The Hand of God

stop light

No, this isn’t another post about Thanos and Infinity War.

As much as I adore movies, this past Sunday morning offered an even more thrilling experience than witnessing the wonderfully crafted gut-punch that was the previous day’s Avengers viewing. And, seeing as I haven’t written here in almost a year, and it seems that my heart isn’t much into pursuing any form of regular writing again any time soon, I figured this is a slightly more important post to hold at the top of my site for a while… not that I don’t love that big, purple face of the Mad Titan from Tuesday night’s post.

So, what’s this post all about then, Mark.. get on with it! Well, Sunday morning, as I drove us to church, Sydney and I narrowly escaped getting t-boned in an intersection. And I’m convinced that it wasn’t my skills behind the wheel that saved us.

Set the scene: it’s a lovely Sunday morning, my beautiful girlfriend is sitting shotgun on my right, and the two of us are having a great laugh on our way to church. We’re the first car in a protected left turn lane, just next to our destination, waiting for the green light to turn. I make a joke (I’m hilarious, ya know) and more laughter fills the car as my green arrow lights up from across the intersection. I casually press on the gas pedal to advance through, and then I notice something… one of the cars coming towards my right side wasn’t stopping.

To illustrate this, I’ve constructed a beautiful model and elaborately recreated the event through CGI and brilliant stop-motion effects. No… actually, I just took a screenshot of the intersection in Google Maps and hastily drew some arrows onto it. brilliance at its peak, I tell ya!

google map intersection

My car was making the blue turn, the other car was in the red lane going straight.

It’s interesting how much thought and activity can occur in the span of only seconds. As I was 1/3 of the way through my turn, a white car broke from the pack of cars stopping at the crosswalk line and continued right towards us. This car wasn’t going especially fast, so I suspect they were simply distracted rather than trying to make the light. In fact, if anything, the car first appeared to be slowing down with the others, which is why I proceeded with my turn. But slowing down or not, it didn’t stop. So I noticed. I made some sort of calm “Oop” sound. Time continued to somehow fill a few seconds with the actions and thoughts of minutes. My foot eased up on the gas pedal, preparing to brake, but I was already too far into my turn. Collision would be imminent, and as I still moved ahead, I noted that I was looking at the approaching car through my passenger-side window. This car was going to strike right where sat the most precious cargo I have — Sydney. My foot pressed onto the gas pedal again, as I turned the steering wheel hard to the left.

Still, seconds dragged on as I witnessed everything in slow motion.

My goal quickly became not simply avoiding collision, but to avoid this other vehicle from driving right into Sydney. As I pulled ahead, clearing my girl of a direct hit, I then pulled my steering wheel to the right, hoping to pull the tail end of my car away in time. And somehow, though it felt as if the car passed through the back of my car as if it was an apparition, we came out completely untouched as the white car simply drove straight through the intersection.

Resume the regular passing of time.

Though my shaking hands were evident of the adrenaline surging through my body, I remained entirely calm through the entire evasion. Just after passing through the intersection, in fact, I continued my joke from earlier as if nothing had happened. But something HAD happened. And yet, I remained calm.

Now, I’m a fairly grounded and practical man. This attitude follows me into my worldview, and permeates my faith in God. Though I appreciate my sensibility, I have also struggled with this, as I sometimes have difficulty breaking free of an overly practical mindset in all walks of life. This difficulty extends into my beliefs, too, I can admit. Just the other week, in my Wednesday night Bible study group, I spoke to this struggle and how it has hindered my faith at times. I have prayed over the last couple of weeks for more boldness in this.

This Sunday, God answered by letting me almost get into a car accident :).

I speak to my practicality here, because it is an important frame of reference for what I say next: I am convinced that God pushed us through that intersection. Yes, of course the human body is capable of seemingly strange things under stress and yes, I was the one pressing on the gas pedal and steering the car. But I have an assurance, which someone as grounded as myself does not come by often or easily, that God nudged the tail of my car in a direction I could not have steered it myself — and in doing so, kept it just out of the path of the other car.

