Star Wars, Nostalgia, and Expectations (or, Why Didn’t I Like The Last Jedi?)


This is a review/analysis of Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi, and IT WILL DEFINITELY CONTAIN ALL OF THE SPOILERS. Keep reading only if you already know what happens or you don’t care about spoilers. You have been warned.

Well, it’s that time of year again. A new Star Wars film is out, full of new plot developments and plenty of unexpected twists and turns that will absolutely be spoiled for you if you continue reading this post without seeing the movie first (seriously, I can’t stress that point enough). And while many enjoyed the new movie and critics are even giving it high praise, fans young and old are joining together in a spirit of unity for that time-honored holiday tradition of criticizing every minute detail of the film and complaining about how it compares (or doesn’t) to the original trilogy. Ah, these yearly traditions simply warm the old heart.

Star Wars GoldilocksBut before I spend too long sarcastically complaining about the Star Wars complainers, I must admit that I too have fallen into their camp, probably more so in the last two years than I ever have before. I walked out of the film saying something like, “I’m not fully sure what I expected with Episode VIII, but this wasn’t it,” and I definitely fake-cried into my fiancée’s arms about the death of the old Expanded Universe canon and how I’m still not fully over it. I saw friends on social media calling the film “a mixed bag,” and saying that some of the risks the film took worked, while others really didn’t. Of course, while many fans are being generous enough to call the film “mixed,” there are plenty out there with even lower opinions, to the point where some are petitioning for the film to be removed entirely from Star Wars canon.

One friend told me, “I walked out feeling disappointed, but not fully able to put into words why I felt that way.” And I honestly felt the same way, which is why I’m making a solid effort to put my feelings into words now. You see, despite the criticisms I do have (which I’ll elaborate on more below), there’s no doubt that I, at the very least, enjoyed the experience of watching the film, and still want to watch it again. What’s more, the film has of course been commercially successful, and the critics are praising it highly, with some calling it the best film in the franchise since The Empire Strikes Back. So why exactly is it that so many longtime Star Wars fans (including myself) can’t bring ourselves to give the film such high praise?

While nobody is free of bias, I submit that maybe, just maybe, the film critics in this case are viewing the film more fairly and objectively than many of the longtime fans are. We fans all have our own biases based on nostalgia and our own expectations of what Star Wars should be like. But if those expectations get in the way of enjoying an otherwise good and fun film, then are they really worth holding onto? Continue reading


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Life, Learning, and Lessons from Gotham

I’m back in the blogging world, people! At least for now. After keeping up with this blog at least once monthly for three and a half years (you can tell from the archives on the right side), I finally let it slide this past fall and have had a hard time getting back into it. I guess getting your first grown-up, full-time job in a new state will do that to you. To those of you who have been following me for some time, I mentioned my new life adventure briefly in some of my last posts, but never really had a chance to talk about it much. That’s because, quite simply, life has been crazy. But that’s part of what I want to talk about today.

For those not in the know, I moved from central Virginia to southern Maryland back in August, and have been up here for nearly seven months now. I’m teaching high school English at a private Christian academy, fulfilling a career goal that first surfaced in my mind way back in my own sophomore year of high school. I’m starting to make friends in the area, and the school is full of some pretty great people–from administration to coworkers to students. Three quarters of the way into the school year, I can honestly say that I love my job.

Well, pretty much. Usually. Mostly.

Last week it was my turn to prepare a brief message for faculty devotions. (Side note: how cool is it that I work at a place where the faculty do devotions together? I think it’s cool.) And I talked about how it was getting to the point of the year where things are getting tough, challenges are arising, and some of the youthful fervor and idealism that I had at the beginning of the year from being a first-year teacher are starting to wear off. I was young and foolish back then, thinking that merely my love for children and my positive energy in wanting to impact their lives could carry me through my first year without too many major issues.

Now, six months later, I’m obviously much older and much wiser, and I’ve come to realize that amidst piles of grading, discipline problems, and some consistently difficult students, this job isn’t always all fun and games like I might have hoped. I’m tired more often (see? Told you I was getting old) and, as much as I love teaching and I have a good group of students overall, there are certain days when I don’t look forward to going into work or seeing a certain class. If you’ve ever taught–or worked in any job, even one that you love–I’m sure you can relate. It doesn’t mean that my job is bad or that it’s cause for me to give up. It doesn’t mean that this isn’t what God has called me to do. It just means that real adult life is a little more complicated than maybe I had imagined initially, and even my quixotic crusade of idealism isn’t always enough to keep me going.

