Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Clone Wars -- "Mystery of a Thousand Moons" (Ep. 1.18)

-- A single chance is a galaxy of hope.

[Remember, you can sign up to join the Clone Wars Project at any time by clicking this link.]

Picking up on the heels of the previous episode, we see the release of the deadly virus Dr. Vindi was making. This episode becomes one of those "find a cure" episodes that so many TV shows employ at least once. And who's infected with the virus? Padme and Ahsoka, of course. Fortunately, a clue to a cure is near at hand, though you have to wonder how the virus was ever a scourge to the galaxy when they key to the cure turns up so easily.

Yes, yes, I know! Just because they Jedi have knowledge of the cure now doesn't mean anyone knew about it when the virus was a threat. Still...

The problem for me with this episode, at least on this re-watch of it, is that there really isn't any tension. You know that Anakin and Obi-Wan will find a cure for the disease. Of course, you know that. But the whole thing felt too easy for me. I don't remember how I felt about it the first time I watched it. There's also the issue that I'm not overly fond of the racing-the clock-to-find-a-cure-for-a-deadly-disease plot. I have a difficult time buying into those, because, on the whole, they never work the way diseases actually work.

There are some good points in this story, though.

We get Obi-Wan's first (I think (I'm pretty sure (at least, I don't remember any earlier ones))) look of suspicion at Anakin to do with his feelings about Padme. It's unfortunate that the series can't really deal with this dynamic in any depth because Obi-Wan still has to be surprised during Revenge of the Sith that Padme's pregnant by Anakin.

The side character Jaybo Hood is interesting.

We get to meet the Angels of Iego, which Anakin compares Padme to all the way back in The Phantom Menace.

The one other point of interest in the episode has to do with some of the clones who have also contracted the virus. Padme makes a comment about it being a shame that so many of them are sick and one of the other clones tells her that she shouldn't be so bothered about it because it's what the clones were made for. Again, the dynamics between the clones and their "masters" is one of the most interesting aspects of the show, and I'm glad they continue to explore the relationship.

The episode has its good moments, but it's not one of the more interesting ones. Even though it carries the "plague" idea over from the previous episode, it's still really a one-off, and I prefer when they do the story arcs that include character development.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Fallacies of the Church (part two) -- All You Need Is God

Maybe you've heard the joke:

There was a man caught in a flood because he didn't leave his house when he was told to evacuate. Rather than leave, he put his faith in God to save him. The waters rose higher and higher until he was eventually forced to climb out onto his roof. Once there, a man in a small boat came by and offered to carry him to safety. The man replied, "No, thank you. God will save me."

The waters continued to rise until he was sitting on the very top of his roof. A couple of men came by in a fishing boat and offered to carry him to safety. The man replied, "No, thank you! God will save me."

The waters continued to rise until he was forced to climb to the top of his chimney to sit. A helicopter came by and lowered itself and dropped a rope. The man replied, "No, thank you! God will save me!"

The waters continued to rise, and the man was swept away and drowned. Upon entering Heaven, he said to God, "God, I put my faith in you. Why didn't you save me?"

God answered, "I sent two boats and a helicopter. What more did you want?"

** ** **

Unfortunately, this joke is the perfect example of one of the greatest lies of "the church": God is all you need. And, hey, I get it; there are plenty of verses you can point to in the Bible that seem to say that, plenty of verses that talk about how God will supply your needs. Your physical needs. Except, the problem there is that those needs, with the exception of manna in the desert, don't magically appear. People provide them.

The thing is this: This is one of the most harmful lies of the church, this idea that God is all you need. It's always delivered in the context of someone needing help, which is what makes it so destructive. Are you going through an emotional upheaval, like a divorce? Don't worry; God is all you need. Are you going through a financial difficulty, like you just lost your job and can't make your house payments? Don't worry; God is all you need. Did you just suffer a physical trauma, like you found out you have cancer? Don't worry; God is all you need.

This line is always delivered in an effort to get the human(s) saying it out of any responsibility to be of assistance in the situation. "Oh, you don't need me. God is all you need." Then, if that situation doesn't turn around and end up in a positive manner? Well, there's definitely something wrong with the individual who had the problem. That person didn't "trust" God enough or, maybe, and even worse, God didn't like that person to begin with.

"All you need is God" is a cop out from "the church" and its members delivered on a weekly basis to people "the church" doesn't want to associate with.

What's worse (and it's worse because it's more insidious) is that it teaches people to not accept help, just like the guy in the joke. Accepting help from other people is some twisted kind of weakness and proof that you're not trusting God to... what? Who knows. Materialize a stack of money in your living room? "Fix" the spouse who is initiating the divorce? Heal you over night of the cancer? I'm just going to say this: If you're in need and someone offers help, fucking take the help! That's what people are for. Because God is actually not all you need.