I am not writing today to say that God swooped in to save me from the inconvenience and minor injury of a tail-end collision or that Christians are immune from car accidents and much worse. I am not writing to say that my car and its passengers were saved from this because we “had enough faith.” I’m not even writing to entertain you with my suspenseful writing and witty comments (okay, well not JUST for that). I am writing, instead, because I believe that this is something I am supposed to share. As just about the most annoyingly practical man I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing, I am certainly in the back of the line of folks who want to make miraculous claims — and yet, here I am, doing just that with a confidence that escapes logic.

I am a sinner, as are we all, and yet I am forgiven and saved from the punishment I’ve earned by complete grace. That is, by far, the greatest thing God will ever do for me, yet if it takes my sharing of a lesser, but more physically tangible, blessing in this accident evasion tale to get the attention of those I speak to… then I am glad to now do so. 🙂

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Avengers: Infinity War

Thanos Avengers Infinity War

Oh, hello 🙂 .

Missed me?  Well, I’ve been right here… where have YOU been for the past 10 months? 😉  I may have skipped out on posting for longer than I initially imagined, and this isn’t a return to any form of super-regular blogging for me, but if I was going to come back for something, this cinematic culmination of 10 years’ worth of Marvel movies is as good as anything — though, I may also owe a couple of friends a baby review at some point…

Also, before I dive into the meat of this entry, I’ve done away with any review template formalities I’d developed over time.  No more self-imposed structural limitations and cutesy gimmicks on how I present things here.  I’m just here to talk about a fantastic movie.  Of course, doing away with my previous concepts means:

Warning: Spoilers ahead!

I sure hope you read that line above this, because from here on out I am going to freely discuss whatever spoilerific details I want to about Avengers: Infinity War, and if you don’t want to know them, then skedaddle!  What a funny word.. skedaddle.  Love it.

Infinity War came out this past Thursday night, which meant that I was on Internet lock-down until after the Saturday morning showing my girlfriend (Hi, you’re so cute!) and I (I’m also cute, but why would I talk to myself?) had tickets for.  I am very happy to say that I managed to make it into the theater without having a thing spoiled for me.  Special props to my buddy Nick for not mentally and emotionally exploding from having seen it Thursday night and been in the tough spot of not being able to chat with me about it for days.  The Sydster (she’s my GF, for those just joining us) and I purchased tickets a few weeks ago, at one of them fancy motion-picture places with assigned seating.  I was a little late in doing so, but we managed to wrangle 2 seats in Row D.  I wasn’t intimately familiar with this theater, so I wasn’t exactly sure how close Row D was… but it didn’t look too bad in the diagram.  This Saturday, though, as we walked into the theater and had to hang a right to walk closer to the screen, I was a little nervous.  I don’t feel particularly comfortable being too close to the large screen, and I braced myself through the previews and did my best to relax.  The cute girl sitting next to me has very soft hands that are very calming to touch, though, so that helped. 😉  Once the movie really got going, though, I fairly quickly moved past feeling overwhelmed by the size of the faces and action on the screen in front of me… and became overwhelmed by the awesomeness of the movie itself!

BAM, word play!  Brilliant.

Avengers: Infinity War has been a long time coming.  Since that blue-purple face first grinned at us in a mid-credits scene of The Avengers, Thanos’ coming has permeated the entire overall storyline of Marvel’s movie universe.  The trailers for this latest movie teased a reckoning of epic proportions, a story focused on an all-universe group effort to stop a madman bent on death and destruction, but what the movie ultimately gives us is something more.  So much more.

