Tuesday, November 28, 2017

The Rest of the Year

the rest of the year...
It's going to be a BIT MEssY

Things are just...
And I'm behind
on most things
the Blog
Because I keep it several weeks ahead most of the TIME
But tIime
caught up to me during all the stuff with the fires, and I've failed to get back ahead of things

even though I don't have a specific
I do have a pattern
most of the time
but NOT through the end of the year

I'm working on beginning to sell off my comic book collection
right NOW
and that's taking a lot of tiMe
you know
if you want to buy some comic books
let me know

Monday, November 27, 2017

Rebels: "Brothers of the Broken Horn" (Ep. 2.06)

"We were enjoying a friendly game of sabaacc and, well, now, it's my ship."

With one episode, Rebels won my heart. Hondo Ohnaka was one of  my favorite side characters from Clone Wars, and it's a delight to have him show up here. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying he was my favorite side character, but he was definitely top three. I hope this is just the first of many episodes for him to show up in. [Evidently, he still has the best writers. So many great lines!]

"Oh, the stories I could tell, so many of them true."

Ezra's having a hard time dealing with all of his responsibilities. On top of learning to use the Force and all of the other things he has to do to be a part of the team, Rex is now working on teaching him how to be a soldier. It's more than a bit overwhelming, which is what leads to running into Hondo. Ezra takes a... day off. So to speak.

Nothing philosophical. Not really. Just a fun episode. A romp, if you will. Definitely worth a watch.

"Well, that's another version of the story; I suppose."

Friday, November 24, 2017

Rebels: "Always Two There Are" (Ep. 2.05)

"You're like a broken protocol droid!"

Ooh... A haunted house story! Well, you know, derelict space craft/station story. I don't remember them doing one of these before. Of course, Rebels hasn't done one of these before, but I don't remember one from Clone Wars, either. I think the closest we've had to the feel of the beginning of this episode is Luke's visit to Dagobah. If someone had said, "I feel like...," I wouldn't have been surprised. It was an appropriately creeping beginning for a visit to an abandoned Republic space station.

It's good to have Rex in the series; he's a good foil to Kanan. I hope he stays around for a while.

Mostly, though, the episode is about introducing us to the new Inquisitor. Excuse me, two Inquisitors. The image of the new Inquisitor from last episode is appropriately imposing, but, as it turns out, Fifth Brother is just the muscle; Seventh Sister is the real creep fest, here, and it works to introduce these two in this episode.


The show has yet to tackle any of the more complex philosophical issues that Clone Wars often took on. Rebels has become more enjoyable as they've deepened the personal relationships, etc, but it hasn't really taken on any questions beyond the difference between good and evil. It seems like there will be a lot of that as Ezra has more individual contact with characters like the Inquisitors. So, yes, I'm liking Rebels more than I did, but it still lacks the depth and complexity of The Clone Wars. But more on that next time...

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Rebels: "Relics of the Old Republic" (Ep. 2.04)

I'm a bit reminded of Howl's Moving Castle with this pair of episodes. The clones live in an old Republic tank, travelling slowly around the desolate planet they live on. There are things, like laundry, hanging off the outside of the tank. Being just a 20-minute show, they don't spend much time delving around the innards of their home, but there's just enough there to make me wish that they had. The fact that Gregor's kind of crazy just heightens that desire. I mean, who knows what kind of stuff he has stashed in odd corners inside that thing.

The only problem in all of this is that someone called the Empire. "Hello, we have a Jedi here..." As if Kanan didn't have enough against the clones already.

But it does give us a chance to see the clones scoff at and make fun of their first AT-ATs. That was a fun moment. Oh, come on, it's not anything people haven't said before, so it's good, I suppose, to see the creators making fun of their own thing. And what do AT-ATs care?

All of that, and a new Inquisitor is coming to town...

So far, season two is shaping up to be far superior to season one. The themes being introduced are much more mature and interesting than the rather juvenile season one. Which is not to say that I don't expect there to be more juvenile hi-jinks, because even Clone Wars had its more juvenile moments.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Rebels: "The Lost Commanders" (Ep. 2.03)

"There are questions, questions that need answering."

With those words Ahsoka is off to delve into the mystery of the Sith Lord she encountered last episode because, yeah, she doesn't know that Vader is Anakin. That conveniently takes her out of the picture for the moment, leaving our own little rebel band to go off on their own mission.

