Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Clone Wars -- "Revenge" (Ep. 4.22)

-- The enemy of my enemy is my friend.

[Remember, you can sign up to join the Clone Wars Project at any time by clicking this link.]

So, yeah, Darth Maul is back. From a story perspective, the main drawback to this episode is that it moves too fast. Opress finds Maul at the end of the previous episode rather out of his mind and, let's say, dressed like a spider. But Savage takes Maul to Mother Talzin, she waves her hands around a bit, and Maul is all better, including having a new, spiffy pair of metal legs. From the moment Opress finds Maul to the time Maul is "back" is probably only about 10-12 minutes from screen time split between two episodes. It feels rushed to me and, maybe, if they hadn't spent so much time at the beginning of the season on basically wasted episodes, they could have spent more time developing Maul's return.

But, then, it is just a 22-minute show, so maybe I'm expecting too much?

All of that said, this was a pretty good episode.

Not because of Maul, though, but because the episode throws Asajj Ventress, who has picked up a bounty to bring in Opress, and Obi-Wan together against Maul and Opress. The chemistry is... interesting, and neither of them balk at working with each other. Being the last episode of the season, it is, of course, a cliffhanger.

I don't remember what happens with this story, but I suspect it is what softened me on my initial reaction to Maul being resurrected. What I can say is that I am looking forward to the next episode, and, assuming season five picks up where this left off, it promises a much stronger start for season five than four had.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Repeal and Replace

The Republicans have been talking a lot, lately, about "repeal and replace," not that they have any good plan for that. It's just all about their rabid drive to undo everything the black man did while he was in the White House. They're really a sad, pitiable lot, but I'll wait to pity them once they're no longer in control of things, because, right now, they're rampant destruction of everything good needs to be stopped. [Seriously, it's a government BY the people and FOR the people, but Republicans seem intent on handing everything over to corporations and greed.] Okay, no, I will probably never pity them just like I don't pity anyone who was a Nazi during World War II.

Okay, I'm getting off topic...

Now, just a little more than a week into Trump's presidency and all of the horrible things he's been doing (seriously, he's turning us into the playground bully, and Mexico is his current target to punch on and steal lunch money from (except he calls it "wall" money)), I think it's time for a new approach to Trump's administration.

See, what I've been seeing is people starting to focus on the 2018 midterm elections, and that's good! But I don't think it's good enough or soon enough. Trump's first week was a disaster, and, personally, I'm not into waiting two years before we can begin to mount an effective campaign to stop him. So I think it's time for us to have our own "repeal and replace" strategy.

Before I go on, yes, I know I live in CA and that I'm getting off easy with this idea. I mean, California is THE state setting itself up to be the opposition force to Trump and his agenda. And, well, we have the weight to do it as the 6th largest economy in the WORLD and being a state that gives more to the federal government than it gets back. HOWEVER...

It's like this, the thing that our congressmen, especially those in the House, want most, generally speaking, is to be re-elected. They spend, especially those in the House, inordinate amounts of time on that rather than just doing their jobs. Especially Republican congressmen considering they've spent most of the last decade almost literally doing nothing. So, while starting now on campaigns to get Democrats into office during the 2018 elections is a really good thing, that's still two years away, and incumbents tend to have an advantage during elections.

I don't think we need to wait. It's time to "repeal" some of those congressmen. That sounds so much better than "recall," don't you think? "Sorry, Ted Cruz, you've been repealed." Wouldn't that make such a great headline.

The hitch is that there is no mechanism for that... and it has never happened before. BUT!

Hey! Don't turn away from this just because it sounds impossible. Our government is still, theoretically, by the people and for the people, so, if we the people want a thing done, if enough of us get behind having that thing done, it should be possible to have that thing get done. That said, it's time for a movement to put into effect a recall mechanism, a repeal mechanism, for members of congress.

Some of you are thinking at this point, "Why don't we just go straight for the President?" Two reasons:
1. I think that would be much more difficult and wouldn't produce the desired result.
2. If Trump gets removed from office, that will leave us with Pence, who is possibly worse than Trump. No, he wouldn't spend his time trying to build an implausible wall; he would spend his time doing horrible things like funding conversion therapy.

Wait, wait! What's the desired result?

Well, the ideal result would be putting a mechanism into the Constitution to repeal congressmen. And, yes, that would take a long time, I'm sure, but, in the short run, it would let some Republican congressmen, especially those in the House, know that we are really, REALLY serious about opposing Trump and opposing the whole Conservative agenda that's set to turn our country back more than half a century, destroy the environment, and, possibly, involve us in some major confrontations if not all out war. Republicans who want to get re-elected are going to start listening to their constituents rather than toeing the Republican line. In fact, some of them might start doing the equivalent of grovelling to try to keep their seats.

Trump came into office on this whole idea of change and shaking up the establishment, something he's done NOTHING of. In fact, he's done the opposite by making the government even more establishment and by handing even more of it over to corporations. Now, it's time for us to be the change and to cause the change. It's time to stop Trump, and the best way to do that is stop Republicans. And it's time to do it now.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Day Two

Sunday, January 21, 2018

The internet is still not working. I think I’m going to go crazy. All the things I usually do are gone! Including talking to my friends. Mom says I should use the phone, the actual phone. She says that’s all she had when she was a kid and that that ought to be good enough for me, too. But talking on the phone is weird, and I can only talk to one person at a time. And I can’t share pictures on the stupid phone.

