Monday, February 29, 2016

Firsts Changes (Change: part 4)

One of the big deal parts of 2015 for me is that it was a year full of "firsts." As we get older, "firsts" tend to trickle away into nothingness. Part of that is just part of the dynamic of being older. I mean, it's easy to have first events when you're a kid, because everything is new, so it just gets to be more difficult to "find" things you haven't done before. Or so it would seem to our "logical" minds. You can't have pizza for the first time if you've been eating it for 40 years, and throwing some broccoli on it hardly counts as making it a "first."

That said, there are so many things under the sun that, mostly, it's just because we get used to how things are and the way we do things and quit trying to try and do new things. As I said back at the beginning of all of this, change is uncomfortable and most people don't like to do it. But I set out in 2015 to do new things; I just didn't know some of the ways that was going to happen. So, in no particular order, things I did for the first time in 2015:

1. I fixed a toilet!
This is actually a big deal. I'm not the handy guy around the house. I don't really fix things beyond clogged toilets (Yes, I know how to wield a plunger.) and things of about that level. We don't have one of those people in our household. We lived in an apartment complex for nearly 10 years, and that was fine when we lived there, because we could just call maintenance if there was a problem with anything.

But, when you can hear your toilet leaking, you need to fix it or call a plumber. Or, well, lie awake all night listening to it. Yes, the door was closed. I have good ears and am a light sleeper.

Now, I'm not going to get into the details of this, but, actually, this should have been a pretty easy fix. Should have been. But... Let's just say things deteriorated. One thing of note: Our house is full of the DIY projects of the previous occupants, none of them done well or with any kind of materials you'd call "quality." So what should have been an easy fix turned into something much more... complicated... and took most of a week and three or four trips to Home Depot to accomplish.

But, hey! I fixed the toilet!
No, I don't care if you're not impressed.

2. Opera!
My wife has loved the opera since she was in high school. It was a field trip that did it. And the spectacle. And the costumes. And the singing. Maybe if I'd been to the same performance that she went to, I would have developed a love for opera, too.

Instead, my first experience with opera was during college and was with a travelling opera company that came to my college. It was less spectacle and more foreign film, and I didn't love it. Or even like it. Seriously, it was like watching a French film with no subtitles. One of those where the people only sit around and talk. Maybe the talk is fascinating but, if you don't know French, you'll never know.

So, due to my stated dislike of opera, my wife decided that we would just not ever go to the opera rather than go and have a bad experience of it with me. Through the years, I've tried to change her mind about trying it out with me, but she has been resistant to that. Finally, last year, I changed her mind (I think I said something like "You could continue to never go to the opera and never get to go to the opera, or you could, at least, just give it a try with me."), and we went to the opera! Four times!

Yes, it's safe to say that I like it.

We have one more coming up in June, and we're looking at next season, right now, trying to decide what we're going to see.

3. Camping
Despite the fact that we go camping in the Trinity Alps every year, I have traditionally not been a fan of camping. You can blame that on some childhood traumas, things like being hit in the face with a fishing pole and getting a fishhook in my eye during a trip with a friend's family and having my tent flooded due to bad instructions from my scout master on my one and only boy scout camping trip. Plus there's the fact that I hate not having access to a bathroom. The compromise to get me to go willingly to Trinity was that we rent cabins for that trip (which is awesome!).

My wife, though, likes camping. She grew up camping with her family and has positive memories of it from her childhood. You know, we actually sort of went camping on our honeymoon, but I look at that as more of just sleeping in a tent, because we were at a music festival and didn't cook or anything. We just bought food at the event.

I think this might have been the most surprising thing I did last year from my wife's perspective: I told her, "I want to go camping with you." To say the least, there was some amount of discussion after that one as my wife tried to figure out if either I'd gone crazy, been kicked in the head by a horse, or been replaced by an alien or replicant life form.

The problem, then, was that we didn't have any camping gear because why own camping gear if you don't camp, right? Also, you don't want to spend a bunch of money on something that you might never use again so buying a bunch of new camping gear wasn't exactly practical. We decided on a method of car camping which is actually pretty nice. Set up is quick and easy and the car is quite cozy. Of course, you have to have the right kind of car.

