Star Wars: The Phantom Confession

At last I will reveal myself to the internet. At last I shall have catharsis.” – Darth Me

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The Phantom Menace premiered in theaters on May 19, 1999. I had just turned 12 two months before and I was ecstatic to see this new Star Wars film. You have to remember, in those days, Star Wars was a trilogy, a finished masterpiece in three volumes. It had been since 1983, four years before my birth. For my entire life, Star Wars was the best set of films there were for a nerd, young or old. It was “this colossus, this great legendary thing”.

A new film, a new trilogy, was announced. I scoured the young internet for news, images, clips, rumors and at dial-up speed, fuzzy jpegs revealed themselves for my viewing pleasure. Articles kept me fascinated. There wasn’t much being disseminated, remember, again, this was before Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and every other network. We had no smart phones, no texting, no social media. I remember reading articles in actual magazines and the newspaper about this new Star Wars film. I cut out pictures from pages and savored images of Qui-Gon Jinn, whom I mistook for Obi-Wan Kenobi, and Jake Lloyd and Ewan McGregor whom I thought were playing Anakin Skywalker. I also remember savoring images of the Naboo starfighter: graceful, sleek, and deadly. Much of my information also came from LEGO, who had just signed a deal with Lucasfilm to produce Star Wars branded and based Lego sets. Most of my early spoilers came from LEGO fan club magazines that depicted ships, characters, and locations in brick form. Pepsi had also made a marketing deal in which every can of every variety of soda featured a different character image with a printed backstory that you could collect. Even Taco Bell got in on the marketing with their stupid chihuahua.  It was all glorious and amazing and wonderful. I annoyed my family and friends silly because I would not stop talking about the new Star Wars film. It was to be the best thing EVER.

A few days, or weeks, I don’t remember exactly, into the premier my dad took myself and my brother to a Saturday afternoon showing of The Phantom Menace and I floated into the theater. I absorbed every sound, image, and musical cue with delight … except … except, something wasn’t quite right. Jar Jar Binks wasn’t funny, like he was supposed to be. There were fart jokes, in the middle of John William’s grand score even! Some bits blew my pre-teen mind – Darth Maul versus the Jedi – podracers roaring around Tatooine, but mostly it was boring with a shine and long with excitement. I didn’t realize it then, but every time thereafter that I saw it, my smile was less broad and the twinkle in my eye shrank. I remember visiting my grandfather, perhaps the next summer, and convincing him to Pay-Per-View rent The Phantom Menace. It was a day long thing, where you could watch it over and over again for 24 hours. I must have watched it 8 or 9 times that day. Over and over again. It was amazing! It was Star Wars! but it wasn’t quite the Star Wars I loved and had grown up with.

Truth is: I loved The Phantom Menace. Even with Jar Jar and the fart joke. In those early days, I couldn’t get enough of it. It wasn’t until 2002’s Attack of the Clones that I began to become disillusioned. 2005’s premier of Revenge of the Sith arrived and I was in college. It failed to end the new trilogy properly, but I had lost my love. Star Wars was nothing more than the Old Trilogy, as it was now known, and the new films were dead to me. I even spent time methodically watching Menace, Clones, and Sith and tearing them systematically apart on my blog (which you can still read under the Star Wars tab). I made a reputation among friends and a presence online by hating the prequels.

But. But. I did love Menace. I thought Clones had good parts. I figured Sith was mostly there. I don’t know when or why I let other people’s opinions and acidity eat through my heart of enjoyment. I like plenty of badly written movies that are chock full of bad performances and cheesy effects. So I suppose now we are here, at the end of my vitriol to admit a love I once held dear.

I haven’t watched the Prequel Trilogy in years, now, and I feel a strange urge and longing to do so. Maybe it is the 11 year old in me that collected Mountain Dew cans for their images of Yoda and Qui-Gon Jinn. Maybe it is the 12 year old that convinced my grandfather to let me spend a day watching a movie ad nauseam. Maybe it is the 13 year old that treasured old LEGO magazines and their pages of colorful LEGO Star Wars sets.