Maybe if they would get me a cell phone, but Mom says not until I’m 14. Which got changed from 12 when I turned 12. All of my friends have phones! Sometimes I hate my mom!

Like today. She made us go to church. All of us, even Dad. Dad never goes to church. But Mom said we all needed to get right with God and that that included Dad, too. I hate when she starts talking about getting right with God. What does that even mean? Being good? I’m a good person... except for the porn, but I like it and I don’t really get what the big deal about it is. I’m not mean to people or anything so what’s the problem?

Except that I’m obviously not right with God which is why I try to never go to church. I hate it. It’s the most boring thing in the world and the people are all stupid with their fake smiles about how good it is to see you before they go off and leave you in a corner to sit by yourself while they all have fun with each other.

But there were a lot of people at church today. It was packed. And weird. There were even a few of my friends from school there which was the only thing that made it okay.

Everybody was still all fake, though. Pretending to be happy and that everything is okay when clearly none of them think everything’s okay. But no one was talking about it. Whatever “it” is. Mom tells me to be quiet whenever I ask her what’s going on and that I’m not old enough to worry about it. Maybe I wouldn’t worry if I knew what it was.

Is it just that they all think we’re in a war? No one is saying that. And haven’t we been being in a war for a long time? I don’t understand what the big deal is and no one will explain.

During church, the pastor kept talking about China and the “damn commies.” He never said we were at war with China, but he blamed the internet on China, too. Maybe that was just because Trump is blaming the internet on China. Which probably certainly means it’s NOT China because when has Trump ever told the truth about anything?

My friend Jerry, whose parents made him come to church, too, said that his dad said it can’t be China. His dad works with computers or something and said that what’s wrong with the internet is too complicated to be China. I don’t know what that means. It all seems complicated to me. Jerry tried to explain it to me so he seems to understand, but I don’t get it. He kept trying to tell me that there’s nothing wrong with the internet itself and that’s why it couldn’t be China.

Then he said I didn’t understand because I’m a girl, so I punched him in the stomach.


The pastor talked a lot about China and getting rid of foreign invaders. Foreign invaders pretty much means anyone not white, and lots of people have already moved away. They just left, including my friend Tamira who left right after school started. He also talked about purity and getting right with God, but he didn’t say how to do that. Probably getting rid of porn because people at church are always all weird about sex and that’s another reason I don’t like going to the youth stuff because all they ever talk about is how bad sex is.

I wanted to go out to eat after church. A bunch of my friends were going, but Mom wouldn’t let me. She said it costs too much, now, and I guess it does. We haven’t had any fruit or vegetables in months. Everyone says it’s because of California. The prices are really really high, now, and we can’t afford anything more than potatoes. And meat. Meat is still cheap. It doesn’t come from California.

I started three different books today, but they were all dumb. Mom’s stupid romance crap. I just want the internet back.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Clone Wars -- "Brothers" (Ep. 4.21)

-- A fallen enemy may rise again, but the reconciled one is truly vanquished.

[Remember, you can sign up to join the Clone Wars Project at any time by clicking this link.]

Something sinister is rising...

And I hate to be all spoilery, but it's the return of the brother of Savage Opress. What? Don't know who that is? Seriously? Because it ought to be pretty obvious.

But he's dead!
Exactly Obi-Wan's reaction.

To be honest, I've never been able to decide how I feel about the fact they decided to bring Darth Maul back. If I'm remembering correctly, my initial reaction was something akin to disgust. I mean, being cut in half is pretty final, even for a Sith.

However, I think I softened on the whole thing over time because the story ended up being pretty good.
I think.
Also, he looks pretty cool.

Most of this episode is taken up by Savage's quest to find Maul.
And I think there's a continuity issue with this episode, but I'm not going to go back and check the other episode to try to figure it out.
Look, it's been a really busy month, and I'm just not doing it. At least I'm not doing until it starts bugging me enough to do it.

Monday, January 23, 2017

The Education Divide, Not a Myth

Talking about education is not something I'm unfamiliar with. Aside from the fact that I've worked as a teacher both in the South and in California, I did a whole series about education as it relates to my younger son, my middle child.

In relation to the recent election and Trump's victory, there has been a lot of reporting about the uneducated, or under educated, white people who voted for Trump. Not to mention that Republicans, conservatives, tend to fall into that same group. Sorry, the data (science!) shows the truth: Conservatives tend to be less intelligent and/or less educated than liberals. Maybe that's why conservatives also tend to hate science so much.

Look, I'm not saying that there are NO smart Republicans/conservatives out there but, on the whole, they tend to be the duller knives in the drawer.

Yes, it's all well and good to talk about studies and data and science, but your opinion is just as good as my facts, right? Well, let me give you a practical example of how all of this plays out in the real world. What I'm about to talk about is NOT science; it is my personal experience and, while subjective, it's also an objective look back at my past.

As I've mentioned before, I grew up in the South, and I also grew up in the Church. Like all typical church kids, I had two groups of friends: the people I went to school with and the people in my youth group at church. In some ways, both of these groups were atypical.

