Tuesday, August 22, 2017

The Eclipse Yesterday.

Yesterday was the Solar Eclipse that tracked its way across the US; another one won't cross the country until the year 2045. Anyway, here in New Orleans we didn't get a total eclipse, but a 75% coverage eclipse.  Between about 1:10 and 1:45 the sunlight--even the daylight--was noticeably weaker and the atmosphere was comfortable and not broiling like it usually is, and was yesterday, before and after the times indicated. Anyway here are some pics I took of the eclipse--not directly but indirectly.

This is a photo of the eclipse--north is at the top--as interpreted through the leaves of a couple of trees onto a wooden plank deck behind the local public library. Note all the crescent shaped splashes of light. The effect is wicked cool, like a Japanese painting of the leaves of a tree. This was taken close to the time of maximum exposure.  Note too that the gaps in the shade acted as pinholes so that the light-rays land in opposite positions (toward the north-northeast) than they were upon entering the gaps (from the south-southwest).

This next was also taken during the time of maximum coverage but the damned iPhone camera made it appear like the eclipse was just ending and the moon was departing to the north-northeast after travelling from the south-southwest over the sun. A pinhole transposes the light to land in opposite direction from the direction it enters the pinhole.

And this last is a close-up of the image through the pinhole. As you can see, one of the corners is obviously rounded, the other corner less so. But it’s fucking annoying when you want a sharper image of the object you’re taking a photo of and the camera can only make it only so sharp—that is, up to a point, and worse (more blunt) when taking an image made by light going through a pinhole.

Friday, August 18, 2017

America Is Finished.

Morris Berman is right, America is finished!

With the ever-increasing mutual backlash between the white supremacist alt-right, the Christian right, the libertarian right, the establishment center a.k.a. the government, the politically correct left and the Marxian-anarchist ultra-left, we are on a vicious (virtuous?) circle toward Civil War 2.0. Actually, like the War Between the States, this will be no real civil war (two factions competing for power like the War of the Roses, the English Civil War of the mid-Seventeenth Century and the Russian Civil War of 1917-1921) but an uncivil war between multiple cultures with irreconcilable differences with each other. Madness!

From The Daily Signal---although I don't agree with the writer's politics I do for the most part agree with this:

  I Went to Charlottesville During the Protests. Here’s What I Saw. (Jarrett Stepman)
In a country of 320 million people of stunningly diverse ethnic backgrounds and philosophies, this is a fire bell in the night for complete cultural disintegration. The end result will be uglier than the already sickening events that took place this past weekend.

The Federalist’s publisher, Ben Domenech, rightly noted what this means for the direction of the country: “[I]t is the open conflict of a nation at war with itself over its own character. This war will end badly, no matter how it plays out. And the way this story ends is in demolishing [Thomas Jefferson’s] Monticello brick by brick.”

There is no arc of history bending perpetually on its own toward justice. History is instead a series of twists and turns, influenced by cultural and social forces as well as individuals and communities.

America has never been a perfect nation. It has benefitted from great ideas advanced by imperfect men, and almost miraculously formed a great and good national community
[Ed-M: really!?] out of widely disparate elements.
A great national community, true, not necessarily a good one.

From Liberty's Blitzkrieg via The Automatic Earth:

  Americans Are Rapidly Descending Into Madness (Krieger)
I don’t live in an echo chamber, partly because there aren’t enough people out there who think like me, but also because I constantly and intentionally attempt to challenge my worldview by reading stuff from all over the political map. I ingest as much as I can from a wide variety of intelligent sources, picking and choosing what makes sense to me, and then synthesizing it the best I can. Though I’m certainly grounded in certain key principles, my perspective on specific issues remains malleable as I take in additional information and perspectives. I try to accept and acknowledge my own ignorance and view life as a journey of constant mental, emotionally and spiritual growth. If I’m not growing my capacity in all of those realms until the day I die, I’m doing it wrong. Life should be seen as a battle against one’s own ignorance, as opposed to an obsession with the ignorance of others.

