My Fiction – One Breath

This was published in the February 2013 edition of the now defunct e-zine “Pagan Edge.” The entire year of 2013 had an overarching theme of beginning to end. The theme for February was, well, birth, so drawing on the experiences of others, I put this together. Hopefully this is a fair representation.

Hm. Life is funny in how it all plays out sometimes.

One Breath
“One breath at a time,” Allyson thought.
“Push!” the midwife ordered.
“Count,” her husband Anthony said.
“Whoo, whoo, whoo,” she breathed, trying to keep count. “I can’t-I can’t do this,” she panted.
“Yes you can,” said the midwife.
“Not just this…parenting,” she thought. “I can’t do it.”
Just nine short months ago she and Anthony had been overjoyed to see that blue plus sign. But soon after the nausea had started and didn’t abate until the second trimester. By then she was struggling with a pregnancy-induced rash so itchy at times she wanted to rip her own skin off. By the third trimester, her midsection was so swollen she couldn’t pick anything up and constantly had to run to the bathroom. She felt she spent more time in the bathroom than in her office.
“Stop pushing,” the midwife ordered.
“Count,” Anthony said.
“Breathe,” Allyson told herself, struggling to do as she was told. “One breath at a time.”
Nine short months ago everything was fine. But then Anthony’s car gave out. They could either pay for a new drive train or a new car. They opted for the new car, but it put a dent in the savings they were hoping to have for the baby. And then the furnace needed to be replaced, and the cat got sick which resulted in high veterinarian bills they had not expected. Everything they had been so certain of nine months ago was now in doubt. The money evaporated as Allyson’s belly and worries grew.
“Okay, push,” the midwife ordered again. “We’re almost there.”
“Whoo, whoo, whoo,” Allyson breathed.
“You’re doing great, honey,” Anthony said.
Ready? Why in the world had she thought they were ready to be parents? There was so much uncertainty in the world. There was so much uncertainty in their lives and now they were about to bring a new, innocent life into their world.
“Push!” the midwife demanded.
There was no going back. She had gone into labor nearly twenty-four long hours ago. She was beyond exhausted. Even with the drugs, she was in pain. There were so many fluids and messes involved that no one, not even her mother, had told her about. She felt grimy and sticky and so badly wanted a shower and to sleep and knew that those two things were about to become a luxury.
“I can’t,” she panted.
“You can. Now push,” the midwife instructed.
Allyson pushed and pushed and pushed. “One breath at a time,” she thought. The pressure and pain passed but she didn’t hear anything. “Anthony?”
He squeezed her hand. “It’s okay; it’s going to be okay,” he said worriedly.
“Why isn’t he crying?” she asked.
A nurse scurried of the room and returned with a doctor.
“Breathe, baby,” she said. “Breathe!”
And suddenly she heard a baby crying.
“One breath,” she thought. “His first breath.”
“That’s our son! That’s our son!” Anthony said. “You did it!”
After a few minutes of routine checking, the baby boy was finally placed in Allyson’s arms. She felt a rush of love and of calm.
“We’ll get through this,” Anthony said, as though picking up on her doubts.
“I know,” she said. “One breath at a time.”

A Movie Entry – Ten Things I Learned from Marvel’s “Ant-Man”

1) Despite my misgivings, it turns out Marvel can make an entertaining movie about one of my least favorite heroes.
2) Agent Carter looks absolutely amazing for a woman who’s got to be at least 70 years old.
3) Darren Cross is not as generic a villain as he seems, but this nuance is going to be lost on anyone who is not aware of the time in Henry Pym’s comic book history when he developed dissociative personality disorder and became the murderous Yellowjacket.
4) Hope is right, it is about damn time; she is a thousand times more competent than Scott Lang.
5) Making Scott Lang Ant-Man was the correct choice.
6) Ex-girlfriends don’t have to be evil, nagging shrews, and boyfriends of ex-girlfriends don’t have to be arrogant douche-bags.
7) Science is magic, clearly.
8) Despite all the changes to Henry Pym’s character and back story, he still comes across as kind of crazy, and I’m okay with that.
9) “Why don’t we call the Avengers?” Scott Lang is the only hero so far to react as I would expect an “everyman in over his head” would in fact react to this kind of craziness.
10) In classic heist movie fashion, everyone made the plan much more difficult than it needed to be.

I really was surprised how much I enjoyed this movie. Casting was spot-on and I’m glad Marvel embraced some of the inherent absurdity of a shrinking hero, including having the climatic battle take place in a kid’s room. I’m also very glad about how genuine Scott’s ex Maggie and her boyfriend Paxton were written. Sure, Paxton was kind of a jerk, but he has no reason to be sympathetic towards Scott and he clearly cares very much for Scott and Maggie’s daughter Cassie. When Scott redeems himself, Paxton makes the effort to give space in the new family dynamic for his girlfriend’s ex.

