3 Book Series EVERY Man Should Read

Growing up, we are often bombarded with societal expectations of what it means to be a “real” man. We are told to be strong, stoic, and always have it together. I myself grew up being told over and over again “When I was a child I thought as a child, but when I became a man I put away childish things.” The first time I can remember my Father telling me that was shortly after I turned 8 years old. But let’s face it, life is messy, and sometimes we need to let loose and have some fun.

When I was younger, I had this idea that being a man meant I had to be serious all the time. I thought I had to let go of my childhood hobbies and interests and focus on “mature” activities. But the truth is, being a man is not about conforming to outdated stereotypes or what society thinks we should be. It’s about being true to ourselves and embracing the things that make us happy.

For me, that meant embracing my inner geek and diving back into my love for Dungeons and Dragons. It also meant allowing myself to indulge in my favorite movies and books, no matter how silly or childish they may seem to others. And you know what? It felt good. It reminded me that being an adult doesn’t mean we have to give up the things we love.

So, to all the men out there who feel like they have to conform to society’s expectations, I urge you to let go of those notions and embrace the things that make you happy. Whether it’s playing video games, reading comic books, or watching cheesy rom-coms, do what makes you happy. Life is too short to live it according to someone else’s standards.

And on that note, here are a few book recommendations that I believe every man (or anyone, really) should read:

  1. Old Man’s War by John Scalzi – This science fiction novel explores a future where humanity has colonized the stars and follows protagonist John Perry as he joins the military at the age of 75 to fight for the future of the human race.
  2. The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher – As you mentioned, this urban fantasy series follows Harry Dresden, a professional wizard and private investigator in Chicago. The series is action-packed, full of humor, and will keep you on the edge of your seat.
  3. The Iron Druid Chronicles by Kevin Hearne – This fantasy series follows the adventures of Atticus O’Sullivan, the last of the Druids, as he navigates through supernatural dangers and encounters gods, goddesses, and other mythical beings.

Remember, reading is a personal and subjective experience. Don’t let anyone tell you what books you should or should not read. Instead, focus on finding books that you enjoy and that make you happy.

Ultimately, I learned that being a man is not about adhering to rigid stereotypes or societal expectations. It’s about being true to yourself and embracing the things that make you happy, even if they involve wizards, dragons, or spaceships. And let’s be real, who wouldn’t want to ride a dragon into battle or blast off into the galaxy with a motley crew of misfits? So go ahead, embrace your inner geek, and revel in the wonder of fiction and fantasy. After all, life is too short to take ourselves too seriously!

I Am One With The Force – A Story of Sacrifice

Christmas came early for me yesterday as I walked into the movie theater to view Star Wars: Rogue One. Since it’s announcement in March of 2015 fans all over the world have wondered and speculated on what this movie was really going to be about.  Most of the Star Wars fandom was thrilled when Disney took over the production of new Star Wars movies, and even though Star War: The Force Awakens was a tremendous success, I think many fans are still having PTSD from the prequels and wondering “Is this too good to be true?”

As someone who has been an avid Star Wars fan since as far back as I can remember, The Force told me that Star Wars: Rogue One was going to be a spectacular movie.  That being said I also knew it was going to be a film very different from anything we had ever seen before.

Before we go any further into this review I should warn you there will be spoilers ahead.  If you are ok with that read on, if not, discontinue reading, and come back after you have seen the movie.

As I sat in my seat, surrounded by fans, I was struck with a thought.  Looking about at everyone sitting in the theater I could feel it.  Something unseen that pulled all of us together.  Uniting us in the hope that what we were about to see would live up to our expectations, and stay with us in our hearts and minds for years to come.  The excitement was almost tangible as the lights dimmed and we read the words “A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away…”

As the movie opens we are shown a side of the empire that we have never really seen before.  One of savage brutality and heartless devotion to the cause.  I think we as fans always knew that the empire was evil, but to see it right there in front of us, as a family is murderously ripped apart left nothing to be doubted.  The empire has no care for any one individual.  Their stories, memories, happiness, friends, family, and love are meaningless to an army devoted to conquest, submission, and subjugation.  To the empire you either serve them, or they will inflict pain and suffering upon you and your family.

