Saturday, April 25, 2015

“How did this happen to me?” or, “Is it jumping on the bandwagon if you are just coming back to your original seat?”

First of all, let me confess: I wrote this.  It was 2009, and as you see here I was having a real problem with something, and someone.  “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” turned me off so much, I didn’t do my yearly rewatch of the films for three years.  I didn’t buy toys, I didn’t buy comics.  (OK, that’s a fib, I did finally find my coveted-and-lost-years-ago die-cast Millennium Falcon and Han Solo blaster at a used store and I bought the hell out of those.)  I would always have affection for Star Wars, but after Ziro the Hutt and Skyguy and Snips, I was done.

So what changed?

Not this:

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I loved this teaser.  It was really neat and I think JJ Abrams is a marvelous person to make a Star Wars film—after all, that’s basically what his Star Trek films are—but that’s not what brought me back.  It was these people:

“Star Wars: Rebels” managed to find him.  When I say him, I mean the 5-year-old sitting in the Cine Capri theater in Phoenix, Arizona next to his Dad, watching an Imperial Star Destroyer chasing a Corellian Corvette and realized the real world was never going to be enough for him again.  As an adult who had gotten a bit tired of thousands of arrogant robed wankers with lazer swords, I made way for the kid who came back when Kanan Jarrus, 15 years after Order 66 ignites his lightsaber for the first time since he saw his master die.  I caught my breath as the stunned Imperial agent, Kallus tells his similarly surprised troops to, “focus your fire on…on the Jedi!”  Suddenly, the word had power again, and I longed to return to that Galaxy Far, Far Away as I had in my youth.  Sure, there’s a couple of missteps in the first season of Rebels, but it was Star Wars in heart and soul.  A ship I loved, a rag tag crew (SW does Firefly?  Yes please!), and even my first crush on a cartoon character since I was 12. 

Oh, Hera.  Sigh. 

I watched as trailers for Episode VII came out, and I was pleased.  I rewatched the films again using “Machete Order” (which I still recommend).  But then, I had one more obstacle I had to face.  One more experience I had to reconcile before I could come back into the fold: Her.

Yep, there she was, Hannah Mont…I mean Ahsoka Tano.  I was going to have to face her, as if I was wondering into a cave on Dagobah; I too was unable to put down my blaster, and I watched the next three episodes of season one of Clone Wars (right where I had left off) with disdain in my belly.  I hated her.  What was I to do?

Then, I got a little help from my friends.  Long time fellow Geek William Schwartz recommended I skip around a bit.  Get ahead of the show trying to find its footing, and tune into where it was going.  I consulted some lists, I consulted Tumblr (because where else do you go for things like this?) and I set up a regimen for catching about 5 episodes of season 1, about half of season 2, most of season 3, and all the rest of it.  I found something very interesting.

I found everything the prequels should have been.  I found epic fantasy storytelling, and character development, and big questions about identity versus programming.  I found a man driven by tragedy slowly letting darkness take him in an Anakin Skywalker who does not simply take a knee to Palpatine for the heck of it, but because he sees a way to save the Galaxy.  I saw an actual friendship between him and Obi Wan, long one of my very favorite characters in any incarnation of Star Wars, here realized as the Master Jedi whose example could have saved both the Jedi Order and the Republic…if the Jedi council had not been so blind to their own arrogance.  And, dammit, I found Ahsoka.  Not just a smartmouth teenager playing the Scrappy Doo of the Star Wars universe, but an innocent caught up in an adventure, who begins to be changed by the war around her, flirts with the Darkness her Master is giving himself into, and is eventually betrayed by the very order of Knights she once saw as he symbol of justice.

When you stick around long enough, Ahsoka Tano is…a character, and a damn good one.