You can’t legislate morality, nor can you legislate wisdom. The only way the world will improve on a long-term sustainable basis is if more of us get wise. That’s a personal journey and it’s our individual duty to accept it. While I’m only in control of my own behavior, this doesn’t mean that the behavior of others is irrelevant to my life. Unfortunately, what I see happening to the population of America right now seems very troublesome and foreboding. What I’m witnessing across the board is hordes of people increasingly separating themselves into weird, unthinking cults. Something appears to have snapped in our collective consciousness, and many individuals I used to respect (on both sides of the political spectrum) are becoming disturbingly polarized and hysterical. People are rapidly morphing into radicalized mental patients.

What’s worse, this environment is providing a backdrop for the most destructive people of my lifetime – neoconservatives and neo liberals – to preen around on corporate media as “the voices of reason.” This is one of the most perverse and dangerous side-effects of the current political climate. If in your disgust with Trump, you’re willing to run into the cold embrace of these destroyers of the middle class and the Middle East, you’ll get what you deserve. In contrast, if we really want to deal with our very real and very systemic problems, the last thing we need is a population-level mental breakdown that leads to a longing for the criminally destructive political status quo, yet that’s exactly what seems to be happening.
Why do the Gods hate America? 😉

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Trump's let loose again.

OMG, this guy is an embarassment! 😲

From The New York Times:

Trump Defends Initial Remarks on Charlottesville; Again Blames ‘Both Sides’

WASHINGTON — President Trump reverted Tuesday to blaming both sides for the deadly violence in Charlottesville, Va., and at one point questioned whether the movement to pull down Confederate statues would lead to the desecration of memorials to George Washington.
Abandoning his precisely chosen and carefully delivered condemnations of the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazis from a day earlier, the president furiously stuck by his initial reaction to the unrest in Charlottesville. He drew the very moral equivalency for which a bipartisan chorus, and his own advisers, had already criticized him.
“I think there is blame on both sides,” the president said in a combative exchange with reporters at Trump Tower in Manhattan. “You had a group on one side that was bad. You had a group on the other side that was also very violent. Nobody wants to say that. I’ll say it right now.”
Mr. Trump defended those gathered in a Charlottesville park to protest the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee. “I’ve condemned neo-Nazis. I’ve condemned many different groups,” he said. “Not all of those people were neo-Nazis, believe me. Not all of those people were white supremacists by any stretch.”
Well I'd like to know just who were there who were protesting the removal of the two statues of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson if they weren't all White Supremacists, Neo-Confederates, Nazis, and the like, because it sure looked to me like they all were, or at least that's the story the pics taken by the news media and others tell me. And that's the whole effect that these extremists groups wanted to convey, with their show of intimidation Friday night.

And where was the violence that Donald Trump alleges was committed by the counter-protestors, you know, those on the other side? I haven't seen it yet. And one alt-rightist meme that was working its way around the web that the motorist who plowed into protestors floored it because his car was being pummeled by big stick-wielding leftist protestors is easily disproven by a simple google search for raw video footage of the collision: it turns out that he, at high speed, rear-ended a white automobile and pushed it into a crowd of pedestrians in a crosswalk and then floored it IN REVERSE, dragging the white car's rear bumper and someone's personal effect with him.

And the statues honoring the Confederate side in the War Between the States? Their removal will probably now be expedited, thanks to the violence that went down in Charlottesville this past weekend. I'm don't like the erasure of history, mind you, better than to reinterpret it and explain it, but when this sort of issue sparks violence, it's the side that initiates the violence and is seen as the most violent that loses control of the argument.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Civil War 2 Brewing?

Robert E. Lee Statue in Charlottesville, VA.
Source: Getty Images.
It appears that both sides overplaying their hand is going to get us all into Civil War 2.0 -- not the Second War Between the States, but everybody fighting each other like starving rats. This past weekend there was a show of intimidation Friday night by various white nationalists in Charlottesville, VA.

White Nationalists' march through the U of Va Campus Friday Night.
Source: dm.com.
White Nationalists surround counter-protestors at Jefferson's statue at the U of Va.
Source: Variety.com

Show of colors by White Nationalists Saturday in Charlottesville, VA.
Source: Slate.com.
White Nationalists confront Antifascists in Charlottesville, VA Saturday.
Source: CBSSports.com
This show was provoked by the city's misguided vote to simply remove equestrian statues of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson back in April. A judge had blocked the removal for six months in May, but somebody heard something through the grapevine and so white nationalists organised a rally for this past weekend to protest the incipient removal. Of course, the city revoked the Unite The Right rally that was supposed to take place yesterday -- apparently, it did -- because of the torchlight march Friday night and somebody was pissed off and now we have one killed and several injured because some disgruntled individual plowed his automobile into a crowd of counter-protestors.

