Monday, February 28, 2022

The Legend of Vox Machina is an outstanding animated series for Dungeons & Dragons.

I finished watching the Legend of Vox Machina on Amazon, and I decided to talk about it on my blog. Lucky you, right? So, if you are unfamiliar with this work, it is an animated series based-on Matthew Mercer's Dungeons & Dragons campaigns that are aired on his YouTube channel called, "Critical Role." Matt Mercer is kind of a B-List or maybe even C-List celebrity. He's a handsome guy that has talents in voice acting, and an obvious love of D&D. And he plays with people who are equally talented, like Felicia Day. But he's not the kind of actor that headlines movies like Tom Holland does. Rather, he's several pegs down the chain of Hollywood, mostly filling in on projects here and there (kinda like Joe Manganiello who may be a slightly bigger celebrity due to his wife Sofia Vergara and his obvious connections to powerful nerds in Hollywood, like the producers of the Game of Thrones series and being friends with Zach Snyder). Matt Mercer isn't "big" like that, but maybe more on the lines of Wil Wheaton. But that doesn't mean he isn't well connected and that he doesn't have millionaire friends with some measure of influence in the entertainment industry. Obviously, he's got an excellent agent, and they were able to get Amazon to put up the money to make Legends of Vox Machina into an animated series. That's a pretty major achievement.

Legends of Vox Machina was super entertaining, and I'm so glad that a person like Matt Mercer is pushing my hobby of many decades into the mainstream. There are many things I loved about the first season, so I'll try to boil it down. First, Legends of Vox Machina took the subject matter seriously (fantasy is nothing to laugh at folks), while still making it crazy fun by playing on tropes that real players do with their characters in tabletop games all of the time. If you don't understand what I'm saying, let me put it this way. When people ask me the question: what is playing Dungeons & Dragons like? I usually respond with, "It's like really bad improv but with dice rolls."

My favorite character by far was the bard, who was so over-the-top with his character that he wore a rainbow colored codpiece in one part so as to "distract" the crowd enough for his teammates to perform an important action. I also loved the LGBTQ representation, and the world seemed very woke without making it come across as heavy-handed. It managed to bring fantasy into the modern world, giving the old epic fantasy genre a much-needed update by supporting inclusion, diversity, and adopting our modern way of saying things. The F-bomb gets dropped a lot, while the series progresses as a kind of "greatest hits" on the well-known monsters of Dungeons & Dragons (starting out with a literal dragon that is badass). I'm also sure that it will have its haters from the community, mostly those people who are stuck in the mud, and who believe that things should never change from the way they were represented in the 1980's. They are wrong, of course. But it won't stop them from airing their opinions in any way possible while they watch reruns of M*A*S*H and other shows from that same era.

I suppose at its most basic level, what I appreciate most about The Legend of Vox Machina is that it is a perfect vehicle to showcase how a game like Dungeons & Dragons can make you a better storyteller. Anyone who likes to write fiction should consider getting into a game, creating a character, and then exploring a world. Sure, there are dice rolls to represent the heavy-lifting mechanics of combat, and there are many pages one has to read before one is ready to play. However, the investment is worth it because it forces you to pay close attention to the motivations behind characters. Great characters are never one-dimensional. There is a reason why they do a thing, and when you play a game, you are forced to figure out how A connects to B which then connects to C long before you even do anything. This is how you breathe life into a character and make them believable to an audience.

I also like that there are many more opportunities for people to interact with others in the "business" of Dungeons & Dragons. Here in the Salt Lake valley, I know a guy who paints miniatures for Joe Manganiello, which is honestly kind of cool. They are on a first name basis with each other. I also participate in Kickstarters for new D&D products, and I even sent a monster in last week to a contest to see if it will get printed in the next Tome of Beasts. I'm kind of excited by that, because if my monster gets picked (I won't know the results until mid-March) there's a chance that they may ask me for more details about the world in which the monster came from, and thus, I might get some other ideas published. But all of the above is possible, in part, because Critical Role has garnered such a huge online following.