Overall, this is the most enjoyable Disney movie about shrinking people and ants since Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (a movie I am 95% certain the writers had seen).

A Writing Entry – I, Robot

Sometimes I have little right to call myself a nerd. There are some pieces of media that I have not read, nor seen, and I feel like those pieces are a huge part of nerd culture. But “nerd culture” is so broad that I’m probably too hard on myself. Still, when my only exposure to Issac Asimov is knowing that he wrote stuff about robots, I feel I need to educate myself.

As such, I have embarked on what will likely be a long journey to read through his novels. He was a prolific author of short stories as well, but I’m going to focus on the “Robots” and “Foundation” series. I intend to read them in chronological order for the universe, not the order in which Asimov wrote them. So I started with I, Robot, which is actually a collection of short stories that produces a coherent narrative about the development of artificial intelligence. Unsurprisingly, the movie of the same name had pretty much nothing to do with the stories in any way, shape, or form.

Of course, since these stories were written awhile ago, they focus on the far-flung future of the 1980s, and how robots cost “hundreds of thousands” of dollars. I guess Asimov could not have predicted how rapidly inflation would outpace technological development. The framing device is a reporter interviewing the world’s foremost robopsychologist, Susan Calvin, as she retires from a long career working for the world’s largest robot manufacturer. The actual stories are told in traditional third-person omniscient narrator. The structure of the stories does remove some of the suspense because Susan directs the reporter to talk to the main characters, so the reader knows despite the terrible situation in the story, those characters will survive.

Interestingly enough, while all artificial intelligence is based on a “positronic brain,” no one seems to know exactly how they work. The characters understand how they’re built (obviously, because they can be mass manufactured), but no one seems to understand the exact physical principles which govern the sophisticated machine they just built. I suppose it helps avoid a lot of technobabble, but I also see why society would be really hesitant to accept A.I. if even the most knowledgeable people creating it when asked how it works just shrug and say, “Heck if I know.”

I have to admit, some people might find the stories boring, especially knowing that many of the main characters survive. There’s some good action, but there’s a lot of philosophy. Asimov famously created the “Three Laws of Robotics,” which is a damn good idea when dealing with something that is as intelligent as a human being and as durable as an armored truck. Basically, the stories acknowledge robots are superior to humans in a whole lot of ways. Therefore, if there was no programming to tell the robots not to initiate the robot apocalypse, well, there’s Skynet for you. I’ve never understood why sci-fi stories that are set in the “real world” and presumably have access to Asimov’s works do not incorporate the three laws. Imagine how much trouble would have been avoided if Henry Pym had bothered to program Ultron correctly.

The evolution of artificial intelligence is a case study in the use and development of the Three Laws. Apparently, they aren’t as easy to implement as it seems and several strange situations arise because of the conflicting protocols. There’s some discussion of prejudice since robots are eventually for use on Earth. And there’s one story that describes the development of faster-than-light space travel (and the prank by the Brain that designed the ship). There’s also a story about a robot that attempts to determine, from first principles, the meaning of its own existence and if there is a god. There’s a story about a robot that had a modified form of the First Law (“Never harm a human”) and why that was such a very bad idea. Overall, the first robots were large, clumsy, and mute, but the stories end with a discussion of the Machines, which are giant brains created through an iterative process of ten steps of increasing complexity that control pretty much the entire world. The reporter correctly notes that is absolutely terrifying, but Dr. Calvin assures him that because of the implementation of the Three Laws, the world is in much better shape being run by A.I.s that can’t help but be moral than humanity.

That’s an interesting thought. I enjoyed the stories, and am now moving on to a murder mystery in which a robot apparently manages to murder a human despite the Three Laws. I like murder mysteries, and I like philosophical quandaries. Is Asimov for everyone? Probably not, but given what I grew up with, I like his work so far.

Fifteen-minute Movie – Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens

or, “Star Wars-ier”
or, “Girl Meets Droid


Scrolling Exposition – So it turns out just killing the Emperor and blowing up the second Death Star did not actually bring instant peace to the galaxy. Remnants of the old Empire have formed the First Order and are fighting against the New Republic. The Resistance, led by General Leia, fight for the New Republic. Also, Luke Skywalker is missing and the Resistance would really like to find him.

Neo-Tatooine, I mean, Jakku (because the galaxy has no end of desert hell-planets):
Lor San Tekka – Here’s the vital information you need to find Luke Skywalker.

