Friday, September 29, 2017

The Good Place (a review, of sorts)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

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

-- One crime has to be concealed by another.

A couple of notes before I get into the episode:

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

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

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

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

Monday, September 25, 2017

Day 28 (a future history)

Friday, February 16, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Clone Wars -- Season Six: The Lost Missions

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

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

In a word? Yes.

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

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

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

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Clone Wars -- "Sacrifice" (Ep. 6.13)

-- Facing all that you fear will free you from yourself.

[Hop over to The Armchair Squid for his take on this, the LAST, episode.]

A bit of foreshadowing for your final episode? Yes, please.
This, the final released episode of The Clone Wars, doesn't exactly have what one would call "closure." In fact, it might ask more questions than any other Star Wars anything. Maybe, it's hard to tell. And there will be spoilers here so, if you think you might possibly watch this episode, you should stop reading now.

First, Darth Bane. That's really all I'm going to say about that since I'm only bringing him up because Mark Hamill voiced him.

Then all the other stuff...

Yoda is faced with one of those "would you kill Hitler as a baby" kind of questions, except it's not Hitler, it's Anakin. During a confrontation with Darth Sidious, Sidious tells Yoda he can spare the galaxy from what it's going to face if he will just allow Anakin to die. Of course, it would be Yoda's first step onto the path of the Dark Side to do so... I want to leave it at that, but I'm sure you all know which way that went since we already know Yoda didn't go to the Dark Side, and we all know that Sidious and Vader conquered the galaxy.

During the episode, Yoda is told, "There is another Skywalker." Now, here's the thing: The Clone Wars is canon. That means it's Star Wars fact. Which begs the question: What does that mean, there's another Skywalker. Is it a glimpse of  the future when Yoda will tell that to Luke and it will mean something real? Does it mean there will be another Skywalker and that it's referring to Luke? Or does it mean there is another Skywalker at that very moment? In which case, is it referring to Padme or to some other unknown Skywalker?

We don't get an answer!

And with the series cancelled... Well, this episode in particular makes me wish Clone Wars had kept going. As I've said before, Rebels just isn't the same.

With that, I would say that this two-parter is definitely top five for story arcs. One of the top four, actually.

"We have failed to break Master Yoda."

Monday, September 18, 2017

The Comfort of Lies

Remember The Matrix? Great film, right? Well, it is as long as you pretend the two followups don't exist. Once you embrace the entire trilogy as one story, it kinda sucks. Okay, more than kinda. But, you know, it's okay to pretend; it's only a movie.

But let's explore that idea a little more.
And, you know, if you haven't seen The Matrix... Well, you'll just have to try and keep up, because I'm not explaining the movie in this post.

As you know, Neo has to make a choice, the choice between Reality and the fabricated world of the Matrix. One is real; one is a lie. The choice is symbolized by the two pills pictured above, the red pill or the blue pill. Of course, we all know which choice Neo is going to make, because the movie would be over if he were to choose to stay in the Matrix. Besides, it's the choice we all tell ourselves that we would make. Of course we would choose to forsake the lie!

But, man, Reality really sucks. (Much like the reality of the subsequent two films.)

Which brings us to Cypher. Cypher, having lived in the real world for quite a while, decides he doesn't like it. He decides he would rather live in a comfortable lie than continue to struggle through Reality. Remember, Reality sucks.

So Cypher cuts a deal with the machines and betrays his friends so that he can re-enter the lie, the Matrix.

The general reaction from the audience at the time was one of bafflement. How could he choose to go back into the Matrix knowing it was a lie? How could he?! But, you know, he tells us all the reasons as he's making the deal. He misses the... comfort... of it. The taste of food (rather than protein mush), the feel of the sun and the wind (rather than the blotted out sky), the ease of living as opposed to the constant life-threatening struggle that was Reality.

And, man, I empathize. Reality sucks, especially this current reality where we (in the United States) live on the teetering edge of authoritarianism and fascism. I get why so many people are choosing to believe the lies Trump pushes. It gives them comfort. It's their blue pill. If they can just believe in Trump enough, they can pretend he's not a racist douche bag and, if he's not a racist douche bag, then they, also, are not racist douche bags. And no one wants to be a racist douche bag. I mean, heck, even the white supremacist Nazi assholes try to pretend that they're not racist douche bags; that's why they go with all the "white pride" shit instead. But they're only fooling themselves.

To be fair, it's not like those on the Left aren't sucking on their own blue pills by continually talking about how we've forgotten the "white working class." This, also, is an appeal to racism and white supremacy. "C'mon white people, we're on your side." Seriously, no one forgot the white working class. In all seriousness, the white working class is doing just fine. The white working class, no matter how they feel about it, is still doing better than people of color. Any color. We need to stop talking about the "white working class" and how they feel left behind or whatever bullshit they want to call their racism. All they're really saying is, "We're worried our superior position is in jeopardy." And everyone else is trying to make them feel better about it while people of color are still getting the shit end of the stick.

Let me give you a practical example of the systemic racism in the system:
As I'm writing this, hurricane Irma is losing power, but the damage has already been done. There are about 45 known deaths to the storm and much of Florida is without power at the moment. Of course, just prior to Irma was Harvey. Harvey is responsible for 70 deaths and major flooding in Texas. These two storms caused huge amounts of destruction and have dominated the news for weeks.

