Friday, October 20, 2017

Turandot (an opera review post)

The 2017 opera season is underway. This is a short season, only five operas which will all be presented this year, but that's because the San Francisco Opera is presenting Wagner's Ring Cycle next summer! I can't wait. This is such a big deal that we had to purchase the tickets for it LAST YEAR. I have almost an equivalent anticipation for this as I did for The Phantom Menace or Raimi's Spider-Man. But none of that has to do with this opera, so let's get to that.

Turnadot was Puccini's last opera; in fact, he died before it was finished. That he died is just part of what makes this particular opera problematic and, often, controversial. The ending most often performed is by Franco Alfano and was written from Puccini's notes; however, that did not keep it from feeling inauthentic to me, not least of which was because the ending is happy. I'm not saying the ending wasn't good, and Puccini may have intended a happy ending for this one, but it didn't feel quite right to me. It's not really what he's known for.

That said, the opera was amazing. Turandot contains one of the most famous arias in all of opera: "Nessun dorma" or "None Shall Sleep." In the role of Calaf, Brian Jagde (seemingly becoming the SF Opera's tenor De Niro) performed it admirably.

The other big issue with this opera -- skipping over the issue of the name and the disagreement about how it should be pronounced -- is the... Well, I don't know if it's accurate to call it racism, but it certainly caricaturizes the Chinese. In fact, the opera was banned in China for a while because of it. But, then, the opera is kind of a cultural muddle, for which there are reasons of a sort, but you can look up the origins of the story on your own if you want to know about them.

At any rate, seeing that we are much more culturally sensitive these days than people were in the 1920s, and rightfully so, the San Francisco Opera staged it as a fairy tale. Of sorts. Which has a basis in the original story, so it all works out.

With that in mind, the sets were amazing! I mean, they were seriously amazing. I've commented previously about how great some of the sets have been at the SF Opera, but I think Turandot has had the best set design of any opera I've seen. By far. It was almost like watching a dream. Especially the scene during which "Nessun dorma" is performed. It was like a fairy forest with a bridge... Well, it was really great.

And the costumes were also really good, especially Turandot's. Actually, a couple of her gowns rivaled the sets.

The only possible negative I have about this presentation is that there was actually a lot of that whole standing and singing thing. However, possibly due somewhat to the richness of the sets and that, often, there were background chorus people milling around, it didn't often feel that way, and, when it did, it felt more natural.

This production of Turandot is definitely one of the best operas I've seen so far.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Power (part 4)

It was difficult to go to sleep that Monday night. Not that it was hard to fall asleep – after all, it had been a stressful day, and I hadn’t really slept the night before – but the idea of going to sleep was difficult, no matter how tired I was. What if something happened? It’s not like we could keep the radio on all night, not with it being powered by hand, and neither of us had any kind of cell service to speak of, so we weren’t sure if alerts would come through. In fact, I didn’t receive any alerts on my phone through the entire event.

We also knew we couldn’t just stay up. After all, what if something did happen and we were too tired to respond appropriately? We were just going to have to trust that we would respond if evacuation sirens went off in our neighborhood. So, with no small amount of hesitation, we went to bed, and I went pretty much straight to sleep. Fortunately, there were no sirens in the night.

Smoke was heavy in the street the next morning, Tuesday morning, worse than it had been on Monday. The wind had died down to almost nothing, fortunately for the fire fighters, but that meant the smoke was settling down to the ground and hanging out like June bugs on a screen door on a summer morning in the South.

I got the radio going first thing, hoping for some good news. There was none. None of the fires were at all contained. Evacuations were continuing, though they were moving north.

Theoretically, my wife was supposed to go to work. Theoretically, she was supposed to have been at work on Monday, too. She had almost gone on Monday, a half hour commute north, but had made the decision to work from home, something that hadn’t much happened due to the power loss and poor internet reception. It had been a good thing, though, because they had shut down the freeway north of us about half an hour after she would have arrived at work. The freeway was still shut down on Tuesday morning, so she would have been stuck there overnight with no way to communicate with us. That would have been a nightmare.

That didn’t change the fact that she needed to do something about work. She couldn’t go there. Not only was the freeway closed north of us but all of the roads that would have allowed her to get there were closed.

While we were trying to figure that out – and doing things like eating peanut butter from the jar because there was nothing else to eat – my daughter managed to get a text through to me that she wanted to come home – she would rather be at home with us and bored than at her grandparents’ – not that I was able to respond to her. So we went and picked her up, got coffee, came home, and ended up back there anyway, because there was internet at my father-in-law’s, and my wife needed internet so that she could “go” to work. And she had a meeting she needed to do later in the day so that everyone could freak out about the fire and the danger to the various vineyards. Yes, my wife works in the wine industry.

We had dinner over there again on Tuesday night, this time with actual food. Not that hot dog spaghetti wasn’t actual food, but my father-in-law and his wife stopped by the grocery store on their way home from work (because their office is also in the south part of town, and not everything could come to a standstill because of the fire no matter how weird it was to have so much completely closed down on one side of town and some areas still functioning normally) and bought stuff for dinner to go with some things I brought over from our now warm fridge.

During dinner, my wife got word from one of our neighbors that the power was back on so, after dinner and talking, we loaded back up, kids included, and went home. After all, if they had turned the power back on in our neighborhood, they must have believed that the immediate danger had passed. I have to say that it was a nice feeling to all go home together.

