Thursday, December 26, 2019

I Don't Care What Anyone Says, I Loved The Rise Of Skywalker

So maybe I'm a sucker for nostalgia. So what? If I want to be intellectually challenged by a film, there are lots of other options.
To me, the whole Star Wars franchise has always been about simple, high-level, feel-good emotions. About hope. About friendship. About good triumphing over evil. And this movie, in my opinion, delivered all of that in spades.

It also helped that it was jam-packed with almost every uber-fan-satisfying moment you can squeeze into 2-1/2 hours while still retaining something resembling a plot (which was on the basic side, but it had to be, in order to hang all the nerd-pleasing bells and whistles on it). Here are just a few of my favorites (MAJOR SPOILER ALERT):

- The fact that Palpatine is still alive. Because, I mean, of course he is! The most powerful Sith Lord in the history of the galaxy wouldn't be done in just by being thrown down a shaft, now, would he?

- The fact that Palpatine created Snoke and even has a tank full of more Snokes in his secret lair.

- Leia being an awesome Jedi herself and training Rey. When Rey called Leia "Master," I was like, niiiiice

- Page-turners, they may not be, but the Jedi texts came in handy!

- The Knights of Ren actually do stuff in this movie

- Rey's Force lightning

- This wasn't a fanboy moment, but it was funny: C-3PO saying "wait, I have another idea" right before they wiped his memory

- Rey being the grandchild of Palpatine. I have to admit, despite previous fan theories to that effect that emerged after The Force Awakens came out back in 2015, I did not see that one coming (maybe because it sounded so preposterous at the time). Good job, J.J. Abrams. It explains why Rey has seemed so over-powerful despite limited training, and sends a good message that you don't have to be beholden to your bloodline.

- Villanelle from Killing Eve is Rey's mother! Well, not exactly, but you know what I mean.

- I like that Hux was the spy. Reminded me of Agent Kallus from the Rebels cartoon.

- The sunken X-Wing on Ahch-To came in handy!

- "What about the Holdo Maneuver?" "That was one in a million."


- Chewbacca gets his medal

- Rey's yellow lightsaber

Look, I know some folks won't be pleased with what could be perceived as retconning the whole "Rey came from nowhere" idea, but, I mean, powerful Force-users who aren't descendants of a particular lineage are present everywhere throughout this franchise. There have been TV shows and books and all sorts of other media featuring characters like that, and I'm sure there will be much more. But this was the "Skywalker Saga," and as such, I think it was appropriate that it was kind of kept in the family, so to speak.

I think maybe the best way to put it is that I found this movie to be the cinematic equivalent of comfort food. It may have been simple, familiar, and even cheesy at points, but it was enjoyable and satisfying, and believe me, I'll be going back for seconds.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

2020: Stuff I'm Looking Forward To

You know what's nutty? That the last time I wrote a post like this, it was three years ago. Know what else? The fact that most of the movies I mentioned in that post have already been on regular cable TV.

Anyway, here are some pieces of pop culture that I'm looking forward to in 2020:

- The new season of Doctor Who (yay, classic villains!)
- The new season of The Magicians (funny how the top two on this list are the same as on the list from 2016)
- The new season of The Boys
- The series finale of The Good Place
- The new season of Saiki K.

- Black Widow
- Wonder Woman 1984
- Ghostbusters: Afterlife (hey, it looks good!)
- No Time To Die
- Matrix 4 and John Wick 4 (which are being released on the same day)
- Bill & Ted Face the Music

- Joel Suzuki, Volume Five*

* Assuming I have time to finish it in between watching all the previously mentioned stuff

Thursday, December 12, 2019

A Stereopony Reunion??


A young woman is here, looking at the screen of a laptop computer. This is FELICITY.

F: Whoa! Dude!

A young man enters the room. This is JOEL.

J: What?
F: Check this out!
J: Check what out?
F: This tweet I'm looking at. On the computer.

