|Tuesday, January 10, 2017 08:14 PM|
|(Last updated on Tuesday, January 10, 2017 08:17 PM)|
|Letter to Trump|
| by Fëanor|
This is a letter I wrote and mailed to Donald Trump last week. I... probably shouldn't have done it. I certainly hesitated before dropping it in the mailbox. I was probably already on a watchlist somewhere, and I definitely am now. But I figure, as a white man, I should use my privilege, make myself a target, stand in front of the more vulnerable, and yell, "Come get me!" And that's basically what this letter does. Hoo boy.
January 6th, 2017
President-Elect Donald J. Trump
C/O The Trump Organization
725 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10022
Dear Mr. Trump,
Greetings. My name is Jim Genzano. I'm a liberal, a husband, and a father. I also voted for Hillary Clinton for President – as did a majority of my fellow Americans, I'm happy to remind you. I'm writing today what I believe will be the first of many letters, to you and to my other elected representatives.
Although I've paid attention to politics on and off for many years, and have voted in the major elections since I've had that right, I've recently become far more politically active than I've ever been before – calling my representatives, joining online action groups, and donating money to various candidates and causes. Perhaps you can guess the reason: your election to the office of President of the United States.
I was horrified and disgusted by your campaign, and certain you could not win. How could someone so obviously inexperienced and unprepared for the job; so blustering and unprofessional; so xenophobic, misogynistic, homophobic, regressive, and racist – a con-man, a bully, a fascist, and a serial sexual harasser – possibly be chosen to follow the first African-American President, who has been such a beacon of hope and progress?
But, thanks to the racists, the short-sighted, the uneducated, Vladimir Putin, and James Comey, you were elected. And here we are. And I'm not quite over my horror and disappointment yet. But I am determined to fight.
Let's talk about your cabinet picks. Each one has been more horrific than the last.
Rex Tillerson lacks any of the necessary experience to be Secretary of State. He has suspiciously close ties with Vladimir Putin, the man our intelligence agencies tell us was directly involved with hacking the DNC and helping elect you. As CEO of a fossil fuel company, he can hardly be expected to be a champion in the fight against climate change and fossil fuel use, which is a cause that's very important to me, and to all reasonable humans. We will fight to keep him from becoming Secretary of State.
Jeff Sessions is an infamous xenophobe and racist, fighting amnesty and immigration at every turn. He's pro-war and anti-environment. He voted against banning torture of prisoners. Many civil rights organizations, including the NAACP, and more than 1100 law school professors, have protested his nomination. We will fight to keep him from becoming Attorney General.
Tom Price is anti-choice and pro-gun. He believes insurers should not be required to cover pre-existing conditions, or provide access to birth control. He also wants to cut Medicare, and is a member of the fraudulent group the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons. He's a terrible choice to head the Department of Health and Human Services. We will fight his appointment.
Betsy DeVos wants to destroy public education. She has already made a disaster of it in Michigan. And you want to put her in charge of it at the federal level. We will fight to keep that from happening.
Ben Carson has no experience in federal government and shouldn't hold any position in it – as he himself has admitted. We will fight his appointment.
Do you plan to install a reactionary Justice on the Supreme Court? We will fight you.
Will you seek to take away women's rights, including the right to choose? We will fight you. We cannot and will not allow the overturn of Row v. Wade.
Your Republican friends have already begun their latest attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Such an act would leave millions of Americans without healthcare, and condemn many to death. There's no question that the American healthcare system needs repair, but dismantling the ACA with no backup plan in place is obviously not the answer. We will fight to protect the ACA.
Your friend Paul Ryan plans to dismantle Medicare, but it should be protected and expanded. We will fight him.
The GOP seeks to defund the United Nations, while you sit on Twitter fomenting war and supporting nuclear proliferation. But the world needs empathy, calm and organized discussion, and peace – not more posturing, antagonism, and weaponry. We will fight for disarmament and peace.
You have said that you plan to take away the rights of American citizens based on their race, gender, religion, and sexual orientation. This is unethical, immoral, and un-American. We cannot deport millions of Americans, or tell them their love is illegal, or that they cannot use the bathroom they feel comfortable in. We will fight for an America for all.