Not that everything was back to normal. Even though we had power back, which meant the internet, the internet itself went down the following morning. That, of course, meant more issues with work for my wife – she still couldn’t get to her office – and general boredom for the kids, but we got that back on Thursday morning. We didn’t get our gas back on – we were safe enough for electricity but not for gas – until Saturday, and it was so nice to finally have a hot shower again! Which is not to say that the lack of hot water, in comparison to the losses so many people suffered, was more than a minor inconvenience, but I did have a renewed appreciation for the miracle of hot water right from your tap.

[Note: I'll be finishing this up next week with one final post. Everything was in a slow denouement for us after Tuesday so, though there is more I could say about our experience, it's not of much consequence. After the post next week, I'll be pulling all of these prior posts down so, if you haven't read the earlier ones, now is your chance.]

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Silent Night (part 3)

That said, Monday was a waiting game, like being stuck in traffic behind a terrible accident. But a terrible accident involving a bus full of people you know. All you can do is sit and wait to hear if there are casualties, but you know that emergency services are having difficulty getting there because of all the backed-up traffic.

All of our information was coming through the radio and my wife’s phone. We have different carriers because her phone has been supplied through her employer. My phone lost service fairly early. Hers only got spotty and, if she went and stood out in the street in front of our house, she could get her email and check Facebook. For a while. Eventually, the radio was all we had left. Later, we found out that more than 2/3 of the cell towers had gone down; some to fire, some to loss of power.

Let me rephrase that: If my wife went outside and stood in the street and the smoke haze and the falling ash, ash falling like a light powdering of snow, she could get a signal on her phone. Except not all of the ash was like snow, because some of it was burned pages of books drifting silently out of the sky like pages from people’s lives. Some people found burned photos, a testament to the specific lives which had gone up in flames.

By noon, we started hearing about places that had burned. We started hearing about places being evacuated, including two of the three hospitals: the largest and the second largest. It’s hard not to panic when places in the city you generally consider completely safe are being evacuated, and what’s safer than a hospital? We started hearing about people we know and how they had lost their homes, people who had escaped from their homes in the middle of the night with only the clothes they were wearing.

Fire moves fast when they’re being powered by 60 mph winds.

Having no electricity, I had to keep the kids out of the refrigerator as much as possible. It’s amazing how difficult it is to get through to teenagers that they need to open the fridge and take out everything they need all at once. That means they have to know everything they need before they open the door. Then, open the door and put everything back all at once. I suppose that’s harder than it sounds.

And I had to keep them completely out of the freezer. Of course, there was ice cream in there that my daughter wanted, but, without knowing how long the electricity would be out, I couldn’t have them letting all the cold air out just for the purpose of stress eating.

Which meant there was nothing that my daughter wanted to eat. She wanted me to cook something, but we have an electric stove, so that was out. It was like she reverted to being seven, though, because every hour or so, she would come out of her room to ask what there was to eat. The answer never changed.

Eventually, we decided to drive across town to my father-in-law’s house. Last we’d heard, they still had electricity and, being in the south part of the town and relatively far from the massive fire, they had said to come over there if we had to evacuate. At the point we decided to go, we had no way of contacting them because cell service had deteriorated to nothing.

We had the kids bring their go bags with them, and I packed mine in the car; after all, what good would it do to have it ready to go if I wasn’t there to grab it if we had to go. I’ve lugged my notebooks around with me all week, now, actually. It was good that we had them bring them, because we left the kids there when my wife and I went home that night.

At that moment, though, standing in front of their door, the kids with their bags in their hands, they thought we were there to stay. And my daughter was looking forward to food that wasn’t cereal, which she had used up at breakfast anyway, or peanut butter, especially since we didn’t have bread. She was looking forward to food right up until we found out that they didn’t have any because they hadn’t done any grocery shopping for a couple of weeks. And there was no grocery shopping to be done that evening with the city in a state of… Well, what can you call it other than “panic.”

But it’s amazing what you can throw together when you need to do that. My father-in-law dug around and threw together a hot dog-spaghetti dinner, a real summer camp meal. It’s not fine dining, but it made my daughter happy; well, really, it made everyone happy. Not so much the meal as being all together.

So we ate and we sat and we talked, sometimes about the fire but mostly about other things and, eventually, my wife and I went home, leaving our kids behind in a place which was theoretically safer than where we were going. That’s also harder than it sounds.

The city was quiet as we drove home. Really quiet. The kind of quiet it used to be on Christmas morning when I was a kid. Still. We were almost the only car on the road. About halfway home, we crossed 3rd Street, the street which, effectively, divides the north part of the city from the south part, and everything went dark. You forget what it’s like to drive without street lights because they’re almost everywhere and, even in places where they’re not, there’s generally the lights from nearby houses or stores or whatever. But above 3rd, there was nothing. No lights. No sounds. Other than the sound of our car, and we were in the Prius, which is like a normal car in stealth mode, so it was pretty silent.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Clone Wars -- "The Big Bang" (Ep. ?.4)

-- If at first you don't succeed, destroy it.

This may be my favorite Clone Wars story arc in terms of sheer enjoyment. Many of the arcs, even the good ones, will have an episode that's a little off, but not this one. Each episode contained topnotch dialogue, and I frequently found myself LOLing. Actually, dialogue is a big thing for me. Justified is my favorite TV show in large part because of the excellent dialogue throughout the entire series (and I think it must be difficult to sustain that kind of great dialogue through five seasons of a show since so few shows manage it). This arc is like that: excellent dialogue throughout, especially the banter between Obi-Wan and Anakin.

It doesn't hurt, too, that this arc teases things to come in the movies. Most of The Clone Wars is self-contained and, other than the characters, does not relate to the movies at all. It seems the thrust of season six was to change all of that. Between the opening arc with the ties to Order 66, the Yoda arc, and, now, this one; I get the impression that the creators were working to bring the series into closer synchronicity to the movies. I like it.

