Thursday, October 22, 2020

Richard "The Carpenter": Twelve generations of Knights

 Dad used to tell me that he didn't want to study our family tree too much.  "There's going to be someone there who wore a rope for a necktie", he would say.  In most part Dad was content with knowing his grandfather, Walter Pinkney Knight - born in 1887 - and not much further.

(Walter's wife, Maggie Warren, was born in 1880 and died in 1979.  I'm old enough to remember her in her final years... and that's a pretty neat thing, to have known someone who knew Civil War veterans and was a young lady when the Wright Brothers flew their plane.)

With not much else to do with my own time these past several months, I thought it would be intriguing if I started to research our family history.  Quietly praying that there wasn't some scoundrel of ill repute back there anywhere.  And now I can say that ours does go back quite a bit and they left a trail behind them.

Knight family cemetery, Rhode Island

So it turns out that I'm the great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandson of one Richard Knight, aka Richard "the Carpenter" Knight.  Born around 1620 in the Norfolk, England area.  He came to the colonies circa 1640, at first in what is today New Hampshire.  But after "some legal trouble" - namely evading the authorities after being charged with theft - Richard left and settled in Rhode Island.  He was a carpenter, a miller, and a deacon.  He was also apparently a veteran of King Philip's War, because of the one hundred acres he was awarded following the conflict.  Richard had two wives, the second being Sarah.

Richard and Sarah had six children.  One of them was David Knight, my grandfather eleven times removed.  And it turns out that many of Richard's immediate male descendants were blacksmiths by trade.

Huh.

Dad was a knifemaker.  He put together most of his equipment, including his forge and his power hammer.  He even welded together the anvil that he would bang and shape the blades on.  He made a lot of knives, more than we realized at the time of his passing.

And now it turns out that though he never knew it, he was following in the footsteps of our remote ancestors.

I've been finding information about some others along the family tree.  One grandfather was Thomas Jefferson Knight, born shortly after the Revolutionary War.  At least one family member fought in the American Revolution itself.  Thomas' brother, Absalom Knight (is that a bad-a$$ name or what?) took part in the War of 1812.  To the best of my research, one of my direct ancestors owned a slave: name unknown.  He willed the slave to his wife following his death.  So, there is that tidbit.   I haven't found any indication that anyone in my direct lineage fought in the Civil War, but it wouldn't surprise me if someone along one of the branches participated.  I say that because North Carolina sent more soldiers than any other state in the Confederacy, and Rockingham County provided more than its share of those soldiers.  So the likelihood that I've an ancestor who fought in the War Between the States is moderately high.

And it all goes back to Richard the Carpenter.  Who came to the New World and it sounds as if he lived an interesting life.

Who knows.  Maybe some bit of prior research eludes me.  And that it may be possible to take the lineage back even further.  But if not, I'll be content to be the scion of Richard the Carpenter.

I hope he would have been satisfied that I've tried to live a life even a little bit as illustrious as his.




Thursday, October 15, 2020

Censored by Twitter

Well, it happened.  But from the looks of things I am in plenty of good company.

Last night I made a tweet on Twitter.  The now much-beleagured company that along with Facebook (is that a possible RICO charge?) has been censoring any mention of yesterday's New York Post story about Joe Biden and his son Hunter and their dealings with Burisma.  Among other things.

There is a photograph of Hunter Biden using a crack pipe.  Or maybe meth.  I don't know.  Meth would be a lot nastier.  But I know this photo exists.  I know because I have seen it.

So last night I made a Twitter post, along the lines of "the question that should be asked of every journalist, news outlet, and social media giant: Why should we trust you?"

Below that I added: "P.S.: there is a photo of Hunter Biden with a crack pipe."

I just checked my Twitter page.  That post has vanished.  Without warning or notice.

It's possible that a Twitter employee deleted it. It's also possible that they have adjusted their algorithms to automatically search and destroy anything negative pertaining to the Bidens.