So... Ever wonder what happened to the clone troopers after the end of the Clone Wars? Did they end up on street corners holding bean cans while begging for handouts? I can't answer that question for you, not in a general sense, but we do get to find out what became of Captain Rex. Turns out he's on my least favorite planet in the galaxy. Oh! and hey! Gregor survived! Well, more or less. You remember him, right? The best part of my leasy favorite Clone Wars story arc ever.

The problem with all of this? Kanan was there when the clones turned on the Jedi. He watched his Master gunned down by clones she had served with for years, and he ran as they turned to do the same to him. They are both his betrayers and his reminder of his own guilt. Should be some interesting stuff if the clones stay around long enough, though there may be more betrayal in the offering.

Personally, I hope Rex stays around, and I hope we find out what happened to Cody, too, though I suspect nothing good if he's not with Rex.

Oh, and Zeb gets used as bait. Like worm bait.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Rebels: "The Siege of Lothal -- Part 2" (Ep. 2.02)

"We're going to have to smuggle ourselves off Lothal for a change."

Ezra meets Vader...

It doesn't go well.

It doesn't go well for anyone. 

Vader takes on a whole rebel fleet in his special TIE fighter, and we see why he's so feared as a pilot. Seriously, the stuff he does with his TIE is so far beyond anything we've seen from him, and we saw Anakin do a lot of impressive flying during Clone Wars.

The take away, though, and this is spoilery, is that Vader discovers his old apprentice is still alive.

Really, that's all I'm going to say about all of this (almost). It was a great start to season two and bringing Vader and Ahsoka together has me fully invested in where this is going to go.

All that and Lando makes an appearance.
And the Emperor.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Rebels: "The Siege of Lothal -- Part 1" (Ep. 2.01)

"I guess there is no going home."

It's Rebels week here at StrangePegs, which means two thing:
1. There will be an episode of Rebels reviewed each day!
2. No politics this week.
Except that it's Rebels, so there's a good chance there will be politics.

So... Kanan isn't happy. His and Hera's small rebel band of hooked up with the larger Rebel Alliance after the events that ended season one, and Kanan is feeling uncomfortable being a part of a larger organization. And taking orders. He really doesn't like having to take orders and be part of a chain of command.

Probably, he doesn't like having Ahsoka around, either, but that's just me saying that.  It doesn't come up in the episode.

Vader's not happy with the fact that our group has joined the larger organism, either, but that's because they're not on Lothal anymore, and Vader wants them back. Which means a plan...

Remember The Empire Strikes Back and that whole part where Han and Leia go to Bespin and... it's trap! This is kind of like that. Vader knows what's going to happen since, you know, he can see the future and all, which makes it a bit unfair. Evidently, Kanan never progressed in his training enough to be able to get glimpses of the future? I don't know. It's not a thing all Jedi can do, anyway, so maybe he just doesn't have that skill.

But, anyway, part of what happens is that Vader and Kallus order Minister Tua to make things... difficult... for the population of Lothal. This also echoes Empire; however, Tua doesn't have the stomach for it. Although she's a good little Nazi, um, Imperial agent, it seems that there are some things that go beyond even her ability to condone, very unlike our very own Republicans who seem just fine with rape as long as it's a good Republican boy doing the raping. [See, I told you. Politics.]

This episode is a good start to the season, and I didn't want to stop watching to write this.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Blade Runner 2049 (a movie review post)

Before I get started, this review is going to be full of spoilers. FULL! Seriously. I want to talk about this movie that, really, disappointed me, and I can't do that without talking spoilers. You've been warned.

But let's talk about Blade Runner first, which I reviewed a couple of months ago but didn't go into much detail when I did. I'm about to change that, so, if you haven't seen that movie, either, you might want to skip all of this.

We all know that Blade Runner was a visual masterpiece. It has been considered one of the most influential sci-fi movies of all time. Not as influential as Star Wars, of course, but, if you look at sci-fi movies after Blade Runner compared to before, you can see the difference.

However, it was the visuals that made the movie what it was. It's never just the visuals. The thing that was compelling about the movie, the thing that made it a great movie, was the question... I'll say it like this: What does it mean to be human? Which is actually the summation of many questions: Do I have a soul? Why do I have to die? What happens to me when I die? These are all questions Roy wants answers to.

Not that the movie definitively gives answers to any of these question, which is part of what makes the movie so compelling, but the scene at the end when Roy releases the dove is poignantly symbolic.

Blade Runner 2049 fails at all of the things that made the original so great.