What I know from experience from the use of this statement against people (and, yes, I do mean "against"), either from getting out of needing to offer help or people refusing to ask for it, is that when things don't work out, people feel abandoned by God and, therefore, abandon "the church," which, actually, might be for the better. However, destroying someone's faith is never for the better. And "the church" was put here to help people, not to tell them that they only need God and everything will be okay.

Look, I'm not going to get into a tit for tat verse argument about the validity of the statement; that would be pointless. Instead, I'm going to look at one particular event in the Bible, a foundational event, you could say. It doesn't even matter if you take this event as literal fact or some sort of metaphor, the truth that comes out of this is the same either way if you believe that God created man as a being meant to be in a relationship with Him. Let's look at Adam:

God is sitting around up in Heaven and, evidently, being a bit bored. All He has are Angels who don't have "free will," whatever that means considering a third of them rebelled against Him. Whatever the case, God decides to make a man, and He does. For a while, everything is great. God comes down to the special place He made for the man, Eden, and hangs out with him every night. Maybe they played poker? Or, maybe, they had a long running game of Monopoly going? You know with just two people that game can go on for ages. Or, maybe, they just skipped stones on the lake. I don't know.

What I do know is that, after a while, God realized that He, He being God!, was not enough for Adam. Adam was lonely and bored and couldn't handle all of the work of taking care of Eden all by himself. God was NOT all Adam needed. The end result of that is... well, people. Social people that need to depend on each other and cannot get by on God alone, as it were.

And I could go on and on. God appeared to Moses and told Moses that He would be with him, and Moses said, "Nope, I need a person." David had Jonathan. Paul had Barnabas. Jesus had his disciples! God, as man, needed people! Obviously, God is NOT all you need.

That the current iteration of Christianity is full of this message, "All you need is God," from the pulpit and pews to Christian music, is, well, it's horrible and destructive and a lie. In fact, it's undermining to the whole message of true Christianity. Of course, what we have in the United States today is more of a political movement, not a faith, and that message fits right in with that. A church that is preaching the "all you need is God" teaching is, more than likely, not a church you should be attending. Unless, of course, you're already bought into the same idea as a way of avoiding helping people.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Don Quixote -- Part One (a book review post)

I'm going to start by pointing out the obvious: Don Quixote is a long book. My copy, which is in small print, has more than 1000 pages. This is the main reason why it's taken me so long to read it. Not that I'm daunted by long books, but I would look at it and look at my other books and think that I could read so many other books in the same time it took to read Don Quixote, and that's what I would do. [I had the same problem when I was a kid collecting Star Wars toys. There would be some big item I wanted, like the Millennium Falcon or an AT-AT, that I would save up money to get but, when I got to the store, I would look at that one thing and realize how many action figures I could buy with the same money and end up buying the action figures.] I'm sorry I waited so long to read it.

Don Quixote is a great book full of laugh out loud moments. Now, understand, this is a book that was written 400 years ago. What this tells me, which is something I already knew but this serves as confirmation, is people don't really change all that much. I mean, you have everything here, from Quixote and Sancho puking in each other's faces to political satire to ripping on other authors' popularity despite poor quality writing to statements about the human condition. The book is compelling and a surprisingly fast read. At least it was for me.

Just the basics in case you don't know them: Quixote (not his real name) is a minor Spanish noble in love with chivalry and everything to do with it, so much so that he decides to become a knight. Let me be clear about this: He just decides to become a knight. This would be like just deciding to become Batman. You go out and buy a Batman costume and a bunch of gadgets and start stalking the streets in hopes of finding bad guys to beat up. Essentially, this is what Quixote does. He puts on some armor, gets his nag of a horse, and hits the trails looking for bad guys to defeat in honorable combat. Needless to say, hi-jinks ensue. And a little bit of crazy. Okay, a lot of crazy.

The crazy is best summed up in the whole tilting-at-windmills scene but only because, if there's anything people know about Don Quixote, it's the bit where he tries to joust with the windmills. He thinks they're giants. This is far from the best or funniest scene in the book; people know about it because it happens early. It's like how everyone knows about the Lilliputians from Gulliver's Travels even though the first section, the section in Lilliput, is the least of that book.

Quixote's friends don't like what he's doing and decide that he's gone crazy and needs to be cured. Their method of curing him is to burn all of his books. Books, see, are bad examples. At least, the books about chivalry that Quixote loves are bad examples, so they decide to remove the source of his illness by burning the books. Of course, before they burn them, they go through them and keep for themselves all of the valuable ones or the ones they just happen to like. It's really pretty horrible.

It's also Cervantes method of dismissing authors he thought were hacks (for lack of a better word) and uplifting authors he admired. Including, or maybe especially, contemporaries.

Look, there's a reason that this book is still considered one of the greatest novels ever written. I wish I hadn't waited so long to get around to it. It's well worth the time even if it does look long.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Clone Wars -- "Blue Shadow Virus" (Ep. 1.17)

-- Fear is a disease; hope is its only cure.