It was a great trip, even the night it rained. Many of the pictures I've been posting recently are from that trip, in fact. We plan to do more car camping, at least a couple of trips a year. Car camping allows us to be more mobile and spend more time doing things other than making and breaking camp. And, of course, there is no tent to clean out and store when you get home. I did actually intend to do a post about the trip but, at this point, that probably won't actually happen, so you'll just have to enjoy the photos.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Rebels: "Spark of Rebellion" -- Part 2 (Ep. 1.1b)

"You're about as bright as a binary droid."

The real question in this two-part opening to Rebels is, "Is Ezra a good guy?" Ezra doesn't seem to think so. He looks out for himself. Period. At least, that's his perception of himself. It's all rather Han Solo. Of course, as with Han, Ezra finds out he can't so easily turn his back on those in need.

Which gets him into trouble.
And allows him the opportunity to find out whether he can depend upon the crew of the Ghost.

Oh, and, also, Kanan, the captain of Ghost, or at least the leader of the little rebel group that operates on the Ghost, is a Jedi.

But... Wait! What about Order 66?
Yeah, I hear you out there.

Order 66 didn't quite get all of the Jedi, just almost all. There's that whole thing about Darth Vader hunting down and killing the remnants of the Order. Kanan was one of the survivors. So the question is simple:
Did he get lucky or is he that good?
That, I suppose, is something we'll have to wait and find out.

And, yeah, I want to find out.
I'm still not happy about losing Clone Wars, but I'll take Rebels as a reasonable substitute.
I'll note again, though, that Rebels is a show that is unambiguously targeting a younger demographic. You can even see it in the animation style. I don't know. Maybe that it clearly targets kids as its viewing audience allows adults to feel more at ease watching it. It's clearly defined, and adults seem to need stricter definitions than kids. So it's okay to watch a "kid show" if you know that's what you're doing, but it makes you ill-at-ease to watch a show that skews to both markets. Or something.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Clone Wars -- "Bounty Hunters" (Ep. 2.17)

-- Courage makes heroes, but trust builds friendship.

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

Hondo is back!

But not in a good way. Seriously, if this episode is your first interaction with Hondo, you'll come away from it wishing that Anakin had just finished the job. The job being Hondo. So to speak. He is almost without his former charm in this episode. Unfortunate.

The episode doesn't have a lot to do with Hondo, anyway, other than that he's the bad guy leading a band of pirates against a defenseless village in order to steal their very valuable crop of... something or other.

This is one of those episodes where the Jedi attempt to teach the villagers to defend themselves so that they can be self-sufficient in the future. It would be a fine episode -- well, it is a fine episode taken all on its own -- except that there was one of these in season one, also. Maybe there was more than one? I don't remember. Or maybe there are more coming up. Whatever the case, it feels like a thing they fall back on when they need a one-shot episode: "Let's teach the villagers to defend themselves!"

The more interesting aspect of this episode is the disagreement between Obi-Wan and Anakin over the fate of the village. Obi-Wan actually wants to leave the village to fend for themselves because they are on an urgent mission and, to him, that takes priority. Anakin wants to stay and fight (Anakin always wants to stay and fight). Of course, the decision is taken away from them by the arrival of Hondo. I would have liked to have seen if Obi-Wan resorted to pulling rank to keep them on task.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Changing Life (Change: part 3)

Some number of years ago (no, I don't remember when, but I'm sure my wife could tell you), my wife and I dropped sugar from our diets. This was a significant change, especially for me. I grew up drinking soda and, when I say that, I mean I grew up drinking only soda. From a very young age, actually. I moved from apple juice to Coca~Cola, and soda was pretty much the only thing I drank for the next 30-odd years. Cutting sugar meant cutting the soda, which was one of the hugest changes I've made in my life. Ever.

The immediate result of that change was that I lost weight. A lot of weight. About 100 pounds in less than a year. At the time, I dropped to under 200 pounds for the first time since I was in high school. I kept all of it off for a while but, over time... well, you have to really stay focused, I suppose. At any rate, at my physical last year (during January or February), it finally hit me that I had let myself creep back up to about 245.