Rather than the gritty realism that was so enticing in the first movie, 2049 is immaculately polished. Even the grit is polished. It's the difference between a box full of rocks and a box full of rocks that have been through a rock tumbler. Sure, they're prettier than a box of rocks, but all of the realism is gone.

Like, all of it. I mean, what the fuck is with the orange landscape with giant statues of naked women in high heels in porn poses? We're supposed to buy that as any sort of realism? And don't give me any "well, it's the future" crap, because that doesn't make the idea of that any more realistic, especially since that place would have to almost already exist so that it could be abandoned for 20-30 years by 2049. And a lot of the movie is like that: "cool" visuals for the sake of being cool but with no anchor to reality or purpose.

Not to mention how full of plot holes the movie is. Let's just talk about my "favorite" one:

Wallace has finally caught Deckard and wants some information from him that Deckard won't give up. Wallace informs Deckard that he will have to take him off-planet to torture him so that he'll talk. Wait, what? He needs to take him off-planet to torture him? What the fuck sense does that make? Wallace has already killed someone in his office, and he wasn't too worried about that. Sure, she was a replicant, but the movie tries to heavily imply that Deckard is, in fact, also a replicant -- though without coming out and saying it (it's like the writer, Hampton Fancher, can't decide if wants Deckard to be a replicant or not and, so, doesn't want to nail it down in case he changes his mind later) -- so what's the big deal about torturing Deckard in a place where, evidently, he routinely commits murder? Or whatever you call killing a replicant. Retiring?

Plus, no one knows Deckard is even still alive. He disappeared 30 or so years prior, so it's not like anyone is going to come looking for him.

The whole scenario is ridiculous and contrived so that Deckard can be put in a position for K to rescue him, something that wouldn't have been possible within the confines of Wallace's headquarters. I hate contrived bullshit that writers use to get themselves out of a hole they've put themselves in.

Other stupid things I'm not going to go into:
The threesome K has with his hologram and a prostitute. Not just that it happened but that it was inserted at a time when K should have been fleeing for his life, but, no, he has time to stop and have sex with a fucking hologram!

The junkyard people who decide to shoot down a police vehicle for no discernible reason and the divine intervention exercised by Wallace's lackey to get K out of it. Literally, K just shrugs off the fact that missiles rain down on his opponents and goes about his business, no questions asked.

The fact that this movie is no more than a bridge to set up for a replicant rebellion story line.

But the worst thing about the movie? It has no questions. There is nothing in this movie to give it any depth or, pardon the pun, soul. Its attempt to come to grips with the question, "Do replicants have souls?" is clumsy at best and results in a miracle-baby-orphan-savior cliche plot. Seriously, that's the best you could come up with, Fancher? It's not like that hasn't been done to death already. The child even has her own scar, of sorts, to mark as special, to mark her as "the one."

When the best sequel you can come up with to one of the greatest sci-fi movies of all time is a cliche, maybe you should leave the original movie to stand alone. It didn't need a sequel. But, then, maybe you needed the money.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Clone Wars -- "Unfinished Business" (Ep. ?.8)

-- Learn from the past but live for the future.

Well, here we are... at the end. End of the arc. End of the season. End of the show.
End of line.

Oh, wait, wrong movie. That's some other Disney franchise.

All of this started with Admiral Trench -- not the show, just this arc -- and we return to Trench's attack on the Republic's shipyards to finish up this bit of unfinished business, not that Trench isn't another piece of unfinished business.

One of the greatest moments in the series happens in this episode. It's a bit understated, but it's pretty awesome. Let's just say it this way: Mace Windu gives a speech.
To battle droids.
In front of Obi-Wan.

This is a good solid arc. The Bad Batch is an interesting idea, though a bit like the X-Clones (if I didn't say that before). Their introduction was obviously not intended as the series-ending arc it turned out to be. There's a lot left to be explored here, not least of which is whether there are more clones like the Bad Batch.

And, then, there's Echo, because it's clear from "Unfinished Business" that his story line was just beginning. It makes me hope he shows up in Rebels. Yes, I know I could check, but I'd rather be surprised.

Anyway... It was not a bad arc to end the series on, though I rather wish they'd been able to craft a story that would have felt like a story that was bringing the series to a close. In most respects, with Ahsoka leaving the Jedi Order, season five has much more the feel of the series coming to an end. It certainly feels as if they were working up to... something, and I really wish Disney had allowed the series to continue. There's no real reason why Clone Wars and Rebels couldn't have run concurrently.

Oh, well...

Monday, November 13, 2017

So That You Understand

This was a neighborhood. My friend had a house here. Whole parts of the city look like this.