When was the last time you saw a movie in which the villain was the story’s protagonist?  They exist, certainly, but it’s rare — and I fail to think of one in the superhero genre.  Even if we are presented with the concept of an anti-hero in a movie, this character is usually fighting against something even worse.  Marvel’s Loki, for as much trouble as he causes, is never fully the ultimate villain.  In Infinity War, Thanos answers to no one but himself, and yet, this is still his story.  I wasn’t expecting that.  I assumed characters would die and that there may be a bittersweet ending, but I didn’t quite expect our heroes to lose.  And that is how this movie ends… our protagonist villain, Thanos, accomplishes his goal and looks out into the sunset victorious.  What a set of cojones Marvel has to end this massive blockbuster on a gut-punch ending of our heroic characters losing.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.  Cue the Time Stone; reverse, reverse, reverse.

From the opening Marvel logo, this time absent the usual musical fanfare, the tone is set that this story is different.  From the following Asgardian distress call to a villainous dialogue about the honor of death at Thanos’ hand, the opening scene only gets darker as it goes along.  We witness Thanos carrying Thor like a sack of groceries, Hulk getting beaten like he’s a two-bit boxing chump, and watch two beloved characters die — characters who have been with us since Thor.  It’s rough, but it’s key.  From here on out, as things lighten up and become fun for a while, having witnessed this opening scene we are always on edge of when another like it might happen again.

But the movie does have fun for a while, indeed.  The first half of the movie is filled with all of the character meetings we’d be expecting — Stark meets Strange, Thor meets The Guardians, etc..  Thanos is coming, and that’s not forgotten, but most of the time we’re in classic Marvel fare with entertaining action, brilliant character, and plenty of witty quips.  Sometimes, we get all three in one, such as when Bruce Banner is in the midst of a fight and trying to bring out Hulk… but can’t.  In fact, I absolutely loved that Banner never succeeds and Hulk remains in hiding after the whooping he took at the opening of the movie.

Hah, it’s been a while since I’ve written much, I’m already tuckering out and ready to be done… so we’ll have to wrap things up fairly quickly. 😉

In fairness, though, for me to go through all of the bits and moments I loved, I’d have to just re-watch the movie and write down everything I saw and heard, so I can’t go on too long.  Some highlights to be mentioned, though (and in no particular order at all):

  • Captain America’s introduction was wonderful.  During that fight scene, when Thanos’ gal looks to a train going by in the background, I wasn’t sure what was happening.  My thoughts went, “What’s she going to do to the train??  Oh, is that a figure behind the train?  Oh, who is that, another bad guy?  Thanos??  Oh, it must be a good guy.  Oh… OH!!”  Yeah, it was a good moment for me 🙂
  • When Thanos brings Gamora to Soul Stone planet, I had no clue who that mysterious being was… and as Red Skull revealed himself I literally gasped with an excited look on my face.  What a treat that was!
  • Tony’s new suit has I think reached the peak of what they can do… but I wasn’t fathoming a fluid nano-tech suit to begin with, so what do I know? 😉
  • Peter Dinklage playing a dwarf who is also a giant entertained me greatly.
  • The motion-capture and characterization of Thanos, from a purely technical standpoint, was absolutely amazing.
  • Groot’s moment of finally bursting into heroic action was fantastic and I softly cheered during that entire big — as well as during Thor’s triumphant blast onto the battlefield in Wakanda.
  • Elizabeth Olsen’s performance abilities astound me in her more emotional reactions… something in how she displays fear/sadness/anguish really hits me in its reality.
  • Banner being tricked into bowing to King T’Challa was probably my biggest laugh of the movie.
  • Etc., etc., etc.

Now, for all of the greatness that came through Infinity War in laughter and cheer, it also stood out in terms of emotional depth, as well.  My heart was filled with bittersweet everything as I watch Banner and Romanoff first see each other after so long; I softly clutched at my chest in emotional glee and pain.  It was hard to watch Nebula frozen in fractured torture, and it was just as hard to watch Gamora watch her get torn apart further.  It was harder still to watch Wanda not only have to face the idea of killing Vision, but to also then have to go through with it.  And THEN, she has to watch Thanos rewind time and kill Vision in front of her all over again — entirely nullifying the painful, but heroic, action she’d just taken.  It was then even harder to watch Peter Parker, only a child, realize something is wrong and cling to Stark in fear as he dies and vanishes into non-existence.  And yet, it was hardest of all to watch Gamora stand next to Thanos on that cliff edge — the audience realizing that she was to be sacrificed long before she did.  Marvel has missed out on one thing in all of their prior movies, and that is reaching a deep emotional chord for me.  Civil War, though it grows very heavy and serious in the end, never quite brought me to tears.  Watching Gamora’s end, though, hit me more than anything else Marvel has done… and that’s what leads us back to my final commentary on what set this movie apart from all else: Thanos.