First, church kids are always atypical. The real church kids, at any rate. I'm not talking about the ones who go on Sunday mornings because their parents (moms) make them; I'm talking about the youth group kids who are involved in all the stuff: Sunday morning, Sunday night, midweek youth group, even choir. Those kids are a fairly small population from any high school.

However, my high school, as I've mentioned before, was also atypical. It was one of the first magnet schools in the nation and was (and still is) the top ranked high school in Louisiana. So, yeah, Louisiana: That's not saying much. BUT! At a time when Louisiana was ranked somewhere around 48th in education (not that it's not still down there), my high school was one of the top ranked high schools in the NATION. Top 10 for years. I think it was #3 at some point, even.

Needless to say, I didn't have the typical Southern education, and neither did any of the other teenagers I went to high school with.

Surely I have a point beyond bragging, right? I do! And this is it:

Of the people I'm still in touch with (more than a few) with whom I went to church, the ones who went to regular high schools and received a typical Louisiana education, well, they pretty much all voted for Trump. The exceptions are all female. Every dude I went to church with, every under-educated one of them, voted for Trump.

Now, of the people I went to high school with... Wait, let me drive this point home: You had to be smart to get into this school to begin with and, even so, half of the freshman class EVERY YEAR failed out because they couldn't cut it. So we, at my high school, were both on the smarter end of the scale and receiving a superior education.

Now, of the people I went to high school with with whom I am still in touch (more than a few), nearly all of them supported Clinton. I know of two exceptions: one male, one female (but she was also a church kid, and that kind of conservatism tends to skew things (I say that from my own experience)).

I could go on with this, but I think it's pretty clear. And, sure, some of the people in my youth group went on to higher education, but many of them did not. Those that did didn't go to universities that anyone would consider top notch, and I'm pretty sure, for most people, if you haven't encountered an education that makes you think, requires you to think, before you're out of high school, college is too late.

The truth is that conservatism is based around accepting what you're told without question, Questioning is the enemy. Questioning things that come your way can overcome confirmation bias, and Republicans/conservatives are much more susceptible to confirmation bias than liberals. That's why 85-90% of the fake news during the election was pro-Trump/anti-Clinton. One of the biggest peddlers of fake news stories during the election said they tried, also, on Democrats but just couldn't get Democrats to take the bait.

Look, I'm not trying to offend anyone, not this time. If you feel offended, it's probably because you know this is you. That's not my fault. I'm not calling anyone stupid. [Okay, there is ONE person I would gladly call stupid, but I've already done that, and I don't think he reads my blog anyway.] To some extent, intellect is a choice, because intellectual curiosity is a choice. YOU can choose to not just accept the shit you're eating. YOU can choose to educate yourself.

Stop reading and listening to Right Wing propaganda. Find the news and information that is objective, the places reporting FACTS, not opinions, and follow that, instead. Listen, the only reason the media is "liberal" is because the Right is SO FAR RIGHT that everything else looks liberal. Facts and data and SCIENCE are not "liberal;" they just are. So...

If you don't want the "Coastal Liberal Elites" looking down on you and thinking you're stupid (and sometimes calling you stupid), start educating yourselves on the actual data. And, you know, maybe read the Constitution and look at the laws that Trump is already violating.

Make a difference.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Day One

Saturday, Jan. 20, 2018

Today is so boring. The internet isn’t working. No one’s internet is working. Neither is the TV.

That’s not exactly true.

The radio says the internet is fine. It says it’s just parts of the internet like Google and Facebook and Netflix. So none of the important parts of the internet are working, not even Twitter, and neither is the… I don’t remember what it’s called. The thing that sends you to the websites you want to go to. I can’t even sneak any porn, because porn isn’t working, either.

Supposedly, if you know how to tell your computer to go directly to the website you want to go, if it’s one that is working, something about ports or something, your computer will do it. Because the Internet works. For local stuff mostly. But who even knows how to do that sort of thing.

Which means the internet is broken.

Technically, the TV works, too. If I choose the antennae option, I can watch the local stations. Except they’re all fuzzy because we don’t have an antennae. No one has antennaes. Why would anyone have an antennae? Old people maybe. There’s nothing on local channels anyway. Who even watches those either?

Old people.

My dad is mad because there was no paper. No newspaper. Because no one gets newspapers anymore because why would you get a newspaper when everything is online? Just that old guy down the street gets a paper, and he probably doesn’t even have a computer is why. He’s mean, anyway, and it’s probably because he doesn’t have a computer. It hasn’t even been one day, and I’m mad about not having a computer.

But the old guy didn’t get his newspaper today. I know because he accused me of taking it just because I was walking down the street. I was walking down the street because Mom yelled at me because I was bugging her about the computer, and Dad yelled at me because there was no newspaper for him to go buy. So my dad was mad because he couldn’t find a newspaper to buy and the old guy was mad because he didn’t get his, so called me names and accused me of stealing it.

Why would I even want some stupid newspaper?

Then the radio said there wasn’t a newspaper for today at all. Because of the internet. Is the newspaper just for people who don’t have computers? If they don’t have the internet, they can’t get news, so why have them if you have a computer?

Mom has been listening to the news on the radio all day, so I can’t even turn on any music. She keeps telling me to read a book or something. Or study. Find a way to occupy myself.