However or whatever happened, it's not that big a deal.  I'm actually rather honored that of all the zillions of tweets flying right now about Hunter Biden, that mine was apparently targeted for termination.  The Twitter account page itself is still there (at twitter.com/theknightshift) but I wouldn't be surprised if that went MIA without warning sometime either.

 The more that Twitter and the other "Big Tech" companies pull stuff like this to an increasing number of people, the more they are looking at having their protections stripped and being broken up.  It happened before with the phone companies.  It could happen again.  Nothing is "too big to fail".  I've wondered if anyone has considered that Facebook and Twitter have become means of communication between people, companies, and organizations like churches and civic groups.  Depriving people of that or banning them from participation is almost tantamount to obstructing delivery of the mail service.  Or denying phone service on the basis of personal political beliefs.

And of course, Twitter and Facebook are behaving not so much as platforms as they are publishers.  There is a vast difference between the two.  Big Tech is trying to have it both ways.  And it's wrong.

Well, as I said: it's no skin off me if the post was deleted or even if my entire Twitter feed is destroyed.  Who knows: maybe there's a class action lawsuit that could come of Twitter's antics.  I wouldn't mind getting in on that action.

EDIT 10/16/2020 8:26 am EST:  The tweet is back where it was.  Oddly, I looked at its interactions and it has only been seen twice.  The other night it got up to around 200 or so within a short period of time.  Not speculating, just making a note of that.


Saturday, October 10, 2020

Star Wars: Squadrons has Chris feeling like he's 20 years old all over again

For the vastest part I have moved on past video games.  These days if I play any game at all it's going to be something like a rewarding round of Go against a human opponent, or the miniatures game Warhammer 40,000 (either of which provides for keen exercise of the tactical mind).  You know, something physical with tactile sensation.  A few months ago I reviewed Gears Tactics, but then again Gears of War for me isn't so much a game franchise as it is an epic tale (along with the BioShock games and Halo).  And that came when we ALL needed something to keep from going totally bonkers from COVID sequestration from society...

But about that same time came word of Star Wars: Squadrons.  Electronic Arts' foray into what seemed like the first truly dedicated Star Wars flight sim since perhaps X-Wing: Alliance all the way back in 1999.  Oh sure, there have been others involving an element of space warfare.  But the still much-beloved X-Wing series went beyond "aiming and shooting" by adding power management, ordnance selection and other elements that made it truly feel like you were responsibly flying a real ship.  And then there was how 1994's TIE Fighter somehow made you glad to be blasting those Rebel insurgents into space dust!

No Star Wars game like that has come about in the more than two decades since X-Wing: Alliance.  In fact, the entire flight sim genre has seemed pretty much dead or at best in deep coma.  Would one be welcomed with eager arms today?

Based on the wild reviews and raving word of mouth about Star Wars: Squadrons, the answer to that question is an emphatic "Yes!".  So yesterday evening I took the plunge and bought the game.

And now?  I have felt like a 20 year-old kid all over again, that very first night when X-Wing installed on my MS-DOS machine (running on a 486-SX CPU with 4 megabytes of RAM and a 70 megabyte hard drive... yes, I'm ancient).

Star Wars: Squadrons is the X-Wing games all over again, updated to the nth degree.  I've played through the prologue and just a few missions into the main game but that's been enough to bowl me over.  It looks so new, and yet it is so beautifully familiar.  The cockpit layouts look almost exactly the same as they did for the X-Wing games over a quarter century ago: if you ever played TIE Fighter, your first moments inside Squadrons' standard TIE will be a rapturous return to warm surroundings.  The ever-trusty X-wing starfighter looks almost precisely as it did circa 1993.  Even the cargo vessels - those boxy ships we all thrilled to scan for legal goods or Imperial war materiel back in the day - make a faithful return to form.

