Friday, June 28, 2019

Rebels: "Trials of the Darksaber" (Ep. 3.15)

-- "Legends tell it was created over a thousand years ago..."

We've never known much about the Darksaber. Hmm... That's misleading. You can look up all the information you want about the Darksaber, but, if you're getting your knowledge of it strictly through watching Clone Wars and Rebels, there hasn't been much revealed about it before this. It's a thing that just was, so to speak. But this episode gives us some background on the weapon that hadn't been revealed before.

Needless to say, this was a pretty cool episode.

Sabine is put into a situation where she kind of has to take up the weapon. Not that she has to has to, but it wouldn't be great for her to walk away from the situation. So she has to have Kanan train her, which means that Ezra gets to spend time training her. Ezra kind of better at it than Kanan. He has more patience, at any rate.

I really enjoyed this episode and would kind of like to talk more about, but
1. Really, it's mostly about the training, which is much more interesting than it sounds since we get more of Sabine's past through what's going on, too.
2. You should just watch it. Yeah, I know that's not going to happen, but it doesn't change the truth.
3. I don't really have more time than this today. Interruptions and all that good stuff, and I have run out of time.

I think this is probably an important episode. Lots of character development and what appears to be a major plot arc developing. Cool.

"I'm not that popular with my family these days."

"I'll damage you if you don't shut up."

"I already know how to fight with a stick."
"Then this should be easy for you."

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Rebels: "Warhead" (Ep. 3.14)

-- "Like I said, bored... to... death!"

Mmm... What a classic opening for this episode. Right out of Empire. Infiltrators rather than probots, and, boy, are they tough! Sort of a cross between IG-88 and Grievous' bodyguard droids. Not something you want to meet in an alley, dark or not.

Our Rebel group has taken off for some kind of training thing and left Zeb in charge of the base. To be fair, they left Chopper with him to keep him company. If you can call it that, because they left him with... um... that other droid that Chopper befriended in that one episode. The Imperial droid that switched sides and now works as an organization and efficiency expert... and drives Zeb crazy. [All of the quotes below are from him, most of them directed at Zeb.]

That's the backdrop to the base being infiltrated... because Zeb brought the Infiltrator right into the base. Shenanigans ensue.
It's a very entertaining episode.
And it possibly contains an important plot point toward the end involving Thrawn. I guess we'll see how that plays out.

Mostly, the episode was one of those character study kind of things. Or relationship studies. It was about Zeb, but it was also about AP-5 (that other droid; I looked it up). Chopper was the third wheel, so to speak, but he played his own part. Not an essential episode (maybe?) but a fun one.

"Did they seriously leave you in charge of this entire facility?"

"Is that because you never learned to count? I can teach you."

"No, no, no. This is all wrong. Rations in the munitions section."

"That gives me an idea."
"Really? You can have those?"

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Rusalka (an opera review post)

When we think of fairy tales we think of what? Cinderella? Sleeping Beauty? The Little Mermaid? Sure, because those are fairy tales, and they come to mind, but they come to mind in their Disney versions. The versions where everything has a happy ending. In fact, we so much think of fairy tales these days in terms of Disney that people say things like wanting a fairy tale wedding or a fairy tale ending. All I have to say about that is, "Fuck that!"

I mean, have you even read fairy tales? Do you know what they're really like? The originals? Like, in Sleeping Beauty, part of that story has to do with the fact that she was impregnated while she slept. And The Little Mermaid? Dissolved into sea foam. Dissolved! And washed away because the prince decided to marry someone else because trying to get on with a girl who couldn't speak was too much for him. And don't even ask about Cinderella's stepsisters' feet.

Back in the day, fairy tales were cautionary.

Imagine taking a cautionary tale, one in which the protagonist dissolves into foam at the end, and turning it into an opera, a form already rife with tragedy! Yes, Rusalka is largely based on Hans Christian Andersen's mermaid story, though it draws inspiration from other sources as well, especially Wagner's Ring Cycle.

Rusalka's not a mermaid, though; she's a water nymph. Close enough, right? Her father is the Water Goblin; he seems to be the guy in charge of all the nymphs. Not that that's explained, but the opera opens with all of the other nymphs cavorting around and trying to gain the "favor" of the Water Goblin. All while Rusalka pines over the prince who can't see or hear her because she's a water nymph and lives down in a lake.

But I'm sure you know how the story goes.
Apart from the tragic ending, that is.

As is so often with SFO, the sets were amazing! I mean, really amazing. Maybe the best sets they've had that we've seen? I don't feel qualified to judge that, actually. What I really loved was that during the forest scenes, which were full of nymphs and fairy creatures, the trees moved around. It made it feel really magical to have the scenery shifting around during the action. The rest was really impressive, too.

