Thursday, February 27, 2020

Rebels: "Flight of the Defender" (Ep. 4.06)

-- "I'll believe it when I see it."

My first experience with the TIE Defender was... oh, a long, long time ago. Sometime in the early 90s. It was introduced in either X-Wing or T.I.E. Fighter, the first two of the Star Wars video games. I don't remember which of the two games it debuted in, but I was more than a little ambivalent about it for a long time. Sure, it's a cool looking ship, but it wasn't in the movies, and I had a problem with that. Yeah, I was a real legalist at the time, and this was all before the Expanded Universe began.

At any rate, the Defender is full canon, now, and it's cool that they're showing us bits of its development, like they did with the B-wing.

All of that being said, this story isn't really about the TIE Defender; that's just the cover story for whatever it is they have developing as what I'm guessing is the last plot arc of the series. Kanan almost says as much during the episode.

And all of it starts with Ezra's mystical encounter with an extinct wolf.

"I like those cats more and more."

"I told you it'd get interesting."

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Rebels: "The Occupation" (Ep. 4.05)

-- "Everyone is suffering."

You know how they say you can't go home again? Maybe that should just be that you don't want to go home again. At least, not after the Empire has occupied it.

Ezra and company go back to Lothal to find that the Empire has turned much of Lothal into a wasteland. They have a mission, but Ezra is just busy coping with what's happened to his homeland. Well, you know, as much as they allow that to be a thing in a 20 minute cartoon, meaning Ezra gets about three minutes to deal with what's happened.

Most of the episode is them running through sewers.
Very clean sewers.

"I'm going home to help my people."

"Apparently, there's something wrong with my face."

"Don't make me paint you again."

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Rebels: "In the Name of the Rebellion: Part Two" (Ep. 4.04)

-- "We turned a worst-case scenario into the best!"

Considering that we know where Saw Gerrera ends up, it should be no surprise that this episode puts us on the trail of the Death Star with the discovery that the Empire is transporting another overly large Kaiburr crystal. This ongoing plot line, carried over from Clone Wars, is one I really like. It's interesting to follow the rebels trail to discovering the Death Star, not that they were able to do anything about it before it was too late. At least too late for Alderaan.

Which takes us back to our question from last episode... sort of. Because this episode doesn't really address the issue; it just kind of skirts around it. Rather than dealing with the philosophies of the opposing viewpoints -- one being that we should be better than our enemies rather than lowering ourselves to their level, the other being that we should win at all costs -- they turn it into a personal matter for Ezra and Sabine because Saw betrays them when they balk at what he wants them to do. They're not likely going to see any part of the side of "win at all costs" when they are the ones being considered a cost of victory.

But that still leaves the philosophical question hanging in the air. I mean, we know what the Empire is doing and that they're going to use it to destroy whole planets, but does that, even with knowledge, justify the sacrificing of some "innocents" to achieve victory?

I don't have any answers at the moment.
But I'm sure that this question is weighing on me the way it is because, in many respects, the GOP is currently the Empire, and they are doing their best to build a Death Star and, mostly, the Democrats are just arguing about what to do about it. We already saw in the last election that "going high" when they go low does not win battles. Or elections.

"What you're saying is that we owe you."

"Just an observation, this isn't a very good rescue."

"This droid is cross-wired."

"Those two can't go anywhere without blowing something up."

Monday, February 24, 2020

Rebels: "In the Name of the Rebellion: Part One" (Ep. 4.03)

-- "There she is, coming in hot with what's left of her squadron."

The question of Saw Gerrera is a difficult one. As we saw in Rogue One, Saw eventually becomes so extreme that not even the rebels want him, a terrorist kicked out by other terrorists. Which begs the question, what is too extreme in war? When you are being oppressed, where do you draw the line in regaining your freedom? At what point does freedom become too high a cost?

No, I don't have an answer to that.

There's that whole, you can't fight like them, be like them, or you become as bad as them, become them, but if the other option is to be dead...? Is it better to allow yourself to be killed, to stop short of a goal like freedom, not just for yourself but for everyone, than to cross some arbitrary line and become like "them"? Isn't that kind of selfish? Putting your own good ahead of the good of thousands. Or millions. Or billions. "I could get freedom for you, but it would have required me to kill some people in cold blood, so I said nah."

I don't know if these episodes here that are bringing Saw back into the picture are actually going to deal with any of these questions or not, but they are acknowledging that the questions are there.

None of which tells you anything about the actual episode, but I think that's fine. This stuff is more important than the episode itself. I guess we'll find out where it all takes us in part two now that Saw has sort of kidnapped Ezra and Sabine.

Wait, what?!
They didn't go unwillingly. Not that it was exactly willingly either.
I guess you'll have to watch it.

"This is a time of difficult choices, sometimes impossible ones."