Well, that was enough of that.

So I started exercising again, something I'd let slide for a couple of years. [Seriously, why does exercising have to take up so much time?] And I started monitoring my portion sizes. When you don't eat sugar, it can make you feel justified with eating more. Well, me, anyway.

The short of all of that is that I am, now, under 200 pounds again, for only the second time since high school.

I think I have probably come off as a coffee drinker on here for years. I mean, with posts like this, I totally sound like a coffee drinker, right? But I was only barely a coffee drinker as I would only drink coffee if it was in chocolate. It took my wife a while to work me up even to that, because I grew up sans coffee. See above with the soda thing.

Basically, we could go to the cafe together because I could get a mocha, but my wife insisted that that wasn't the same thing. I... really didn't understand.

What we couldn't do, though, was sit around having coffee together when we went out for breakfast. My wife would have coffee, but I would just have water. (And, then, go to the cafe after for a mocha. heh) Again, I didn't get the big deal, but she assured me it wasn't the same as us sitting and having coffee together.

Well, she was right.

Long story short, I finally agreed to to try having coffee (just plain, old coffee) with my wife when we were out for breakfast one Sunday morning. No, I don't drink it black, but, I did buy her an espresso machine, something she has always wanted but didn't feel like it was worth it if she was going to be the only one using it. Now, we have coffee together every morning.

As with coffee, I also grew up not drinking alcohol. Of any kind. My wife spent some number of years converting me to drinking wine (it was a slow process), but I still stayed away from beer. No, not on any kind of principle or anything; mostly, I just didn't like the way it smells. And not that my wife wants or likes to go hang out in bars but, every once in a while, she likes the option of going to share a beer in a bar. Except you can't do that when one of the people won't help share it. But, you know, I've been open to trying and tasting things over the years but, really, nothing ever really did it for me. Well, there was this one time years ago we got some blackberry beer at a local brewery, and I liked that, but they never had it again, and you can't buy it at the store or anything.

All of that changed this year. We were at an open mic night (probably the one where we first saw Parcivillian), and my wife got a beer... with the understanding that I was going to taste it. She got something called a Bitch Creek (because she liked the name). Well, we both loved it. Yeah, it was the first beer I ever really just liked. Or liked at all, but I liked it from the first taste. What we've discovered is that I like dark beers, especially stouts, which Bitch Creek was. That was not ever a thing we'd ever tried before. As it turns out, my wife tends toward darker beers, too, so that has really worked out, although she does have a broader palette than I do when it comes to beers and ales.

At any rate, we can now share a beer over dinner or grab a beer to share when we're out or whatever, so that has been a whole new thing for us, too, sort of like with the coffee.

Also, I have a new appreciation of the fact that some of the best breweries in the country are right here where I live.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Deadpool (a movie review post)

I remember when Deadpool made his first appearance way back in New Mutants #98. I have the issue. Multiple times. However, I was unimpressed. He wasn't the big deal in that issue, anyway, not at the time. That was a character named Domino. Yeah, I know; you've never heard of her. I bet Deadpool has completely forgotten her and wouldn't even recognize her if they passed on the street. She'd be all, "Wade! Wade! It's me, Domino!" And he'd stare blankly through his mask and say something like, "Get off me, Spade-face." Back then, though, he was barely a Spider-Man ripoff and was contained completely within all four walls.

I was mostly out of comics by the time Wade had busted down that wall, so I never really got into the character. I knew enough, though, to be really pissed about the Wolverine movie and what they did to Deadpool in it, whether I liked him or not. Also, they had so perfectly cast Ryan Reynolds in the role and, then, basically, told him to bend over. Kind of like how Wade took that one bullet in this movie.

But, as Deadpool does, he, and Reynolds, came out on top in the end. Actually, I'm not sure if Ryan Reynolds isn't actually Deadpool. Or, what is even more likely (because, really, did Reynolds really exist before 1991?), when Deadpool broke that fourth wall in the comics, he emerged as Ryan Reynolds and has been trying to get to do the movie version of himself ever since. All of which is to say (again) that Reynolds is the perfect choice for Deadpool.