As always, the performances were excellent. I think Rachel Willis-Sorensen was especially good as Rusalka. She brought an appropriate amount of longing and despair to the role. There's not a lot of joy for the character, only that brief moment when the prince notices her (after she's made her deal with the witch) and takes her to his castle. After that, the prince goes about flaunting another woman, basically, right in front of her. It doesn't get better from there. Willis-Sorensen does a pretty perfect job of channeling the character's grief.

I'm not saying this is one of my favorite operas, but I enjoyed this one more than my wife did, a rare occurrence for us since my wife starts out at a much higher love for any individual opera than I do. She's loved opera since she was a teenager, and I'm just learning it now. She felt the music was too slow in this one, and I can see that, but, thinking about it now, I might describe it as lush rather than slow. At any rate, it's definitely an opera I'd be open to seeing other iterations of.

One other thing of note: Rusalka is a Czech opera, as was The Makropulos Case, which I am still rather fascinated with and would like to see again. And it's from Czech theater that we get the word "robot." But Czech opera and theater hasn't been very popular outside of itself, mostly due to the difficult language, according to the experts. I'm intrigued enough that I want more.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

What I Choose To Believe

I choose to believe that there is no "god" rather than believe in the
god of the "christians."
That you would defend such a "god" to me says more about your
Stockholm Syndrome
than it does it about me.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Sunday, June 23, 2019

The Art Was Too Big (pictures I like)

On our way to the opera, we passed this building with neon word art on it. It was too big for one picture and, in fact, I don't even have all of it in the pictures I took. Some of the neon was out, not that you can even tell it's neon in the pictures, and I didn't take a picture of that section of the wall. At any rate, it was pretty cool, and this should, at least, give you an idea of what it's like.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

"Nothing You Can't Handle": Why "christians" Think They're Better

I don't know if this will come as a surprise to any of you, but the Bible is full of things it doesn't actually say. Things like
there were three wisemen
cleanliness is next to godliness
god helps those who help themselves
abortion is a sin

Also, god will never give you a burden you can't bear.

"What?" you say, "That's not in the Bible? How can that be? People ("christians") say that all the time!"
Because of course they do.

Some of the examples I gave above have no Biblical basis whatsoever (actually, none of those things have any Biblical basis whatsoever), but this one does -- sort of; at least, it has a root cause for the thought -- so let's take a look at the actual verse the thought comes from.

I Corinthians 10:13 NIV
"No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it."

This verse is specifically dealing with sin and temptation. So, like, you're walking through a room and there's a fat piece of chocolate cake on a table, and you're tempted to eat it. This verse is saying that "god" won't allow you to be tempted in any way that goes beyond you're ability to resist it. Or, if it is a temptation beyond your ability to resist it, he'll offer some kind of escape hatch so that you can get away without sinning.

Which begs the question: why is the chocolate cake a sin? And, of course, it's not, but try convincing a "christian" of that. [Look, the cake is a metaphor (or, if you prefer, the cake is a lie).] At any rate, whether the cake is a sin is a topic for another conversation (and one I may have had on here? I can't remember, but I'm not going to go digging around looking for it, right now). The point, right now, is whether seeing the cake on  the table is a temptation beyond which you can bear and how, exactly, you can get away from it if it is. I don't remember ever seeing a special cake trap door appear in anyone's floor so that a tempted person could escape, and I'm pretty sure that would have made the news.

However, a "temptation," which happens in the moment, is quite a different thing from a "burden," which is ongoing. So the saying goes that any burden you have in your life, you only have because "god" knows you're strong enough to carry it. But let's take a closer look at that, too.

I think (and this is entirely my thought) that the verse cited above from I Corinthians may be being conflated with the verse from Matthew about taking up your cross to follow Jesus. You take up this burden, and "god" will give you the strength to carry it.
Not even Jesus was strong enough to carry his cross (his burden). Someone else had to step in and carry it for him.

And a lot of "christians" will say, "See, he couldn't carry it, so "god" provided someone to help him out because it was a burden beyond what he could bear." And that's all well and good except that it means that everyone who is burdened beyond their ability to carry the load should have someone there to take it from them. Right away. As soon as it's too heavy.

