Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Out For A Bit


Hey Everyone!

Just wanted to let you know that I won't be posting regularly for the next two weeks. I'm heading out of town tomorrow, and although I'll be back on Sunday, I will be working for two solid weeks doing High School substitute teaching.

This is a great news because the district has been cutting back on their use of subs for the second half of this semester, and I was expecting to have no subbing work. The down side, of course, is that it will keep me busy enough that keeping up with the regular routine of posting for the Underground and Paeter's Brain will just be too much for me during that time. The podcast will continue, but will be a little shorter for just two weeks, since "In Search Of Truth" will be on hold.

However, I will still be checking my e-mail faithfully and responding as quickly as possible. And after these two weeks of subbing, I will be able to give my full attention to Spirit Blade Productions until September!

So please bear with me during this little break and things will be back on track before you know it!


-Paeter Frandsen

Monday, March 16, 2009

In Search Of Truth, 1st Corinthians 7:25-40


Paul gives advice to virgins in this section, both females and males. When Paul says that he is giving an "opinion as one who by the mercy of the Lord is trustworthy", he is indicating that his words on the subject are principle and not law. A general rule that may have exceptions. However, he uses the same word for "opinion" here as he does in verse 40. Both verses indicate the involvement of God in his choice of words. So the difference in what Paul is saying here is in type, not authority or reliability as the words of God.

In Acts, chapter 18, we get a sense of the hostility toward Christianity that existed in Corinth. This was probably a key contributor to the "present distress" Paul refers to in 1 Corinthians 7:26.

The remainder of this chapter should be looked at in the context of distresses circumstances. We should also remember that these are wise principles worth following, but not hard and fast rules without exception.

First, Paul recommends that in times like this, people remain as they are and avoid complicating their lives further. (v. 26-28)

In times of severe difficulty and persecution, Paul also suggests an adjustment of priorities. In these circumstances, our marriages, our grieving, our celebrating, our commerce, our hobbies and activities, should be put on the back burner in favor of serving God. This is consistent with Mark 12:28-30 and amplified even more so by Paul’s choice of words. These things are all valuable parts of life, though always lower priorities than our love of God. Even so, they should be temporarily made even lower priorities in times of severe trouble and persecution.

It’s for times like this that Paul sees the value of being single. The single person can more easily focus on serving God, without the needs of a spouse to take up some of their time. (v. 32-34)

Paul makes it clear that he’s not saying all of this to put restraints on believers, but to help them be better equipped for serving God. Getting married is not in any way sinful, nor does it make someone less holy. (v. 28, 35) But it does make life a little more complex at times.

There is still debate among scholars about verses 36-38. It either refers to a man and his fiancée, or a Father debating whether or not to allow his daughter to marry. In either case, Paul has the same message for men that carry responsibility for the marriage of a woman: Marriage is good, but in times like this, being single may be even better.

Finally, Paul says that a woman is free to re-marry after her husband is dead, though she is likely to be happier if she remains unmarried.

Next Time- Why it’s okay for Christians to play Dungeons and Dragons!

Coffee House Question

If you had to give up one thing in your life to serve God more effectively, what would be the most difficult thing to give up?

Friday, March 13, 2009

Auditions Almost Over!


This week I've made some progress moving scripts forward for The Spirit Blade Underground Alliance and held more auditions than I can keep track of. I've also found time to start recording the Spirit Blade Novella enhanced audiobook and do some more mixing on my new version of "All And Everything" from the original "Spirit Blade".

A reminder to everyone that March 20th is the deadline for three key things going on right now.

1. Auditions for "Pilgrim's Progress"

2. Auditions for "Dry Places", a Spirit Blade Underground Alliance project.

3. Question Submissions for Disc 1, Track 2 ("The Enemy Strikes"), to be used in the Dark Ritual Interactive Audio Commentary! (E-mail me or call in your question and I'll include it in the commentary and give you credit for it!)

Have a great weekend!