Anyway, long story short, you should give The Legend of Vox Machina a try. Who knows? You may really like it.

Friday, February 25, 2022

Here are six amazing questions to contemplate while you are waiting for spring to show up.

On this, the last Friday of February 2022, the year that saw a palindrome in February and in which Vladmir Putin proved he was the world's biggest bully, I'm posing questions instead of answers. These are questions that plague me, for which I have no explanation. So, I'm sharing them with you. However, all of them are related to speculative fiction, so there is that. Now...on with the show:

1) Why did Spiderman: No Way Home make 1.84 billion dollars during a time when other movies are even struggling to make ends meet? It happened during the pandemic. Would it have been even bigger had it not? Like...what gives? Someone explain this pile of crapola for me. Please...I just don't understand.

2) I read that Howard the Duck was going to make an appearance in the Marvel series called She-Hulk. The news broke on Picsou, which is...wait for officially licensed Scrooge McDuck magazine from France. Okay...what? So this led me down an internet rabbit hole and I discovered that Donald Duck and Scrooge McDuck and I guess ducks in general (like Howard the Duck) are just enormously popular in Europe. Like...what?! Really? Why? Am I missing something here, because Howard the Duck doesn't even appeal to me whatsoever. Why is Howard the Duck more popular than people in costumes like...I don't know...Hawkeye or something?

3) Berkley Breathed's Bloom County is heading to television. What? Why has this taken so long? I was a huge fan of Bill the Cat, Opus, and Steve Dallas in the eighties! I had all the books, Bloom County Babylon, Billy and the Boingers, Penguin Dreams and Stranger Things, The Night of the Mary Kay Commandos, etc. You get the picture. And yes, I'm going to watch it. I'm just stunned that a television network took until now to realize its worth.

4) Why does every live-action Star Wars tale seem to spend inordinate amounts of time on Tatooine? Is the desert just better for space opera? And also...why is Star Wars just unable to remove itself from the Skywalkers? I hear that the latest series centered around Obi-Wan Kenobi is going to heavily involve a very young Leia Organa. Why? Why do this? You could spend years with some other character?

5) Why is every season of The Flash about time travel? It's always about time travel. I'm getting sick of time travel. I suppose there's only one real reason why I continue to watch this show, and that's Grant Gustin. I's a very shallow reason.

6) Why is the DC expanded universe trashing the Snyder-verse and soft rebooting everything. I guess that the upcoming Flash movie is going to time-travel its way to fixing everything so that they can move forward from the Snyder stuff. For what it's worth, the Snyder version of Justice League is awesome, and I'm sad that we don't get to see more of that vision.

If you have any answers to my questions above and care to share them with me, I'll be grateful. Otherwise see you next week.

Wednesday, February 23, 2022

Why do we pretend that bullies don't actually get what they want.

I'm back from my short blogging break. I hope that everyone had a nice President's Day weekend. Chances are better that you did if you don't live in Ukraine. After reading the coverage about Ukraine, how Russia has it completely surrounded on all sides, and how an invasion is imminent if it already hasn't started, I wondered to myself: why do the bullies always win?

Hollywood is full of movies where this isn't true. Bullies are always put into their place by heroes of all kinds, whether it is in a buddy cop movie, a big budget superhero movie, or some kid standing up for himself in a high school by learning karate. I look at all of these stories now under a different light. They all seem like gaslighting to me. This isn't how the real world works. It's an idealized's how it should work. In an idealized world, women can knock out giant men twice their size in brutal cage fights. It's like the David and Goliath story. It's how it should be. But it isn't.