Neo-Wedge Antilles, I mean, Poe Dameron – Is the audience supposed to recognize you, because you said you knew Leia when she was a princess…

Tekka – That’s really not explained. You’d better go before the First Order attacks…

[[Too late; the First Order attacks and Poe, of course, puts the vital information into his adorable droid sidekick, BB-8, and tells it to run away while he gets captured by the First Order]]

Darth Hissy-fit, I mean, Kylo Ren – Where’s the information, old man?

Tekka – You are better than these space Nazis.

Kylo – Hey, I’m with the cool crowd now! [[uses Sith mind-reading]]

Tekka – That is gross and creepy, you know.

Kylo – Shut up! Oh, that random guy we just captured knows where the information is. I guess we don’t need any of you. Soldiers, kill all these unarmed, frightened villagers in cold blood.

Storm Trooper soon-to-be-Finn – What? Dude, this totally messed up! [[does not fire but watches in horror as the villagers are slaughtered]] What the hell am I doing here?

Jakku (elsewhere):
[[We get to see a day in the life of the totally awesome plucky loner scavenger Rey which is changed the next day when she saves BB-8 from another scavenger]]

Rey – Don’t follow me.

BB-8 – Beep borp beep! <-<Please let me hang out with you! You’re nice and I’m just a little droid waiting for someone but I can’t tell you who.>->

Rey – Oh, fine. Just don’t get me in trouble.

[[And of course it does because the other scavengers want the fully functional and non-junky droid for themselves]]

First Order Ship, Torture Chamber:
Poe – Yeah, this day sucks.

Kylo – It’s about to get worse. I’m going to rip the information I need right out of your mind.

Poe – Dude, that is all kinds of creepy and gross.

Kylo – Hey, it gets the job done. [[extracts information]] Well, time to go find your droid. Good thing it’s apparently a one-of-a-kind distinctive model. [[leaves]]

Storm Trooper soon-to-be-Finn – I’m taking the prisoner.

Poe – Great. Now what?

Storm Trooper soon-to-be-Finn – Now you’re going to help me get the hell out of here because these people are mass-murdering psychopaths and I want no part of this madness!

Poe – Good for you. Just help me steal a TIE fighter and we’ll be on our way.

[[Poe and Finn bust out of the hangar bay and many a storm trooper learns that getting hit with weaponry meant to take out other spaceships really sucks for guys in plastic armor]]

Poe – We’ve got to get to Jakku! My BB-8 unit has a map to Luke Skywalker!

Finn – What?! Are you freakin’ kidding me?

Poe – No! And I don’t know why I’m sharing this vitally important information with a turncoat storm trooper I just met!

Finn – Yeah, me neither. We’ve got to get the hell away from here!

[[The argument is settled when the TIE fighter is shot down and crashes on Jakku anyway; Finn retrieves Poe’s jacket but believes Poe is dead when the debris sinks into the desert and explodes for some reason; Finn ditches his armor then heads off to find civilization and astoundingly he does so! And right when Rey has to beat two guys up with a stick for trying to steal BB-8]]

Rey – Seriously, guys, seriously? I don’t have time for this garbage.

BB-8 – Beep! Beep! <-<Hey, that guy’s wearing my boss’s jacket! He’s a thief!>->

[[Rey tears off after the incredibly confused Finn and eventually knocks him down]]

Rey – You stole that jacket from this droid’s boss!

Finn – No I didn’t! I salvaged it from the wreckage, because he died!

BB-8 – Awwww. <-<Awwww.>->

[[First Order ships start flying overhead]]

Rey – What the hell?

Finn – They’re after that droid! It has a map to Luke Skywalker! I’m not sure why I’m telling a person I just met this vital information!

Rey – Me neither, but because you know that you must be in the Resistance.

Finn – Um, sure, yes, I am totally part of the Resistance. We’ve got to get out of here! [[Grabs her hand and runs for it]]

Rey – No touchy! And I’m the one who knows where to go anyway.

Finn – Fair enough. Hey, what about that ship that’s off-screen?

Rey – It’s a piece of junk! We’ll take that one in front of us. [[which promptly gets blown up]] Okay, piece of junk it is. [[And of course, of course, the garbage ship is the Millennium Falcon]] You take the guns and I’ll figure out how to fly this thing, because I can totally do that.  Yep, totally.

Finn – Yes, and I can totally use ship-board cannons too. Yep, totally.

[[After a few false starts because the controls are unfamiliar and made for two pilots, Rey manages to get the ship moving, and Finn figures out the cannon as they spectacularly evade a pair of TIE fighters before making their escape]]

First Order:
Hapless Officer – So, um, we didn’t find the droid. We think it was on-board that garbage ship that escaped. And, um, we think the traitor storm trooper helped a local girl with the escape. But we’re going after the ship. I mean, it’s in such bad shape it can’t get far, right? I’ll be going nowpleasedon’tkillme.

