Friday, October 30, 2015

5 Things on a Friday: Nerdist Conspiracy Theories

Buckle your chinstraps, folks.  It's Friday.

Let's get it on!

1. China says U.S. naval destroyer sailing close to Chinese-built island damages peace and stability (Washington Post)
China denounced what it called an illegal, dangerous and provocative act by the United States Tuesday, after a U.S. warship sailed within 12 nautical miles of an artificial island built by China in the South China Sea…
The U.S action is intended to uphold the principle of freedom of navigation in the international waters of the South China Sea, U.S. officials said, and underscores that Washington does not accept China’s claim to territorial waters around artificially built islands.
A U.S. Navy Destroyer, courtesy Wikipedia.
For those who have forgotten, the U.S. entered World War I on the basis of Freedom of the Seas.  For that alone, the U.S. is extremely unlikely to let this go, Chinese threats notwithstanding.

2. Budget Deal Isn’t Boehner’s ‘Grand Bargain’ but Gets Job Done (NY Times)
On the political side, it is a parting gift from Mr. Boehner to his presumed successor, Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, who is expected to be chosen as the next speaker on Wednesday by his Republican colleagues and on Thursday by the full House…
It would give a little breathing room for more spending on politically popular domestic programs like health care research, federal law enforcement and the Coast Guard, while defusing tension between Republican hawks itching for more military spending and budget hawks demanding strict adherence to statutory spending limits. And it would avert premium increases of as much as 50 percent for millions of older people on Medicare, a potent political force…
It is also a fitting coda for Mr. Boehner. He never did get his “grand bargain” of up to $4 trillion in sweeping tax and spending changes that he sought with Mr. Obama four years ago to right the country’s listing long-term fiscal ship. Those negotiations collapsed in acrimony — an outcome that colored the relationship between Mr. Boehner and the White House for the rest of his tenure and reduced the chance of legislative bargains between them.
Gotta love the GOP.  They’re going to pillory Boehner in the same hour he saves the party and makes a potential Republican presidential candidate actually electable on the national stage.
Marco Rubio, meet your new best friend.
It’ll be interesting to see how Ryan does as Speaker.  Anyone with any sense at all can see that he is an accomplished budget hawk with actual credentials on his resume, but the nihilist wing of the party doesn’t care.  Those guys must want government collapse at any cost.  If even Paul Ryan can’t lead the House GOP, the party is dead and ought to split for real.  Somebody somewhere needs to accomplish something.  There’s too much going on in the world for a group of forty representatives to constantly hold the government hostage.

3. Is the term ‘Supergirl’ offensive? The story behind that ‘girl vs. woman’ speech in the pilot. (Washington Post)
“It’s just – I don’t want to minimize the importance of this. A female superhero! Shouldn’t she be called Superwoman? … If we call her Supergirl, something less than what she is, doesn’t that make us guilty of being anti-feminist? Didn’t you say she’s a hero?”
The problem isn’t feminism or lack thereof.  The problem is intellectual property.  Supergirl is Kara Zor-El, beloved cousin of Kal, aka Clark Kent, aka Superman.  Superwoman is the evil doppelganger of Wonder Woman from Earth-3 where the Justice League is called the Crime Syndicate of America.
Diana Prince is Superwoman, the most
powerful woman on Earth.
The powers that be can’t just change the names.  That would throw the whole trademark into question.
While we’re talking about it, let me just mention that I didn’t love the pilot.  Supergirl seems like a fine show, but its first hour squeezed nearly all of the story beats from the movie Man of Steel into an hour of television minus commercials.  Scorpion followed and ran for an hour and a half.  I would have preferred seeing that extra half hour spent developing a little more chemistry between Kara’s sister and the scary government dudes for whom she works.  As it is, the whole sisterly face-turn happens a little fast.  We went from shooting Kara with kryptonite hypodermics to enlisting her as an unofficial government asset in less than twenty minutes.  That’s insane, even for network TV.
On the plus side, they did a nice job of balancing Kara’s rather considerable superpowers with a sense of vulnerability, which can be a problem in Super-type shows.  Superman often seems invulnerable, to the detriment of his overall storytelling.  I didn’t think that about Supergirl.
Final note: if we’re gonna have the Flash, Green Arrow, Superman, and Supergirl all in the same inter-related TV universe, can we please also have Krypto, the superdog?  I totally wanted to see Krypto in Monday’s premier.