So (spoiler warning for the end of S1 of Rebels!) when the crew of the Ghost finally comes face to face with the fact they are part of a fomenting  Rebel Alliance, and their secret contact, code name “Fulcrum,” is in fact Ahsoka Tano, I smiled.  I welcomed her.  What Rebels remembers immediately that the first season of Clone Wars had to discover is the same thing that makes this 42 year old man tear up when a 72 year old actor mutters, “Chewie, we’re home.”  It remembers that Star Wars is about the characters.  It’s not the effects (though they help) it’s about these people, often flawed but striving to make their universe better while galactic history plays around them. 

So here I am, eagerly awaiting more cartoons, counting down to a new movie, scouring the stores for action figures (by the way Hasbro, your distribution plan sucks).  Despite that bad break up in 2009, I am here, I am excited, I am painting a huge Millennium Falcon, and I nod in admiration at even Ahsoka Tano.

I, in fact, have a new hope.

Here, watch this again.  You know you want to:

(All images property of Disney, no infringement is intended.)

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

End of Year, 2014

Dear friends and family:

Well, initially I told Jennifer she was insane when she said, “Dan, it’s about time to write that holiday letter.”
“Balderdash!” I cried! “I just finished the last one about ten minutes ago!”  Then I looked at the clock, and lo and behold it said “end of November” (it’s a very good clock) and I realized it was in fact time for the 2014 Holiday Letter!
To be fair, it has in fact been a pretty intense year in many good ways.  It has been a year of change, and a year of birth, and a year of discovery.  Before this begins to sound like the opening narration to “Babylon 5” I should get into the specifics.
In April, after 21 years of service, I left my beloved United States Army behind.  About that same time I listened to my Career Counselor who said “we will help you find a job” and got a job as a Career Counselor.  It’s not what I plan to do the rest of my days, but it has been a nice transition job allowing me to stay close to what I know while exploring new things.  If anyone does however have some good opportunities in the state of Washington, please let me know.
The most important news of the year though comes not from retirement nor the State of Washington, but rather New Mexico and my First Born.  Indeed, my Son Zachary who was married last year has welcomed HIS first born, Jade Serenity Foster.  She is the most perfect creature in all of God’s creation, and I am both so glad and incredibly envious my Jennifer got to be there for Jade’s birth.  She brought me lots of pictures though and we have enjoyed Skyping with Zack, Toni, and Jade.  It may be all Dick Tracy style video conferencing, but I am most certainly looking forward to the chance to bounce that little girl on my knee while watching Star Trek in person.  Grandpa’s going to buy that girl her first set of pointy ears..
Speaking of Jennifer, despite my retirement from the Army, she has maintained her role as person who keeps the rest of us out of jail while becoming more Northwestern by the minute.  This year she took on Mushroom hunting—which can apparently be done without a license—and insofar Hannah and I have experienced neither bad trip nor death from the fungus fed us.  She has gotten lost in the woods at least once while tracking her wily prey, but so far she has always made it home so we can eat the mushrooms instead of them eating her.  She has also been busy keeping our beehives we started this year running, though a strong wind and lot of rain freed a couple of hives from our care.  Or drowned them, but I prefer to think the queen took her minions to dryer climates.  If you live south of us and see a swarm go by, tell them we miss them and they are always welcome home.
And as we discuss critters leaving the hive, this may be the last Christmas our dear daughter Hannah spends at home.  She is preparing to venture out at the beginning of the year to explore the wilds of the world.  What that yet entails we shall see, but she is ready to see the world, and Jennifer and I are ready to convert her room, so in the end it’s a win—win, right?  We will miss her though, and like the bees, should see decide to fly home, we would certainly find her a place.  In a box behind the back fence.  I kid!
Then of course there are the four legged children.  Eightball has become accustomed to the fact he is one of two dogs, but every now and then he mentions something to be about not needing Luna around.  Luna has in fact not only shed her timidity following her rescue, she is now a pretty seriously demanding, diva-like, greedy, pain in the butt.  As a 14 pound little Italian Greyhound should be.  Patches the Evil Cat® is still with us at age 17, sustained we are sure on spite and the distinct pleasure she gets from making me change her cat box.  I gripe about that cat, but I will miss her when she is gone…until of course she starts haunting me, mewling all night from beyond the grave.
So that is the state of the Fosters this year, having transitioned, but still in transition as well.  I suppose in the end that is really everyone, right?  We wish you all a Happy Holiday, Merry Christmas, and Wonderful New Year, until the next letter…
…about ten minutes from now.