Can you imagine what it would have been like to live under those conditions?  To know that your life means nothing?  What kind of choices would you make, knowing that at any minute your freedom, liberty, and very existence could be taken from you at any moment? Would you hide, keeping your life mundane, and extraordinary to avoid notice?  Would you even consider starting friendships, or a relationship, knowing they could be killed or used against you?  Or, would you rebel?

Like the empire, I think many fans forgot just how dire the circumstances for the rebellion really were. Disorganized, scattered, and hopelessly outnumbered, the rebellion was often forced to make choices that would not be considered honorable or even good.  They became murderers, assassins, saboteurs, and thieves. They had no other choice but to become the very things they hated and despised or submit to the oncoming storm that was the imperial army.

Would you do it?  Could you do it?

This is the setting of Rogue One, and while we like to think of Star Wars as black and white, dark side vs light side, rebellion vs empire, the universe is so much deeper, richer, and more complicated than that.  While we would all like to believe that our choices are either good or bad, they are not, but our choices do define who we are.

Cassian, a rebellion spy who shoots and murders his own friend.  Why did he do it?   Did he do it to keep him from being captured and interrogated by the empire, or was his motives to protect the rebellion from discovery?  Can it be both?  Going even deeper how does he carry that and many other decisions like it with himself?

Chirrut Îmwe whose home, religion, and purpose was completely destroyed.  A man who had literally everything he believed in taken away from him, and yet he still has faith.  Faith in the Force.  He believed, and it never waivered for even a second, not even in death.  That very faith and hope inspired his companion and friend Baz Malbus to, in the end, believe as well.

You see Star Wars was never a story of good guys vs bad guys.  It’s a story of choices, sacrifices, ambition, determination, war, despair, and hope.  The characters we have come to know, love, and sometimes despise tell the story of what it would be like to live inside such a world.  Rogue One is a beautiful story of tragic and desperate hope.  A tale of a miserable band of mismatched misfits who for one brief moment decided to come together and accomplish the extraordinary.



Three Cheers for Slytherin

So “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” came out this past weekend and as expected, the world is going nuts! Now I haven’t had the chance to read it yet, but one complaint I’ve heard that really stuck with me was that once again, J.K. Rowling made the Slytherins look terrible. Having no context for that statement, I simply must assume that in some way, the villains of this new story are from Slytherin. And you know what? That really bothers me.

I’m not a Slytherin, I’m a Ravenclaw. But one of my brothers is a Slytherin. And one of my best friends at college is a Slytherin. They’re not bad people, they’re not evil, so why does J.K Rowling keep making them the villains?

I get it, because Slytherin has, technically, produced more dark wizards than the other houses, we assume that makes Slytherin the go-to bad guy. But if there’s something that the real world (and J.K. Rowling at times) has taught me, it’s the dangers of classifying an entire group of people under the same umbrella. And Harry Potter fans, the demonization of Slytherin house needs to stop.

Okay, so Salazar Slytherin himself was an elitist snob. And sure, some of that elitism may have continued to be a pervasive attitude within the house over the years. But aren’t we all elitists for something? Maybe we’re elitists for the college we attended, our favorite sports teams, our country, our states, even our religions. I attended UNC Chapel Hill, and I don’t care what you say or who you are, if you support Duke, you’re the enemy. (See? I’m a Tar Heel elitist but I’m not evil….unless you went to Duke, then you might have a different opinion.)

So let’s look at some of the members of Slytherin house that we know the most about who are decidedly NOT evil. In doing so, I think we’ll notice a trend.

harry-snapeFirst up, we have Severus Snape. In hindsight, everyone loves Snape. (I admit, I do too.) We all love a redemption story. But let’s not forget, the important part of a redemption story is, in fact, the REDEMPTION. Yes, Snape was a Death Eater, but after his involvement with dark magic had essentially sentenced the woman he loved to death, he realized the mistakes he’d made. He would spend the rest of his life, and ultimately his death, making up for the mistakes he made in his youth.

