Monday, May 05, 2008

Marvel-ous: Bishop

Peace and blessings,

In this piece, I wanted to share a few thoughts on
  • Bishop,
  • one of the few African American superheroes in the Marvel Comics universe. Throughout the X-Men storyline and his appearances in the cartoons, Bishop is known as a time-traveler who, after witnessing future outcomes of past decisions, goes back in time to preserve the outcomes that are in the best interest of superheroes, and prevent the outcomes that are not. Within the X-Men storyline, Bishop stands asa constant reminder that the choices made in the present impacts how we live our lives in the future. Oh yeah, and his powers are "off the chain" as well. Below is an excerpt about his superhuman abilities from
  • Wikipedia:

  • "Bishop's mutant ability enables him to absorb all forms of radiant or conductive energy that are directed towards him and to release that energy from his hands. This power is passive, allowing Bishop to absorb energy at all times.

    When he releases the energy, he can release it as many different types of forms, usually in concussive blasts or in the same form as he had absorbed the energy although he can emit microwaves as well. He can also store energy in his personal reserves for increasing his strength, endurance, and (to an extent) his healing. He also has enhanced durability, resistance to poison and injury and is a skilled marksman and hand-to-hand fighter.

    His powers make it difficult to harm him with energy-based attacks; however, he can become overloaded from absorbing too much energy, though his upper limits are unknown, even to himself. He is however vulnerable to non-energy weapon attacks. If he were to be shot by a projectile weapon or hit with a crowbar, it could harm him. He carries guns that fire laser beams and plasma charges through which he can channel his personal energies."

    While my thoughts are only speculative, I think that there are some interesting parallels between Bishop's superhuman abilities and the experience of people of African Descent in the United States. For one, the fact that he can rechannel energy that is projected at him and use it for his benefit reminds me of how despite all of the hate, violence, and denigration my ancestors and previous generations of Affrican Americans have faced in this country, we have been able to thrive (and will continue t strive) in ways unimaginable. We have rechanneled many of the things that were originally used to keep us down in ways that enable us to stand taller. It is important to note that I am not including the use of the "N" word in this discussion, because I think that the word should be done with completely.

    On a less positive note, I think that the fact that Bishop channels his personal energies through his guns has implications for the prevalence of black-on-black violence that exists amongst black males. This male-on-male violence is by no means specific to blacks (American culture in itself is a violent culture), but I am focusing on black make youth in this piece because I think it is this demographic that Bishop's abilities most closely speaks to. It seems Bishop's use of his stored energy through his guns draws similarities to how some young black males engage in violent behaviors as a way to deal with many of the built-up anger, frustrations, and issues they face in a country where they are often devalued.

    Overall, it seems like Bishop's abilities have implications for the complex nature of the past and present experiences of people of African descent in the United States. One possible way for us to deal with the obstacles we may face as a marginalized people in the U.S. is to rechannel the negativity energies within these obstacles into positive energies that motivate us to succeed beyond measure. Now I'm not saying that we must be passive and "accept" things that happen to us; what I'm saying is that we should look at all situations, especially the negative ones, as opportunities to grow, better ourselves, and better our situation. Another possible, yet destructive way to
    deal these negative obstacles is to let them consume us to where we respond in ways that are detrimental to ourselves and to others. Unlike Bishop, we don't have the luxury of looking into the future to see how certain choices will play out, so it's important that we choose wisely.

    Sunday, May 04, 2008

    Marvel-ous: Civil War (2006)

    Peace and blessings,

    Given my interests in superheroes and comic books, it seems only natural that I share some thoughts on some of the comic book series' that I think are worth checking out, regardless if you're a comic book fan or not. Many of the issues addressed in these comic books that I will highlight address a host of issues that are central to our lived experience. The comic book I am highlighting in this post is Marvel Comics'
  • Civil War.
  • I'm not going to go into much detail about the storyline, but I will discuss the general plot and what I believe to be it's over-arching themes.

    Although the human/superhero beef (similar to the human-mutant beef in the X-Men comics) has existed for a while, the Civil War begins with a culmination of this beef that is marked by a tragic event. During a fight between superheroes, hundreds of children are killed during an explosion, which took place near a school. As a result, the government proposes that this is the last straw, and that humans with superhuman abilities (e.g., via genetics or technological assistance) must register with the government under the Superhero Registration Act. What makes this series interesting is that the superhero community are split between whether or not those with superhero abilities should have to register.