(I learned the word “quixotic” this year when I was teaching an excerpt from Don Quixote. I think it’s a fun word. If you don’t know what it means, then go look it up!)

I’ve been watching the show Gotham on Fox (viewer discretion advised), which is kind of a prequel to Batman. More specifically, it’s about Jim Gordon long before he becomes the police commissioner of Gotham City, when he’s just starting out as a young rookie detective. And it also functions as a coming-of-age tale and a complex allegory for the average working man and his struggles to succeed against the hardships of life. Well, not really, but I’m going to pretend that it does, because I’m finding that I can really relate to this version of Jim Gordon.

Jim Gordon Gotham

Ben McKenzie as Detective Jim Gordon on Gotham.

See, at the beginning of the show, Jim was this idealistic young rookie cop. He didn’t really know what he was getting into, but as one of the few “good cops” left in a city full of crime and corruption, he thought he could save the world, right the wrongs, and single-handedly turn the city around, because what could possibly go wrong? But as things progressed, that goal became harder and harder. During the first season, tough-guy rule-breaker Jim had some problems with his administration (which I could also relate to at the time of the first season), making it difficult to live out his noble ideals within the confines of an imperfect system.

Now, in the second season, Jim has a more positive and supportive administration (as do I), but the criminal element of Gotham is still quite a challenge for him. He’s finding that, in order to fulfill his noble ideals and protect the people, he’s got to get tougher and make sacrifices and compromises that he may not have been comfortable with when the show started a year and a half ago. He’s trying to hold onto his ideals of keeping the city safe and doing the right thing, but that’s getting harder and harder to do without getting his hands dirty, and it’s often a thankless job that takes a huge personal toll on him.

Straight Outta Lynchburg

I posted this two days after moving. Do I look like a tough cool guy too?

Admittedly, teaching at a Christian school isn’t quite as dramatic as being a cop in Gotham City (see? Told you I was quixotic), and so I don’t really see myself making most of the moral compromises that Jim has been making in service to the alleged “greater good.” But overall, I can really see where he’s coming from. Like Jim, I went into a job where I thought I could save the world and serve the people and make a positive impact in the lives of the future generation. But now I’m finding that, despite my experiences in student teaching and graduate student assistantship, some aspects of teaching are harder and tougher than I was prepared for. Yes, there are days when I have a really positive moment with a student and I pleasantly remember why I wanted to teach in the first place–and then there are days when the job seems more like babysitting and crowd control than anything else and I wonder how much longer I can keep it up. Heck, sometimes I can have both types of days within an hour of each other. Like any job, there’s a balance and the circumstances can really go back and forth at any given time.

When I gave my devotional message, I spoke about trying to recapture some of my youthful idealism and the passionate zeal that had first made me want to impact teens in a positive way. And, as much as I love shows like Gotham, I’ve been finding that melodramatic fantasies about being an epic action hero aren’t always quite enough to reignite that flame. Rather, the best way to renew my vigor as a Christian teacher is to fill myself with God and His Word. I need to let Him replenish my motivation, my love for others, and my servant’s heart for the students. I need to let Him show me in the midst of each difficult day where the real, practical opportunities are to make a positive impact. Am I always doing this perfectly? Far from it. But it’s only my first year and I’ve still got a lot to learn.

Teaching isn’t always easy, but I still believe that it’s worth it for those who really want to make a difference serving God and others. And that’s what I plan to do to the best of my ability for the rest of this year and however many years are still to come. I just have to be transformed by the renewing of my mind and take on the idealistic faith of a little child yet again.

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New article: 3 Things I’ve Learned Since Stepping out on Faith into the Unknown

It’s been almost three months now since I left behind my familiar life in Lynchburg, Virginia and moved up to Waldorf, Maryland to take a new job teaching high school English. Every day is an adventure, and there is a lot that I still want to write about, but they’re mostly good adventures and I really enjoy what I’m doing. I believe now, as I did before this step, that this is where God wanted me to be, and I’ve seen His provision and guidance in a number of ways.

