Saturday, December 23, 2017

The Last Jedi - A Contemplation

Image result for lightsaber self inflicted wound

Each year I find myself looking forward to the new Star Wars movie in spite of the gratuitous celebration of sci-fi violence it represents. Somehow, I appease my distaste by reminiscing back to the "feel good" moments I had as a young adult seeking space adventure sagas, CGI laseriffic action, and heroic friendships that give hope at the end of the tale. 

This year I seem to have hit an mental inflection point in regard to Star Wars military machinations of Star Wars epicness. Thus I opt to share my thoughts on  Episode VIII and some of the larger themes of the series.

Spoilers ahead!  Also rueful speculation. You have been forewarned.

First, let's start with the things I enjoyed about The Last Jedi; the list is short. Rose, the Asian engineer, is the most compassionate character to date in the Star Wars universe. Her non-warrior, behind-the-scenes authenticity feels as true as her connection with Finn. The only other relationship that felt real to me was, oddly enough, between Rey and Kylo. Yes, that connection was a good girl seeking bad boy hyperspace e-date in-the-making, but it felt cathartic and honest. The Force being so strong in them yearns to join them, as they seek somehow to unite a galaxy divided between dark and light sides. I also was moved by the attempt to highlight animal rights with Chewbacca's refusal to eat a thinking (too cute) creature, and with Rose and Finn's assistance in releasing the enslaved alien (too cute) quadrapeds.

That's pretty much all I enjoyed about the movie. I kinda liked the red salt battlefield mimicking bloody trails in the final rebel base assault scene, but like most of the rest of the movie, the klugey editing, and patchy storytelling stirred the gestalt into lumpy Degaban oatmeal.

My dislikes rain like Snokian vitriol otherwise. Rant list initiate: First Order star destroyers hover useless to incoming rebel forces, the same space warships are deployed in two-dimensional simplicity that no armada commander worth his salt would use; space bombs that somehow drop even though they are in space, and could much more effectively be launched with a bit of downward thrust; too many heroes rebelling against leadership, escaping near death scenarios, and heading off on contrived errands, a horribly choreographied lightsaber melee as Kylo and Rey dispatch the Imperial cronies, Luke's cry-baby attitude, Yoda's super-Kermit pontificating, yoda...yada...yoda, and the final Luke ghost standoff with Kylo Ren resulting big explosions and the evaporation of Luke into the Force world to return in bluey halo another day.  Oh wait, did I mention the light-speed rebel ship impact with the dreadnought? Van Damme triple-triple camera angle patchwork sequence blended with a nod to Star Trek reboot silence entirely ruined the moment...and I won't even get into the bad physics involved, as a light-speed impact explosion would not happen anything like it did.

I could continue with the negative list. Alas perhaps I'm just being passive-agressive in realizing just how much our culture has become delightfully hypnotized by violence opera from the Avengers to the Z-men which seemingly pits ultimate good against ultimate evil. It may just be a coincidence that the US has become as divisive as the polarities of the Force in Star Wars over the last 40 years. We worship the military without batting an eyelash to the estimated 37 million deaths the US military has inflicted since World War II. The fact that military budget and Star Wars movie budgets have gone into orbit over that period of time certainly has its connection. Somehow our primitive minds think an ongoing conquering of evil will somehow bring us closer to peace, when it just continues the cycle of violence with increasing amplitude.

Alas.... I have my own better ending to The Last Jedi: the embittered Kylo Ren and hopeful Rey manage to forge a union of deep friendship after destroying Emperor Snoke. In that connection of spirit, pragmatism, and yes love, they announce to the galaxy "No More Violence!" and begin a true revolution, bringing education, compassion and de-militarization to all!

(of course there would have to be one last amazing (think Episode One) lightsaber duel to punctuate that story -line inflection point)

Friday, December 8, 2017

States of Change: Chapter 17: Heart of It All (Ohio)

States of Change is an ongoing work of serial fiction.
The speculative story-line seeks to inspire thought on ethics, culture and our planet's future.

The year is 2076, decades after Oosa's defederalization. 
Fifty independent States have forged their societies from revolutionary technology and ideology.
Prominently, The Augment, a real-time, virtual overlay of sensory data 
has become widely available for personal use throughout many of the post-fed nation-states.

