Sunday, May 03, 2009

Random Stuff from Late at Night

I can't WAIT for the Birthday Season to be over.

Missy's was last weekend, the Peeper's is this weekend, and he's been a real pill, honestly, for about a week and a half, whining about presents, who's getting them (mostly other people) and who isn't (exclusively him).

So we have his birthday do tomorrow although his real advent is this coming Thursday. He'd have freaking exploded if we'd made him wait until next weekend.

The weather looks poor; rain and wind, chilly for May, not conducive to getting little boys outside. Not sure whether I have enough liquor in the house to survive seven six-year-olds inside for two hours high on greed and chocolate.

I think I'll put out the special welcome mat...(h/t to Blue Gal, whose find this is.)

I see that the Timbers won their first game tonight. Good. They looked undertrained and overmatched when my friend Brent and I went to see them Thursday.That the lineup that started tonight got two goals and a win - better. I'm still hoping to see more of Alex Nimo. I'm still hoping to see the backline start marking up on set plays and crosses; this is professional football, boys, you can loll about marking goddam space now. I'm through hoping that Takayuki Suzuki is ever going to step up and become a scorer - this ain't the AFC and you ain't gonna score on Rochester like the traditional powers of Oman and Syria, Taka.

Mostly I'm just happy that the American soccer season is under way. I'm ready to get outside and kick the ball around again.

Speaking of sport...I'm already starting to get excited about the 2009 Giro d'Italia. How about the cast of characters, starting with the newly-repaired cyborg-Armstrong and his bolted-together collarbone. His old rivals Basso and Sastre. I'll miss Cadel Evans, but the rest of usual crew will make things interesting enough. Plus the questions of how effective the dope testing will be, the "New Blue Train" of Astana taking on the western European teams, and the fun of watching the upstarts of Columbia/High Road and Garmin-Chipotle shoulder their way onto the cycling roads of the old continent.

I came across thissomewhere on the web and had two thoughts:

One, why would you want to hold still while someone jabbed someting that long and painful that into your backside, and, two,

What's the point? Why would you want something like this? Is it like those bulletin boards you occasionally see in mens' rooms; something to read while you're...umm...otherwise occupied? WTF?

People are wierd.

One last thing as I wrap up the Peeper's little Star Wars guys...we watched "The Revenge of the Sith" again (for like the third time) tonight. It's a very flawed picture for a lot of reasons (George Lucas can't write dialog, for one), and only because it's a space opera do I avoid my usual tactical nitpicking "Who the hell trained you to move/shoot/dig in like that?!?" and barking at the screen I usually do at the screen when war films come around.

But the third time I finally put my finger on a very specific thing was bugging me in the film.

It comes near the end, where the bad evil former-President-now-Emperor dials up his clone army commanders and says simply: "Execute Order 66". This is the signal for all the soldiers to cut down their "Jedi knight" commanders, shooting them in the back.And I realized what about that bugged me, what had bugged me about that from the first time I saw it; it just doesn't work, even for fiction. It requires you to believe something impossible, and for the characters to act in ways that people just DON'T.

I'm not saying that soldiers have never and would never shoot down their officers, or turn on their leaders. They have at times throughout history. And, of course, certain officers practically invite fragging just by being incompetent, ruthless or just dicks. And the movie postulates that these guys are "clones", and the "Order 66" compulsion is bred into them, like an instinct for retrieving into a Labrador.

But, by and large, fighting with someone, for someone, depending on them for survival...that changes you. And your relationship with them. You may love them or hate them, but you get to know them in ways you might not know a regular friend, a lover or a child. And, while fighting soldiers can get pretty callous about people they don't know, with the guys they've fought with they can be closer than family. These troops and the Jedi officers aren't supposed to be strangers - in fact, crucial to the plot is the relationship between the clone soldiers and their Jedi officers prevents the Jedi, who are otherwise vastly more deadly than their identical troops, from cutting their way out of the ambush.