But that doesn't really ever happen, now, does it.
[In fact, the general response in modern evangelicalism is to decide that any person who becomes "burdened" in some way is, in fact, being punished by "god" and, therefore, no one should help that person. They need to fucking learn their lesson! Goddammit!]
There's definitely a failing somewhere in this whole concept, the most likely being that "god" doesn't hand out burdens or have anything to do with them or keeping them from getting too... burdenful. "He" couldn't give a shit about any burdens you may or may not have, either because "He" doesn't give a fuck about individual humans (anymore than we give a fuck about individual ants or bees) or because "He" doesn't actually exist (something I know I've talked about, but I'm also not going to go dig up that link).

The other main option is that "god" does monitor all of these burdens and has "provided" people ("christians"?) who will come along, as Simon did for Jesus, and take up your burdens for you so that you can make it BUT these "people" have free will and, so, are doing shit about helping other people, which is entirely true. Being someone who spent decades working in churches, I know exactly how "christians" feel about helping people in need. If it's someone white and in their congregation who suffers some kind of catastrophe, they are more than happy to step in and help but, if it's someone poor, especially if they are of some shade other than Caucasian, "god" suddenly only helps those who help themselves and they can all go fuck themselves. It's their own fault anyway and, if they didn't want to be poor or hungry or addicted or whatever, they would and could certainly do something about it.

Because, see, it's all about choice and, because "god" always provides a way out, that means that at some point that person made the cognitive choice to ignore that option and do something to put themselves into the situation they're in. You know, they chose the temptation. Or the burden is punishment. Or whatever. But whatever it is, it puts the "christian" into a position of superiority because, you know what? The "christian" doesn't have some undue punishment or temptation that they're giving into (other than the pride and arrogance they will never see) so that means, must mean, that the "christian" is favored by "god" while the suffering person is not. It gives them carte blanche to shrug their shoulders and go about their business.

Personally, I don't know how they get around the verse in Philippians that says, " humility value others above yourselves," but I guess I'm not the only one who has a "fuck Paul" attitude because, as much as "christians" hold Paul up as their idol, they never seem to get beyond his judginess in their dealings with other people. Paul also said to make the rich sit at the back of the church in the bad seats, but when's the last time you saw that happen? Oh, yeah, never.

So... If you ever wonder how or why it is all these "christians" in the United States don't seem to care at all about helping the poor and the destitute and the burdened, well, this why. They aren't compelled to because, obviously, "god" would take care of it if they deserved it. It's their burden to bear and, if they aren't able to handle it, it's their own choice.

Is that a great way to get out of helping people?

Thursday, June 13, 2019

"It's a dead game, Jim."

Not that I've mentioned it in a while, but I have this garage cleaning project going on. Possibly, "cleaning" isn't the correct word for it, since you can hardly tell anything has happened in it so far. I mean, I can tell, because I know what stuff I've sold, but I'm kind of making a bigger mess out of things as I go along. None of which has anything to do with what I'm about to get into other than reminding everyone that I'm in the process of selling off my old collectibles and, mostly, using eBay to do that.

Which tempts me to expound on all of the things that are wrong with eBay, but I'm not going to do that. After all, I'm making the choice to use them. Not that there are other feasible options, but, since there are other things that are like options (you know, in the way that people say carob is another option for chocolate or that tofu is an option for... anything), it's on me that I'm choosing eBay, so let's forget about the issue, for the moment, with eBay itself.

No, instead, let's talk about the users. Not all of them, of course, or, even, most of them. It has been, after all, quite a while since I've had... issues... with other eBay users. Then, of course, after going a year or so with no issues at all, I get three in the same month, the first of which we're going to skip due to it being typical opportunistic greed based on a late delivery by the USPS (which I've also had problems with just in the last month after having zero problems with them since I started using eBay again), which eBay, actually, took care of, amazingly enough, without me having to call them or anything. [Maybe there's some problem with June. The heat wave? Who knows.]

However, the other two are a different story and cut from the same cloth, so let's talk about them. I'm sure there's a metaphor in here somewhere. [Actually, I know that there is; I'm just not sure, yet, whether I'm going to point it out or not.]

A lot of my collectible stuff is pretty, I'll call it, mainstream. The greatest bulk, by volume, is comic books, and most of those are Marvel. By piece count, I have more Magic: The Gathering than anything else. Some of my stuff, though, is a little less... usual. Generally, because it's gone out of production so younger collectors, unless they fall into the niche, don't know about the stuff.

Some people, evidently, refer to these as "dead games." Well, the things that are games, anyway.
I also have stuff like this:
(Who would know he would "win" in 2016? Actually, I'd rather have Cthulhu than the current #fakepresident.))

Within the last week or so, I began listing some "dead games": L5R (Legend of the Five Rings) and Neopets, both ccgs (that's collectible card game for those of you haven't lived any in the last couple of decades), though Neopets calls itself a tcg (trading card game). It didn't take very long before I was contacted by buyers interested in the two games (one for each game) if only I would lower my price to next to nothing so that they could buy my stuff. You know, to garage sale prices.
You know about garage sale prices, right? Everything for a $0.25.