-Paeter Frandsen

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Spirit Blade Audio Book


I'm currently developing two audiobooks that you will be able to download and enjoy for free in the coming months! One is a project I'm collaborating on and must remain a mystery for now.

The other is the Spirit Blade Novella project I announced in January. The right peices are slowly lining up and I will begin recording the first chapter soon! (Either this week or next.) This will be what I would call an "enhanced" audiobook. Most, if not all scenes will contain background ambience and sometimes a musical score. Sound effects will be incorporated at especially pivotal moments as well.

It's been fun for me to revisit this project and remember the story as it existed before being adapted for audio drama. I can safely say that even fans who are very familiar with both Spirit Blade and Dark Ritual will enjoy a unique experience and a story that is significantly different from the audio dramas, yet still firmly in the world of Spirit Blade, featuring the characters you know and love.

More info as it all develops!

-Paeter Frandsen

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

In Search Of Truth, 1st Corinthians 7:10-24


Here, Paul gives some instruction regarding marriages where one person is a believer and the other is not. Among the Corinthians, this probably happened when one spouse became a believer after already being married.

You'll notice that in verse 10 and in verse 12, Paul differentiates between his words and the words of "the Lord". He does this to indicate which ideas were already expressed by Jesus during his life on earth(see Matthew 5:32), and which ideas are further revelation from God. The Corinthians were still very new to their faith and understanding, so Paul continued to provide details about Jesus' words when appropriate.

Jesus had already taught regarding marriages in the Jewish culture. Paul expanded on this, saying that a believing spouse should stay with an unbelieving spouse who is willing to stay with the believing spouse. But if the unbelieving spouse wants to leave, the believing spouse should let them go, rather than force the issue and have continuous conflict in the home. (v.12,13,15)

Verse 14 is among the words of Paul that scholars are still trying to completely iron out. The NASB version reads:

For the unbelieving husband is sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified through her husband; for otherwise your children are unclean, but now they are holy.

Remember that the words "sanctify" and "holy" do not indicate "justification" (which refers to being declared righteous and being rescued from Hell). Sanctification and holiness are about being "set apart" and considered appropriate for God's purposes. Given this definition, even inanimate objects can be "sanctified" or made "holy", and often were in the Old Testament.

So there are a few possibilities regarding the meaning of verse 14. In the most general terms, however, we can agree that an unbeliever is better off, spiritually, in the home of a believer than they would be without a believer in their home. They are exposed to truth more often and may even be used by God in ways they wouldn't have been otherwise. In the same way, children in a home with at least one Christian parent are better off than they would be otherwise.

I should briefly pause and state that this idea is based on the assumption that the "Christian" in this scenario is a genuine believer. Someone that recognizes who Jesus is and allows him to have authority in their lives. It's undeniable that many calling themselves Christians have done more harm with their presence than with their absence, but these are not the people Paul is talking about here.

In verse 17, Paul begins to resist the idea of new believers manufacturing a false environment that feels "more Christian". God, as he explains here, calls each Christian to follow him in the situation God has put them in. Although there are likely some activities that new Christians should abandon when they choose to follow Christ, there is no need for them to change other areas just to fit in with the mainstream Christian crowd. The example used in verse 18 is circumcision. Today, we might find application of the same principle in clothing or musical tastes. As long as our behavior and interests do not enable sinful thoughts or acts, God wants us to be who we are!

Verse 21 refers to slavery, not in our American context for the word, but in the sense of debt slavery, common in the ancient world. If one person was indebted to another but became unable to repay that debt, they often became slaves to that person for a limited period of time to pay off the debt. Paul says here that they are not less of a Christian for being in this situation, but they should try to get out of it and earn their freedom so that they can better serve Christ. We can easily find a parallel here to modern financial debt, which keeps us from serving and giving in the way that we should. (v. 21-24)

Next Week: The Pros and Cons of Marriage

Coffee House Question

What kinds of things can we (specifically geek culture) become slaves to that keep us from investing our lives in God and in people?

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Out On Monday


Just FYI, everybody: I'll be out of the office on Monday, so "In Search Of Truth" will be delayed until Tuesday. See you then!