The movie is brilliant as soon as the film begins to roll, having the most creative and hilarious opening credits I've ever seen in a movie (something I'm sure you'll see repeated in many of the reviews). And it's not just the credits, it's also the visual that goes along with them. Though it's mostly the credits. I want to see the movie again just so I can see the credits again. Well, and then the rest of the movie, too, but the opening credits are enough to warrant a repeat viewing.

The rest of the cast is nearly as inspired as Reynolds. Okay, well, that's not true, because such perfect casting is extremely rare (and mostly reserved for Marvel comic book characters at this point), and no one else is as vital or as perfect as Reynolds is in this movie. However, Morena Baccarin had great chemistry with Reynolds, and it's hard to imagine inserting someone else into the role of Vanessa. Likewise with T. J. Miller and Gina Carano (even if she doesn't talk much). Oh, and Stefan Kapicic (even though all he does is talk since he's the credited CGI guy).

Okay, sure, the movie is super violent (sometimes in a Looney Tunes kind of way), super vulgar, and full of enough f-bombs to use in the warhead of a nuke, so I understand that some people could be super offended by the movie. But it's also full of humor (not just crude) and a lot of heart, and it's the heart that carries the movie, not the R-rated material. And, yeah, sure, the movie does poke some fun at the super hero movie industrial complex (like the studio not being willing to pay for more than two X-Men to appear in the movie), but it's fairly clever and a lot of fun to watch. As long as you're not being offended. Or squeezing your eyes shut at the violence.

But should you see the movie? Well, that's hard to say. I want to just say, "Yes! What are you kidding me? See the movie!" But, then, there are those people who will be offended, and those people should just stay away. There are also people who don't like super hero movies, but I think some of those people would enjoy this movie for no other reason than how irreverent it is, so that can't really be a gauge. Basically, you should do your research. Watch the trailers. All the trailers. If you find yourself giggling, you should probably give the movie a try.

Oh, and do stay till the end. Don't worry that it's over. Don't go home.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Clone Wars -- "Cat and Mouse" (Ep. 2.16)

-- A wise leader knows when to follow.

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

"No ship that small has a cloaking device."
It's amazing the kinds of things that have come out of Star Wars from just a passing line or a brief glimpse. That's probably the real genius behind the movies, the flashes of the universe that Lucas imagined to hold his characters. Excuse me, galaxy. So, in this episode, we get our first look at what a cloaking device is and just how small a ship can be to have one.

The villain in this episode is a spider alien, Admiral Trench.
He's sort of considered a military legend and genius. And he happens to be someone who has developed an effective strategy against cloaked ships. All of which leads us to the title of the episode: "Cat and Mouse." It's rather like ships hunting a submarine.

The more interesting aspect of this episode is that we get to see Anakin working with Admiral Yularen for the first time. I mean working with him, not just operating off of the admiral's ship. Anakin and Yularen have had a... I'm going to say contentious relationship up to this point with Yularen saying things like "What did you break this time?" to Anakin with a greater frequency than he would probably like to. "Cat and Mouse" gives Yularen the chance to appreciate the way Anakin works in a whole new way.

It's a good, solid episode and one that can easily be watched without any other background.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Changing the Blog (Change: part 2)

The blog is tricky business. It's tricky business, and I could go into a lot of detail about how and why it's tricky business, but I'm not going to do that. For one thing, some of my blog history and why I blog is here on the blog in older posts, especially since blogging about blogging was not uncommon in my earlier days of blogging, that being a common theme on blogs (or, at least, writers' blogs). blah blah blah presence blah blah blah branding blah blah blah

What it boils down to, though, is that the blog needs to generate traffic which needs to generate sales, and the blog wasn't doing that. Also, I was spending an inordinate amount of time on the blog in comparison to the non-existent sales it was generating. Spending time on the blog included spending time visiting other blogs. Obviously, something needed to change.