Black Lives Matter. Police corruption, militarization, and abuse of power must end. We will fight any attempt to install white supremacy in the American government.
The NRA and gun lobbies do not need to gain even more power than they already have. Gun violence is an epidemic and only reasonable gun control legislation can rein it in. More guns will never lead to fewer shootings. We will not allow this.
Do you plan to give tax cuts to your cadre of billionaires and leave poor Americans footing the bill? This is unacceptable. It's the rich who must begin to pay their fair share. Poverty and income inequality must end. We will fight for that end.
You have expressed skepticism about climate change. But it is a scientific fact, and humans are responsible. We are also responsible for fighting it. We must protect our environment, end fracking, stop the building of pipelines through protected land, bolster environmental regulation, invest in renewable energy, and move away from fossil fuels. You will not be allowed to undo the progress we have made on this front. This is not about money or politics – this is about the future of humanity on this planet.
I thank you for taking the time to read this. And know that I have asked my representatives to fight your agenda every step of the way, and that I will be doing the same in my own small way. I know that you may succeed in much of what you plan to do. But we will not make it easy for you. We will obstruct you every way we can. Assuming you are not impeached and removed from office before your term is over, I suppose we must resign ourselves to four years of you as President. But don't expect to hold the title a single instant longer than that. Given a second chance, I am convinced that the American people will reject you, as they should have in the first place.
And meanwhile, we will fight you; I will fight you. That's my promise.
|Friday, December 16, 2016 07:12 PM|
|(Last updated on Tuesday, December 20, 2016 10:24 AM)|
|On the Viewer - Rogue One: A Star Wars Story|
| by Fëanor|
TL;DR - Despite some weird choices and missing details, this is a great movie.
The first of the standalone, spin-off, non-"Episode" Star Wars movies has been released! Rogue One sits in a territory of the timeline that is already being effectively mined by the animated series Star Wars Rebels: the period between Episode III and Episode IV, when the Empire is spreading and gaining power, and the Rebellion is still a scrappy little thing seeking its first big success. It focuses specifically on the small team of misfits that pull together against all odds to steal the plans to the first Death Star. In fact, (spoiler?) the movie takes us right up to the opening second of A New Hope, and features various cameos from that film's cast of characters - sometimes even going so far as to include creepy computer-generated recreations of the actors, or actual footage from the movie.
One of the more interesting things about Rogue One is that it gives us a different perspective on the Rebellion than we're used to. The original trilogy of Star Wars films is fairly black and white: the Rebels and the Jedi are the Good Guys, and the Imperials and the Sith are the Bad Guys. Sure, there are Han and Lando, who do questionable things, but they're the exceptions that prove the rule - a couple of rough and tumble dudes who are ultimately transformed and choose to join the Rebellion when they see it's the right thing to do. The Alliance itself is presented as a kind of monolith - a group of good people united to do good.
Things get a bit more complex in the prequels, as these films are the story of good things going bad - a Republic rotting from the inside and becoming an Empire (sounds familiar!), and a great Jedi falling and becoming twisted into a Sith Lord. But still, there's not a lot of gray area; Anakin and the Republic are good, and then a switch is flipped and they are bad.
What Rogue One gives us is an Alliance that isn't as allied, or as good and pure, as what we've seen in the past. These Rebels are fractious, with their own internal politics, intrigues, and warring factions. One of the first Rebels we meet, Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) does very questionable things in service of the Alliance. So questionable that he himself cannot look back at them, and must always move forward, trusting that the end will justify the means (which is a pretty morally and ethically shaky stance for a Star Wars hero). Later, at a Rebel council, we see how at odds the various heads of the movement are, and how easily the whole resistance could have fallen apart in despair and hopelessness right at its beginnings. But hope is what the film is all about: hope that we can see our loved ones again, hope that we can redeem ourselves, hope that we can make a difference, hope that we can somehow stop the darkness, no matter the cost. The "New Hope" from the title of Episode IV starts here - is born here, with the selfless and desperate actions of a group of people thrown together by fate (or the Force?) who seek only to stop the rise of the horrible, destructive, all-encompassing power of the Empire and its terrible new weapon, the Death Star.