Does Snape’s good-guy status excuse him for his cold and sometimes cruel treatment of his students? Of course not. But once we know his history, we realize that his cruelty came from a place of self-loathing and regret for past mistakes. When you don’t respect yourself, how can you respect others? And his particularly cruel treatment of Harry? Harry was the child of the man who bullied him mercilessly for seven years at Hogwarts and the woman he was in love with. And it was his own desperation to fit in that led him to alienate Lily, his only real friend.

And yes, Snape showed favoritism to the Slytherin students. Slytherin was his house, of course he favored them. Contrary to popular belief, McGonagall showed favoritism to Gryffindor students. Take Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone for example. After catching Harry breaking rules and riding a broom without teacher supervision, McGonagall put Harry on the Gryffindor Quidditch team. Because McGonagall wanted HER house to have the best Quidditch team, she bent the rules for Harry, telling him that he better train hard or she “may change [her] mind about punishing [him].”

dracoNext up, there’s the Malfoy family. The Malfoy family were elitists in an entirely different way. They wanted money and reputation. They looked down their noses at anyone who was less pureblood or less wealthy than them. And anyone who snubbed them as Harry did to Draco on their very first night at Hogwarts? They treated with contempt and disdain as a way to make themselves look better.  As Voldemort’s reign of terror got more and more out of control, they become less and less comfortable with the way events were playing out. And in the end, none of the Malfoys could bring themselves to stand with Voldemort. They realized that their wealth and reputation were not worth sacrificing their lives or family for.

Then there’s Sirius Black’s brother Regulus. He followed the same path as many of his schoolmates probably did. He became a Death Eater. But eventually he realized that his decision to follow Voldemort was a BAD idea. In fact, Regulus was smart enough to figure out that Voldemort’s biggest secret was his creation of horcruxes. Regulus then embarked on a mission to hunt and destroy Voldemort’s horcruxes, a mission he would give his life for. Although he never managed to destroy a horcrux, Regulus serves as yet another example of a Slytherin sacrificing his life in an attempt to prevent evil from prevailing.

horacceFinally we have Horace Slughorn. The Slug Club was most certainly an elitist group. Slughorn only invited those students with the greatest promise of fame and fortune to join. Slughorn enjoyed the perks of being a “favorite” teacher for some of the most famous and successful witches and wizards of his day. He was a brilliant potions master who felt great remorse over his teaching a young Tom Riddle about horcruxes. From then on, he always ardently refused to join the Death Eaters.  And in the Battle of Hogwarts, Slughorn fought valiantly with the Order of the Phoenix to bring Voldemort down.

I could easily list more great (not evil) Slytherins who deserve better than to be labelled “villains.” However, that would turn this post into something more akin to a novella, so if you’re interested in learning more about some of the great wizards Slytherin house has produced, head on over to this link

Every single one of these Slytherins were imperfect and made mistakes. But what sets them apart from the other houses was their ability and willingness to acknowledge their mistakes and do something to change them. Slytherins seem to have an amazing ability to feel remorse and to learn from past mistakes that just doesn’t seem to exist in the other houses. It’s a quality to be admired.

And let’s not forget that Professor Quirrell, a follower of Voldemort, was a Ravenclaw. Peter Pettigrew (aka Wormtail) was a Gryffindor. And even Dumbledore, who we learned had a history of dark magic and a thirst for power, was a Gryffindor.

The Sorting Hat was right in his song during Harry’s sorting ceremony:

“Or perhaps in Slytherin

You’ll make your real friends,

Those cunning folk use any means

To achieve their ends.”

“Any means” can be used for good or it an be used for evil. Although there were many Slytherins, like Voldemort or Bellatrix, who chose to use dark magic and evil to achieve their ends, there were also Slytherins like Slughorn or Regulus Black or Snape who were willing to give their lives if it meant defeating Voldemort.

slytherinI don’t know why Rowling’s writing seems so contradictory in regards to Slytherins. I don’t know why they’re the perennial bad guys but also some of the most brave and self-aware people in the books. I don’t know why Rowling gave Snape such a beautiful backstory and yet right before the Battle of Hogwarts had all three of the other houses turn on the entire Slytherin house because ONE Slytherin wanted to turn Harry over to Voldemort. There’s so much I just don’t know about how Rowling perceives the Slytherins and why she writes them the way she does. 