At least I am willing to admit it to myself, and now, the world that reads my blog: unabashed, unashamed, unfettered: I loved Star Wars The Phantom Menace a long time ago, and may yet love it. And that’s ok.

Embrace your famdoms, nerd out, rock on, love what you love. It makes you you and no one else. And that is the best thing ever.

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On Weddings

red-wedding-dress-taffeta-tulle.originalMy ma is attending a wedding this weekend for my cousin on her side, and at the end of the month, a paternal cousin is to be married. I will unfortunately miss both weddings, the latter making me most sad as I’ve been fairly close to that cousin. But the occasions have been making me ponder nuptials, and having been through one myself, I’ve got some thoughts on another, should I ever get the opportunity (which I doubt I will).

I will present my ideas as “Thoughts on “whatever” ” and in a heteronormative way. This is because I am heterosexual, and most familiar with the “classic” Western wedding. But weddings are becoming, and rightfully so, so much more what you make them with whomever you decide to marry and that is a Good Thing. Weddings shouldn’t be blind tradition. They should be a union of what makes you collectively you. To hence:

Thoughts on The Ring and Rings: maybe Tolkien has soured me on rings, but I don’t like the idea of giving my future bride an engagement ring. It seems to be little more than a Western bride price, dowry, or guarantor of the marriage. If my future bride cannot “reserve” herself for me without me spending a bunch of money on what is probably an overpriced conflict diamond or cheap synthetic, then she isn’t the one for me. Furthermore, why do we need wedding bands? I don’t understand jewelry as a symbol of love. Make it hurt, and I’m being serious here, get matching tattoos. They don’t come off, can’t get lost, cost a bit depending on what you get, and are a forever memory literally etched into your flesh. Now, having been through a divorce, this scares me because “what if, round two” but if you are unwilling to get tattooed, you probably aren’t willing to go through the long haul and tough it out when it really, really hurts either. Let’s just say I still can’t imagine my ex getting a tat, for any reason. If I’m wrong, she can send me photographic proof.

Thoughts on Sex/Wearing White (Purity): This is so wrapped up in draconian ideas of sexual ethics and shoddy economics that I don’t really want a bride wrapped in a white facade. I don’t believe in saving sex for marriage, and since I’ve already been married and had sex (spoiler! also, sorry ma, but well, we all know it happened at least once) what am I to do? Maybe my future next Mrs. Martin (also a point to be discussed) will be a virgin when we get married, but I kinda hope not. I mean, if we are getting married, have the tattoos, what is there to wait on? Sex just isn’t that important to me as a symbol of anything, or an act to be preserved, so what is the point of wearing white to pretend she is somehow “pure”? Especially if she is going to have sex that night, or soon thereafter anyway, does she then lose that purity or something? I don’t believe it transfers to the husband or anything, so again, point being? Be colorful! Again, be you and if you like white, go for it, but I’d like my bride in scarlet, or bright yellow, or something bright and happy. White is boring.

Thoughts on The Isle: So, it goes like this: the groom waits up at the front of wherever, the bride walks up toward him, arm in arm with her father, who hands her off, and after whatever, the bride and groom walk down the isle together. NO. This is clearly, and explicitly in traditional services, the father giving the woman to the man and the man accepting her and taking her with him. NO. The implication here is she is property, bought with the ring, and duly delivered and accepted and transferred. NO. In my wedding, if I get one again, we will enter from the sides, as equals, and go forward together and come back down together as a unit never again to be separated.

Thoughts on The Name: Afterwards it goes “I present to you Mr and Mrs Groom’s Name Only” NO. Is the man the only thing that matters in western society and weddings?? (Really, the answer still is yes, but to hell with that. This is the 21st century. We need to act like it.) I have a friend who took his wife’s name, but that is just inverting the binary. Wipe it out altogether. Get a new name. Or hyphenate (though who goes first?). Or, shockingly, keep your own name. Or something, but I really don’t like the wife surrendering her identity into that of her husband’s for the rest of her life. The woman is important all by herself and that desperately needs to be honored.