Another interesting new perspective that Rogue One gives us is a view of the Star Wars universe through the lens of the ordinary people in it, instead of through the lens of a heroic prophesied Jedi. In fact, for the first time, this is a Star Wars story that has no Jedi in it at all. Donnie Yen's blind mystic warrior, Chirrut Îmwe, appears to be at least Force-sensitive, but as his close friend and partner, Baze Malbus (Jiang Wen), points out, he is no Jedi - because there are no Jedi anymore. Despite that, a faith in the Force flourishes among the Rebels, and it is much more like a religion here than it has ever been in the other films, where it was more a super power than anything else.
(Time for a plot summary! Mild spoilers follow.)
The central character of the film is Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones), a girl orphaned by the Empire, raised by a rebel even among the Rebels - the warrior Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker) - and then cast off into the world to fend for herself. Jyn believes in little except her own survival, and is resigned to the world the way it is - under Imperial control - until she has hope kindled in her again by a message carried by defecting Imperial pilot Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed). The message is from her long-lost father, Galen (Mads Mikkelsen), and it reveals that he is still alive, still loves her, and is not truly the traitor he appears to be. In fact, he has hidden a fatal flaw in the heart of the Imperial superweapon he's helped build, if only the Rebels can acquire the plans, and find an opportunity to exploit it. (It's a pleasing revelation that the design flaw in the Death Star was actually put there on purpose by the Rebel sympathizer who was forced to help build the thing.)
Even speaking as a die hard Star Wars fan, I have to admit that the series has never been big on complex characters or deep characterization. Anakin/Vader, as examined over the course of six (now seven!) films, probably ends up being the most complex and deeply realized character in this universe, despite the fact that he starts out in A New Hope as little more than a mysterious black-clad uber villain (albeit the daddy of them all). That being said, The Force Awakens made a successful attempt at deeper characterization, especially with Finn and Rey. Rogue One makes that attempt again, but it goes less well. Part of the reason is simply that there are so many characters, and so much story to tell, that there's little screen time available to devote to backstory and development for them all. By the end of the movie, I didn't feel like I'd really gotten to know any of our main cast. We only get the barest glimpses at their pasts and motivations. Jyn is the person we learn the most about, and I still felt like I was missing important information about her. The good side of this is, we want to know more about these people. They are intriguing, and clearly have fascinating pasts. I'd particularly like to know Captain Andor's story. He clearly has done some horrific things for the Alliance, and they haunt him.
Another good thing about this big cast: it's quite diverse. We've got a woman as the main character, accompanied by a Hispanic man, a black man, a couple of Asian men, and a Pakistani man. The people in charge at the Empire are white, but it seems clear that there's a point being made there - they're Nazis, after all. The Alliance has a lot of white guys, too, but they also have women, aliens, and black and brown people on their ruling council, as well as black and brown people among their ground soldiers.
Probably the greatest character in the film, however, is not any of the humans or aliens. It is instead Captain Andor's sidekick, the reprogrammed Imperial droid K-2SO (Alan Tudyk). The droid is a sarcastic, pessimistic, wise-cracking misanthrope, and it's hilarious and fantastic.
More mild spoilers: one of the things I found most disconcerting and odd about the movie was the decision to use computer technology to resurrect Peter Cushing so that he could reprise his role as Grand Moff Tarkin. Similarly weird was the inclusion of Carrie Fisher's Princess Leia in the final shot, made young again through computer technology. This was very distracting and totally unnecessary. The filmmakers could easily have found actors who looked and sounded like Cushing and a young Fisher and put them in the roles. We're smart people, used to different actors playing the same part; we would have been able to figure it out.
Rogue One is a Star Wars movie that takes a hard look at the filthy reality and the hard costs of war. It is a dark and a brutal story, but it offers us the promise that with these peoples' many sacrifices, a terrible evil will be destroyed, and future people will live in freedom and peace. And sometimes that's the best we can hope for.
|Monday, December 12, 2016 11:33 AM|
|Making the Rounds Again|
| by Fëanor|
I called my reps again today, and below is what I said this time. I'm trying to keep it short and sweet, for the benefit of myself, and that of the poor interns that I talk to.