But one thing I do know, is that there’s a lot we can learn from the Slytherins. They’re brave. They’re wicked smart. And they learn from past mistakes in attempt to become better and stronger people. So I stand with the Slytherins. Do you?

Get Off Your PokemonGo Soapbox

PokemonGo has not even been out a full month, and its impact can be felt worldwide with an estimated 9.5 million daily users.  To put that in perspective that is more people than the total population of New York City.

tumblr_mh74nokblu1r3ifxzo1_500So what is PokemonGo?

Pokemon is owned by Nintendo.  The idea of the game is for trainers to travel the globe in search of Pokemon.  Pokemon are creatures that come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and levels of cuteness.  Once a trainer has caught a Pokemon they can train, evolve, and use their Pokemon to battle others in arenas, and simulated battles of power, magic, and brute strength.

Pokemon has been around for a long time, and been featured as a TV show, Nintendo video game, and a collectable card game.  Now, with the release of PokemonGo iPhone and Android users can play the game in virtual reality.

The game requires users to walk, run, move and explore the world around them.  As they do so they can discover wild Pokemon, catch them, and visit training gyms, and battle their Pokemon against other users Pokemon.

Pretty simple right?

So why is there so much hatred, outcry, and utter disgust over the game?

In the last week I have seen every kind of negative post that you can imagine on social media surrounding the game.  Things like…

  • Concern over children walking into busy streets
  • Players walking into businesses without buying anything
  • Child predators can use the game to kidnap kids

The list goes on and on and on.

Now I suppose everyone is entitled to their opinion, and a game this popular is certainly going to have its naysayers.  But I can’t help but feel that the majority of those people complaining about PokemonGo are simply doing it because it gives them something to hate.  A soapbox to stand on, and receive attention from.  An opportunity to flex their bully muscles, and appear concerned for the welfare of their common man.

I call bullshit!

From my opinion PokemonGo is one of the most ingenious games to come out in years.  It tackles one of the biggest, and growing concerns of epidemic obesity.  Which has been a growing problem in, at least the United States, for years.  For the first time in many a year children, and adults are getting off the couch, going outside, and being active!

Major parks are FILLED with people again.  Playgrounds are sometimes stuffed to capacity. Walking trails are being used.  Running groups are being created with a cross platform of playing PokemonGo while exercising.  This is brilliant!

And yet, there are still people out there complaining about this game.

Probably the same people who complained about kids staying inside, and playing video games all day.

PokemonGo has the potential to change the way gamers play video games.  It has the possibility of changing the way businesses interact with their customers.  It has the potential to help both child and adult get out and explore the big world all around us, and I personally think that is a good thing.

My Initial Thoughts on Star Wars: Rogue One

As many of you know the new trailer for Star Wars: Rogue One premiered today. As a fan of Star Wars since I was a small child I have always been fascinated by the universe and the stories it tells.

This is why I was not happy with Disney when they declared that almost all the books, and novels related to the Star Wars Expanded Universe were no longer considered canon.  How could they accept the prequels as canon, but disregard some of the amazing stories told through the talents of some amazing authors?!

However, before I start complaining, and get off on a tangent, the reason I love the promise of Rogue One is it seems to be the untold story of characters within the Star Wars universe that have nothing to do with the Jedi or the Sith.

We get to peer into the lives of members of the rebellion as they struggle and fight for a cause without the promise of “The Force” or the rebirth of The Jedi.

Further, what excites me is we may actually get to see just how scary The Empire actually is, and what it does to its citizens and captured members of The Rebellion.

This is important, and something I always felt was brushed over in the original movies. The Empire was a scary, and dangerous organization.  It showed no mercy, destroyed whole worlds, and built weapons of mass destruction that would terrorize its people.  And we get to see that world.

At least I hope we do.

What are you most excited about when it comes to the upcoming film Star Wars: Rogue One?

Comment Below.