At least she quit telling me to go outside and play. Like I’m a little kid. It’s too cold and wet. And she yelled at me for getting mud all over the floor when I did go out. Because I thought it might be better outside than inside because I was just getting yelled out inside, but then I got yelled at outside, too, by the old guy, and it was raining a little bit, so outside was worse.

There’s no one to talk to on the phone, either, because the phone keeps telling me that all the lines are busy. I suppose that means it’s also working but without working. Like everything else today.

Except the radio. Which Mom won’t let me use.

Today sucks.

I tried to find a book, but I couldn’t find anything I wanted to read. While I was looking, the President was on the radio. Not live or anything, but he recorded a message. He wasn’t live because of there not being any internet. Well, not because of the internet but because of whatever is causing the problem with the internet. He wants it back, too. He’s mad about not having Twitter. He said it’s a disaster.

He's also blaming it on China. Maybe. Mom says he thinks it’s China but there’s no proof. He didn’t say it’s some fat guy in his mother’s basement, though, not this time. He also didn’t say it’s the Russians, but I think he’s scared to say that. He keeps making deals with Russia and they keep changing them. Just like Darth Vader in Empire.

Trump said we’re at war and we’re going to destroy them… just as soon as we figure out who we’re at war with.

I hope it’s just a technical problem, though, like a line being down somewhere. I guess it would have to be a big line. Maybe a satellite crashed. But they’d probably know if that happened.

Now I’m bored AND scared, and I just wish I could go on Facebook or something and see what’s going on with my friends. If I could do that, though, there wouldn’t be a problem, and I wouldn’t be bored or scared.

What if we are at war?

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

La La Land (a movie review post)

Let's have an honest moment: I really don't like Damien Chazelle. It's not a personal thing (Probably. Since I haven't met him, that's hard to say, but I did hear him on the radio, and he sounds like an okay guy other than the fact that he can't write and, so, should stop doing that.), but his movies need to go away now. (See my review of Whiplash.) No, I don't care that other people seem to like them. Actually, that's part of the problem. Chazelle's movies are like the Hershey's bars of chocolate: They're fine if that's all the chocolate you have access to but, once you've had good chocolate, you'll realize that Hershey's is kind of waxy and you won't want it again as anything other than a last resort.

Except I never want to see Whiplash again, even as a last resort.

Don't get me wrong, La La Land is a fun movie. Mostly. Fun in a cotton candy kind of way: It's all fluff and no substance. I like Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling just fine, and they do a fine job, but they never really gel. The movies feels like you're watching two people acting as if they are acting they are in love and having a relationship, which adds to the cotton candy-ness of the whole experience. None of it feels real. The whole movies feels as if it's about to dissolve under scrutiny.

I think the thing that most bothers me about the movie is the "message." Sure, it's an actual message, but it's a message that's endemic to our culture of positivity and to Hollywood in particular, so
1. It hardly seems like making a movie about this message anymore is worthwhile (especially since neither of the main characters have to go through any actual hardship (at least not within the action of the movie)).
2. It's a false message.
Oh, the message?
If you just follow your dream, if you're true to it to the exclusion of all else, your dream will come true. Even if it means giving up the "love of your life."

Maybe it's just me, but I'm really sick of that message, because it's not a true message. The problem, though, is that if someone doesn't succeed at achieving their dream, people take the stance, "Well, you just didn't try hard enough. You must have let yourself be distracted by other things." It's like the whole positive attitude with cancer patients, breast cancer especially. There's this pervasive belief that if someone just stays positive that she will beat the cancer. If she dies? She wasn't positive enough. The tragedy? Studies are showing that people who rely on positivity have a lower survival rate. (You can see my review of Bright-sided for more on this. Then go read that book.)

So, yes, the hype this movie is receiving makes me a bit mad. Probably more than a bit. It's so undeserving, especially in relation to all of the other movies, right now. Look, it's not that I have anything against people following their dreams. I'm all for it. I encourage it. However, this idea that if you are just steadfast in following your dream then it will definitely come true is a lie. Many people, people who are doggedly determined in following their dream, never see those things come true, because that's not all that it's about. To lead people to believe that it is is not just wrong, it's cruel. It leads people to believe that, somehow, if their dream doesn't come true then the fault is somehow inside of them, that they did something wrong, when, actually, they may have done everything right.

On top of all of that is this idea that Sebastian is some kind of white savior for jazz. Only he really appreciates it's true form, and only he can save it from extinction. If he can only manage to get his jazz club open. You know, if you "build" it, they will come and all that... wait for it... jazz. I find the whole thing kind of insulting. I mean, not only does he appreciate it more, but he plays it better. So, you know, you have all of these great black musicians in the movie, jazz musicians, but it's the lone white guy who is going to save them.

Give me a fucking break.

So, yes, I don't think La La Land deserved any of the Golden Globes it won, but Chazelle, especially, didn't deserve the awards for screenplay and directing.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Clone Wars -- "Bounty" (Ep. 4.20)

-- Who we are never changes; who we think we are does.

[Remember, you can sign up to join the Clone Wars Project at any time by clicking this link.]

Asajj Ventress is alone and on the run after Dooku's second or more attempt to have her killed. Trying to both survive and lay low, she ends up in Boba Fett's gang of bounty hunters. Despite his young age (and lack of Mandalorian armor), Fett is already in charge. Both Bossk and Dengar are in the gang.