Maybe I'm missing it so far, but the ONLY aspects from the X-Wings series that I've found absent from Star Wars: Squadrons are the ability to direct more power to front or rear shields, and getting to cycle lasers between one blast or the (slower but more powerful) four blasts at once.  Or maybe they're in the game and I've missed them.  If it hasn't been implied enough already, I've felt like a wide-eyed kid in a candy store playing this game.  It's been reliving a phase of my life that was well before all of the griefs and heartbreaks came over the years since.

Who'd have thought that a video game could make someone feel so spirited again?

There is the single player story mode.  There is also a multiplayer cross-platform function, which I haven't tried yet but some friends are due to be getting Squadrons soon and we'll likely be playing it together.  Which, I'm looking forward to hooking up with them and shooting those Rebel scu... errr, Imperial swine out of the sky.  Until then, there's plenty of time to practice with the single-player campaign.

Game studio Motive deserves a heap o' praise for not just delivering a solid combat flight sim, but making what some are hailing as one of the best Star Wars games in a very long time.  And from me especially, they get mega high marks for tapping into the vein of the X-Wing series and bringing that same spirit back to Earth for a new generation of gamers to discover and enjoy.

X-Wing: Squadrons is available now for XBox One, PlayStation 4, and Windows.  I know it's on Steam for PC users and it may be for sale on the online stores for the consoles.  It's perfectly playable via keyboard and mouse but for a more realistic feel I'll recommend a moderately priced flight stick.  I'm using an older Microsoft SideWinder Precision joystick and it works perfectly fine.



Wednesday, October 07, 2020

Want to run for office? Here's how!

At the moment the vice presidential debate between Vice President Mike Pence and Senator Kamala Harris is going on.  I'm sort-of listening to it, and for whatever reason tonight has me thinking back to the "debates" we had as school board candidates when sixteen of us were running for Rockingham County (North Carolina) Board of Education.  Though I did not win a seat, I have always been proud of my campaign and there hasn't  been a single moment's regret.  I had way too much fun throughout the entire process than to have been the least bit bitter about not winning.

So that sent me hurtling into the Wayback Machine(tm) of this particular blog.  Every step of the way during that run, I was chronicling it here.  And more than ever it strikes me that maybe this is a resource that others could benefit from.  I mean, there NEEDS to be good people willing to stand up and run for office in this land.  Could it be you?

Possibly, you don't know how to start.  Or it just seems too intimidating a task.

Listen, lemme tell you something: if an idiot like ME could run for office (and nearly winning), there is NOTHING that could or should keep YOU from running, too!

Here is the post that I made in February 2007.  It's a compilation of links to the various posts I made from the start of the campaign, on through when it was closed out a few months after the election.  There are also all the posts I made during that election day.  What DOES a candidate do when his name is on the ballots being cast?

It is my hope that others might find this, and take from it encouragement.  I was fortunate to have had friends (and some who became friends and indeed truly family) who "walked me through it".  Maybe that can continue on to others, through this.

Here is the complete list of posts made regarding my campaign for Board of Education in 2006.



Saturday, October 03, 2020

Review, kinda, of TENET

There is likely no disputing that Christopher Nolan is king of high-concept cinema.  With Tenet I am wondering if maybe he went for TOO high-concept.  It was ten years ago this summer that Nolan gave us Inception: a movie that I have watched many times since and continues to enthrall.

Tenet however, I might watch once or twice again.  Three times tops.  Just enough to try to figure out what the heck is going on.  Because there is some Grade-A gray matter warping at work in this movie.  The publicity for it has been clear that it's NOT a film about time travel.  Instead it's about "inversion".  Reversing the entropy of an object - or people - so that it appears that they are going backward when instead from the perspective of the object... say, a bullet... time is progressing forward linearly.  And I can understand that much.  But more exposition would have been appreciated.

It would have also helped matters if the sound wasn't overwhelming the spoken dialogue.  Straining to make out what the characters were saying became an exercise for the eardrum.  Was it deliberate?  I mean, it's a pretty discombobulated plot to follow along as it is.  Something about arms dealers and a fraudulent Goya drawing.  Distracting it with sound and fury just made things worse, intentionally or not.