4. More Sherlock Holmes
I am amazed that this is coming out.

Some think as I do; others remain convinced that Luke ended the original trilogy as a good guy.
I say he, in fact, had turned to the dark side and we watched it happen in blissful ignorance, choosing to believe that he would always be the good guy. Lucas wanted it this way so he could sell more toys. But there's way more to this story.
Seeing these previews I think my theory might be correct: Luke gave in to the dark side to save his friends and defeat Vader and the emperor.
Many assume that this figure is Luke Skywalker...
I loved this article.  The whole Internet has blown up with this idea that Luke Skywalker is a Sith Lord in The Force Awakens, but this is by far the best argument I’ve seen to back it up.
The problem, of course, is that this interpretation, though logical in a storytelling sense, is clearly not what Lucas intended as the movie’s takeaway.  As the author notes, the foreshadowing of Luke’s heel-turn is in nearly every scene of Empire and especially in Return of the Jedi.  Yes, Luke looks like a Sith lord in that final movie.  He’s back in black with a hood and a mechanical hand just like his father before him.  We don’t see him use Force lightning, but he does choke out the Gammorian guards Vader-style on his way to see Jaba, and if he’s kind of an idiot about his powers a little later, he still leaves Jaba’s corpse in a smoking hole on his way out-system just a few minutes after that.  Plus, he’s arrogant, and let’s face it, he’s not exactly sad about the unnecessary loss of life or anything.
Like Anakin before him, Luke is not the kind of guy who’s going to let go of attachments or anything.  Instead, he’s got what we might think of as a Vaderesque view of love and friendship.  If you mess with his friends, Luke’s more than ready into put you in the ground.  
Yoda clearly sees the danger.  “Once you start down the dark path,” he says, “forever will it dominate your destiny…”
Regardless of whatever else is in Return of the Jedi, there is no doubt whatsoever that Luke rejects the Dark Side in his final confrontation with the Emperor, declaring himself a Jedi after facing his fears and overcoming them.  This is the clear takeaway, and no clever tricks of analysis can change it.  In the end, it’s his triumph over anger and fear that makes him a Jedi rather than a mere apprentice.
Like it or not, something has to happen in the intervening years to make him a Sith.  As of now, that something is a closely held secret.  We may see a bit of it, though, when Greg Rucka’s Shattered Empire drops next month[1].
I wouldn't bet on those faces staying happy.
What’s interesting to me, though, is the prophecy that Darth Vader will bring “balance” to the Force—and what it might mean going forward.  Balancing definitely occurs.  There are a shitload of Jedi at the start of Vader’s story, but when he’s done, there are only two—Yoda and Obi Wan Kenobi.  They perfectly balance the two Sith, the Emperor and Lord Vader himself.  Then along comes Luke, a Jedi, and suddenly the Force is unbalanced again, except that he’s not alone.  He has a sister named Leia, and she’s a Jedi, too.  Or a Light Side user of the Force, at any rate.  Then Vader does what he does, balancing the Force by doing away with the Emperor and with himself, leaving us with… two Jedi? 
I don’t think so.
What’s far more likely is that we have a single Sith and a single Jedi, Luke and Leia, existing in balance, each looking for an apprentice to carry on the work of the family.  Or perhaps Leia doesn’t count, and Luke is both Sith and Jedi in a single person, the one true personification of the Force before it “awakens” into a new form.  Regardless, some kind of Dark Side confrontation within Luke seems likely, though I doubt Luke will ever see himself as an actual Sith.  He will instead be trying to do the best that he can with a bad situation, the same as always.  That sort of thing has driven the story since the beginning, though rarely in positive directions.  If we assume that the galaxy is a raging mess after the Battle for Endor, and that Luke has become at least somewhat remorseful about the loss of his father, the only man who could have brought order from the chaos that followed the Emperor’s fall, we will at least have the basis for a serious family disagreement going forward.  After all, it’s not like Leia is ever going to forgive the destruction of Alderan.  Regardless of who is whose kid, then, this sort of thing might easily set up what we’ve seen so far in the trailers.
The real question to me is this: how does Vader himself play into the story?  Star Wars is a trilogy of trilogies about a man and his family.  But that man is Anakin Skywalker, not Luke.  Anakin must have a role personally, or the entire 3-Act story structure gets called into question.  Considering that we’ve seen Vader’s helmet in the new movie’s trailer, but we’ve not seen so much as a single frame of Luke, I think Vader’s force ghost is going to make an appearance, if he’s not bodily reincarnated.  People have been saying that it’s Luke reaching for R2-D2 in that single shot from the trailer, but I want you to prepare yourself for the idea that it might be Vader reincarnated via cloned DNA.  That sort of thing has some precedent in Star Wars, after all.
It’ll be interesting to see how it goes, at any rate.

That's all I've got, folks.  Sprint Football's Army-Navy game is tomorrow at two, and if you need something else to read, try "The Call of the Freak" from my old friend and business partner Jerry.  Nice guy, great writer, and like many, many of my friends, he's going through some shit with what had up until recently looked like a pretty stable marriage.  

Sadly, I think I've finally reached that age where all those shaky marriages are finally coming unraveled.  I'd had hope that maybe my personal friendset would beat the 50% success rate on marriage, but as we hit our forties, it doesn't seem to be going that way.

[1] To put this in perspective, Rucka also authored of Captain America: The Winter Soldier and The Death of Captain America along with many other very well respected works.

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