[[Kylo pulls out his lightsaber and wrecks a large and probably expensive computer console before going to report to the giant hologram of unconvincing CGI Supreme Leader Snoke]]

Grand Moff Tarkin Jr., I mean, General Hux – This is not my fault! Kylo didn’t figure out where the information was in time!

Kylo – The hell you say! You’re the one with a turncoat storm trooper! This is why we should use clones!

Hux – Hey, he was scheduled for reconditioning! My army is awesome and you suck!

Kylo – No, you suck!

Snoke – *rolls eyes* Just get the map by whatever means are necessary.

[[The Falcon predictably starts to break down and Rey, showing a savant level of competency, rushes around to fix it]]

Rey – So once I get this working again, I’ll take you and the droid to the Resistance base, okay?

Finn – Yes, the Resistance base. That would be great.

Rey – Just tell me the coordinates.

Finn – Hey, little dude, you tell her. I don’t know the location; I’m not Resistance.

BB-8 – Beep bworp. <-<That information is classified.>->

Finn – I don’t understand your crazy beeping, but I know I don’t want to get captured by the First Order and I’ll bet you don’t either, so you give her the coordinates.

BB-8 – Bleep blorp. <-<You bring up a good point.>->

[[Rey gets the ship in a state that approximates functioning but before they get very far it’s captured by a tractor beam from a mystery ship; assuming it’s the First Order, they make preparations to hide and/or fight]]

Han Solo – Damn, Chewy, what are the odds?

Chewbacca – Ranngnngang. <-<I know, right?>->

Han – Okay, so I know someone’s on-board my ship. [[The stowaways are immediately located]] Okay, who the hell are you and how did you get my ship?

Rey – Your ship? You’re Han Solo, the legendary smuggler?

Finn – No, he’s Han Solo the legendary Rebellion general!

Han – Both are right.

Rey – This droid has a map to Luke Skywalker! Did you know him?

Han – Yes, yes I did. Wow, okay, you two have some explaining to do.

Smuggler Party 1 Leader – No, you have some explaining to do. We’re here to collect your debt.

Smuggler Party 2 Leader – No, we’re here to collect his debt.

Han – Guys, I’ll totally pay you back, just not now.

Smuggler Party Leaders – Yeah, right.

Chewy – Rannaaawwwgang. <-<Yeah, they’ve got us there.>->

Han – Shut it, you!

Rey – Okay, I think I can fix this. [[opens some airlock doors]] Oh, nope, nope, I think I just accidentally freed the terrifying monsters. *screams from above* Yeah, my bad. We’d better get back to the Falcon.

Finn – *facepalm* You think!?

[[the terrifying monsters make quick work of the hostile smuggling parties and almost get Finn, but instead of eating him immediately the monster scurries down the corridor which allows Rey to close the right airlock doors and save him; eventually they all meet back at the Falcon although Chewy gets wounded and they manage to escape again.]]

Han – Alright, I’ll take us someplace to get help. I like your style. You have moxie, kid. And you somehow understand Wookie, which is pretty helpful.

Rey – Thanks!

Maz Isley Cantina, Takodana:
Maz Kanata – Han Solo! So nice of you to walk back into my life. What do you want?

Han – To get a droid to the Resistance and not attract the attention of the First Order.

[[Two cantina patrons separately report to the First Order and to the Resistance that the incredibly distinctive droid has been spotted]]

Finn – Actually, I just want to get the hell out of here.

Maz – Those guys are always looking for help, if leaving is what you really want.

Rey – Finn, what about the Resistance?

Finn – I’m actually a turncoat storm trooper who realized the First Order was insane and I never, ever, ever will ever go back there ever. Please come with me.

Rey – I’m sorry, but I have to get back to Jakku and wait for my family. Sorry.

Finn – Me too. [[departs with the aliens]]

Starkiller Base:
[[Hux and Kylo are meeting with the giant hologram of the Supreme Leader again]]

Hux – I want to use the weapon! We’ll show the galaxy that the Republic is weak!

Kylo – We just need that map and then we get rid of Luke Skywalker and the Resistance won’t be a problem any more.

Hux – Oh, come on, what did we build this ridiculous, impossible, planet-sized weapon for if we aren’t going to use it?

Snoke – Go ahead and use the weapon.

Hux – Yes! [[leaves]]

Snoke – You’re not doing very well since your father, Han Solo, got involved.

