Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Rebels: "The Protector of Concord Dawn" (Ep. 2.13)

-- "It looks like diplomacy won the day for once."
"There was a time when it always won the day."

You know, the dialogue in this show is pretty good. I always come away with more quotes than I can use. Well, almost always. This episode was one of those episodes where there were a lot of great lines.

And OMG! Sabine is Death Watch! That is something I hadn't seen coming! And not just Death Watch; she's from the house of Vizsla. You know, as in Pre Vizsla, the guy with the Darksaber during the Clone Wars. Things just got that much more more interesting and, then, that much more interesting again! Especially since we meet up with some Mandalorians this episode.

I would say that you should just watch this episode even if you're not a fan of the series, but I'm not sure this episode is one of those that would work without the background. To really appreciate it, you need to have watched Clone Wars, but they fill in just enough of the details that you don't have to have watched Clone Wars, but my "OMG!" is exactly because I have the Clone Wars background to know what stuff means.

Though this episode is exactly centered on Sabine, it does reveal more of her background, and, as I've said before, it's always a good thing when they give the female characters a bit more focus. They can't just be cardboard stand-ups for Ezra and Kanan to act in front of.

"This Jedi philosophy stuff doesn't work for everyone."
"That's why we're at war."

"Kanan, you need to stop talking now."

"When you set your mind to something, you're kind of frightening."

Monday, February 26, 2018

Four Months, Give or Take, Later

Some of you are probably aware of the fires we had around here last October, followed not long after by additional devastating fires in southern California. The fire here, though, the fire where I live that destroyed nearly 3000 homes, about 5% of the housing stock in an area that was already in crisis due to lack of affordable housing, has gone down on record as the most destructive fire in the history of California. I wrote some about it back when it happened, but those posts have all been taken down, now, and collected here:
There's some additional stuff at the end that wasn't on the blog, because why not, right? Anyway... Here's the part where you get to show support for your "local" (online is local, right?) indie artist. Yes, writers are artists. If you read the posts back when they were live and you enjoyed them, pick them up now to show your support for the artist who wrote them. I mean, come on, it's only a buck! (I'll take that as jerky, please. (Kidding! Bad joke.)) Plus! For your $1, you will get the added political commentary at the end, and we all know how much you like that!

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Dunkirk and the Slow Death: A Movie About Nothing

Christopher Nolan proves once again how easily dazzled people are when something seems deep, because, I suppose, Dunkirk seems like a deep movie, all about the desperation of war and whatnot; but, really, Dunkirk is a movie about nothing. It is a movie that says nothing. It is a movie that does nothing. Well, nothing other than lazily follow the pseudo-protagonist around as he spends the movie running away.

In fact, nearly the whole movie is about running away. It's a movie about running away that is capped off by Winston Churchill's famous we-will-fight-them-everywhere speech.

I know. That's so deep. Except that it's not.

It also contains a bunch of purposeless non-linear elements. And don't get me wrong; I have nothing against non-linear story telling... as long as it serves the purpose of the story, but this felt more like it was there because people expect it of Nolan. You know, it's his signature thing so he has to include it even if it doesn't belong in this movie. So what we get is incongruous shots of a mid-day dog fight cut with scenes of a ship sinking in the middle of the night.

Oh! But maybe that's deep!
No, not really. It's just sloppy, bad story telling.
And that doesn't even touch on how we cut back to the same dog fight toward the end of the movie but seen from a different character's perspective.
Basically, the whole movie is out of sequence. None of it serves the story. And some of it is actually conflicting.

But, you know, Nolan is so deep.

I'm not even going to talk about the acting. Generally speaking, the actors all seemed bored. I think Nolan wanted them to seem bored, so I suppose that's good acting, but it makes a movie that comes in at only about one hour and forty-five minutes feel like you were watching it for three. But, maybe, my problem was that I didn't watch it in the theater. I wasn't fully immersed in the bigness of it.
Except that it's really a small movie.

Look, let's use the potty meter to measure this movie. In a good movie, you don't want to have to get up and go to the bathroom because you're worried you might miss something but, in this movie, you could have gone to take a nice long dump and come back to find that you missed... nothing at all. Maybe some more guys died, because people keep dying all around the pseudo-protagonist, but it's almost certain you wouldn't have missed any important dialogue because there's really not any. Hmm, now I'm wondering how long the movie would be if you kept only the bits with dialogue. 20 minutes?