Hi, I'm Jim Genzano. I'm a constituent of Mr. _________ and I'm calling to ask him to support the call from members of the Electoral College that the Electors be fully briefed by U.S. Intelligence Officials on Russian influence on the election, before they cast their votes on December 19th. Thank you.
|Tuesday, December 6, 2016 04:16 PM|
| by Fëanor|
I called my representatives again this afternoon with a new wishlist! Thought I'd share it with y'all. (I considered also adding a bit about encouraging Electors to refuse to vote for Trump, but decided not to.)
Hi, I'm Jim Genzano. I'm a constituent and I'm calling to ask _____ to continue to block President-elect Trump and his agenda in every way s/he can. Specifically, I'm hoping s/he will:
- Support calls to investigate irregularities in the presidential election.
- Support efforts to recount votes in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Nevada.
- Support calls to investigate Trump's financials and conflicts of interest.
- Block all Trump's cabinet appointments in any way possible, especially Steve Bannon.
- (Senators only) Filibuster the waiver that retired Gen. James Mattis would need in order to serve as secretary of defense.
- Support calls to impeach Donald Trump.
|Monday, November 21, 2016 10:45 AM|
|Call and Call Again|
| by Fëanor|
I just called my representatives back and gave them a list of specific things I'd like them to do. Here it is, if you're interested:
- Demand that President-elect Trump denounce the hate crimes being performed around the country in his name.
- Oppose any attempt to create a registry of Muslim citizens.
- Demand an investigation into Russian interference in the election.
- Support the call for a bipartisan review of Trump's financials and apparent conflicts of interest.
- Oppose the appointment of Steve Bannon as chief strategist and senior counselor.
- Oppose the appointment of Senator Jeff Sessions as Attorney General.
- Oppose the appointment of General Mike Flynn as national security adviser.
- Oppose the appointment of Representative Mike Pompeo as CIA director.
|Thursday, November 17, 2016 09:45 AM|
|(Last updated on Thursday, November 17, 2016 12:33 PM)|
| by Fëanor|
I've been trying to work out how best I can fight back against Trump, and according to what I'm reading, actually picking up the phone and calling your Representatives is the best way to be heard. My Representatives here in New Jersey are all Democrats and most of them have already spoken out and taken stands against Trump, so I'm not sure how much me calling them really means, but I want to feel like I'm doing something, so that's what I'm doing.
I spoke to a human at Donald Norcross' office, and left a message for Cory Booker. Interestingly enough, Robert Menendez's line was busy, and his mailbox was full! So I'll have to try him again later. (ETA: I did call back, and this time I got through to a staffer and gave him my spiel.) I'm not sure if it's worthwhile to call my more local Representatives, like the state senator and state assembly members, as I'm not sure how much they can really do, but maybe I will give it a shot.
If you're interested, below is a generic version of the script I'm using; I alter it slightly for each person to make it more specific to them and what they've done so far. Also, if you need to figure out who your representatives are (I did!), you can use this tool or this site.
Hi, I'm [Your Name], a constituent of [Representative's Name]. I'm calling to ask [Representative's Name] to use all means at his disposal to fight back against President-elect Trump and his policies of hate. In particular, I'm hoping [Representative's Name] will speak out strongly against President-elect Donald Trump's naming of Steve Bannon as chief White House strategist and senior counselor. Mr. Bannon built and runs a powerful platform for promoting racism, misogyny, anti-Semitism, and xenophobia. The election of Trump and appointment of Bannon made the KKK and other white nationalist groups rejoice. For me personally, Trump's election and his actions so far have been terrifying. I fear for the safety of my friends and loved ones, and for the future of our country and our world. We cannot sit idly by and allow white supremacists to take over our government. We cannot allow Mr. Trump to take away womens' right to choose; to take away the rights of citizens based on their sexual orientation, race, or religion; to dismantle the Affordable Care Act or Medicare; and we cannot allow Mr. Trump to obstruct the fight against climate change, which is essential to the survival of humanity. All Americans of good conscience must join in opposing Mr. Trump, and I hope [Representative's Name] will be part of that fight. Thank you.
|Friday, October 28, 2016 03:06 PM|
|Please Please Please Vote Hillary. Please.|
| by Fëanor|
Really, the title of the post kind of says it all. But I've got this blog here, and this election is important to me, so I feel like I ought to state my case in a little more detail before the big day is here. I'll try to make it quick.