Last year’s Spiderman: Homecoming had my favorite Marvel “villain” to date, due to the fact that he wasn’t really a villain in the usual Marvel movie sense.  Thanos is in full villain territory, for sure, but he is also an absolutely engaging and fascinating character to watch.  Just as with The Dark Knight‘s Joker, Thanos has a philosophical rationale to his actions that lead him to do horrible things, and yet they make twisted sense.  Thanos isn’t simply the best-written villain Marvel has yet put into a movie, but he is easily also one of the best characters in general!  We are seeing him the third act of his storyline, but the complexity of his decisions, the brutal terror of his abilities, and his genuine affection all combine into someone who is absolutely fascinating to watch.  After the brilliantly emotional moment of Wanda killing Vision in an effort to save the day by destroying the stone implanted in his head, Thor walks up to her as she’s hunched on the ground crying and gently caresses her head with his enormous fingers.  When Thanos realizes that he has to sacrifice what he loves to progress on his journey, and turns to Gamora (the sacrifice) with tears on his cheeks, it’s a really powerful moment.  Thanos’ motivation throughout this entire movie isn’t one of malicious joy, but one of duty.  It is important, in his eyes, that he succeeds, and no cost is too great.

And, in the end of it all, Thanos does succeed.

Theories and speculation abound on what will come of this gut-punch ending, but I won’t bother going into all of that.  For now, I’ll just bask in the wonder that is one of the best, and certainly the boldest, movies Marvel has put out, yet.

“Perfectly balanced.”  ’nuff said!

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The State of

Dog looking into doorway

Before last week’s Spider-Man: Homecoming review took the Internet by surprise and caused a stir (a STIR, I tell you!) on social media with my sudden return to blogging, I hadn’t written here in about 3 months.  For any strangers out there who don’t know me personally, following my life by way of this blog could’ve left you on a seemingly tragic note a few months ago; I said I wasn’t feeling my best and then disappeared.  Sorry 🙂 .  I’m alive and well.  Mostly.

What I was dealing with at the time is something I may go into with a future post, but boiled down to the heart of the matter — it was anxiety.  The physical manifestations of anxiety, to be more specific.  Dizziness and vertigo, heart thumps, stomach issues.  I’d never been hit so hard with what I’ve dealt with for years, and it took me out of commission on a lot of things.  I had to miss my sweet, dear GF’s birthday lunch with her mom because I wasn’t well enough to drive myself.  I missed about 2 months’ worth of church activities.  The GF, Sydney, and I canceled a mini vacation we’d planned, all because I didn’t feel strong enough to fly and be away from home base.  My doctor checked me out and cleared me of anything obvious within a few weeks of the first event that took me out of my regular life, so I simply had to keep calm and slowly face my issues.  The first time I forced myself to drive down to surprise Sydney, after weeks of only being up for the 10 minute ride to work (and even then, sometimes barely), was a huge victory for me… and something I was very glad to be able to do for the sake of us.  By the way — kudos to the love of my life for being so patient and loving through all of this (and ongoingly).  Aside from the goodness of God, she is my greatest comfort 🙂 .  I’m much better now with all of these issues, and in the end it’s been a good thing as I have grown a lot from it (spiritually, emotionally, relationshipally) and started to pursue some healthy new paths, but that’s not really why I’m writing today.