Thoughts on The Church: Even the religious these days are eschewing the steeple for the seashore, or prairie, or wherever. I’m not getting married in a church because the church does not rule over my marriage, and, well, I’d rather be married somewhere in nature, not necessarily in a building. If it’s raining, we get wet. I’m open to negotiation on this point, but I have strong preferences.

Thoughts on a Few Other Things: Invite who you want to be there, not who you are related to or feel obligated to invite. I get there are lots of politics here, but it’s your day, do what makes you happy. Have a fun cake and eat it. I don’t want it mashed in my face because I am not two anymore. I won’t mash it in her face either because she’s not two. Also, she worked damn hard on that makeup (probably) and I don’t want to ruin it with icing and sugar. Do what else has meaning for the two of you, and not what is “traditional”. Don’t spend money on glitzy things for the wedding, the party, or the wedding party. It’s just a wasted expense. Decorate in a fun, not expensive, way. If you want to do something meaningful for meaningful people, do that. I had a birthday cake at my first wedding because it was my grandmother’s birthday and I wanted to honor her at the occasion, and I’m glad I did. Having a birthday party at my wedding was probably the most “me” thing about that wedding. (And it wasn’t about me at all, my idea of perfect.)

And that’s all I have to say about that. For now. Thanks for listening.

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checkUp twenty17: Junly

Yeah. So there’s that. I haven’t updated since June 18th with my Wonder Woman review. In my own defense, I have been busy, but I’ve thought a time or two “I should write” and I’ve not, so I don’t get completely off the hook here. I mean, it’s taken for it to be 0404 on a Friday morning with insomnia to get me writing. How bad is that? Or maybe good? I dunno. Anyway. Here goes…something….

Every month I try to do some or all of the following: #1: Writing, #2: Reading, #3: Building, #4: Art and #5: Activities. This is a check up for June and July.

#1. Writing. I did write an update in June, and a review of WW. But I didn’t write at all in July. Combined score: 5-10.

#2. Reading. I finished St. Francis: In His Own Words, a compilation of writings by the monk St. Francis of Assisi. I am also working through another book. I’ll get most credit, but not all: 7.5-10.

#3. Building. I didn’t build anything, but I did spend the months organizing my LEGO minifigures and accessories. Now that I write that it sounds so grown up! but fuck you, little voice in my head. Anyway, it will help further endeavors, so again, partial credit? but it is also what kept me from building. So, one step back, two forward? Sounds good to me: 7.5-10.

#4. Art. Nada. Zip. Zilch. Nunca. No excuse here. I’ve had opportunity. 0-10.

#5. Activities. I’ve not missed a day of work, continued meeting with my friend, and even had a friend over for dinner So, that gets me full credit. I know the idea is to get out of the house and do new stuff, but that’s hard with two jobs and little extra time. Full credit on this one: 10-10.

Hmm. It’s been an interesting summer, but so far, so good, I guess. Crunching the crunchables I get: 30/50. 60% for the months, and I think 74% for the year. Still not terrible. August is already looking better because I’m writing! and I have a commission for a LEGO portrait that I can work on, a book to finish, and probably an activity or two, plus some art this weekend? We shall see.

Excelsior!

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Wonderous

This past week I took an evening for myself and watched Wonder Woman. Spoiler: it was a good movie and an excellent representation of what female superheroes should be.

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Beautiful. And I don’t just mean Gal Gadot, the Woman herself, but the entire movie. It was moving, fun, action-y, and thought provoking. While the DCU has been very lackluster and straight-out bad, they went where Marvel has yet to venture with all it’s success: a female directed, female led movie about a female superhero. From little girl Diana shadow boxing while Amazonian warriors spar to adult Diana deflecting bullets with shield and bracers above the trenches of World War One, this film delivered on almost all of it’s promises.