[Remember, you can sign up to join the Clone Wars Project at any time by clicking this link.]

This is another one-shot episode. I want to like it, but I don't quite, I think. The villain, Dr. Nuvo Vindi, is too cliche, too Nazi mad scientist. He even defends the right of life for a virus, the most deadly virus the galaxy has ever known.

And, fine, I get that. It's an interesting philosophical question. What right do we as humans have to try to eradicate diseases, which are also living things? But I don't think anyone is going to say that any living thing doesn't have the right to try to defend itself against things that are trying to kill it and a disease, by default, is attacking the host. So, yeah, I find the argument that a killer virus has just as much right to life as humans to be a little... weak. To say the least.

The threat is one of biological warfare. Dr. Vindi, working for the Separatists, wants to release a virus that could, potentially, wipe out all life in the galaxy. Of course, it wouldn't affect droids, so the droid army would be able to advantage of the chaos of a plague and defeat the Republic while they tried to halt the spread of the virus. From that perspective, I can't say it's a bad plan. And it mirrors the efforts of certain groups in our world to weaponize diseases for use in war.

Beyond that layer, though, it's just another rescue mission. Padme and Jar Jar, because they go off on their own, get captured by Vindi. Since Anakin's along, the focus is on rescuing Padme even though he knows the stakes are much higher. So we do get to see that some more, that Anakin's attachment to Padme is something that interferes with who he is as a Jedi. It's good development. But I do think I'm ready for them to lay off of the rescue missions for a little while, especially ones that involve Padme getting caught because she goes off like Lois Lane in pursuit of a story knowing that Superman will rescue her.

Okay, well, it's a fine episode. Taken on its own, it's an especially fine episode. Jar Jar is fine. Everything is fine. For the season, though, I don't think this one is particularly strong in comparison to some of the other stories.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Fallacies of the Church -- An Introduction (part one)

As I've talked about before, I grew up in "the church;" specifically, I grew up Southern Baptist. Beyond that, I've worked in "the church," across several different denominations. The difference between me and most people who grow up in "the church" is that, from a young age, I began exploring Christianity on my own. What I mean by that is that I did not rely on Sunday School or the pastor or the youth pastor or whomever to teach me what's what about what's in the Bible and anything and everything related to that. I studied on my own.

My tendency to do my own studying (I was the only one in my youth group when I was a teenager who had read the Bible (even worse, when I got to college, I knew ministerial students who had never read the Bible (that, actually, was more than 90% of them))) led to many disagreements between me and authority figures at my church when I was a teenager. They would say something like... Let's use a great Southern Baptist example! "The Bible says it's a sin to dance." And I would reply, "No, it doesn't." Then, there would be some complicated rationalization about how all these other things the Bible said arrived at the conclusion that "dancing is a sin." It's very clear that God thought it was excellent when David, so overcome by joy and praise for God, danced naked through the streets. I'm sorry, but it's hard to get past that.

The thing is, whenever I would get into one of these disagreements with an authority figure in my church (and remember, I was only 16-17 years old), they would always have to concede to me that I was right. Because I was. They had just accepted things because of the tradition that the church had that the Bible said these things (like "God helps those who help themselves," and "Cleanliness is next to Godliness"). The only one of these I didn't get a full turnaround from the other person had to do with the rapture and when that will happen (in relation to the other events of Revelation, not what year it will happen). He couldn't bring himself to tell me I was right, so he came back with, "I'm not saying you're right, but I will say that I was wrong."

Now, you might be thinking right about now, "Why does any of this matter? I don't care about the rapture or what Baptists think about dancing," and I get that. Totally. I don't care about what the Baptists think about dancing, either, even if I can't do it (and you can ask my wife, even after lessons and more lessons, I just can't dance). However, some of these things "the church" teaches are damaging to people, including what it teaches, mostly, about the rapture. I don't mean damaging in a little way, either. I mean damaging in a big way in that it becomes damaging to society in general.

Now, I am not setting out to be offensive, but I am sure that some, if not all, of what I say will be found to be offensive by at least some of the people who visit my blog. I'd like to care more about that, but I kind of don't. If I did, I wouldn't do this series to begin with. People in "the church" tend to believe too much and trust too much what pastors say just because it is a pastor who is saying it, pastors who have never read the Bible all the way through or ever bother to learn the historical context of what they were reading. I have had people tell me, "You don't need no schooling to be a preacher, all you need to do is have a Bible." And that attitude explains the abject ignorance of at least 80% of "the church." [Yes, I pulled that figure out of my butt, but I expect it's more like 95%, so I was being extremely generous. Remember, I spent decades around people in "the church" and found very few of them to be any kind of enlightened. About anything.]