So there was the problem: here's this huge plot point, one of the most dramatic in a movie full of blood and thunder, that totally depends on having one person shoot and kill another who is, not a stranger or a nameless authority, but someone that they have risked their life with, fought with, braved fear and danger with, seen tired and silly and angry and hopeful, talked with about their home and family, of the peaceful times they hoped to survive through the fictional war they were both fighting.

Even for fiction...nah. It just doesn't work. And clumsy fiction just bugs me. It lacks...elegance. What do you think?

But regardless of what WE think, my kids loves it, and it's HIS birthday.

So I'm off to bed to get some sleep before Birthday Order 6-year-old.G'night.


Pluto said...

I have always hated both "Attack of the Clones" and "Revenge of the Sith" to the point where I start screaming "Let me outa here!" half way either of them.

There are so many things wrong with both movies that I have troubles believing that either was even made, much less that people have willingly spent billions of dollars to watch/own them.

You are absolutely right that George Lucas can't write dialog. Nor can he generate a decent plot or do ANYTHING except create huge special-effects explosions. And I have a problem with that.

I admit that I'm a big Sci-Fi fan and one of my favorite trends of the last 40 years has been the mainstreaming of science fiction themes in the movie industry.

This trend provides directors with two things:
1. Reasons to include more cool special effects
2. Ready-made plots with plenty of room for sequels that can impact the viewers after they leave the movie theater.

Just to show a few examples:
Who can forget the haunting second half of 2001: A Space Odessey with Dave Bowman so totally alone trying to stay sane to reach his goal?

"Terminator" introduced people to just some of the possible issues of time travel. And then "Terminator 2" plausibly turned (and entertainingly) the concept on its head when Linda Hamilton realizes that she's just prevented the future that she's spent 15 agonizing years preparing for.

Sigourney Weaver's performance in the first two Alien movies was outstanding and introduced audiences to a complex female heroine who was still tough as nails.

Ashton Kutcher's (rather hideous) "Butterfly Effect" showed audiences the huge consequences of small actions.

"Back to the Future" and other movies have entertained us in many silly ways but they've also gotten the American people thinking (however slightly in their torpid state) and that is never a bad thing.

So what does George Lucas offer us? NOTHING! He accidentally started much of this with the original "Star Wars" but the trend has grown SO far beyond the man's reach that each successive Star Wars movie has revealed him to be a small empty husk of a man.

And yet he had such potential when he started (as illustrated in "American Graffitti"), what happened?

More important to the parents of a slightly obscessed six-year-old, what is this kid learning when he watches it? NOTHING. What thoughts does he take away that will influence his future actions? Explosions are cool, perhaps I should make some of my own.

If your kid says to you, "I want to be the next George Lucas" you should send the kid out to be brainwashed.

Lisa said...

George Lucas doesn't give much in the dialog department. Inelegant clumsy non-fiction is trying; in fiction, it is unforgivable. As for the frag order, maybe he's processing his frustration at the Air Force for not taking him.

As for the Corinthians tattoo: people are nuts.

Funny you should post the doormats as I just searched for one last night on Ebay and was offended by the "Go Away" one (though I loved the funky colors.) I guess there are times. . .

basilbeast said...

In the Star Wars universe, totalitarianism rules and officers and underlings do not mix.

I guess.

My all time favorite was Babylon 5. It had pretty decent battle scenes

and treated issues like war and death intelligently. I recall one short series of episodes about soldiers headed into combat, with the late Paul Winfield playing the commanding officer.


basilbeast said...


Hello Lisa!




FDChief said...

Hi, all.

Pluto: I have to agree with you on the shortcomings of George Lucas. ISTM that he wanted to recreate the "spamce opera" pulp serials he grew up with and had neither the ability to write them well enough to come up with a genuinely good story nor the humility enough to make the story human. Yes, the SFX are amazing. Yes, he did manage to create one terrific pulp villian, Darth Vader.