Love to you all,

Daniel, Jennifer, Hannah, Eightball, Luna, and Patches the Evil Cat®

Saturday, December 13, 2014

The Seattle Star Trek Convention 2014

Sporting the NX-01 Cover-all; don't be jealous.

This weekend I went to my first pure Star Trek convention since 2005.  I’ve hit a few ComiCons of various size in that time, but not a good old Trek convention in a while.  So how was it?

At first I was a little worried: it seemed so small.  Despite it having a really stellar guest list, the vendor room could not have had more than a dozen vendors.  It was in Bellvue and not downtown Seattle, so a smaller venue.  There were really only three rooms at the center in use.

And yet, this was one of my best con experiences in years.

While walking through the admittedly small vendor room, someone called out, “now that’s an outfit I know!”  It was Anthony Montgomery. 

I was apparently eating an invisible apple.
We had a long chat about his new comic (Miles Away, as see above), and I got him to sign my “Star Trek: Star Charts” map of the NX-01’s first year.  He also made sure I was following him on Twitter @MrAMontgomery.  Ha!  I already was. Then he shows the book to the guy at the table next to him and it’s a surprise guest: Herbert Jefferson, the original Boomer from Battlestar Galactica.  Though non-Trek, he was a welcome surprise guest!

I expected a quick chat and then an autograph, but on and off throughout the day Jennifer and I spent about an hour talking to Herb about various programs he supports to help Veterans.  It came up that I do career counseling for people getting out of the Military, and had myself just retired, and we were off.  Let me quickly pitch a group he is working with,  Great initiatives to support Vets and their families and lots of Congressional lobbying, please take a moment and check them out.  He also showed me pictures of him with  Congressional Medal of Honor recipient George Sakato (and shared some of Mr. Sakato’s great stories!) and with the original Red Tails, some of the Tuskegee Airmen.  All through the day we saw Herb, and he was a delight each time.

Popping into the presentations, we caught Jeri Ryan.  As you all may know, Voyager is not my favorite of the Treks, but Ms. Ryan proved to be very entertaining and engaging and someone who was obviously there for the fans.  It was a real pleasure to listen to her, and frankly, television does not do her justice. 

Then came John Billingsley, Star Trek: Enterprise’s Doctor Phlox.  The man was a mile a minute laugh riot whose answers to fans’ questions were nearly stream of consciousness and utterly hilarious.  He had apparently hosted karaoke the night before and I was sorry I had missed it.

This is him and my wife's thumb.

Of course there were the fans.  More than a few cosplayers, but all and all a different crowd that a comic or pop-culture convention.  It reminded me that despite Trek’s great success over the years, the Trekkie can still be a bit of a minority in the now very broad world of fandom.  These fans seemed more matter of fact than the crowds I see at the big shows.  There was not the “I’m here to show you how much I love this thing” feel, but rather a “isn’t it cool we’re all here to love it together.”  I saw cosplayers from every Trek from TOS to AOS (though I think I may have been the only ST:E outfit), and it was a relaxed and intimate atmosphere.  Just a great experience. 

The geek world has become so accepted in recent years, but maybe it lost something in becoming so mainstream.  There may be a sense of camaraderie we’ve lost along the way.

This con though, it was there.  It was family, it was close, it was sharing.

It was why I go to cons in the first place.  I hope I can find more shows like this one.
The amazingly fortunate author with his incredibly tolerant wife.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

What does this even mean?

I’m starting this one with only a vague idea of where it’s going, so if it goes off the rails you have been warned.  I realized the other day that this blog had pretty much become a movie/TV review blog, and though those were things I had always talked about, they were not supposed to become the primary content.  So I wanted to kind of examine how that happened, and it brought a couple of things to mind.

