OPINION: Why You Should Play Dungeons & Dragons

Dungeons and Dragons, for those unfamiliar with the title, is a tabletop role-playing game where a group of three to six players goes on majestic adventures and quests in an imaginary world. The only materials you need to play the game are a pencil, a set of dice, a character sheet (where you’ll record everything to do about your character like race, class, age, etc.), and your imagination. With these materials combined alongside a roster of friends and a handy Dungeon Master at the helm, Dungeons and Dragons transforms normal outings into spectacular journeys that are not only fun but are also great for bonding/socializing with friends.

Imagination is key to playing Dungeons and Dragons. The Dungeon Master, the person who creates the world and guides the party, uses their words to craft a magical and immersive world that can’t be seen unless you choose to see it. If you go into D&D not willing to accept that the game is mostly “pretend” then you’re not going to have a great time. It’s the validation that those who enter the world of D&D choose to accept the fact that none of this is real that really allows the DM to “go wild” when creating such a world. For the players, it’s the role-playing between fictional characters, the insane battles and even the compelling plot narratives that truly make D&D legendary.

If you’re worried about not being able to find a group, just know that you shouldn’t have to look very far for other players who are just as excited as you are. There are plenty of resources/websites online that allow players to find each other and build parties fairly easily. A common website players use is Roll20. Roll20 is a website that is free and provides servers for groups to get together to play D&D online. If you’re not willing to search online, find a way to advertise in your local town and even in your school that you’re looking for more players to come to join a D&D campaign. It’s not incredibly hard, you just need to have the confidence and motivation to put yourself out there. Once you do cross that rickety, old bridge, you’ll find that the results are worth the risk you took. Dungeons and Dragons is not just a game, it’s a social community that cares about what they’re doing and who they’re playing with. Groups of players quickly become small families that grow closer as friends and are able to “geek/nerd out” around other people and be themselves without fear of being made fun of.

In conclusion, Dungeons and Dragons is a wonderful experience no matter who you are. Finding a group can be a little tough at first, but once you figure out how to get more players interested, you’ll have an awesome new group of friends in no time. Dungeons and Dragons is fairly cheap (unless you buy a boat-load of dice and most of the licensed books/manuals like I did), so you don’t have to spend a ton to be able to have fun with your friends. The game can also be life-changing as well. You’ll find that the group of players you’re with will quickly turn into a group of close friends, maybe even a family. Dungeons and Dragons is not just a “nerdy” game, it’s a hobby that brings together friends and goblins alike.

If this already seemingly compelling post doesn’t convince you to play, here’s a link to a YouTube video from the Twitter account Vox that explains in full-depth why Dungeons and Dragons is the game you need to play. The video even goes over the rules and describes what sessions are like. Just remember that D&D is all about having fun with friends! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2PEt5RdNHNw

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Visiting Writer Series: James McKean

Literary Mustangs

James McKean, a former professor here at Mount Mercy University, returned to campus yesterday in the latest entry of the “Visiting Writer Series”. James McKean, now having published three books of his own including a collection of poetry and a collection of personal essays, spoke to a decent-sized crowd in Flaherty about his writing process. The event had two parts: a 3:30 Q&A session and a 7:00 Reading session.

Sadly, I was only able to go to the Q&A session; however, one session was enough for me to understand that James McKean is a wonderful human being. As I walked down to Basile ten minutes before the session was supposed to start, I ran into Mary Vermillion walking James to Flaherty and she introduced me as one of the PAHA editors. I looked at this, sort of colossal being in front of me and I jokingly told him that Carol had…

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Love, Simon is Fantastic, and You’re Guaranteed to Fall in Love With Its Sheer Heart

Comic Fade

Love, Simon is a film that is bursting with heart and brilliance. The premise of the movie is quite simple: Simon Spier is a senior in high-school that is just like everyone else. Except for one secret: he’s actually gay. Simon spends most of the movie trying to figure out who Blue is, another closeted gay student that has been emailing back and forth with Simon throughout the movie. The movie highlights Simon’s struggle with coming out and how painful it is for that moment to be taken away all in one moment. The movie builds upon this premise to deliver something incredible: a very relatable and heart-warming story that tugs at the tear-ducts.