Without going into a bunch of detail, or long plot discussion, I will say this movie was excellently written, with witty dialogue, good themes, foreshadow, callbacks, delightful fight choreography, and great casting. As I write, I am listening to the score, and that is fantastic as well. From start to finish, this film was well constructed. However, it isn’t perfect.

I felt that a few moments were unearned, and that lessened my opinion, but not enjoyment of, the movie. First unearned moment, and perhaps a big one: when Wonder Woman and her love interest (I loved typing that phrase just now! finally not a hero and his love interest!) supposedly have sex. Earlier in the film, Steve and Diana discussed sex and reproduction, and Diana (having grown up on an island entirely populated with women) admits that men are necessary for reproduction but unnecessary for sexual pleasure (!) but seems uninterested in trying heterosexual relations for herself. But then, in what a few days, or weeks, maximum, she is inviting Steve into her bed and arms (again, supposedly, the movie suddenly cuts to the outside and shows nothing but gently falling snow and only implies the union). I do like that Steve was about to leave in the scene, having escorted Diana to her room, but then Diana herself invited him in and initiated the first kiss between them. It was nice to see Diana not only taking the lead on the battlefield, but also in the bedroom. Too often the man imposes himself in near sexual assault, so it was nice to see a reversal here. Still, though, the love story had barely developed by that point and I thought that it was unearned. Small quibble.

Secondly, it was a little ham-fisted setting up General Ludendorff to be the big bad, Ares God of War. I knew from the beginning it wouldn’t be him, as he was just a little too evil and intent on conquering the world, which no one really was in World War I. As I understand history, the war to end all wars was more about protecting self-identity and honoring alliances. Anyway, without a mustache to twirl, Ludendorff was too twirly for me to believe him as Ares. Interestingly, the guy with the mustache I missed completely as Ares until he showed up to reveal himself. I was thinking there was no Ares in this film, as the story was developing, and indeed didn’t need him to be for the story it was telling. (But what is a superhero movie without a big boss battle? A better superhero movie, in my opinion, but then, this is DC.) Anyway, the reveal of Ares I thought was pointless except to give Diana a boss to battle at the end while Steve was actually, you know, fighting for something.

Now, to the real Big Bad: World War I. In the comics, and history of comic-book Wonder Woman, she saves Trevor who I believe was originally a World War II pilot (and then every conflict thereafter? in updates) but never a WWI pilot. Setting the film in World War 1 was a brilliant move for the story they were telling, which was that Diana believed she could end war, and bad men, by killing Ares the God of War who was supposedly the machinator behind the scenes. If you have this set in World War 2, there is a clear Ares: Adolf Hitler. And killing him would have almost definitely ended the war then and there, thus proving Diana right without her learning anything about mankind or conflict. However, WW1 is a war without sense, purpose, big bad, or natural end. It was simply a meat grinder. Without a big bad to kill, even if you mistake Ludendorff for Ares, you must come to grips with the reality that mankind carries within each person the capacity for depthless evil and insurmountable good and it is a personal choice for each one of us which path we follow, God of War or no. This is a lesson that Wonder Woman learns the hard way when she does kill Ludendorff and nothing changes. It was, for me, the climax of the film.

Lastly, the final unearned moment of the film: Steve sacrifices himself to stop the Germans from gassing a bunch of people, and Diana goes ballistic, enabling her to defeat Ares, whom she is battling thus far without success, because she loves Steve and is devastated by his death. Like I said when I was discussing their maybe-sex scene, it didn’t really seem like she had loved him that deeply. Obviously he did her, but not her him, yet. Minutes ago she even thinking Steve was as evil as everyone else on the planet. And then he dies and she is all “but I love you!”. I just didn’t buy it. That and the unnecessary battle with Ares ruined the end of the movie for me, but not enough for me to not enjoy the movie as a whole. Bigger nit.