-Paeter Frandsen

Friday, March 6, 2009

Watchmen (Movie Review)

Before my review of the Watchmen movie, I should give an idea of where I'm coming from regarding the original graphic novel. I discovered and read Watchmen during college (late 90's) soon after I started collecting comics seriously. As it did for many others, this book changed the way I saw superheroes and their potential in the medium of comics. Because of this work, I also soon devoured Alan Moore's "V For Vendetta", and "From Hell", which I also greatly enjoyed for their complex, intelligent stories and character analysis. Alan Moore is a force to be reckoned with in the world of comics and his properties have not been treated well by Hollywood. Despite being enjoyable films in their own right, "V For Vendetta", "From Hell" and "The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen" strayed considerably from the source material when Hollywood got their hands on them. "Watchmen" is regarded very highly by myself and many comic book fans, so I was very interested to see what "300" director Zack Snyder would do.

I am EXTREMELY pleased. This is easily the most faithful live-action adaptation of specific comic book source material ever made. That doesn't mean it is simply the comic book filmed on a set. Changes were made throughout, the most notable being the end of the film. (More on that later) But all changes allowed the material to be more accessible in a format for which it was not designed, while retaining the substance of the graphic novel. The story is streamlined, but in no way butchered. Material removed was in most cases not missed, considering the short time limitations that even epic move lengths demand.

"Foul! Foul!", some fanboys may cry. But we DO have to take into consideration that this is a movie. Not live action fanboy wish fulfillment. It has to stand on its own merits. If we want people to experience "Watchmen" as we know and love it, follow Alan Moore's cue (just this once) and tell them to read it. My review does take into account the source material, but I'm not scoring it based on my own wish fulfillment. I wanted to see if it was a good movie.

Still, let's talk about the differences a little bit. Snyder brings a welcome dose of action-movie sensibility to the combat sequences of the film. This is not really an "action movie", but Snyder shoots each action sequence as though it is. Much of the cool visual's from "300" reappear to great effect in this movie. The heroes are also more physically capable in the movie than they are in the comics. I think this is important. First, it helps break up the pacing of the film. Second, it reminds moviegoers, who may not be comic fans, what it means to be a costumed hero.

The graphic novel was written for people already very familiar with superheroes. Showcasing their heroic abilities wasn't a priority because readers could easily fill in the gaps with stereotypes they had developed from years of reading comics. Adding enhanced action and combat sequences helped us remember that, while this IS a complex character study, it is set set FIRMLY in the world of superheroes. (Something "The Dark Knight" failed to do with its over-emphasis on the happenings of Gotham City and lack of emphasis on Batman. Too much "realism", not enough superhero.)

Another change, reflecting Snyder's admitted tastes, was a little too much sexiness. Granted, sexual elements become much more noticeable when translated from comic page to live action, but Snyder actually lengthened one particular scene handled with discretion in the comic book, turning it into a typical Hollywood skin show. This scene doesn't last too long and the rest of the movie is more conservative(with one exception, hold that thought...), but it's still very "R-rated" and more naked than it needs to be. Hopefully the DVD will start a new chapter after this moment in the film, allowing a convenient "quick skip" option without missing worthwhile moments of the movie. Meanwhile, if you can't wait for DVD, here's a little trick: When Dan and Laurie start getting "frisky" on Archie (his "owl-ship"), a Johnny Cash-sounding song starts playing (called "Hallelujah", I think). Just admire your popcorn until this song is done playing and you'll be safe.

There is one exception to the conservative handling of nudity in the rest of the film, and that is Dr. Manhattan. Male frontal nudity is very common when he enters a scene. Not in a sexual context. He just likes being naked. It isn't "in your face" and it happens to be computer generated, but it's still there and fairly common throughout the movie.

Regarding more specific changes, Dr. Manhattan's perception of time was not communicated as effectively as it could have been. It felt more like Jon experienced constant flashbacks instead of existing in all moments of his life at once. I'm hoping some of this will be fixed in the director's cut, but the movie doesn't suffer much.

