Thoughts on Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker

From a fb comment thread:

Watching TLJ, I enjoyed the experience. I don’t remember getting up. I got up twice in Rise. Even the cinematography just isn’t as impressive, people talk about vistas, this one had some really shitty vistas. There were genuine moments of surprise in TLJ, contrast that with Rise where I could see every plot point coming and going, and none of them were surprising in a meaningful way. This is a film experience where I couldn’t shake the feeling of “this is a product,” for even a little bit.

I walked out of this movie filled with rage at the culture we’re living in now around movie studios. They want to let fans know that they heard their concerns, both the legit (Snoke = No One Important (in TLJ) is a reveal that asks more questions than it answers; the ending, where to go from there?) and the illegit (Purple Hair Woman in Charge! Wah!). They’re less concerned with telling the audience that they were wrong to be assholes about Holdo and they were wrong to harass Rose off social media b/c that might cut into their profits.

To solve the real problems posed by TLJ’s plot, they took the laziest writing way possible and said that every inconvenient thing was lies and that the Real Baddy this whole time has been the same Baddy and they don’t even hint at it in earlier installments of this trilogy. The Retcon of Skywalker is what this fucking movie should be called.

From a YouTube comment thread:

Between that* and the way they treat him in Rise, he’s vindicated AFAIC. btw I have a much harsher take than the boys here on Rise, I kind of hate it. I know that TLJ had problems, especially the writing problem of “what now?” but it feels like the Rise writers decided to scrap literally everything and call for a mulligan on Ep VIII, and then quickly push through two Episodes worth of plot. They didn’t have to be so Fuck You to him about it, that particularly feels like handing a win to the worst parts of the fandom.

*I am referring to a comment saying Knives Out, the new film by TLJ director Rian Johnson, was good; I haven’t seen it but I’ve heard good things.

In Conclusion

The good reviews of Knives Out, my enjoyment of TLJ and his work on Breaking Bad, particularly Ozymandias, arguably the best episode of the series, leads me to believe that Rian Johnson is a good director. At the very least, we can’t say he’s a bad director, there’s just too much evidence to the contrary. There is probably a conversation to be had about the best kind of project for Rian to do, the right IP, the right kinds of limitations, etc. I mention limitations mainly because of the way he handled TLJ’s ending. The most ardent defenders have to admit it’s a difficult writing problem, and it seems like some limitations could have been set, or if there were concrete plot elements that were already planned through Eps VIII and IX, it might have turned out better.

TL;DR Rian Johnson is good.

Bernie Leads Among Military Donors

This kind of thing makes my heart happy. In the Navy, it felt like the culture was permeated with conservative framing. Military uses a lot of reactionary rhetoric to inspire people: appeals to tradition, fighting a savage enemy, conformity with the in group. Conformity is a massive part of it, teaching people to read the uniforms of others for rank markings and awards, so you know how to address them. Lots of time spent learning how to stand in rows and march and render a salute. This does something to your values, I think. You find out that you gain respect and status in the group if you can do conformity better than your peers. This conditioning is powerful and it exerts influence in any group of military members.

However, this stat would suggest that those military members do not hold the values of the dominant workplace culture. It suggests that there are a lot of people who don’t agree with that bullshit.

Once, in a meeting, a senior leader mentioned what he thought was the Big Problem, at least in our command: people not opening up to the leadership about personal issues. A true leader is someone that you can go to, and few had that kind of trust for their leaders. The idea that someone under your care feels that they cannot go to you for help, that should be very troubling for any leader. Part of that fear is fueled by this culture stuff.

The quiet person in your division? The one that doesn’t join the conversation about which movie star has the best tits, or the person that doesn’t laugh at your five millionth rendition of The Only Joke About Trans People; they’re not talking to you in words, but in donation dollars. #NotMeUs

Imagine Being Upset Over Tim Allen in 2019

So me and a coworker were early to a meeting, so I made small talk. I asked if he’d seen The Irishman, and he said no. I gave my quick review, yeah, it’s slow but it’s really good, fantastic performances, especially Pesci. My coworker proceeded to tell me about how he doesn’t like Robert DeNiro b/c of his public political statements, and then started teeing off on celebrities in general having opinions. I responded that hey, it cuts both ways, right? And he brings up Tim Allen and how ABC screwed him over.