Wonder Woman, despite it’s flaws, is a good film, and a better one for what it is, the first film in which a female leads, and leads well, and where the men around her are equals or content to follow her obvious expertise. I enjoyed it, and will probably own it. I cannot say the same of any other DCU movies to date, or even in the future as I can foresee it.

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checkUp twenty17: May

Wow. It’s been a busy time lately, which is why I am writing my checkUp for May in the middle of June.

I’m seeking to accomplish the following each month: #1: Writing, #2: Reading, #3: Building, #4: Art and #5: Activities. So how did I do in May? Pretty good, I think. To sum up:

#1. Writing. I wrote my update, a review of the latest Guardians’ and Pirates’ films and I wrote a review of a book over at nerdspan.com. 6-5

#2. Reading. I finished the book I was reading for Life Group and I finished the book I reviewed, Off Rock by Kieran Shea. 6-5.

#3. Building. I built two Stargates in LEGO. I have yet to decide exactly what to do with them. But I built them. I haven’t yet photographed them. But I still get credit. 5-5.

#4. Art. I have been working on painting two stormtrooper helmets while my dad works on his model of a vintage Mustang. I have a few pics of the in progress paintings, but will wait to post any until the helmets are finished. 5-5.

#5. Activities. I met with my friend, back from Africa, once or twice, and I started a new job! so that counts extra. Incidentally, the new job is what is keeping me so busy. Way to bury the lede, Phil. 6-5.

I did extraordinarily well this month: 28/25, or 112%. That brings up my yearly average, last seen at 79%, to a robust 85.6%. Very nice.

So far June has been busy with work, but not much else, but we shall see what comes of it.

Thanks for following along, and look out, I do have some more writing to do!

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Guardians of the Caribbean

Many movies are either sequels, prequels, remakes, or reboots these days, and I saw two of the former this month, and here we have a double review. I don’t have a whole lot to say about each film, but I did want to give my thoughts on both.

To start, in the heavens above, with Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2:

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I really, really love the first volume of Guardians. It is unexpected, raucous, hilarious, offbeat, and just plain fun. I was really hoping for more of the same from Guardians 2. What I got was mostly that. It went in different directions, while keeping the same elements in place. What I also got was a tale of fathers and daughters and sons.

Ahem: spoilers.

Peter “Star-Lord” Quill, meets his father who seems nice but then turns out to be a philandering, posturing, jack-ass who (I did say spoilers, right?) killed Peter’s mother. Gamorra’s adopted sister, Nebula, returns with a massive girl-on for Gamorra, who in her mind always seemed to steal their adopted father’s, “Mad Titan” Thanos, love and affection. When Peter finds out the truth about his dad, he turns on him, with help from the Guardians, and kills him, in the process realizing that the man who raised him, Yondu, was his real daddy. Finally, during the battle, Gamorra and Nebula realize that they both were fighting for the same thing: survival, and neither cared at all about their “father” and have more in common than they thought.

What I loved was the father/son/daughter storylines. I am a sucker for good family stories, and this one delivered the emotional goods. When (look, ye be warned) Yondu dies saving Peter from his father, I got genuinely choked up. When Gamorra hugged Nebula, I got choked up. Good stories do that. I also love the wacky Drax who might finally be healing from the loss of his family, and the odd-couple of Rocket and Baby Groot. When I wanted them, they were there, doing their shtick, but doing it well. The soundtrack was awesome, as in the first film, and I love getting more of the Ravagers and the crazy denizens of the galaxy.

For my money, Guardians Vol. 2 was exactly what I wanted. I look forward to what happens with the Guardians after they meet the Avengers and how Vol. 3 plays out.

Now to the seas below and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales:

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I also really, really, love the Pirates franchise. Ever have. Always will. Perpetually. Well, if I am honest, I don’t love On Stranger Tides as much, but I’m totally drunk with rum on Dead Man’s Chest and At World’s End. But this is about Dead Men…, and this film introduces a new element into the supernatural Caribbean which is ghosts. And zombie sharks. I shivered just typing that. No thanks. But I egress, or digress, either.