This episode has ninjas. Or close enough.

And Simon Pegg does the voice of Dengar.

As opposed to the previous arc, which included a lot of bounty hunters who were fairly superfluous to what was going on, each member of Fett's team has a place and a use. They didn't feel like mere window dressing. As such, this was a really good episode. We get to see them all in action and see some of their personalities. It probably helps that we already have some familiarity to Bossk and Dengar, and it's nice that they are not just standing around in the background.

It's a good episode. Part of an arc, yet able to stand on its own. We get to see more of Fett's evolution, which is interesting. I hope they some day do a solo Fett movie but, until then, it's nice to have his background explored somewhat in Clone Wars.

Also, Ventress may not be quite as mercenary as she would like to think.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Hidden Figures (a movie review post)

I know that I just got through saying that I had found my pick for Best Picture winner this year and that I didn't think that would change. Well, I was wrong. I'm glad I specified that I hadn't seen all the likely nominees yet, and even I am surprised that I'm going with Hidden Figures over Arrival. That should tell you just how good Hidden Figures is because Arrival is in just about every way my kind of movie. What can I say? I like sci-fi in my movies.

Or, maybe, I just like science, fiction or not, and Hidden Figures, also, pushes the science button.

Hidden Figures feels to me like a necessary movie for our time. But it's also just a great movie. Great and necessary is a combination that is difficult to overlook.

We have this pervasive view that every important accomplishment not just in the United States but in the world and throughout history has been done by white men -- I mean, we even hold the view, somehow, that Jesus was a white dude; how fucked up is that? -- and that's just not true. It's not even mostly true. And, yet, here we are.

Would we have gone to the moon without the contributions of these three women? Probably. Would we have done it when we did? Almost certainly not. Would the Russians have gotten there first? Maybe.  And, no, it doesn't matter that they have never been. They cut their program back once we had taken a lead that they could not overcome but, if we had never taken that lead, they very well may have retained theirs. Katherine Johnson was instrumental in us taking the lead away from Russia.

But why should we care about one individual mathematician among so many? It's not like we know the names of all of the faceless white dudes in white shirts working for NASA at the time, right? However, if you had looked into that room of faceless white dudes in white shirts, you would have noticed one person who didn't seem to belong, and that is significant. One lone African American. One lone woman. The same person. That she was allowed into that room at all is significant because that means that she was extraordinary, and she deserves recognition.

All three of the women do.
So it was way past time for this movie.

Add to the great story a top-notch cast, and you have what is a wonderful movie. There were seriously great performances all around. That said, two in particular stand out to me:

The first is Janelle Monae (also appearing in Moonlight). She is feisty and fiery as Mary Jackson, and I actually wish there was more of her in the movie. It's a completely different kind of role than she had in Moonlight, too, so it's cool to see her range in these two movies. In fact, I didn't even recognize her as the same actress while I was watching the movie. It's really a stand out performance.

And I hate to highlight a white dude from a movie like this, but Costner's performance as Al Harrison was... well, I'm not going to say it was amazing, but it might be Costner's best role ever. Harrison is an interesting character (which is all I can say since I don't know anything about the actual person), the only one of the group that Katherine Johnson is assigned to who appears to not be racist. He's just oblivious. But when he does take notice of the racism happening around him, he does his best to smash it, sometimes literally. At one point, Costner delivers what seems to me would be an awkward line -- something like, "At NASA, we all pee the same color." -- but he does it with all seriousness and sincerity, and it's a great moment in the film.

Most of all, though, what sells me on this film as the Best Picture is that I would say everyone should see this movie. I wouldn't say that about Arrival, because I know a lot of people who, for many different reasons, wouldn't get the movie. Or enjoy it. It's like my view of Tolkien: I believe everyone should read The Hobbit, but The Lord of the Rings is certainly not for everyone.

So, yes, go see Hidden Figures. If it doesn't give you a fresh perspective on racial inequality in the United States, there is, beyond any doubt, something wrong with you.

[Again this week, the movie review will serve as my political post.]

Friday, January 13, 2017

Fences (a movie review post)

I think I want to start by saying something that could be a bit controversial: This is not a "black" movie. Yes, there are some things in the movie that deal specifically with race issues but, mostly, it's a movie about a man, a very likable but horrible man, trying to deal with his life and his relationships and the disparity between those things and how he sees himself. Basically, he is so caught up in his view of how he has been unjustly kept down that he can't see how unjust he is being to those around him, especially his son.

I felt like Troy Maxson could have been my own father. [Which is why I'm saying it's not a "black" movie, because I think that gives the impression that you can only relate to the movie if you're African American, but I think Fences very facilely rises above that. Anyone not in the 1% should be able to relate to this movie.]

Although I don't think this is a Best Picture quality movie -- I had some issues with the ending -- though it will probably (and should) get nominated, the performances were amazing. Seriously amazing. This is possibly the best performance of Denzel Washington's career, which is saying a lot, I can't think of a better performance by any other actor in any movie I've seen this year. He was tremendous: likable and horrible. He was a guy you'd want to hang out with, stick with, as his friend Bono said, because he would take you places. And, also, give you an example of what things not to do, how not to be.