Hol up. Tim Allen is still, to this day, on TV. He had a starring role in one of the biggest movies of the year, Toy Story 4, from the biggest studio in the universe. Also, that shit happened in 2017, effectively three years ago now.

And let’s compare and contrast opinions, shall we? De Niro said “Fuck Trump.” Pretty harsh, hard to go harder at someone in two words than that. That was the big one, when he said that at the Tony Awards in 2018. I thought for all the world that’s what he was referring to. But, I checked, De Niro has made a lot of public statements expressing disdain for President Trump since then, even up to today.

Tim Allen has said a lot of conservative things over the years, and has, to hear him tell it, paid for those opinions by getting temporarily cancelled on ABC, only to get signed to FOX shortly after. Talking about this, and other forms of discrimination he’s faced, he compared conservatives in Hollywood to Jews in 1930s Germany. Because, y’know, we’re all familiar with stories of Jewish people getting fired from their TV show and getting re-hired by another network, that was Kristallnacht, right?

Of all the things to be mad about, here I am, stewing over someone whose worldview is so foreign to me that they can really be upset about a washed up sitcom star being temporarily out of work. So yeah, people really do be upset about Tim Allen in 2019.

That people is me.

It’s disgusting that someone can have such a myopic, persecuted idea of What Is Going On that they use Tim Allen as their handy talking point to support their idea of Hollywood’s Anti-Conservatism, and then thinking that that Anti-Conservatism is A Big Deal. Holy shit! How fucking removed from reality do you have to be to think that?

There is a world full of real horrible things happening to real people. People being murdered by governments and corporations, often in collusion with one another. So I don’t have too many fucks left over for some indignation over a comedian being inconvenienced for a short amount of time, and then compares that inconvenience to, literally, the Holocaust.

Idiocracy Really Doesn’t Hold Up

It really doesn’t hold up, as comedy or sci fi. Like many people, I’ve been referencing it for years, and I finally showed it to my teenage son, and he was not impressed. The premise of “dumb ppl reproduce more, therefore everyone get real dumb” has a point of diminishing returns. You have to have a certain level of cognitive ability to have meaningful interactions with other people, especially if the meaningful interaction you’re trying to have is, y’know, having relations. So there’s that.


Also, it seemed to me that a lot of the “futuristic” advances didn’t make sense and were being used to make cheap jokes. The biggest culprit here is the Starbucks also being a rub’n’tug, for a variety of reasons, not least of which is brand identity; doesn’t seem very reflective of their current progressive values. You could say that, actually, the sex work is all sex positivity gone too far and whatnot. But look at how the services are framed. Stuff like, “Gentlemen’s latte,” meant to suggest old timey shoeshine booths. The image it conjures is a smartly dressed businessman, brusquely turning the pages of his WSJ as he gets toppy. Not at all sex positive.

Look at the way the film treats women in general. It’s pretty terrible; the women in President Camacho’s Cabinet seem to understand and acknowledge that they are only there for sex, and no one seems to have an issue about it. I get that “lol, ppl are dumb” but these kinds of transactional relationships are extremely complicated, and it doesn’t seem like Judge wanted to address them. There’s a lot of humor there too, and tons of potential. You could write a whole fictional future history for why things are the way they are with regard to sex politics in workspaces.

The societal conversation about how men and women get along, in workspaces, in public spaces, everywhere, is an extremely deep and nuanced conversation, one that the film’s premise doesn’t have an answer for. It’s like not only did everyone get dumber, they all forgot feminism was a thing, like, ever.

One thing that film absolutely nailed. The way cops talk, all “particular individual” and all that. It is a perfect rendition of a really really dumb guy that wants to sound smart, so he overuses the shit out of a handful of polysyllabic words. This behavior is prized in the military and police forces, because those organizations are rife with concerns about making the correct display; wear the right ribbons in the right order, call people by their proper rank, execute that salute properly! All these display elements, like the mating dances of birds, are symbolic and ultimately meaningless, but there are strong social and other consequences for those who do not play along. and those ppl become instructors and model this bullshit, obfuscating manner of speech to others, and on and on.

All the stuff about corporations owning everything, “brought to you by Carl’s Jr.” was pretty spot on, give it that.