And, again, it makes me sad that they pulled the plug on the series because, if season six was a taste of what was to come, The Clone Wars was only getting better.

"Cavalier! You're cavalier all the time and no one says anything about it."
"I'm just better at it; that's all."

"It's amazing what you can accomplish when you don't get captured."

Monday, October 16, 2017

The Red Glow in the Sky (part 2)

I left her to do the research on what was actually going on while I took the dog out. The dog, too, was up early and wanting to go out hours before she usually wants to do that. Agitated, I guess.

We, the dog and I, went out the door into the pre-dawn darkness and made our way to the end of the driveway and turned north to go up the sidewalk…

…and the sky glowed red against the black of night.

The wind had died down in the previous hour or so, but it had already done its job: north Santa Rosa was on fire. It’s tempting to say “all of it,” but that’s not really true, though it feels like it is. Huge parts of it.

I did my best after I got back with the dog to get coffee and breakfast made, but they turned off the power before I was finished. Fortunately, I hadn’t yet cracked the eggs. And when I say “they turned off the power,” that’s what I mean. Evidently, downed live power lines exacerbated the fires, so they shut the power off to my part of town as a precaution.

Which meant no internet. And no news.

It caused the same kind of feeling as being in a waiting room at a hospital waiting to hear about someone in surgery.

However, a few years ago, my daughter gave me a hand-crank radio – an emergency-use radio – a radio I thought I would never use. Not only do we not really use the radio anymore, just in general, but I certainly don’t use it for local news. But, on Monday, I did. Fortunately, even though I never expected to use it, I’d kept it where I knew where it was and somewhere I could get to if I needed it. It was not packed away in a box somewhere.

The news was not good. It wasn’t just north Santa Rosa that was on fire but huge areas of the county. And other counties next to us. Fires. Everywhere. The beginnings of what is now the worst natural disaster in the history of California. But, maybe, I’m getting ahead of myself. We didn’t know that yet.

Early Monday morning, we were more concerned with whether we were going to need to evacuate; after all, the area that was burning was not really very far from our house, the mandatory evacuation line less than a mile away.

We told our kids to gather some necessities, to make “go bags,” as they say. To their credits, there was no whining or complaining about leaving behind any “stuff.” No “but what about my…!” They both packed bags with some clothes and toothbrushes and that was about it, though my son did also take his laptop. It does, after all, have all of his animation and music work on it. They both also set aside all of their school stuff to take with them, if that tells you anything.

I’m just going to point out here that I own a lot of collectibles. A lot. I collected comic books through my teens and twenties, not to mention that I ran more than one comic book/gaming store, and still have most of those. I actively played Magic (and collected the cards) for more than a decade. I still have all my Star Wars toys from when I was a kid. I have a lot of “stuff.”

There have been times in my life when I have spent considerable time wondering what I would do in the event of a fire or a flood or a whatever and only had time to grab a few things or the amount of things that would fit in my car. What would I take? I’ve never been able to come up with a good answer to that question. Not in the past. When it came to it, I didn’t consider any of those things when it came time to decide what I would I was taking with me.

No, when it came to it, I packed my notebooks with my writing along with my laptop and my flash drive. I tossed in my camera because it had pictures on it I hadn’t uploaded yet. That was it. That was my “go bag.”

I had my family and my work, and that was enough. There wasn’t even any angst about the rest.

Friday, October 13, 2017

The Smell of Smoke (part 1)

The smell of smoke was in the air. Strong, like sitting around a campfire, but the smoke haze in the air had no obvious source. I thought back to the plume of smoke we’d seen from the highway on the way home from the south Bay earlier in the day. Not that we’d agreed that it was smoke, but I’d thought it was smoke.

Still, as far as I could tell, there was nothing to see. I went to the backyard to take down the windchimes. The wind was picking up and, on a windy night, they would make too much noise – noise that was otherwise considered music or, at least, pleasant – for my wife to be able to sleep. I went back around to the front of the house for one last look around then went inside.

The wind that night was horrendous, what they all Diablo winds. Hurricane strength. That’s not an exaggeration. Just strong enough to be a category one, but they’re called hurricanes for a reason. The wind blew in the sounds of sirens. All night. Sirens and what sounded like explosions. They sounded like explosions because they were.

Something woke me up around 2:00 am; I didn’t know what. Maybe it was the sirens or maybe it was something nearer at hand; either way, it’s when I became aware of the sirens. The smell of smoke inside the house was as strong as it had been outside earlier. I laid in the bed for a moment, my wife asleep beside me, becoming aware of the distant sirens and the muffled popping of propane tank explosions. I got up and wandered worriedly through the house, finding nothing to warrant my concerns. Besides, despite the smell of smoke, the smoke detector was silent.

I didn’t really go back to sleep after that. The wind and the sirens kept me awake. Still, I jerked to alertness when the smoke detector went off. Just a single beep, followed a moment later by one more single beep. The smell of smoke was, if anything, stronger, so I didn’t understand why it would just beep the twice.

So I got up and checked through the house again, also checking out the windows as well as I could. Still nothing. Then I realized that the detector had gone off because the power had gone out. It’s hardwired into the house, and it beeps anytime the power goes off or comes back on. It was only for a moment, but it was long enough to de-set the stove clock: 3:17 was flashing.

Sleep still didn’t come, but it was too early to get up. I laid in the bed thinking about it, but I was tired, and I wanted to sleep, a desire that was at odds with the continued wind and sirens. My brain wondered exactly what was going on.