In the real world, bullies seem to get whatever they want. Bullies invade countries and other countries just let them because they know if they don't, it will mean the start of a World War. Bullies punch down and other people watch them do it, because they are afraid to do anything about it. We have bullies in jobs, bullies on playgrounds, bullies on the highway cutting us off in traffic, bullies forcing us to do labor while giving compliments like, "you're so essential," and bullies demanding to be accommodated even if it means trampling on other people. Being a bully seems to have a good track record. Sure...there are a few stories of people getting their comeuppance. But by and large I see more bullies getting off with no consequences for their disrespect of consent than I do for those who are punished for this same disrespect. 

Consequences seem to be really hard to enforce. Our civilization seems to mostly run on threats and bluster. When enough people start to test those threats, the whole thing starts to collapse. Humanity is a very strange thing when you realize that a lot of the rules and safeties we take for granted are just an illusion that we've all bought into by putting faith that "there are consequences for behaving badly." 

Over President's Day here in Utah, there were a handful of protestors up at the capitol who were protesting Russia's bullying tactics and threats of invasion against Ukraine. I thought to myself, "How useless and what a waste of time." And then I realized, this is about all the power that people have to do anything with a bully like Vladmir Putin. The lesson: really big bullies get what they want. My opinion is that we should accept this truth, start to teach it, and stop gaslighting people into thinking that it is otherwise. I imagine Hollywood would be very opposed to this idea, and the effective spin to combat what I'm saying is easy: "We are not gaslighting...we are selling hope." There's always a way to rebrand, repackage, and sell an idea, which makes getting to the actual truth a very complicated affair.

It's kinda like how a series can come out (about that kid who learned karate so he can stand up to bullies in high school) where a hero is suddenly shown to be a villain all along. In Johnny Lawrence's words (in Cobra Kai), "He showed up, sucker punched me, poured water on me at a dance, took my girlfriend, and then used an illegal karate move without hesitation to win a tournament." It's a great way to rebrand, and I was kind of stunned when I realized what was happening. And...I can't argue with it at all. But at the time, it didn't seem like the kid who learned karate was a villain.

The most successful bullies are ones who are great at misinformation. They have the ability to confuse, to muddy the waters of morality, to get people to see the other side of things. And thus, downtrodden people wish and long for a higher power, a thing that has the ability to decipher truth from lies, to find intent, and then to punish wrongdoing. But because that doesn't actually exist, bullies win and get what they want. It's kind of fascinating in a very sad way, but it is likely the human condition and it will never change.

Any of you have any thoughts on bullying (or the doom of Ukraine) that you'd care to share?

Wednesday, February 16, 2022

Star Trek Discovery just introduced an alien civilization so powerful it will change everything for good or for bad.

Last week's Star Trek: Discovery episode called "All In" gave us more information about unknown "Species 10C," and the details are kind of blowing my mind. I've been thinking about the episode since I first watched it, and I've watched it twice now in the past seven days. Before you read on, know that there are SPOILERS ahead, so proceed forward at your own peril. With that out of the way, let's unpack what we know about Species 10C.

Season four introduced us to this thing called the "Dark Matter Anomaly," or DMA for short. It's a gravitational well that is five light years across, moves of its own accord, and from outside its perimeter looking in, resembles what science has told us actual "black holes" look like. See the picture below, and you'll get the idea.

So, early in season four this thing appeared. On first appearance, it's gravitational waves wrecked a space station. On its next appearance, it completely destroyed the planet Kwejian, when the DMA's gravitational waves from its enormous footprint (again...five light years across) shattered the planet's moon which then collided with the planet destroying it and its inhabitants. This loss stung, because I thought Kwejian was beautiful. There had been a few plotlines that took place on its surface, and I really liked the new cast member who goes by the name "Cleveland Booker." When his homeworld was destroyed...well, this was a big deal for the series as it meant Booker's entire family had been wiped out, along with a large portion of his race.