Love-Simon-Movie-Trailer-Nick-Robinson.jpg

Director Greg Berlanti weaves together a truly remarkable film that features clever and up-to-date writing, an amazing cast and a beautiful soundtrack. Nick Robinson, the actor who plays Simon, delivers such an inspiring and relatable performance…

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Sun Spot

The Plebeian Strain

What do you want to be when you grow up?

“A firefighter”

“A doctor”

“An astronaut”

“Alive.”

A simple question and a simple answer

but there are hurdles and hoops you have to go through

to make sure you are alive

A man with a white face has been depicted as society’s hero

and while superman can stop bullets

children cannot

children should not

but children did.

A parent can no longer look at their child and promise them the world

because they can’t even promise them life

this is no fault of the parents

Parents are victims too

How many parents have seen the inside of a child-size coffin

and watched as their pride and joys were buried

right next to the thoughts and prayers that couldn’t save them?

Enough is enough.

Change doesn’t happen overnight

But when that sun comes up tomorrow

This world will see a fire…

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Black Panther Review (SPOILERS!)

Director Ryan Coogler, most-known for directing Creed and Fruitvale Station, crafts a well-driven and colorful adaptation of the not-so-famous Marvel superhero: The Black Panther.

The movie opens like most, with a flashback to a certain moment in time that will slowly be revealed to not only the main character but as well as the audience in due time. It is not where the story starts that is important; it is the message that the scene carries. It is late 1980’s California where a middle-aged T’Chaka (T’Challa’s father, the former King of Wakanda) is visiting his brother. His brother is caught taking vibranium from Wakanda and selling it to T’Chaka’s enemy, Klaw. T’Chaka questions why his brother, of all people, would steal from his own people. His brother states that the reason he stole that vibranium was so that he could aid their people (he’s referring to African Americans not in just Africa, but around the world) and stop the oppression that they face every single day. This ideal goes against the Wakandian way, the way that T’Chaka and the other kings before him fought for. They wish to keep Wakanda a secret in order to protect their own people. When his brother cries out in anger, he charges T’Chaka. However, T’Chaka is the one that strikes first, killing his own brother to protect the Wakandian way. This ideal is what sets up the entire movie.

Fast forward to present day, and T’Challa is seen watching a news broadcast covering his father’s death from Civil War. He goes out on a mission to find his ex, the infamous Nakia, so that she may honor T’Challa’s father and watch as T’Challa is crowned king. Nakia was currently on a special-ops mission, trying to save local African women from being kidnapped and sold. We find out that Nakia also wishes that Wakanda would open its doors to refugees and provide aid to fellow Africans who need their help. T’Challa rebuttals, acknowledging the idea that his father, T’Chaka, held on to so dearly.

This idea is shared between many Wakandians and is the main conflict that T’Challa must tackle as newly-crowned King. Should Wakanda open its doors, uncovering itself from the blanket that has hidden Wakanda’s secrets from the rest of the world for so long? This is where Erik Killmonger, the main villain of Black Panther comes in.

Killmonger, the son of T’Chaka’s brother, was abandoned the same night that T’Chaka murdered his brother. Killmonger, bearing the infamous Wakanda tattoo on the bottom of his lower lip, has full right to walk right into Wakanda. His father taught him about Wakanda and told him that he would show Killmonger the most beautiful sunsets that any human has laid eyes on. Killmonger uses Klaw to get to Wakanda, killing him to gain access and win over the trust of one of the Wakandian tribe leaders.

Killmonger’s cause is completely just. He wishes to take over T’Challa’s place as King, and use Wakanda’s resources to take over the rest of the world in order to save his people, Wakanda’s people, but more importantly– Africa’s people. He wants to take vibranium weapons and arm Wakandian spies across the world in order to topple governments and finally show the world what Wakanda is truly capable of. Growing up on the streets of urban California, Killmonger knows exactly what his people went through just to be able to survive. How they were oppressed, enslaved, and murdered in cold-blood. He wants to right this world’s wrongdoing. The best part of his cause is that you believe him. His cause is just, but the way that he is going about it is entirely wrong. This is why Killmonger is Marvel’s best villain. His cause is understandable, and he will not stop until that cause, that mission, is fulfilled. He challenges T’Challa to a ritual duel to become King and wins, sending T’Challa over the cliff and into the barreling river below.