Kylo – Yeah, I’m having trouble staying evil, but believe me, I really want to be evil.

Snoke – You will have to confront your father. Can you do it?

Kylo – You can count on me.

[[Upset by Finn’s departure, Rey starts wandering the cantina and starts to hear voices that draw her to a box in a basement, which has a lightsaber in it; she experiences a series of visions relevant to the plot including – Cloud City on Bespin, a hooded man with a robot hand touching R2-D2, Kylo dressed in black and surrounded by dead bodies, Kylo stabbing someone with his lightsaber, herself as a child calling out for her father, and finally Ren running after her in a snowy forest; she drops the lightsaber]]

Rey – What in the hell was that?

Maz – Very interesting. That is Luke Skywalker’s lightsaber, and it belonged to his father before him. Now it belongs to you.

Rey – Oh hell no! I have to get back to Jakku!

Maz – Your family is not coming for you there. Take the lightsaber. You’ll need it.

Rey – Hell! No! [[runs off into the woods; BB-8 follows her]]

Starkiller Base:
Hux – I am totally not Space Hitler, and this speech is no way like a Nazi propaganda rally! But the Republic sucks, and we’re awesome, so we’re going to prove we are the good guys here by destroying entire Republic planets!

[[A massive energy beam is fired from some kind of weapon built into the middle of the icy planet; it splits into four beams and destroys four planets at once! The explosions can be seen from Takodana]]

Finn – Holy @#%& those crazy [expletives] actually used the Starkiller weapon!

[[And cue the First Order ships arriving on planet]]

Finn – #$%@ me!

Maz – Take this lightsaber! You’ll need it!

Finn – What?! I don’t even begin to know how to use this thing!

Han – Where the hell did you get that lightsaber? Luke dropped it into the clouds on Bespin!

Maz – That’s a good question I’m not going to answer.

[[Rey gets spotted by storm troopers in the woods and after a few false starts becomes a crack shot with a blaster]]

Rey – BB-8, they’re after you. You roll into the forest as fast and far as you can and I’ll try to hold these thugs off.

[[She does decently well until Kylo catches up to her, deflects the blasts, and immobilizes her using his Sithy Force powers.]]

Rey – Dang it, this is cheating!

Kylo – Hey, evil dude in a mask here. That’s what I do. So where’s that droid?

Rey – You can go to hell.

Kylo – Okay, I’ll just read your mind.

Rey – Creepy on so many levels.

Kylo – Hey, you’ve seen the map! Well, I’m sure it’ll be much easier to get the map out of your mind that find that stupid droid. [[knocks her out and calls off the attack]]

[[Luckily this is the point the Resistance finally shows up, with the counterattack led by the actually not dead Poe; the gang is rescued and taken to the main Resistance Base]]

Resistance Base:
Han – Hi, Leia. You’re looking pretty good.

General Leia Organa – So are you.

C-3PO – And I am still really terrible at human-cyborg relations as I interrupt this touching reunion, although at least I get out of the way quickly.

Han – I saw our son out there.  He’s hanging out with a real bad crowd.

Leia – I’m sorry. I thought it would be best to send him away to train with Luke.

Han – You couldn’t have known what would happen. We all messed up something terrible with that kid.

Leia – And it ruined our relationship too.

BB-8 – Beep beep!! <-<It’s the legendary astrodroid R2-D2! Wow! Hey, can I get your autograph?>->

C-3PO – R2 has been in low-power mode since Master Luke left. I’m not sure he’ll ever reactivate.

Resistance Base, Later:
Leia – Okay, people, the First Order is going to try to blow up the planet and we don’t have enough time to evacuate. Finn, give us some info.

Finn – It drains energy from the sun to power the weapon, so if we blow up the thermal capacitors, it won’t work. We just have to drop the shields protecting the capacitors, which can be done by a small party sneaking inside. Like, say, me, General Solo and Chewbacca. Any maybe we can rescue Rey while we’re at it.

Leia – Sounds like a plan, not that we have any real choice. Better move it, people.

Han – Leia, time to share a touching moment that in no way foreshadows my fate.

Leia – Yes, I know, but I’ll make it even more obvious by asking you to try to save our son.

Starkiller Base:
Kylo – Argh! I’m having so much trouble being evil. Help me be evil! Help me extinguish the Light so I can be all hardcore and stuff! [[leaves his room revealing the melted helmet of Darth Vader sitting on a pedestal]]

[[Rey wakes up in the torture chamber as Kylo enters to interrogate her]]

Kylo – So, how are you feeling?

Rey – How do you think, you masked freak?

Kylo – [[takes off the helmet to reveal a young and handsome man with perfect hair]] Is this better?

