Personal

“You are my heaven tonight”

She meets me halfway as she hurries off to her break. I’m coming downstairs from a meeting during which I could hardly keep my eyes open. She’s pulling something from her Bag of Holding and hands it to me, “Happy belated birthday present. It’s to feed your addiction.” A Barnes & Noble gift card. I hadn’t expected a gift from her, especially one so late. But then, I’m hardly expecting any gifts for my birthday, belated or not. Her birthday, coincidentally enough, is the day after mine.

Last year, I purchased her a porg stuffie and Shaun made her a card he later opted to give to her. It was just as well, I didn’t know where we were headed, and still lack that particular road map. Better play it safe, right? This year, I gave her Queen’s Shadow. If you’re seeing a theme of my gift giving, you’re not wrong. She knows more about Star Wars (most things nerd, actually) than anyone I’ve known prior.

Friday marked Shaun’s 7th birthday, if you can believe it. My little one is becoming less and less a little one by the day. He’s grown a personality and he’s cultivating his own existence through strange childhood philosophies. More on that later. Maybe. We had his birthday party Saturday.

My grief clouded most of Friday and I figured it was best I didn’t go to work that day (I requested vacation months ago). It would be the first birthday without them and the absence on my birthday still weighed heavily. But I treated Shaun to froyo and bought him a copy of The Gruffalo for his birthday.

I asked her if she’d be interested in attending Shaun’s birthday party. Still not sure of anything. What’s with the uncertainty? She said yes. On Thursday, as we closed for the day, I asked if she was going to attend after all. Because, you know, uncertainty. Also because when I asked the first time, we didn’t know she’d be working most of Friday.

She arrived and I greeted her at the door. Shaun’s reaction was his usual over-the-top display of surprise and glee. Not sure where he gets that sort of melodrama from. There were moments of nervousness during the party. She’s met my family before. She’s spent time with me and Shaun. What she hasn’t done before was be exposed to the other side of me. I don’t know how to explain it, but I’m sure you understand it.

She stayed for all of the party and started wrapping up with us. She decided it was time to head home so I walked her to her car where we hugged and I asked her to text me when she got back to her apartment because, you know, uncertainty. As I turned to leave, she said, “We probably can’t start watching Sabrina next Saturday because I don’t know how crazy the day will be because I’m going to TLA. But we maybe the weekend after?” And shit, if I was’t more certain at that exact moment.

Books

Star Wars: Aftermath by Chuck Wendig

I tried reading Chuck Wendig’s Aftermath after it was added to the library’s collection some years ago. It didn’t work out too well. It was an awkward time in my life. The few books I read before Disney rebooted the Expanded Universe (now known as the Legends series) were still fresh in my mind. I wanted a universe where Sith zombies existed. Chuck Wendig’s book just didn’t cut it. Aftermath

Now that I have a few Disney-verse Star Wars novels under my belt, I felt ready to give Wendig’s novel another chance. And while it’s not my favorite of my collection, it’s definitely worth the read.

The second Death Star facility has been destroyed. Rumors of Emperor Palpatine’s and his enforcer’s, Darth Vader, death have spread across the galaxy, reaching as far as the outer rim planets. In an effort to recover from their crumbling empire, several Imperials are conducting a meeting on the planet of Akiva. When New Republic hero Wedge Antilles uncovers their meeting, he sends a message to the New Republic before getting captured. But it’s too late, on the planet’s surface, Norra Wexley has intercepted the message and bands together with her son, a Zabrak bounty hunter, and an Imperial defector to save Wedge Antilles and take down these last remnants of the Empire.

That summary doesn’t do any justice to the storytelling prowess Chuck Wendig possesses. The story has its gripping moments that left me on the edge of my seat, but it also contain a few pitfalls that made me wish Wendig had focused on one of the other stories presented in his “interlude” chapters—namely the Han Solo & Chewbacca story. But it held my attention even as the interludes broke it—I’m guessing that was planned by the author as a pacing mechanism? Perhaps the repetition of imagery leads to bigger things in the second and third books of the Aftermath trilogy.