At this point, the threat that the Dark Matter Anomaly presented to the galaxy and its millions of sentient races was clear. The emergency helped the struggling Federation to pull hesitant worlds into its fold with a promise that it was better to be united against a danger than it was to go it alone. Then more information started to be slowly fed to us episode by episode. The first piece of important information was that the DMA could move unpredictably. In other words, it could vanish in one spot and instantly reform in another ten or fifteen light years away from its original position. The "logical" conclusion was that it wasn't a natural phenomenon. Someone was controlling it. So this "thing" was created by an "as yet unknown" race of alien beings.

In the meantime, Booker who may be the last surviving member of the dead world of Kwejian, just stewed in his emotional anger and grief. He wanted nothing more than to destroy the DMA, which seemed like an impossible task. I do you destroy something so powerful? And this is especially true when (with more information) we learned that it had a power source at its center equal to a hyper-giant star, and that it was created by technology that is completely beyond anything the Federation has ever encountered. And that's counting The Borg, Species 8472, and everything else. At about this time, we meet Ruon Tarka, who is a genius that seems to be from another universe. This guy appears to be motivated by some kind of promise that he has made to a lover, but his motivations aren't clear, and he strikes me as having many psychopathic tendencies the most fierce of which appear to be gratuitously self-serving. Ruon Tarka did figure out how to destroy the DMA, using a detonation that would destroy sub-space forever in the sector in which it was initiated, thereby making warp travel impossible in that dead area of space. We know that he's only on board with this plan because Tarka wants to use the power source at the center of the DMA to send him back to his universe, which he disclosed (if ever so briefly to Book) was to keep a promise to someone Tarka supposedly cares deeply for. And of course, Book doesn't care, because all he wants is to destroy the DMA and avenge his extinct people.

However, the Federation wants to make first contact with Species 10C. They believe that any civilization capable of creating the Dark Matter Anomaly could just wipe them out if they angered them. Attacking the DMA might just do that, and start a war with a species that they cannot possibly win. So they decide in a huge vote to do just this. Of course, at this point, Tarka and Book go rogue to destroy the DMA on their own. It's during this leg of the story that we learn that the DMA is actually a dredge. It's a shovel that is being used by Alien 10C (whom they now have tracked to an area just outside the Milky Way Galaxy) who have a technology so advanced that they have enclosed a star and three planets within some kind of Dyson Sphere. And the energy they use to power all their stuff comes from boronite ore.

This is a deep dive into Star Trek: Voyager history to an episode called The Omega Directive. Omega (in that Voyager episode) is a highly unstable molecule and the most powerful substance known to exist. The Borg knew it as Particle 010. Seven explained in that episode that the Borg Collective had managed to stabilize a single Omega molecule for one-trillionth of a nanosecond before it destabilized. The cost of the experiment was 29 vessels and 600,000 drones. get the picture. However, Species 10C not only has the ability to stabilize "Omega," but they use it for anything. And just like you and I would have a shovel in the garage that we might use to dig things up in the yard, Species 10C has the dark matter anomaly going around the universe harvesting boronite to send back to their civilization for power. The implication of this is enormous: Species 10C is so advanced technologically, that the entire Federation with its millions of worlds are like ants compared to humans. Species 10C is on the level of a god, with technology so advanced that people flying around in ships through space would be like a fly buzzing around your head.

This is a major development in Star Trek lore. There really hasn't been much "intergalactic" stuff that we have encountered in all the hours of television created for this ongoing story. And I'm deeply fascinated where they are going with all of this. The very introduction of an alien species this powerful is a game changer for the entire story no matter what route they go. If a war starts, the Federation could be completely wiped out unless something big (like Q big) steps in to save everyone and end the war. And we don't know if Q would be afraid of Species 10C (he was afraid of Guinan in The Next Generation and we never got an explanation about that). Additionally, if they make first contact with this species, and it goes well, what will happen next? These are all incredible developments, and I'm glad that the series has already been renewed for season five, because I have questions. I just hope that these new aliens don't look human with a change to the forehead. But the series (thus far) has been knocking things out of the park, so I have a lot of faith that it will all pay off by season's end.