I'm pretty radically liberal, so there's almost no chance I'd have ever supported a Republican nominee for President, regardless of who that was. That being said, I don't think I've ever been confronted with a presidential candidate of any party more frightening than Donald Trump. As poppy and I have said to each other many times over the last year or so, although we certainly didn't want a President Mitt Romney, we weren't actually terrified of the possibility. He didn't seem clinically insane, completely unreasonable, dangerously unqualified, or at all likely to cause World War III. Then there's Donald Trump.
I'm sure you've heard or read about the various horrific things Donald Trump has said during his campaign; he's got a fresh zinger in the news nearly every day. He is unapologetically racist, anti-immigrant, and misogynist. He is supported by various racist groups. When he said "no one respects women more than me" at the final debate, the audience actually laughed at him and had to be quieted by the moderator. He has little or no qualifications for the job. He is a petulant, belligerent egoist; a repugnant bully.
Poppy and I are actually frightened at the prospect of what this man would do if he were given the powers of the President of the United States. Just watch him for a while, read about him, listen to him speak. Do you really want this man sitting in the Oval Office? Do you really want him to be your representative to the world? Because that's what will happen if we don't all vote for Hillary Clinton.
Some people say both candidates are awful, and complain about having to choose the lesser of two evils, but for me, the differences between the candidates have never been more stark, and the choice has never been more clear. We can choose to follow up the first African-American President in history with an unqualified racist misogynist who denies the reality of climate change, or we can choose to follow him up with the first woman President in history, who is more than qualified for the job and who, thanks to Bernie Sanders pushing her in that direction, is supporting some surprisingly liberal policies.
Years from now, when it's all over, would you rather be able to say, "I helped put the first woman in the Oval Office," or, "I helped put that guy from that reality show who made fun of disabled people in the Oval Office?"
Do you want to keep on the way we're going, moving with the current of history, embracing hope, inclusion, and empathy? Or do you want to turn around and march backwards into the arms of hate and fear and bigotry? Because that second thing is what Trump is talking about when says he wants to "make America great again." That may all sound a bit melodramatic, but I really feel that's the choice that's facing us with this election.
And if you're anti-Trump, but you don't want to vote for Hillary... Okay, I understand that. Clinton wasn't my first choice. I voted for Bernie in the primary. But the sad fact is, any vote that doesn't go to Hillary might as well be a vote for Trump. And I just don't think we can afford a President Trump.
The polls and forecasts are definitely pointing toward a victory for Hillary Clinton. But polls and forecasts don't mean anything in the long run. It's the actual votes that count. So please. Please, please, please. For my sake, for your sake, for the sake of our families, for the sake of our country, for the sake of our world, please vote for Hillary Clinton for President of the United States.
|Friday, July 8, 2016 08:47 AM|
|(Last updated on Friday, July 8, 2016 09:05 AM)|
|Black Lives Matter|
| by Fëanor|
I've written the below and plan to send it to my local representatives. Feel free to copy and share if you'd like.
I am sick and tired of reading about the executions of black people in America by the people entrusted with their protection and defense. These are not random incidents. They are not tragic coincidences. This is a pattern of violence. This is a symptom of a systemic problem in our society that has existed since the beginning of our nation, and that problem is white supremacy. White supremacy must be dismantled. Our society must change.
I am writing to ask you to please support legislation and policies that will start the necessary process of dismantling white supremacy. As a first step, we must end police violence. Campaign Zero has a great summary of what we can do:
I've used this site to find some current legislation that I will ask you to support. But I ask you also to put forward more legislation in support of these things:
1. End broken windows policing
- Decriminalize activities that do not threaten public safety
- End profiling
- Provide better resources for the mentally ill
2. Establish effective civilian oversight structures
- Remove barriers to reporting police misconduct
3. Limit the use of force by police
- Establish standards and reporting of police use of deadly force
- Revise and strengthen local police department use of force policies
- End traffic-related police killings
- Monitor how police use force and proactively hold officers accountable for excessive force
4. Independent investigations and prosecutions
- Lower the standard of proof for Department of Justice civil rights investigations of police officers
- Use federal funds to encourage independent investigations and prosecutions
- Establish a permanent Special Prosecutor's Office at the State level for cases of police violence
- Require independent investigations of all cases where police kill or seriously injure civilians
5. Community representation
- Diversity: Increase the number of police officers who reflect the communities they serve
- Use community feedback to inform police department policies and practices
6. Film the police
- Require that police wear and use body cameras
- Protect the rights of citizens to film the police
- Invest in rigorous and sustained training around implicit bias, crisis intervention, mediation, conflict resolution, etc.