Without giving any major spoilers, I can say that the greatest changes of this movie are near the end. No squid, but a different idea that makes perfect sense and makes the movie more approachable to the average viewer. And to be completely honest... I like the new ending better than the original! Nite Owl sees something happen that he didn't in the comics that makes for great drama and an added action beat. And we aren't suddenly asked to introduce giant aliens and psychics into the world of Watchmen, which felt out of left field in the graphic novel. The new ending accomplishes the same thing, but in a way that fits inside the story so much better.

Regarding the performances in this film, I couldn't be much happier. Patrick Wilson brought the everyman quality that Nite-owl needs in order to work. Billy Crudup brought a unique take to Dr. Manhattan's voice that I was completely taken with after hearing him speak for just a couple scenes. Haunting and detached throughout, when Manhattan talks, it's as if he's always retelling a faded dream he can barely remember. Jeffrey Dean Morgan delivers a Comedian who is unlikeable, yet understandable. He's the prophet of the story, sizing up his environment and telling it like it is. A poor decision is made to have Carla Gugino play both the young and the old Sally Jupiter. She works wonderfully as the young, but between the unconvincing make-up and her young-sounding voice, she doesn't successfully sell herself as a 67 year old woman. To her credit, I think this is near impossible and should have been achieved by having two women play the role. We've learned to suspend disbelief in this territory.

The standout performance in this movie is Jackie Earle Haley as Rorschach. Alan Moore has created a wonderful character concept, but I found myself safely removed from him (as I do with all of Moore's characters) as he exists on the page. Moore's characters are fascinating and make us think. They do not tend to make us feel. I was taken out of my sterile psychiatrist's chair and gripped, in two different scenes, by Haley's performance. Even brought to tears in one of them. He is the heartbeat of this movie.

Visually, this film is a treat. Nearly every shot is artfully thought out, much like Dave Gibbon's original art panels. The costumes are updated and reflect modern superhero movies (the 90's in particular) the same way Gibbon's original designs reflected comics of the 40's through the 70's. They step away from practicality and realism to stand in greater contrast to the all too real nature of these flawed characters.

Visual effects are also exciting and spectacular. Though clearly not an action film, Snyder often adds excitement through some dazzling eye-candy.

The movie works great as a period piece, taking place in the 1980's and earlier. The varied and highly ironic soundtrack keeps us sitting in the appropriate decades and in the right moods for the movie's themes.

Which brings us to Relevance. There is a ton in this film worth discussing. Human nature and its natural state of corruption is the major theme. The worth of human life is another. Too often we confuse the two. If our worth is based only on our goodness, we have to face the idea of being worthless. This is likely why so many people prefer to live in denial of our evil nature and choose to believe that we are "basically" or "naturally" good. But biblically speaking, our worth in the economy of the universe is not based on our moral performance, but on the fact that God created and loves us. We are both naturally evil and of tremendous worth. (Yeah, wrap your head around that one.) This movie touches on both topics and lends itself to their discussion.

Truth is also a key point. Is it better to live with a lie if it means peace between people or nations? Or should truth be valued and sought after even if it means dealing with pain otherwise avoided? Regarding truth, I've gotta side with Rorschach on this one. No Compromise.

From top to bottom, this is a fantastic film. It is driven by very human characters with very real emotions, without sacrificing the wonder and expansiveness of the superhero genre. (Take good notes, Chris Nolan.) The themes are rich and the visuals are beautiful. Though it misses some opportunities for adapting great elements of the original work, in several ways it is superior to the graphic novel. Plan to have coffee or dessert after this one. There will be plenty to talk about!

Rated R for strong graphic violence, sexuality, nudity and language

Quality: 9.5/10

Relevance: 9.0/10

Staying Above Water



Seems like it's all I can do these days just to say above water! I've had four auditions here this week, I've been reading script submissions for The Spirit Blade Underground Alliance and e-mailing their authors. I've been editing an audio book project I'm producing in collaboration with another studio (more on that soon!) and trying to stay ahead of the mountain of emails I've been getting lately regarding auditions for "Pilgrim's Progress"!