But if Tenet has something going for it, it's absolutely the visual effects.  Nolan and his crew used a real Boeing 747 for this movie.  And the battle scene toward the end is incredible to behold if also bewildering to keep up with.  It's apparent that Tenet's production team went for practical effects whenever and wherever possible... and that's something I can definitely approve of.

I will give Tenet a score of 7 out of 10.  For comparison's sake I would give Inception a 9.5 out of 10.  Tenet is a strong effort from Christopher Nolan.  Unfortunately this time he came short of making the mark.  For further comparison's sake, a perfect 10 of a time-centric movie is the 2004 film Primer.  Produced for a miniscule seven grand, Primer proves that a solid high-concept movie can be made without a major studio backing it with a few hundred million dollars.


Thomas Sowell's take on Black Lives Matter

Twice in the past week, during the course of conversation with other individuals the situation with Black Lives Matter came up.  There was a lot that I tried - and failed - to convey, for various reasons.

But as it turns out, I really didn't have to try, because a mind far better than my own accomplished it with more weight and consideration than I could muster.


I have long been an admirer of Dr. Thomas Sowell.  His is an enormous intellect and our culture is more the better because he has chosen to share it with us for quite awhile now.  And it is this time which, I believe, his words are worth considering more than ever before.  A few days ago on his YouTube channel there was a video posted consisting of various clips of Dr. Sowell discussing the Black Lives Matter movement, along with its intellectual and philosophical underpinnings.  He consistently backs up his position with facts and citations, and over the course of eight minutes lays down his case.  That being: Black Lives Matter is destroying as opposed to leading to anything positive for the black American community.  And it is tearing apart our culture as a whole.

Here's the video.  It's well worth your time to watch.

 


 

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

I rarely watch episodic television, but...

...Transplant, a Canadian-produced medical drama that's found a domestic home on NBC, has reeled me in as hard as any show has.  Ignoring that many American folks will have a time translating from the metric system (the patient's temperatures aren't really THAT chilly) Transplant has a unique premise, intrepid plot, and a fine ensemble to carry it out.

Heading the cast is Hamza Haq as Dr. Bashir Hamed: a refugee from Syria's civil war who fled with his sister and is trying to resume life as a physician.  The trek brings him to the emergency room of a major hospital in Toronto (following an incident that surely impressed his boss, but that's spoiler territory).

And it's solid, solid television.  Last night's episode, the season's fourth, is the kind of thing that would be seen for in-class discussion in a course on ethics.  Hamed is honest, almost to a fault.  And he hasn't been willing to cut corners on getting transcripts from his university back in Syria: being an enemy of the state when you're at a state-run school kinda has its complications.  Meanwhile a fellow doctor is confronted with a matter of patient confidentiality involving a drunken driver who killed a woman.  And oh yeah, on top of it all Hamed is also Facetime-ing a how-to for a roadside amputation thousands of miles away.

It takes a lot... and I mean a lot... for a series to convince me that it's worth my valuable time to watch.  I used to be that way with The Walking Dead but I lost track of that show (blame real life matters throwing a monkey-wrench into the works).  Before that it was Lost, and I don't think there's been anything else new since then.  But I've become rather enamored with Transplant.  Looking forward to seeing how this series develops.

Transplant is on Tuesday nights on NBC.  Next new episode airs October 6th.

EDIT:  I should have mentioned Star Wars: The Mandalorian, but that was a given anyway.  And it took getting every season on Blu but I did finish up Game of Thrones.  Which if anyone asks, I thought it had a perfect ending.



Monday, September 14, 2020

And this is why I can't and won't support Black Lives Matter

Just one of the reasons why I have not and can not jump on the big bandwagon issue these past several months. There were a LOT of organizations of various sorts that came out with broad statements of support. I knew all along that it was foolish to make a statement about ANY political issue. Due legal process has not run its full course. Many have yielded to the moral outrage of the moment, without weighing whether it was wise.