Anyone else watching this show and care to weigh in on Species 10C?

Monday, February 14, 2022

Here are the five WOW moments I got from The Book of Boba Fett.

The Book of Boba Fett was good entertainment. I wasn't bothered by the same things that irritated some die-hard Star Wars fans, namely that Boba Fett wasn't "Boba Fett." To be fair, I think many of these complainers are right. Boba Fett was a badass Mandalorian bounty hunter. He wouldn't have needed to learn martial arts from sand people in the desert. But, I did like that whole "sand people" story arc, mostly because it made me see them as more than just hollering barbarians. It humanized them for me, which made me feel the impact of their slaughter both in the series and in the past (when Anakin Skywalker blazed through them all with an angry lightsaber to avenge his dead mother). And Anakin's crime in contrast to how I feel about the sand people today seems to be a lot more in the vein of "pure evil."

I also kind of thought that the whole "let's look in the Sarlacc for my armor" thing using his ship was just stupid. But, it allowed us all to revisit an iconic location from the movies. Seeing as they ended up killing the Sarlacc, it feels like they should have just started with that and then went in to look around for his armor. And then there's the matter of Boba Fett just being a crime lord or a "daimyo." This seemed like a big departure from his character. But, even bounty hunters (I guess) get old and want to settle down. That he seems to be a benevolent autocrat concerned for his citizens seems to be at complete odds with the guy that sold Han Solo to Jabba the Hutt after he was frozen in carbonite. But...I can let that go. People change. All of that being said, there were parts of The Book of Boba Fett which just really soared. I call these moments "WOW" moments, and it's what sticks in my long-term memory and makes me really fall in love with a series. Here's my list from the first (and probably only) season of this show.

1. Episode Five of the show allowed us to catch up with the adventures of Din Djarin from The Mandalorian. Well, when we caught up to him, he had gone to visit a ring world. Star Wars has always been peppered with massive structures like the Death Star, the Ring of Kafrene in Rogue One, or Cloud City in The Empire Strikes Back. A ring world as a structure first appeared in Larry Niven's novel, Ringworld. It's a massive structure that traces a planet's orbital path like a thin ribbon around a light bulb. Because it spins, there is enough gravity all along the ring to hold an atmosphere. It has the surface area of three million Earths. Standing on the surface, you wouldn't actually be able to tell that you were standing on an actual ring--it would appear as though there were a giant arch overhead. Anyway, we see Din Djarin walking along and interacting with people on this unknown ring world, and I loved it.

2. The Book of Boba Fett introduced us to the Hutt twins! This was the first time I remember seeing a hutt outside the movies or the animated shows. I loved that the female hutt used a dainty fan to cool off with. In the show, they are said to be cousins of Jabba the Hutt. I also liked that they were carried on a palanquin by dozens of slaves. It seemed like a very "Hutt" thing to do, and it made for a great entrance.

3. Luke Skywalker's face in the penultimate episode took me by surprise. The whole "uncanny valley" thing of CGI was completely missing for me in this deepfake. This Luke looked like the real Luke Skywalker. What was even more shocking was a reveal by Disney execs and Mark Hamill who said that Hamill wasn't even involved in the voice acting. Instead, Disney just took thousands of hours of his spoken dialog, voice acting, and reading out loud of audio books and fed it all into a computer. The computer examined it all and then just performed the lines when they were fed into it. That way, Luke could sound young because Hamill's voice has aged considerably over the years (along with the rest of him). This is really scary technology folks...what happens to the world if it falls into the wrong hands? But yeah, I guess we've gotten to the point where we don't need actors or even reality anymore. We can just synthesize it whole. I'm simultaneously in awe and frightened of what all this means.