Anyway... back at the beginning of the year, I promised to be more offensive, and this is just another of the ways I intend to do it. I don't have an issue with tackling difficult topics.

All of that being said, I am a Christian, but I am only a Christian in that I believe in the Kerygma (as I talked about here). I am certainly not the current iteration of cultural "Christian" who is so far removed from anything that Christ taught that if Jesus walked into their church, they would turn Him out. Or barely tolerate his presence in hopes that He would leave on His own. I'll put it like this: I find "the church" to be offensive. I find a significant number of right-wing nutjobs supporting their actions by waving the Bible around (like Kim Davis) to be offensive. I find the people who hold rallies for those people and wave the Bible around as an excuse (I'm looking at you Mike Huckabee) to be offensive. Well, it's time for you to own up to what's not actually in the Bible and to start treating people the way Jesus said to: with love.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Softball Victims

Let me start out by saying that I don't carry cash. Almost ever. I only carry it when I know I'll need it. My kids got me out of the habit of ever having cash on me something like 10 years ago. If I carry it, they spend it.

I haven't talked about my daughter's softball stuff this year at all. I've meant to, but, really, I've had other things on my mind and just didn't get to it. The main thing you should know is that we let her do fall ball, this year, for the first time. Yes, it's difficult to keep up with the softball schedule during the school year. So difficult!

But, anyway, she had her first fall tournament this past weekend. Which they won, by the way. I'm just telling you now because this post isn't about that. Actually, this post isn't really about softball at all. So, see, when we got there, I had to pay to get in. I had to pay to get in!

There were some problems with this:
1. I have never had to pay to get into one of my daughter's softball tournaments before.
2. No one told me I was going to have to pay.
3. I don't carry cash.
Needless to say, I was a bit irate. Hmm... "a bit" might be an understatement.

As I was pulling out my cash... oh, wait! the cash. Well, see, after my daughter and I were already in the car and pulling out, I thought, "Wait, I better go in and grab some cash so that I can buy water if I need to." Because I didn't have any water to take with me. Yes, I didn't plan ahead very well for this particular tournament in those regards. So I hopped out of the car, much to the chagrin of my daughter who was worried about being late, and ran back in for some cash.

So I was pulling the cash out of my pocket as I was being upset about the whole thing, and I said to the girl who taking the money, "What if I didn't have any cash on me? No one told me I was going to have to pay to get in to my own daughter's softball tournament." The girl didn't answer, but a woman standing nearby did. She said something like, "Well, I guess that would just be too bad."

I was already irate, but that pissed me off. It pissed me off that some random bystander would make that comment to begin with, so I said, "Well, it's messed up. It's messed up to charge the parents, who have to drive their kids to the tournaments, to get in to see them play. No other tournaments charge." And that was the point that I found out that she wasn't a random bystander but someone who worked for the park the tournament was being held at. Needless to say, we got into it.

Let me digress for a moment. The night before, my wife and I had been looking at an article about the current victim-hood culture we have. It was an interesting article that I would link, but we were reading it on her computer, and I don't remember what site it was on. The thing that was most interesting was how "victims," in order to support their victim status, resort to proclaiming as publicly as possible about how they have been wronged. This draws sympathy and weird support form people they don't know and makes them feel validated in their victim-hood. Basically, rather than trying to work out an issue or taking some proactive approach, people tend to just, well, I'll call it "tattle."

I had gone on off to find my daughter. She didn't have to pay to get in (because that would have been even more messed up since they have to pay to play in the tournaments anyway), so I had sent her ahead to find her team while I was paying and getting my wristband on. Once I found her, I stopped to text my wife (who wasn't able to come to the tournament because, in her work, this is the busy time of the year, like tax time CPAs) that we were there. While I was doing that, my daughter's head coach came over and tapped me on the shoulder and said, "Look, I'm on your side, but..."

You can always tell by the "but." As it turns out, the woman I had words with was the director of the tournament, and she felt so victimized by me that she had to go tell the head coach of my daughter's team to have words with me about it. Because nothing says "I'm a victim" better than tattling. I felt like I was in kindergarten again.

Is this really what we've become in the United States? A nation of kindergartners who can't deal with their own problems? I mean, this was a grown-ass woman, older than me, and she felt the need to complain to my kid's coach about me saying it was messed up to charge the parents to get into the tournament. And let me tell you, it's one of the crappiest parks my daughter has played at. Maybe the worst. But the obviously expensive parks haven't charged anything. Which, at this point, is not the point.

So what is the point?

The point is that people need to grow up. When did we stop teaching kids not to tattle? I'm pretty sure that's not a thing anymore. I know it's not at my kid's school. We don't teach people to work things out anymore. We just teach them, culturally, to be a victims.
That's messed up!