Stonewall Jackson Statue in Charlottesville, VA.
Source: Getty Images.
Here are some facts about the statues:

1. The city council voted to remove the Lee and Jackson statues in April.
2. A State judge delayed the removal by six months so that the Virginia courts can decide or not to permanently block the removal.
3. The first torch-wielding protest march was back in May.
4. The R.E. Lee statue was commissioned in 1917 and completed in 1924.
5. The removal of both statues could cost the city upwards of $700.000.00.
6. There are over a thousand Confederate monuments in 31 states, twenty more than the eleven that actually seceded from the Union and formed the Confederate States of America.

There's got to be a solution other than just taking down these statues and the thousand-something others; they are a part of our history. Three Confederate monuments and one White Suprmacist monument got removed here in New Orleans this spring; our mayor said there should be "remembrance, not reverence." Judging by how the local removal proceeded and what the removers left behind and the condition they left the monuments' remnants in, it looks to me more like vandalism and forgetfulness. There's got to be a better solution: I say, leave the statues be, but put up some explanatory plaques that mention the mentality of the times when these statues were put up.


Tuesday, August 8, 2017

More Star Wars Scenes We'd Like to See.

This is a short photo essay.

Yoda knows!
Found off the web.

A little fun at Chewbacca's expense. 

A human-porcine relationship will never work.
Besides, she's already engaged.
But at least he's not dating his own sister! 😄

Monday, August 7, 2017

Russia, Chechnya and Ukraine.

I saw and browsed through a graphic novel at the town library yesterday. I wish it was just fiction I had flipped through. Instead it was a narration of eyewitness accounts of a tiny fraction of actual events of what went down in the Dirty War in Chechnya and the recent unpleasantness in Crimea and Ukraine. I wish I could now unsee it. It portrays the Russian military in a very bad light, acting as total brutes. But the Russian Military were the good guys in the previous Chechen War under Yeltsin and they got their hats handed back to them by the Chechens! I'll get the title up at the earliest opportunity.

Friday, August 4, 2017

A Damn Fool

By signing the Russian Sanctions bill into law all the while grousing about it, President Donald J. Trump has shown to all the world that he's a damn fool. I'm sure he thought he was on the "winning" side when he signed this thing, rather than to veto it and find himself on the "losing" side. Apparently it was lost on him that vetoing this bill would have given him some political capital, a higher standing amongst his base and grudging respect from others. Instead he signed it into law and became Congress's chump.

From James Howard Kunstler (emphasis original):
Russia hysteria has become a full-blown national psychosis at a moment in history when a separate array of troubles poses the real threat to America’s well-being. Most of these have to do with the country’s swan dive into bankruptcy, but meeting them honestly would force uncomfortable choices on the grifters and caitiffs in congress. Meanwhile, the Treasury Dept is burning through its dwindling cash reserves, and all government activities will face a shutdown at the end of the summer unless congress votes to raise the debt ceiling — which may be way harder than passing the stupid Russia sanctions bill. 
That bill, vaingloriously called The Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, will only blow up in America’s face. This country’s actual trade with Russia is negligible, but the bill aims to interrupt and punish Europe’s trade, centering on oil and natural gas, which they need desperately. Mainly, the US bill seeks to interrupt a gas pipeline under the Baltic Sea that would bypass several of the Baltic Nations currently being used by America — under the NATO banner — as staging areas for unnecessary and provocative war games on Russia’s borders. 
Germany is certain to not stand for it, and like it or not, they are the straw that stirs the European drink. The sanctions pretend to seek to isolate Russia, but the effect will only be to isolate the United States. Europe will laugh at the measure as impinging on their sovereign prerogatives to trade as they please. And Russia can turn around and sell all the natural gas it wants to customers in Asia. Left undiscussed in the moronic American media is the American gas industry’s hidden role in pushing the sanctions so it can sell liquefied gas overseas — which would only end up raising the price for American gas customers to heat their homes....
So what exactly was Mr. Trump thinking when he signed the “deeply flawed” (his words) Russian Sanctions bill coughed up like a hairball by congress? It’s a ridiculous piece of legislation from any angle. It limits the president’s own established prerogatives for negotiating with foreign nations (probably unconstitutionally), and will only provoke economic warfare (at least) against the US that can easily lead to shattering global trade relations entirely. Some observers say he had to sign it because the vote for it in congress was so overwhelming (419 to 3) that they would only override a Trump veto. But the veto would have had, at least, symbolic value in the Jacksonian spirit that Trump pretended to want to emulate at the outset of his term. Perhaps he sees the Deep State endgame and is tired of resisting.

