Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Clone Wars -- "The Lost One" (Ep. 6.10)

-- What is lost is often found.

[Remember, you can sign up to join the Clone Wars Project at any time by clicking this link.]
[Well, actually, considering that we're into season six, now, probably no one new is going to sign up, BUT! Hop over to The Armchair Squid for his take on the current episode.]

I don't like the opening quote. It's like, "Sure, but what is lost is also often not found," so what's the point in saying that. It takes me back to Dead Poets Society: "I might be going to Yale. But, um, I might not." That was teenage awkwardness, but whoever chose the quote for this episode doesn't have that excuse.

I'm slightly ambivalent about the episode itself, too. Not because it isn't good; it's a good episode. However, I'm unsure as to the point of it for the audience. It seems that its existence is so that they can state explicitly something we already knew. At least, it's something I already knew; I just assume everyone else already knew it, too. Maybe it is a necessary episode for people who hadn't put those pieces together?

It seems like its greater purpose is to allow the Jedi to know something the audience already knows, but that seems unnecessary to me. It's just driving home the point of how outplayed the Jedi have been, which is summed up when Yoda expresses that they are on the incorrect road but that it's the only road left open to them. They have no other options.

We do get to see Commander Wolffe and his unit again. He's a clone I would have liked to have seen more about.

Anyway... If you happen to be wondering about Sifo-Dyas and that whole thing with the Kaminoans and the clone troops, you should watch this episode.

Monday, August 28, 2017

The New Civil War (ongoing): The Lesson of pre-WWII Germany

One of the enduring questions from World War II is about how we got to that place. How did Nazism happen? Why didn't anyone put a stop to it before it happened?

We actually know the answer to all of those questions. We know them from an intellectual sense, anyway. We know that normal people, regular people, people just trying to live their lives and get by, people who were not Nazis or Nazi sympathizers, we know that those people didn't do anything to stop it. For whatever reason. Probably mostly because they just wanted to be left alone to live their lives and it all didn't concern them anyway. How can we blame them? They were "good" people, right?

That's not what we decided after the fact. That's not what the world decided, and that's not what they decided about themselves. For decades, the general consensus has been that they were complicit in the rise of Nazism for nothing more than that they stood by and let it happen. None of them spoke out.

Hey, I get it. Speaking out is hard. It messes with your life and, sometimes, there are consequences. And there were consequences in pre-WWII Germany. Some of the people who did speak out just... disappeared. And that served to keep everyone else quiet, as it was intended to.

And that's what happens when you don't speak out against injustice and evil. Injustice and evil not only continues but it gets worse.

So we know what they should have done, all those people in Germany, and, yet, we wonder why they didn't do it. Couldn't they see? And we tell ourselves, "If I was there, I would have spoken up!"

Really? Would you have? Would you?
I think there's a really easy way to know the answer to that question:
Are you speaking up now? If you're not, well, you would have been one of those Germans who just went along because you just wanted to be left alone to live your life. Or whatever.

Yes, we are in that same state as pre-WWII Germany. The state where white supremacists are growing in number and strength and boldness, and the have a man in our highest office #fakepresident who is supporting them. If you are not speaking out against them and what is happening, you are quietly joining them on their side of the line.

And, yes, there is a line.There has always been a line, but Trump #fakepresident very clearly and explicitly drew it when he failed to condemn the terrorist attack in Charlottesville. He made it clear that he is standing with the Nazis, white supremacy, the Alt-Right. He made it clear enough that they knew it and rejoiced. When you have David Duke singing your praises and are not sickened by it, well, something is wrong. And if you can side with the guy that Duke is praising, well, something is wrong.

Because this is where we are:
If you are still in support of Trump #fakepresident, you are explicitly in support of the white supremacy agenda. You are in support of Nazis. There's no waffling around the edges of things any longer as you try to proclaim how you're not really racist and that you just support Trump's #fakepresident economic agenda. [And, by the way, Trump #fakepresident has no economic agenda other than to enrich himself while he's in office. If that's not abundantly clear to you at this point, your ability to support cognitive dissonance is amazing.] If you are still in support of Trump #fakepresident, you are one of the Germans who stood silently by while Hitler committed genocide.

But genocide? Really?
Ethnic cleansing is a goal of the white supremacist groups. What do you think that means?