Don't get me wrong, it's a great way to spend my days, but throw in the stuff needed as a husband and daddy (with a little extra this week) and I'm barely keeping up!

Nothing like the weekend and a last minute audition cancellation to help me out, though! Maybe I'll get some free time yet!

-Paeter Frandsen

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Wonder Woman Animated Movie (Review)

In the last few years, DC has produced 3 direct to DVD animated movies: Superman/Doomsday, Justice League:New Frontier, and Gotham Knight.

While “New Frontier” was a fun ride through an alternate DCU, the other two were mostly disappointing. After reading a positive review and hearing about the Green Lantern “sneak peek” on this DVD, I didn’t hesitate to make the purchase.

This movie was great! While I’m a fan of the DCU, and read Gail Simone’s(who helped write this script!) run on wonder Woman for about a year, I wouldn’t call myself a true fan of Wonder Woman. The problem with the character, for me, has always been too much emphasis on Greek mythology. Sandals and togas have never been synonymous with “action” for me. It all seemed like such an unapproachable genre. Before “300” came to theaters, that is. And the Wonder Woman animated movie owes a lot to Zack Snyder’s sword and sandal flick.

The film more than earns its PG-13 rating with brutal violence from beginning to end. The movie emphasizes the warrior nature of the Amazons in every action sequence and fans of violent fantasy will not be disappointed. (I counted at least 3 decapitations!)

The movie is top-notch across the board. Casting, directing, sound effects, music, animation and the strongest point of the film: the script. Somehow, while being a “tough as nails” serious action experience, this movie also has wit and charm that made me laugh out loud more times than I can count!

Keri Russel (Felicity) seems an odd casting choice for Diana. But the huskiness in her voice (not showcased in “Felicity”) gave her feminine voice the right balance of beauty and strength.

Nathan Fillion, known best from the cult series “Firefly”, was incredibly likeable and funny as Steve Trevor. Steve Trevor’s presence keeps the outrageous fantasy moments in the film grounded, much the way John Crichton did so beautifully in Farscape. This movie wouldn’t be what it is without Fillion and Steve Trevor.

In another unusual turn, Alfred Molina (Spiderman 2) lends his voice to the part of Ares. And though his voice plays against the visual look of Ares, the unique contrast creates a really interesting blend that makes Ares stand out, rather than fade into forgettable stereotype.

To sum up, any fan of fantasy action or comic books should see this movie, and fans of DC and Wonder Woman should buy it without hesitating! Lauren Montgomery (Director) is also helming this summer’s Green Lantern animated movie, so I’m even MORE excited for that now as well!

The film also touches on some interesting issues that might spark worthwhile conversation. Early in the film, Diana’s mother, Hyppolita, says that man (specifically the male half) is wicked, disloyal and above all untrustworthy. Later, two different characters say, “The heart wants what the heart wants. Even that which is worst for it.”
And finally, in an exchange between Diana and Steve-

Diana: Must you flirt?

Steve: It’s only natural.

Diana: Suppress it.

There seems to be a rare acknowledgment somewhere in the writing of this script that our natural desires as humans are often terrible and need to be controlled. In other words, (surprise!) we are not “naturally morally good”. We are naturally self-serving. This isn’t a central theme, but one that can be heard in the script and brought up after viewing.

Another line that caught my attention was Steve Trevor, when he said sarcastically of Amazonian isolationism, “Like less communication between men and women is what the world needed.” I couldn’t agree more with his frustration!

Rated PG-13 for violence throughout and some suggestive material

Quality: 9.5/10

Relevance: 8.0/10

High Priestess Interview, Part 2!


The second half of my interview with Melissa VanSlyke is at last available on the Media Page to download for free! Listen as the voice of the mysterious High Priestess talks about the more, shall we say... "intense" moments of recording for the character. 


