Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Clone Wars Season Seven: Some Thoughts

The Clone Wars has been one of the finest animated TV shows ever created. Not because it's Star Wars but because it actually deals with some of the difficult questions in life, usually without flinching, and in a way that kids can usually understand. It's a very adult show made with the knowledge that kids would be watching it. It didn't "dumb down" for them, but they did make it to be accessible to them. It didn't restrict itself to being episodic, unlike Rebels, which held to that formula steadfastly.

Look, I'm not saying that Clone Wars is, like, Animaniacs or anything, but I do actually find myself wanting to go back to Clone Wars more often that I want to sit down and watch a bunch of Animaniacs episodes.

I've already talked before about what happened to Clone Wars and the final half season, season six. Also, I watched and reviewed the unfinished episodes provided on starwars.com back when they were released on there. Now that Disney+ is available, they've gone back and finished the animation on those episodes and added a few more to round out this "final" season of the show. I say "final" because I'm really hoping that if it does well enough, Disney will decide to continue the series.

Or maybe they don't need to? I haven't watched Resistance yet, so I don't know if it's a successor to Clone Wars or Rebels, though, looking at the animation, I'm going to guess Rebels.

What I'm saying here is that I want a Star Wars show that tackles difficult topics, tells meaningful stories, and remains fun to watch. So far, only Clone Wars has accomplished that. Maybe The Mandalorian will rise to it, but I'm kind of doubting it. It's going to be a fun romp, but I don't think it's going to be a show that embraces moral dilemmas beyond the basic conflict of the bounty hunter turned protector.

All of which is to say that I'm excited to get back into Clone Wars for this final season.
And, just to note, with the episodes that I've reviewed in their unfinished formats, I'll provide those reviews along with any new thoughts I have.

Monday, March 30, 2020

Rebels: "Family Reunion -- and Farewell" (Ep. 15&16)

-- "You chose to be a Jedi."

I'm going to close out the last two episodes of the series in one post. In part, because it's one two part story but, also, just because I feel like it. Not that I would do it this way if these were two separate episodes, but they aren't, and I feel like wrapping this up by watching both episodes in one sitting without pausing in between to write up part one before going on to part two. So there you go.

Yeah, so I'm glad I did it that way. There was no real break between episodes.

And, well, it wasn't really the ending I expected.
Not that I had any real expectation, but it certainly went in a direction I hadn't contemplated.

I guess here's the problem:
Rebels created some very compelling characters that couldn't be left in limbo during the time frame of the original trilogy. Rogue One dealt with that issue by killing all of the characters it created, appropriately so, but I can understand not wanting to just erase all of the characters from Rebels, especially after already killing off Kanan.

But, then, what do you do with all of them?
Well, actually, some of them you do kill.
And the rest?
You have to give them a reason to not be around for the events of the original trilogy.
Which explains the death of Kanan.
And I suppose that's all I can really say.
Except, hey, oh, exciting news! It was recently announced that Ahsoka will be back for season two of The Mandalorian. I'm super stoked about that.
Otherwise, you just need to watch the final story arc of Rebels. I'm sure some or all of these characters will be back in some way or another, though. Actually, I know that Hera has had some further development in the comics and stuff, which I'm vaguely curious about, though I doubt I'll pick any of that. Gotta choose your poison and all of that.
Anyway... Good wrap up to the series. Now I'm eager to get to the newly completed and released final season of The Clone Wars.

"Fine, I'll do it, just call off your dog."

"In my experience, when it comes to Jedi, the worse the plan, the better the result."

"I serve the Empire until the end."
"So not much longer then."

"And remember, the force will be with you... always."

Friday, March 27, 2020

Rebels: "A Fool's Hope" (Ep. 4.14)

-- "That would be no problem for me."

Ezra sees a window to get Lothal out from under the thumb of the Empire; the problem is that rebel command has written Lothal off as a planet that can't be helped. Which is totally understandable considering the fact that they lost their entire attack fleet (mostly fighters) when they went after the TIE Defender program. Every last ship. The cost of Lothal is just too high.

But in many ways, Ezra is the last Jedi -- Sure, Ahsoka is out there, and so are Yoda and Obi-Wan, but they've all retreated into hiding, which only leaves Ezra out in the world. Alone. -- and he has a plan.

Most of this episode is battle sequences, including a duel between Ezra and Rukh. Exciting stuff.