I loved how Wendig uses a diverse cast of characters, helping break the homo-normative and all-white cast that the sci-fi genre tends to keep. Not to mention, I loved Mister Bones, the revamped, reprogrammed B1 Battle Droid that acts as Temmin’s  bodyguard and best friend.

This tale is definitely something to consider before re-watching The Force Awakens for the umpteenth time. You won’t be disappointed.

I’m currently racing through a monster of a book before AMC releases the series. Hopefully I’ll get through it after all the hiccups I’ve had with the pacing. After that’s over with, I’ll get back to updating the few readers here about what I’m doing with my life.

In the meantime, know that I’m brainstorming two writing project—I’ve mentioned one already. And until next time, keep on huntin’.

Stream of Consciousness

Unfinished

It’s as if he can no longer tell when he’s depressed. The moods just begin to bleed into each other, you know? One moment, he’s elated. The next, a mess. The scrolls through the messages on the screen. Thumbs up the joke. Likes the meme. He writes in a journal. Thoughts and words that hold on to his attention. Thoughts like prayers whispered underneath his breath as he turns the page for the day. There were moments when he did pray. He didn’t know he prayed to, but he hoped to hell there was someone listening when he knew there wasn’t. He practiced this smile since the sixth grade. Practice the subtle shrug when asked, “Is there something wrong?” or the more common, “You ok?”

It’s not a date unless both parties agree. And she’s silent on the matter. We’re sitting at IHOP. She’s having the strawberry and banana pancakes. I have the strawberry cheesecake stuffed pancakes. She eats her eggs with ketchup; I did the same growing up. We speak Star Wars. We speak Star Trek. We talk about work. I talk about Shaun. When it comes, I pick up the check. When I say it’s together, she gives a small “Oh.” And I wonder if she understood the intentions of my asking her out to have IHOP together. And I wonder if she has any clue how much nerve I had to work up to ask her out. Later, we’re sitting in my living room watching Kingsman because we watched the sequel about a week or so ago. And the whole movie, I’m busy taking in her profile. Noting the way she plays with her hair often. Braiding and unbraiding and twirling.

He picks up a journal at the bookstore. He has a collection of blank books waiting for his scrawl. In March, he sees a doctor. Asks him about a prescription. When he takes the pills, he doesn’t feel anything. They don’t make him happy, but he isn’t sad either. He’s lethargic the first week until his body grows accustom to the chemicals. He’s less angry. Less worrisome. Less depressed. And for a moment, he thinks they’re working. Until the worry sets in that he doesn’t care. He knows he should care, but can’t muster it up. He thinks about his past relationships and wonder if he was ever happy in any of them.

And I wonder what crosses her mind as we sit in my bedroom. We’re watching The Phantom Menace, the weaker of the three movies that make up the weaker of the three trilogies. We give the film commentary, though I realizes that the movie’s pace/run time ratio puts Attack of the Clones to shame. When the film is over, she surveys my movie collection. From the better titles to the worst—Showgirls. And again, I’m distracted by the way she plays with her blonde hair. And while I still don’t like the film, Episode I now holds some sentimental value.

 

Personal

Life in Sections

It’s not always chariots and wild horses.

Some times it’s muted speech. A text message while sitting across the same table. A simple gesture. The edges of a mouth curling.

A conversation about the flaws of The Phantom Menace while watching the movie.

I started thinking about suicide last week. Not my suicide, of course. But Mitchell Heisman’s suicide. Namely his 1,900 page suicide note.

I heard about Heisman years ago. I downloaded his book, but never read it. Even now, I’m hesitant to read it.

It did get me thinking again. Years ago, after the split, I started toying with the idea of writing a resignation letter. Not resigning from a job, but from relationships. From socializing. From romantic aspirations.

The “letter” never amounted to anything other than a few lines on the page. Something entitled “To Whom It May Concern.”

It’s something I’d like to revisit, minus the subject matter.

“Soooo obvious! Lol. It’s cute.”

“Shut your face.”

“There’s no hiding it! Why try???”

“I’m sure there’s logic behind it.”

“I see those little eyes. And smiles. But I know.”