Rey – No, actually, this is creepier because now I can see you staring me. Ugh.

Kylo – Well, time to read your mind and get that map. [[uses Sithy mind-reading powers]] I see that you’re very lonely. I see you’ve started to think of Han Solo like a father. I see you dream of an island in the middle of an ocean even though you grew up on a desert world.

Rey – Dude! So many boundary violations here!

Kylo – So just show me the map.

Rey – It turns out telepathy is a two-way street, and not only can I resist showing you that map, I can read your mind, and I see you’re afraid you’ll never be as powerful as… Darth Vader?

Kylo – What in the hell? You have Force powers? You are totally freaking me out! [[abruptly leaves]]

[[Hux and Kylo are again in front of the giant hologram of Snoke]]

Snoke – So why don’t we have that map again?

Hux – Because this emo pretty-boy decided we didn’t need the droid!

Kylo – Hey, no one has ever resisted my mind-reading before! How the hell was I supposed to know I’d kidnapped the one person who could?

Snoke – *rolls eyes* Just fix this, both of you.

[[The rescue party crashes through the Starkiller base shields and nearly destroy the Falcon in the process, but any landing you can walk away from is a good one.]]

Han – Okay, kid, how do we shut down those shields?

Finn – I have no idea. I just told you I could to rescue Rey.

Han – What?! People are going to die!

Finn – Hey, I have an idea about that. Follow me.

Rey – You know, this would be a great time to try out that legendary Jedi mind-trick.

Storm trooper – That is totally not going to work.

Rey – That is totally going to work.

Storm trooper – That is totally going to work.

Kylo – Okay, I’m feeling better now… [[sees Rey is missing and throws another destructive temper tantrum]]

Most intelligent storm trooper ever – Sounds like Darth Hissy-fit’s at it again. Let’s finish our patrol down this corridor in, what, ten minutes?

Second-most intelligent storm trooper ever – I’m with you. [[they back away]]

[[In the meantime, Finn and Co. capture Captain Phasma and force her to lower the shields, then go in search of Rey while Poe leads the X-wing assault on the capacitors; Finn and Co. find Rey has rescued herself]]

Rey – What are you doing here?

Chewy – Arrghgnannagh. <-<It was his idea to rescue you.>->

Rey – Aw, thanks Finn.

Han – Yeah, yeah, escape now, hug later.

Chewy – Rannaghgh! Aarrhhghgh! <-<I think we need a bigger boom for this job.>->

Han – You’re right. Let’s split up, plant explosives, and blow this capacitor up from the inside. How much time do we have left?

Finn – Until all the power is drained from the sun and the light goes out, which is totally not a heavy-handed metaphor.

[[They split up and plant explosives but are interrupted by the entrance of Kylo]]

Han – Ben! Please, son, can we talk?

Kylo – Sure, just come out on this totally exposed catwalk with no railings.

Rey/Finn/Chewy (thinking) – I’ve got a bad feeling about this.

Han – Son, we miss you. Please come home.

Kylo – I’m torn right now. Can you help me end this pain?

Han – Of course. Whatever you need me to do.

Kylo – [[appears to offer his lightsaber at the same moment the sunlight goes out (get it?)]] That’s just what I was hoping you’d say. [[Stabs him through the chest]]

Han – Yeah, probably should have seen that coming. Everyone else did. But I still love you, son. *dies and falls*

Chewy – Raaaggghhh!!! <-<[Expletive] this!>-> [[shoots Kylo with his crossbow which injures him, but unlike everyone else hit what that kind of blast, Kylo is not knocked backwards at least ten feet; then he detonates the explosives and they all make a run for it]]

Kylo – Where do you think you’re going?

Finn/Rey – Wait, what? How did you get in front of us? We were at the door and you were a couple of levels below us and wounded.

Kylo – Um, yeah, Sith powers? [[activates his totally stupid looking lightsaber despite his obvious injury]]

Rey – [Expletive] this! [[tries to blast him but Kylo throws her into a tree and knocks her out]]

Finn – Um, okay, you and me in a lightsaber duel. I’m totally untrained, but you’re wounded, so that balances out, right?

[[After several minutes, it’s obvious that no, inexperience and wounds do not balance out as Kylo disarms and severely injures Finn; but that gives Rey time to wake up]]

Kylo – Where the hell did he even get that lightsaber? By all rights it should belong to me. [[but when he attempts to Force-grab it, the lightsaber flies right past him and into Rey’s hand]] Seriously, what the hell is going on with you?

Rey – Maybe the Force is awakening or something?