Eventually, the alarm went off and I rolled out of bed somewhat disgruntled about the lack of sleep I’d had. Not that that is necessarily any different from how I feel any given morning. I stumbled out to my computer and turned it on, hoping to find something out while I worked on setting up for breakfast.

Facebook is never the first thing I open on my computer. Never. Or even the second. But, for whatever reason, Monday morning, October 9, it was. The first thing I saw I was a post: “My city is on fire.” What the fuck! That’s my city!

Before I had a chance to do anything else, my phone and my wife’s phone both started ringing. The only time that happens is when it’s an important message from my daughter’s school, so I answered it. School had been cancelled for the day… because of the fires.

Fires. With an “s.”

Which explained the sirens.

I went and woke up my wife.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Clone Wars -- "Crystal Crisis" (Ep. ?.3)

-- Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

"Size matters not," seems to be a concept that more than just Luke struggled with. Maybe it's more of a theory? I don't know, but Anakin and Obi-Wan debate the issue as they deal with the massive Kaiburr crystal they've found themselves in position of. The quality of the dialogue and banter continues to be topnotch in this arc.

I think it's safe to say that the events in this arc are the direct precursor to what's happening on Utapau in Revenge of the Sith. I wouldn't say it's necessary viewing, but it's certainly interesting. More than one person finds out what it's like to cut a deal with the Sith. Yes, the emphasis is on purpose.

Also, while not the direct precursor to events in Rogue One, I think it's safe to safe that we're seeing some of the events that lead in that direction. Of course, the Death Star is also teased in Revenge, so this is still part of that path.

I don't know that I would say this arc is significant in the same way that I have said that about other arcs, but it's certainly one of my favorite at this point. I'll reserve judgement until I finish part four.

"Next time, I'll bring Master Windu."
"Yeah, 'cause he's loads of fun."

"Aren't you being adventurous today."
"Not by choice, I assure you."

Monday, October 9, 2017

"Creative Differences" or White Male Privilege at Work

If you follow any Star Wars news at all, which I do...
Okay, that's not exactly true, as such. I don't actually follow Star Wars news or do any searching out of Star Wars news or follow any Star Wars sites. This is much different from my younger years when I did all of that stuff but, mostly, these days, I don't want to know anything ahead of time about the movies or what's going on, so I don't keep up on that stuff. Or any of the Marvel stuff, either. However, when there's news that makes the mainstream media cut, I notice it and, depending on what it is, I might go read it. Never, though, if it's talking about plot stuff or leaked stuff or anything stuff that has to do with the content of any project still in development.


If you notice Star Wars news at all, which I do, you might have noticed recently that a couple of projects that are in development have lost their directors. The first was Episode IX director Colin Trevorrow and the second was the directing duo Phil Lord and Christopher Miller who were set to direct the upcoming solo Han film. [no, I'm not apologizing] The reason given in both circumstances was "creative differences."

But what does that even mean?

Or, you know, what does it mean in this particular circumstance? Because, based on things said, especially by Lord and Miller, I can tell you. It means that the directors believed, based on the fact that they were hired at all, that they should be allowed to do whatever the fuck they wanted to do with the movies without any regard to what Disney hired them to do. It was white privilege at work (because the guys who do this kind of shit are always white dudes who start whining about how they're not being allowed their creative freedom).

Now, I'm not going to get into the minutia of how Disney catalyzed the problem by trying to hire hot, new directors and offering them some amount of creative control (like allowing them to take part in the writing process (something that has had two non-successes so far)), because this is about doing the job you're hired to do.

So let's start with Lord and Miller, the guys behind The Lego Movie, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, 21 Jump Street, and a bunch of other comedic offerings. Yeah, in hindsight, maybe not the best fit for a Star Wars film, but Disney wanted the Han Solo film to be a bit heavier on the humor than previous Star Wars movies, so they hired some guys who had shown themselves capable. And Lord and Miller were riding a popularity wave after the Lego thing.

Here's your analogy:
Disney hired Lord and Miller to paint their Han Solo room. They told Lord and Miller they could paint the room however they wanted to do it as long as they stayed within the provided color palette and didn't include any clowns. And, so, Lord and Miller start painting neon green (not an acceptable color) clowns everywhere. When confronted about it, they do the classic, "Let us do what we want or we're gonna quit!" Disney showed them the door.

And Trevorrow? His claim to fame is that he wrote and directed one of last summer's biggest movies, Jurassic World. Of course, he "wrote" it by re-making Jurassic Park. Yes, they are basically the same movie. Who knows what he wanted to do with Episode IX, but it wasn't what Disney told him they wanted, but he figured he was a big enough hot shot to not have to listen to Disney, so they let him walk, too.

And I get that some of you might think I'm reaching when I say this is white privilege at work, but you don't get this kind of attitude from little nobody people unless they're white dudes. Seriously, Trevorrow? I'm still trying to figure out why they thought he was a good idea in the first place. The guy's a hack with almost no experience. And, while Lord and Miller have been around awhile and made some movies that have been noticed, they're not exactly household names. All of them were hired to do fucking Star Wars, and they couldn't get their heads out of their own asses long enough to realize what was going on.

Probably some of you are going, "But millennials...," right about now, but none of these guys are millennials. They're all gen-x white dudes. Really, it's not millennials who think they're all special; it's mostly just white dudes. Of all kinds of ages.

I mean, seriously, you have to think pretty fucking highly of yourself to try to hi-jack a Star Wars movie to make a name for yourself. Outside of the fact that if you're hired to do a job, a specific job, you DO THE FUCKING JOB you were hired to do. You don't get to do some other job that you'd rather be doing. And when it's Disney and Star Wars... Did someone hit these guys in the heads with a hammer?