    The over-arching themes throughout the comic relate to issues of identity, rights, civil liberties, and freedom. While some, like Garrett (2008) suggest that the comic symbolizes the country's sentiment post 9-11, I would take it a step further and argue that it also relates to the national debate on immigration policy. Actually, when I first read it about a year ago, Immediately thought of the immigration debate, not post 9-11. Below are a few sources where you can learn more about the comic book:

  • Article on the Civil War

  • Review on the Political symbolism in the Civil War

  • Review discussing some positives and negatives of the Civil War

  • If you've read it, what are your thoughts on it? If not, would you consider it? Why or why not? Do you think comics have a place for addressing "real-world" issues? Stay blessed, encouraged, and speekonit...

    * Garrett, G. (2008) Holy Superheroes!: Exploring the sacred in comics, graphic novels, and film (revised and expanded edition). KY: Westminister John Knox

    Media With a Meaning (Throwback): X-Men Animated Series (1992-1997)

    Peace and blessings,

    I've talked about movies and TV shows, but now it's time to pay respect to cartoons. Although Voltron is my all-time favorite cartoon, the runner-up is definitely the X-Men animated series that aired from 1992-1997. I remember as I child I used to have satellite cable so I could watch certain X-men episodes before they aired nationally. I'll never forget how shocked I was to find out that Morph wasn't dead, and that Mr. Sinister had manipulated him into seeking revenge on the X-Men! I also remember the only time I "man-handled" my older brother, which was when he turned the TV channel while I was watching X-Men, and it was the episode when Wolverine fights Sabertooth! Sorry about the flashbacks, but I couldn't help it. Anyhow, below are couple of Animated Music Videos folks have made that contains a compilation of clips from certain episodes. In terms of dealing with issues of prejudice, discrimination, belonging, fear, diversity/difference, and tolerance, I don't know of any other animated series that has "held it down" like the X-Men.

    What do you think? Take care, God bless, and speekonit...

    Media With A Meaning: Heroes

    Peace and blessings,

    This piece is in regards to an idea I had about 6 months ago, but for various reasons I'm just now writing it. One obvious reason for the delay is because I've been pretty busy these past six months with wedding planning, school, and life, and thus haven't had the time to put update the site like I want to you. Another reason may have to do with the strike that took place with TV show writers, and the resulting cease in the production and airing of new episodes of major television shows. Anyhow, I'm finally sharing a few thoughts on the television show
  • Heroes,
  • which in my opinion is one the best television shows in terms of concept and overall quality in years. Although I am a huge fan of the show, this piece is not about the details of the show thus far, but about two "debates" that I think are highlighted within the show and plays out amongst the characters.

    Debate #1: Evolution "versus" Divine Creation/Ordinance

    The major premise of the show is that there are individuals in the world who are genetic anomalies in the sense that they have superhuman abilities. What I found interesting while watching the show (so far I've watched the first season twice, making me a certified, hardcore fan, lol) was not just the type of powers people had, but their beliefs about where these abilities came from. Relatedly, this debate reflects the larger debate regarding the origins of life itself. Some characters believe that these genetic anomalies are definite proof that science (esp. Darwinism) was right in that species are capable of large, qualitative evolutionary leaps. For these characters, superhuman abilities are primarily a product of gene transformation via evolution. Other characters, however, march to a different tune. They believe that their abilities are a gift from God, and therefore they must be used for a purpose. Although this debate may not be an explicit within the show, I would be interested to see if in the next season or upcoming seasons they identify characters who believe their abilities are products of both evolution and divine creation/ordinance.

    Debate #2: Freewill "versus" Pre-destination

    I think this debate is more evident throughout the show that the previously mentioned debate because in both seasons thus far, there has been the threat of a major disaster, and an intimately complex relationship between the past, present, and the future (e.g., a couple of characters can travel through time and see the consequences of past and present action and inaction). At the same time, however, there seems to bee a bit of ambiguity in that while some things can be changed through making different decisions, other things cannot. For these other things, simply making different decisions justs changes how a particular how an outcome manifests, not what outcome manifests. In this sense, there seems to be "discussion" throughout the show as to whether we as humans have freewill and are able to change life's course, or are we merely playing our parts in bringing about an inevitable outcome. Unlike the first debate, I think that the show does a good job of highlighting both sides, as well the middle ground position (e.g., we have freewill over some things, but not others).

    So there you have it. Two reasons that I really like the show (aside from its superhero/X-Men/comic storyline steez) is that in many ways, it addresses some deep questions that we as humans have wrestled with throughout history and continue to wrestle with today:

    1) How did life originate?