[Edit: These tournaments are not related to any kind of school district league. These are organizations that hold the tournaments for the various softball leagues. None of this is related to schools. The teams have to pay to participate in the tournaments, and that's not cheap. Effectively, we've already paid for our daughter to be at any of these tournaments playing in the first place. This thing where I had to then pay to get in is kind of like when a store charges an entry fee so that you can go in and buy stuff.]

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Clone Wars -- "The Hidden Enemy" (Ep. 1.16)

-- Truth enlightens the mind, but won't always bring happiness to your heart."

[Remember, you can sign up to join the Clone Wars Project at any time by clicking this link.]

This review will be full of spoilers. You've been warned.

Many of the early episode of season one dealt with the individuality of the clones, that they were not all just copies. Each of them had their own thoughts and feelings that stemmed from their individual experiences. They had preferences that were unique to each of them.

And, yet, they were still all similar. They tended to think the same, respond the same, be loyal the same.

Which is why it's so surprising when one of them betrays the rest of the clones, his brothers.

The question, of course, is "Why?" "Why" is a very good question in this circumstance. Why would a clone, who are basically programmed to obey the Jedi, go so far afield as to become a traitor to his brothers.

The Sith do have something to do with it; Ventress has convinced the turncoat that he's a slave to the Jedi, and he wants to be free. He also wants his brothers (the clones) to be free, and he's willing to hurt them (kill them) to get them to see that they are slaves.

All of this brings up a very good question: Are the clones slaves? They, other than the traitor, do not feel as if they are slaves. They do, after all, have free will. After a fashion. Well, it's not that they don't have free will; that's the point in having a clone army: having troops that can make independent decisions based upon circumstances rather than just blindly following an order or a program the way the droids do. But, yet, the clones are genetically programmed to be obedient to the Jedi. There is still, though, a component of choice in their obedience despite the programming.

It's an interesting conflict that's brought up in  this episode. I hope they explore it further (because I don't actually remember if they do or not, though I did remember this episode quite vividly once I put started it up. It had an impact on me the first time I watched it, too.

The next question is whether the traitor, Slick, is justified in his actions, actions that resulted in the deaths of many of his brothers, whom he professes to love. The other clones are understandably horrified at what Slick has done and can't believe that he would both turn traitor and cause the deaths of his brother clones. Slick sees the deaths as necessary.

Neither of these questions is brought to conclusion in  this episode, which I think is a good thing. Difficult moral questions should be brought up and pointed out, but it is often a mistake to try to answer a question like that in a 22 minute television show.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Parcivillian -- Part 4 (a local color post)

Technically, I know the above photo does not qualify as a successful photo, but I really like how it looks, so it's the one you're getting. Well, and the one below, too.
The photos are from a recent performance by Parcivillian and, whereas I would love to talk about that performance and talk about the rehearsal session I sat in on (which was fascinating!), I need to finish up the interview. The part I skipped over. See, being a writer, I felt compelled to ask the guys about, well, what kinds of things they read. In relation to that, I found it really cool that the name of their band comes from a book (see last week's post).

Me: The next question I'm going to ask is going to seem, possibly, weird or offtrack because it has nothing to do with music.

Elliot: How many pets do you have?

Me: No... [And that did make me laugh.] I'm a writer, and a lot of the people who follow my blog are writers, so, as a writer, do you read and what do you read?

Someone, at that point, said, "Oh, boy!" but I can'd tell who it was.

Me: Or have there been any influential books you have read? Even if it's like The Monster at the End of the Book.

Delek: John Steinbeck is my all-time favorite writer. I've read every book he's written.

Me: What's your favorite Steinbeck?

Delek: Actually, Cannery Row. Or, no... I always forget the name. The one about the pirate. That's my favorite one. [There followed a discussion where we (Delek, Elliot, and I) tried to figure out the book, but none of us could come up with which one he meant. I'm still not sure, because I haven't read whichever one it is.] Bukowski, too. I love Bukowski. [I redirected back to Steinbeck through some questions about Steinbeck's King Arthur stuff, so the next comments are about Steinbeck.] Mainly the things about California. And people. How he writes about people. His knowledge of what makes people human is probably what attracts me to his writing.... He's probably my all time favorite writer, but I've read countless books, and I'm still reading countless books. Some stuff in science, some in history. I just read this incredible biography about Benjamin Franklin. It's like music; I read a lot of stuff. I used to read a lot of fantasy.

Me: I went through high school reading fantasy.

Delek: Do you know David Eddings?

Me: Oh, yeah! The Belgariad, after The Lord of the Rings, I think is the best fantasy series ever written.

Elliot: I read that, too.

Delek: I liked that. I liked that actually better than The Lord of the Rings. I liked his writing a lot.
[There was some more discussion about Eddings (during which I do entirely too much of the talking), after which Delek turned to Stav and said, "What do you read?"]

Stav: That's the weird thing; I actually don't read that much. And it's weird because I love writing lyrics to songs but, as far as books and novels, I just don't do it.