Woodstock? What’s that?

Me: so I’ve been listening to this podcast episode about Woodstock ’99.

My son: What was that?

Me: well, it was a music festival celebrating the 30th anniversary of Woodstock.

Son: What’s Woodstock?

*Pause while I resist the urge to shame someone for not knowing a major cultural event that happened 45 years before he was born. I realize that people have different frames of reference and time is a huge one of those – The past is a Foreign Country – so, I answer*

Me: Well, Woodstock was a music festival that took place in 1969…

Moral: Don’t assume that the person you’re talking to has all the same background info as you.

Also, I realized that, as huge as “Woodstock” as a cultural monolith was to my generation, that status did not carry over. The reason it was a cultural monolith to my generation had to do with 60s nostalgia, which also led to the revivals. The reason it didn’t carry over is most likely the bad taste that the revival festivals left in people’s mouths. The two Woodstock fests in the 90s, ’94, and especially ’99, were marked by bad experiences by concertgoers, including riots and fires at the ’99 event.

About That Hypothetical “Secret” Senate Vote in Newsweek

Today I saw this article from Newsweek about a hypothetical Senate vote on Trump’s maybe future impeachment with one important twist: it’s a secret ballot where no one’s vote is made public. Long story short, according to a GOP insider, they believe that up to 30 Republican Senators would defect from their party’s leader—as long as their vote remained secret. That part is italicized so we don’t blow past it, I think it means everything.

Simply put, “if vote was secret,” means, “this would not count and cannot be relied upon for accurate prediction.”
There are likely Democrat Senators (Manchin at least) that would vote to acquit, precisely because it’s not a secret vote.
I don’t want to pour cold water on this, if this is true it could be a harbinger for real results. It could be said that Republicans are more willing to go against Trump. Things like the recent Senate vote about not diverting money from military families to the stupid Racist Wall (sorry I’m not using the made up PC terms, Racist Wall is exactly tf what it is) is a sign that the GOP might be turning.
All I’m saying is, we’ve got countless examples of politicians “privately feeling” one way but voting completely opposite. Look at almost any elected official’s twitter, they’re sounding the alarm for this or that cause, they look like a real crusader!
Check their voting record. Check what legislation they’ve brought. Check their donors. Private feelings can fuck off if your Official Acts as an Elected Official show no follow through. You’re in office for fuck’s sake, why are you only tweeting about it?
Tweeting’s for dipshits like me who have no power so we howl into the void that is social media, crying for a world that we know can exist while simultaneously mourning the Fact that it can’t because the oligarchs have taken so much control of media that a successful voting bloc can be reliably coached out of supporting challengers to the power structure. Elected Officials should be out there doing stuff, starting investigations, introducing legislation, etc., on top of the twitter rabble rousing. That’s the way movements work. People do Their part. If you down with the movement, esteemed Holder of Office, your part is: do Elected Official stuff. Get shit on record. Act for your constituents and the marginalized everywhere, and your record will speak louder than the slickest produced TV ad. Words are wind.

John Travolta Had His Career Resurrected Once. Let’s Not Do It Again

They’re doing it again.
Remember that thing that Hollywood does where they don’t have any new ideas?
Yeah, that.
This time, it’s the 1997 action thriller, Face/Off getting a reboot.
Face
From the story, it looks like the producers of the Fast and Furious movies are going to be heading up the project. To me that’s a great fit. But, as with sequels and reboots, there must be a conversation about casting.
I have recently been made aware of John Travolta’s film work in the last 6 or 7 years. He’s been in almost nothing but straight-to-streaming dreck. The closest thing to a big movie since 2013 has been Gotti (2018), one of the worst films of that year imo. I just finished I Am Wrath, a 2016 Travolta vehicle that features a scene stealing performance by Christopher Meloni (Law and Order, Pose) and, I am not exaggerating, one of the Worst Hairpieces I Have Ever Seen. Your mans got Muppet hair in this movie no cap.
 
Nic Cage, on the other hand, has been a meme for years now because of his performances and his shared tendency to be in kinda trash movies, especially in the last 10-15 years. However, in Cage’s oeuvre, there shines the occasional diamond in the rough. See 2015’s Mom And Dad, a deranged little what-if horror/comedy, or 2018’s Mandy, which I have not seen but I’ve heard it’s amazing, like year’s best horror type buzz.
 