My newest article for Single Matters talks about a few things I’ve learned since I made a major leap of faith.

Christians hear a lot about stepping out on faith, something that all believers should do in some way. Of course, active faith looks different for everyone, and we never fully know what it will entail (if we did, then it wouldn’t be faith!).

The struggles of daily living can sometimes require just as much faith as a major, dramatic life change, and both types of faith can be great ways to serve God depending on where He has you at the time.

I’ve spent the larger portion of my Christian life living the first type of faith—the daily, ordinary kind from my familiar comfort zone. There’s nothing wrong with that as long as you’re in God’s will. But sometimes we need something more to challenge us and help shake us out of complacency.

And recently I got just that when, after finishing school, I took a teaching job in another state where I believed God was calling me, leaving the town I had called home for over a decade. Granted, I’m only four hours away, close enough to visit and to know some people in my new area. Still, for a slightly sheltered, sometimes overcautious 20-something like me who has never really lived this far from home, this has been a big step and a huge adjustment—but also an exciting adventure!

Here are a few things I’ve learned since stepping out on faith into the unknown.

Read the rest of the article here!

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A Few Cool Things

Hello, faithful fans and followers (if there are any of you left)! As you may know from my last update, I’ve been incredibly busy with my new job as a high school English teacher at a new school with a new home in a new state. While I rather enjoy what I’m doing and the new adventures I encounter every day, I regret that such adventures have left me little time for blogging or writing of my own. Therefore, while I’d like to tell all of you about a great many really cool things that I’ve experienced in the past couple months since coming here, I’m afraid just a few will have to suffice for now.

  • I'm Going on an AdventureCool thing #1: My grand new adventure has afforded me the opportunity to travel a little bit on other, more minor (but still cool) adventures. Tomorrow I’m flying from northern Virginia to Syracuse, New York to participate in the Sacred Literature, Secular Religion conference at LeMoyne College. Back in March during my last semester of grad school, I submitted a paper on Nathaniel Hawthorne‘s short fiction to this conference, and they accepted it and asked me to present. While I was glad to be accepted, I wasn’t sure for a while if I would be able to go, since I didn’t know what my work or financial states would be like in the fall. Thankfully, I’ve been able to arrange the trip, and so I’ll be able to spend a few days exploring a new area (I’ve never been to New York before) and discussing the intersection of religion and literature with a number of other professionals in the field. Adventure awaits!
  • Cool thing #2: I’m not sure how many of my readers here are familiar with my father, but he’s been a major source of a lot of good things in my life, including my Christian values, my love for literature and writing, and my weird sense of humor. Well, he has recently joined the ranks of the blogosphere as well and has begun to work at accumulating an audience. If you have enjoyed or appreciated my writings on here at all, then I encourage you to check out my dad’s stuff as well. He has a Facebook page here and a WordPress blog here. Oh, and did I mention what he was building an audience for? He’s got a book deal for a novel coming out. Stay tuned for updates.

And stay tuned for (hopefully) more cool things from me in the future as well. All in all, I guess living and experiencing new adventures takes priority over sitting at a computer, although I’d still love the chance to record them and share them with you if I can. Thanks for reading.

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New Article: Companionship Crisis

Hello, friends of the blogosphere!

I realize that things have been a bit quiet on my page lately. This has been due to some recent major changes in my life. Specifically, I finally got a full-time job offer teaching high school English (which I have wanted to do for a while), and thus I have relocated to Waldorf, Maryland, about four hours from my previous home of Lynchburg, Virginia! I’ve only been here for about three weeks so far, but it’s been a crazy whirlwind of moving and trying to get adjusted while also planning lessons and teaching every day! Although I’m still ironing out a few rough patches, I’m excited to be here and have had a pretty grand adventure so far.

Later when I have more time, I hope to write more about the details of my new life here in Maryland and the whole process of adjusting, because there have been some pretty cool stories along the way that I’d really like to share. For now, you’ll just have to make do with an article of mine that was published by Single Matters earlier this month

This article is about finding companionship at the awkward, transitional stages of life, such as when you’re twenty-five and looking for a real job, or while you’re perpetually single and all your friends are getting married and having babies. I drafted this article last month, before I knew what job I would have or where I would be living, so my circumstances have changed since then and this article definitely comes from a place of uncertainty to me. However, now that I’m living in a new town where I don’t know many people yet and am still figuring out a major transition of my life, I think the principles can still apply to me fairly well–and I hope that they can apply to you too.