Me: They're completely different beasts.

Stav: Yeah, that's right. I did read the Harry Potter books when I was a kid, of course. Those, I loved. They were great. Read books for school. But I'm a very slow reader so, as far as school goes, I kind of struggled through the books, so that's kind of where I'm at. But I love poetry, even though I don't know many huge poets. In school, I loved analyzing and studying the poems. As far as literature, I love poetry, and that's what I try to do when I write songs.

Me: As a song writer, I'd be surprised if you didn't have some kind of attachment to poetry.
[There was a bit more general talk of poetry before we moved on to Elliot.]

Elliot: My all time favorite book is The Pastures of Heaven by Steinbeck.

Me: I haven't read that one.

Delek: That one's amazing.

Elliot: It is. It's the most incredible perspective I've ever seen on the human being. [There's some discussion about Pastures and what it's about.]

Me: Y'all are going to make me have to pick back up on Steinbeck after this.

Elliot: Lately, I've gotten into more novels. Actually, this is a funny story [points at Delek]; he taught me how to read.

Me: Yeah? That's cool!

Elliot: He gave me the first Harry Potter book and worked through about the first chapter with me, I think, and said, "You're on your own." Then I read the whole thing.

Delek: That is a funny story.

Elliot: Yeah... I got into David Eddings. I got into Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett...

Delek: Yeah!

Me: Good Omens.

Elliot: Exactly. [There followed a back and forth discussion of Gaiman and Pratchett.] Somewhere after eighth grade, I got really into Shakespeare, including the poetry. I love that stuff. [Then, there was a discussion of Hamlet.]

Interestingly enough, this all moved into a discussion of the book Parzival, which is the book they took they name from (which you know if you read last week's post (link above)), but they didn't mention the connection at that point. They (Elliot and Delek) just went on and on about how good it is. Stav will have to read it this year, so he hasn't had that experience of it, yet.

Elliot: Of course, I've read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. Actually, I like The Hobbit better. I've read [it] three times.

There was some other discussion about The Hobbit during which I talked way too much, and that's where we left the discussion of reading and went back to music. It was great for me to talk to them about what they've read and what's influenced them, and, really, I may have to pick Steinbeck up again. It's actually something I've been meaning to do anyway, so...

And that's a look inside an up and coming band. I hope great things for these guys. They're music is great, and they were a pleasure to meet and hang out with. I'm sure you'll hear a bit more about them from me in the future. They have a concert coming up, so it's not too unlikely that there will be a post about that. Until, then, check out "Lonely Road."

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Roller Derby! (a local color post)

My wife and I have very different relationships with skating, both roller and ice. I grew up skating. Roller skating, that is. There was no such thing as ice skating where I grew up in the south. The nearest ice skating rink was in Dallas, nearly three hours away. And, when I say I grew up skating, I don't just mean I knew how. One of the things I did during high school (and after) was work the recreation programs at my church, and we did roller skating. I often wore skates five or six hours a day, three or four times a week. More on Saturdays. Sometimes, I had to adjust to just walking around. I think it's like having "sea legs." Or something.

Despite the lack of ice skating in the south, I made a fairly decent transition to it. Ice skating is more like inline skating, I think, except easier. Yeah, I have not enjoyed my experiences with inline skates, mostly because they just hurt. It's the way they hold the ankles. Just trust me, okay.

One of my wife's early experiences with ice skating (this was just a few years ago) involved having some kid do a power slide into her feet and her bashing her head on the ice. Yeah, she hasn't been back out on ice again since then.

We do go roller skating sometimes, though, and it's a thing my wife wants to be better at. All of which is to say that my wife has a kind of fascination with roller derby, and it's a thing we've talked about going to see for years, especially since a local league was started about four years ago, the Resurrection Roller Girls. Well, we finally went to see a match!

If you noticed the picture at the top, that was on the skating floor where the seats were set up because, yes, there is seating on the skating floor. We, of course, sat in the front row right behind that sign. But no one ran over us. Not this time, anyway. The couple sitting next to us, who were veterans of going to see derby events, did tell us to take the warning seriously because, although it didn't happen often, having players fly into the crowd is not unheard of.

Talk about excitement!

Roller Derby, at least the variety that we were seeing, flat track, was different than we expected. It was slower and had a lot more strategy involved in it. It took us a little while to figure out, at least the parts that we did figure out, but it was very interesting once we did, and we picked up a few favorite players (from our local team, the Cinderollas) by  the end of the night. Our team lost, but it was still very exciting.

I'll be covering some more roller derby stuff coming up in the next few weeks, but, for now, I'll leave you with some pictures of the match we saw.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Clone Wars -- "Trespass" (Ep. 1.15)

-- Arrogance diminishes wisdom.

[Remember, you can sign up to join the Clone Wars Project at any time by clicking this link.]