In Defense of Slytherins

Many years ago, I, like so many of you out there, found myself enchanted by J.K. Rowlings story of Hogwarts, Harry Potter, and wizards and witches.  I found myself reading these books over and over again, both in print, and listening to them in audio form as I drove back and forth to work each day.

The story of love, friendship, struggle, and adventure were undeniably good, but there were parts of the story that left a bad taste in my mouth, and troubled me greatly.  The biggest of these was how Rowling depicted Slytherins.cd6cb76bcba1cbb9fbdd7517b24e06c0

When most people think of House Slytherin they think of Malfoy.  A spoiled, stuck up, rich, bully who torments, and belittles Harry Potter and his friends.

Now I am sure every house has their own “Malfoy’s” within it’s ranks, but Malfoy is not a good example of what the Slytherin house stands for or represents.

Slytherins are ambitious, driven, goal oriented, charming, focused, assertive, intelligent, cunning, and are willing to do what must be done by any means necessary.

Slytherins always know what they want, always. The only thing that holds them back is lack of knowledge on how to achieve it, lack of opportunity, and/or lack of security. Don’t worry, they will always achieve what they want, or at the very least give all they have in it’s pursuit.

While the impression was made in the books, Slytherins are not gratuitously mean, arrogant, or uncaring. In fact they are the opposite.  They treat others with respect, because they care about the impression they leave with others.

Furthermore Slytherins are extremely loyal, sometimes to a fault, to their family, friends, and loved ones.

Slytherins don’t get their hearts broken. They get caught off guard, and their walls taken down. However, they quickly bounce back and then they build them back stronger than before.

One of the things that always bothered me the most about the way Slytherins were depicted in the Harry Potter novels was right before the battle of Hogwarts.  Voldemort has just finished speaking to all the students and teachers present inside the castle, demanding Harry Potter show himself.  A Slytherin student suggests that they detain Harry, and hand him over to The Dark Lord.

It was the response to this statement that shocked me. Flich is instructed to lock all the students in House Slytherin in the dungeon.  This blatant over reaction of discrimination never sat right with me.  I always imagined that the students in Slytherin eventually broke free of the dungeon, and came to Hogwarts aid when they were needed most.

My point is, not all Slytherins are bad, just as not all Gryffindors are good.  Take James Potter and his merry band of friends.  Throughout most of the novels James seems to act more like Malfoy than Harry.  Bullying, and abusing Snape throughout his school years.

I am a proud Slytherin, and had I been at Hogwarts I would have proudly fought against The Dark Lord in defense of my school and friends.

If you too feel as I do, comment below.  Tweet this out to your followers.  Let’s get the word out, that House Slytherin is not all composed of Malfoys, and Voldemorts.  Lets bring pride back to this noble house!

Severus Snape and the Marauders – Harry Potter Fan Film

If you have not seen this Harry Potter fan film yet, STOP WHAT YOU ARE DOING AND WATCH IT!

I have always been fascinated by origin stories, and the choices people made, the situations they endured, and the trials they faced, that made them the person they are and would become.

The truth is, personally, I have always been drawn to darker characters.  Villains in general fascinate me.

I think there is darkness in almost everyone, but what makes a person choose to embrace that darkness?  Why would they give over to it?  What benefit does a person or character get from it?

I have toyed with the idea from time to time of writing a story of Voldemort’s son.  I want to write a story of him not only accepting the darkness within himself, but learning to control it, and use it in the service of good.

I think there is beauty in darkness.  Certainly there is power.  But without control that power can consume and obliviate (pardon the pun) the person itself.

What do you think?  Who is your favorite villain?  What are your theories on what drove them to embrace the darkness within?

Serious Cosplay

DragonCon ended just a couple hours ago, and already I am thinking about my costumes, and how to improve them.

This year my major costume was The Dark Lord himself. It was tge first time I have ever cosplayed Voldemort, and I worked with a makeup artist who did a wonderful job!

However I think next time I want to create a prosthetic nose cover made out of gel. From what I see online this will make it easier for me to blend the makeup.

I have heard from other cosplayers that you learn something new each time you wear a costume, and I guess I have.