The Last Jedi Thoughts (No Spoilers)

Monday, December 18, 2017 21:30
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So this is a rather polarizing film, isn’t it? I’m guessing the filmmakers are pleased about that in a way (so long as the box office is strong… which it is). They’ve shaken up the Star Wars universe and have people talking about it again beyond the superficial.

But what do I think about the film? (Let’s pretend for a minute that it matters to you!) It’s okay; a perfectly acceptable blockbuster. But it’s my least favorite Star Wars film.

I don’t mind that Rian Johnson is trying to do something different; the problem is he’s turned historic Star Wars strengths into weaknesses. Several of the reasons Star Wars has always been successful (and why fans like myself have always been able to count on the films to avoid the negative trends in the film industry) is the following:

  1. The films traditionally have had strong central through lines that don’t lose their focus.
  2. The stories have a strong sense of continuity.
  3. Each film has gamechanging revelations and consequences for the main characters that make the two hours invested seem worthwhile.
  4. While the writers may spinkle in some comedy, the plots maintain their serious tone, especially while building towards their climax.
  5. The films are very tightly edited from beginning to end.

Johnson’s script struggles with all of these, with an unfocused, meandering story that does all it can to ignore its prequel while telling us little new about the characters.

And yet all the same, The Last Jedi does have its strengths. The acting (which has not always been good for the franchise) is wonderful, with Mark Hamill, Daisy Ridley, and Adam Driver delivering powerful performances that help carry the film. The idea that not everyone has to be a Skywalker to be important is a welcome treat. (And let’s not take John Williams for granted. The 85 year old composer delivers another stunning score.)

But there are many other films with great actors and great music. I go to Star Wars to see something more. I want to see another part of an established mythos that avoids the faults of the traditional summer blockbuster and gives me food for thought.

The Force Awakens did that. The Last Jedi didn’t. But your mileage may very, and I have no problem with a Star Wars movie made for other people. It’s possible that these sort of films have simply passed me by.

My new kitchen

Thursday, December 14, 2017 17:11
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I finally finished my extreme kitchen makeover. Top is before, bottom is after. I put in a hardwood floor, painted the cabinets white (and the island brown), added cabinet hardware, put in new appliances, and got rid of the awful red the previous owners seemed to love so much.

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New Edition of Trekker’s Guide to the Kirk Years

Thursday, November 30, 2017 19:25
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I updated The Trekker’s Guide to the Kirk Years, adding some photos and giving Star Trek Continues a chapter of its own. It now has reviews for all eleven episodes of Vic Mignogna’s Star Trek series. Get yours here for $14.99… or free if you have Kindle Unlimited! (And check out the Star Trek Continues finale episode below.)

Star Trek Continues

Sunday, October 22, 2017 16:06
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Vic Mignogna just posted his latest Star Trek episode, part 1 of his 2 part finale for his series. Tying into Star Trek’s second pilot (which introduces Kirk, Scotty, and Sulu), it’s the beginning of a fitting end. You can watch it for free below.

Star Trek Discovery

Saturday, September 30, 2017 16:08
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So Star Trek Discovery has been released to the world, with its first episode airing on CBS. (Subsequent episodes are available on CBS All Access, a $6 per month streaming service.) It was the first time one of the big three networks aired a Star Trek episode in about half a century. But is the episode any good?

Thankfully yes. The plot was easy enough to follow while still being engaging, and the characters were interesting in their own right. That said, I’m not sure why the series needs to be set before The Original Series; and I’m a bit baffled as to why they give us redesigned Klingons. I just wonder why the show doesn’t set itself in the 25th Century and present their redesigned Klingons as a new enemy. As a bonus, the show could do whatever it wanted, freed up from 23rd Century continuity, and its gee whiz effects would make more sense.

But what do I know?

 

The Tallest Man Ever

Saturday, August 26, 2017 11:23
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Keely and I visited Alton, Illinois, home of Robert Wadlow, the tallest man to ever live. Here’s me next to a lifesize statue of the guy. (He stood nine feet tall.)

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Solar Eclipse

Wednesday, August 23, 2017 5:51
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Keely and I drove down to Illinois to see our first total solar eclipse. Our favorite parts?