The episode opens with Obi-Wan, Anakin, and company investigating the loss of communication with a clone base on a Hoth-like planet. Obi-Wan's comment that they're in the planet's tropical zone was amusing. They find the helmets of the clone troopers hanging from spears that have been driven into the ground. As they move on and find the same thing with droid heads at a Separatist base, my son said, "Well, this is weird and creepy," which is almost exactly what I'd been thinking, that they'd done a really good job of making the opening creepy. It's something you don't often see in Star Wars, and it was well done.

Of course, it didn't last very long before they got to the actual story, but it was a very well done opening.

The actual story has to do with the leader of the people from a moon in the same system trying to claim the planet as belonging to his people. The problem is that there is an indigenous population on the ice world, and the chairman wants them wiped out. He's trying to use the Jedi and the clones in a war against the Tal so that his people will have claim to the planet.

The other problem is that, supposedly, no one knew about the indigenous population until they came to find out why they'd lost communication with the clone base.

So I think there are some unspoken things going on in this episode, because it's the only way the episode actually makes sense. The first of these is that Chairman Chi Cho knew about the Tal already. Chi Cho is the one who insisted upon a base being put on an otherwise unoccupied planet and, apparently, one that is fairly worthless. Which makes you wonder why Chi Cho so desperately wants to lay claim to the world, but they don't ever discuss that. All of this reduces Chi Cho to a very two-dimensional character who wants all the things and wants all the things in his way to all the things to be killed.

However, the political maneuvering in the episode is interesting, especially following the assumption that Chi Cho knew about the Tal and was putting the Jedi and the clones in a position to go to war with the Tal for him. The episode explores the bounds of authority the Jedi have, and we get to see, primarily, Obi-Wan doing some political maneuvering of his own to bring about the resolution he wanted.

Politics is a big thing in the Star Wars universe. You don't really see a lot of it in the original trilogy, but you know it's there, shown in the dissolution of the senate by the Emperor. Politics is at the center of the prequels, though (and is probably a reason people didn't resonate with them as much), and it's interesting to get to see some of that, especially Jedi politics, in the Clone Wars series. Jedi politics are not much dealt with in any of the movies. Obi-Wan's skill in manipulating the situation is fairly impressive.

Another thing of note:
Somewhere between this episode, in which the Tal are not space-faring, and A New Hope, the Tal take to the stars, because there is a Tal in the cantina on Tatooine. Yes, a Tal, from a snow world, hanging out in a bar on a desert planet. I'd really love to know the story behind that!

Monday, September 7, 2015

Parcivillian -- Part 3 (a local color post)

Stav Redlich
Delek Miller

The pictures above are from a rehearsal session I went to with the band Parcivillian (Elliot was not there, but their temporary drummer was there). However, this post is not about that. This post is continuing the interview from last post. I just wanted to have different pictures this time.

So let's get back to it!

The other big question you probably have (well, it was the other big question I had) is, "Where did they get their name?" I think that's a valid question. It's one I'm always curious about, so I asked them.

Me: Where did you get your name and how did that happen? [There was a lot of laughter at that point.] Have you told this story to anyone before?

Stav: Yes, I have, recently.

Delek: Not really, though. Not many people.

Stav: Yeah, not many people.

Elliot: I've never told it to anybody.

Me: So it's going to kind of be a debut on my blog, then?

[Everyone agreed to that.]

Stav: We used to be The Turn, but we didn't like it, so we were looking for a new name. I was in my herbal studies class and said to my teacher, "Hey, we're looking for a new name for our band," and she was, like, "Ooh! Let me think about it. I'll get back to you."
[There was a lot of laughter about that and comments of "yeah, right" and the like.]
And I thought, sure, [she'll] get back to me with names like Leafblowers [and a lot more laughter about other names they thought she would come up with, but I can't actually make any of that out on my recording. You'll have to just trust me that it was funny. She actually came back with a list of ideas, some of which  he mentioned, but, again, laughter, so I'll pick up after that.] ...and then she says Parcivillian, and I was, like, whoa. That just clicked.

So what it is is there's this book called Parzival
[Note: Parzival is part of the King Arthur mythos and is another name for Percival. This particular book dates back to the 1300s. Also to note: This book is required reading for every student at their school.]
and what I've thought about it and what it means to me is that it's the story of the journey of a hero...

Delek: He's just an average guy.

Stav: He's also just a civilian, an average guy. Put those two together, you have Parcivillian, and that's what we're kind of striving to be, too. We're striving to be the best that we can be...

Elliot: Exactly.

Stav: ...and be as great as we can be, but we're still just three normal guys, just three guys that you can go out to coffee with and have a laugh.

Delek: Also, there's no one else in the world with a name like ours.

Stav: The short version is our herbal studies teacher came up with it.

Delek: Actually, it has a lot of meaning for us.

Elliot: It does.