Here’s the first bit of my article:

The 20-something years are an awkward stage of life. These years are usually the transition from young adulthood into real adulthood. From your parents’ house to your dorm room to your own place. From college jobs to your first real job and hopefully into a career. Any of these transitions can be hard to navigate. The 20s can be even more awkward if you’re single.

It’s a time when many of your friends are getting married and having babies. And others are finding jobs, starting new lives and moving away. Between jobs, commitments and busy schedules, even those friends who are nearby can be hard to spend time with. Finding friends to connect with for good, meaningful fellowship can be difficult and frustrating.

I’ve pretty much just described my own recent experiences. This summer I turned 25 and finished my master’s degree. I officially can’t call myself a college kid anymore or say that I’m in my early 20s. I’ve lived in the same town for 12 years and attended the same school for seven. So I’ve seen quite a few friends come and go. I’m searching desperately for a real job, which may or may not require me to relocate. And I’m one of those people who could accurately be termed as perpetually single.

It’s not that I have to get married right away. Long ago I came to a place of contentment (usually) with my singleness, and I’m currently focused on establishing a career before seeking a wife. It’s just that, as long as I’m going to be single, I’d prefer to have a good group of friends — wise, Christian friends — who are in a similar place in life to where I am. But, with me not getting any younger or getting married anytime soon, finding those similar friends can be easier said than done. How can a single, slightly introverted, slightly jaded 20-something like myself still find good, like-minded fellowship?

Read the rest of the article here! And stay tuned for further updates about my new adventures in a strange new merry land! Thanks for reading.

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New Article: Failure to Communicate

I just got a new article published through Single Matters! I’ve often written on this blog about some of my romantic misadventures and the awkward communication mishaps that have occurred between me and various females of interest. Well, this article is where I try to offer some hopeful solutions to that problem of communication. If you’ve ever had problems with miscommunication in relationships (whether romantic or otherwise), then read on!

Here’s an excerpt from my article:

Communication is necessarily part of our daily lives, and yet it can be so frustrating. People say one thing and mean another, and true intentions become hard to discern. While everyone has experienced hurtful misunderstandings at times, the problem can be especially frustrating for singles seeking to establish meaningful relationships — whether friendships, dating relationships, or more. Lack of clear communication hinders such relationships, while direct, honest communication can help them grow. But why is it so hard for us to achieve that level of clarity?

As a longtime single, and an introvert with some degree of social awkwardness, I sometimes find communication with others to be less clear and more frustrating than I’d like it. But I think I’ve identified a few reasons for this problem, and hopefully also some ways to deal  with it.

One major cause of misunderstandings is that we have different expectations of each other.

You can read the rest of the article here!

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Enjoy Great Cake

What’s really great about birthdays is all the free stuff you get.

And, even when turning 25, the birthday where I’m not only not a kid anymore but I can’t even say I’m in my early twenties anymore, it seems that I’m not too old to get a bunch of cool stuff for free. For instance, my parents still consistently ask me for a birthday list each year, and usually get me much or all of what I ask for. And I still have a few relatives who send me cards with a little bit of money.

Great Cake

Me with great cake. (Also, shameless plug for Arson’s Harbor, a cool band whose T-shirt I’m wearing here.)

But then sometimes friends or other groups will do cool things for me too. Like this year, when my Bible study group met on the evening before my birthday, and I was able to partake in a delicious meal of Mexican fajitas (my own personal request), complete with chocolate cake and a small card/gift in celebration of me. That was pretty nice, and it was also well-timed due to the topic of our study that night. We’ve been reading a book called Good to Great in God’s Eyes by Chip Ingram, and this night’s lesson was on “Enjoying Great Moments.” The main gist of the chapter was that Christians (and others) often get so busy in work or ministry or responsibilities that they forget to take time to sit down and enjoy life, even though we all need to do that once in a while. So what better way to do that than with a birthday celebration of friends, fellowship, and free food?

Of course, I don’t mean to be so stingy and materialistic that I keep emphasizing the “free food” bit–obviously, enjoying friends and fellowship is a higher priority. But nonetheless, taking advantage of free food is also kind of a big deal to me. Continue reading


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