In the final act, T’Challa wages war against Killmonger. The Royal Guard fights to serve the rightful king, even after proclaiming that the Guard will only serve the Throne. Yet the General (who is the most badass character, let’s be real here. She’s the best warrior Wakanda has, including both Killmonger and T’Challa) fights to protect the true King, T’Challa. The final is brilliantly woven together, containing an enormous fight scene between the different Wakandian tribes. It is truly a beautiful sight to behold. Killmonger and T’Challa fall into the mountain of vibranium for one last fight. As they fight on top of a “hover-train railway” (Yeah, that’s a thing. It’s badass), T’Challa successfully pulls off a “cool final blow” to Killmonger, stabbing him with his own spear. T’Challa then drags Killmonger to the side of the vibranium mountain, exiting the giant Panther statue-like entrance.

Here, Cooger delivers the most powerful scene of the entire movie. Looking out at a beautiful sunset, Killmonger tells T’Challa that this is the sunset his father had always wanted to show him. T’Challa contemplates saving Killmonger, but when he brings up how T’Challa could easily heal him, Killmonger says this:

“Why? So you can just lock me up? No, bury me in the ocean. That way, I can be with my ancestors. My ancestors who sailed on the ships, who jumped into the ocean because they’d rather have death than live in bondage–,”. Killmonger then grabs the spear and rips it out of his chest, killing him instantly.

This, this is the most important quote in the entire movie. It speaks so many volumes because he’d rather die than be exiled and left to die in prison cell like so many other African men are forced to do today. The cause is just.

There are still so many things to mention. All of the female characters are so well-developed and perfectly crafted. Okoye shines as the General of the Royal Guard. There is no moment where she is not completely and 100% badass. Nakia, lead-warrior for one of the Wakandian tribes and former lover of T’Challa, is beautifully written. The romance between T’Challa and Nakia does not at all feel forced but instead embraced.

Cooger beautifully crafts the world of Wakanda, bringing together five Wakandian tribes that each have their own culture and traditions they live by. Wakanda fills like a vibrant and colorful world that can fully stand on its own. The rich technology that Wakanda built using the most powerful metal known to man, vibranium, is magnificent and awesome to gaze in awe at. All the different colors, whether it be the clothing that the Wakandians wear, or the colors of Wakanda itself shine majestically. I’m still in awe.

The action scenes (noticeably without ANY slow-mo sequences) are well-choreographed and feel so complex and realistic at the same time. It is such an amazing sight to marvel at when T’Challa gracefully hops from one cr to the next in a fast-paced car chase in downtown South Korea. I must say, every location that Black Panther visits feels alive and vibrant, just like Wakanda. There’s never a dull moment in any scene. The movie is well-paced and well edited.

There was never a moment in the movie where I was stuck thinking that “Hey, this could use some fixing or differently editing” or “Hey, that line could have been constructed differently”. Everything, top to bottom, was perfect. That’s why, Black Panther, gets 10/10 stars from me. Please, I beg of you, go see this movie. It is a celebration of culture and cinematography that you will not want to miss.

Black Panther – 10/10

“Cross-Examined”

Graduate students from the University of Iowa came to the Mount Mercy McAuley Theatre tonight to present a play entitled: “Cross-Examined”. The play centers around the 1874 court case between a couple black mothers (citizens) from Keokuk, Iowa and the Keokuk Community School District. This case challenged the rights for young black citizens who wanted to attend one of the “white-only” private schools in the Keokuk area. The characters involved two white male lawyers representing the Keokuk Community School District and two of the young black children’s mothers. The play was written by Leslie Swamm (a professor from the University of Iowa) and Margo Connelly. The play only took about thirty minutes overall, with a Q&A taking place afterward.