But, then, that's the kind of culture we've put in place, a culture where white cops get to shoot people of color and walk away from it. A culture where a white man brags of sexually assaulting women and white men vote for him to be president.

White dudes are always going on about millennials and how they think they're all "special snowflakes," but the only ones I see out there acting as if they're special is white dudes, which just makes me sad to be a white dude. And when you're such a white dude that you can't manage to collaborate on a Star Wars project... Well, there really aren't any words for that kind of assholery.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Day 34 (a future history)

Thursday, February 22, 2018

I’m going to run away. I’m really going to do it. I don’t care if I don’t have enough money. I’m not staying here anymore.

This week has been shit.

Tuesday morning when we got to school, we found out that all of the little Nazi boys had had their lockers vandalized. All 18 or 20 of them. I don’t even know how many there are, though I think they’re adding more. yay It was all stuff like

Fuck Nazis
Nazis suck cock
Nazis are LOSERS

Most of us thought it was pretty funny.

Caleb didn’t. Caleb was going around school calling it terrorism and demanding to know who’d done it. Like anyone would tell him. No one liked him before he had his Nazi goon squad, and everyone hates him now. But Caleb whined to daddy. He actually went to the office before school had even started and called him, so there was a special emergency assembly called during first period. It turns out that Caleb’s dad isn’t just in the National Guard but is a captain or a sergeant or something and is the Nazi in charge of the Nazi babies.

Captain Nazi gave us a long speech about how this kind of behavior wouldn’t be tolerated and that the people responsible should turn themselves in to avoid horrible punishment. He also offered a reward for anyone who would turn in the people who did it.

So there’s this guy, Evan, who’s kind of a smart ass. He’s always saying disruptive stuff in class and making teachers mad and, sometimes, making them look dumb. He’s super smart and he knows it. He doesn’t care about any school stuff because he already knows it all. But he really doesn’t try to make people feel stupid. Except for teachers when they act like they’re right because they’re the teachers or people who are really just being stupid. I think he likes the attention he gets from being a smart ass in class because he’s so bored with being in school.

So Evan stood up, just stood up as soon as Captain Nazi-pants offered a reward, and said, “I know who did it.” Everyone got real quiet, and I’m sure whoever did do it was scared. I would have been scared. But I also wouldn’t narc on people bashing Nazis and couldn’t believe Evan was going to, even for a reward. Evan didn’t say anything. He just kept standing there. Everybody was looking at him, and I think he was enjoying it.

Eventually, Nazi-pants said, “Well?”

And Evan smirked and said, “It was your momma.”

Which doesn’t sound very brilliant coming from Evan – that’s the kind of thing a 6th grader would say – unless he was trying to say the thing that would most piss off Nazi-pants. Or almost the thing that would most piss him off. Because Caleb started yelling, “You take that back! Take it back!” And Evan looked at him and said, “And your momma was watching and sucking a big black dick while it was happening. Two of them, in fact.”

Nazi-pants lost it. He went flying off the stage in a rage but some other National Guard Nazi guy had Evan by the arm and was pulling him from his seat by the time Nazi-pants got there. Caleb was right behind his dad. Evan was freaked out and trying to get away. Caleb’s dad grabbed Evan and punched him in the face. Just punched him in the face! Blood hit the wall and Evan collapsed. Caleb started kicking him and no one stopped him.

Evan is just a kid. Really a kid. He’s in 8th grade, but that’s because he skipped a couple of years of school. He might only be 10. I don’t know.

I think everyone was too shocked by what was happening to do anything, but the soldiers weren’t shocked; they just didn’t care. Eventually – and it probably wasn’t really very long, but it felt like a long time – Mr. Chambers started yelling for them to stop and headed that way, but soldier dudes got in his way. But Mr. Chambers is a big guy and used to play football and wrestle and stuff, coach stuff, and kept pushing his way through. Then the soldier dudes started attacking him, and he was knocking them all down until one of them pulled out his gun and told Mr. Chambers to freeze.

By that time, Nazi-pants was arguing with the principal, and a few moments later, the police and an ambulance showed up. I guess someone must have snuck out and called 911 during all of the fighting and confusion with Mr. Chambers. Nazi-pants didn’t want to let the ambulance take Evan away, but the police made him leave them alone. I think they may have been trying to arrest Nazi-pants, but I don’t really know. All I know is more police came and, when the more police got there, they made all of us clear out.

At some point, between the police getting there and the more police getting there, the soldiers took Mr. Chambers away. He hasn’t been back to school. Neither has Evan.

Evan, though, is in the hospital. The school did let us know that so that any of us who want to can go visit him. I want to visit him, but I wasn’t really friends with him, so that seems awkward to me. Especially since he can’t talk because of the broken jaw. And broken nose. And cracked ribs. And internal bleeding. His dad is someone kind of important, I think, so I hope he makes bad things happen to Captain Nazi-pants.

No one knows what happened to Mr. Chambers.

So far, nothing has happened to Nazi-pants, at least according to Caleb. He’s been bragging, now, about how his dad can do whatever he wants and no one can do anything about it or stop him. And, according to Caleb, that means he can also do anything he wants and no one can stop him, either. It seems like the teachers believe it, because they are letting Caleb get away with everything, even telling them what to do.

Mom is calling for dinner. More beans and rice, probably. That’s all we’ve had to eat for a week, and I’m sick and tired of beans and rice. But I’m also hungry. Mom is talking about getting chickens, but dad keeps saying no. Mom says we at least need them for the eggs because it’s been almost three weeks since we’ve had any meat, and it was two weeks before that.