The biggest issue with the movie is that it is very unclear about who the enemy is. Or any context about what's going on at all. Sure, maybe Nolan just assumes that everyone should know enough about World War II to supply that for themselves, and maybe everyone should, but it's abundantly clear that a vast amount of people don't know anything about World War II and have no context for what's going on. Shithead Nolan couldn't even identify the Nazis as the enemy in the opening text. No, he just says, "They're surrounded by the enemy."

What the actual fuck, Nolan? You can't do better than that? What enemy? Aliens? Goblins? Ravaging hordes of barbarians? No, it was Nazis, and you should have been clear about that.

But, then, it's painfully obvious that this was your go-to for trying to win a best picture Oscar after losing with Interstellar, an artsy movie about WWII. But this movie shouldn't have been nominated at all. It's just a hollow piece of chocolate that is ultimately disappointing because it has no substance. Bad chocolate, at that.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Racism, Not Just Hate Flavored

We do a lot of food exploration at my house. I mean, we experiment with cooking a lot in our house. For many reasons.
Like, the Indian restaurant we really loved closed, and we don't think any of the others in the area really come close.
Or my wife doesn't like pizza from restaurants, so we need to figure out our own pizza at home.
Or, gee, enchiladas are really hit-or-miss, maybe I should figure out how to make them so that we don't have the problem of bad enchiladas (which is what I did during January, and, now, we can't go buy better enchiladas than what I make at home).

Sometimes, when we're doing these food projects, we discover that there really is no one way to make something. That's true of everything, actually, but it's more true of somethings than others. I mean, pizza, despite the different toppings and thickness of the crust, is still basically pizza. It's bread and sauce and cheese at its heart; everything else is just window dressing.

But tagine... Tagine is not like that at all.

A couple of years ago, we decided to explore Moroccan food, and we started with tagine, because that seemed to be a pretty standard Moroccan dish. With Indian food, you start with curry; with Moroccan, you start with tagine. What I learned very quickly is that there is no one thing that is tagine. It was kind of mind boggling.

I mean, sure pizzas can be very different from one another but, if you see a pizza, you're going to know it's a pizza. Going through recipes for tagine, though, if I hadn't known I was looking at tagine recipes, I might not have been able to tell that two different dishes were both the same thing.

Except for the chicken. Tagine tends to have chicken.

And that's kind of how racism is. It doesn't all look the same, sometimes to the extent that you can't tell that what you're looking at is racism. Even in yourself.

We tend to think of racism as hate or, at least, an extreme dislike of a certain set of people, like, "I hate black people," or, "I hate Muslims," or, well, I'm sure you can figure it out. This is the burning crosses in people's yards or the dragging them from their homes and lynching them or the crowding them into ovens and gassing them kind of racism. But it's also the kind of hate that prompts torch-wielding mobs (even tiki torches) to march through towns and college campuses proclaiming how great they are. It's all very obvious and in your face, and, generally, we, culturally speaking, are quick to condemn it.

But racism is frequently more subtle than that and extends to the people who say things like, "I don't have any problem with black people, but..." We're so used to dealing with racism from the standpoint of hatred that we forget that it can include people who don't hold any particular dislike for another group of people but who just feel that their group of people is intrinsically better than some other group of people.

In fact, they may even like that other group of people and feel... fondness... for them. It's like this:
Some people really love kids. Little kids. They think they're great and want to play with them and do things with them and take them exploring and teach them and all of those kinds of things. They want to assist them in becoming adults because, right now, kids aren't as good as adults. But, maybe, one day, they will be. You know, assuming someone takes them in hand and guides their paths and helps them to become all they can be.

Sometimes, that's what racism looks like. "These other people aren't as good as us, but we can take them under our wing and teach them all about our ways and our religion and, maybe, one day, they can become all that they can be. But, until then, they need to be know their places as the inferior, the loved inferior but still inferior, and learn how to be better. The kind of racism of Robert E. Lee when he said god gave the Africans to the white man so that the white man could help them learn to become better people. [Yes, I'm paraphrasing.]

I think we often forget that racism can extend into being benevolent overlords. It's all for their own good, you know.