In another conversation, with another person, I’m asked, “Are you still interested?” And I shrug. Because as sure as I am about how I feel about her, there’s this doubt that feeding through.

It’s the Voice reminding me of my failures. Helping me recall my worthlessness. Creeping up in the darkness to spoil and rot the most beautiful things at the core.

Thing is here.

What surprises me the most.

Is that I haven’t written this much in years.

Film 365

Star Wars: The Last Jedi (SPOILERS!!!)

Rian Johnson has calmed my fears about this Star Wars trilogy and the future (Skywalker-less) trilogy of which he’ll be at the helm. While The Last Jedi isn’t perfect, it blows the prequels, The Force Awakens, and Rogue One out of the water. If not already, it won’t be a surprise if this film isn’t cemented as the best of the Star Wars franchise.

Last JediThere’s a lot going on in the movie and we’re introduced to a few new players that I hope to see more of in the future (be it in film or in novel). Rose Tico adds new flare into Finn’s life (and an unnecessary love-triangle between Finn and Rey).  Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo isn’t a generic Leia copy. And while her character is underplayed in the film, her heroics aren’t. The film also keeps up with tradition of downplaying fan favorite characters. Captain Phasma and Maz come to mind.

All in all, the film surpasses expectations and delights its audience. I fear what destruction J.J. Abrams will bring upon the franchise with his return for Episode IX.

Now that that’s out of the way, let me touch upon things that stood out for me in The Last JediWarning: There are spoilers.

Leia & the Force

“You have that power too… The Force is strong in my family,” Luke breaks it down for Leia on Endor just before he turns himself over to the Empire. “My father has it. I have it. My sister has it.” We’ve never seen Leia use the Force despite her knowing he possesses the power to do so. There is a small moment in The Force Awakens when Han dies at the hand of their son that she felt a disturbance, but one could also write that off as the intuition of someone you love passing. I made that mistake and am glad I did. Had I realized the truth, the moment in The Last Jedi would have been ruined.

After conflicted Kylo decides not to fire on his mother’s ship, two TIE fighters take the lead. Blasting everyone on the bridge into deep space. Many deaths happen (I’ll get to that later). Leia, surprisingly, isn’t one of them. Instead, we see her unconscious body floating in the serene quite of the vacuum. That is until her eyes snap awake and she “reaches out.” The Resistance will not go quietly into that good night, First Order!

Yoda, Man.

When footage of Rey’s training was released, the internet exploded with theories that she was being trained by Master Yoda. They came to this conclusion because of a small figure perched on top of some rocks. (I just saw more rocks.)

We are treated to a Yoda cameo, though. When Luke is dead set on destroying the Jedi Order for good by destroying the tree that houses the sacred texts. As if to call his bluff, Yoda’s Force ghost appears before him. Luke, of course, cannot bring himself to destroy the sacred tree. Not one to take his bullshit, Yoda calls down lightning and strikes the tree himself. While it’s later revealed that Rey stole the books before she boarded the Falcon to meet up with Kylo Ren, Luke isn’t aware of it. And whether he’s in the known before the end is up for discussion (though, yes, I’d say).

The moment calls back to Yoda’s words in Revenge of the Sith after fighting Palpatine – “Failed, I have.” Luke explains to Rey that the legacy of the Jedi has been failure. Perhaps, Yoda agreed. Perhaps, he knew what Rey had done (again, yes, I’d say). But, in that moment, as Luke and Yoda watch the tree burn, there’s peace. As if both know how it’ll all play out.

Snoke Isn’t Half the Sith

Little is still known about the Supreme Leader, but I’m sure that’ll change in time. The extended universe is bound to cover it now. And I wonder if the block on Rey’s location was an act of Luke or, rather, an act of Yoda. Despite his depiction of being the strongest in the galaxy during Luke’s absence, he still doesn’t see the munity brewing before him. Even when his apprentice betrays him to save Rey.

While the death of Snoke didn’t surprise me (we all knew this was going to happen, right? That Kylo wouldn’t be under his thumb for long, right?), the way it carried out offered so much more than we were previous led to believe. Kylo is much stronger than we formerly understood. Especially if he could hide his betrayal with resolved conflict.