Comparing these two side by side, Cage has a lot more memorable and award winning performances to his credit. He also seems to be doing much better in terms of what movies he’s getting in: check out his voice work in Spiderverse and Teen Titans Go To The Movies (holy shit that movie is FUN!!!). Comparatively, Travolta’s not getting anywhere near a big triple A movie. For that reason alone they’re not going to cast him. Look no further than the Bad Boys For Life trailer. It’s not just that Martin Lawrence has gained a little weight, he just hasn’t been working that much and it shows in his performance. He’s lost a little off his step, looks to me, in my unprofessional opinion of, let’s be honest, a *trailer* (so I’m not betting the farm on this take, it’s wild speculative but that’s what my impression was, maybe I’m wrong).
 
For these reasons, we need to NOT do this reboot with the original pair. PleaseGodNo.gif levels of NO here. Travolta’s career was rehabilitated once before by a little film called Pulp Fiction (1994). Before that, he had been keeping the lights on by doing Look Who’s Talking sequels and small film and TV credits, but nothing major. After Pulp Fiction, he was a major star again. Another Face/Off could lead to another Battlefield Earth (2000), or just another ten years of a mediocre talent getting big films b/c a bunch of dumb 40 year olds were duped into seeing this.
 
In spite of everything this sounds like a fun movie, but not if it’s two old guys winking at the camera every second like, “hey, remember this from the other movie! Damn dude we’re meta as eff!” and so on. Besides, Castor Troy died in the first one, Pollocks too. This movie is the kind of dumb action schlock that the later Fast and Furious’ are great at delivering. Get like Gerard Butler, Oscar Isaacs, Jon Hamm, Bendydicks Comfortshack, someone like that. Or maybe not, you go a different way with it and cast a funny guy or a PoC as the leads, like Martin Freeman and Tyrese (or Tyrese and Ludacris for the full F&F effect). Do some new CG shit where you can see the fakeness of the transplanted faces but you have to look carefully for it. It might be cool but It’ll probably suck.

Can We Fuck Off Already About Sharpie-Gate?

Sharp.PNG

Every once in a while, there’s a Trump story that makes me roll my eyes like why are you talking about this silly thing and making a big deal out of, for example, a handshake he has with some foreign whoever. Those stories help no one but they get a lot of views from the most uninformed b/c it’s a Shiny Object. It’s a result of the creep of Entertainment trappings into news media, brought on by the market forces that gave us the maxim, “if it bleeds, it leads.”

I think the media does a huge disservice when they devote so much time to frivolous stories instead of more important things. Is Sharpie-Gate totally frivolous? Not totally, but who cares? MAGA people don’t care about this, even if it’s a Federal Crime. Anti-Trumpers, #TheResistance, reasonable people, whatever we call ourselves, didn’t need this story to convince us that Trump’s a bad guy.

This whole thing is a pep rally for low-info people to yell at one another over. It’s politics for babies.

There is a relevant story in #SharpieGate: this is another in a long line of cases of Trump denying reality. This should be filed with the rest of the #25thAmendment takes, and more or less be done with. His continued insistence helps that 25th Amendment case immensely. What in the fuck is the President of The United States of America, North America, doing going on and on and on about this?

Right here. This is where I’m at when I read this story. I feel like I’m taking crazy pills. This lout, this utter buffoon, is in a position to do this and we’re just captive, watching it, hanging on every word. Worse, our captivity is such that we don’t recognize it, we’re drawn to these stories like lemmings. The media prattles on endlessly about how it’s a Federal Offense and how the Trump admin is bad and they need to go, just like Send Her Back, Shithole Countries, Stable Genius, President of Puerto Rico, all the McCain attacks, Grab em By The Pussy, Inauguration Crowd, Blood Out Of Her Wherever, Good People on Both Sides, and on and on. In any other time, an entertainer who had so many moments of incoherence, stupidity, or blatant narcissistic cruelty would not be able to parlay their fame into major political office.