"I hope you will find some comfort in the fact that you fought according to the rules."

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Rebels: "Heroes of Mandalore: Part Two" (Ep. 4.02)

-- "A Mandalorian with a jet pack is a weapon."

This is an episode that is a bit difficult for me to review.
On the one hand, it's a fine and good episode in the same vein as all of Rebels, all of Star Wars, in fact. It's exciting in all the ways Star Wars is exciting.
However, it fails in the same way much of Star Wars does in really making the characters have real stakes in the game. The most notable exception to this was Rogue One.

Maybe I've said this before, but Lucas' original idea for Jedi was that the Falcon wouldn't make it out of the Death Star explosion at the end of the movie, hence Han's "funny feeling" comment before they go off to Endor. But Lucas had a change of heart and decided that that would end the trilogy on too much of a down note, and he wanted it to be a full-on happy ending, so Lando and the Falcon come spewing out of the fiery explosion of the Death Star.

In much the same way, the tragedy at the end of part of of this two-part story is rolled back as we discover right away that Sabine's mother and brother did not die from the Empire's powerful new weapon. Just everyone else did. I feel it robs the story of its emotional impact. But I suppose it is a show that is supposed to be kid friendly, which is why so many of the stormtroopers throughout the series escape with their lives rather than being killed by the rebels. You can't have your heroes indiscriminately killing the bad guys.

Yeah, I'm in a bit of a mood after watching this one.
And I haven't talked about the deus ex machina ending.
I'm also not going to.

"Mandalorian? I don't want to be a Mandalorian."

"It's time for you to prove your loyalty, not just to your family, but to all of Mandalore."

"It was a series of bad decisions, okay?"

"Don't move!"
"Oh, I'm movin'."

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Half a Century of Thoughts -- part three (the 80s)

The 80s were seriously weird. We recently re-watched Working Girl ('88), and I was amazed at just how big the hair was in that movie. I think it added a foot to Joan Cusack's height. And I'm not even going to talk about her eye shadow. Look, I lived through the 80s, and I was still amazed. The hair, the shoulder pads (what the fuck was up with the shoulder pads!?!?), the makeup...

And I'm not even going to go into the clothing trends. Nope, not gonna touch it. Well, other than the aforementioned shoulder pads.

The problem with the 80s is that it was a somewhat schizophrenic decade, marked by both an unparalleled optimism about the future (we had space shuttles!) and a certainty that that future would never arrive (space shuttles blow up). This contrast is probably showcased best in the song by Timbuk 3, "The Future's So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades."

In case you didn't know, the future's so bright in the song due to the coming nuclear holocaust, not because everything was coming up roses. Unless those roses were going to glow in the dark and have radioactive poison in their thorns. I mean, at Christmas one year during middle school, my English class won the door design contest for our version of "I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas," the brainchild of a friend of mine and I as we sang, "I'm dreaming of a nuclear winter..."
And that hopelessly dim view of the future won the design contest of what was supposed to be the happiest time of the year.

That should tell you something.

I'm gonna tell you: It's difficult to be so optimistic and, yet, so pessimistic about the future at the same time. But we were. We both believed that science would be the salvation of the future and that we were all going to die in a nuclear holocaust before that could happen. Remember War Games?

And here's the thing: There was a kind of general understanding -- an agreement, if you will -- between Gen X and... whoever (not the Boomers) that if we could just get past the imminent doom that things would get better. We would harness science and step boldly into the future.
For real this time.

But, then, there were the Boomers, who, as a generational body (I'm not talking about specific individuals) believe only in self-indulgence, personified in our current "president" (#fakepresident), who derailed everything in the name of profit. After all, why build anything for the future (as their parents had and their parents had) when they wouldn't be around to enjoy it. Eat it all now. Eat the world. Leave nothing for anyone else. Ever.

Of course, we didn't realize that's how it was at first. We got through the 80s, the Berlin wall came down, nukes were taken off the table. The jet packs and flying cars were coming...

The problem was that every time the Boomers had a chance to do something good for the world, they chose, instead, to do something bad which would allow them to make money. All you have to do is look at what Trump (#fakepresident) has done since he got into office to see how all of this has played out. He is the epitome of Boomers and self-indulgence.

It's like coming home from school and finding out that your mother has given away your comic book collection, all of which were bought with your own very hard earned money (it was difficult, at seven, to find other people who would give you jobs to do since your own parents wouldn't give you an allowance or any way of earning money). And her only reason? Basically, she felt like it. Someone else showed an interest in them, so she gave them away.

Or, even worse, when you've spent hours and hours and hours making something and come home to find that your mom has come into your room and thrown it away. Because.
There's something in someone who would do such thing (either thing) that is just about causing pain to someone else. Like it's a zero-sum game. If someone else is happy, they are taking away from my happiness, so I need to do something to make them sad.