I announced the first change last January (that would be January of 2015). So many blogs, especially the blogs of writers, try so hard to be non-offensive, and I decided I was through with that. And I have been through with that. During 2015, I did a series about racism and started a series about the Church (which will be picked up again sometime or other fairly soon). I'm not sure if any of that, specifically, has increased traffic, but it certainly hasn't hurt it. I'm not planning on changing that approach any time soon. It just feels more real.

I cut down on the essay-type posts I used to do three or more times a week. They take a lot of time that is more productively spent on fiction writing, so I tend to not do more than one of those a week.

I do more reviews. Book reviews, movie reviews, other reviews. Reviews seem to be a good way to drive traffic. At least based on my page views for review posts, I'd have to say that's true.

I started covering more local events and artists and doing interviews. Those, also, have done very well. One of my interview posts with the guys from Parcivillian is one of my top 10 most viewed posts. This year, I'll be picking up again with interviews with the women from one of the local roller derby teams, the Cinderollas. I've done the interviews; I just haven't gotten them transcribed.

And I've started doing picture posts. Those have surprised me most of all. Every once in a while, a particular picture will generate a lot of page views or comments, like this recent one.

The final analysis is that I have been doing more post with less effort without losing any traffic. I don't have enough data, yet, to know if the traffic has increased or if it's just regular fluctuations. That it has not decreased, though, is significant. Probably, this year, the blog will continue in this pattern. I do have some other changes planned that are more geared toward actually increasing sales, but those aren't quite ready yet.

The take away for you? Well, if you are a blogger, why do you do it? Is what you're doing right now with your blog meeting that goal? If it's not, you should look at making some changes.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Rebels: "Spark of Rebellion" -- Part 1 (Ep. 1.1a)

"I'm in space... and I'm going to die!"

So... the opening. The opening of "Spark of Rebellion," the first episode of the seemingly very popular Star Wars Rebels, is... well, let's just say it's foreshadow heavy. I mean, right off the bat you get Darth Vader telling some guy called The Inquisitor to hunt down and destroy the "children of the Force." Why, golly, I wonder who that could be...

That's not really part of the episode, though; it just serves as the prologue to the series. I'm assuming that's so that we'll know who The Inquisitor is when he shows up. Also because they wanted to get James Earl Jones in there as the voice of Vader, which they did.

Ezra, our young protagonist, is an Aladdin-esque kind of hero. Or, maybe, Oliver Twist for those of you more classically inclined. He's a street urchin who steals to eat and gets up to all kinds of mischief but who is, basically, good at heart. Sounds like just the right kind of recipe for a show like this, especially when we find out, almost immediately (so this isn't really a spoiler), that Ezra is one of those "children of the Force." No Inquisitor in this episode, but I'm sure it won't be long.

Oh, yeah, and, of course, Ezra gets tangled up with a group of Rebels. Because, well, that's what the title of the show says, right?

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Clone Wars -- "Senate Murders" (Ep. 2.15)

-- Searching for the truth is easy. Accepting the truth is hard.

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

This episode, I believe, is the first episode where we begin to see what and who become the core of the rebellion. I could be wrong about it being the first because I'm not looking back to see, but it is the first episode with Mon Mothma, so I'm going with it. The episode revolves around the issue of putting a halt to the creation of anymore clone troopers for the war.

Which is an interesting question when you're in the midst of a war against an aggressor. The contention of Padme, Bail Organa, and Mon Mothma is that if troop production is halted then diplomacy would have to take its place. They believe diplomacy is the road to peace. Palpatine, of course, believes that peace can only be achieved through victory on the field.

At least, that's his stated belief.

I suppose that must be somewhat like playing chess against yourself only with some of the pieces making their own decisions. Hmm... Maybe it's more like playing The Sims. My wife used to get constantly frustrated by her sims going off and doing things she didn't tell them to do.

The action in the episode has nothing to do with any of this, though. All of this is just the backdrop, but I find the backdrop more interesting than what's going on center stage. Not that there's anything wrong with what's going on center stage, because there's not. It's a fine episode and one that doesn't involve the Jedi at all. Or the clones. It's very rare in that. Still, it's the philosophical questions that are touched on that are of real interest, the things you see played out in the background.