The episode is also fairly typical, story-wise, which is fine. It's an exciting episode. However, there is, for me, a major flaw with the story, one which is too spoilery for me to talk about. I'll just say that it would have been a much more interesting story if they'd gone the other way with it rather than sticking to what is stereotypical for these kinds of things. Maybe there would have been too much involved in doing that in a series that's winding down; I don't know.

But the episode has Hondo, so I can't complain too much, even if they did have him throw himself all in with the rebels. I get it. They have to tie up all of the loose threads, and Hondo needs an honest-to-goodness happy ending, kind of like Han in Jedi.

"He talks a lot for a smuggler."

"For that boy, there is nothing I would not do." -- Hondo

"This is the risk you take when you are a pirate."

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Rebels: "A World Between Worlds" (Ep. 4.13)

-- "Train yourself to let go of all that you fear to lose."

Ezra finally gets to say goodbye to Kanan. In a manner of speaking. He is finally able to let him go.
Though finally seems like a somewhat inaccurate adverb to use here. It's not like it's been all that long since Kanan's death. And, really, it's all about choices, because Ezra discovers there is a way to save Kanan, but it would negate Kanan's sacrifice...

And that could have been a really interesting story line to follow, because saving Kanan would have resulted in Ezra's own death. We haven't dealt with any weird time paradoxes in Star Wars -- at least, not to my knowledge, but there are scores of books and comics I haven't read -- so it would have been interesting, at the very least, to see what they did with that. I guess that's more of a Star Trek thing.

Oh, hey, Ahsoka is back. That's significant.
Vader makes an appearance.
The Emperor tries to grab Ezra.
Overall, I'd say this is a pretty significant episode.
I didn't even mention Sabine's verbal shenanigans.

"The Force is what gives a Jedi his power."

"How did you open the portal?"
"I'm smarter than you."

"I can see that the Mandalorian in you understands only one form of discourse."

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Strange Planet (a book review post)

I feel like I can't do this book justice without attempting to do this review in the same manner of speaking the alien beings use. However, I'm also feeling like I don't have the creativity at the moment to figure out how to do that writing paragraphs. There's a reason, I guess, that these are cartoons using short statements by the aliens.

That said, this is a delightful book.
It's a delightful book that I looked at quite askance when I received it for Christmas from my wife.
Evidently, this whole thing began as some kind of web comic, so, of course, I'd never heard of it. And I still haven't looked it up online but, then, I didn't really need to since I have the book.

And let me step aside from the actual review for a moment, but I think this is the perfect time for a book like this. I mean, it's the perfect time for you to read it. [For context for you people reading this review sometime in the future: I'm writing this review during the COVID-19 pandemic and the even worse pandemic of the Trump (#fakepresident) presidency. The world, in short, sucks.] The book is sweet, endearing, and lighthearted, even when dealing with serious subjects, which it does touch on from time to time in the book. It's the kind of book you can pick up and open to any spot, and it will put a smile on your face.

And, of course, it will also be difficult to put down. You might think you're only going to read a few pages of it -- you know, a half a dozen cartoons or so -- but you inevitably keep going until you've read a third of the book without realizing it. It's a great book to keep by your bed for some light reading just before you turn your light off for sleeping. Which is why you should have the actual book form and not rely on the online comics, because you shouldn't be online directly before trying to go to sleep.

Maybe that's just me.

At any rate, I'm now a fan. At some point, I'm sure I'll check out the web comic. Right now, I'm being satisfied with the book and having it by my bed to glance through at night.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Rebels: "Wolves and a Door" (Ep. 4.12)

-- "Hold tight."

Okay, honestly, I don't know what to say about this episode.
Remember back in the Clone Wars when Obi-Wan and Anakin end up on that planet with the family who were incarnations of the Force? You know, the father was the balance (I think), and the daughter was the Light, and the son was the Dark. They wanted Anakin to become the incarnation of the balance. Or something. Man, I need to go back and watch those again.

This episode takes us back to that story line. I'm not sure how, yet, but Palpatine makes a rare appearance in this episode wanting to get his hands on some gateway on Lothal, but Kanan's death has thrown everything out of whack for him.

Way to go Kanan! I guess.

Not a lot of hi-jinks in this episode, which you can probably tell by the lack of amusing quotes.
I'm just going to guess that this last arc of Rebels is going to be a truly important one.

"I'm just glad they're on our side."