Kylo – Whatever. Let’s fight! [[Again, being wounded does not balance out inexperience and he backs her to the edge of a cliff]] You know, I could teach you how to use your obvious Force powers. Why don’t you take a minute to think about it as we’re perched here precariously? I can’t really feel my leg so I could use the breather.

Rey – Or I could use this moment to calm myself and tap into the Force and then proceed to kick your ass!

[[And Rey proceeds to put the smack-down on the injured Kylo which is only interrupted by a chasm opening up between them as the X-wing fighters damage the capacitors enough to cause the planet to self-destruct; Rey runs off to find Finn and is rescued by Chewy on the Falcon; Kylo is presumably rescued somehow by Snoke’s minions, and the Starkiller base explodes]]

Resistance Base:
[[Leia already knows Han is dead and she and Rey sadly embrace; R2-D2 wakes up and of course it has the rest of the map; Rey leaves Finn in critical care and joins Chewy in the Falcon to find Luke]]

First Jedi Temple That Turns out to be An Island in a Vast Ocean Just Like Rey’s Dreams:
[[Rey climbs up some ruins and finds an aged Luke Skywalker in Jedi master robes; she holds out his lightsaber and the audience holds out hope that with the sins of the prequels erased that the franchise can move onto something a little different]]

–fade out–

A Movie Entry – Ten Things I Learned From the New “Star Wars”

No spoilers, not really anyway. Given how much money this flick has made, I feel like I’m probably one of the last ones to see it in the theaters.

1) Bigger is really not always better.
2) The bigger they are, the bigger they blow up.
3) Successfully wielding a lightsaber without causing oneself grievous bodily harm apparently takes no training.
4) Kylo Ren needs a better role model.
5) Grizzled old Han Solo is in fact more entertaining than young, ungrizzled Han Solo.
6) Han and Leia’s son is almost as big a disappointment as Indiana Jones and Marian Ravenwood’s son, and with as little explanation.
7) Somewhere there is a droid factory with the parameter “cutely endearing” as part of the manufacturing process.
8) Despite what astronomers and physicists claim, apparently space isn’t that big and it only takes half an hour to get anywhere important.
9) Luke has some ‘splaining to do.
10) If the Millennium Falcon was treated better, maybe it wouldn’t be such a piece of junk.

Also, yay diversity! Also, also, I see why many reviewers say this movie follows many of the same beats as “New Hope.” It kind of does, but it was thoroughly enjoyable. Also, also, also the Jedi seem to be really bad at their jobs. I kind of saw that in the prequels, but I hoped that was bad writing or perhaps explained by the Jedi being lulled into complacency. But as 9) says, the Jedi have seriously screwed up somewhere.

Shameless Self-Promotion – End of the Year Review

So the year is about to close out and my posting has really tapered off. I apologize and will try to pick up the pace, but there are major upheavals upcoming in my life and should hit right around the Chinese New Year (Year of the Yang Fire Monkey). How long it will take to settle into a new normal and what that might be, I just don’t know. I’ll do my best, anyway.

New Year’s Resolutions:
1) Finish my fourth “Nevermore and the Ravens” novel – I’ve actually got about half of it written but I just completely lost my inspiration around May and never quite got it back. Certain events occurred in May that probably were the reason I got so off-track and I’ve been dealing with that ever since. Anyway, I do plan to finish as soon as I can. I’m actually trying to write a coherent novel instead of short stories and perhaps after three collections of short stories I’m just really rusty at writing a single, long story. In the meantime, here are links to the currently published three:

Necromancy for the Greater Good
Paranormal is Relative
Saturday Night Séance

2) Exercise – I know, who doesn’t have this as a New Year’s resolution? One of my trainers said the new schedule was up for 2016 and recommended signing up for classes two to three days in advance (usually there’s an opening even the day of) because, “We’ll have some new friends in January. They may not be around in March, but make sure you sign up early just in case.”

3) See the new “Star Wars” movie – no, I haven’t seen it yet because I hate crowds and I figured it wasn’t leaving the theaters any time soon. I’ve heard it’s pretty good, and if I don’t see it I’ll have to turn in my nerd card. Anyway, it’s nice to have a resolution that’s pretty easy to keep.

Stuff I’m Looking Forward To:
1) Agent Carter, Season 2 – this should come as a surprise to no one. Oh, Peggy, I’ve missed you so.

2) My swag from supporting Atop the Fourth Wall: The Movie.

3) Luke Cage – thus far the first two Defenders series have not disappointed, and I liked the actor chosen to portray Power Man.

4) Deadpool – I know, I know, Fox has burned me before, but the trailers give me hope that the team behind making this movie actually get Deadpool.  I just hope the movie doesn’t spend too much time on his origin.