Viola Davis is great and certainly deserves best actress for this. She perfectly portrayed the wife trying to keep her wayward-leaning husband doing the right thing... even though he consistently managed to thwart her efforts without any seeming effort of his own. Her body language conveyed every frustration she felt while also communicating her failure to resist his charms whenever she would stand up to him. She was perfect.

Stephen Henderson, Jovan Adepo, and Russell Hornsby were all great. Hornsby has a lot of charisma so was really able to lean into the character of Lyons, the son trying to get by on his good looks and charm and the fact that he's a musician. But it's Adepo who really pulls off the dynamic of being the son of a father like Troy, the struggle of abandoning the search for approval from someone who never thinks of anyone other than himself.

Possibly the best performance of the movie, though -- and possibly the best performance of anyone this year -- was Mykelti Williamson as Gabriel, Troy's brain damaged brother. Williamson has been around for a long time, so you've probably seen him in stuff. I know him best from Justified. He was phenomenal. If he doesn't get best supporting actor for this role, it's definitive proof that there is something wrong with the world, not that we don't already have that, but, if he does get it, it might show that there's still hope. Seriously, he was great.

Fences is a good movie, a really good movie, but you shouldn't see it for the movie; you should see it for the acting.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Clone Wars -- "Massacre" (Ep. 4.19)

-- One must let go of the past to hold on to the future.

[Remember, you can sign up to join the Clone Wars Project at any time by clicking this link.]

We return to the Nightsisters story line we last saw in episode 3.14, "Witches of the Mist." Asajj Ventress has been in hiding since her failed attempt on Count Dooku's life, but she is finally returning home to Dathomir to become a full Nightsister. Dooku, finally discovering the whereabouts of Ventress, seizes the moment to take his revenge upon her... by sending a full fleet to Dathomir with Grievous at the head of the army.

And that's really all you need to know about the episode other than that there are zombies.
And the zombies are gross.

But let me take this moment to highlight something we frequently see with bad guys: their thirst for revenge.

Dooku is in the middle of a war with the Republic. You'd think that would be the thing he would focus on most. I mean, it's a freaking WAR. But as soon as Ventress shows up, he goes after her. Let me point out that the Nightsisters are reclusive. They do not go out into the galaxy and get involved in what's going on out there. All of the problems that Dooku has had with Ventress and the Nightsisters are because HE went THERE and got involved in what they were doing, not because they came after him. That and he tried to have Ventress killed.

Basically, he diverted resources against someone who wasn't bothering him and had almost no chance of seeking him out to bother him or cause him any problems.

Because of a personal grudge.

Classic bad guy behavior. Classic bad guy behavior we can see mirrored almost daily in the actions of our own petty tyrant, Trump.

Seriously, if you want to know who the bad guys are, just look around at the ones who stay focused on getting revenge against their enemies, even when their "enemies" aren't seeking to do them any harm. Like the Republicans who have been gnashing their teeth to get vengeance against Obama and who are now set to undo everything he accomplished while he was President. Not because it's for the good but because they hate him.

You can see how much they don't care about what is for the good as they begin to dismantle the Affordable Care Act while spewing their propaganda about how they aren't going to take away any of the coverage of the 20 million people who are now insured due to the ACA.

Now, the Nightsisters are not good guys, but it's time for those who oppose Trump to take to heart some advice from Mother Talzin:

"There is no time for regret; now, we must fight."

Monday, January 9, 2017

Loving (a movie review post)

There are times when a completely appropriate title shouldn't be used, usually because it's misleading. Basically, a title should tell you something about the story being presented and, though Loving is appropriate to the story, the word itself is so generic that it tells you nothing about what the story is about. However, that's the worst thing I can say about the movie, which is a pretty minor thing, all things considered.

So what, then, is the film about?
It's about the supreme court case which struck down anti-miscegenation laws in the United States. Except it's not really about the court case, as would be the tendency for films like this. What you would expect is a courtroom drama focusing on the lawyers and the case itself, a movie making the lawyers the heroes. This movie, though, deals with the people: Richard and Mildred Loving. See the reason for the name?

I think, often, we forget about the people. This event in history was about people, brave people, not a court case. A white man who loved a black woman and wanted to marry her. Did marry her. Bought a piece of land on which to build her a house. A piece of land that, at least during the time frame of the movie (which covers many years), remained fallow... because they were arrested for being married then forced to move out of Virginia for refusing to get divorced. It was that or go to jail.

Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton are both great in their roles. Richard, being a white man, is released from jail not too long after being arrested, but they wouldn't release Mildred without holding her for a weekend, first, and they wouldn't allow Richard to bail her out at all. Nor allow him to see her after she is released, not unless they wanted to go back to jail. The distress of Richard during this portion of the movie is palpable on Edgerton. He has no recourse. No money. No education. But he is being denied his wife.

Ruth Negga brings a quiet strength to the movie. She doesn't know what to do anymore than Richard, but, once the bridge has been crossed to take their case to court, Mildred is the one who stands steadfast in seeing it through. Negga brings that determination to the role.

It would be nice to think that the kinds of things, the kinds of racism, in this movie are things of the past, but I think it's clear from what has happened in the politics in the United States over the past year that this kind of racism is alive and well and that there are people who would, once again, persecute a quiet, loving couple like this for nothing more than wanting to be together. In that respect, this movie is very timely and highly recommended. It reminds us that this fight, this fight for racial equality, isn't over.