The actors did a marvelous job, especially the the two actresses who played the mothers of the young black boys who wanted to attend the “white-only” school. You could see, as an audience member, the pain and the frustration on the mothers’ faces that they felt while going through and fighting this court case. Their frustration felt real, not fake. It felt as if they had embodied the actual mothers’ feelings. The tension in the air when the actresses were defending their children and their rights was incredibly moving. The two male actors who played the lawyers were incredibly frustrating because they would not call the mothers by their names. They revealed this during the Q&A that took place after the play. The lawyers were completely unlikable, and thats exactly how they were supposed to be played. We, the audience, were not supposed to like them because they were fighting against the rights for these young black children who only wanted to achieve an education at a school that happened to be closer to their place of residence than the “colored” school across the town.

One of the black actresses, the second person from the left (down in the photograph) gave a magnificent speech about how racism still exists today. She encouraged the audience, which just so happened to be full of college students who are now able to vote, to go out and vote for politicians that can, and more importantly will, make a difference and stand up for those whose voice cannot be heard. Every voice, no matter what or how you identify yourself, needs to be heard in order to achieve true equality.

I’m very thankful that the Mount Mercy English Department was able to score such an awesome and wonderful performance! Hopefully this means we can look forward to many more!

Nerds… ASSEMBLE!

There’s something special about finding a group of human beings that you feel completely comfortable with. That no matter the situation, you feel at home. That’s how I felt February 3rd with the rest of the Mount Mercy Club, Nerds of the Round Table.

Alexus (the club President) and I were looking forward to taking members of the club to this event: the Cedar Rapids Comic-Con. It would be most of the members’ first actual “con”. A “con”, or a convention, is usually a big event where anyone can come celebrate a community. Comic-Con focuses on fans of pop culture: bringing in tons of cool, awesome vendors and artists for the public to visit. Cedar Rapids Comic-Con wasn’t just about getting the cool merchandise, it was about bonding as a newly formed club. This was our second big event, our first being a Christmas get-together back in December. We received approximately eight students who wanted to join Alexus and me on our humble journey to the U.S. Cellular Center on 1st Ave.

Finding parking spots was hard, but I was the lucky one who got to be dropped off at the entrance so I could go get the wristbands (the tickets). When we all gathered in one place near the entrance of the Con, we celebrated our successful journey by taking a group selfie (shown above). We then established a buddy system so no one would get lost. In small little groups, we scattered throughout the Cellular Center finding magnificent cosplayers, wicked-cool artists, and even a real-life NPC! We talked to the NPC, who was mute and wore a long dress and a big exclamation point on her head. We knew that this was a beckoning from the Convention Gods. We accepted the NPC’s quest: find three heroes (people dressed up as heroes) and then return the pictures to the NPC to turn in for gold. Ted took initiative as the scout of the group, and we followed him as he snaked throughout the vendor hall in order to find the heroes we were looking for. After we got three pictures, we returned to the NPC and she handed Ted and me two chocolate gold pieces. This was my favorite part of the convention because five of us had just worked together to complete a REAL LIFE QUEST.

Overall, the experience of celebrating nerdism in a large room filled with other sweaty nerds was one of the best experiences of my life. The group went to Buffalo Wild Wings after the convention to celebrate, and we each chose one favorite thing about the convention to share. Everyone had a fantastic time, and I know that I’m already excited to go for round two next year.

 

The Last Jedi Review (SPOILERS!)

Directed by Rian Johnson, The Last Jedi is definitely worth seeing, if you are a fan of the franchise. If you are not a Star Wars fan, you will probably get lost throughout the entirety of the plot. The main plotline: Rey find Luke and bringing him back, is at the front and center of this film. However, the thing The Last Jedi tries too hard to do is keep the film in balance. Rian Johnson puts together a fan-service filled movie that makes or breaks depending on what viewers focus on.

First off, the biggest disappointment I had with The Last Jedi was that I left the theatre with more questions than I did when I left The Force Awakens. That’s not a great sign. I went into The Last Jedi expecting most of my questions to be answered, yet none of my questions really got answered. We never found out who Snoke was, or why he was Supreme Leader. I enjoyed the plot twist in which Ben was the one who killed him in the end; however, Snoke’s death felt too forced. It felt like it should have happened in the last movie of the current trilogy. On the other hand, it was fantastic to see Ben and Rey fight together. However, at the same time, it pissed me off that this balance between forces did not remain very long.