  1. The chase: getting ourselves into the zone and positioning ourselves in a place with good weather. (Meanwhile, we knew that traffic was going to be increasingly gridlocked, and we weren’t going to be able to move from our spot!) We checked the weather radar and got up early enough to get where we needed to be.
  2. The comraderie: it was fun meeting other eclipse chasers and knowing we were all part of something special we’d remember for the rest of our lives.
  3. The light. This is the thing no picture or video can properly show. As the sun is being covered, nothing changes for quite a while, other than a temperature drop. At about 75% coverage, there’s a slight dimming. But then the last ten minutes before, at 95%, things take a dramatic shift, with the light becoming very, very strange. It’s not like dawn or dusk or cloud cover. It feels more like you’re on an alien world. And it’s like a drumroll to the main event, creating the anticipation.
  4. Seeing the darkness rush in: if you look to the west, you can see the darkness coming at supersonic speed, covering the land.
  5. Looking back at the sun and seeing a black hole. (As pictured above)
  6. Seeing planets: I could see Venus and Saturn.
  7. Seeing the sun return and watching the Moon move off (with our eclipse glasses).
  8. Looking back at it all, and enjoying the success of being at the right place at the right time!

Star Trek The Next Generation Thirtieth Birthday Bash

Monday, August 7, 2017 2:10
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Keely and I celebrated the thirtieth birthday of TNG with some special people over the weekend.

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Hanging out with the cast of TNG; from left to right, LeVar Burton, Patrick Stewart, Michael Dorn, Gates McFadden, Keely, me, Marina Sirtis, John de Lancie, Denise Crosby, and Brent Spiner.

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Keely on the bridge

 

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With Marina Sirtis (Troi)

 

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A miniature from one of the TNG episodes (“The First Duty”)

 

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Getting chased by the Borg!

 

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With Mae Jemison, the first African-American woman in space and a TNG guest star in “Second Chances”.

 

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Juan Ortiz made original posters for every single TNG episode and had them on display. While his Star Trek projects are different than my book project in execution, I think our projects are similar in spirit.

 

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With René Auberjonois (Odo on DS9)

 

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We had some fun celebrating the original series too.

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Listening to William Shatner speak

 

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Meeting with Shatner after

 

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Keely on the original bridge

 

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Me escaping the Guardian of Forever

 

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Thanks for checking out my photos!

What Ships Are For

Sunday, July 30, 2017 15:30
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“What Ships Are For”: B

Kirk must convince an alien species to embrace their most hated adversaries on a world entirely devoid of color.

Air date: July 30, 2017

Teleplay by Kipleigh Brown

Story by Vic Mignogna, James Kerwin & Kipleigh Brown

Directed by Vic Mignogna

“They’re willing to die for the chance to live where they can be safe and free. Why not help them?” – Kirk

Mignogna takes the director’s reigns for the third time in this last “normal” episode of his series, an immigration allegory guest starring John de Lancie as a planet leader afraid of outsiders and unaware that they actually live amongst his people.

The most striking feature of the episode is “Dorothy in Kansas” idea of a planet where everyone sees in black and white (including the Enterprise crew), with the writers supplying a scientific explanation for it; and thanfully, the device itself does prove relevant to the plot. But Mignogna never loses sight of the characters themselves, with Battlestar Galactica’s Anne Lockhart giving a fine performance as the planet leader’s wife and anime voiceover artist Elizabeth Maxwell standing out as the first inhabitant of the planet to experience the gift of seeing in color.

It is, however, Kirk himself, played by Mignogna, who serves as the focal point of the episode, with the captain having to thread his way through a tricky maze of romance, racism, and xenopobia. As an actor, Mignogna continues to impress, somehow finding Kirk within him without having to impersonate Shatner in an obvious way. And by successfully contrasting big ideas with small humourous moments in a way that’s reminscient of TOS, he gives us yet another episode that can proudly take its place next to many of Star Trek’s original offerings.

Happy to have summer again!

Sunday, June 4, 2017 13:20
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Well, we didn’t have a bad winter here this year (which is something), but I’m happy my wife is finishing up the school year and we can get to our summer fun!

 

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