Over these last few months quite a few things have happened that I would’ve normally written about: I attended my cousin’s wedding in Sacremento, I was prescribed eyeglasses for a mild astigmatism, I went to the San Diego fair and had many other adventures with my cute GF, I started acupuncture, we got a family dog after 9 years of being without.  That’s on top of the other miscellaneous events and ideas I’d usually share.  But in my attempts to be calm, I found that sharing these things in blog form had little more than a notion-appeal to me.  It was something that’d be nice, conceptually, but I just didn’t want to bother taking the time to actually do so.  I still chat with my friends, I share on my personal Facepage… when these issues cropped up so suddenly and strongly I became a blog and social hermit, but as they’ve subsided I have only wanted to return to my social life, not my blogging one.

There is also the sticky issue of Out of the Box.  I adore peering in on that little guy’s weekly exploits, I really do — I have no doubt that I’m the comic’s biggest fan, but even if I had felt like sharing a random blog post here and there, having “returned” to my site would then put a self-induced pressure on myself to start back up with the weekly comic again, as well.  Nobody was knocking down the proverbial door to get it to return to publication.  During this downtime a friend expressed sadness at the lack of Boxness, and when I broke my silence and posted last week’s review, I received some warm notes of appreciation for having written again… but ultimately, I look at the time it takes me to write and draw and I just can’t bring myself to do it more.

So, where does that leave us?  I’m still keeping this site, I’ll still write, Out of the Box will continue on (I mean, we have to get him out of there at some point, don’t we??), but ya know what I’m going to be spending most of my time doing?

Living my life.

Documenting my life can be fun, I enjoy provoking thought and entertaining with my posts, and it’s interesting to have a long written history of my growth and experiences, but after enjoying these 3 months of blogging freedom, I have no real interest in tying myself down by the tethers of consistent writing here for now.  Perhaps in the future I will be more prolific, but for now I am far more keen on experiencing my life and spending free time growing my artistic skills, smoochin’ my GF, relaxing, studying the Bible, or puttering around the house getting things done.  Out of the Box has not ceased, but it will now follow the same whims as any other blog post here — it will happen randomly and whenever I happen to feel like it.

I can’t say when I’ll write again.  It could be tomorrow or in a month.  I may post two comics in a week.  I might see a new movie I really love, but never get around to writing a review of it here.  If you’re entirely invested in my personal life, find me on Facebook and add me — so long as you’re not an obviously fake profile, I add anyone.  Send me a message and say Hi.  I’ll probably respond pretty quickly…

unless I’m busy enjoying my life 🙂 .

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Spider-Man: Homecoming

Spider-Man Homecoming Tom Holland in suit

Spider-Man: Homecoming
Time/place: 3:10 show at Krikorian San Clemente Sat. the 8th with Sydney

As with pretty much every other Marvel movie character, Spider-Man was never on my childhood radar.  When he first came to the screen in film form, as Tobey Maguire in 2002, I simply wasn’t impressed.  The subsequent sequels and reboot did nothing to further my interest (especially Spider-Man 3… yikes), but when Underoos here made his cameo in Captain America: Civil War, I was smitten.  Spidey was a fun, young kid, with enthusiasm for miles, who was a real treat to watch.  Bringing this new version into his own movie, and featuring Michael Keaton(!), was probably going to be a good little romp, I figured.  Little did I know how low I had set the bar!

Spider-Man: Homecoming takes its place in an esteemed category of movies for me with one simple trait — it’s pretty much perfect 🙂 .  From its clever and hilarious opening, the tone was set for 2 hours of fantastic story and a ton of laughs.

Tom Holland is fully engaging as Peter Parker, and I can’t wait to see more of him in the future… and not just in red/blue spandex, either.  But also definitely in red/blue spandex 🙂 .  Though he is several years older than the 15-year-old he plays, Holland fits the range perfectly.  It felt like I was watching a high school kid upon the screen, and that doesn’t often happen in movies.  Parker’s classmates, especially his best friend, all work in a similar way — these were wonderfully performed, and written, teenagers, and that added to the fun of the movie.  Of course, the picture is also just a ton of fun anyways.