 
And now this has happened and there is growing backlash against the movement, its leaders, and its "protestors". From the very beginning it has been borne of anger and that has given way to outright hatred and now the very many incidents of violence, and as we see here attempted murder of two innocent Los Angeles County Sheriff's deputies. Not just the attempt itself: "activists" and some leaders of the same movement tried to prevent the officers from receiving proper treatment at the hospital's emergency room.
 
I am going to make a bold, bold prediction, and I am absolutely serious. It is not something I say lightly, it is not said in anger or with any ill will toward anyone. And this is just the historian in me. Someone who has studied matters like this at great length, for most of his life.
 
Here it is: Black Lives Matter will sooner than later be seen as a movement that inflicted far greater harm than any good. This article at The Wall Street Journal, and many other articles about the situation with the two officers, illustrates why.
 
And the longer Black Lives Matter is given inconsiderate support the worse this is going to get.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

I am a bad Star Wars fan (for abandoning the sequel trilogy)

There is a rumor... rumor mind ya so take this with an industrial sized salt lick... that somewhere in the Disney Vault there rests a cut of Star War Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker that is drastically different and better than what was released theatrically last Christmas.  This cut was allegedly assembled by George Lucas: the Maker himself.  This edit supposedly adds new material, removes several elements we saw in The Rise of Skywalker's theater version and perhaps even has a new ending.  The result is a film that is at least forty percent altered from the original cinematic release.

It is supposed to fix the problems that The Rise of Skywalker has, as well as many of the problems that the entire sequel trilogy is rife with.

It is the hope of many fans that "the George Lucas Cut" - IF it exists at all - will be released eventually, and sooner than later.  One possible venue would be Disney+ (where The Mandalorian and the complete The Clone Wars series have made their home).  One must wonder how much the Disney execs will be watching the upcoming release of the Zack Snyder cut of Justice League on HBO Max.  Success for that cut would certainly compel Disney to cast an eye upon potential product for its own streaming service.

I bring up the Lucas Cut rumor because I am increasingly finding myself hoping and praying that it's true.  And that it will get released.  And that it is just as magnificent as it's being made out to be.

Because at this point that's what it's going to take to make me respect the Star Wars sequel trilogy.

Yes folks, there it is.  I am going to always and forever be a Star Wars fan.  But going forward... I'm going to try to forget that Episodes VII, VIII and IX ever happened.  Because there are substantial problems with what should have been a final fulfilling arc in the Skywalker saga.  Problems which can not be ignored any longer.  As far as I'm concerned the Skywalker tale on film ends with Vader's redemption, the Emperor's death and Luke's reunion with his friends amid the celebration on Endor.

Because it is now abundantly clear that Disney had no idea what it was doing when it produced the sequel trilogy.

It was Daisy Ridley's comments this past week that made the kill shot.  It seems that even after the cameras stopped rolling there was indecision about Rey's parentage.  At one point or another she was related to Obi-Wan Kenobi, or was Palpatine's granddaughter, or just what Kylo told her in The Last Jedi: "no one".  I wish she had been nobody special.  It would have made Rey a much more potent character.  Better than that: it would have reinforced the notion that the Force belongs to anyone and everyone.  That it was not the sole provenance of favored lineages like the Skywalkers or the Palpatines.  One of the major themes of A New Hope was that a hero can come from the most humble of beginnings.  Rey was set to follow that theme.  And then they made her a granddaughter to Palpatine...

Did these people seriously understand Star Wars at all?  Did they even care?

Blame can be assigned across the board.  I'm not going to bother divvying it up.  But mistakes were made.  Atrocious mistakes.  The components were there for a majestic trilogy, the one we had been long promised but had come to believe would never be made.  All of the pieces were within ready grasp.  They even had the cast of the original trilogy willing to sign aboard for the project.

The sequel trilogy had everything going for it, seemingly.  And they messed it up.

