Jurassic World bands
Behind the Scenes, Movies

Code names, Dinosaurs, and an Exciting Countdown!

“Hey, my friend told me that the next Jurassic Park is doing some filming in New Orleans under the code name ‘Ebb Tide’ and they’re looking for extras!!!”

My fiancé Meredith has a favorite movie.  That movie is Jurassic Park.  She loves everything about it, can quote every line (e.g. “an interactive CD-ROM!”), and is totally obsessed with dinosaurs.  So when I hear my ecstatic girlfriend telling me one fine summer day that there was an opportunity to be a part of the next movie in the franchise, I couldn’t help getting just as excited as she (or as close as I could anyway).

There was just one problem: the deadline for casting was over.  Now, with my personality, I say “crap…well that’s too bad” and give up.  My fiancé on the other hand said “I sent my stuff in, just in case, and I figure you should too–just in case.”  I’m so glad we did.  Within a very short time, we were called to register with the casting agency in Louisiana (thanks Central Casting!), and were off on an 8 hour drive the very next day.  Meredith told me she had the thought, as we were driving away from her house, that we were nuts.  Totally bonkers.  We were making a 16-hour round trip for the chance to be in the next Jurassic Park.  I knew that we absolutely had to go.  Favorite movie?  Once-in-a-lifetime chance?  No regrets.

So we went.

Now there’s much more to the story, including making multiple trips to New Orleans, getting government clearance badges, making sure to post nothing that violated our confidentiality agreements (unlike the extra in Batman v Superman that is being sued for $5mil), and more; but I’ll zoom in on one particularly excellent experience while filming:

I can give no details on the scenes Meredith and I were in, nor can I safely say when in the movie they will likely appear, but I can say that filming was fun, and Chris Pratt is hilarious.  The particular scene I’m speaking of wasn’t funny in itself, but he had all the nearby extras that could see and hear his antics in stitches.  I can say that he was very nice, approachable, and looked the part of a Hollywood leading man.  I can also say that if they keep the scene I was in with him, you’ll see me dead-on and up close next to him.  Here’s hoping!

If you’re super excited about the movie (you totally should be), and you start to froth at the mouth when you see teasers (you totally should), you need to check out the viral marketing page Masrani and the countdown page to the official trailer here.  I have been excited about this film since I knew it as Ebb Tide and got to be a part of its filming, and I can’t wait to see the official trailer this Thursday!

Art by Killian Plunkett and "thesealord" - DeviantArt
Artwork, Christianity


What Have I Become…

Remember when Luke Skywalker decided there was still good in his father, Darth Vader?  That despite everything he had done, he could return to good?  He said as much in a conversation to him on the way to see the Emperor–but how did Vader respond?  “It is too late for me, my son.”

Have you ever felt that way?  That due to what you’ve done or what others have done to you that you’re somehow irredeemable?

The word “redeem” means to buy back.  When used properly, it often pertains to issues of debt.  In the context of Star Wars, it appears Vader believed his actions and the attitudes of his heart prevented him from returning to the side of good, despite his own seeming desire to do so (as seen in the tone that line was delivered).  The debt was simply too large.  Luke was convinced that his father could turn back by act of will and/or action.  Vader couldn’t believe it, and if you’ve read any of the extended Star Wars universe, I bet you have trouble believing it too.

Did Vader save himself?  Did he redeem himself through his actions?  Despite Wikipedia’s assertion that he did, I say no.  I don’t see how it can be possible–how can you pay back a debt with money you don’t have?  Vader lived many years in the service of the Emperor, and it wasn’t until his son came along and believed in him, believed he could return to the path of light that something changed.  When Vader believed, his actions proved it.  He wouldn’t have killed the Emperor and brought balance to the Force if he didn’t believe in his son first.

In a similar way, many of us struggle with failures in the past, some that have shaped us in unimaginable ways; and we say with Vader “It is too late for me.”  But is it really?  Just like Vader, we’ll continue in our lives unchanged until someone else steps in and believes in us.  In the Bible (Romans 1:16) it says “for I am not ashamed of the gospel [good news of Jesus], for it is the power of salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”  I believe, and more importantly Jesus believes, you can be redeemed into right relationship with Him, right relationship with the side of good, because He already paid the debt to redeem you on the cross.  He died in your place to buy you back, saying “It is finished!”  No debt can withstand God’s riches.  Not mine, and not yours.  Having fully died, He was fully raised to life again by God on the third day, and because of this we who believe have the confident trust that God gives us new life even as He gave His Son Jesus life.