I want to enjoy my internet experience.  There was a time I enjoyed an argument more than the spokesman for “Lucky Charms” after five Jamesons shots and three pints of Guinness.  I’ve really gotten over that.  I do still seriously love a discussion, contrasting two points of view and comparing their relative merits, but that’s become something of a lost art.  There’s no back and forth in real time on the internet, and nine times out of ten any discussion ends in name-calling, unfriending, or some pitiful excuse for “evidence” that I or my opponent are simply too tired to try and disprove.  Besides, it’s the internet; whatever your opinion you will find some source to back you up or to cite.  And that will be a “good” source because it says what I wanted it to.  That’s called “confirmation bias” and I assure you I am every bit as guilty as anyone at whom I could poke fingers. 

So, tired of fighting, my internet presence has devolved into little more than pop culture talking.  Even that becomes tough as a) there’s a googleplex of folks like me wanting to share their little movie reviews or carefully sculpted snark and b) there will be as much venom from some Trekkies about JJ movies as there will from an anti-vax Hippie mom or a Climate Change Denier.  It’s all about the righteous indignation now, and again I fall victim, not only as someone who just does a Google search for some Nacelle Porn (that’s a Trek fan who want to see Starships by the way, not pornography) and ends up on rants about magic blood (hey sport, try actually listening to the dialog about serums and such, mmkay?) but as someone who begins to give into my own Righteous Indignation (is he going to save anyone?  He’s fucking Superman, right?) on  variety of subjects (hey Facebook, where’s my timeline control?), and I then sound like the web equivalent of Clint Eastwood in “Gran Torino” growling about getting off my lawn. Such ire stirs not only my use of parenthesis, but also triggers immense run-on sentences, the likes of which would make Tolstoy proud.

I even find myself getting so angry about others’ Righteous Indignation, that I have to question MY Righteous Indignation as being just as misguided as theirs.  Is my disdain for act III of “Man of Steel” any different than another’s disdain for “Star Trek Into Darkness”?  Will I be judged for wanting a “Dredd” sequel far more than any “Pacific Rim” sequel?  How much am I pissing off right and left believing in both the efficacy of vaccines AND the reality of Climate Change?  Why do I care if you care if I believe in God AND evolution? 

In short, I have begun to measure every post I make anywhere on the net—here, FB, Tumblr, Twitter, heck even Goodreads—against how willing I am to pick a fight over saying what I think.  What I think, no matter how benign I feel it is, is going to offend someone.  Perhaps this wasn’t the norm when an audience consisted of the at-most-ten people who might be in a room with you, but now dozens or hundreds may see something, and want to respond to MY Righteous Indignation with their own.  That has come to really put me off on sharing opinions on anything important.

The thing is, I really do enjoy a lot of the content people share on various social media.  Shows, music, interesting well written opinions on social issues, history, or world events; I even occasionally see really nicely done arguments on political opinions I don’t agree with.  They make me think instead of react, and I enjoy that a lot.  It is usually closely followed by hyperbole, ad hominem attacks, and indignation and I don’t enjoy that at all.  Want a good reason for aliens to nuke our planet from orbit?  Watch the discussion comments at the bottom of ANY news article. 

It just seems to me there is a lot in the world to be angry about and want to change without looking for those things everywhere you go.

So, end result for me is a diminished web presence.  I don’t offer my screams to the cacophony on things that matter, but will rant about things that in the end are pretty inconsequential (looking at YOU, last episode of “How I Met Your Mother”!).  Yet sometimes I do want to say something, to counter an opinion, or to provide my perspective.  The internet though has sucked out my will to defend that opinion beyond what I say the first time online.  Yes, that’s hypocritical, yes I am the pot calling the kettle black when I say I want to speak and not hear back.  And therefore, I don’t speak. 

I need to find better ways to direct that energy.

UPDATE:  Ain't THIS some shit.