But, anyway, all of that was JUST Tuesday, but I’ll have to talk about Wednesday later.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Act 1 -- New Game (or) Music To Write By

A couple of months ago, I posted about a song my son composed. You can read about it here. And you should, too, because it's a really great song. A song he wrote and just sprang on us, as I sort of implied in the linked post. "Aurora Daedalus" is something I can write by, and I can't listen to much music when I'm writing. But I digress...

Over the next couple of days, he wrote a couple more songs:
"Eternal Voyage"
"Love Me and Despair"
That's the last we heard of it.

He's kind of tight lipped about what he's working on so gentle probes didn't get any results. Then probes that were less gentle still didn't get any responses, so we quit asking.
I have to come clean at this point and say that he probably gets that from me. I'm not as bad as I used to be, but I tend to not want anyone to see my work until it's finished. Or even know that I'm working on something. So, yeah... It's familiar behavior.


Last week, he asked me for help with PayPal, which was kind of weird, especially when he went on to say that he needed a business account. Wait. What?
He's produced a whole album of music and had it all set on a hosting site and everything, but they require a PayPal account to deposit money into.
Fortunately, I have a PayPal business account.

Shameless boasting:
This is the part where I'm going to point out that this is the son I wrote the long education series about and further point out that he's only 16. Sure, it's not like he's Mozart or anything, but I think this is a lot of talent for 16.


His album, Act 1 -- New Game is available through bandcamp, and you should definitely go check it out. Seriously, give it a listen. And, then, give it a purchase. It's only $5.00, and, hey, it's music to write by. Or cook by. Or whatever. No, you can't sing to it (since there are no lyrics), but it's pretty nice background music.

Oh, also! He did all of the art. Here's the tricky part: You have to click the link for each song but, when you do, the page for that song will come up, and each song has its own piece of pixel art. Yeah, it's pixel art, but he likes it, and it's GOOD pixel art.

Look, as I tell me kids when it comes to tasting food, what have you got to lose? It's not going to kill you, and you might find something you like. Go. Now. Give it a listen and check out the art.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Clone Wars -- "In Search of the Crystal" (Ep. ?.2)

-- The journey is often more important than the destination.

[No notes this time. Go back and look at last week's episode if you need to know what's going on.]

Remember when Ahsoka quit the Jedi Order? Remember how it didn't really come up again after that happened? Well, that was more because the season six stories went off in other directions, directions that didn't focus on Anakin, than because it was forgotten. But now we're back to Obi-Wan and Anakin, and they're dealing with the fallout of Ahsoka's decision to leave.

Well, you know, as much as they can in a 22-minute episode.

This episode sustains the great banter between Obi-Wan and Anakin that the previous episode had. It literally had me LOLing, as my son would say.

We find out what Tu-Ahn was investigating on Utapau, and it's not good. Well, not good for the Republic. I would say more, but I don't want to. I mean, I do want to, but I also don't want to, and the "don't" is winning. I will say this: I'm pretty sure the events in this arc are a pre-cursor to some of the events in Rogue One, which raises some interesting questions since, supposedly, the continuation of the movie franchise hadn't yet been confirmed when Disney bought Lucasfilm and, certainly, not any non-trilogy films. Though, again, this is all part of the run-up to Revenge of the Sith, and maybe that's all it is. Maybe.

Also, we finally get to see what happens when "someone" is looking into the tube of a lightsaber when he turns it on. Sort of.

Also, also, never trust a Sith -- oh, wait, NEVER trust a Sith! -- when your bargaining and he says he will "give you what you deserve."

" usual, you went rushing in." (and got our mounts killed)

"Ahh... So you're the only one who can think on his feet."

"We're always in a ventilation duct, every ship we go in!"

Monday, October 2, 2017

Day 31 (a future history)

Monday, February 19, 2018

Trump announced his new America for Americans program this morning. I’m not really sure what it all means, but it sounds like it’s something special for white people to help white people live all together without anyone who is not white. He said if you’re white and live in a place where mostly minorities live, you can apply to have the government move you to a white neighborhood. They’ll even make sure you get a better house because houses in minority neighborhoods are always trashy. Or something like that.

He also said that if you live in a white neighborhood and have people in it you don’t like being there, minority people, you can apply to have them removed. I think he said relocated. Yeah, relocated because they’re going to have relocation camps.

The scary part is that he made that crying Nazi guy in charge of something called hud. Hud is going to be the organization making sure that America is for Americans. That’s how he said it. But the Nazi guy, when he got his turn to talk, said it was about making something he called a pure ethno state. Something like that. He said ethno state a lot. And he wore some kind of Hitler armband, which was the really scary part, because he was right there on the TV with the president wearing a Nazi thing. AND EVRYONE WAS OKAY WITH IT!

Then, he gave Trump some little gift pin thing, and Trump put it on, and it was also some kind of Nazi thing! He just put it on and everyone clapped and he called it beautiful. It made my stomach hurt like I wanted to throw up and there were people in the auditorium who were crying, but I don’t know who it was or how many.

Then all the stupid little Trump Youth Bastards started cheering and Caleb got up and said he was going to write everyone down – everyone, even teachers – who wasn’t cheering. And he did, too. Or, at least, he pulled out a notebook and started acting like it. Everyone started standing up and there were some claps, but Trump was still talking, so the Asshole (that’s Caleb) started yelling at everyone to shut up.

That didn’t make people quit crying, though. I could still hear sobbing.

It made me think of my friend Tamira, and I quit wondering why they suddenly moved away. I want to move away and I’m white! It all made me sad. I miss Tamira. She didn’t even say goodbye. They just left.

Lots of people have just left. But no one who is white.