Let’s talk about the second disappointment: Rey’s parents. I still hold firmly to the belief that Rey’s parents are important to the overarching story. When Ben goes: “I saw your parents… You’ve known all along, haven’t you? That your parents were nobodies… just some random junkies who abandoned their child–,” it sounds like he’s trying to persuade her that this is true. It seems, to me at last, that he’s lying. That he does know who her parents are, and that he’s purposely not telling her in order to have some form of blackmail against her. I do believe that MatPat (creator/owner of the YouTube channel “Film Theory”) is right when saying that Rey is actually a Solo. I would recommend watching MatPat’s theory and considering the possibility. (That’s another can of beans to talk about) I’m not fully convinced that Snoke was the one who brought Rey and Ben together. I was waiting for it to be Leia, to be honest. That she was able to strengthen the bond between siblings in order to get them to work together. However, I could be wrong.

Now, before I get to the small things that bothered me, let’s talked about the good that came out of this movie. It was amazing to finally see Mark Hamill return as Luke. He did such a wonderful performance as Luke, and I was very sad to see him go. It was nice to see him go in peace. I was about ready to stand up and scream if Ben was to kill another relative in order to “forget the past, burn it, kill it if you have to–,”. The way the film honors not only Carrie Fisher, but also General/Princess Leia was hands down the best part of the movie. It was such a joy to see her one last time as a badass female leader. I teared up at the end when Johnson dedicated the film to Carrie.

Honorable mentions: Anytime Rey was a badass, anytime Rey used the force, BB-8, Adam Driver’s performance, Rose, Luke and RD-D2’s reconnection and the lightsaber duels.

What I didn’t like from a movie-goer’s point of view: That whole scene where the bridge gets blown up and then Leia miraculously uses the force to get back to the cruiser, CGI YODA, the fact that we still know NOTHING about Poe Dameron, NOT A WHOLE LOT TO DO WITH FINN, the fact that we were supposed to care about Finn and Rose’s casino royale adventure, WE GET LIKE TEN SECONDS WITH MOZ AND THEN SHE ENDS THE CALL, CAPTAIN PHASMA IS IN IT FOR LIKE ONE SCENE AND IS EASILY DEFEATED EVEN THOUGH SHE WAS HYPED UP IN THE TRAILERS, and the movie honestly felt too long. Johnson could have just as easily not had so many cuts from Rey and Luke in order to get through it quicker.

And finally, the worst part of it all: the fact that the story revolves around the Resistance cruiser being stuck in space while the First Order continually shoots at it. You’re telling me, that neither the First Order’s ship nor Snoke’s has any weapons that can cut through shields? I call B.S. on that. I know that Poe, very miraculously, was able to shoot down “the big gun” in the beginning, but the First Order still had no backup plan? I believe that the First Order should have overtaken the Cruiser. ALSO WHY DIDN’T THE FIRST ORDER SHIP HAVE ANY SHIELDS?

In the end, I enjoyed the film. However, there were so many instances that bogged down the experience. There were way too many “plot conveniences”. I believe that Leia is indeed “strong with the force”, but I don’t believe she would be able to save herself from being blown up. Especially since that was the first time she has ever had that much control of the force. At least, what has been shown on screen. The movie felt like it was pushing a comedic tone way too hard. I enjoy BB-8’s funny moments, but there were just too many. The whole beginning part where Poe prank calls Hux was way too long and awkward. I don’t believe Hux is that stupid. The movie is good for trying new things and for the actor’s/actresses’ performances; however, the script felt poorly written and some of the effects felt too weak.

I hereby give The Last Jedi a 7.5/10.

The End…?

It has been approximately three months since the start of classes. Three months of reading beautiful poetry from the Lake Poets, like Wordsworth and Keats. Three months of spectacular female characters from both Austen and Radcliffe. Three months of both heated and thought-provoking in-class discussion. Now as the class draws to an end, I take it upon myself to answer the question that has been lingering on my mind the past couple weeks. How do all these pieces of literature fit together? Why is Waverley a part of this compilation of spectacular stories? The answer to that question lies in the ending of Waverley.