Everybody points to Reagan for this entertainer => POTUS pipeline, but that comparison is not apples to apples. At the time of his presidential election, Reagan had been active in politics for decades even to the point of being Governor of CA in the 60s. While we can say that Trump’s been active in politics for a long time, playing a Rich Person on TV, his role has been much less active, even if we throw in his very brief presidential run in 2000. So that’s a non-starter.

In any other time, an entertainer who tried to bluster their way through like that would get hung up on something. One of those would cause their public profile to capsize past any point of recovery. At least we’d like to think that.

Anyway, when stories like this happen, stories where Trump is literally the baby with a shitty diaper insisting that he didn’t do a poopy while the whole fucking room can smell it, these stories break me just a little bit more, to the point where I say:

Please, can we fuck off about this story already, the amount of attention it’s getting is obscene in the face of so many other real problems. So many other crises that are caused or made worse by Trump. There’s a whole world of shit going on and we’ve welded our tuner in place on WKKK, all Trump, all the time (did you see what I did with that radio callsign?) You think it’s anti-Trump but what’s going on? These callouts, they’re meaningless, MAGA people swat them away like flies. The media’s show of “holding Trump’s feet to the fire” are toothless. I feel like I’m watching a shitty horror movie where the people are so stupid, like they’re fighting Freddy Kruger by taking sleeping pills, and no matter how I yell at the screen it just keeps going.

I hate that it’s happening. I hate how it’s being covered. I hate how it’s shaping conversations to be dumber and dumber. I hate how that drive, to dumb down conversation, is driven by Capital interests. The more people yell at each other about these Shiny Object stories, the less mind they’re paying to all the much larger and much more impactful things going on in our government and around the world.

The Wondrous Motivational Power of Spite

Couple months ago, a person I know had a racist pout on Facebook because some of his coworkers spoke Spanish and he does not. For anyone curious, it was your garden variety, “I shouldn’t be foreign in my own country!” kind of rant that shitty people have from time to time. He made sure to specify that, for him, documentation status doesn’t matter. This clarification is actually worse than the “just the illegals, legal immigrants are fine w/me” caveat that most anti-immigrant folks will point out. Not that it matters, but he was working construction in Texas.

I was pretty disgusted and I talked to a mutual friend about it, who talked to him. His explanation was that he was frustrated when he wrote the post in question and evidently didn’t see the harm in it. It struck me as very Nick Sandmann, very shitlord 2016, a POV that is still getting a fuck ton of play in 2019 much to our dismay; dismissive with an air that the whole thing’s a joke.

I now have to acknowledge that, while I recognize the shittiness of the above sentiments, I myself am monolingual. Sure, I took Spanish in high school. I dabbled a little in learning more with language learning apps. I’d even lived in Taiwan for three years, where I had built up a little bit of Chinese. Still, I wouldn’t feel comfortable conversing in anything but English. So, while I talk the talk, I realized that in the same circumstances I’d be just as incoherent and useless at communicating as the racist poster in my feed.

So, I decided to do a thing. I re-downloaded the language app and got back to it. For the last few months I’ve been spending a few minutes every day. It’s a great mental habit. Someday I hope to be able to listen to the Spanish station on the radio and follow, like really follow what is being said or sang. I want to watch soccer with Spanish announcers and keep up.

Spite is a completely legit reason to do something; you needn’t always be so pure or altruistic or noble in your motivation; you can do a thing purely because fuck that person or people. I usually think of things done out of spite as hurtful. And this is true, a lot of things done in spite are hurtful, usually when it’s something done directly to another person.

What if it was possible to do something out of spite and not be cruel or hurtful? Spite, as I’m using it here, only speaks to the motivation of an act. If you can do a thing that is actually helpful out of spite, then you might be using spite for right. It should be pointed out that it’s possible to be helpful in a way that causes harm to others.

The catalyst for my study habit is nothing more than unmitigated, pitying, sneering spite for that dipshit in my feed. Fuck his presumptive-ass framing of the world:

  1. Everything should be accessible to me and if it’s not I am personally attacked.
  2. Other people’s communication is an assault on me if I can’t understand it.
  3. The United States is entirely MY country and not YOURS if you speak a different language.
  4. If you’re a natural born citizen and you don’t speak English, you’re less American than I am.
  5. My personal comfort is more important than your desire to communicate in my presence.

Fuckk. All. That. Fuck that whole way of looking at the world.