At any rate, the line has been drawn. This is the time to disavow Trump #fakepresident and step across the line and stand with those who oppose Nazism. In all its forms. If you're still with Trump #fakepresident, your message is loud and clear: You're okay with Nazis and white supremacists running things, which, you know, makes you a Nazi and white supremacist.

Today is a good day to punch a Nazi in the face.
I wish I could say I meant that figuratively.

Friday, August 25, 2017

The Man Who Knew Too Much x2 (a movies review post)

There was this singer, once, I used to follow. His first album flew way under the radar, but he had a huge hit song off of a later album that blasted him to a niche fame. Around his sixth album or so, after he was popular, he pulled one of the songs from his first album and included it on the new one. Evidently, it was a song he really liked. When asked, once, in an interview about why he re-released that one song, he said, "I didn't think anyone was listening the first time."

I kind of wonder if this was one of those kinds of things for Hitchcock. The first The Man Who Knew Too Much came out in 1934, well into Hitchcock's career, actually, but he felt the need to re-make it 22 years later. Or maybe it was just a Star Wars kind of thing and he thought he could do better. He did say in an interview once that he was only a talented amateur when he made the first one but felt himself to be a professional at the point he remade it in 1956. The 1956 version was certainly better.

Of course, I watched the '34 version first. Even without having seen the second (well, I'm sure I saw the second one when I was a kid, but I didn't have any real memory of the movie), the first one felt... sparse. There's no real development of the story to give you any empathy for the characters. The mother, played by Edna Best, seems to not like her daughter very much, repeatedly calling her names and blaming her for her loss in a shooting competition, and taunts her husband about leaving him for other men. It makes it difficult to have sympathy for her once her daughter is kidnapped.

Then, once the daughter is kidnapped, the Lawrence's go back to England and try to act as if nothing has happened. It's kind of weird.

The best part of the '34 version is Peter Lorre. He's just the right amount of creepy for a bad guy. Plus, there's a cult and some hypnotism thrown in for good measure. I suppose the cadre of bad guys in the first movie is actually more interesting even if it is a little less believable. Cicely Oates is also decidedly creepy as the kidnapped girl's caretaker/cult leader.

But the remake is immediately better than the first movie. Maybe it's the charisma of Jimmy Stewart that does it, or maybe it's just a more believable scenario, a family on vacation rather than a family of, what, Olympic competitors? (It's never really clear if they're competing in the Olympics, but the father, Bob Lawrence, lost a skiing competition and the mother, Jill Lawrence, lost her sharp-shooting competition.) At any rate, the '56 version opens with some banter between the family as they ride a bus to Marrakesh, friendly banter and story-telling. They're likable. The McKenna's, though, have a son, not a daughter.

There's much more buildup to the kidnapping in this one, and you feel the loss with the family, the frantic-ness. There's love there, and you believe the lost-ness of the characters as they realize their son has been taken and they've been given no other instruction than to keep their mouths shut about what they know. It's, then, also believable when Ben McKenna tries to work out what to do and how to save his son on his own. Not that his wife, played by Doris Day, is to be left out of things, which is something else I like about the movie. The woman is no fainting flower (unlike Jill Lawrence who literally fainted when she found out her daughter was kidnapped).

There is an important scream in each movie -- I'm not going to tell you why because spoilers -- but the two screams are also significantly different in motivation. In the '34 version it's a woman screaming from fear much like the fainting episode: It's just what women do. Or some such. But in the '56 version, it's made very clear the scream was a deliberate attention-getting act. A brave move rather than a cowardly one. It's an interesting difference.

The two movies, despite the same basic premise and a few equivalent plot points, are surprisingly dissimilar. Actually, that's easy to see just at a casual glance considering the '56 version is about 45 minutes longer. Plus, there's Jimmy Stewart. If you had to choose between the two, the one with Jimmy Stewart is the easy choice, and it just so happens that it's the better movie. Oh, and the '56 one is also in color, so there's that, too. But I would really suggest watching both. The first one is worth it for Peter Lorre alone. Seriously.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Clone Wars -- "The Disappeared: Part 2" (Ep. 6.9)

-- Wisdom is born in fools as well as wise men.

[Remember, you can sign up to join the Clone Wars Project at any time by clicking this link.]
[Well, actually, considering that we're into season six, now, probably no one new is going to sign up, BUT! Hop over to The Armchair Squid for his take on the current episode.]