4. Boba Fett Riding a Rancor. Wow! Seeing a rancor again delivered by the Hutt twins earlier in the show had me wholly unprepared to witness how cool it was to see Boba Fett riding this creature as a mount to take down his enemies in the Pyke Syndicate. It was also great to see the droids from the Phantom Menace again that had that shield technology that made them impervious to energy weapons. When that happened in The Book of Boba Fett it helped for a time. However, Rancors apparently can still crush the droids with slow and incredibly tense pressure applied in just the right spot. It was like watching a kaiju fighting a robot, so I had real strong Pacific Rim vibes from this. Now if only we could get Ahsoka Tano riding a rancor then my life would be complete.

5. Cad Bane. I loved this bounty hunter from The Clone Wars, and I was delightfully surprised by his appearance in this show. If you don't know, Cad Bane is a ruthless bounty hunter from the planet Duro, and in the animated show The Clone Wars, no quarry was considered too dangerous for Bane if the price was right. One of the things I loved about him was his appearance, an obvious throwback to a cowboy western which seemed out of place in sci-fi until you realized that it was completely awesome, and it made him look different than anything else. It sucks that he's probably been killed off by Boba Fett.

And that's my list. Considering how short this series was, I'd say The Book of Boba Fett treated us to some very fine entertainment.

Friday, February 11, 2022

The New York Times in an opinion post answered some burning questions I had and made me realize the importance of self-awareness and accountability.

Yesterday, the New York Times printed something that gave me pause, because it answered questions for me that I thought didn't have an answer. Or to elaborate, it gave me an answer that I thought would have been more elusive than it was. Here is the quote:

"Those falling behind [in America] face a serious threat to their self-worth and well being: Not only are the societal markers of personal worth and status becoming unattainable but, according to the dominant cultural narrative of individual responsibility, this is supposedly the result of their own lack of hard work or merit. Instead of focusing on the economic system and its elites, Right-wing populists usually identify what they call liberal elites in culture, politics, and the media as the 'enemies of the people.' Combined with the rejection of marginalized groups like immigrants, this creates targets to blame for dissatisfaction with one's personal situation or the state of society as a whole while leaving a highly unequal economic system intact."

I was shaken to my core, because it explained so much about people who I interact with everyday. It explained why when I was at a conservative friend's house, I showed her the famous national debt counter. She took one look at it and immediately said, "That's the immigrants doing that. Lord almighty." And I was puzzled why she said that. Well, the answer is in that paragraph above.

I have another conservative friend who is just a mediocre middle-aged man who is unemployed with no bachelor's degree, but (because of his narcissism) believes that he should be the powerful CEO of a company. If you're wondering how he survives, he lives in an apartment subsidized by his non-working aunt with his wife (who works) and pays off the bills while he plays video games and takes out loans on new vehicles. But those delusions aside...when I try to show him that liberal politics are (in fact) better for unemployed people like himself he gets pissed off. When I try to show him that medicare for all would help him and his wife both, he gets angry. Why? The answer is in the paragraph above.

It's weird to come across something with such profound clarity. But I felt like I was searching for this answer for years, and then (suddenly) there it was. Neatly summed up by someone who could put what I was observing into words. And folks...that paragraph is not good news. I don't know how our country is ever going to address low "self worth" from folks who lack any kind of self-awareness or accountability. Because that is exactly what it takes...self awareness and accountability. Without that...we're screwed.

Wednesday, February 9, 2022

Don't Look Up should win in Best Documentary and not Best Picture in the 2022 Academy Awards ceremony.

I watched Don't Look Up on Christmas, and I thought it was a great movie. To clarify, it wasn't because of any particular acting performance. was an allegory of what it is like to live in modern America. It was painful and enraging, because all of what the filmmakers are saying about Americans is completely true. If there was a comet that was going to strike the Earth and kill every human alive, we all know that the comet deniers and the capitalists would eventually win and we'd all go extinct. This is the tragedy of our species, and the show resonated with me so much because of that fact. It was hard to watch, and ultimately satisfying. However, I never thought it was going to be nominated for the Academy Awards or for Best Picture. we are.