It's important to remember this stuff when people like Trump (#fakepresident) and Sessions claim to not be racist. I believe that it's possible that they don't feel racist because they don't feel whatever level of hate it is they believe is necessary to be a racist, but racism is not just hate flavored. It has a lot of flavors and a lot of ingredients. Sometimes, you can have two kinds of racism standing side by side and only recognize one of them, the one full of hate, and forget all about the one full of only white supremacy (and Anglo-American heritage).

Racism isn't about how you or anyone feels, not just about that, anyway. It's also about how you act, what you do and what you say. If you say racist things and do racist things, it doesn't matter how you feel. At that point, it's all about ducks: if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it's a duck.

In other words, just because you're not a hate-flavored racist, if you're promoting white supremacy in any form, you're being racist. Which is why, in the end, if you are a Trump (#fakepresident) or Trump (#fakepresident) administration apologist, you're a racist.

I don't care how you feel.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Rebels: "A Princess on Lothal" (Ep. 2.12)

-- In our position, you take what you can get, Kid.

Fuuuuuccck! When the Empire deploys AT-ATs, they just drop them! They DROP them! That explains the legs on them, I suppose.

My son couldn't buy it, though. Me, I was willing to give them that one. It was when Kanan -- see picture above, which is really cool -- went running at the AT-AT with a lightsaber THEN cut right through its legs (yes, two of them!) as if they were butter that they lost me. I mean, they had just dropped the AT-AT from a spaceship and the legs had supported the drop! But Kanan can just slice through them as he runs by? I don't think so. Go back to Phantom Menace and how long it took Qui-Gon to cut through one of those doors on the Trade Federation ship. Oh, wait! He wasn't able to do it in time. AT-AT legs have to be at least that tough.


This episode features a certain princess, and it's a pretty decent episode. You know, except for the bit mentioned above and that Leia seems to be unable to connect with people. Hmm... Actually, I suppose that's just Leia, so it makes sense when Kanan tells her that she should talk to Ezra because she understands what it's like to be young and have a lot of responsibility that she kind of just fails at that.

This is Leia before she's a senator. At least, that's what I'm assuming because her father is the senator from Alderaan. It's interesting to see her from this perspective, but it's more interesting to see the Empire's view of Alderaan. It gives a little insight on why Tarkin becomes so willing to blow it up.

"Wait, why does she get to give orders? I don't get to give orders."

Monday, February 12, 2018

The Rich Man Who Went To Hell

There was once a rich man. 1% for sure. In fact, if you're not the 1%, I don't think the term "rich" should be applied. The gap between the 1%, maybe 2%, and everyone else is getting so wide that there's not much left to be called "rich" among people not up there at the top.

So there was this rich man who liked to wear expensive clothes. The most expensive he could get his hands on. He was known for it.

He also ate pretty well.

There was also a homeless man. The homeless man was Lazarus, and he was suffering greatly from being homeless, so much so that he wasn't able to get around on his own anymore. He had oozing sores because he didn't have any healthcare, and he couldn't keep the dogs and flies off of them. The dogs because they like to lick gross stuff and the flies because... well, for the same reason, I suppose.

The homeless man had a few of his friends, if you could call them that -- people willing to give him a hand, at any rate -- drag him over and leave him in front of the rich man's house. Not right in front, you know, because that would be trespassing, but on the sidewalk near the gate. Maybe, just maybe, the rich man would allow him some of the leftover food from his amazing dinners, though, really, any food at all would have been amazing to the homeless man. To Lazarus.

Lazarus lived out his days there on the sidewalk in front of the rich man's house. I'm going to just assume that those days were not very many, though I don't know for sure. But we know that he was starving, that he was unable to seek shelter because he wasn't strong enough to walk, that he was suffering from oozing sores that wouldn't heal. None of those things bodes well for a long life. When he died, the angels came and carried him away. Or maybe those were just the first responders who showed up when they got the call about about a body.

Some time later, the rich man also died. I'm going to go ahead and assume that it was some years later, though I don't know for sure. After all, we don't know how old the rich man was, and we don't know what he died from. Maybe he lived decades because he probably had great healthcare or, maybe, he died the next day in a car crash. It doesn't really matter. What matters is that the rich man got sent straight to Hell. I imagine this rather like a game of Monopoly: He did not pass "Go" and he did not collect his $200.