Anakin 2.0

Previous statement aside, Kylo still bugs the shit out of me. I expected temper tantrums from Anakin 2.0 and I was rewarded for doing so. Not sure what is in store for Kylo in Episode IX, but it’s clear that his rage will be his undoing.

There might have been a time where I thought he’d turn to the light and join the fight, but that was extinguished the moment he guided lightsaber to halve his master. And while he fought side-by-side Rey against the Elite Praetorian Guard, there wasn’t a shadow of doubt that the move was done selfishly.

Hux the Little Bitch

Or maybe General Hux.

To add to the list of annoying villains in movies. It would seem that Supreme Leader Snoke is terrible at selecting who will lead his First Order to victory.

Hux comes off a child who begged his father for attention. And when he didn’t get it, killed his father and took his place. Still, there is some animosity between Hux and Kylo—after learning that Snoke was slain, Hux goes as far as thinking of just killing Kylo where he lay. I want to say that this sort of double crossing would be interesting to watch unfold, but how annoying would it be that the First Order is destroyed by itself?

Phasma Wasted (Again)

A moment of déjà vu hit me when the trailer for The Last Jedi was released. Again, we saw Captain Phasma in her shiny attire marching into battle. Surely, Rian Johnson would not tease us with the character only to give us a small, unsatisfactory helping. But he did just that. And while the fight between her and Finn swelled the climatic scene, it didn’t do favor for the character.

What we got instead was a glimpse of her humanity, something he failed to show in her origin story. And just as we think Finn would finish her off, the floor beneath her crumbles and she falls into the unknown. Once again, the fate of Phasma lingers in the air. Has she died? Is she floating in space? Or will she return to finish what she started in Episode IX (only to get a Boba Fett death?).

Luke vs. Kylo vs. Kenobi vs. Anakin/Vader

The rebirth of the Star Wars franchise owes a lot to nostalgia. The Force Awakens, despite argument, is a rehashing of A New Hope. And Rogue One is the events leading toward A New Hope. The Last Jedi doesn’t hold back on the nostalgia either. From the moment Luke steps out of the rebel base, Kylo orders his men to focus on their guns at his former master and uncle. When that fails, he decides to take matters into his own hands, and the two duel it out before the First Order while the Resistance escapes with the help of Rey, Chewie, R2, and a Porg.

The fight calls back two scenes, the battle between Anakin-turned-Vader and Obi Wan in Revenge of the Sith and the battle in A New Hope where Kenobi uses himself as a distraction which allows Luke, Leia, Han, Chewie, and the droids escape.

The rage which carries Kylo’s lightsaber contrasted against the peaceful, yet strategic, dodges of Luke were a perfect choregraphed piece. And the moment Kylo’s saber passes through his old master, we’re given the sentiment of Kenobi’s peaceful acceptance.

Of course, Luke doesn’t die there. Because Luke was never there.

The Empire of the Trilogy

It’s too easy to call this the Empire of the new trilogy, but that’s what it’ll be seen as. This movie packed more of a punch than prequels and the two Disney helmed films. Like any good second volume in a franchise, the heroes lose but live to see another day. And that gives us something to look forward to in final volume of this trilogy.

This movie captures our hearts, pushes our emotions to the brink, and delivers more than it promises, regardless of its shortcomings.

Porgs & Canto Bight: Veganism & Human and Animal Rights

I am not a Vegan. I’m not a vegetarian. No one will mistake me for either. But I’ll be remised if I don’t point out the correlation between the way people treat each other and the way they treat animals. This is something we see as a flock of porgs watch Chewie cook and nearly eat one of their own on Ahch-To. And which we see again in Canto Bight, the Las Vegas of a galaxy far, far away. Where slavery still reins (though it’s not called slavery, is it?) and fathiers are treated cruelly by their handlers.

It’s a homage to the current class war that we still experience to this day. And if science fiction isn’t used as an analogy for our current situation, what use can it serve?

Our Heroes Have to Die

I was a little upset when Han Solo died in The Force Awakens. And I too felt the loss of Luke as he faded into the Force. And however they want to treat Carrie Fisher’s passing in Episode IX, I know there will be remorse for the loss of Leia.