Directed by Adam McKay, Don't Look Up has an all-star cast. There's Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence at the center of the story, acting as modern-day Cassandra's, trying to get anyone to listen to their message of doom and trying to get the government of the United States to do something... anything... to prevent global extinction. Meryl Streep plays a female President Trump, so wrapped up in her own narcissism that she's oblivious to the messaging that comes from scientists, instead turning to the head of a mega corporation (who also is a huge campaign donor) to find a solution to their problems. The biggest kick in the pants probably comes from a bunch of comet deniers in the movie, who are on board with allowing the comet to strike the earth because (after the initial destruction), there will be so many jobs for people because of the rich mineral resources that the comet contains. It's a perfect allegorical tale mirroring the selfishness, greed, and stupidity of a modern America.

Many who have seen Don't Look Up, say that the comet is an allegory for climate change. Scientists and other people who believe in their work have (for decades) advocated and engaged literally everyone else who will listen. However, half the people stick fingers in their ears and yell, "What about global cooling?" They blame windmills, obstruct progress out of concern for the coal lobby and the jobs that Nantucket whalers could lose if we try to transition to solar energy, and the list goes on and on. The fact of the matter is...the "raising awareness" part of climate change has already passed us by. The message has been beat into the ground. Those who got the message still get it today. They're the ones watching Don't Look Up. They congratulate each other on how smart they are, and this is how it probably got upvoted into the Best Picture nominees. Those who don't want to get the message aren't watching it, and they probably downvote the movie. This is why it's not going to win in that category at all. And meanwhile, not one thing changes regarding inevitable climate change.

Ultimately, Don't Look Up is about people who are optimistic, accomplishing things that seem like they should mark a turn-around, but they never do. This is how it is in our nation today. We elect the right people only for them to be ultimately powerless. We support local candidates only to find that they're outnumbered. We occupy three arms of government and nothing happens. We occupy two of the three arms of government now, and nothing's happening. Everything is stonewalled by one or two people. We look at all these big, terrible events that are clearly caused by climate change, and people shrug and either ignore it, deny it, or "whaddyagonnado?" it. So, nothing ever happens.

Don't Look Up is the Idiocracy of our generation. So here's a toast to the movie that got nominated for things at the Academy Awards that I never thought it should have been nominated for. And by extension, I also don't think it's going to win anything at all (and it doesn't really deserve to either). Why? Every behavior in the movie is far too close to our reality now that there are no surprises. It's not even funny, because the jokes are too real. It's unoriginal, because it is just a mirror of the actual "fun-house mirror" that our daily lives are in the United States. Congratulations, Netflix. You nailed us to the wall on this one, for all the fun that ended up being.

Personally, Don't Look Up does deserve to win in the category of Best Documentary. But what do I know?

Monday, February 7, 2022

Why are there so many white people on Tatooine?

It's an honest question that deserves an answer. We all know that desert areas (and areas that are hot and get lots of light) have people with darker skin tones to make up for the sun's damage. But on Tatooine, when a human shows up, a lot of the time they have lighter skin. I've been watching the Book of Boba Fett, and this question popped into my head. But Boba Fett has been shown to use a bacta tank almost every day when he retires for the evening. So, I was thinking. Maybe the colonists and other folk undo the sun's damage by slathering themselves in bacta every night. It seems plausible, so I'm going with it (even if it is super silly).

Also...I'm really enjoying The Book of Boba Fett. Is anyone else watching? 

Friday, February 4, 2022

Star Trek Prodigy is an excellent show even though it is being marketed for kids.

I've been incredibly surprised by Star Trek: Prodigy. This is an animated show that has been airing off and on for two months now, and it has surpassed my expectations. It's currently on its mid-season finale break until literally all the other Trek shows finish running their seasons. But the story (thus far in 10 episodes) has gelled the crew of kids together in a way that illustrates far more maturity than what we get with Lower Decks.