Last episode was Temple of Doom; this episode is Raiders. You know the whole thing where Indy chases Nazis (see, Indiana chases hates Nazis! If it's good enough for Indy, it should be good enough for, well, everyone) carrying Marion through the streets while she's yelling his name? Except this time it's cultists carrying Queen Julia while she yells "Jar Jar!" Which is fine as far as it goes, except that it's Jar Jar chasing them because Mace Windu stopped to beat up some cultists.

I have a serious problem with Mace stopping to beat up Nazis. I mean cultists. I don't have a problem with him beating them up, but they were chasing the dudes who had the queen, and Windu had no reason to spend his time on those dudes. He stopped long enough to get split up from Jar Jar which gave the cultists time to get away. But, see, those particular guys were no threat to Binks or Windu, and they could have just bypassed them and retrieved the queen.

Yeah, I know that would have been the end of the episode... except it wouldn't have to be! I mean, Mother Talzin is the big bad in this, so any number of things could have happened! Probably not what did happen, but I hate when a story hinges on a stupid decision someone makes that isn't a decision the person would normally have made. [It's okay for a character to make a stupid decision if it's a stupid character who makes those decisions all the time, but a smart character shouldn't make stupid decisions just to further the plot.]

So... As it turns out, this two-episode arc was here to give us closure on the dangling Mother Talzin thread, which, I suppose, give us closure on all of the Dathomir plots. Other than, technically, I suppose, Darth Maul and Asajj Ventress, but I don't consider them part of the Dathomir plots even if they did both come from there.

Anyway... Cut ending. Anti-climactic. It's fun to see Jar Jar with some romance? Maybe.

"Maybe using the Force is taking too long..." (paraphrased)

Monday, August 21, 2017

The New Civil War (ongoing): Charlottesville

I know a lot of you out there think I'm going overboard with talking about a civil war, another civil war. Not just talking about it but writing about it as well (that story starts here: "Day One") but, while that story is fiction, the idea that there is a new civil war coming is not.

It's already here.

Yeah, I'm pretty sure that in the future, historians are going to look back and say that the Second Civil War began in Charlottesville, VA. In many ways, it's the first confrontation, the first confrontation where the Nazis came in with intent to kill. And I don't just mean the terrorist incident with the car.

If you haven't watched this video, you need to.

Just to be clear, none of what I'm saying is because of that video. The video is just research that backs up what I was already saying.

Look, I am not advocating for a war. The thought of that scares the shit out of me, because there won't be any battle lines this time, not physical ones. There will be no armies that meet and clash in the way it happened in first civil war or in WWI or WWII. This will be a war fought in the streets of our cities all across America, often between regular people. It will be a war of terrorists attacks being performed by Nazis and those on the Alt-right. There will be no safe zones.

Can it be stopped?

I don't know.

The consensus, currently, among historians and military people who study this kind of thing (including civil wars currently being fought in other countries) say we're at about a 35% chance of a full civil war, but one of the leading minds on the subject (I forget his name and am not going to go back and look it up again now) puts us at a 65% chance of a full civil war.

One thing is clear, we can't stop it with Trump #fakepresident in office, and we probably can't stop it with anyone from the GOP in office. In fact, as I'm writing this, Bannon has just  been given the boot by Trump and Breitbart is going to war with the #fakepresident over it. I don't even know if that's figurative or not.

What I know is this:
Right-wing nutjobs have been arming themselves for decades. A huge number of the Nazis at the "rally" in Charlottesville were armed to the teeth. That guy in the Vice video was pulling out weapons as if he were Gimli in Jackson's rendition of LotR. They are prepared for violence and they want violence.

The Nazi faction in America is still growing, still getting stronger, and they want an ethnic cleansing. They want an America for white people. At some point, unless they are put down first, there's going to be a concerted effort on their part to attack minority groups with the goal of killing them.

The Left needs to be prepared and, right now, I don't think that we are. We somehow think this is all going to blow over or that real violence, really real violence, isn't going to happen, not here, not in America. Well, it's already started and it's just going to get worse. I mean, hell, various white supremacist groups are going on and on about how glad they are that they made the first kill and how she deserved it. And she was white! Wait till they start on the people they really want to go after.

If you're going to go to a protest, you need to take precautions. Minimally, I think that involves buying some Kevlar or some kind of body armor and probably wearing a helmet. Yes, I'm being serious. The white supremacists are armed and armored! You need to protect yourselves.