And I think some people are just disappearing. Like Mrs. Madison. Because I don’t think she’s ever coming back, and no one is talking about it. Maybe they took her to a “relocation camp.”

Oh, the relocation camps.

Trump made someone called Arpieo in charge of the relocation camps. Arpieo is some other asshole that Trump pardoned, someone who has had his own concentration camps. Or something. I kind of remember when that Arpieo guy got pardoned, but I didn’t care, then. And I didn’t know he was running concentration camps and throwing Mexicans into them. It sounds like he had everything except the gas chambers. I don’t know; it just makes me sick, and I want someone to do something about it, but I guess people are trying to and that’s why we’re in a war.

At the end, Trump says we are now going to be called the American States. The real American States. It was just something he said at the end, but I think that means there is no more United States, which makes sense, I guess, since some states were smart enough to get away from Trump and all of the stuff he stands for.

It’s confusing to keep up with, though, because we’re at war with China and Trump says that it’s China that has taken over those other states, which I know is a lie, because why would you change the name of the country if it was someone else who had taken over part of your land. And Russia is at war with China. And maybe something happened in North Korea, but I don’t know. All I know is that Trump said we were going to do to our enemies what we did to North Korea. And maybe there’s a war in Europe, too, but no one seems to know, only that the “war in Europe” was mentioned at some point.

It all makes me feel stupid because, back when I could know stuff and find things out, I didn’t care. I didn’t care about anything happening in the world or I was trying to pretend that nothing was happening in the world. I thought everything was just going to be okay because this is (was) America and everything is always okay, even when bad disasters happen, like those hurricanes last year and everyone was freaked out but, after a little while, everything was okay again. And I just want everything to be okay again.

But I guess sometimes things are not just okay and if you want them to be then you have to do something to make it better. I just don’t know what to do. I’m only in middle school.

Friday, September 29, 2017

The Good Place (a review, of sorts)

We stumbled across The Good Place recently. Which was a good thing because it's a good show. Actually, I'd say it's a great show. As I was saying to my wife just before we found this, the problem that I have with many shows is that there is no story. For instance, we've been watching Brooklyn Nine-Nine with our kids, lately, and it's a funny show; I enjoy watching it. BUT! If we never watched it again, I wouldn't miss it. I wouldn't miss it because it has no story so I wouldn't wonder what was going to be happening next. The Good Place, despite its sitcom status, has a story, a pretty great one, too. As I said, it's a great show, currently my wife's favorite show.

Part of that is because of Kristen Bell. Actually, all of the cast is great, including Ted Danson, whom I've never been a big fan of, but he's great in this. But Kristen Bell! She's just the kind of person you'd expect to find in the "good place." Which is part of why it's so funny that -- okay, spoiler alert but not really since you find this out virtually right away in the first episode -- she's not supposed to be there. Yeah, she's died and gone to "heaven"... by mistake.

Hi-jinks ensue. Because, you know, now that she's there, she can't let anyone know there was a mistake.

Oh, and Adam Scott shows up as "Trevor" a few episodes in, and he's spectacular.

So here's the thing, and it's the thing about why it's such a huge mistake that Eleanor is in the Good Place: almost no one gets in. Like, less than .01% of people get in. The system in the show is all based on how much good a person has done in the world, and only the very best of the do-gooders get into the Good Place. Everyone else goes to the Bad Place. There's this funny bit where Eleanor asks Michael who got it right, you know, about the afterlife and all of that, and Michael says something along the lines of, "Well the Christians got it about 5% right, and the Muslims got it about 5% right, basically, everyone got it about 5% right." Then he goes on to say that one guy sitting around a campfire one night doing mushrooms got it 92% right, but he was the only ever who got even close. The whole thing is kind of brilliant.

Not the getting into "heaven" by doing good things, but the part where no one has gotten it right. Because if there's one thing the religions of the world have in common it's that they, none of them, have not gotten "it" right. Oh, and they all think they have.

Which is why there should be more shows like this, shows that state bluntly, even in a comedic way, you've got it all wrong. Though this might be a show that "christians" avoid. I'm pretty sure that when I was younger I would have been offended enough by the premise of the show (that you earn your place in the Good Place by doing good in the world) that I would never have watched it no matter how funny it was. And there are a lot of people out there who are like how I was. Which is to say: stuck in dogma. Which is to say: wrong.

All of that to say that this is a show you should check out, especially if you're a "christian." While I don't necessarily agree that it's how much good we do in the world that gets us into Heaven or the Good Place or whatever you want to call it, it's certainly an idea that more of us should be paying attention to.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Clone Wars -- "A Death on Utapau" (Ep. ?.1)

-- One crime has to be concealed by another.

A couple of notes before I get into the episode:

  • All of the voice acting for season six had already been completed when they found out that the license for Clone Wars had not been renewed on Cartoon Network, which means the stories and scripts were complete.
  • Only about half of the season, "The Lost Missions" episodes, had had the animation completed, and not even those episodes had all of the animation completed. But the guys in charge -- at Disney, I presume -- decided those 13 episodes were close enough for them to be completed for release on disc.
  • These episodes, the "Unknown" episodes, have been presented on the Star Wars website with the voice acting set to the storyboards. The animated storyboards which are actually kind of cool.
  • These unfinished episodes, despite not being finished, are still considered canon material.
"A Death on Utapau" finds Anakin and Obi-Wan on Utapau investigating a death, not surprising considering the title. heh But it's the death of a Jedi, Jedi Master Tu-Anh. Obi-Wan describes her as being unconventional, like Qui-Gon, and, as such, she frequently was off doing her own thing without the Council's knowledge. Such was the case on Utapau; no one even knew she was there until she was found dead... with no obvious signs as to the cause of that death.