Vader wasn’t redeemed by saving his son through killing the Emperor.  He believed first, his heart was changed, and then his actions that followed were in keeping with his new belief.  In the same way, we cannot work ourselves into belief and redemption, we believe and then our actions show the heart-change that has taken place.  To people who were asking Him “what shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?” Jesus said: “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.”  As a Christian, I know that I am redeemed by grace (unmerited favor from God or “God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense”) through faith (belief and trust) in Jesus Christ alone.  No debt can withstand God’s riches, but like Vader, you still need to believe.

When I first saw the picture entitled “What I Have Become,” I immediately saved it and set it as my phone background.  It reminded me of my own feelings of remorse over my many failures in life, and the question that always leads me back to Christ.  I can now ask the same question with awe, reverence, and immense thankfulness, for I have been made new in Jesus.


It is not too late for you.



“What Have I Become…” Artwork by Killian Plunkett and “thesealord” – DeviantArt

Christianity, Fantasy, Roleplaying Games, Science Fiction

You Are a Hero. What Will You Do?

How many of us have dreamed of being a hero?  Whether that’s standing with the likes of Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli in battle or flying an X-Wing into the trenches of the Death Star and wielding a light saber or challenging tornado-flung sharks with a chainsaw, a little daydreaming is what we geeks are good at.  What happens if we made the dreams a reality?

Executive Producers from The Lord of the Rings and The Amazing Race teamed together to do just that in ABC’s The Quest, which aired this summer.  Twelve contestants joined together in a remarkable reality competition set in a completely immersive fantasy world, called Everealm.  They competed for the goal to become The One True Hero and wield the Sunspear to defeat a dark lord.  The story was compelling, the lessons learned heart warming and inspiring, and the interaction on social media sites by contestants (paladins), cast, crew, and producers helped foster a cult following in the fan base, The Quest Army.

The winner, Lina Carollo, along with the executive producers of The Quest, formed Project Hero.  It’s a chance for anyone and everyone to do something heroic.  No matter the size, grandeur or lack thereof, anyone can do something kind and caring for others–and the launch date for Project Hero is tomorrow.


Using hashtags #BeAHero and #ContinueTheQuest, anyone can chime in and share how they are and what they’ve done to be a hero on Twitter or Facebook.  Granted, this is part of an excellent plan to promote a show and earn a season two, but the depth of what they’ve formulated goes well beyond television.  Rarely can a show inspire such change and dramatic hope in our culture, but The Quest has done so We may not all get to go on an adventure to stop a dark lord, but we can have an opportunity to help others.  In fact, we do.  Every day.  It’s a paradigm shift in the right direction that are chaotic world, full of racism, hate, violence, poverty, hunger, slavery, fear, and great need could desperately use.

It’s up to each one of us to be a hero.

So what are some people planning?  Some are going the larger, more epic route by supporting organizations like Invisible Children, The Trevor Project, or organizing blood drives in their community.  I personally had originally planned to interview people from those organizations, as well as The Exodus Road and Joni and Friends.  More on that later.  Others planned help for those struggling with cancer or even raising money for Boy Scouts they know.  Others are planning Love Letters–planting love letters at odd locations in their communities with positive and encouraging messages for whomever may find them.

Many people have started altering health habits, changing what they eat and how they work out.  I started doing that.  As part of my research for my books, I’ve read about sword fighting with a long sword, saber, and rapier, and run through moves with others.  Just a few months ago, I decided to pick it back up again, using my cane as a sword to run through various stances.  Then I got bold and practiced with my new saber.  A grand move, but applied with a variety of other things (like car trips and a weekend Con), the result was disastrous, landing me back in a week and a half of seizure-like spasms.  This also delayed and right now prevented my interview ideas.

Not to be deterred, I’ve joined the ranks of those who are working on a smaller scale to be heroic.  I’ve learned that there’s a lot of people out there dealing with a variety of debilitating illnesses that really value my voice and face and my words.  They need the message of hope that no matter how bad it can get, there’s a reason to keep going and move on and forward.  Also, I’m a hero to my family.  I’m a hero to my daughter.  I’ve been a hero to the students I used to teach. Many people are looking at altering how we interact with others.  How can we put a smile on someone’s face?  In what ways can we make the grocery clerk feel better or the librarian’s job a little easier?  How can we bless the overworked waiter or waitress?  Surprise the person waiting behind us at the coffee shop with a free drink?

For many of us, we can’t do something big.  It’s not that we haven’t tried.  It’s just those things aren’t working out right now.  That’s okay. The point is to not get discouraged, remember that sometimes the most beautiful and wondrous of things start small.  Like The Quest started as a dream of a few people.  It became a reality of those who joined the dream, and now it’s become something more.  It’s become an opportunity to change the world.

Hope you will join us as Project Hero launches tomorrow and continues for as long as good is needed in our world–which is forever.  There’s no need to actually be a Quest fan, though I think you’ll like it.  Share with us what you’re doing at #BeAHero and #ContinueTheQuest on Twitter or on Facebook.