Friday, November 10, 2017

At the Mountains of Madness (a book review post)

Yes, I'm still working my way through Lovecraft. No, I wouldn't recommend him to anyone else, not in general. There are a few, just a few, stories I'd suggest for anyone wanting to try him out. This is not one of them. Especially not at its length.

Funnily enough, when Lovecraft wrote this story, it was considered a novella but, by today's standards, it's novel length. It's more than 12,000 words longer than his next longest story and, I'm pretty sure, he could have cut all of them out. All of them. No, Lovecraft is not an author who gets better with length; he just gets more repetitive. I mean, it's possible that all 12,000 of those words are instances of "cyclopean" (one of Lovecraft's favorite words) and "decadent" (a new favorite for this story (seriously, if I ever again hear the term "decadent statue," it will be too soon (What even is a "decadent statue"? Lovecraft never says. He just tosses in the descriptor at some point to differentiate between the earlier statues))).

I did have hopes for this story when it started out. For one thing, it has a new setting. A new setting for Lovecraft, at any rate, though it's not really a common setting: the Antarctic. And it starts out well enough as Lovecraft goes into the scientific mission of the team and setting up the base camp and all of that but, of course, there's an unexpected discovery and everything goes horribly wrong.

Also, of course, the narrator isn't present for any of the action. That's how Lovecraft do. But what that does is forces the author to only tell you what happened, never to show it. It just gets boring after a while. Even when Lovecraft puts the narrator into the action, it ends up being passive. The narrator gets scared and runs away and never even sees what he's running from. His companion does, but that thing, whatever it was, is never revealed. You just have to trust that it's something really scary. So scary that the narrator's companion can't speak of it, another trick of Lovecraft's: the nameless terror.

It's so old, Man! Get a new trick.
Oh, no, wait, this is one of Lovecraft's last pieces, so it's not likely that he's going to find any new tricks.

The real problem with the story, though, is a thing a lot (maybe most?) of sci-fi authors have a problem with: I came up with a really cool idea and I want to tell you all about it even though it has nothing to do with the story and my character has no reason to know anything about it. Like a Joe Shmoe explaining how warp drive works or something. Of course, Lovecraft has to surpass everyone else and spend half of his book explaining something that his character shouldn't know, the back story of an alien race.

Sure, Lovecraft tries to make it plausible for his protagonist (I use that term loosely since the character does nothing more than walk around then run away) to know what he knows, but it's a ridiculous supposition, and you have to have severe cognitive dissonance to believe that his character could decipher and read the entire history of this race in the short amount of time allotted to him to do so by Lovecraft. It hurt my head, actually, trying to pretend that I could go along with the idea long enough to finish this "book."

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Clone Wars -- "On the Wings of Keeradaks" (Ep. ?.7)

-- In war there is no such thing as neutrality.

Decimate is one of those words I can't stand to hear used, not because I have anything against the word itself but because no one uses it correctly. As someone who values language and the meaning of words, it's a little more than annoying. Imagine my reaction to the "organic decimator" device. Really? Because that's gross. Not to mention the part where "organic" is used as a substitute for... I don't even know, because, of course, this is a weapon designed for use against the clones, so Wat Tambor seems to be able to stand by while it's used without any care at all.

So, sure, I get that organic decimator sounds (sort of) cool, but, really? Be more on point with your terminology.

Anyway, as it turns out, Echo was still alive. Or being kept alive. It's not clear how much of what's left of Echo is still Echo, but they have to get him out of the hands of the Techno Union to stop the stream of tactics and information they've been streaming out of Echo's head.

Oh, and it turns out those creepy new battle droids are a bit like flying monkey droids. I really wish they'd made it into the series.

"I'm guessing no one wants to hear the odds of us making it across here... alive?"

Monday, November 6, 2017

La Traviata (an opera review post)

We all know that entertainment is subjective, right? Probably the most subjective thing there is, even more so than food. What's the best movie ever? You're not going to get any good agreement on that. Or the best book. Or pretty much anything else. Except, maybe, opera. If there is a "best" opera, La Traviata is probably it. At least that seems to be what the data suggests.

Not to get into the somewhat complicated history of the piece but, since its second performance  in 1854, it has consistently been the most performed, most requested, most viewed -- if there are other mosts you can think of, probably those, too -- opera each year. At this point, it's probably the most watched opera of all time. It's that popular.

Well, okay, to get into one piece of its complicated history, the first performance was -- I don't want to say sabotaged, because that wasn't the intent, but it was kind of sabotaged -- by the producers of the opera, because they insisted on a particular performer for Violetta and forced Verdi to use her over his objections. The audience found her less than compelling as the protagonist and reacted unfavorably to the performance. It was more than a year before Verdi allowed La Traviata to be performed again, this time with a singer of whom he approved. The second performance, as noted above, was a rousing success.

I find this particular opera fascinating, not least of which because it was based on a novel by the son of Alexander Dumas, also Alexander Dumas. I had no idea. So, now, I'm all interested in his work, which is not to say that I'll get to it any time soon, but I'm interested.

Having said all of that, I wouldn't say that La Traviata is my personal favorite opera, not that I could name my personal favorite, but I'm pretty sure this was not it. I didn't get lost in the performance as I have for a couple or few of the others. I did very much enjoy it, though. Top five for sure.

To some extent, that is due to the story, the story of a young woman who sacrifices her own happiness to facilitate the happiness of someone else. Which is not something I have a problem, because I think that too many people are unwilling to make even small sacrifices to help other people. However, in this case, she was asked to make a sacrifice to satisfy someone else's selfishness, and that's a thing I have a problem with.
"I know I have 1000 and you only have the one, but I really won't be happy unless I have yours, too."
"No, I could never give up my sheep. I love my one sheep."
"But I won't be happy unless it's mine."
"Are you sure you won't be happy? Well, okay, you can have my one sheep." >dies of a broken heart<
Actually, this sounds a lot like the Republican party, right now. "Look, we know we and all of our super-rich friends have all the money, but we really won't be happy until we take the tiny bit you have, too."

Yeah, sure, this is not a direct analogy, because the opera is a love story, but it's close enough. What I wanted was for Giorgio to do the right thing early enough to matter, like going and slapping the dude his daughter was supposed to marry and telling him to go fuck himself. Of course, that didn't happen.


SFO has been running this particular production of La Traviata for something like 30 years, and with good reason. It's definitely worth seeing. Not this production but the one prior, was, in fact, the opera that caused my wife to fall in love with opera, so I'd say if you ever get a chance to see it, you definitely should.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Elektra (an opera review post)

The first thing I can say about Elektra is that it was not my favorite opera. It also was not my least favorite opera, but it's much closer to that end of the spectrum. Unfortunately, that was all about the music. It was like this relentless, grinding machine that just wouldn't stop. And, since the opera is just one act -- one long, two-hour act -- it really, literally never stopped. Until the opera was over, that is.

Unfortunately, it kind of puts me off of Strauss, which may not be fair, exactly, since it seems that Elektra was part of his experiment into modernism. Not all of his operas are like this, basically with the whole thing done recitative (which you may remember I also didn't like in Usher House (still at the bottom of the list in ranking the operas I've seen (not that such a ranking exists but, if it did, Usher House would rank last))), but his most famous and most performed are. So I don't know what that says about me, especially since this particular production seemed to get rave reviews.

Just not from me.

Having said that, there are some good things to say about the production. For instance, the set was interesting. They chose to set the piece in a museum which was holding an Agamemnon exhibit. Elektra hides so that she can get locked in over night. So that's interesting, yes, but, overall, that didn't work for me either, despite that it looked really good and they had sliding rooms and stuff.

But the opera is clearly set in Elektra's family household (where she's basically being held prisoner by her mother), so the bedroom and kitchen and other rooms of that nature that slide into the museum broke the structure of the narrative for me. The two things didn't go together. Plus, to go along with the museum atmosphere, Elektra is supposed to a kind of goth kid rather than a half-starved prisoner, which would have been fine if the opera itself didn't refer to her appearance on multiple occasions. So... "A" for effort? I don't know...

Unequivocally, the performances were very good, especially Christine Goerke who played Elektra. She's on stage the entire time, most of it singing, so it's an impressive amount of work. Even though I didn't like the music or the presentation, I could tell that the actors did a great job.
I'm cool like that.

Oh! Also... The opera is supposed to end with some big death dance by Elektra but that didn't happen. It's supposed to emblematic of the special kind of crazy from which Elektra is suffering, so it's kind of important, I would think. Instead we just got some vague arm waving by the actress. Maybe she can't dance? Maybe the director didn't think it fit the tone of his presentation? Whatever the reason, I was let down.

So, yeah, whereas most of the operas I've seen so far I would like to see again or, at least, would be willing to see again, this is one that I'll avoid in the future.