The time for trying to be in the middle is over. This is not going to pass without people taking a stand against it. It's time for those of us who believe in justice and liberty for all people to stand up for it. It's time for those of us who believe in what the nation was founded on to stand up and fight for it.

Most of all, it's time to deliver a message to the GOP that they need to get off of the fence. It's time for them to quit using their mealy mouths to condemn Trump #fakepresident while doing nothing about it and trying to work with him to further their own hate agendas. Either stand with Trump #fakepresident or stand against him. And, if they're going to stand with him, they need the message that they will go down with him.

What I know is this:
If you want to stop this war before it really gets going, it requires strong action now. Strong action NOW. Not more talk. Action. For some of you, that action is talk; it's speaking up. Now. It's time for the first civil war to end, for racial injustice to end, for white supremacy to end.

Friday, August 18, 2017

What I've Learned from Politics

I've learned that I'm tired of politics. Seriously, I'm not really a political person anyway. Yeah, I see you laughing there, but you should go check this post to understand what I'm talking about.

I've learned that I really liked it when I didn't have to pay attention to the political realm EVERY SINGLE FUCKING DAY. I think this must be what it's like to live with an abusive alcoholic. You have to always be on guard, always on watch, always paying attention. God, it's tiring. If nothing else, Obama gave us a kind of stability that allowed us to pursue our own lives but, now, every day there is something new and every week, seemingly, some new catastrophe. Because if there's one thing you can count on is that Trump #fakepresident will get drunk every weekend and go on some kind of twitter-rage so that each week begins with some kind of horrible drama.

I've learned that one man can make a difference, but it's not a good one. Political stress is everywhere, not just here but all across the world, and a great deal of it is being caused by ONE FUCKING ASSHOLE with the power to wage nuclear war #fakepresident, and I don't mean the chubby baby in North Korea. The whole world is on edge because of the toddler the US put in the highest office in the world.

I've learned that some people I thought once were pretty decent people have been vile undercover racists and worse all along. I've learned that people who, at this point, are still supporting Trump #fakepresident have no redemption in store for them. If you support a racist, fascist, Nazi-lover; you are a racist, fascist, Nazi-lover. Sorry, you don't get to be a Trump #fakepresident supporter and also try to claim that you're not racist. Not anymore. Not ever, really, but certainly not after Charlottesville and Trump's #fakepresident refusal to condemn the Nazi-instigated violence.

I mean, fuck, even some of the worst Republicans out there, real assholes themselves (Rubio, Hatch), immediately condemned the acts of the Nazis. How hard is it to condemn Nazis? Too hard for Trump #fakepresident and Sessions. So, yeah, Sessions called it domestic terrorism, but it was obvious that he was forced into that position with his whole, "it meets the legal definition" bullshit.

I've learned that the GOP are even bigger assholes than I thought. And complete cowards.

I've learned that talking politics is good for blog traffic, which isn't something I considered when I started doing political posts.

I've also learned that the increased traffic does not lead to more comments or book sales. Which, admittedly, was not a motivation for making the political posts (again, see the link provided above), but it would have been nice. Would be nice.

I've learned to not respond to people who say things like "prove it." It doesn't matter what data or evidence you show them, they will continually tell you that that data and evidence are fake, something they've learned from their Russian-Nazi master #fakepresident.

I've learned that Texas is the hand basket. Except for Austin. Texas has politicians as bad as #fakepresident. It makes me ashamed to have been there and so glad to be away from there.

I've learned that Nazis don't give up. David Duke is still around and pushing his racist KKK agenda decades after trying to be governor of Louisiana. Louisiana is probably the handle of the hand basket.

I've learned that books like 1984 and Fahrenheit 451 never quit being relevant.

I've learned that intolerance is a thing that can't be tolerated. At all. If it could be tolerated at all, we wouldn't have Nazis inciting violence again and heading us toward a New Civil War. Also, you can see this post where I first talked about that.

I've learned that it's never too late to punch a Nazi in the face.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Clone Wars -- "The Disappeared: Part 1" (Ep. 6.8)

-- Without darkness, there cannot be light.

[Remember, you can sign up to join the Clone Wars Project at any time by clicking this link.]
[Well, actually, considering that we're into season six, now, probably no one new is going to sign up, BUT! Hop over to The Armchair Squid for his take on the current episode.]

Today's episode: Jar Jar Jones and the Temple of Doom!