But, mmm...oh, well, it is what it is.

Frankly, I'm OK with the Peep being all about the Star Wars stuff. When I was his age it was GI Joes and plastic Snoopy dolls; kids will find things to be obsessive about. Hopefully he will be able to grow into a more balaced view of the stuff for the brain candy it is...

Lisa: There are always times when simple rudeness is more fun that the complexity of trying to deal with people as individuals. I just went through a long and pointless discussion about this on Facebook where the others involved demanded the right to be justified for being hostile and defensive to people who were rude, stupid, racist or all of the above to them and their adopted children. And while I completely understand, the point I was trying to make was that, as the minority here, we can either try and reach out and bring the salvageable goobers over to our side, or just not deal with them with a great big "fuck you".

You tell me - which has any prospect for a "happy ending"?

But I'll be the first to admit to wanting that "Fuck Off And Die" un-welcome mat sometimes.

Basil: I think that the real issue is that for all that he calls his stories "Star Wars", Mr. Lucas doesn't understand or care about what happens to real people in real wars.

One of the great things about the new version of "Battlestar Galactica" was the damnable complexity of it, the realization that you enemy is a hero to him or herself, that at the simplest level of battle there are no "heroes", only survivors, trying to avoid death and achieve the best outcome for themselves they can.

BSG, as awful as it would be, was scifi grounded in real people. "Star Wars" is a cartoon, and as such provides a 6-year-olds' outlook on everything from life to death.

Pluto said...

I'm also a big fan of Babylon 5 and to a lesser extent, BSG. I recently bought a copy of all five seasons of B-5 and was refreshed by the continued strength of the plots but was a little astounded by how cheesy the special effects looked. We've come a LONG way on the visual front in the last 15 years.

BSG is outstanding for exploring human complexities and how they interfere (and occasionally improve) decision-making in tense situations. I just can't deal with the extremely poor handling of the tactical situations (very Star Wars-like at times).

If you're going to write stories about militarily-oriented situations (and I can't think of a more militarily-oriented situation than a small band of people running for their lives from an implacable and militarily superior foe) you need to make sure that the basic tactical situations make some sense. I gave up on the series after "Razors."

One of the unanticipated side-effects of rewatching B-5 was the tension created by watching the Earth government become increasingly out of touch with reality and its effect on the military personnel sworn to protect it. The continual question these people asked themselves was "Am I sworn to protect the government even from itself? If so, what should I do?" A great plot device that was THE central issue for those serving the Bush Administration.

sheerahkahn said...

I think the strong suits of BSG and Bab5 was, and still is...knowing when to end the show.

For me, a magnificent piece of genius is that they had a storyline, followed it, and when it was completed...done, finished, end it.

George...yeah, live action cartoon, and sadly, so much potential with so little payoff. I personally think he should have fired the director and the writer for episodes I, II, and III.

sheerahkahn said...

The Corinthians tatoo...uh...okay...what is that suppose to do, teach the guys in how they should treat her as they're riding herd on her?
Geez...common sense seems to be a rare item these days, I'm just still amazed at how rare it is.

Anyway, I'm sure she'll be quite impressed with the tat's appearance in 20 years when gravity and the extra 30lbs have had their way with her body.

Lisa said...

Hello to basilbeast! :)


Per your Facebook discussion, as you note, it is futile to do anything with intransigent people. However, if an ideological opponent is willing to enter into discussion, than it is right to do so, until the point where futility is recognized. Than a courteous bow out is in order.

I am just as opposed to rude and hostile liberals (who feel so very justified) as I am their conservative opponents. Hostility is never justified (remind them all of the Deadly Sin of anger), and is purely a waste of time. In addition, it adds to the bad juju in the world.

Fittingly comes your statement on Star Wars: "kids will find things to be obsessive about." Humans will find things to be obsessive about, ahem :)

basilbeast said...

>>The Corinthians tatoo...<<

S, the instant I saw your remark I thought of bagpipes. And yes, another couple dozen years and it might resolve into Revelations.