Monday, February 8, 2016

The Philosophy of Change (Change: part 1)

On the whole, people don't much get along well with "change." Most of us just don't like it. Change is something to be fought against and conquered, not embraced. Change is the enemy.
To most of us.

To be honest, I am one of those "most of us." I do well with routine. I don't get bored easily. I'm not always looking for the "next, new thing" or anything like that. However, I am not necessarily averse to change; I just forget about it. Forget about doing it.

That's really the core of the issue with change: For most of us, change is something that happens to us, not something that we instigate. We become victims of change, and that is really the thing we don't like. That and things are different afterwards. Most of us would rather bad things stay the way they are than risk any kind of change. Change could, after all, make things worse.

But let me remind everyone of Einstein's definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different (or better) result.

Look, I am fairly anti-tradition, mostly because tradition is the antithesis of change. Being locked into tradition (or doing something the same way) for the sake of the tradition (or doing something the same way) has always been (well, since middle school, anyway (yes, "The Lottery" by Shirley Jackson had a huge impact on me)) mostly foolish in my eyes. Tradition (or doing something the same way) should always be evaluated to see what purpose it's performing and held up against the purpose it's supposed to be performing. For instance, Christmas gatherings are supposed to be joyous and fun occasions but, if gathering with your family doesn't not meet that goal (like if it's a thing you dread every year but do anyway because of tradition) then you shouldn't do it. That's a bad tradition. But I digress...
(And, no, I am not talking about my family with that example. It's just a thing you see a lot of at the time of year we just came through (that being Christmas (as I'm writing this)).)


A thing I try to do every so often in my life is to look at the things I'm doing to see if they are meeting the goals they are supposed to be meeting. I don't want to be one of those people who just keeps doing the same thing, only harder, over and over and hoping for a different result.

Now, before I go on, I need to say a few things:
1. My wife says that I missed my window for writing this post, especially since it's not going to post until some time in February.
2. I disagree with my wife because, as I write this, it is technically (and by "technically" I mean that it is (by almost a week)) still January, and this kind of thing can be done any time during January. (Traditionally (heh heh))
3. My wife says this post (series of posts) is for me. You can read it, but it's not for you. I think I agree with that. This place has become a good one for sort of keeping track of what I'm doing in my life at any given moment, so it will help me remember the changes that took place last year, a year of more than the normal amount of changes. Remember, I sometimes (frequently) forget to make them, so there aren't always changes. At least not ones initiated by me.
4. If you choose to read it... well, I hope it's helpful in some way, but it's not meant to be. I'm just putting out there what happened and, probably, some context so that it's understandable.

All of that said, 2015 started out with change. I spent the last month or two of 2014 looking at where I was and what I was doing and deciding on what things were working and what things weren't. So January of 2015 started with change.
But I guess we'll get to that next time.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Star Wars: Clone Wars vs. Rebels

I've been a fan of The Clone Wars since it came out. We own the series on DVD. I was less than pleased when Disney announced, shortly after acquiring Lucasfilm, that they were cancelling production on it. Season six was in mid-production and season seven was in  the early stages of production and, while it wasn't a raging, everybody-must-watch-it-show success, it seemed to be doing fine. But, then, it was just over.

And, you know, I get it. From a business perspective, what they did made good sense. That doesn't mean I have to like it, though.

See, the thing is, The Clone Wars had a problem. It couldn't figure out its demographic. It wasn't a cartoon -- excuse me, animated television show -- made for kids. That is, they, the kids, were not the specific target audience. Clone Wars was launched for the Cartoon Network's prime time, adult viewing time slot. Clearly, it was an animated show that wanted an adult audience. It featured adult characters and dealt with a lot of mature themes. Sure, all of that was then presented in half hour blocks in such a way that kids could also digest the material and Ahsoka was included to allow the younger viewing audience a character they could identify with. But it wasn't a show for kids and, so, it also wasn't a show for adults. It just grabbed people like me who wanted to know more about the gap between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith and all the kids who just like the excellent Star Wars action.