"Okay, I'm ready Grazee. Let's see how your presentation is coming along."

Grazee walked to the wall screen of the shared media parlor, a space which had a cubist flair currently glowing with cool blue pastels. She had selected the color scheme to accentuate her deep violet clothing and lavender VisAR frames.  Wavy locks fell to her shoulder in precise, black ringlets.

"Thanks for helping out, Mama. I know you're busy."

"Never too busy to contribute a little advice and encouragement to you, sweetie."

In Ohio, it had become a rite of passage to submit ones first meta-media publication upon entering high school. With only two days of summer vacation remaining, Grazee was fast approaching her submission deadline.  Grazee had found enormous value in Mama's ongoing input, especially in building confidence with her delivery.

Grazee began with a narrative flourish, "Ghosting in Ohio Culture by Graziana Alpha Hartley."

A purple smiley appeared to the side of Grazee's primary VisAR overlay; the emoji mirrored Mama's smile of satisfaction with the initial tone Grazee was setting.

"Ghosting has become an integral part of Ohio society increasingly since 2061 when the State established its limited partnership with New York data service providers. The rigidity of New York's integrity standards alongside block-chained reference requirements led to Ohio implementing a state-of-the-art emotive framework within its community networks, both online and offline."

Mama's comment stream slid across Grazee's commentary feed: Good pacing. Wording still a touch too wiki. 

Grazee cleared her throat and improvised her wording a bit.

"As an interesting aside Ghosting derives from the archaic superstition still held by many that spirits survive after human death. As noted in The Skeptics Guide to the Universe ghosts allegedly appear as fully-clothed, transparent beings, often in the presence of loved ones in a state of mourning.

Work on better eye contact flashed in Grazee's visAR comment corner, accompanied by Mama's avatar tapping the side of her head.

"The ghost meme was reinforced by apparent evidence from nineteenth century photography.  This infant stage of image capture resulted in numerous cases of double exposures during family portraits. Throughout the twentieth century, ghost stories became increasingly popular in global media, especially in the Oosa where afterlife belief systems thrived."

Too informal. Sub the former United States of America for Oosa, was Mama's silent interjection, while simultaneously leaning back in the fractal patterned, camelback sofa. Grazee gave a nod to the correction happy that Mama's body language conveyed overall pleasure of her spoken delivery so far.

"In the early twenty first century ghosting took hold in a very different way in global social culture. Per Wayback and Urban the increase in virtual communication inspired people to increasingly end relationships and otherwise shun unwanted contact using virtual silence and minimalist responses, especially through the popular Texting medium of the time. Psychology Tomorrow cites the human need for intimacy led to a surge in online surrogate bot presence and, speculatively, catalyzed the Great Defederalization. Today's modern day "ghosts" were so named because of their synonymous  bot surrogacy. "

Great references; your embedded metadata to spoken verbiage ratio is solid at five to one. Mama added two spinning, purple smiley faces to punctuate the comment. 

Grazee, energized by the support, leaned into report's finale.

"In 2061, ten years after Ohio's nationhood had been secured, the Family Values Act was instituted statewide. Secular education funding of The Modern Relationship Institute began its implementation of ghosts across all social strata when..."

Grazee halted her report. On the sofa, Mama was laughing wildly while smacking the cushions of the sofa at her side. Behind her visAR Grazee's eyes went wide with wonder at how she had incited such hysteria. Then, Mama's brow and chin bulged forward into a reptilian likeness. Mama's dusky red hair transformed into a halo of orange flame, at which point Grazee vented her surprise into a groaning exhale.

Grazee tore off her visAR causing the virtual flaming dinosaur that had been Mama to vanish and yelled out to her sister wherever she was hiding, "Jemmie, stop hacking my Mama ghost. I have a report to finish. Keep it up, and I'll tell Geoff and Ray when they get home."

Stomping toward the parlor entry, not un-dinosaur-like, Grazee couldn't help but laugh herself at the silliness of the moment.  Her frustration evaporated into a playful demeanor as she admonished, "...and if you were going for a velociraptor you got the skull structure completely wrong! Which means if I find you, you're getting tickled to death."

Grazee stomped up the stairs in search of her little sister, making a carnivorous roar as she went.