Fantastically written and directed, Homecoming was filled with a skyscraper’s worth of genuine laughs.  I don’t tend to laugh out loud much with movies, but by golly this one had me LOL’ing pretty consistently.  The Guardians of the Galaxy movies do nothing for my sense of humor, but this sure as heck did.  I wasn’t alone, either.  The whole theater laughed and cheered throughout, and I really couldn’t have asked for a better audience to have experienced this movie with… including the cutie next to me.  The humor was generally fairly smart, but so was the character development and the world creation.  This movie most definitely takes place in New York, and quite a few laughs are elicited from that pitch-perfect environment presentation.  Aunt May, while still quite a fox, is wonderfully more adorable than anything else.  While the movie retains a light-hearted feel, that is not at all to say that it is light on sincerity of how it treats its characters.  Our “villain,” played by the always fantastic Michael Keaton, is one of the least villainous bad guys from any Marvel movie thus far.  As it comes about in his introduction, he’s just trying to make his way.  Peter Parker, similarly, is being pulled in multiple directions… though to an even greater degree: an interest in love, a teenage-enhanced sense of belonging among his new superhero pals, scholastic every-day responsibilities, friendship.  On top of all of this, he’s also in an almost father-son relationship with his reluctant mentor Tony Stark.  There are some fantastic character and plot turns that keep the movie fresh and dramatically pleasing amidst the laughs and good fun, but I’ll let you catch those for yourself when you see it… because you should definitely see it 🙂 .

Some movie-viewing moments will always remain etched into my memory, such as when the audience cheered as the Avengers first assembled during battle in that wonderful rotating hero shot.  Similarly, there is a moment in this movie in which the air was sucked out of the room… a pin could’ve dropped with deafening clarity.  It was a perfectly played moment, and I will never forget it.  You’ll know what I mean when you see it.

On the more technical/creative side, Spidey’s suit is brilliant in so many ways, as is how he makes use of his abilities.  The other uses of tech in the movie are also clever and fun — I won’t say more here, but see it and you’ll understand.  Sensing a trend here in what I think you should do?

From the opening Marvel logo, I had a grin on my face throughout most of the movie’s run-time.  Every character beat was spot-on, messages were clear without being overbearing, and nothing about any character felt maniacal or simple.  The violence dished out by the titular character is somewhat tempered in this movie, but purposefully so because of his age.  In fact, the conclusions of the final act and the ensuing mid-credit sequence tell me everything I need to know about this friendly neighborhood Spider-Man… and it’s everything I could have wanted him to be.  Absolutely everything.

I walked into the theater ready to be entertained, and at the very least, take in the next piece of the Marvel movie puzzle, but as the very final moments of the movie played out before the credits, and I grew a little misty-eyed at the joy and admiration of a great movie moment, I had become an unabashed fan of this Spider-Man kid… girl… boy.  Whatever.  I loved watching him on screen and I can’t wait to see him again!

I left the movie theater with several skips in my step and a profound childish excitement bubbling up in me.  I had a great time with this movie, and with some reservation I say that it just might be the best Marvel movie, yet.  That placement might not hold true as time moves on, but I broke my blog-silence here of several months (which I’ll address later) just to write about how much I loved this movie, so… that counts for somethin’!

Love.  Um, duh… did you not read all of that??  Spidey had already joined this universe in another movie, but this brings him full-circle as a well-rounded character that I am very much looking forward to watching again in his next adventure!

Michael Keaton Spider-Man Homecoming

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A Brief Pause

Hey kids… I’m not feeling my best, so I’m taking a tiny break here.  Nothing big, but that means I’m not pushing the publish button on Out of the Box for this week — which is the only reason I’m bothering to say anything.  See y’all soon!

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Out Of The Box – 333

Out of the Box weekly stick figure web comic 333 Dots Do Drugs?

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Out Of The Box – 332

Out of the Box weekly stick figure web comic 332 Both Grow

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