[And this will serve as my political post for the day, because, even without being so, it is a very political movie.]

Friday, January 6, 2017

Arrival (movie review post)

Right up front: This review is going to be full of spoilers, because I don't know how to do the film any justice in a review without talking about it, and you can't talk about this movie with spoiling it. The only way to do it is to say, "Go see the movie. It's really good," and leave it at that. And, actually, go see the movie. It's great.

It's not often you see a movie about linguistics. The idea of needing to translate something is really more of a gimmick that shows use to increase tension and complicate the plot. Like when a word is incorrectly translated causing the hero to do the wrong thing. Hmm... So, thinking about it, I can't think of any other movies where linguistics were the core of the plot. There might be some, but I don't know what they are (and I'm not going to go look because it's not that important).

The idea of translation, of communicating well and effectively, is one of the vital strands of the movie. I say "strands" because Arrival has several that are all effectively woven into one strong rope of a plot, something at which most movies fail. Which is why most movies are pretty straightforward with just one main idea. Taking several themes and weaving them into a whole is difficult, but director Denis Villeneuve and screenwriter Eric Heisserer pull it off with aplomb. The story is stronger for what they have done and would suffer if any of the strands were pulled out to make it simpler.

Not that the movie gets down into the minutiae of linguistics, but it clearly demonstrates the importance of words and meanings right from the very beginning by telling us what the Sanskrit word we take to mean "war" really means: a desire for more cows. It's a not so subtle foreshadowing of one of the central conflicts of the movie involved in translating the language of the aliens. Oh, yeah, there are aliens, which I was taking as a given but maybe it's not.

The other linguistics issue the movie deals with -- and it's a central theme -- is how language shapes the way we think and how learning other languages can sort of re-wire our thoughts and how we see things. They don't really go into the theory in the movie -- choosing rather to show us as Louise learns to speak the alien language -- but I'm aware of the basics of it. A good example is how we describe things in English, placing the adjectives in front of the noun (the fast little red car), as opposed to the Romance languages (French, Spanish, etc.), placing the adjectives after the noun (the car red fast little). This very simple variance shifts the way we look at the world, and does it in ways we can't see from inside ourselves.

I'm sure there's a metaphor in there.

This whole idea leads into the non-linear aspect of the movie, and this is probably the best non-linear movie I've ever seen. It hearkens back somewhat to Slaughterhouse-Five -- at least, it feels the same tonally in my head, but, then, it's been a while since I read Slaughterhouse -- but much more personal and intimate. It's beautiful and heartbreaking.

And leaves us with the other big question of the movie: If you know that something beautiful is going to end in pain, the kind of pain that will leave you wishing you could die, do you accept it anyway? That's a hard question to answer, and the movie doesn't exactly answer it for us, but it does push us in the direction it wants us to go.

Getting beyond the story, the acting is great. Amy Adams delivers a stellar performance. [It's the kind of movie that makes me want to say that she deserves a best actress Oscar for it, but I don't think her performance in this stands out amongst her body of work overall. American Hustle, yes, but this felt pretty "normal" for her.] Jeremy Renner was great, too. They were a good match on screen. Basically, all of the performances were good and solid, lending to the quality of the film as a whole. As such, no one stands out to me as having given the "best performance of his/her life;" it all just works together perfectly.

Of movies that are likely to get nominated for Best Picture (of the ones I've so far seen), this is my pick. Knowing myself, this will probably stay my pick. I don't think it will win, but I'm going to guess that Arrival will stay my favorite.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Clone Wars -- "Crisis on Naboo" (Ep. 4.18)

-- Trust is the greatest of gifts, but it must be earned.

[Remember, you can sign up to join the Clone Wars Project at any time by clicking this link.]

This arc bounces back from last episode with an attempt to kidnap Palpatine. Obi-Wan is, of course, undercover within the group of bounty hunters attempting the kidnapping. Even so, Dooku still nearly succeeds in his attempt. Clearly, though, this is not the abduction attempt that leads into Revenge of the Sith, though it could have been! Considering the fact that Palpatine is later abducted, this is some vital part of the Sith plan, of Palpatine's plan.

That is kind of intriguing in and of itself.
But I suppose that's a question for another time.

This arc drives a clear wedge between Anakin and the Jedi Council and, more importantly, between Anakin and Obi-Wan. Or deepens an earlier wedge. This isn't the first time that Anakin and Obi-Wan have come into conflict over something due to some manipulation by Palpatine, which could be the point, the only point, of Palpatine's schemes, though I suspect Palpatine's schemes are quite multi-layered.

At any rate, Anakin is quite self-righteously pissed at being left in the dark about Obi-Wan's faked death and, possibly, righteously pissed that Obi-Wan made that decision himself. What it comes down to, though, is the planting of seeds of doubt in Anakin about the Council and what their intentions are.

Episodes like this really help to fill out Anakin's fall to the Dark Side.

"One shudders to think where the galaxy would be without the Jedi."

Monday, January 2, 2017

An Unacceptable Time

(With no apologies to Madeleine L'Engle. It was a crappy book.)