For some reason, Boomers have an outlook that says that life is a zero-sum game and they can't win until and unless they make everyone else lose.
I imagine that it's a sad existence for them, which is why they are so busy trying to make it a sad existence for everyone else.

And this is where I am, back in the 80s. All of the very worst parts of the 80s have sprung back into existence with the added bonus of environmental collapse.
It's like we haven't learned anything.
Or, well, the Boomers haven't, at any rate. Especially the old, white male Boomers.
You will never find a more disgusting hive of scum and villainy.

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Half a Century of Thoughts -- part two

I have a lot of mixed emotions when I look back at my childhood. On the one hand, there was incredible freedom. I was largely left to do what I wanted to do when I wanted to do it, other than going to school and being home by dark. No great hardships since I didn't dislike school and there was no one to play with after dark. Of course, I didn't feel that way about it at the time, the freedom part, much like I didn't feel anything about my ability to walk or do anything else. It just was.

I spent as little time at home as possible, most of my weekends being spent at my friends' houses.

Which is where the mixed emotions come in. My friends didn't want to come to my house anymore than I wanted to be there. Not that I really understood that at the time. Except for one friend who left crying the first time he ever tried to stay the night at my house. My (step)dad started yelling about something and scared him, and he had to go home. He never came to my house again, though I spent many, many weekends at his. I didn't get that that was the same reason none of my other friends wanted to come to my house, either, and why I always stayed at theirs.

And the freedom I had was negligence. My parents rarely knew where I was or when or if I'd be home, not that I didn't ever not show up at dusk. Unless I was spending the night with someone, but my mom, at least, always knew that because I would actually ask for permission. Of course, there was that one time... That time I ran away.

My mom knew that I ran away, since I did it because of some fight. I don't remember what happened other than that it ended with me yelling, "I'm running away and never coming back!" I made the best effort at it I could being a spur of the moment thing. I walked around the block three or four times trying to figure out where I should go. I realized fairly quickly that I couldn't go to any of my friends' houses because their moms were friends with my mom and I'd just get sent back home. Likewise, I couldn't go to my grandparents' house... though maybe I could have for a while? I don't know. I didn't try it, but it's possible they wold have let me stay. At the time, that didn't feel like an option.

[One note: When I mentioned in the previous post the "house I grew up in," that was my grandparents' house. At least, at this point. But I'm not going to explain that right now.]

In fact, it felt like I didn't have any options. So I sat down under a tree on the corner of the street I lived on so that I could think. And I thought about it for hours. So many hours that it got dark and I had come to no conclusions about where I could go, but I was determined to not go home. What was the point of running away if you just went back home? Eventually, a car came up the street and stopped next to me. The door opened and my mom growled, "Get in the car." Unfortunately, it didn't occur to me to refuse on the grounds that I had run away; I just got in the car and we drove backwards down the street to our house.

I think the "running away" thing is emblematic of my childhood. Maybe of all of GenX. Sure, my mom came after me, but she got lucky. If I had been some other kid, some kid who didn't think things through and need a plan, I might have just walked off randomly through the city and never been seen from again or, at least, not without the intervention of the police. And let me be clear, this was not one of those "teaching moments" from a sitcom where a kid declares s/he is going to run away and the parent helps said kid pack and plan until the kid realizes that running away isn't a good idea. This was my mom not caring enough to do anything about it, and it doesn't matter that she believed I wasn't really going to do it, because, clearly, she was wrong about that. If she had bothered to ever know me as a kid, she would have known that I wasn't in the habit of making idle threats. It's not like "I'm going to run away!" was a thing I said on a regular basis.

The problem here is that she didn't bother to worry about me, or even wonder about me, until it got dark and I didn't come home. She just went about her business. And my dad(step) didn't care at all. It was never mentioned, and he took no action or acknowledged that anything had happened.

The number of times I almost died as a child is appalling. I mean literally almost died. Like the time my cousin and I got stuck in what can only be called quickmud and didn't realize we were in any kind of danger until we were literally in it up to our mouths and only barely got out (because she used me as a surface and pushed me all the way under so that she could get her hands on the bank and pull herself out). Or the multiple times I was chased my water moccasins while out playing in the woods so far from anywhere that no one would have known I was dead. It physically distresses my daughter almost any time I talk about things from my childhood. Which is what made me realize that there were things wrong with my childhood. Prior to that, to me, it was all just normal.

Not to mention that my mom would just give my stuff away because she felt like it. Seriously, I would come home and stuff from my room, stuff I loved, would just be gone. It was always, "Oh, I gave that to so-and-so." She didn't have any reason; she just did it. And my wife's mom would do the same kind of thing only she would throw things away.