Honestly, I'm not sure how I feel about this episode. On the one hand, we find out that Jar Jar has a love interest...
Yeah, I'm going to stop right there.
There is humor in it, though, in that Jar Jar goes off with Queen Julia for the night and Mace Windu spends the time freaking out about where Jar Jar has gone and what he could possibly be doing. That the queen is Jar Jar's girlfriend never enters Windu's mind. Inconceivable!


The dagoyan people don't like the Jedi despite their affinity for the Light Side of the Force. They hold the belief that the Jedi are kidnappers because of their practice of taking Force sensitive children to train at the Jedi Temple. And, well, we don't know that the Jedi are not really kidnappers of a sort. All we know is that they take young children to the Temple to be trained as Jedi and that that is common practice in the Republic. We don't know anything at all about how this is carried out or whether it's with consent or how often it might not be with consent or anything. And all of this is something that's mentioned, basically, in passing, but it's the most interesting question the episode brings up.

Well, that and why anyone, even Jar Jar's girlfriend, would trust Jar Jar to solve a mystery. You'd think that someone that close to Binks, in fact, would be the last one to trust Jar Jar to handle an important task completely alone.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Why You Worship a False god (Part Two)

[You should go back and read part one of this, because I'm not going to provide any kind of recap or summary, and this probably won't make sense without the previous post.]

I left you all last time with "Christianity is the worst," and I meant it. Why? For one simple reason:
"Christianity" provides a solution to the linear god problem then turns its back on it and walks away.

Imagine three cages with people all locked up inside each one, one for Jews, one for Muslims, one for Christians. No one can get out. Except there are people inside the Christian cage with keys to the door, but they like being in the cage and like having all the other people locked in with them, so they don't bother to tell anyone. They could, but they don't want to. That's pretty despicable. At least there isn't anyone in the other cages concealing keys.

Look, it's even true of Paul. The asshole. To paraphrase:
When Paul was approached with the idea that sin didn't matter anymore because all sin was forgiven under Christ, Paul said, "Sure, you're right. Don't sin anyway." Basically, get back in your cage and sit down and shut up. Because Paul was a legalistic douche bag, kind of by his own admittance. He was a Pharisee among Pharisees.

And this is where we get to the point:
The whole point of the idea of Jesus is that he was a final sacrifice for all sin. All sin. Everyone's sin for all of time. Yes, you have to accept it, but, if you do, all of your sin has been atoned for. All the sins you've already done and all of the sins you'll do in the future, because it's only past and future for you. God sees you as a whole human being throughout the entire timeline of your life, so the one act of accepting the forgiveness offered through the sacrifice of Christ cleanses you of all of the sin. Therefore, it doesn't actually matter what you do; all sin is forgiven.

Now, this is the point where you really need to pay attention to get to the same place that I'm going.

Only a God outside of Time can do this. Only a God who can see your whole life at once and take away all the sin at once. That's what makes God, God.

If your god demands constant repentance and/or sacrifices to be on good terms with "him," then your god is no god at all. A god who is locked into judging you based upon your latest prayer, act of contrition, or sacrifice is a fraud. If your god is a fraud, then there is no sin, and it doesn't matter what you do. If your god is a fraud and you insist on dogmatically following some esoteric list of rules, you are also a fraud, propped up only by your legalism.

If your God is outside of Time and able to look at a person as a holistic being and has given you a way to purge your sin once and for all, then there is also no sin, and it doesn't matter what you do. Because let me be clear, no little prayer of "asking Jesus into your heart" is going to fool that kind of God into forgiving you. Whatever that means. Either that kind of God is up there judging people and it doesn't matter if you've "prayed the prayer" or not, because "He" knows more about what's going on in you than you do; or that kind of God is not judging people at all because, seriously, why would God even need to do that? Either way, it doesn't matter what you do. Neither can you "be good enough" to get into Heaven, nor can you be bad enough to get kicked out.

Which leaves us all in a very uneasy space, I know. A place of real moral ambiguity.
I mean, I've just stated that it doesn't matter what you do! How will we know if people are good or if people are bad or whether they're going to get into heaven or go straight to hell or whether we should look up to them because of how "righteous" they are or look down at them and spit because they're dirty, rotten sinners?