>>I think that the real issue is that for all that he calls his stories "Star Wars", Mr. Lucas doesn't understand or care about what happens to real people in real wars.<<

No, he doesn't. And that's why B5 is so very good. Many threads throughout the series on death and the taking of life.

And the consequences of doing so.

As for Lucas, much of the "death" in the whole series is that of machines, or the machine-like Storm Troopers. And why the armor anyway? It never ever worked.

I will give Lucas this much though. The deaths of people to me were almost "Homeric". In the Iliad, the death of the common grunt usually is little more than a statistic. The fuller detail is reserved for the conflict of Princes.

As for BSG, it never really popped my cork. Great possibilities, but it seemed to me the writers were lazy. The last episode sucked big time.

Many scenes were very good, but many were also like fingernails on chalkboard. Like the way too many incidents where people pulled their sidearms and stuck them into each others' faces, screaming and threatening. A gimmick way too easy and lazy to heighten tension.

The torture thread in the series was mixed and confusing. On the one hand, Six ( Helfer, the blond? ) on board Pegasus, excellent; on the other, the use of it by the Colonials and the unnecessary needless death ( thinking of the slaughter of the governing board by the Hatch character ), barbarous.

I do plan to see the new Star Trek movie coming up.

Can't stay away.


FDChief said...

basil: Trek jumped the shark so long ago I've almost forgotten that there was a time when people took the whole Great Bird of the Galaxy thing seriously. The new flick looks like perfect popcorn. I'm looking forward to see if the actor playing Jim Kirk gives a little nod to the cornball style of ol' T.J. Hooker Bill Shatner. Should be fun.

And I should confess that I didn't really follow BSG all that closely - serial TV is hard when you hav the littlies. I agree that I, too, could have done without all the hokey hand-held camera "urgency" and the gun-waving and screeching.

Lois McMaster Bujold (speaking of Scifi) had a great line in one of her Vorkosikan books about how "the really horrible deeds are done in quiet, green-panelled rooms by polite men, passing uncreased sheets of paper amongst one another."

Or Executive Mansion briefing rooms, whatever. Take your pick.

FDChief said...

Lisa: Obsession is a very human sin, indeed.

And I didn't so much cavil at their insistance at treating these anonymous idiots like idiots. It was their insistance that they were "protecting" their adoptive kids.

To me it was like these helicopter parents who try and keep their kids from anything "harmful", hovering over them, putting themselves between their kids and, well, everything.

I've seen some of these poor kids turn up in Basic, or in my classroom. A lot of them make it just fine, after a rough start. But nothing in the world can keep other people from being ignorant, rude, racist or sexist fools (and YOUNG ignorant, rude, etc. are the worst of all), and if you don't see and get to understand what these people are early, well...let's say that in every one of these groups of kids I'd find one or two that just imploded. And a lot of the time it was because they didn't have a thick enough skin to deal with the abuse that comes with being a young human being.

Plus the frustration of knowing that I would have to deal with the people who came away from their interactions with these very aggressively-defensive adoptive parents with the fixed impression that interracial adoptive parents are all rude, impolite and defensive.

Oh, well...

rangeragainstwar said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lisa said...

Any kind of fanaticism is repellent (despite what my free numerology reading says, I am not a fanatic!)

I do not get this new crop of helicopter parents -- it seems so controlling and arrogant. As though their kids are singled out for tough knocks. They do their kids no favors by raising little Napoleons.

It was the greatest lesson for a little Lisa to see boorish behavior among her peers (and elders), and have her mum explain where they were coming from. It taught compassion, but not compromise.

The high road is the only acceptable one, and no one is entitled to good behavior. (That may be a bit superior in itself, but hey -- if you roll with swine, you get muddy, and I was a fastidious little girl.)

Re. the earlier, "Than a courteous bow out is in order" -- I know it's "then". I'm getting sloppy. . .