    2) What is the meaning of life? My purpose for being here?

    What do you think? Stay blessed, take care, and speekonit...

    Season 1 Trailer

    Season 2 Trailer

    Season 3 Trailer (visual and sound quality is suspect)

    Hip-Hop and the "Gospel"

    “Most of your songs/are just as foul as it gets/and as wild as it gets/
    People/they follow your steps/and how low is this?/
    Talking model chicks and bottles of Crys?/speakin’ out of your lips/
    The same lips you try to convince/
    That although your music is fowl/God’s behind your success/
    But nope!/that’s a misnomer/God hates your music He’s not a schizo/
    For real it makes no/difference/how you try to explain/
    That your heart ain’t same as the stuff that you’re sayin’/
    You see your heart’s the problem and your mouth’s the problem/
    You can’t appease the wrath of God with a gospel album/nope!/”

    - Da Truth
    “Whose Team?”
    The Faith

    "With young men and women looking up to me, I have to let them know that I’m a man of God.”
    - Young Joc

    Peace and blessings,

    Let me start off by saying that as I am writing this, I am praying that it is received in a way that gives God glory, and if for whatever reason it is interpreted otherwise, then I apologize. As I was reading a recent article about
  • Hip-Hop Artists Sharing the "Gospel,"
  • I was very disturbed about at what I was reading. The article (I encourage you to read it for yourself and weigh in) talks about how hip-hop artists like 50 Cent and Young Joc are talking about God during their performances and in other arenas, and how this can potentially have a positive impact on youth who may not be exposed to God otherwise.

    Before I get into what disturbed me about this piece, let me preface this discussion by making a few points. First, I am not saying that all Christian hip-hop is of God, nor am I saying that all secular hip-hop is of the devil. Although now I primarily listen to Christian hip-hop, one of the secular artists I still listen to is Joe Buddens. Although I disagree with some of his content and his conceptions of God and Jesus, I think that many of the issues he addresses needs to be heard, and I praying that he truly turns his life over to Christ(I got a feeling that he will in a matter of time, but that's another topic). Second, I am in no way trying to put myself or the Christian artists I listen to as being "above" secular artists in anyway. We all fall short, therefore this response is not about who is "without sin," but a call for us to examine the directionality of our thoughts, words, actions, and intentions. Lastly, although this piece may come off a little "bullish," I am making a clear distinction between being judgmental and taking a stand. I am in no position to engage in the former, yet I also realize that I cannot sit back and forego engaging in the latter. Therefore, this response is also a call for us to take a stand. With that said, let's get into business...

    The thing that bothers me the most about this article is that it seems to equate mentioning God with sharing the gospel. While I believe that God is working on them and will continue to work on them, I think we have a place these situations within context. I have no problem with secular rappers mentioning God in their songs if they feel led to do so; what I do have a problem with is the conceptions of God they are potentially expressing when they talk about God. In my opinion, sharing the gospel goes far beyond just mentioning God. It is having God be reflected and glorified through our lives. In other words, we have be transformed into a new person (2 Corinthians 5:17). Again, not to say that we have to be perfect, but the directionality of our thoughts, words, actions, and intentions have to be geared towards God.

    Another part of the context that is important to consider is the large amounts of star-power that these artists have. I'm concerned that people who look up to these artists as role models may view them as reflecting the God they are talking about. For instance, having one song that talks about God at the end of an album whose previous 15 tracks were about anything but, may potentially give off the impression that God is "cool" enough to know, but not "cool" enough to compel us to do away with things that are not pleasing to Him. Then again, can you really have the former without the latter? To me, it seems like the hoopla of this article has more to do with WHO was talking about God than WHAT they were actually saying about God. If it really was about the WHAT, then artists such as Cross Movement, 116 Click, Da Truth, Japhia Life, Flame, and countless others who have been talking about God and sharing the gospel for the past decade would have the same platform to reach masses as secular artists tend to have. I liken the situation to high school where the popular students say the same thing that was previously stated by unpopular students, but the other students give the popular students' words more weight than the unpopular students.

    In conclusion, I want to say that I am not saying that secular artists who talk about God are not sincere, or that they are "faking it." I'm just urging us to not be so quick to catapult them to the position of being THEE medium for reaching people (esp. youth) who may otherwise not know about God and/or listen to their music. I do think that secular artists can have a positive impact through mentioning God in their music or during their performances, but that doesn't mean they must be the end-all-be-all when it comes to who God is and what He requires of us. Just a few thoughts...

    What do you think? Take care, God bless, and speekonit...