We are living in an unacceptable time. We are living in an unacceptable time full of people acting in unacceptable ways. I'm not talking about Trump, either, or at least not just Trump; he's just one rich asshole who thinks way too highly of himself. No, I'm talking about the people who put Trump where he is, all of whom in one way or another think way too highly of themselves, too (which is what white privilege (especially male white privilege) is all about), and are hoping that by validating Trump he will return the favor and validate them.

Of course, it's Republican powermongers who created Trump and put him where he is. You only have to look at North Carolina to see that. North Carolina has become the microcosm that a significant part of the United States is on its way to becoming, which is not a democracy according to the EIP (Electoral Integrity Project), an international organization that evaluates the electoral processes of countries (and states) around the world. North Carolina scored the lowest score of any place ever evaluated in the entire world (a 7/100) on its districting practices. [And, overall, North Carolina isn't even the lowest scoring State on their scale. This is scary stuff to be happening in America, the place where this kind of authoritarianism was never supposed to be able to happen.]

Here's kind of what all of this is like:

Imagine a classroom. In the classroom are 20 young children, let's say six years old. They are sitting in a circle. One boy, a white boy, has a pile of cookies in front of him, 80 of them. Some of you are thinking that that boy should share some of his cookies, but hold on! There are some more cookies.

There's another white boy sitting next to the cookie hoarder; he has 10 cookies. He's looking at the guy with 80 cookies and being resentful of the fact that he only has 10 cookies.

But here's the real problem. There are only 10 cookies left to be shared out among 18 more children. Then, two more kids get two cookies each. Four kids get one cookie each. Two kids get half a cookie a piece, and... 10 kids get to share the last cookie.

Now, in any sane classroom, the teacher would make the boy with 80 cookies share some of his cookies, but, when the teacher makes that suggestion, the boy begins throwing a tantrum. And not just any tantrum, a raging tantrum during which he exclaims over and over about how those are his cookies and how he deserves his cookies because he is better than everyone else in the room, the rest of the students, other than the boy sitting next to him with the 10 cookies, being non-white children. So the teacher turns to little Joey, the boy with 10 cookies, and asks him if he, at least, will share. Joey sits grudgingly, watching Donald throw his tantrum and being resentful that Donald is getting to keep his 80 cookies just because he's pitching a fit, but he allows that he will share one of his cookies, which gets divided up without any of the pieces ever making it around to the 10 children all sharing the one cookie.

So the teacher brings in another round of cookies to try to even things up, but Donald is a greedy, selfish, piggish little boy, and he immediately takes another 80 cookies while the teacher is trying to keep control of the rest of the room. Joey takes another 10 but, then, once they are seated, Donald steals two of Joey's cookies from him and eats them while Joey watches. This time, as the rest of the cookies are divided out in the same manner as the first time, Joey refuses to share. Why should he? Donald just stole two of his cookies and is in the midst of another violent tantrum about how he is better than everyone else and doesn't have to share and no one can make him.

And this is how it continues. Donald always getting the bulk of the cookies and, actually, growing angry that he isn't getting all of the cookies each time cookies are delivered. Each time, he also manages to steal a couple or few of Joey's cookies.

Joey grows increasingly resentful over how many cookies that Donald has and becomes resentful at the other children in the circle for getting cookies that he wants. He has found that he, no matter what he tries, cannot manage to get any of Donald's cookies from him but, sometimes, he is able to steal cookies from other children in the circle. It doesn't matter to him that he has more cookies than everyone else; he only cares that he doesn't have as many cookies as Donald. Everyone looks with longing at Donald's pile of cookies and wants desperately for someone to step in and make him share.

But no one does.

Joey, thinking that Donald must have some trick for getting the most cookies other than being a bully and just being first in line every time, has an idea: He decides that, maybe, if they put Donald in charge of the cookies, then he will share.

Does anyone else see the problem with this logic?

And, of course, in a classroom, any sane teacher would actually make Donald share. And Joey. No matter the tantrum. That is the acceptable solution: sharing.

But we are in an unacceptable time where we have elected Donald to be in charge of all of the cookies, and, if he wouldn't share before -- in fact, when he wouldn't share before and also went about trying to steal cookies that belonged to other people -- why would anyone think he would share now? No, now he has the power to block other people from getting cookies so that he can have even more for himself.

And, by the way, I didn't make up these numbers. I've roughly based the cookie distribution on global wealth distribution. Donald represents the 1%, and Joey represents the rest of Western white society. The problem is that, as a society, we have just decided to, rather than work to make the 1% share their cookies, work to keep people of other colors out of the cookie line all together. It's unacceptable. Completely. If for no other reason than that Joey still has way more cookies than everyone else and can, actually, afford to share. He (we) just doesn't want to because why should he when no one is making Donald?

So, yeah, screw what is right and good, because it's all about greed and gluttony. It doesn't matter to Joey (us) that he (we) actually has more cookies than he needs or can eat; it only matters that he doesn't have as many as Donald and, until he does, fuck the world. Because, really, that's what a vote for Trump translates into: Fuck the world.

This is not a time to support Trump and his cronies and their desire to consolidate power (and cookies) to the wealthy white power structure. This the time to stand up to their unacceptable ways and make them share. Yes, like any spoiled brat of a child, they are going to throw a violent tantrum, but it's time for us to stand up and be the adults. The real adults who stand for equality for all children, not just the white ones.