Monday, March 23, 2020

Rebels: "Dume" (Ep. 4.11)

-- "Kanan's gone."

Death is tough. I think there are not enough representations of it in media intended for children. And I get why: Parents don't want to deal with it and the questions it causes and having to try and explain what it means and... well, I'm sure you get the idea. It's a difficult topic and, even in fiction, it can be hard to process. And not just for children.

However, seeing how fictional characters handle death can be a good learning experience for kids. We get a wide range of examples here in Rebels.
Hera is busy blaming herself.
Ezra is lost and in despair.
Sabine and Zeb want revenge.

And the loth-wolves... Well, they want something, too.

We also get to see a little more of what Rukh can do in this episode as Sabine and Zeb end up going toe-to-toe with him.

Oh, and Thrawn? You'd expect him to be happy about the death of Kanan, right? Well, Thrawn will always surprise you.

This last arc is just something you need to watch.

"Expect them to strike out recklessly, and when they do, eliminate them."

"The Empire and us? We're not even yet."

Friday, March 20, 2020

Rebels: "Jedi Night" (Ep. 4.10)

-- "I don't care much for art."

Well... I know I have occasionally mentioned the reluctance in Star Wars for there to be meaningful sacrifices by the characters. That's generally true. Right up until it isn't.

So Hera was captured last episode, and it goes without saying that there will be a rescue attempt. I mean, half of Star Wars is rescuing people from being captured, right?


I don't know. This episode is an actual punch in the gut. Hera finally declares her love for Kanan and...
That's all I can really say.

"If we get spotted, we'll be at a pretty big disadvantage."

"Where do we get these gliders?"
"Easy. We make them."

"You know I never crash! I..."
"Have very exciting landings. Yes, I know."

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Shelter in Place

Well, here we all are, in the midst of a pandemic, something I'm sure none of us ever thought we'd see; after all, it has been a century since the last pandemic. I guess we were due.

Of course, it has all been made much, much worse due to the incompetence of our... I don't even know what to call him anymore. I think this iteration of the corona virus is the manifestation of the world being sick of Trump (#fakepresident) and his ilk. But, you know, let's not digress too much into how the current administration completely bungled its handling of, well, everything, mostly due to the fact that the idiot-in-chief wanted to bury his head in the sand and pretend that nothing was happening. The fact that he doesn't already have COVID-19 is proof that there is no god nor justice in the universe. I mean, fuck, Tom Hanks and Idris Elba have it! How is this okay?


Out here in the Bay Area in California, we are on "shelter in place" orders, which means don't leave your house except for essential reasons. Including work, unless you work in something that is considered an essential industry. So, yeah, stores, non-essential stores, are all closed. Or supposed to be. Schools are closed. Life is, effectively, on pause. Or something like that.

Watching the case numbers grow across the US, I expect more areas to follow suit.

So! Need something to do while you are supposed to be in self-imposed -- or government-imposed -- isolation? Here's a free book! It's wacky fun about an angry tea kettle and a flying cat! Read it yourself or read it to your kids. It's free! And, hey, I don't really do a lot of free! promotions these days, so take advantage of it!

Pick up your copy of What Time Is the Tea Kettle? today!

And, you know, pick up some of my other stuff, too. That would be awesome.
And don't forget to share!

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Rebels: "Rebel Assault" (Ep. 4.09)

-- "All right, let's make this count."

Stormtroopers are way too easy to knock out. Just barely tap their helmets and they go down. Why bother with the helmets at all?

Last episode, Hera was only a captain; now, she's a general.
And, by the end of the episode, captured.
Yeah, sure, it's a spoiler. Oh, well.

The rebels attempt to take out the TIE Defender production facility on Lothal... and fail miserably. Totally. You have to have moments like these to show why Thrawn is so feared.

Anyway, Kanan takes off on his own to rescue Hera -- remember, they kissed! -- but the Loth-wolves intervene. Why? Well, it's all part of the larger story that's happening. I'm assuming we'll find out soon enough.

Not that I want Rebels to be over with, exactly, but I am eager to get to the end of this story.
And, actually, I want to watch the newly released final season of Clone Wars, which I plan on doing once I'm finished with Rebels. There are parts of Rebels I've really come to like, but Clones Wars is the superior series.

"So the rebels have come... at last."

"You're good at distractions."
"I am?"