But here's the thing, man clearly has a moral compass of sorts. Humans have a pretty standard idea of what's right and wrong across cultures. It doesn't matter whether you believe if that's something divine or if it's some kind of genetic inheritance because we're a social species, there is a clear call to uphold the social good. Maybe the idea is to be good for goodness' sake, not out of fear of some kind of punishment. Maybe the idea is to do the Right thing because it's the right thing.
And God doesn't matter in that decision.

Here are the things I can tell you for sure:
1. Any God is so far above man that we are incapable of any kind of understanding about who or what God is. Anyone who tells you differently, anyone who tries to tell you what God is about and what God approves of and what "he" doesn't, is a liar and a fraud. Any person claiming to know God's mind worships a false god. Anyone who ever utters the phrase, "You need to get right with god," worships a god trapped in a linear timeline, and that god is not a god at all.
2. The current "christian" establishment in the United States (possibly the entire "christian" establishment across the world) clearly worships a linear god; therefore, the current "christian" establishment worships no god at all.
3. Anyone supporting "christianity" and Trump are clearly not even "christians," let alone a Christian. There is nothing in "christianity" which supports the support of a person like that. He is the antithesis of what it is to be a Christian, so anyone supporting him is clearly paying lip service to a religion they know nothing about. Clearly those people are worshiping a god they have made up in their own minds, not a God who lives outside of Time. The fact that they can't see the glaring divide between the character of Jesus in the Bible and the caricature that is Trump highlights their ingrained hypocrisy.

What I'm saying here is that most of you out there, if you believe in "God," have no idea what you believe. You've been told what to believe by other people and your idea of God is flawed. If your idea of God is flawed, you can't believe in God, only god. You have no idea what the Bible is about or what it says because you've never bothered to read it. And reading the Bible should only be the beginning of your learning about what you believe. That is, if you believe it. Because, really, most of you don't believe in anything; you just think you do.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Aurora Daedalus (the continuing saga)

"It sounds spacey and stuff, I guess."

My son made a song. His words. That's what he said when he announced, unexpectedly, that he'd been... you know, I don't know the correct word to use here, because "making" probably is more correct than "writing" in this context, though I don't really know. Anyway, he announced, "Hey, I made a song. Do you want to hear it?"

The word "yes" got shoved around in my throat as I tried to figure out what he was talking about. What came out was more along the lines of, "Wait, what? You made a song?"
"Yeah, you want to hear it?"
That's when the "yes" made it out.

And I was impressed. You should take a listen:
Aurora Daedalus
I mean, I was impressed in that I really like it. Sometimes kids bring you things that you're impressed with because it was your kid that did it, but I think this is a great piece of music.
And he's written some more since then! Aurora is still my favorite, but they're all good.

And we didn't even know he was working on this stuff!

So, anyway, go check out my son's music.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Clone Wars -- "Crisis at the Heart" (Ep. 6.7)

-- Deceit is the weapon of greed.

[Remember, you can sign up to join the Clone Wars Project at any time by clicking this link.]
[Well, actually, considering that we're into season six, now, probably no one new is going to sign up, BUT! Hop over to The Armchair Squid for his take on the current episode.]

When you make a deal with the devil... Well, you know how that goes.
Maybe we should change that from "devil" to "Sith." Or "Trump." Seriously. Ask the GOP how that's going.

I don't really know what I want to say about this episode. The closing chant of "Long live the banks!" is disturbing on many levels, but it's not substantial enough to talk about.

Overall, this arc is about Palpatine continuing to cement his power for his ever approaching takeover as Emperor. It's difficult for me to watch these things, sometimes, because I want to say, "Are you all blind? Can't you see what's going on?" Which makes me want to say, "People would never be that stupid," but, then, we have Trumtatine as president, so, obviously, that's not true. People are that stupid, and Palpatine plays them like a drum.

Even the Jedi go along. Which reminds me of the electoral college, because the electoral college was put in place specifically to keep someone like Trump from ever getting into office, and, yet, here we are. And the Jedi, who should have been the people to stand up and say "No! This is wrong," fail to do that at every turn. And it makes sense at each little step for them to go along because there was nothing at each little step to prompt them to protest.

Which is exactly what the GOP have done to us over the past few decades, slowly eroding our democracy to a point where Trump is in office and they can't figure out how to stand up to him because they're not willing to risk their own power.

And then there's Anakin and his insane jealousy, but that story is completely undermined by the fact that he's right about Clovis, so, in the end, he's not held accountable for his horrible actions. Not by the Jedi and not by Padme.
But that, also, is how things are.