And to be clear, I still love Lower Decks. However, Prodigy takes its Trek a bit more seriously, and it knows when to go darker with its storylines. It also borrows one thing from Lower Decks, that being its criticism of the Federation. Starfleet does whatever it wants, and it doesn't really check on the consequences of its actions. This is an excellent point, and I can't say that it is wrong.

(Minor Spoilers Ahead) Star Trek: Prodigy is also kind of retconning the character of Chakotay from Voyager. He's actually become...shall I say it? Interesting? We've learned a lot about Chakotay's involvement in the creation of the Protostar (the ship the kids are flying around on), and with the series' main villain, who wants to use it as a weapon against Starfleet. I thought all of these developments were interesting. It's a fun mix of great new characters and storylines mixing it up with older series references and callbacks that are satisfyingly executed.

That being said, has anyone read the novel, Boogeymen, that is a Next Generation book with the main character being Wesley Crusher? It had within its pages the idea of a hybrid computer program/race that when transmitted (even through an innocuous communication) could infect and ultimately bring down the computer it was transmitted to. When I think about what they're doing with Prodigy, I can't help but think that this book may have provided some inspiration for this show. Building on works of the past is commendable, and I like that some of the old "written" material may have relevance in today's "nu Trek."

The final thing I can say about this show is that the characters are all showing amazing growth. Rok is clearly becoming a science officer. The miners finally got to talk to each other using the translator, and it made me realize how significant communication actually is with any kind of government. I suppose it should have been obvious, but it was a good reminder that any organization can intensify its strength through excellent communication. Now that the miners can communicate, it's clear that changes will be on the way.

Anyone else watching Prodigy? If so, what do you think so far?

Wednesday, February 2, 2022

In February 2022 the IWSG asks me if I miss anyone that influenced my writing. The answer is complicated.

Welcome to February 2022. I started this blog back in 2010. It's hard to believe I've been at this about 12 years now. Weird how time flies. Most of my blogging time has been spent networking with other people who happen to write. And I've participated in dozens of Insecure Writer's Support Group posts over the years. I don't know when exactly Alex started this thing, but it always seems like a good place to begin when posting for a new month or coming back from a break. So, here we are, and what follows is a rundown of what you can expect if you go over to their web page and sign-up for the monthly IWSG.

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer - aim for a dozen new people each time - and return comments. This group is all about connecting! Be sure to link to this page and display the badge in your post. And please be sure your avatar links back to your blog! Otherwise, when you leave a comment, people can't find you to comment back.

Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!

The Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and the hashtag you use is #IWSG.

Every month, we announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG post. These questions may prompt you to share advice, insight, a personal experience or story. Include your answer to the question in your IWSG post or let it inspire your post if you are struggling with something to say.

Remember, the question is optional!

February 2 question - Is there someone who supported or influenced you that perhaps isn't around anymore? Anyone you miss?

The awesome co-hosts for the February 2 posting of the IWSG are Joylene Nowell Butler, Jacqui Murray, Sandra Cox, and Lee Lowery!

I had a childhood friend pass away last year. I call him a childhood friend, because we hadn't spoken in probably fifteen years. But his birthday was close to mine, so I googled him last year and discovered his obituary. We used to play Dungeons & Dragons a lot as kids, and that experience obviously influences me to this day. It taught us (if anything) that you could create your own worlds and your own characters without building on someone else's intellectual property. It's fun to imagine building your own characters in the world of Harry Potter and writing some fan fiction, but at the end of the day all you are doing is adding to someone else's ability to make money off your back. I think that it's always better to create your own worlds and take a chance with them.

Anyway, from time to time I think of this former friend, and I miss them. It's not the same kind of grief one feels for a close friend or for a parent. But more of a realization that we eventually are on our own to move forward with ideas and put them into action. And it's a realization that sometimes things don't end like we expect them to. In fact, they end sooner than we would like, unexpectedly, and once they do you never can go back. Some things are absolute in their finality.

Thanks for visiting.