Throughout the entirety of Waverley, Edward Waverley has struggled to find his true purpose. I solely believe that at long last, after nearly three hundred pages, Edward has found his true purpose. His purpose is to help others. If Edward had not saved General Talbot from that battle, this ending would not be the same. For it is General Talbot that helps Edward find safe passage for him and the Baron. It is General Talbot that attempts to help save Fergus but is unsuccessful. Edward is good at making allies, and that is the one thing that has helped him the most throughout his journey through Scotland. The people who he has chosen to help have been there for him, and they have helped me through the hard times. Which is only what anyone can ask for out of an ally.

I believe this is how Waverley fits into the Romantic era. It is its themes of friendship and bravery, and for its characters that allow it to be called a Romantic novel. Throughout the entirety of this course and its reading material, one overall theme has been present throughout every piece of literature: nature. Now, it has not always been the same type of nature. Every poem and every novel has in some way challenged nature. For Wordsworth, it was challenging the observation of nature. Observing it, and allowing others to see it as well through his descriptions. Wordsworth allowed nature to be seen by many.  For Blake, it was challenging human nature. Observing the growth of innocence into experience. For Austen, it was challenging the nature of society by shining a spotlight on 19th-century gender rights and marriage. For Sir Walter Scott, it was to challenge the nature of friendship and war. Without the help of others, Waverley would not have a home, nor would he have been able to survive the rebellion. Scott used the historical context of the rebellion to challenge the nature of war, and show the reader that war does not end how people expect it to end.

I could go on, and give reasoning behind every poet and every novelist, but we’ve already talked about them in class. I can say with full confidence that I was unsure of whether or not I would enjoy Waverley. It wasn’t until the end that I finally see what Scott was trying to achieve. He wanted to create a historical fiction novel that focused on being unbiased. At the same time, Scott wanted to also share the story of Edward Waverley, a boy who would one day turn into a man. Very slowly apparently. However, after three-hundred pages, Waverley has proven himself. I can’t say that Waverley grabbed at the start, not even the middle, but now I understand.

As for now, I say thank you to my fellow classmates and to Chris for allowing me to experience such wonderful literature.

Have a wonderful Winter Break friends.

 

 

 

 

The Mute Women in Waverley

In my English Romantic Age class, we are currently reading Waverley by Sir Walter Scott. Although I am thoroughly enjoying the historical phases of the novel, it is quite interesting that it is the romance phases that anger me the most. In Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, I loved the romance. That’s what the novel was primarily about. However, it was also the fact the men and women in Pride and Prejudice were more equals than they are in Waverley. In Waverley, it feels as if the female characters have no actual say in what happens. For it is mostly Fergus who talks for Flora, and the Prince and the Baron who talk for Rose.

This is very disappointing because at one point it seemed like Flora would be her own badass character. That she might be the one doing the leading of the revolution. However, that is sadly not the case. Flora takes a backseat as Fergus drives the revolution forward. Instead of getting to see Flora on the battlefield, Scott takes the time to create a scene in which two men, Edward and Fergus, go hunting. Although hunting itself is arguably fun to watch, it is more or less not what I expected from Scott.

There is the theory that Scott could just be playing/writing by the standards of actual history. Back when this story would actually occur, women did not have much say in what they did. It was mostly the husbands that talked for them. Hell, they weren’t even allowed to vote! The whole reason why Pride and Prejudice was so good is that Austen took a stand for women. The main character was a young woman named Elizabeth who would rather be single her entire life than be in an unhappy marriage that was only created because the families wanted it to happen (also because of money). The women in Waverley are almost seen as prizes. When Fergus finds out that Edward actually cares for Rose instead, he tries to assassinate him. When that fails, the two almost fight to the death until both the Prince and the Baron intervene. This allows the women to be “playthings”, some sort of prize that the men should fight over. This does not give much meaning to these female characters, for it is only their beauty that the men are after.

Most of the time that the female characters spend in Waverley is where they are tending to the male characters’ needs. Their only purpose at that moment is to serve the men, for that’s what Scott gives their purpose to be. He does not allow much character development, and if there does happen to be some, it is very minimal. It is shockingly disappointing how little Scott seems to care for these characters. It is one of the major things that makes me dislike Waverley. Especially after the other two major Romantic novelists have been feminists.

Historically, Waverley is great. It truly tells the story of the revolution war well, but its fictional story does not add to that experience sadly. Which not only disappoints me but also saddens me.