However, in the midst of this, Mexico suffered the worst earthquake its had in a century, leaving around 100 dead. The media barely mentioned it and isn't talking about it anymore. And the news hasn't even mentioned that 2017 has been a harsh year for monsoons (hurricanes) in south Asia. The worst year in decades. So far, there have been almost 1300 confirmed deaths due to these storms and over 40 million people affected, including the destruction of more than 700,000 homes and a massive loss of crops due to flooding which is likely to cause food shortages. But, hey, they're not white, so, you know, big deal.


Look, I'm not diminishing what's happened to people in Houston and in Florida and in the Caribbean. What has happened has been horrible, but it doesn't make it less horrible to remember that other people are suffering, too. Except that, for some people, it does make it less horrible, because, to them, having bought into the Lie, they believe it's Us against Them, anything that happens to Them is okay because they deserve it. Or, maybe, not quite deserve it, but they don't deserve the special protection that white people ought to have from these kinds of events so, somehow, when it happens to white people, it's more tragic. Like when the Greeks only wrote tragedies about nobility because it wasn't tragedy if it happened to the common man.

But we're all common men.

The Lie is that we're not. The Lie is that it's Us (whites) against them (people of any other skin color).

Let me put it another way, to paraphrase Yoda:
My ally is the Truth, and a powerful ally it is. Life creates it, makes it grow. Its energy surrounds us, binds. Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter. You must feel the Truth flow around you. Here, between you, me, the brown person, and the black, yes, even between all others and the white.
The Truth, what Reality really is, is the we are all us.

We are all us.

(And I didn't even mention the blue pill of climate change denial.)

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Clone Wars -- "Destiny" (Ep. 6.12)

-- Death is just the beginning.

[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 have a question:
Why is Yoda's starfighter so much smaller than everyone else's? The lightsaber thing doesn't bother me, because lightsaber's need to fit the hand of the wielder, but the starfighter thing...? I mean, if starfighters can be smaller, they should be smaller. It makes them harder to hit. I guess the better question, then, is, "If they can make starfighters the size of Yoda's, why do the other Jedi have such large starfighters?" That seems to me to be a design flaw.

And, yes, that has nothing to do with the episode other than that Yoda's starfighter is in the episode, but it's a question that has bothered me for a while. Because the real reason is aesthetics, but I can't get behind that from a practical standpoint.


Yoda continues his journey, the quest he's been sent on by Qui-Gon Jinn. If you don't know what I'm talking about, you need to go back and watch the previous episode.

Significant things about this episode:
Yoda fights... well, let's just say it's a scene very reminiscent of that one with Gollum from LotR.
Yoda discovers some things about himself. (This is the good part.)
The priestesses are very Spirited Away.

The failing of this episode is that it's too short. Way too short. I think they could easily turn this one into an hour show and make it awesome and surreal.

"Disappoint us not, little green one."

Monday, September 11, 2017

Angel Island (part two)

America's issues with immigration go way back before Joe Arpaio. In fact, they could be said to have started right here in California. And, really, for all of the same issues. In a nutshell, the Chinese and other Asians flooded into California during the gold rush, much like people from the rest of the world. And there was plenty of cheap labor for them, especially with the construction of the transcontinental railroad. However, when the gold rush died down and the railroad was complete, there was a glut of available bodies in the labor market, and white dudes got scared of losing their jobs, which was the same sort of fear as it is today, considering the Chinese generally did the kinds of low-paying jobs that whites wouldn't take.

But fear is fear.

Or something like that.
All of this lead to the Chinese Exclusion Act which lasted for six decades. Sixty years! During that time, because the Chinese Exclusion Act lead to discrimination against all Asian immigrants, Asians trying to come to America were detained at Angel Island. For weeks. At least. For comparison, European (white) immigrants coming into the United States through Ellis Island had a processing time of a few hours; Asians coming in through Angel Island had a processing time of almost a month. The men were detained in the building pictured above and WERE NOT ALLOWED TO GO OUTSIDE for the duration of their "detention." Now, while I said that the processing time was generally about a month, it was often quite a bit longer than that. Months. Sometimes more than a year.

It wasn't so bad for the women and children... unless you count the part where they were taken away from their husbands and fathers and kept somewhere else. But, hey, they were allowed some brief moments outside.

To deal with the loneliness and depression, the men carved poems into the walls of the detention center.
And here is a translation of one of the poems:
"It's useless to be friends with those of narrow mind."
And, you know, narrow-mindedness is a hallmark of conservatives. It's a fear thing, actually, because fear makes people narrow minded, unable to see possibilities, and conservatives tend to live on fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of change, fear of others.
That's not an opinion, by the way; it's what research shows.

One of the things that's been said quite a bit by those on the Right who support all of Trump's #fakepresident racist immigration policies (not to mention the Nazis and white supremacists) is, "It's not like we haven't done this kind of thing before." As if a past misdeed makes a future misdeed okay. In fact, the acknowledgement of a past misdeed, like Angel Island or the Japanese internment centers during WWII, should be motivation to not repeat the same mistake.

It's to cut out all of this white supremacist and Nazi bullshit.