We are heroes.

Science Fiction, The Walking Dead (ZOMBIES)

The Walking Dead Season 5: Old Friends, New Enemies, and Into Uncertainty

AMC’s The Walking Dead kicked off last week with a mind blowing season premiere continuing into tonight’s second episode of the season.  Both for the cast of characters and for the show itself, there’s a plethora of friends, enemies, and somethings that are just…well…they just might work well or not.

*SPOILERS for The Walking Dead Season 5 Episodes 1 & 2 will follow*

Season 5 begins right were Season 4 ended–in storage container/train car “A”.  This totally works in the shows favor as momentum is set and continues throughout the episode.  When in several various interviews the cast called the first episode “disturbing”, they certainly nailed it.  Within the first five minutes we learn that Terminus is indeed a slickly run, methodical community centered around cannibalism.  Gareth and his mother Mary (the BBQ greeter who heralds from beloved Star Trek fame) run an impressively tight business-like model for the creepy and almost insane folk.  There’s quotas, and methods, and yes, even sanitation if you watch some of the brief disturbing butcher sequences.  One could have predicted this from our first views of Terminus in the previous season, with how well everything was set up–including beautiful square foot gardens.  Talking with the butchers, Gareth says in a very managerial tone, “Now’s the time to get messy but we need to dial it all in by sundown” so they can return to their “public face”.

Some people just don’t make it through the apocalypse with all logic and humanity intact.  The episode brilliantly brings that up through Tyrese’s conversation with one of the scouts, who he and Carol sneak up on as he spills the beans about how they’ll “drain” Michonne and Carl.  The scout tells Tyrese that since he’s the type of guy who would save a baby, he essentially doesn’t have what it takes to survive.  This question will certainly have ramifications later on, as Ty tells Carol he killed the man–but as we see at the end of episode 2, “Strangers”, that this Terminite is very much alive.

So what works for “No Sanctuary”, the season premiere?  Everything except for one piece that I’ll come to.  Carol shows how far she comes by providing a bit of walker apocalypse espionage a la Rick and Glenn’s camouflage from season 1.  She ruthlessly causes a diversion (an explosion, which always works in favor of action sequences, physics issues aside), blends in with the zombies, takes out some defenders, and eventually meets with Mary.  We have some great character development for the short-lived Mary and it’s through the brilliantly placed flashback sequences we learn how Terminus went from sanctuary to trappers, “cattle to butchers”, by a very real, very uncomfortable look at an outside group who rape, murdered, and terrorized the original Terminites, Garrett and Mary included.  Ty’s own struggle with morality is laudable and I appreciate how they incorporate his on-going difficulties with violence and grief.  The entire cast is remarkable, and though you can understand the Terminites, it’s brutally easy to not care for them one bit.  The price of morality in the apocalypse and the cost of bad leadership…

There’s lots of marvelously kept continuity, from Tara’s limp to poor Sam from the neighborhood and Carol’s watch, to the marvelous redemption moments between Tara and a few of Team Survivors (formerly Team Prison) in episode 2.

A few cast members from AMC's The Walking Dead

A few cast members from AMC’s The Walking Dead

Now in its fifth season, the show’s writing is decidedly stronger, the character development and balancing act tighter, the ongoing themes of morality and identity persistent and highly welcome.  Not to mention lots of hopeful reunions, love in the air, and on-going surprises. All the characters continue to develop well.  In episode 2, we even get a new member of Team Survivors in Pastor Gabriel, whose mysterious past, detailed well in the comics, is hinted at through Carl’s unique and well filmed investigation.  The Pastor’s inclusion is fascinating as the camera pans over Maggie, and all I could think of is, “Is she thinking of her father and comparing the two men?” Hershel was a man of faith–even if it cracked at times–and he never stopped believing in humanity–even if he came close at times.  Losing Hershel was a blow for Team Survivors, so I was glad that Michonne mentioned him in episode 2, along with Andrea.  Pastor Gabriel’s (or is it Father Gabriel) own mysteries I’m sure will be revealed in time, but the question is, can he possibly help Team Survivors in their on-going need of retaining their humanity, or will he succumb to his obvious failures?

There’s two other performances that stand out:  Bob and Sasha.  Ever since season 4’s episode, “Alone”, I’ve been cheering for their relationship.  Bob, Glenn, and Judith enable the group’s humanity to shine.  Bob’s history is so special, so unique, his contagious smile and uplifting ways on Sasha are heartwarming in tonight’s “Strangers”.