But, our heroes have to die. Nothing is made clearer than that with the depiction of Luke in this film. Heroes don’t go into battle thinking they’d become legends to carry the weight of hope on their shoulders. The fact that none of the other Resistance answer their cries for help makes it just another burden for the hero to carry. Nobody wants that.

But Poe Dameron has it right. Rey, Finn, Rose, him, and all the other newcomers are the spark that will burn down the First Order. It’s not Luke. It’s not Han. It’s not Leia. It’s this new team of characters. Because our time has come and gone. It’s time that a new generation of nerds be indoctrinated into the Star Wars world. And they need their own characters to get them there.

J.J. Abrams is George Lucas (No, Not a Compliment)

Rian Johnson provided a better film than J.J. Abrams could ever fathom. The story was original and it pushed the audience to accept all that we saw in the screen. While it depended on our nostalgia, none of it was forced. Much like how Empire Strikes Back did well without Lucas, Star Wars flourishes without Abrams and his pointless mystery box.

Books

Star Wars: Battlefront II – Inferno Squad by Christie Golden

No one would mistake me for a gamer. Sure, I’ve dabbled in blowing off a zombie’s head here and there; I’ve taken to the streets of Gotham and defeated the Joker three times; my portal-thinking skills have propelled me through a dystopian future; and I’ve crash landed on a strange alien creation harboring some pesky secrets. None of these has ever made me a serious gamer. They’re more of a pastime than a passion or even a hobby. Inferno_Squad

I do read, though. And I do love traveling through the depths of fandom that might lead me to other forms of it.

Earlier this month, I wrote a review for Delilah S. Dawson’s take on under-used character from The Force Awakens. And if you can get through the tangent at the beginning, you know that the it blew my socks off. Today, I sit in front of my computer trying to find the right words to describe Christie Golden’s prequel to the Battlefront II video game. And the only adjectives that pop into my head are “conflicted” and “heartbreaking.”

The story picks up during the final battle in A New Hope, as Senior Lieutenant Iden Versio maneuvers her TIE fighter, shooting down the Rebellion scum stupid enough to on the galaxy’s ultimate weapon: the Death Star. It’s by chance that Iden is clear when Luke (though not mentioned in the book) takes his shot that causes a chain reaction which destroys the Death Star and every Imperial member on board. Iden, understandably, wants revenge.

She isn’t alone. The destruction of the Death Star has injured the Empire far more than they’re willing to admit. And the knowledge that one of their own created the flaw sends a shudder through those loyal to the Empire. Under the guidance and instruction of Garrick Versio, Iden’s father, she and three others are teamed together to make the Empire’s last best chance to fight against the Rebels who’ve blindsided them.

They are the best of the best (or the best of the worst, depending on perspective) and are known as Suicide Squad Inferno Squad. The other three members are Gideon Hask, Lieutenant JG, Lieutenant Commander Del Meeko, and, my personal favorite, Lieutenant Seyn Marana.

It isn’t long, nor is it a surprise, when Iden is given the role of captain. And after, several successful missions (don’t worry, these are glossed over in the book), the team sets off to infiltrate the last of Saw Gerrera’s partisans known as Dreamers. It’s in this mission where their skills are put to the test and have their limits pushed. And the more time they spend with the members of this Rebel group, the more difficult it becomes to carry out their mission.

This book paces itself despite its slimmer length. There were moments in the story where I wondered if I’d fall in love with any of these characters as I had done while reading Phasma. (With the exception of Seyn. I fell hard for her “quirkiness” from the start!)

By the rise of the conflict, I felt torn between wanting these guys to succeed and desperately hoping they’d fail and betray the Empire. When the resolution came, it left me empty and happy. Giving me, not the ending I wanted but the one I needed.

Christie Golden’s writing talent isn’t up for questioning. She managed to craft a fantastical tale that renders the reader reaching for the tissue while cheering on the bad guys. And upon concluding the book, I’ve a strong urge to play the game upon its release.

It’s just that I really suck with controllers.

Oh well, until next time—keep on huntin’.