Personally, what was most unforgiving about what happened in the sequels was how Snoke was treated.  Here was a new character - a fantastic character - perfectly set up to be a truly horrific and fascinating villain.  Snoke brought about the reaction that Darth Vader evoked during his first onscreen appearance: even without knowing anything about him, we knew he was evil.  And we hated him for it.  And we wanted to see more of him.  Snoke had presence.

I can look past how Snoke was killed in The Last Jedi.  What I can not look past is how sloppily it was made out to be that Snoke was just a puppet for Palpatine.  It was complete laziness, and trepidation, and a failure to give Snoke the respect he deserved.  He deserved much better.

Star Wars deserved better.  It still does.

Could I somehow come to give the sequel trilogy enough lenience that it takes a rightful place with the six core saga films that came before?  Yeah.  Yeah, I could.  And I think that many if not most of the Star Wars fans put off by the sequels - and there are loads of them - could accept the sequels.  But not like this.  They treasure this mythology too much than to accept second or third best.  And Disney erred grievously when it took those fans for granted and saw their wallets more than their hearts.

If the rumors are anywhere accurate, there is a cut of The Rise of Skywalker that is a true chapter of the Star Wars saga.  A film that addresses the problems of its immediate predecessors and not only complements them, it makes them better.

I hope that rumor is a true one.  Because if Star Wars has taught us anything, it is that nothing is beyond redemption.


EDIT 09/14/2020:  Had a moment of realization this morning.  Obi-Wan Kenobi said that a ship the size of a TIE Fighter could not get so far out into space on its own.  Yet in the sequel trilogy we see TIEs swooping in and out of lightspeed all the time.  They even follow the Millennium Falcon, aka "the fastest hunk of junk in the galaxy".  What kind of consistency is THAT?!?!?

Wednesday, September 09, 2020

First trailer for DUNE is epic!


Denis Villeneuve's adaptation of Dune just dropped its first trailer.  And it looks insane!!  The film itself is due in December and here's hoping that the theaters (and everything else) will finally be wide open because this looks to be a movie screaming for the big screen experience.  Love the reveal of the sandworm!

Turn your peepers toward this, ladies and gents:


 

Will Villeneuve's Dune succeed where two previous adaptations have come up short?  I thought the Sci-Fi Channel's version was an admirable attempt (and it did give us the follow-up Children of Dune) and however glorious a mess it was, David Lynch's Dune has a hypnotic quality to its production design.  But those didn't quite nail it.  Or maybe Dune is one of those stories best left to the book and the reader's imagination.  We'll find out in a few months.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

To this blog's friends in Texas and Louisiana:

Thoughts and prayers going out to you as Hurricane Laura approaches.

Longtime readers know how much hurricanes and other tropical systems interest me.  This one already rivals Katrina.  I hope this blog won't be as busy with Laura as it was with Katrina fifteen years ago.

(Has it REALLY been that long?)

Hurricane Laura as of 06:44 pm EST on August 26 2020


Sunday, August 16, 2020

A scenario

 Something put together during the hour of the wolf: that time between 2 and 3 in the morning when you can't sleep and your mind is running through a myriad of thoughts all at once...

It goes like this:

America is thrown into turmoil as a result of a November election that sees no clearly declared winner and in fact is endemic throughout the country's state and local elections.

Factor in that the United States is still in the midst of COVID-19 and this does not look to alleviate anytime soon.

China takes advantage of the chaos in America and fully deploys its naval might in the South China Sea. Taiwan is invaded. American military along with Japanese and Australian forces engage.

North Korean hardliners in that country's army, frustrated with Kim Jong Un for various reasons, depose their leader and install Un's sister as the glorious new leader. North Korea invades the south with China's tacit blessing.

Meanwhile Beijing opens another front. This time in the west, against the Uyghur minority. This becomes a campaign of full-blown ethnic cleansing. And once the real horror of it becomes unavoidably apparent, interests to the immediate west of China become motivated to interfere.