Rebels, however, is a show solidly targeting kids.You can tell because the protagonist is a kid. And, well, from what I can tell so far (only having watched the first couple of episodes), the overall action is going to revolve around the Empire's search for the "children of the Force" in its quest to exterminate the Jedi. So, still, maybe, dealing with some mature themes but, I'm going to assume, handled in a child-appropriate way. After all, we are quite used to things like dinosaurs and killer robots and gangsters chasing kids with the intent to kill.

And, well, Disney wanted to bring Star Wars to the Disney Channel, not Cartoon Network, so allowing Clone Wars to slip away allowed Disney to launch Rebels on its own network.

I'm glad to see that some of the characters from Clone Wars will carry over.

So, yeah, I'll be reviewing Rebels as I watch it, but it won't be on a weekly basis like we're doing with The Clone Wars. It will be interesting to see how it compares.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Clone Wars -- "Duchess of Mandalore" (Ep. 2.14)

-- In war, truth is the first casualty.

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

"Duchess of Mandalore" wraps up the Mandalorian trilogy of episodes. In some ways, it's a stand alone episode in that the plot is self-contained; however, you really need to have watched the previous two episodes to understand the action in this one.

This episode is interesting to me in that it clearly shows Darth Sidious trying to manipulate a political situation... and failing. It actually reveals where the true front of the war is, and that is not on the battlefield. The Jedi never come to realize this. Well, at least not until it is well past too late, which we see in Revenge of the Sith. Sure, sometimes Palpatine's plans are foiled, but it's never because anyone is trying to foil those actual plans; it's always because someone is standing strong in their belief in what they're doing and the plan just doesn't succeed. It might be a fine distinction, but it's an important one.

Unfortunately, this episode doesn't go any deeper into the relationship between Satine and Obi-Wan. Well, not more than that Obi-Wan is pretty much willing to do anything for her, but you should be able to get that from the previous episode. Fortunately, if I'm remembering correctly, Satine will be back and there will be more development of the Ob-Wan/Satine story.

Death Watch is still wrapped up in the plot of this one, and we get to see Obi-Wan go toe-to-toe with another Mandalorian much in the way he goes up against Jango Fett in Attack of the Clones. It let's us see how these suits of armor they wear were really designed for combat against the Jedi.

Death Watch will be back, too.

As I said, this is a really good series of episodes and one of the ones that I remember best from my previous viewing of the series. It's not a bad place to start if you just want to test the Clone Wars waters.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Sisters (a movie review post)

There's something to be said for any movie willing to go up against Star Wars and, whatever that is, it can be said about Sisters. No, I'm not sure what it is, but I know there's something. Actually, they may have said it best with their promo explaining why they kept December 18 (henceforth known as "Star Wars Day") as their release date:

Honestly, the promo is my favorite thing about the movie, which is not to diminish the movie at all, but I think the promo is pretty darn awesome.
Not that it has anything to do with the movie itself.

So, yeah, I'm sure if there was an actual movie category called "stupid comedy" that this would be in it, but, then, so would a lot of very popular and great comedies going all the way back to the 80s. That doesn't make them not funny. And, yes, there are some things that cross the line of believability in Sisters, but that doesn't make it not funny.

And it is funny. Very much funny.
But with Tina Fey and Amy Poehler how could it not be?

There's even a little bit of message about what it is to be family.
But, mostly, it's just funny.
And a little bit painful. The music box knows what I mean.

There's not much else to say about this one.
James Brolin and Dianne Wiest were great as the parents. My kids are still teenagers, but I could totally empathize with them.
John Cena was hilarious.
Ike Barinholtz was good but a little bit distracting because he looks too much like Mark Wahlberg, and my brain kept wanting it to be Wahlberg but it wasn't, which was disconcerting.

Look, I get it. Usually these kinds of movies are full of teenagers doing dumb teenager kinds of things, but that's the point. The point that we don't ever really grow out of wanting to do those things. I guess. I mean, I never did those things, but I had friends who did, so I get it. Basically, you have to find the balance between growing up and staying a kid.

And it's funny!
Just remember to turn off the water.