It's not a very enjoyable arc, but it's probably a very good one.

"Your actions have brought war right where there cannot be war."

Monday, August 7, 2017

Why You Worship a False god (Part One)

Let me just say upfront that I'm probably going to lose a lot of you with this "discussion," and not because of the offensive material but because of the metaphysical material. My experience is that people don't tend to be able to keep up. For example, my first college roommate was a Calvinist (you can look it up), but he was a Calvinist because he didn't understand the doctrine of predestination or what they mean by it. In his mind, since "god" knows everything, "god" also causes everything to happen. There is no free will. Foreknowledge equated control. Basically, "god" was upstairs with puppet strings attached to everything, and no one had any choices about anything.

How boring.

The problem was that he really just couldn't see the difference between foreknowledge and complete predestination (of everything) no matter how many times or how many ways people (not just me) tried to explain it to him. Some of the people who tried to explain it to him also didn't understand the differences in the concepts; they just knew that they had been told that Calvinism was wrong.

I only bring this up because it relates. We're going to talk about God and Time and why your god isn't actually God. And, sure, that part might be offensive, but I'm pretty sure I'm going to lose most of you way before we get far enough along for you to be offended. Unless, of course, you're already offended.

So let's start with something pretty basic:
For god to be God, He has to be outside of time, the maker of Time. That's pretty standard thought nowadays, in theory, at least among "christian" theologians, so I'm probably not losing anyone yet, theoretically. Until we get to the part where we're dealing with what it means to be outside of Time, but I'm not got to get into that, because that's kind of like asking a fish what it's like to be outside of water. And the fact that most of you probably don't get the part where Time is not some linear stream that has always existed.

Maybe you're wondering why that even matters, but it matters in that, for god to be God, He has to be omniscient, and He can't be omniscient from within Time. To know everything, you have to be outside of everything, including Time.

And it matters because of sin.

Before I go on, let me state quite clearly that I am NOT just talking about Christianity here. I'm also talking about Judaism and Islam. It's all the same god, and all three religions suffer from the same issue: sin.

Here's where we start getting tricky...

Men are linear creatures, time-wise; therefore, our views of people tend to be pretty tied into whatever they did last. The quality of a person is based on his/her most recent actions. That's the linear view.

And that's the view religious people, of whatever religion, tend to take, too, hence all of the sin, repent, repeat nonsense. Because you can't go to heaven if you have sin, and you're only as good as your last repentance.

Christianity, theoretically, deals with this issue. Jesus was intended to be the one and only sacrifice that would wipe sin from your life both backwards and forwards. Hebrews 10:10 -- "...we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all." The idea for the need for constant repentance (sacrificing) has been dealt with by the one sacrifice of Jesus, so sacrifices are no longer needed. Provided, of course, that you accept the One sacrifice of Christ as your own. This is what the writer of Hebrews is saying. [Note: The writer of the book of Hebrews is unknown, but it was almost certainly NOT Paul. The asshole.]

Of course, the writer of Hebrews couldn't reconcile this idea with himself and, a few verses later, says that, basically, since you've been forgiven of your sins -- all of them past, present, and future -- don't ever sin again. I mean, if you're accepting the grace of God but, then, go out and sin again anyway, you deserve to go to straight to hell. STRAIGHT TO HELL, I tell you! Because he couldn't take himself out of a linear mindset despite the words of Jesus himself claiming to be the one and only sacrifice ever needed.

This is where we run into some problems, because neither Judaism not Islam have any mechanism for dealing with sin in a non-linear fashion. Their god is completely Time-linear and can only deal with men based upon their most recent actions. This causes two problems:
1. You have a man who has lived a horrible, despicable life full of sin and mayhem. The worst possible person you can think of. But, shortly before his death, he "sees the light," repents, offers the appropriate sacrifices, then dies and goes to heaven. [And some of you are saying, "But that's the great power of "god" and his offer of forgiveness to man!]
2. You have a man who has lived a pretty great life of being good and just to other men as much as possible. A true saint among men whom everyone looks up to. But he "stumbles" and commits some sin or other and, before he can repent or make the appropriate sacrifice or whatever, dies suddenly. Because he dies with sin, he is denied heaven. AND GOD CAN'T DO A DAMN THING ABOUT IT! Just, oops! That's too bad, but you have sin and can't come in.