8. End for-profit policing
- End police department quotas for tickets and arrest
- Limit fines and fees for low-income people
- Prevent police from taking the money or property of innocent people
- End the Federal Government's 1033 Program Providing Military Weaponry to Local Police Departments
- Establish Local Restrictions to Prevent Police Departments from Purchasing or Using Military Weaponry
10. Fair police contracts
- Keep officers' disciplinary history accessible to police departments and the public
- Ensure officers do not get paid after they kill or seriously injure a civilian
A specific message for New Jersey Assemblyman Louis D Greenwald and Assemblywoman Pamela R. Lampitt:
New Jersey Assembly Bill A 2114 requires that police obtain a warrant to seize cell phone data. Please vote for this bill.
A specific message for New Jersey legislator James Beach:
New Jersey Senate Bill S 1105 prohibits law enforcement agencies from considering the number of arrests made and citations issued when evaluating a police officer's professional performance. Please vote for this bill.
|Wednesday, May 4, 2016 12:59 PM|
|Book Report - Lovecraft Country|
| by Fëanor|
This audio book I just listened to was so great I thought I'd swipe the mothballs off the old blog to write it up.
The popularity of weird fiction author H.P. Lovecraft only seems to increase as the years go by. But so does scrutiny of his racist politics and beliefs, which were so often given such lurid life in his writing. One of the things Lovecraft found most horrifying, for instance, was miscegenation. For many years a bust of Lovecraft was presented to the winner of the World Fantasy Award, but just last year the bust was retired due to Lovecraft's history of racism.
I love Lovecraft's work, but had of course always been deeply uncomfortable with his racism. I hadn't heard of a modern interpretation of Lovecraft's horror universe that dealt in any meaningful way with this topic - until I read about Matt Ruff's novel Lovecraft Country. Lovecraft Country not only deals with the topic, but makes it its central theme. The book's purpose, in fact, is to wrest ownership of Lovecraft's universe away from its racist beginnings and place it firmly in the hands of people of color. (I'm a little disappointed, therefore, to have discovered after the fact that the author, Matt Ruff, is white. It seems like this story was for a person of color to tell. But there you are.)
The novel is set in America in 1954, and is told as a series of short stories, each an episode in a larger, over-arching story, each with a different narrator, with the final chapter bringing all the narrators and stories together in an exciting climax. All the narrators are members of, or close friends with, the Turner family. The novel opens with the story of Atticus Turner, a young black man still trying to find his place in American society after returning from serving in the Korean War. He receives an odd letter from his estranged father, Montrose, about a secret birthright that he's entitled to, and he decides to head home to Chicago to see what it's all about.
If you're expecting magic and monsters in the first few pages, you'll be disappointed. Ruff takes his time getting to that, first introducing you to the surreal insanity and horror that is the Jim Crow South. On his way home, Atticus is assaulted, harassed, and stolen from by a policeman for the crime of being black. As the story goes on, and incidents like this are repeated again and again, we come to realize that threats to your life and property from white men with power are just a part of everyday life for black people in America. And yes, sure, we should all already know that. But being a white guy, I need constant reminders, and Ruff forces you to really examine and internalize what it must be like to live like that: in constant fear, in constant danger of death, with little or no recourse to the law, the whole world against you, hating you and suspecting you on sight.
And that's just the baseline of horror in Atticus' world! As his story progresses, things get even more dangerous, and way more weird. A mysterious, untouchable, silver car with tinted windows seems to follow him everywhere as his search for his father takes him through a maze-like forest - where unseen things lurk in the shadows - to a tiny, insular town called Ardham. Ardham isn't Lovecraft's Arkham - not quite - but it is in "Lovecraft Country" (New England). And it is the home of a Manor House on a hill, where the Braithwhite family lives, leaders of a sect of a secret cult called The Order of the Ancient Dawn.