Delek: That book represents Waldorf education, and that's something we've all been in our whole lives. And we've also had that teacher our whole lives. It's part of who we are. The name [Parcivillian] in some ways is just part of our journey through life.

Stav: And it stands for if we do get big, if we do make it, we don't want to be those assholes that blow off just anybody. We're still just people and we still wake up and brush our teeth every morning.

Delek: Which a lot of people forget. And a lot of people who listen to music forget, too. Everyone who plays music is just a normal guy. Instead of making your coffee, they're playing music for you.

After that was some discussion about how they were going to work out rehearsing with two of them going off to college. But Stav had some more words about his future plans which I want to include because some of it's about writing.

Stav: For me, just finish up high school. Keep writing. That's what I do everyday when I come home. Keep trying to have as many diverse experience as possible, because that's what influences my writing. You can't write just from sitting at home all day. [Emphasis is mine.] You need to have experiences and you need to experience emotion.

Elliot: And beauty.

Stav: And beauty. And that's what I'm trying to do all the time.

Me: I know lots of people who think they can write just from sitting at home all day.

Stav: No, you gotta go out into the world...

Elliot: You have to go out and sit at the coast for two hours and watch the sunset.

Delek: That's not just for writing lyrics. That's for writing songs, too. Like just music. I just go for a walk by myself and I start singing, and I'm like, "Let's work with that." Sitting at home is rarely that productive if you're just home all [the time].

And that brought us to the end of the interview. BUT! I'll be back next week with a part I skipped over but which may have been my favorite part of talking with these guys. I'm sure when you find out what it is (next week!) you'll understand.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Accordion Absence (a local color post)

We just had the 25th annual Accordion festival recently, but I don't have a lot to say about it this year.
The Great Morgani was, of course, there, but I only got pictures of him in this one costume, this year.
But I managed to get one of him with my daughter and her accordion teacher, so that was cool.

Speaking of my daughter, she did play again this year. I have a video. Actually, I have two, because she played two songs. I'll try to get them configured or something so that I can make them available on the blog.

Other than that, though, we didn't listen to much music. Not actively. My family mostly hung out together and my daughter accordion shopped. This year was the first year for that! We almost even bought one, but that's a story that I'm not going to tell, right now, mostly because it would be anti-climactic.

At some point after we were home, I said to my oldest kid, "I feel like we went to the festival, and I didn't listen to any music," and he said, "Yeah, me, too." Because most of what he did was watch his young cousins. He did, however, listen to the German guy who played some video game themes on his accordion.

So, anyway... The accordion festival did happen; I just don't have a big write up about it this year. I'm sure I'll do a better job next year. Because the only way I could do it worse than this year is if we don't go next year, but that's not actually very likely.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Clone Wars -- "Defenders of Peace" (Ep. 1.14)

--When surrounded by war, one must eventually choose a side.

[Remember, you can sign up to join the Clone Wars Project at any time by clicking this link.]

I suppose I'll start with the fact that George Takei does a bit of voice acting in this episode. It's too bad it's just a one-shot performance, because he has a distinctive voice that they really could have built a character around.

The previous episode, "Jedi Crash," poses the question, "Does fighting for peace justify fighting?" You should go back and read my review for that discussion. This episode carries that question one step further: If an aggressor is going to attack and kill you despite your declaration of non-violence, at what point do you defend yourself?

The show does not handle this question as well as it did the previous question, because, I suppose, of our American sensibilities, the writers couldn't help but provide an answer to that question. I think providing answers to questions like these is pretty much always a mistake.

So here's the scenario (and the rest of this will be all kinds of spoilery):
The Separatists invade the planet of the peaceful people that helped Anakin and his crashed team in the previous episode. The invasion has nothing to do with the Jedi, but the head of the village wants the Jedi out so as not to provoke the Separatists. He believes that he declares their peaceful intentions that the Separatists will leave them alone. However, the Separatists have come to test a new weapon against the peaceful colony, a weapon which will be the genocide of the people if it works.

Despite the fact that the Separatists lead an unprovoked attack against the village wherein they declare that the village is now under their control, the leader of the village insists upon not fighting back. He believes that they should all be willing to die rather than to fight. He also insists that the Jedi do not come to their aid, because it would be better to die than to have conflict and violence in an effort to protect them.

And this is where it falls apart when dealing with the question: not everyone in the village agrees with the leader. Rather than reducing this question to a personal decision, they try to make it one person's choice for a whole body of people. And, of course, the Jedi come to the aid of the village anyway, because Anakin is not willing to allow genocide to take place just to assuage the the beliefs of the leader of the village.

The whole thing ends with some of the village choosing to fight and, of course, the Separatists are defeated... And the leader comes to the Jedi and thanks them for their help. Everyone is happy. It removes the weight of the question completely.

It's not a bad episode, but it was bad handling of a difficult philosophical question.