Let me tell you, that's the kind of god I want to follow. One who is bound up in his own arbitrary rules and inability to see beyond the same linear timeline as man.

You "Christians" can stop patting yourselves on the back, because, in a lot of ways, you're even worse. Probably in the most important ways, you're worse.
But we'll talk about that next time.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Rigoletto (an opera review post)

You want to talk tragedy? Let's talk tragedy.

My wife and I wrapped up our 2016-17 opera season with Rigoletto, a Giuseppe Verdi opera based on a play by Victor Hugo. Neither play nor opera were received well by "those in charge," so to speak. Hugo's play, Le Roi s'amuse, was banned after one performance and not performed again for 50 years. Rigoletto also fell prey to the censors, but Verdi worked closely with the censors to make changes to the opera, like removing the action of the plot to Mantua instead of France, so that it could be performed. Let's just say that the nobility didn't appreciate either work.

At this point, I'm really tempted to give you a rundown of the plot, but you can get that elsewhere, or read Hugo's play, which the opera is very faithful to (despite the changes Verdi made to satisfy the censors). If there was ever a tragic figure in literature, Rigaletto (Triboulet in the play) is certainly it, a man reduced to life as a court jester due to a physical deformity. Triboulet is an actual historical figure, just so you know, not that I know how accurately Hugo portrays him in his play. The play is fiction, after all.

The premise, though, is that nobility, due to their high station, are able to escape the consequences of their horrible behavior in ways that other people are not able to. The idea is comparable to Don Giovanni in that it actually takes a supernatural occurrence to hold Giovanni accountable for the horrible things he has done. There is nothing similar in Rigoletto to hold the duke of Mantua accountable for his abuses. Rigoletto is left to pay all the consequences, not that some of them are not of his own design, and therein lies the tragedy.

For this production, Rigoletto was played by Quinn Kelsey, and he was AMAZING! Not only does he have an amazing voice, but he brought a certain amount of sympathy to the character so that you actually feel bad for him in the end. Because, don't get me wrong, Rigoletto is not a nice guy and really (almost) deserves everything he gets. He would if it was not taken out on Gilda, his innocent daughter, who also suffers at the hand of the duke.

Nino Machaidze (Gilda) and Pene Pati (the duke) are also great. Their only detriment being that they had to perform opposite Kelsey. Actually, this production was full of great performers. And one who rose even above that. Kelsey is already being compared to Pavarotti, and Pavarotti is generally considered the greatest tenor ever to sing opera. I guess we'll see how things go with Kelsey.

The sets and costumes were also impressive, and I would say that this was a pretty great production of Rigoletto, not that I've seen other productions of Rigoletto, but this one was great, and I would gladly go back to see it again.

Fun fact:
The duke's aria, "La donna e mobile," is one of the most recognizable tunes in opera. Verdi knew what he had when he wrote it, too, and didn't introduce it to the cast and musicians of Rigoletto until hours before the premiere performance of the opera. They were given instructions to not sing, whistle, or even think the melody outside of the theater. The morning after the premier performance, people were singing the aria in the streets.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Clone Wars -- "The Rise of Clovis" (Ep. 6.6)

-- Jealousy is the path to chaos.

[Remember, you can sign up to join the Clone Wars Project at any time by clicking this link.]
[Well, actually, considering that we're into season six, now, probably no one new is going to sign up, BUT! Hop over to The Armchair Squid for his take on the current episode.]

What I said last episode post notwithstanding, this episode is good. Tense. In part, it's good because Padme is back in an environment that makes sense for her to be in; mostly, it's good because we get to see into the dynamic between Anakin and Padme, which is something there hasn't been much of throughout the series.

Remember when Revenge of the Sith came out and Anakin and Obi-Wan had that big duel mostly because Anakin thought Obi-Wan had something going on with Padme? Some people got upset about that because they thought there was no way Anakin would just turn on Obi-Wan like that. They don't know people very well, is all I can say. And it's not like Lucas didn't set Anakin up to have rage problems, and people with rage issues tend to also have jealous-rage issues.

We really get to see Anakin go off into a jealous rage in this episode.

Oh, and spoiler alert:
Padme breaks up with him.

Really, though, what we're getting to see so far in season six, both in the previous arc and this arc, is the culmination of Palpatine's plans. Come on, everyone knows whats going to happen, but these are well done enough that you're really hoping things will go the other way.

"It's not that we're not allowed to have these feelings. It's... natural."