I won't tell you any more about the plot, because experiencing it for yourself will be fun as hell. But it includes intrigue, theft, espionage, double-dealing, murder, magic, devil dolls, ghosts, potions, curses, body-switching, and man-eating aliens. And still, even among all this weirdness and horror, we never lose sight of the novel's real focus: the real-life horror of being black in America. So not only is it a rollicking read - a brilliant, thrilling, enthralling, bone-chilling story - it's also a very important and powerful book. I cannot recommend it highly enough.
|Friday, December 18, 2015 04:31 PM|
|On the Viewer - Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens (No Spoilers)|
| by Fëanor|
Thought I'd dust off the old blog to do a quick, spoilerless write-up of the new Star Wars.
The Bad: OK, let's get the negative stuff out of the way first. The movie has two major flaws: lazy writing, and a tendency to slavishly repeat character relationships, dialog, and other elements from the original trilogy. The former is a typical flaw in gigantic blockbuster movies of this kind. There's a McGuffin at the center of the story that just doesn't really make a lot of sense, and one or two other plot twists that seem a tad contrived. But the second flaw is the larger one. At first it's fun recognizing the echoes from the original trilogy, but as the movie goes on, it starts to feel less like the filmmakers are simply referencing the preceding trilogy and carrying on its themes, and more like they're desperately trying to repeat it in every particular in order to recapture its magic and success.
The Good: All that being said, let me add, the filmmakers actually do a pretty damn good job of recapturing the magic of the original trilogy. For the first half of this movie I just sat there staring at the screen with this gigantic grin on my face that just wouldn't go away. Multiple times I clapped and cheered along with the rest of the audience - as the familiar Lucasfilm logo materialized; as the "A long time ago..." epigraph appeared; as beloved old characters were reintroduced; as the new characters did something amazing.
Speaking of those new characters, John Boyega's Finn and Daisy Ridley's Rey are a delight, and absolutely the best thing about the movie. They are real, warm, human, sympathetic characters, funny and likable, with involving and fascinating stories. Make no mistake: The Force Awakens is not one of the much maligned prequels. There's no awkward dialog and wooden performances. This movie is so much fun - so funny and entertaining. The visual spectacle is awe-inspiring, the special effects are gorgeous and amazing, the action scenes are breathtaking. The Force! Lightsabers! Spaceships! Lasers! WOO!!
Ahem. The point is, this is a Star Wars movie. A real, good, old-fashioned Star Wars movie, like the ones I fell in love with when I was a kid, and have loved ever since with all of my heart. And I cannot wait to see the next one.
Spoilers: OK, so I lied, there are a couple spoilers here. But I'll white them out for you. Highlight if you'd like to see them.
OH MY GOD THEY KILLED HAN!!!! I mean, it worked. It made sense as part of the story. But man. How am I going to show that scene to my son?? I'm gonna have to cover his eyes or something.
The McGuffin I was talking about above is the map to Luke. Why would somebody have part of a map to a guy? And if R2 had almost the entire thing the whole time, why didn't he speak up earlier? And who was Max von Sydow supposed to be? It seemed like we were supposed to know him. And how do you get such a great actor, and then kill him off immediately?
But man, how about John Boyega? A stormtrooper who has a crisis of conscience and switches sides. What a fantastic idea! And he plays it so well. And Rey! What's her story? Why did her parents leave her? Who were they? (If they turn out to be Skywalkers, too, I'll be pissed. Damn Skywalker family.)
I'm really fascinated by the character of Kylo Ren. He seems like such a bad-ass at first, doing these amazing things with the Force that we've never seen before. But as the film goes on, we start to realize he's just a confused, angry child. And really that's what the Dark Side is and should be seen to be: childish, selfish, bratty. Just a bunch of dudes having super-powered tantrums.
What is the deal with Snoke? Is he actually a giant or does he just project himself in holograms that way to be impressive? And Luke! So good to see him at last! I'm so, so curious to see how the next movie plays out, with Snoke completing Ren's training, and Luke hopefully training Rey (and maybe Finn?? Will he turn out to be a Jedi, too?). I'm so excited!