-Paeter Frandsen

Monday, March 2, 2009

In Search Of Truth, 1st Corinthians 7:1-9


In pop culture, we put sex on a very high pedestal. If someone is physically attractive or very sexually active with one or more attractive people, we tend to think of them as successful or "living the life". Starting in elementary school, boys display their masculinity by talking and joking about sex. And if someone is not sexually active or at least dating in high school or college, we begin to wonder if they are a homosexual or mentally assign some other label that identifies them as different. Maybe even defective.

So is sex good? Is sex bad? What does the Bible say about this? Well, we won't comprehensively explore the issue right now, but we can find a few answers by looking at the beginning of this chapter and a couple other spots in the Bible.

In 1st Corinthians, chapter 7, Paul begins responding to some issues the Corinthians had apparently written to him about. Verse 1 says "it is good for a man not to touch a woman". The word "good" here doesn't imply "preferable". It simply validates this scenario. And in this context, the Greek word for "touch" refers to marriage or the sexual union that defines it. So Pauls says that it is perfectly fine to live unmarried, without having sex. But if we are sexually tempted or at risk of adultery, we should look for a spouse. (v. 2)

Let's be clear: Sex is a great thing in marriage! Sex is designated exclusively for marriage and God wants married couples to have lots of it! In verses 3-6, Paul says that husbands and wives should submit to each other when one of them wants to have sex. Couples should be constantly communicating with each other about this issue and the "non-bedroom" issues that effect it. (See also Ephesians 5:22-33) Lots of great sex should be going on all the time (barring physcial/medical restrictions) in every marriage! Paul makes an allowance for temporary abstinence if both husband and wife are in agreement(v. 5-6), but this is definately the exception to the rule!

Yet Paul strongly suggests in verse 1 and verses 7-9 that remaining unmarried and sexually inactive is a wonderful thing if that is the way God wired you to be! Paul acknowledges the natural challenges that come with marriage and wishes to spare anyone not desiring marriage the unnecessary troubles they would find if they married without really wanting to be. (See verse 28 of this chapter)

What Paul teaches here is consistant with the words of Jesus and the Old Testament prophet, Isaiah.

In Matthew 19:12, Jesus says, "For there are eunuchs who were born that way from their mother's womb; and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men; and there are also eunuchs who made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to accept this, let him accept it."

And Isaiah 56:3b-5 says, "Neither let the eunuch say, 'Behold, I am a dry tree.' For thus says the Lord, 'To the eunuchs who keep my sabbaths and choose what pleases me and hold fast to my covenant, to them I will give in my house and within my walls a memorial and a name better than that of sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name which will not be cut off.'"

Usually, when we think of the word "eunuch", it refers to someone who has been castrated. Although in the original Greek, it doesn't always mean this. The word Jesus uses in Matthew 19:12 can also simply have the meaning of a man who does not marry, or that isn't sexually active. The same goes for the Hebrew word for "eunuch" in the Isaiah passage listed above.

So the verses in Matthew and Isaiah can be applied to men (and women) who have no real sexual drive for the opposite sex. As we look at these verses, we can see the Bible painting a very positive picture of life without sexual activity! Not many people are wired to live this way and scripture doesn't indicate that this kind of life earns people more "points" with God or that a lack of marriage makes them more holy. It's simply a different way that people are potentially wired, with its own unique benefits.

This remains an issue with many unanswered questions. We might now wonder, is it possible that some have found themselves in sinful circumstances as a result of misunderstanding their own God-given sexual configuration? Is it possible some have pursued homosexuality(or other form of unbiblical sexuality) not initially out of attraction to their own sex, but for lack of attraction to the opposite sex? Is it possible some religious leaders have become pedophiles or had other inappropriate sexual desires because they have taken a vow of celibacy that God never intended them to take?

How many throughout history may have missed the opportunity of living focused and purposeful lives undistracted by the complexities of marriage? How many others have missed the incredible experiences that marriage has to offer because of a self-imposed celibacy? How much pain and how many victims have been created for lack of understanding here? We may never know.

Next Week- "mixed" marriages

Coffee House Question

What distractions or painful things in life could be avoided by someone who has no sexual desires?