And the Boomers are still doing that shit, even at this very moment. Fighting to protect the most corrupt "President" (#fakepresident) of all time so that they can continue to hold onto everything. Stealing the future from their kids and grandkids so that they can continue to bloat themselves. And they don't fucking care! There's a reason that Gen X has been the first American generation to not surpass their parents in wealth and success, because Boomers are like Shelob in her cave sucking the life out of everything that gets near them.

Of course, the problem is not just the Boomers. Mostly, Gen Xers have responded just as I did when I ran away. Boomers pull up in the car and say, "Get in," and we do it. Why? Because the Boomers are in the right? No. I'm pretty sure my mom was not in the right about whatever the disagreement was. My dad(step) was never in the right and my mom only rarely. No, we do it because they're our parents. We don't even think about it, not until it's too late.

And, you know what, it's too late. Or pretty damn close to it.
And we keep letting Boomers tell us what to do.

Monday, February 3, 2020

Half a Century of Thoughts -- part one

The shadows cast by the great trees are long. The trees seem to lean over me as the branches reach down waving their long fingers in the air. It's not menacing, not exactly. At least, I'm not afraid. But the gloom is oppressing, making the house foreboding. The house is big and white, all columns and windows, and I seem to be drifting toward it. Floating. The movement is not of my own volition.

And that's where it ends. Or that's all there is.
When I was a kid, I thought this was some kind of recurring dream that never went anywhere and wondered why I would dream it. I mean, why would I have this brief vision of this yard and house?

When I was much older, probably in my early 20s, my mom and I were going somewhere and travelling through north Shreveport -- actually, an area north of Shreveport -- and she suddenly told me to turn off onto some street and led me through several neighborhoods to some house. She pointed at it and said, "That's where we first lived when we moved to Shreveport." I knew, vaguely, that we had lived in some other house when we first moved from Texas, but we had moved into the house I grew up in well before I was one, before I was nine months old, in fact, because I learned to walk when I was nine months old. Before I could crawl. I learned to walk in the house I grew up in.

The house she pointed at -- a large, white, probably-old-plantation house -- was the house from my "dream." I recognized it instantly. The front lawn was extensive, the house far back from the road, and full of what were probably cypress trees. I don't know. I'm not really a tree guy. It would make sense for the area, though. All I know is that there were long, overhanging branches, probably full of Spanish moss, though I don't actually remember.

It was a surreal experience.
Not just because you're not supposed to remember things from when you're that young.
Also because I have no other associated memories from that place. Just "floating" through the yard toward the house, because I'm sure I was being carried.

It's not the only thought I have that goes back to before we're supposed to have cohesive memories, but the rest are mostly traumatic.

I remember the swollen spot on the floor in front of the refrigerator at the house I grew up in, because I remember standing on it crying as my mom left for work one day. But my grandparents had that fixed very early on, which means I was no more than two.

I remember my cousin pushing me off of my red tractor in the backyard and hitting my head on the steps going up to the back porch and the huge goose egg on my forehead.

I remember getting stung by a wasp on my finger and my arm swelling up and my aunt putting something on the sting that burned as much as the sting did.

I remember my puppy, the one I got when I turned two.
I remember him licking my face excitedly and laughing and laughing and trying to push him away but not wanting him to stop at the same time.
And I remember him lying dead in front of his dog house when I was not more than 2 1/2 and my mom not letting me go see him but not telling my why she wouldn't let me go see him. I cried. A lot.

I also remember sitting in my grandfather's lap as he read to me. He was a mechanic and always smelled of sweat and oil and, on the rare occasion I run into that precise smell out in the world, it brings up memories of sitting in his lap while he read to me. Little Black, a Pony and some book about an old blue truck that loved a cow and wouldn't let its owner sell her. Evidently, he would read those books over and over and over again to me because no one else would. My mom freely admitted later in life that she didn't have the patience to read to me, especially not the same book multiple times in a row. But my grandfather did.

I also remember my grandmother taking me to daycare with her. She worked at some daycare place, and I would go there with her. Mostly, I remember the bus trips home and how she would let me stand up in the seat and pull the cord for the bus to stop and that she would sometimes take me to some buffet place on the way home where she would let me get a piece of custard. The memory of that custard has become my platonic ideal of what custard should be even though I'm sure it probably wasn't really all that good.

And one from when I was three.
I remember the Watergate hearings being on TV and being very mad about it. Mostly because I wanted to watch something else -- in the specific memory, I wanted to be watching Star Trek -- but the hearings were the only thing on. Ah, the days of only having three stations to choose from!
Maybe, today, if more people were forced to watch StupidGate then more people would care about the even more egregious criminal we have in the the White House. Or maybe not, since it was quite clear that his criminality didn't matter to the people who voted for him as long as he fed their racism.