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Rebels: "Crawler Commandeers" (Ep. 4.08)

-- "We've done a lot more with a lot less."

Sometimes, I'm reminded how dumb droids are in Star Wars. Not the idea of them, but the actual droids. No, I don't mean the battle droids; they have a reason to be that way. But there's no good reason for anyone to be able to sneak up on a security droid and, yet, Sabine does just that. If you're going to use droids for security, they should be able to see, or whatever, in all directions. They shouldn't be marching around on patrol like a stormtrooper. If that's the way you want to play it, use a stormtrooper.

Yeah, sometimes I'm bothered by little details, even in Star Wars.

I don't have much to say about this episode other than that. It has almost nothing to do with the overall plot arc and nothing of real significance happens. It was amusing, but, mostly, it just left me with, "Why?" Not that I believe that everything must further the story, but this episode seems to be totally inconsequential.

"That could have gone better."
"I thought it was pretty good."

"It's not too late to abandon ship."

"Like mother said, 'Once a scoundrel, always a scoundrel.'"

Monday, March 16, 2020

Rebels: "Kindred" (Ep. 4.07)

-- "It's funny, no matter what happens, we always end up back here."

The Noghri are finally canon. Much like Thrawn. I don't think this is how I ever pictured them, though. In my mind 20-something years ago when I read the Zahn trilogy, I'm sure the Noghri were much more stout. I don't know, since it's been so long since I read the books, if that picture was accurate or not.
And, yeah, I'm sure some (most) of you don't know what the hell I'm talking about.
But I'm okay with that.

And I can't really dwell on anything to do with the Zahn books because that just renews my anger at the sequel trilogy and the injustice done to Mara Jade.

So let's talk about the scene in this episode:
The Empire is bearing down on our group of rebels. Tanks, speeders, the whole shebang. And a Noghri. Hera kisses Kanan. I'm going to assume it's their first ever kiss based on Kanan's expression. The Empire is fast approaching! Everyone turns to watch the kiss. That seems accurate to me.

Oh, yeah, and things continue to develop with the Loth-wolves and this final story-arc.
But it's really all about the kiss.

"This is good. When it gets strange like this, it's a good thing."

"How have you people stayed alive so long?"

Monday, March 2, 2020

Cannery Row (a book review post)

If you ever visit Monterey -- and you should -- you will notice a large... I don't know; is it a statue? Is it a bunch of individual statues all perched on the same rock? Is it a monument? Whatever it is, it's there on the waterfront in Cannery Row. The picture above is just the top of it. There are more figures all over the rocks of the "monument." It's a dedication to Steinbeck and the people who populated his stories. You can't see it in this picture, but there are also frogs all over the statue. Monument. Thing.

Cannery Row wasn't always called Cannery Row. It was, however, the area on the waterfront in Monetery where all of the sardine canning was done and, when Steinbeck wrote his novel about the area, he called it Cannery Row. Later, the city changed the name of the location to Cannery Row. There are no longer any active canneries there, but it is the location of the Monterey Bay Aquarium, which is housed in one of the old canneries.

It's been a long time since I read any Steinbeck, probably 20 years or more, so it was really nice to slip into Cannery Row, which I picked up at the Monterey Bay Aquarium back in January. And you do slip into the novel, kind of like walking into town on the beach trail from Pacific Grove, which is what we did. Just without any of the interesting characters that populate the novel. But, if they'd been there, we would have slipped in amongst them completely unnoticed, probably as Steinbeck himself did.

His power is his characters. Especially since there's not much actual plot. Things happen, sometimes funny things, sometimes tragic things, but they happen and you move on and, mostly, you never return to those things again. It's about the characters and their lives. And, well, throwing a party. Also, there are frogs, so, when I was reading the novel, the monument thing and the frogs all over it suddenly made sense.

The book has the feeling of sitting around with buddies, maybe drinking a beer, or, maybe, drinking Eddie's special hooch, and recounting stories -- "Hey, remember that time...?" -- or telling them to some new member of the group who hasn't heard all of the ones. And maybe that's really all it is. But it was nice to sit with them and listen to their stories, and it made me wish I had been there to be a part of them. Which, I suppose, is as powerful as a book can be.

It also made me want to get back into other Steinbeck, which, also, is as powerful as a book can be.
"I want to read more of this." Steinbeck has always been one of my favorite authors, but you can forget why when you've been away for a while. This book reminded me.