Some of the best acting lies in what isn’t said.  There’s diffidently differences of opinion between Darryl and Glenn during the Battle of Terminus.  At one point, Glenn’s about to rush off to save people and Darryl pins Glenn against a wall with nothing but his fingers against the chest–a very plausible move.  This interaction, along with Darryl and Carol’s reunion and ongoing scenes in “Strangers”, is just brilliant.

The show even hints at a plausible “non-cure” from Eugene.  By modifying and using the same time of weaponized biological warfare that created the walker apocalypse, they hope to wipe out the undead.  The idea sounds brilliant and creative and I’m seriously hoping that it works out, unlike the comic book version.  Or at least they give it a try and it fails, if nothing else.  (Or perhaps the series might end on a positive note…is that too much to ask?)

A final point is how the series has progressed.  This is a group of survivors, as Abraham says.  They know how to handle walkers, so death by walker for this group is unrealistic unless there’s exceptionary circumstances.  The Walking Dead provides just that and does it brilliantly, even acknowledges that sometimes humans are more dangerous than walkers.

For those watching episode 2 “Strangers” for the first time tonight, warning:  a favorite character meets an untimely comic-book remix fate that will leaves us in a cliffhanger.

So what doesn’t work?  This point isn’t a new enemy, it’s an old one.  I’ve previously written about child actors placed in harrowing scenes, and the season premiere continues with the addage, this time including none other than baby Judith with a stranger’s hand around her throat, head, and back. The baby is authentically crying and looks terrified.  Unlike an adult or even possibly a mature older child who can process these events, babies don’t have the mental capacity to role play or act.  I hope there’s no lasting damage to this child’s psyche.  Has The Walking Dead crossed the line by once again filming another scene like this with another live baby?  Hmm.

That idea, that concept–no matter how well it does work in the story and characters’ favor–underscores the entire brilliance of the first two episodes of season 5.  Not too mention that I lost my appetite multiple times by watching both episodes back-to-back and seeing far too much cannibalism for my taste.  The saying for this season is “Hunt or Be Hunted” but in reality, what are they hunting? Humanity?  Can they go back?  The Governor and Garrett would say no.  Hershel would say yes.  Team Survivors…I think they would take who they and who they are now and merge the two.  That’s what makes them such a formidable force and makes them, most likely, the world’s best hope for a future.

Christianity, Fantasy

Will We Bear the Mark of the Morgul Blade for the Entirety of Life?

The following thoughts come after some heavy introspection the last few days as I prepare for Project Hero on October 23.  If you haven’t heard about Project Hero, maybe this will help…


What’s below was initially posted on Facebook and edited to fit your Geek2Geek screen.  It is simply a question with a vague answer. Something I’d love to see a discussion on either at #BeAHero and #ContinueTheQuest and #MorgulBlade.  You can Tweet me at @AelathiaNovels.  Sometimes the most heroic thing we can do is examine the darkness that lies within.


If the wounds we take in real life are reflective at all of Lord of the Rings, would we really need to bear the Morgul blade wound for the entirety of our existence? If you remember, in The Fellowship of the Ring, the Witch King stabs Frodo with a Morgul blade, and if you follow the books, it caused him annual sickness and constant pain until…well…won’t ruin that.

Frodo being stabbed by a Morgul blade on Weathertop in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring movie.

Frodo being stabbed by a Morgul blade on Weathertop in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring movie.


Sometimes we sustain wounds from other people, from harsh words, from people we love and trust and those who aren’t close to us. Sometimes loss, grief, trauma, physical illness, poverty seem unable to just be shed. They cut deep, to our core, and linger. These and others can be like the Morgul blade wound.

Is it possible to be free of it? To find peace after years of ongoing suffering? If so, how? I know I’m not the only one dealing with these types of questions, so I sound off. I’d love to “hear” your comments either here or on Twitter at #BeAHero #ContinueTheQuest #MorgulBlade.


Christianity, General Information


Joshua P. Smith:

A slightly different article than you’re used to from me here at Geek2Geek….

Originally posted on Christian in Chaos:

Over the weekend, our family gathered to mourn and celebrate a fabulous woman, who I would dare call the Lady of Galveston, Charlotte Ray.  Grandma or Ms. Charlotte (pronounced Cha-lotte), was a dreamer, a musician, a pianist of beautiful and powerful skill. During our vacation there in June, I remember reclining and watching her hands dance away over her grand piano (a treat that will soon become a blessed addition to the Rosenberg Library, so I hear).  In that moment, her music lifted me, filled me, made me whole and complete and content, satisfied beyond measure.

Charlotte’s music lives on.

With all of the flows of emotion, all the highs and lows, tied intimately to the hellish conditions of last week where I endured a reaction to a medicine dose increase that left in me terribly painful states, I’ve had diffuclty even fully verbalizing what I’m feeling. Yet, I realized…

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