From The Automatic Earth (Russian PM Medvedev via Zero Hedge) (emphasis mine):
The signing of new sanctions against Russia into law by the US president leads to several consequences. First, any hope of improving our relations with the new US administration is over. Second, the US just declared a full-scale trade war on Russia. Third, the Trump administration demonstrated it is utterly powerless, and in the most humiliating manner transferred executive powers to Congress. This shifts the alignment of forces in US political circles. 
What does this mean for the U.S.? The American establishment completely outplayed Trump. The president is not happy with the new sanctions, but he could not avoid signing the new law. The purpose of the new sanctions was to put Trump in his place. Their ultimate goal is to remove Trump from power. An incompetent player must be eliminated. At the same time, the interests of American businesses were almost ignored. Politics rose above the pragmatic approach. Anti-Russian hysteria has turned into a key part of not only foreign (as has been the case many times), but also domestic US policy (this is recent).

What is this President, fucking stupid?

UPDATE 8-8-2017: Because Congress adjourned for its 2017 recess last week, the Donald could have let the bill languish until it passed its expiry date, which would have been yesterday. This action is called a Pocket Veto, which US presidents can use anytime they want to dispose of bills they don't like, were passed by overwhelming majorities in both houses (but not always), and were passed close enough to their expiry dates so that they would become null and void without the executive signature. Instead he signed it anyway because he wanted to be seen as a winnah and not a loozah.

Like I said, what is this President, fucking stupid?

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Star Wars The Force Awakens

Not too long ago I saw Star Wars The Force Awakens on a DVD. Basically it's a politically correct rehash of the original Star Wars and it really, really should have been different. And the GCI special effects are totally over the top, at some points they look like Disney cartoons. And the First Order should have been portrayed more subtly, not like some cartoon version of Nazi Germany. This was the only Star Wars flick that left me with a bitter taste in my mouth when I finished watching it, and I've seen them all, including Star Wars the Phantom Menace... and that one was a total ripoff.

Here's a half-hour video with a lot of criticisms of the film.

And here's a second criticism - a 5-hour long compilation of many critics panning the film as the worst Star Wars film ever.

Disney should have taken these criticisms into account when doing Star Wars The Last Jedi, coming out this Christmas. Instead, they're adding some of their own "imagineering" to it: when Rey goes into a cave, she sees Yoda appear to her as a spirit... only this time, he brings a lot of the Disney trademark magic spheres with him. Looks like I'll be staying away from the cinema for this one!

Monday, July 31, 2017

Star Wars Scenes We'd Like to See

On board the Second Death Star in Return of the Jedi.
(Tip o’ th’ hat to Art Bell)

Vader:          Join me, Luke!  Together we shall rule the Galaxy as father and son. It is your destiny.

Luke:            You said that the last time! Why don’t you join me so we can work together to restore freedom to the Galaxy?  You were chosen to do this.

Vader:          What do you mean, son?

Luke:            Search your feelings, Father. You know this to be true.

Palpatine:    Don’t go into the light. It’s a trick!

On board the Second Death Star in Return of the Jedi.
(Tip o’ th’ hat to How It ShouldHave Ended on YouTube)

[The Emperor is about to unleash Force Lightning upon Luke Skywalker.]

Vader:           [Butting in] You said I killed Padme’ in my anger! Yet she bore me twins!

Palpatine:     She lost the will to live—so it’s true from a certain point of view.

Vader:           You LIED to me! I’ll KILL you!!

[Vader tackles Palpatine and the two fly out of view. Luke looks at the camera and shrugs as Force Lightning runs across the scene behind him.]

On board the Second Death Star in Return of the Jedi.

Now what was Vader thinking when Emperor Palpatine was unleashing Force Lightning upon poor Luke as he cries out, “Father! Help me!”?