This will be mostly lead by Turkey. And Erdogan, obsessed with restoring the old Ottoman glory (he's already converting Haggia Sophia back into a mosque) mobilizes against perceived Chinese intrusion but also begins his own campaign against religious and ethnic minorities. Armenians are once more targeted. Persecution of minorities spills over into northern Iraq. Once more the Yazidi are fugitives in their own land.

Russia is enraged by Turkey. God only knows what Putin would do. A "crusade" against the "infidel Turks" is altogether possible. There remains some bitterness among the faithful about what happened in 1453 when Mehmet and his boys took Constantinople. Expect sympathies from Greece and other Balkan states against Turkey.

Poland becomes the one really peaceful island in the midst of this. I say that for a number of reasons. I don't see Russia doing anything there. It's not like the Nazis are back and taking over eastern Europe.

Western Europe however becomes hit with numerous terrorist attacks conducted by radical Islamic groups. France is hit especially hard.

I can't figure out what else may be.  It was already 6 a.m. when I first posted this to Facebook and my brain was frazzled after a marathon session of Fallout 4.

But to be succinct about it: the dominoes have fallen and World War III is now underway.

Like I said: a scenario. One of very many.

Thursday, July 09, 2020

Unreliable Narrator, or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Sequel Trilogy

Many of you  by now are hearing the rumors: that Kathleen Kennedy is on the way out as matriarch of the Star Wars franchise.  That the operation will soon be run by either Jon Favreau or Dave Filoni.  That the entire sequel trilogy is going to be scrapped and "re-made".

Personally, I doubt that last one is going to happen.  Because I can't but think of all the little girls I've seen dressed as Rey for the premiere of the past few Star Wars movies.  Rey is a true heroine to them.  Heck, she is for me too.  But especially to young girls who look to Rey as a role model.  Not I or anyone else should take that away from them.  Besides, Star Wars was ripe for a female character on par with Luke Skywalker and young Obi-Wan Kenobi.  Rey fits the role perfectly.

But I won't deny that the sequel trilogy is the worst of the three.  I first had a bad feeling about this when it became clear that too much of The Last Jedi was going to be spent on the Resistance fleet fleeing from the First Order.  And then Snoke getting killed.  And then the reveal that the enemy of The Rise Of Skywalker would be a resurrected Emperor Palpatine...

I've had a theory for many years.  It's about Star Trek, the original series.  So many episodes of that show are timeless classics.  And then there were the utterly hokey ones like "Spock's Brain".  You know, the episode where aliens run off with Spock's gray matter so it can serve as the new computer running their indoor plumbing.

How hokey can you get?  But it begs the question: did the over-ridiculous premise of the episode disqualify it from being canon?  Because it just doesn't seem, you know... "Star Trek"-ish.

I've a solution to that.  How the bad Trek can co-exist with the good.  Those episodes are actually fake captain's log entries that James Kirk made when at times he was feeling extra bored.  And then decades if not centuries later the data dump of the U.S.S. Enterprise is being researched by historians who don't know any better.  And they find the stuff about the brain stealers and the space Nazis and whatever else and they assume that those things "really" happened.  When in fact it was just Kirk having his fun.

That's my theory and I'm sticking by it.

So what bearing does that have on a post about Star Wars?

I've re-watched The Rise Of Skywalker at least a dozen times now since it became available on iTunes and then Blu-ray and now on Disney+, and... how should I put this?  It's frustrating the heck out of me.  Part of me likes it.  Part of me is "meh" about it but the larger part of me can't stop thinking how much makes no sense.  Like travel times through hyperspace: it shouldn't be that instantaneous.  And how Palpatine is brought back so late into the entire saga.  A lot of small issues that accumulate.  Plenty enough of them lingering from the previous film The Last Jedi.

And now... I sadly lament that the Star Wars sequel trilogy - episodes 7, 8, and 9 - are the weakest of the entire series.  When they should have rivaled the original trilogy in greatness.