Anyway, Jack, who isn’t quite the same pirate he was without the Black Pearl, is reduced to robbing banks with Gibbs and other various miscreants. Enter (yup: spoilers here, too, matey) Will and Elizabeth Turner’s son Henry who is looking, like father like son, for a way to free his father from the Flying Dutchman. He, like most people in the Caribbean it seems, need Jack’s magical compass to find the Trident of Poseidon to do that. Jack, Barbossa, and a host of new and old faces race to find the Trident while being pursued by the aforementioned ghosts of a Spanish warship led by a ghostly and vengeful Capitan Salazar who has a score to settle, like most people in the Caribbean it seems, with Cap’n Jack.

Barbossa’s (still) daughter and Will’s son find the trident and save everybody. Except Salazar. He dies. And Barbossa, the elder and less hygienic. He sacrifices himself to save his daughter from Salazar. How touching.

I loved the call-backs to previous films in the franchise, and the epically beautiful fight scene at the bottom of the ocean over the Trident. I loved down-on-his-luck Jack and Barbossa’s not-a-witch daughter. I loved that the Pearl finally gets out of the bottle.

What I didn’t like is that David Wenham had so little to do as the British Navy’s representative at sea. I think his character just wasn’t needed at all and he was a waste of a good actor, sadly. The climatic final battle was too short. Also, and this was just bad luck, not enough of the pirates made returns, in cameo form or otherwise. And Jack’s compass, didn’t Tia Dalma give him that?

Despite the flaws, I loved this film more than the last one, but not as much as Curse of the Black Pearl. I cannot wait to go sailing with Jack, the curse-free(?) Will and the rest of the blaggards and see if Barbossa can outwit death a second, or is it third? time.

Yo ho and all that.

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checkUp twenty17: April

Tempest fuget! I think that’s Latin for “time flies” but at the moment I’m too lazy to look it up*. Anyway, time does fly, and here it is already April. time-flies That means it is time for another check up into how I am doing with my goals in twenty17. For them what need a reminder (like me) I am pledged to perform the following each month: #1: Writing, #2: Reading, #3: Building, #4: Art and #5: Activities. I have achieved these to varying degrees in January, February, and March. But how now April? Let us have a reckoning.

#1. Writing. I haven’t written at all. 0-5

#2. Reading. I did not read this month, except from the book I am reading for my Life Group that meets on Tuesdays, so I guess I will give half credit for that. It isn’t exactly what I had in mind, but I have done it consistently. 2.5-5.

#3. Building. I built a futuristic hover truck in LEGO, which I immediately surmised must be from the Star Wars universe and had been a hover truck that the Rebels used to scout planets or guard perimeters or something. Anyway, I think it’s cool. 5-5.

#4. Art. I took a LEGO Portrait of the futuristic hover truck and posted it to Flickr. Check it out. 5-5.

#5. Activities. I have continued to meet at my local church with a group talking about how to have multiethnic conversations and relationships. It has been a rewarding and enlightening discussion every Tuesday and has even built a few relationships. I get decreasing credit for this, because I started this in March and haven’t done anything new, however, a member of the group invited me to a Texas Rangers’ game last Sunday, and I was only prevented of going by work, and that would have been a countable activity, so I will get bonus credit for good intentions. 5-5.

In summation, that is 17.5 out of 25. 70%. Ouch. I really need to get reading and writing. That gives me a total of 79% for the year as I slide further into the dark abyss of doing nothing with my free time. Looking back, I was excited for April, though I can’t figure out now exactly why, but I had plans I evidently didn’t get to.

I hope to do better in May, but I am not sanguine, as I will have other challenges ahead that I can foresee.

 

*well, I misspelled it, but yes, it is Latin and does mean the intended. Tempus fugit!

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