Now Hell is a pretty awful place. Or so they say. Evidently, it's hot, or there wouldn't be a saying about it being "hot as hell." It seems there is also no water, because the rich man was dying of thirst. Okay, sure, he was already dead, but it sure felt to him as if he were dying of thirst. At any rate, he looked up toward Heaven (because you can see it clearly from Hell), longing for water, and, what do you know, there was Lazarus, the guy who died in front of his house, just hanging out and having a good time.

And drinking water.

The rich man wanted some, and he wanted Lazarus to bring it to him. The answer, of course, was no. Not just no, but, "Hell, no!" heh

Some of you may be familiar with this story. It's pretty popular in churches and comes from the book of Luke. Yes, that's in the Bible. So let's look at some things about this particular story, shall we? Yes, we shall.

Jesus was telling this story to the Pharisees because he liked to tell stories that were also lessons. That he was telling the story to Pharisees presents us with a small problem: The Pharisees were all rich, hyper-uptight, religiously educated dudes. Let me make one distinction, though: when I say they were religiously educated, that means they were educated in Jewish law. And they knew it backwards and forwards but, basically, it made them lawyers. They weren't actually interested in spirituality; they were interested in the law and how to keep the letter of the law.

So Jesus was speaking to a bunch of lawyers, experts, about an intersection of religious law and spirituality, and today's church-goers are hardly experts in, well, anything to do with the Bible at all.

Jesus was speaking to the 1%. When pastors are preaching this particular message, they are most assuredly not speaking it to the 1%.

Jesus was speaking to hyper-uptight... Oh, well, that's still the same.

But, really, pastors today are not delivering this message to the intended audience. Let's look at why that matters:

Jesus was delivering his message to the rich. Based on other things he said to the rich, like "give away to the poor everything you own," I'm going to take this story as a warning to the 1%. I think that warning is, "Don't be rich," which is a warning that rather flies in the face of the oh-so-popular prosperity doctrine. [For those of you who don't know, the prosperity doctrine says that "god" will make you rich if he likes you. Conversely, if you are rich, "god" likes you.]

Of course, pastors tell this story as if the rich man was being punished because he didn't do anything to help Lazarus, and I can see the temptation in telling it that way, but we don't know that that was true. The story Jesus tells says nothing about whether the rich man offered Lazarus food or not. Or what he did or did not do for the man. What I do find interesting, though, is that the rich man knew Lazarus' name, not something I would expect if he had taken no interest in Lazarus at all or if his interest had only extended to, "Get that wretch away from my gate!" In fact, we know that Lazarus lived in front of the rich man's house until his death. Maybe the rich man kept Lazarus fed all along but Lazarus was just too sick for it to do any good. We really don't know.

Pastors also tell this story to the poor of the world as a comfort story rather than to the rich as a warning. Not what Jesus intended if we look at the audience Jesus delivered this particular message to. No, the message pastors today want to deliver is this: Don't worry about being poor and sick and abandoned; you will get to go to heaven. As if Lazarus got to go to heaven because he was poor and sick. That also doesn't follow from the rest of the accumulated teachings ascribed to Jesus.

Basically, what we have here are two completely divergent messages.
The first, by Jesus:
Hey, you, rich people, watch out. You're going down.

The second, by modern pastors:
Hey, you, downtrodden people, be accepting of your fate. You'll get rewarded for your suffering after you die.

That second message is kind of sick if you ask me.

What I do know is this: No matter what you believe, the 1%, after they die, are going to end up in the same place as the rich man from the story. I suppose they better hope that "christianity" doesn't turn out to be true, because an eternity of nothingness has to be better than an eternity in hell.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Rebels: "Legacy" (Ep. 2.11)

"Stay in the moment. Be in this place at this time."

Ezra has had a vision of his parents. His missing parents, taken away by the Empire when he was a kid. Did I mention that before? Anyway...
Everyone has mostly been operating under the assumption that they're dead because what else can you do? But Ezra has had a vision...

Hold on a moment...
Maybe I've mentioned this before, but why does every young hero have to be an orphan? Seriously, why?
Harry Potter
Peter Parker
Clark Kent
Bruce Wayne
The list on wikipedia for orphaned heroes is pretty extensive.
Anyway, just a thought. Visions of parents brings up this question for me.

Other than the vision, this was a pretty typical type of episode. There's a trap. There's an escape. There are tractor beams and there are Inquisitors. It's a fine episode within the sequence of things, just nothing special to make it noteworthy.

"You've grown powerful if you can track down a lothcat with the Force."
"The Force? I planted a tracker on it."