But then something hit me.  And this is going back a ways...

George Lucas was saying as early as 1982 how the entire Star Wars saga was one story being told by the droids Artoo-Detoo and See-Threepio.  It was the tale of the Skywalker Family, being shared with the Whills: a mysterious sect that among other things recorded the history of the galaxy.  And their collection of such stories became "The Journal of the Whills": something that Lucas later described was a larger work of which Star Wars "was just a piece".

Let's assume that was and is and ever shall remain George Lucas' notion about how the story of the core Star Wars legend came about.  We can be assured that hundreds of years after the events of the Skywalker saga, Artoo and Threepio are passing it along to the Whills.  We can trust their word.  They were THERE during that time.  They saw it all happen.  Especially Artoo.  At least, they saw everything from The Phantom Menace through Return Of The Jedi.

But did Artoo and Threepio necessarily witness the later events with such clarity?

No.  They did not.  Apart from traveling aboard the Millennium Falcon during Rey's search for Luke Skwyalker, Artoo went nowhere.  He had been in near-total shutdown for years prior to Rey and Finn's arrival.  And Threepio?  He certainly wasn't off on any cosmic adventure.  Not without his little blue buddy.  Threepio was just hanging around the Resistance base, in Leia's company.

It can be safely assumed that the true chronicle of that part of the Skywalker legend ended with Return Of The Jedi or thereabouts.

So does that mean the sequel trilogy is all trash?  Nope.  Not at all.

Because there was another droid who was witnessing those events.  From the first moments of The Force Awakens, BB-8 was an active and integral part of the sequel trilogy.  And we can rest assured that he chronicled as best he could the larger events around him.

The thing is, BB-8 might well be what is termed an "unreliable narrator".  And if he is sharing his knowledge with Artoo and Threepio (who go on to share it with the Whills) it may not be entirely accurate.  BB-8 is a plucky little droid but he seems confused at times.  Maybe he has a circuit burn out in his memory, as a friend has suggested.  Maybe he's just in way over his cute lil' head.  However it is, BB-8's accounting of history might be severely handicapped when compared to that of Artoo and Threepio.  Those two have a counterpart-level base of understanding.  They are check-summing and error-correcting each other.  BB-8 has no such advantage.  And so it is that, sadly, BB-8's recording of many details is spotty at best.

But that doesn't necessarily mean that BB-8's part in the chronicle is ALL bad.  In a general sense his chronicle is accurate.  And if he tells Artoo that Rey goes to Tatooine to bury Luke and Leia's sabers and that she assumes the Skywalker surname, we can be confident that's what really happened.

It also allows for a lot of leeway of interpretation.  Snoke?  He could have been "made" by Palpatine.  He could also have been some Dark Side shlub who existed long before Palpatine was even born (and The Last Jedi novelization indicates that he was).  Hyperspace travel?  That's BB-8's interpretation of what he was told by Rey and others.  The casino?  Okay we can take BB-8 at his word that's what happened.  There are dozens of elements of the sequel trilogy that defy logic... unless we can accept that they're being conveyed by an unreliable narrator.

I put it to the test.  I re-watched The Last Jedi and The Rise Of Skywalker, per my new paradigm.  And lo and behold it works.  It really, honestly works!  The sequel trilogy is much more palatable now.  After fanwanking my synapses to the breaking point trying to "suss it all out" with the problems of the final three movies, suddenly there is a silver bullet for it all.

But in a funny way, I can still accept the quirks and at times misfires of the sequel trilogy as being part and parcel with being true Star Wars films, even without having BB-8's flaws being the cause of it all.  Because in the end, Star Wars is a legend.  And legends are rarely if ever clean cut affairs.  They don't need to be, either.

It's just that it's nice now to have a reason to accept the sequels as belonging with the other six movies after all.

Monday, July 06, 2020

In memory of Charlie Daniels...

Daniels and his band performing "The Devil Went Down To Georgia" in concert: