The Incredible Hulk, or why I spend so much time alone

There’s something I’ve been wanting to share with you for a long time but couldn’t find the words. I feel so strongly, though, that I can hold it in no longer, for amidst life’s challenges, my guiding light, rock of strength, and unfailing paragon of purity, is the Incredible Hulk. There’s almost never a time I don’t wish I were talking about the Incredible Hulk, but, thanks to Ang Lee, most of my potential listeners won’t believe he can be more than a side-character in any remotely watchable film. This is totally false, and I would like to explain why.

Like all superheroes, the Incredible Hulk has an alter ego: genius physicist Dr. Bruce Banner. But unlike most superheroes, Dr. Banner’s psyche is almost entirely exiled  when the Hulk takes control. Not only does Dr. Banner disappear, but with each bout of rage the Hulk gains an even stronger grip on the will and body the two personalities share. This conflict for the possession of mind and flesh perpetuates a cycle of self-denial and sacrifice in Dr. Banner. He can’t get too close to the people he loves, especially Betty Ross, because any strong emotion could trigger a transformation into his nightmarish alter ego. But he daren’t leave entirely because when threats arise, Dr. Banner knows the Hulk is the only force strong enough to protect humanity. This means he is constantly near those he cares about without being able to enter any kind of satisfying relationships.

Betty Ross has an impressive amount of spunk and street smarts!

Betty Ross has an impressive amount of spunk and street smarts!

Where Dr. Banner differs most starkly from other superheroes is that he never gets to experience the perks of his superpower. Of course Stan Lee reminds us frequently that superpowers have their downsides, but Thor still gets to fly his women wherever he wants, and Dr. Xavier can occasionally read socially convenient information from others’ thoughts. But Dr. Banner’s mind is entirely gone when his superpower expresses itself. In fact, each time he gives into his alter ego, Dr. Banner’s not sure the Hulk won’t maintain hold forever. The beauty is that when the world needs him, Dr. Banner still risks everything and changes.

Many superheroes’ personal drama stems from temporary, self-created dilemmas. Spiderman either gets cocky or keeps secrets. Mr. Fantastic and Invisible Girl can’t keep their romantic drama to themselves. But even when everyone is entirely up front with each other, Dr. Banner’s relationships will always be tenuous because sometimes he turns into a violent Hulk. It’s just the nature of the beast. Literally.

In the 1962 original, Bruce Banner became the Hulk when he saved Rick Jones from a gamma bomb.

In the 1962 original, Bruce Banner became the Hulk when he saved Rick Jones from a gamma bomb.

The emotional aspect of the Incredible Hulk could easily carry a film if people could stop fixating on the Hulk’s penchant for smashing. Yes, he smashes things. And yes it is cool. But we all know that smashing, as a superpower, isn’t cool enough to sell when its competition is the alter-ego-transcending snarky genius of Tony Stark/Iron Man or the well-butlered fury of Bruce Wayne/Batman. While the Hulk’s personality is defined by raw might, Dr. Banner’s defining characteristic is raw goodness. Dr. Banner’s willingness to sacrifice until there’s nothing left is the real superpower, and the difference between the Incredible Hulk and other superheroes is that his most remarkable trait is expressed by his alter ego. I challenge you to find a more trenchant example of nobility or a more heart wrenching drama. You will find none.

I love the Incredible Hulk because I’m inspired by Dr. Banner’s consistent will to risk everything to protect the people he loves. The Hulk/Dr. Bruce Banner persona is, in my estimation, the noblest of the Marvel Universe, and a beacon for youth in our troubled times. The Incredible Hulk is a heartbreaking tale of agonizing self sacrifice. I’d encourage everyone to heed Dr. Banner’s example and then face all decisions by asking, “What would Bruce Banner do?

Thanks so much for reading my propaganda. If you’re still craving more, I wrote you a song. Also, click here to see some of the most beautiful Hulk story telling I’ve ever seen.


Up to Date – September 20

Okay guys, I intended to write individual and detailed blog posts for a whole bunch of really great experiences I had this summer. But I’m sick, which always leads me to make rash decisions. Luckily for me, when I’m sick and online, the repercussions are only the cyber kind. So, decision: I refuse to put in the up front time it would take to get myself current, so I’m going to give you a nice little digest of the rest of my summer. Then we’re all going to agree to feel satisfied with my life and times up to the present. All in favor?

Quick succession of posts:

A train: throwback fun!

May: I went to the Spiral Jetty for my first time ever. The water was candy pink. My legs got salt-encrusted. Thanks for playing photo shoot, Mike! We also saw a train.

Me at the Spiral Jetty, Great Salt Lake.

Such an adorable party animal!

July 15: I went to the birthday party of this really adorable baby. For the record, Arjun throws the best parties!

I made this.


July 21: I participated in a Relief Society Cupcake War activity. I’d been eating leftover aristocrat heads all week, so I donated my cupcakes to charity (i.e., Desiree).

July 27: Lauren and I had been apartment hunting our brains out. We took a break at Cupcake, and it was exactly like every other cupcake boutique, except that the porch was all construction rubble.

August sometime: I ate at Acadia Cafe. They have these cookies that are baked with rays of heavenly glory and delivered fresh on an hourly basis by angels from on high. So melted-chocolatey good.

August 10: My little brother Steven got a cell phone. We texted a lot, and he even took my call while he was air softing. That’s love.

August 13: I attended Shabbot at the Mount Zion Temple in St. Paul. It’s a reformed congregation, and the services there are a party! Judaism is all about celebrating that you even get to be alive, and that’s fun to do through hymns that you clap along to! Also, a little boy got to be Bar Mitzvah. His voice was changing even as he sang the Torah. And people threw candy at him to signify the sweetness of the occasion! In a church!

August 13: I ate at Spoon River, and it was sorta chintzy. It was my first experience with mock duck, and I liked it. I also had this crazy salted ice cream called Nicollet Avenue Pot Hole at Sebastian Joe’s which I’d suggest, but which Michael thought went overboard on the sodium. Hypertension!

Also sometime in August: I ate a lot of Vietnamese food in Frogtown (my neck of the woods in St. Paul), all of which was pretty good. I haven’t decided, but I might prefer mock duck to tofu. I’ll let you know.

August 14: I made some molasses bread that was not very good (Megan ate it and said nice things, anyway!), and I watched the movie Hitch for the first time, and it was very good. Laughs!

August 15: I ate at Birchwood Cafe (hipster paradise) and reunited with Marla, with whom I spent Thanksgiving in Scotland in 2004.

August 18: I attended another Talmud class as the Temple of Aaron. The main things I learned were that several favorite Old Testament books are literary fiction and historically impossible: Esther! I also learned that Jews believe the Sabbath is the holiest of holy days. So much so that you shouldn’t even ask for anything (except for health) in prayers on the Sabbath because the Lord is resting, too.

August 19: I ate at Mango Thai in St. Paul… I think I ate mock duck then, too. Both the food and the service were great! Super prompt. I also had some sweet sticky rice dessert; I want to say it was the coconut one, but I don’t want to lie to you.

August 20: I went to Shabbat at the Temple of Aaron. Larry, the ritual director who teaches my Talmud classes, asked me to read the prayer for country, which was especially sweet. It was one of the only prayers in English!

August 20: I saw Captain America. Pretty good! I agree with this review.

Lanterns at Como Park

August 21: I went to the Japanese Lantern Lighting Festival at the Como Park Conservatory! The botanical gardens were cool; people in anime costumes were cool; floating lanterns all about the lake in honor of the dead was cool. Win!

August 23: I saw HMS Pinafore at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis. It wasn’t quite as good as the Sideshow Bob rendition, but I understood the plot this time! I enjoyed the view of the city from the Guthrie’s poorly named “endless bridge.”

August 25: I attended another Talmud class at Temple of Aaron. Larry was kind enough to tailor the lesson to my ignorant needs by focusing on the prayers of the Shabbat service. My favorite thing I learned was that one of the first things read in a Jewish service is Psalm 96:1: “O sing unto the Lord a new song: sing unto the Lord, all the earth.” This is seen as a command to daily say something new in thanks to the God. We ought to never take His bounty lightly nor forget the splendor of our very existence.

August 26: I attended a Bassordion concert at Corner Coffee in Minneapolis. Guys, if you ever get a chance to see them play, go! Well worth it. You’ll wish you’d brought your polka shoes.

August 29-September 3: I camped in the Boundary Waters. So super beautiful/relaxing/gruelling! Kayaking, canoeing, portaging, camping, relaxing. I was with an ideal group (Thanks Shanna, Mark, Eric, and Jason!). Because I have spent approximately the same amount of my waking hours watching movies as not, the experience was very LOTR-reminiscent, and we have a reunion planned in which we will watch all three extended movies in one intense 12-hour day. You can see the camping photos here.

September 5: I moved to Prospect Park! I live at the highest spot in the Twin Cities, and in the shadow of this fun Witch’s Hat Water Tower, which, unfortunately, is open only one day per year. See you there next Memorial Day weekend! Also, my room was two inches too narrow for my bed frame the way I wanted to arrange it. Fortuitously, Ranell needed a bed frame. I bartered it to her for her bike, and the trade benefited all parties. Capitalism! Later, I decided I wanted my desk to be 9 inches narrower. Mark brought over a power saw, and we made short work of it.

September 6: School started. I’m now a second year MPH student. Debt!

September 7-11: My beloved Emily came to visit clear from Salt Lake City! We did many enjoyable things together. Among which were

  • Lunch at the Wienery,
  • Finally, a heat resistant waist band. All my problems are solved!

    A visit to the Minnesota History Center specifically for the very underwhelming Underwear: A Brief History exhibit (You will not learn about Egyptian or medieval underwear, only about a few specific lines of undergarments made by the Munsingwear company of Minneapolis.).

  • We ate at Franklin Freeze in Minneapolis, which is almost exactly the same as Conny’s Creamy Cone in St. Paul. They have 24+ flavors of soft serve ice cream! I have tried three of them. They do it by taking plain soft serve, mixing it with a flavored syrup in a little shake-cup, and then pressing it through a funnel-like contraption into a cone. At first I couldn’t figure out how they fit 24 soft serve machines in that tiny place (like how fro yo places each use separate machines). These people are geniuses, and their product is delicious! Also, each ice cream cone size (small/medium/large) comes in an actually different sized cake cone! I didn’t know they made actual cones  in different sizes! But they do!
  • Dinner at Black Sheep Pizza in St. Paul. It’s a coal fired pizza place that I feel corrects everything that was wrong about Punch Pizza‘s thin crust.
  • A visit to Fort Snelling and its associated memorial chapel. We couldn’t go into the chapel on account of a wedding happening right then, but the exterior aesthetics implied an internal continuity of such.
  • A visit to the Mall of America and Paciugo Gelato.
  • Shabbot at the Temple of Aaron.
  • A rendition of Handel’s Alcina put on by Mixed Precipitation theater company at the Skidmore Community Garden in St. Paul. Guys! Go see these people perform. They are a perfect mix of delicious food samples, opera, comedy, and all around good times! These people were so incredibly talented. I wish I weren’t sick and had the temperament to write a full review of this play. Suffice it to say that Laura Hynes Smith, Jameson Jon Baxter, and Molly Pan were fabulous as the leads (respectively Alcina, Ruggiero, and Bradamante the warrior maid), and I still giggle when I think of Lauren Drasler’s part as Morgana and Walter Gies as an enchanted fountain/violinist.
  • Crowd all ablaze.

    We went to a September 11 memorial concert at the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis. So many religions, so homogenized. But they trusted us all with candles!

September 14: I went to a class about the history of Rosh Hashanah at the Temple of Aaron. Initially, the big deal about Rosh Hashanah was that a loud blast would be made on a trump on that day. Now the big deal is that it’s 10 days before Yom Kippur, so it signifies a time to get introspective about how you want to start afresh.

September 16-18: I went to Nauvoo, Illinois for my first time ever. This place is like Epcot for Mormons. The Nauvoo Temple is the Disney Castle of all temples: super-bright-shiny-white on the outside and super bright colors on the inside. The historical sites were all informative and interesting, and the Trail of Hope was touching.

Carthage Jail, except it was raining like it does when sad things happen in movies.

My favorite thing about the visit was Carthage Jail. We got there two hours before it opened on Sunday, and an adorable missionary couple just happened to have shown up two hours early for their shift. They didn’t have keys, and it was raining. But, undaunted, they gave us a tour from the outside of the jail. Then someone showed up with keys and we got the regular treatment – movie and inside tour. I was touched by their devotion. I was also touched by the sacrifice Joseph and Hyrum made for their beliefs, and the kindness they showed others in their time of greatest duress. I only hope I can follow their example.

Aquatennial Festival – July 17

You may have read the title to this post and thought, “What the what?!? How many years is an ‘aqua’?” But, you see, Minnesota is a magical land where the rules of Latin roots and prefixes don’t apply! The Aquatennial Festival is a celebration of water that includes milk carton boat races, sand castle competitions, fireworks, fun runs, and the same people you usually see yelling at their toddlers at Walmart this time yelling at them while they eat snow cones. It’s a good time!

I attended the milk carton boat races, in which participants not only construct boats that can hold four people out of real milk cartons, they also decorate their boats to look like something cool and then race them. Below, and from left to right, you will see a mouse (its long tail slowed it down, plus I think it had extra people in it), a phoenix (which some people chided as not looking much like a bird at all, but which I thought it was super cool and super fantasy-style creative), the house from the movie UP (which is sort of hard to make out here, but which looks quite cool from the photo at the Aquatennial Festival home page), and (taking the lead by a long shot) either an alligator or a crocodile. Also, you will notice a canoe, between the mouse and the phoenix, who is presumably there to prevent drowning either intentional or un-.

They also have a sand “castle” building competition, by which they actually mean a sand sculpture building competition. We left before we saw who won. Please enjoy these photos of my favorite sand sculptures:

Walk the Line – July 13

I got obsessed with Johnny Cash in early July after he kept coming up on my Willy Nelson Pandora station. I’d go into details, but there aren’t many. I just really love this guy’s voice, intonation, lyrics, music, and good-timey guitar picking. Here’s my favorite video of him live.

A few days into my obsession, I stumbled upon a video rental place’s going out of business sale and bought Walk the Line. And I must say it was an excellent choice! Loved it. The first time I watched it, my roommate was sleeping upstairs, so I had to keep the volume way down and the closed captions on. As you might expect with a movie about music, it was far less good this way. If you’d been entertaining any plans of watching Walk the Line muted, don’t follow through with them. You’ll walk away wondering what all the hype was about.

Good thing I gave it another try because with sound, this movie is super phenomenal! While awards and nominations are not always a reliable indicator of movie quality (ahem), but there’s a reason why this thing won Reese Whitherspoon (as a brunette even! A brunette!) an Oscar and Joaquin Phoenix some lower profile awards! The acting is great, the music is great, the script is pretty good.

I loved the way it drew together Johnny Cash’s relationship with his family – both his parents and his wife and kids – with his faith and his music. Especially how his musical and spiritual journey climaxed and tied together at Folsom Prison. What a guy, that Johnny Cash, what a guy.

Every one came off as very human, too. Even his wife Vivian, played by Ginnifer Goodwin, whose character was nearly as unlikable as her current haircut, you could kind of see where she was coming from. Kind of; any more on her side and we would have probably been too upset with Johnny for all his cheating, drug use, and familial neglect to forgive him in the end. I think the movie did the best it could given the circumstances.

I did feel that the romance needed a little more development. I mean, obviously, Johnny and June were the main characters, and their interactions were the focus of the movie. But I couldn’t figure out why June would ever decide to marry her very needy, dysfunctional friend , except that she didn’t want to disappoint an anxious crowd. Even then, though, it’s not like Johnny hadn’t made a buffoon of himself in front of hundreds of people before. The movie depicted their romance as fairly one sided, with Johnny putting June in a lot of uncomfortable situations. The diner scene was endearing, for sure. And there was the scene where they were fishing that made them seem like decent friends, but lots of the time he was just hitting on her and getting shot down.

Perhaps that’s how their relationship was, though, and June Carter really was a saint who saw potential in a guy who’d seen some hard knocks, made awesome music, loved God, and fought his drug addiction the rest of his life. And I mean fought. Johnny Cash once refused prescription pain pills after heart surgery because he knew he’d be hooked if he even touched the stuff.

Whatever the dynamics of their relationship, these two sure are lovable:

Super 8 – July 4

Check out how adorable these kids look in a life-threatening situation!

Rarely, if ever, have I seen a movie that I would describe as both super scary and super adorable. Now’s my chance! This movie was full of super cute kids and super freaky science fiction. I loved it!

Those little kid actors are going places. I would have had a huge crush on all the little boys, but especially Joel Courtney if I’d seen the movie when I was 13. I was really impressed with hiis performance and with little Elle Fanning. Those Fanning girls are winners.

Everyone delivered their lines fantastically. Which sounds like it should always happen, but we all know it doesn’t. Riley Griffiths, Ryan Lee, and Gabrial Basso, and Zach Mills cracked me up.

And hey! There’s Kyle Chandler of Early Edition, which you probably never watched but my family did quite faithfully! It was like Quantum Leap but with a fortune-telling newspaper instead of a time machine.

Also, all the scary parts were scary and even once you saw what you were afraid of, it was still scary. No lame revelation that what we’ve been afraid of the whole time is actually just a scaly person that ‘s allergic to water or bad computer graphics. This movie was scary. And Shumways are jumpy people. But since we were all together, it was at least half way through the movie before I realized we were the only ones screaming.

So, there you have it. I’d say Super 8 is worth a watch.