Let me be a little more clear about that. Both buyers wanted to "buy" all of what I currently have available on both games at prices that clearly didn't represent the value of the items. Now, I don't have a problem with people trying to get a good deal; heck, I like good deals! So I don't have an issue with people asking me if I would consider lowering my price on something. What made these two stand out is that when I turned down their offers as being too low, they both got mad at me and began arguing with me, both using the "dead game" argument and telling me how I would never find a buyer willing to pay more than they were offering.

And that can be a compelling argument. Sometimes, it's one we even tell ourselves:
"You'll never find someone else who will 'love' you."
"You'll never find another publisher/agent/whatever."
"I'll never..."
Fill it in yourself.

That is the reason my mom married my stepdad, just by the way. According to her, no one else would ever have taken us.

To make matters more interesting, the guy who wanted the L5R stuff kept going on about all of the places he knew of where he could get what I was selling at even lowere prices than what he was offering! And, so, why was he trying to talk me down rather than just buying the stuff for the EVEN CHEAPER PRICES?!? I guess he was doing me a special favor or something by offering me more than what he would have to spend elsewhere. Riiight...

And the guy who wanted the Neopets stuff? Well, somewhere in arguing with me over the price, he let slip that he was interested in re-selling it. Hmm... Re-selling the "dead game" for a profit, which I shouldn't expect because it's a dead game. Later in the conversation, he tried to recant that and tell me he was just offering an example of why someone might want to get something for no money. It made me want to LOL in his face. Which is difficult to do online.

At any rate, to make a long story short, before I even got the L5R auctions posted, a different buyer, one who had purchased some other L5R stuff from me many weeks ago, made me an offer he was worried I wouldn't take (he thought I would think it was too low (but it was what he could afford)) that was for only about half of what I was going to put on auction but at more than double the price the other guy wanted to offer me for all of what I had. The new offer was actually a bit lower than what I wanted, but it was a reasonable offer for a good chunk of stuff that I would no longer have to list on eBay. I took it.

And the Neopets stuff? I did post all of that and, within 12 hours of posting it, had already made more on just a tiny fraction of it (less than 10%) than the "dead game" guy was offering for all of it.

Do I have a lesson in here for you? You decide.
What I will say, though, is don't listen to anyone who is trying to get you to do something with the "dead game" argument.

Friday, June 7, 2019

Detective Pikachu (a movie review post)

Yes, I went to see Detective Pikachu, and you can shut your faces. I went with my teenage kids, and we all wanted to go see it. And I'm glad I did (because I won't lie and say I wasn't worried about it) because it was a fun movie. Well, it was fun if you have the background to understand it.

That's a flaw, by the way. By far the biggest flaw of the movie: it's not accessible to people who don't already understand Pokemon. There's little to no history or explanation given for the world, what Pokemon are, and how they relate to anything. This is not a gateway movie. It knows its target audience, and it doesn't care about anyone else. Not beyond a little bit of lip service about pokeballs and catching Pokemon, which they could have just left out since it doesn't relate to this movie at all. It actually served to muddy the waters more than offer any useful information for the novice poke-goer.

However, if you have any familiarity with Pokemon in any of its iterations, it's a fun movie. Total popcorn fluff, but sometimes you need an excuse to eat popcorn for an hour. (Yes, the movie is longer than an hour! No, the popcorn didn't actually last an hour!)

Of course, the biggest draw of the movie is seeing the Pokemon onscreen. Kind of just to see which ones they included in the film, but there are also some great interactions. The interrogation of the Mr. Mime serves as an excellent example.

I feel like I should give a more in-depth critique, but that feels like going to the store and buying a loaf of white bread and complaining that it's not healthy enough or wheat enough. If you go and buy white bread, that must be what you want, then it's not really fair to compare it to bread with more and better flavor. This movie isn't very deep; the protagonist takes the death of his father sort of like losing a wallet but with less panic; the villain's evil scheme is more about the visuals for the movie than any actual sense that it makes.

There have been a lot of animated Pokemon movies over the years, not to mention the several different TV series, the vast majority of which I have not seen other than glimpses of my kids watching them. However, I did take my oldest kid to see the very first Pokemon movie in the theater when it came out some 20 years or so ago. At the time, I thought it was pretty dumb, not that he cared; he was, like, four or something. I'm sure I would think the same of it today.
BUT! This movie tied all the way back into that one, which I thought was pretty cool, I guess, because it was kind of like, "Hey! I understand what's going on there!"