Joel looks at the computer's screen.
J: Who are those women?
F: Dude, don't you remember? They're former members of Stereopony. You know, that band from Japan I told you about last year.
J: Oh, yeah.
F: How could you have forgotten? We even time-traveled to see their 2012 farewell concert.
J: We did?
F: Ugh, have you been messing with the timelines again?
J: Um...yeah. Sorry.
F: Whatever. Anyway, when you translate this tweet, it says "Flowers bloom in a nostalgic story. I wonder if someday I can meet with three people. Hashtag #Stereopony."
J: You can read Japanese?
F: No, duh. Twitter has a translation feature.
J: Oh. Right.
F: Okay, so, this tweet is from Nohana, the bass player. There's another one from Aimi, the singer/guitarist, that also shows the two of them hanging out. It says "Please support Aimi and Nohana who have grown up a little. Hashtag #Stereopony."
J: Um, okay.
F: Don't you see what this means?
J: No.
F: There might be a Stereopony reunion!
J: What gives you that idea?
F: Read between the lines, dude. When Nohana says "meet with three people," she's probably talking about including Shiho, the drummer. And when Aimi says "grown up a little," she might be referring to the fact that they're a little more mature now and can put their past differences aside.
J: Or it could mean exactly what they're saying - that they're both a little older and that maybe the three of them could hang out someday.
F: Maybe, but where's the fun in that? Like your cousin April always says, "it's all about having hope."
J: I think I've only heard her say that once.
F: You know what I mean.

An older man walks into the room. This is BRIAN.

B: Yo. What're you guys up to?
F: Dude, check out these tweets.

Brian looks at the computer screen.

B: Hey, it's Aimi and Nohana from Stereopony! Nice to see them getting along.
F: Yeah, and they're dropping ever-so-subtle hints that there might be a Stereopony reunion.
B: Wow. That would be awesome.
F: Right?
B: I've love to see them live.
F: Oh, trust me, they totally rock live.
B: I'm sure they - wait, how do you know?
F: Um...because I've watched videos of their live shows. Haven't you?
B: Sure, but the way you made it sound just now, it was like...
F: I mean, it's not like Joel and I traveled back in time to see them, or anything. Right, Joel?
J: Uh, right.
B (eyeing Joel and Felicity suspiciously): Hmm...
F: Anyway, gotta run out for a bit. We're out of diet soda again. Be right back.
J: I'll go with her.
B: Ohh-kay...


Thursday, December 5, 2019

My Japanese-Language Learning Experience, Part Three

Back in September I wrote what I said would be the last of a miniseries of posts about my Japanese-language learning experiences. Turns out, sore wa uso deshita (that was a lie).
For whatever reason, my fascination with the Japanese language and culture has continued unabated. A few weeks ago I took my kids and some of their friends to Kumoricon, an annual anime convention - it's like Comic-Con, only 99.5% anime-centric - held in the Portland/Vancouver area (or maybe I should say they took me; it was hard to tell who was having more fun). While there, I ran across a merchant table for a Japanese-language class at the local community college and proceeded to try out a little of my speaking skills on the instructor who was manning the table. Well, not really, actually; I asked all of my questions ("are these classes only for undergrads?" - yes; "do you have community ed classes at night for non-students?" - check our website) in English, but I did manage to end the conversation with what I hope was a fairly passable arigatou gozaimasu, yoroshiku onegashimasu (basically a long, polite way of saying thank you).

In the previous post I mentioned that I've been teaching myself the language with the help of some books, apps, and videos, and a lot of you have asked me which ones. Actually, sore wa uso deshita; no one has asked me that. But I'm going to tell you anyway! For books, I've been using Speak Japanese in 90 Days by Kevin Marx and Japanese for Dummies by Hiroko Chiba and Eriko Sato. For apps: Drops, Kanji Quizzer, imiwa?, and Japanese Word Dungeon. For videos: mostly That Japanese Man Yuta and Japanese Ammo. And right now I'm seriously considering signing up for a community ed class at the local community college called "Conversational Japanese II" which begins in January (yes, I checked their website).

To be honest, I'm not really sure why I'm so into this whole Nihongo thing right now. I know I previously said it was because of the anime and the J-Rock bands, but I'm starting to think that maybe there's more to it than that. Could it be that my fatewave* is leading me toward some Japan-related destiny? Only time will tell. Anyway, stay tuned, as I'm pretty sure this will end up becoming a ongoing series of posts. Mata ne (laters)!

* Don't know what a "fatewave" is? Check out Joel Suzuki, Volume Four: Fable of the Fatewave, written entirely in English.