This episode is a bit like a detective story, and they do a pretty good job with it for a 22-minute show. The banter between Obi-Wan and Anakin is at its best. I found myself chuckling more than once. If this arc plays out to be as good as this episode, it may be one of the most enjoyable arcs of the Clone Wars run, which is sad since it didn't get completed.

The added wrinkle is that it's Utapau where Obi-Wan has his confrontation with Grievous in Revenge of the Sith. The war has not reached Utapau in this episode, so it will be interesting to see if this arc is what brings Utapau into it. Much of season six felt like it was happening just before the events of Revenge, and this episode is no different.

"Whatever it is, don't touch it."
"Uh, too late. I touched it."

Monday, September 25, 2017

Day 28 (a future history)

Friday, February 16, 2018

I hate school. I mean, I’ve always hated school, but I hate it even more now. Caleb was right about that stupid student patrol thing. Of course, it’s all boys, the worst boys, and Caleb is in charge of it. I think I hate boys, too. They all suck. And they all think they can do whatever they want now. All the time. Even come into the girls’ bathroom.

We got our ID cards on Wednesday, the same day they announced the Trump Youth Brigade. It’s all so shitty I don’t even know what to write about it all.

They gave us our ID cards in first period. And all the rules that go with them. Pages and pages of rules. We have to use them to get into school and to get out of school. We have to use them to get into the fucking bathroom, and we can only go to the bathroom twice a day. The doors won’t unlock for us if we try to use them more than that. We have to use them to ride the bus, the school bus or the city bus, and we have to use them to buy things. Even a candy bar! We have to use them to check into every single class we have. It’s how they’re going to take roll from now on.

They’re going to keep track of every place we go, because we can’t do anything without using these stupid cards! We can even add money to them so that we can buy stuff directly with our ID cards, and I think mom said that all of their credit cards and bank cards are being converted into something like the ID cards, with an extra chip that does all of the same stuff so that all of the information goes directly to the ID center. Or whatever they’re calling it.

It's got some long stupid name that I refuse to use. We’re all just calling it the ID Center. Or the Nazi Center when we can say that without getting tagged by one of the stupid Hitler Youths. I mean Trump Youth Bastards.

The problem is that I don’t really know anything about Nazis or Hitler or World War II or anything. I just know everyone started talking about Nazis and fascists and white supremacists last summer when all of the protests started. At first, it was all funny and stuff because there was that crying Nazi guy who went to jail and a bunch of those guys always whining about stuff, and that’s all I thought it was: funny.

Until Trump pardoned him and gave him a job. “Because he’s a good guy, a really good guy, and the media really really treated him unfairly. Very unfairly.” That wasn’t funny.

Then people started getting killed and it wasn’t funny anymore. Then, I just started trying to ignore it, because it was horrible. Too many fucking guns and people driving through black neighborhoods and shooting them up. And riots with people shooting each other up and police shooting everyone. And I didn’t want to know about it.

But I also feel like I’m only in middle school and shouldn’t have to know about shit like that.

But now I wish I had been paying attention and that I knew what everyone was talking about when all of that started happening. I just thought it would all pass and nothing bad could happen here. Everyone said nothing bad could ever happen in America. Or to America. I don’t know why I believed that. I knew that Trump was shit and that he was already something bad happening to America.

I wish I could remember all of those cheetos jokes about him. Those were funny. And they’re all gone now because of the internet. I bet Trump is happy about that.

So we went from riots with guns to some kind of war that they won’t tell us anything about. And I wish I lived somewhere I could find out what is going on, but I’m also happy that there isn’t any fighting happening here.
Except there was those tanks. And the attack on the air force base.

And Caleb keeps bragging that his dad is saying they’re going to let the youth brigade have guns and that they’re going to get special training and all sorts of things. I want to believe that he’s just bragging and lying, but I thought that last time.

I need to figure out how to get more money for my California box.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Clone Wars -- Season Six: The Lost Missions

So it is with no small amount of sadness that I've arrived once again at the end of The Clone Wars. I'm not going to go back through all of the stuff I've previously said about the abrupt ending of the series... even though I want to. But that's a rant I've already been on, probably more than once, and you can go back and find those posts if you want to.

The real question is whether you should take the time to watch "The Lost Missions," especially considering they didn't actually air on the Cartoon Network along with the rest of the series. Can they be that important?

In a word? Yes.

I think there are four "must see" arcs in The Clone Wars for any Star Wars fan who is interested in going beyond the movies. Two of those arcs are in season six, the first being the opening arc of the season dealing with Order 66 and the second being the two-part Yoda story that ended the season. Even if you don't watch any of the rest of Clone Wars, you can probably get enough out of these two stories to make them worth watching on their own. You won't regret it.
Unless you make the mistake of watching the Jar Jar arc, then you might regret it.
Unless you appreciate that story for the Indiana Jones nods.
Or if you like Jar Jar, which I do.
But I still found that particular story trying. Except for the Indiana Jones stuff.

Overall, The Clone Wars is a really excellent series. There are some episodes and arcs that are... less good, but, on the whole, other than the stumble with season four, it's worth your time if you like Star Wars. Or, really, even if you don't. Despite being animated and despite airing on Cartoon Network, it's not some kids' cartoon. It deals with mature issues, and it's one of the best animated series I've ever watched. You should check it out.

There are a few more episodes that were never finished (due to cancellation!), but they're available on  the Star Wars website in their unfinished form, and I'm going to check those out. At some point, I'll have an update on those.
And I'm going to get back to Rebels. Not that I meant to get away from Rebels, but time has been limited. I'll pick back up on reviews for those soon.