There are good, even great reasons for studying another language, not the least of which is that my son started doing Chinese on the app. Those reasons live in the higher-reasoning parts of the brain, where ideas really do matter. They’re who you aspire to be, they’re where you dream. Spite comes right in the front door of where you live. Fuck you, I’m doing this. It feels good. Do it enough and those better angels of your nature start noticing. Other higher-order benefits start kicking in. So do a good thing, and tell yourself that you’re doing it because fuck them.

Game of Thrones Ending Predictions [SPOILERS]

What follows is a silly meme I saw about GoT, and my totally serious, lore-based, Easter Egg-based, detail-oriented, predictions for the ending of the Game of Thrones. Enjoy.

Brown

Arya kills Dany in a dramatic moment where she flies out of nowhere to stab Dany in the back. At the last second, Dany turns and catches her by the throat and holds her like Kane about to chokeslam a mf. Arya, through her constricted windpipe, says, “Dracarys,” and does the knife trick again, stabbing Daenerys through the heart, causing her to shatter into a million pieces and also insta-killing Drogon. Arya becomes the new Commander of The Night’s Watch with no major emotional issues, Ghost takes the Iron Throne, Jon goes back to college and becomes a guidance counselor, Sam goes on keto and loses 100 lbs., Brienne and Tormund get married and have huge badass ginger children that form a basketball team and communicate telepathically, Sansa and Tyrion decide that, since their marriage never officially ended, they should give it another go in a wacky sitcom coming to CBS 2021 tentatively titled Winterfalling In Love, Davos learns coding and designs an app that 3d prints prosthetic fingers for people, Aquaman shows up right at the end, revealing that all disappointing cinematic universes are connected, Hot Pie gets a show on Cooking Channel called A’zor Hot Pie: The Pastries That Were Promised, Jaime and Cersei actually didn’t die, they go into witness protection and Jaime complains that he has to eat egg noodles and ketchup instead of the good food he was used to all the while looking over his shoulder for a crossbow wielding Bronn, meanwhile Bran devises a system where the people decide who will rule them by something called voting and while it’s a good plan, it fails when all the peasants don’t know how to read.

It’s a show for babies now, I kinda don’t give a shit how things end. By the way this is a complaint of mine since Season 7, Season 8 has done nothing to fix any of the problems I’m having. Basically I think the show is trying to do a mad dash to wrap up the big story, when the thing that really won the audience was how patiently they used to develop and execute story arcs.

Brienne gets her heart broken most cruelly by Jaime when he reveals that he is going to Kings Landing. She’s utterly wrecked by this precisely because she’d always been so guarded but she let Jaime in because she was convinced that he had truly seen and appreciated her. As the audience to their hookup, it feels like a cool payoff of the relationship between the two, from their tense collaboration to their grudging respect for one another. It’s natural that they end up together. It’s also natural that Jaime leaving is the most painful thing ever for Brienne. In seasons 1-6, this would be an arc that would animate the character for a whole season or more until the next Big Character Defining event. Instead, that’s probably the last we’ll see of Brienne. Even though we feel like “She and Tormund fall in love and live happily ever after serving the Warden of The North,” would be a great ending for her, there’s no time to develop that plot with only one episode remaining.

However, it could be said that there isn’t a satisfactory way to resolve all the major plot threads, even if they had three full seasons instead of two seasons with fewer yet slightly longer eps. It’s like one of those puzzles where you try to connect all the dots without ever lifting the pen or retracing, but there’s too many dots and they’re arranged so that you can’t avoid it. The tapestry made up of the show’s numerous plot threads is Gordian in its tangling; any ending will, by definition, have to be rushed and mangled. It’s kind of like D&D packed their carryon with love and attention to detail and great skill, but the ending is an overhead compartment whose dimensions are way too small. So you do what you must; take a few things out of the bag, crush it, bend it, anything to finagle it into that compartment and get it shut.

Game of Thrones belongs to television history for the scope of the production. It’s also a landmark series in terms of narrative complexity. The number of storylines all going at the same time is just dizzying. It succeeds in threading the needle between book readers and TV only audiences. The writing feats this required are innumerable and it’s a joy to watch each time. Bad endings don’t completely ruin a thing, let’s remember that.