtues to someone who would take up the Wing Diver class. Keep moving. Keep flying. Never stop! Never give up! Become an annoying fly that will buzz about but never be smacked. That is how you play a Wing Diver.

Being a Wing Diver is also about energy management. Her flight pack as well as her weapons are energy based... and come from the same power core. That's right. Every shot you make will draw from the same resource that powers your flight. It's a very easy mistake to make to fly in shooting only to deplete your core, leaving you helpless on the ground while swarms of monsters come to kill you. A good Wing Diver knows how to manage her energy reserves... and when the time is right... she'll give the enemy everything she's got. She may be rendered helpless, but the enemy will be dead.

I love playing the Wing Diver. The freedom of flight makes the class so much more liberating. The energy management aspect as well as her fragility provides a wonderful balance to the class. But the best part of it to me is that, in a very real sense, the Wing Divers... no... the Spriggans... They are the fairies of the Earth Defense Force, and the good news is... they are on our side.

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Monday, March 9, 2020

Fairy Tale Spotlight: The Ranger (Earth Defense Force)

Probably the most popular class in the Earth Defense Force series is the Ranger. This is where the fighting began for many people just getting into the series, and you would be strange if you did not see what beauty there is in playing this seemingly underwhelming individual.

The Ranger class is perhaps the simplest in the series. You are one in a massive infantry. A human being with a gun. There's nothing particularly special about you, but somehow what you were born with was enough to bring down giants. The Ranger class is a hero class, because unless you were a hero... you'd be dead.

There is something thrilling about being given a choice of two weapons and just being kicked out into a chaotic battlefield. It reminds me of some of the frightening front-line scenes in Starship Troopers. No matter how much you train, nothing prepares you for that first chaotic clash. Swarms of monsters all trying to rip you apart. How does anyone survive something like that? Wanna know how? Become a Ranger and watch it unfold before your very eyes.

The Ranger was the very first class allowed in the series. The other classes (Wing Diver, Fencer, and Air Raider) came later. So at the beginning of this war of monsters and giant robots, all we had were men with guns. We didn't need anything else. We just ran out there and shot stuff until there was no movement. The only progress we could expect was better and sometimes weirder guns to play with--and I do mean play. R&D was constantly churning out odd ideas such as a rifle that shoots in two different directions. How can you possible shoot that gun and NOT call it playing?!

Earth Defense Force 5 was the first time in the series that the Ranger class got a major update--the ability to call in vehicles. At first, there was a bit of protest to the very idea. The once ground-bound forces were suddenly able to drive a tank or a crawling mech. It was a breach of trust, some might say, to allow such a sacred class to be changed in such a major way. Are we just going to ignore the vehicle call-ins and play the game old fashioned?!


Wait. There's a really cool bike in here. Holy crap, this is a cool bike. None of the other classes got a bike this cool. They didn't even get a bike! It's a bike with two freaking machine guns mounted on it. Yeah, sure, it crashes on every bump on the road, but I just gave a giant alien a bullet enema! HELL YEAH! I love this bike! 'Nuf said. The Ranger update was ultimately accepted and enjoyed.

The three other classes of the Earth Defense Force are wonderful and perfectly balanced, but there is nothing like just playing as a simple Ranger. You may be one among many, but at the end of the day, you're going to be the one who fights and kills an alien god. At the end of the day, you'll be a hero, and every one else will be in awe as they look upon what looks like a man... but is really something so much more.

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Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Fairy Tale Spotlight: Rabbits Run

I was sad when I finally finished watching "The Loony Tunes Show." I wanted more but realized that it was really over. I worried there would be nothing more from the crew. I was happily wrong in this. There was a movie based around this show released in 2015 called "Rabbits Run."

Long story short: I did love the movie. It's a weird one though. Even though all the characters act like their counterparts from the show, they have entirely mixed up lives. It really feels like an alternate reality version of the show.

For example, Bugs Bunny was a cab driver and had not even met Lola yet. Foghorn was a military general. And Daffy... well he was still a dick. (Not a typo.) They took the humor and formula from the show and just remixed it into its own thing. It felt like a fresh start, and I liked it. I'm glad they bothered, honestly.

Yosemite Sam had me worried for a bit. He was trying to rob a bank with only some squirt guns. I figured this was just a matter of censorship which was never present in the actual show. Fortunately, this was just a tease because the scene ultimately leads into more gun violence than I even remotely expected. It was a hilariously violent scene, and I was laughing my ass off for the entire event.

Mac and Tosh (the Goofy Gophers) were back and more fruity than I have ever seen them. They went all out with them. The writers pretty much just slammed into them with a gay club and went all the way. They even got one of two songs in the film, and of the two, this song was so wonderfully gay! I loved it!

Two small complaints. Firstly, it seems the movie was far more outsourced than the show was. It shows. The characters look a bit janky and strange at times. I learned to live with it despite this. Entirely tolerable.

My second problem was the very limited role of Daffy Duck. It was more of a cameo, but it was a WONDERFUL cameo. He even got the final scene of the movie which cracked me up. I do wish he had a more important role in the movie though.

All in all, I recommend this movie if you were a fan of the show. It carried over the wit and humor but in an alternate reality. It was a wonderful mix-up that kept me entertained for the full hour and a half. Rabbits Run is presently available on the Boomerang streaming service and well worth your time.

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Monday, March 2, 2020

Fairy Tale Spotlight: The Streaming Service Pie

Streaming services have proven to be an excellent means to view movies and TV shows, needing nothing more than an internet connection to access. I know a lot of people who canceled their cable services only to switch to streaming services instead. They cost a lot less and have plenty of content.

Services like Netflix and Hulu have been great platforms in the past. Many companies that produce popular fiction had signed up with them, giving them two great opportunities to see this content. But over time, those same companies have decided to make their own proprietary streaming services, pulling much of their stuff from the more open source ones.

So this causes some very unfortunate problems. Firstly, it makes it difficult to know where a particular movie or show that you want to see can be found. Sometimes I'll go looking for something only to find that it's been traded off to one of the proprietary services. This has actually happened to be more than once. It is very annoying.

The biggest problem in all of this is something I call the "Streaming Service Pie." As more and more companies want to make their own proprietary streaming services, it is going to make it very hard to find the stuff you want to see without dolling out exorbitant amounts of money. I can only afford about three or four of these services, and each of them have their own slice of the pie. But I cannot afford to subscribe to or even keep track of all the ones out there.

I came to realize this when I found out that the new Loony Tunes show that I had been waiting for was only going to come out on HBO's new proprietary service. Everything about this show sounds wonderful, but I don't want to get a whole service for only one show. So sadly I'm going to miss this one.

Meanwhile, my slice of the pie keeps getting smaller and smaller while my subscription fee stays the same or gets worse. People, we had a good thing going here! People got greedy and wanted everything for themselves. Before long the pie slices may get so small that it's just not going to be worth it anymore. There is really good fiction out there... but if we can't see it... what's the point?

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