Of course, the movie was all about Ryan Reynolds and Pikachu. They really nailed that. All of it. The animation, the voice acting, the interactions. The movie hinged on it, and it's part of what made the movie fun.

I guess what I'm saying is that if you've ever in your life had a love for Pokemon, you'll probably get a kick out of this movie, even if just for nostalgia's sake. If not, skip it, and don't feel bad about it.

Monday, June 3, 2019

The Destruction Proof

My oldest son's introduction to Lego was largely through the release of Star Wars Lego in 1999 (which makes me feel fucking old, now, realizing that that was 20 years ago). He was three and totally in love with Star Wars, and I was still collecting Star Wars stuff at the time and bought some of the initial Lego releases. Of course, he also fell in love with Lego, though the Star Wars Lego releases were always his favorite, as opposed to my younger son who loves Bionicles the most. Which doesn't mean that he, also, doesn't have plenty of Star Wars Lego.

At three, though, building Lego was a bit beyond what my oldest could do. We would sit together and I would build the pieces while he watched and "helped" me find pieces and, sometimes, push a piece into place. And all was fine with the world...

...until we got the x-wing fighter Lego. The x-wing fighter was a bit larger and more complex than the other Star Wars Lego my son had, and he quickly learned that his favorite thing to do with it was to crash it. Of course, when he did, he couldn't fix it.

So, see, you have this Lego set that took... Okay, I don't actually remember how long it took to build it -- that was 20 fucking years ago -- but more than an hour, I'm sure, based on the build times for smaller sets I've done more recently. Not that it took that long to fix it, but it still took me much longer to put it back together than it took him to crash it. Over and over again.

Fortunately, the x-wing was a pretty simple design. Usually, it was just the wings he'd knock off, though, sometimes, he'd break the fuselage in half, a more complicated thing to fix. Still, it could take 10-15 minutes to fix it, and he'd turn right around and immediately crash it again. A few seconds worth of time.

All of that changed when we got him the Millennium Falcon. The Falcon was a large set that took hours to build and was a complicated design. That didn't stop him from having "crashing it" being his favorite thing to do with the set.

This is when this behavior became a huge issue, because there was no "fix" for the Falcon that took less than half an hour and, sometimes, he'd do something to it that would require sections of it to need to be deconstructed before it could be put back together again. There were times fixing the thing took almost as long as the initial build.

Then there was the Gungan sub, which had these long, thin, blue tube pieces that served as the propulsion system, like long thin straws that were too tiny to actually drink through. On top of crashing the sub all the time, he also chewed up the propulsion system. Yes, my son did that, not the dog. The tail piece got funkier and funkier as he went from chewing one tube to the next until it couldn't be put back together at all.

And, yes, we did talk to him, repeatedly, about crashing the Lego sets and chewing on the "straws." Especially about chewing on the straws, because he got more and more upset about the fact that the tail piece to the sub didn't look right and wouldn't spin correctly. And, yes, there were times when I wouldn't fix his Lego, especially the Falcon, because it just took too long to do. He'd go throw a fit about it and eventually go back to playing. It took him a long time to get past the breaking stage of his Lego play. Basically, it took him getting to the point where he could build things himself; then he no longer what his sets to be destroyed.

Which might be a metaphor in and of itself.

The real point, though, is that destruction is much easier than construction. I'd say that ease of the process is a clue as to what is going on.
So, you know, when #fakepresident Trump says he's "making America great again" and does something like rolls back environmental guidelines or puts people in cages or gives money to the rich, you can see that all of those things have "crashed" decades worth of work from other people. This is not creating or making anything great; it's just the destruction of what other people have worked to build.

Sometimes for the sake of doing it, like doing his best to destroy everything that Obama accomplished while he was in office, especially the affordable care act. Some of the things #fakepresident Trump is doing cannot be rebuilt, the equivalent of my son chewing up those blue straw pieces. Possibly, the environment will not recover.

What I'm saying is this:
If someone tells you they're building something great, look at the process. If it's something that's quick and easy, it's more likely he's not building anything at all but just acting as a wrecking ball. #fakepresident Trump is someone who gets off on destruction. On destroying the work of other people. I'm gonna go out on a limb here and say that destruction is never great. Sure, sometimes it's necessary, but it's always destroying the work of someone else and should never be done just for the sake of doing it.

Maybe if #fakepresident Trump had ever actually built anything himself he would have more respect for the work of others, but I'm pretty sure Trump isn't actually even capable of building a sandwich, so what we're going to get are his repeated attempts to tear down what other people have done.