5) Dr. Strange – oh, please, oh please feature Benedict Cumberbatch yelling, “By the Hoary Hosts of Hoggath!” That would be amazing.

Closing Thoughts:
If you ever have an opportunity to see the Trans-Siberian Orchestra in concert, go do it. My ears are still ringing but the show was amazing. Dough for gingerbread cookies (I made dinosaurs instead of men) is the stickiest dough I’ve ever worked with and I’m not sure I’ll do it again. Stan Lee just turned 93 years old.  I want to grow up to be Stan Lee. I’m also considering picking up “Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur.” We’ll see. Stay tuned and I’ll try to be more regularly entertaining (Wednesdays and weekends) next year!

A Movie Entry – Improving on the Original

I’ve been pretty down on sequels lately, and who could blame me, but I will admit occasionally a sequel is a better movie than the original. In no particular order are a few sequels that I have actually seen (remember I don’t really see a lot of movies) that managed to not only get it together but exceed the first.

1) Scooby Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed – Hey, I didn’t say it was always a difficult task for a sequel to be better than the predecessor. While the film adaptation of Scooby Doo left a hole in my soul with its awfulness, I still watched the sequel. No, I did not pay money for it. I figured that the sequel could not possibly be worse, and I was right. The sequel still had some of the gang doubting themselves, but the mean-spiritedness of the first was gone. Still, I can’t say I’m sorry a third one wasn’t made.

2) Spider-man 2 – Too many superhero movies struggle with the burden of an origin story. Some manage fine and some absolutely do not. While I certainly enjoyed Raimi’s first entry into what became a trilogy (unfortunately), the second movie was better than the first to me. Part of the reason is that the origin story had been taken care of. I knew who all the characters were and their motivations. These were touched on to catch the audience up but mostly the movie proceeded with the assumption the audience knew what was going on. And this movie managed to make Dr. Octopus a genuinely threatening villain instead of some nerd with a fancy backpack.

3) The Dark Knight – Again, this is an example of what a superhero story can be without having to tell the origin story over and over and over again. Batman had begun, and now the audience finally got to see what that meant. This movie was helped by the fact the creative team had a clear progression for Batman and used the characters of Two-Face and the Joker to play into that character development as well as advance the plot. The result is a movie that at its core is a dark psychological thriller with some action sequences, which, I think, is exactly what a movie starring Batman should be.

4) Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back – The superhero movies have a slight edge in sequels because there is a popular perception of who they are. Sequels can go a little lighter on the recap because of that. But for this movie, and please remember I’m thinking of when it was originally released, the only story the public had to go on was Star Wars (now it’s such a part of pop culture even someone who’s never seen the original trilogy has probably heard of these characters). The opening crawl catches audiences up on the overarching plot but there is very little recapping on the last movie. For example, if the audience hasn’t seen the first movie, then the first appearances of the ghost of Obi-wan makes absolutely no sense. Think about that for those original audiences. At no point prior to the appearance of the ghost does Luke say something like, “Remember my Jedi teacher who was killed?” There’s just Obi-wan telling him to go to Dagobah. The story just basically picks up where Star Wars left off and keeps going, and it works so well.

5) Toy Story 2 – This sequel was a long time in following up from the original and like many people I didn’t think a sequel was necessary or could possibly live up to the original. I leave the subject of “necessity” to the side and opine that the second entry was actually superior to the first. I like the first, but going back and re-watching it is a bit hard because Woody is really unlikable, and I see signs that Sid is a neglected child who isn’t necessarily a monster. That doesn’t excuse what Sid does, but how was he to know the toys he was mangling were feeling, thinking beings? Woody and Buzz’s entire adventure is Woody’s fault, and while they do become friends at the end, I don’t think that excuses Woody’s behavior at all.

But in the second movie Pixar delved deeper into the themes just touched on in the first, namely, friendship and mortality. The relationship between Woody and Buzz is recapped enough for the audience to believe Buzz would absolutely lead a dangerous rescue mission for his friend, and the nature of the lives of toys is expanded upon and leads to Woody’s dilemma to either stay with Andy and risk being forgotten, or going with the rest of the gang to live forever in a toy museum. Jesse’s story only underscores the risk of Woody’s choice and the wordless montage of her life with her child is impactful and sad. To me, Jesse takes the greatest risk in joining with Woody knowing she will likely experience the same pain again. Also, even though Jesse is literally made to be Woody’s love interest, I like how her boisterous free-spirit makes her a better match for Buzz.

Overall – sequels just have a lot to live up to, and in many cases don’t really bring much else to the universe of the original story. But sometimes they turn out to be pretty good. The odds, however, are not in their favor.

The Raging Fanboy

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