I think it would have been something like this:

He’s killing my son; my daughter’ll be next! When he said I killed Padme’ in my anger, he lied—he lied to me! … I may not save my son, but I have to protect my daughter!

If George Lucas wanted to put something in the Special Edition to reflect on Vader’s state of mind, he should have included Vader’s thoughts, something like the above, instead of the insipid “No-o-o! NO-O-o-o-o-o!” that he actually put in there, which was derivative of the most insipid part of the final scene in Revenge of the Sith. (Did I tell you that the prequels suck? No? Well they do!)

In the Cantina in Star Wars.

Greedo:         … e leni ta crento oatka. Ta oaska! [Caption: That’s the idea. I’ve been looking forward to this for a long time.]

Han:             Yeah. I’ll bet you have!

[Han shoots poor Greedo before he has time to react. As he is frying, Han walks out, tossing a hefty silver coin at the barkeep. The barkeep catches it.]

Han:             Sorry about the mess.

Yes, I know this is the same as the scene as enacted in the 1977 Original.  But in 1997, what George Lucas went ahead and did was digitally reedit the scene so that Greedo shoots first. Greedo’s shot is directed so that he would miss hitting Han no matter what, but that wasn’t enough for George Lucas. He had Han’s whole upper body: torso, neck and head, tilt to the right (viewer’s left) in one jerky, neck-breaking movement, and then jerk back again. It looks like a department store dummy, and just stops the film right there. And in a perfect beat timing to Haddaway’sWhat is Love? . Of course this all reminds me of SNL’s sketch that inspired the film A Night at the Roxbury! (Tip o’ th’ hat to Hello Greedo on YouTube.) Newest Star Wars viewers are lucky in that in 2011 George Lucas hid this by cutting ten frames out of the action so that Greedo and Han fire almost at once. But those who saw the 1997 and 2004 versions had to suffer through this!

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Star Wars Attack on New Jersey

Today is the twentieth anniversary of Star Wars: Attack on New Jersey. Twenty years ago today, the film opened to rave reviews and enthusiastic audiences, in forty-nine states. Needless to say, it bombed in New Jersey!

Set in 1977, the movie didn't fail to include our favorite Saturday Night Live advice correspondent, Roseanne Roseannadanna.

"A mister Richard Feder from Fort Lee, New Jersey, writes: 'Dear Roseanne Roseannadanna: I thought Star Wars was only a movie, that depicted events that occurred a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away. Now, starting a fes days ago, New Jersey has fallen under attack by UFO's. UFO's that look uncannily like the Galactic Empire's triangular Star Destroyers have been bombing us, while those that are the spitting image of their TIE Fighters have been strafing us! My question to you is: Where did they come from? Why are they here? How did they get here? And why can't our US military stop them?'

"Mister Feder, you ask a lot of STUPID QUESTIONS, even for a guy from New Jersey!"

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Russiagate no longer a big nothingburger.

The Deep State, the mainstream media, and the Democrats' charges of collusion with the Russky government are no longer just "Russia, Russia, Russia!"

Well Donald J Trump Jr's emails with Russian officials are out and the foreign policy bureaucrats and liberals are dancing on Donald Trump's grave while he's still alive and kicking! So here are two YouTube vids that illustrate how the Donald's problems have just increased hyperbolically. The decline of the United States is accelerating and Putin and his cronies apparently had given us a big push down the steepening slope.

Why Donald Trump Jr's emails change everything.

Ex KGB Spy Jack Barsky Is MIND-BOGGLED By Email Trump Jr Received Before Meeting W Russian Lawyer.

Now we get to see the disabling of the United States as a major power on the world stage, at least until the Christian Talibanner Mike Pence gets into the Oval Office. And it could be worse! We could have armed insurrections against the federal government here in the "homeland." Or Mike Pence's first act could be starting World War 3 with Russia. Yes, he despises Russia despite it being a homophobic Christian country now--go figure!

Well I'll tell you about the effects of a 14,000 nuclear warhead exchange on the atmosphrere, climate and biosphere of this blue and green planet, Earth.

ON EDIT 7-13-2017: It turns out to me, and I got this from the print media (USA Today and the New Orleans Times-Picayune) that the Trump people--DJT Jr., Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner--were expecting that the handful of Russians they were dealing with would just hand over the dirt they got on Hillary! And the Russians who met with them wanted them to do something about certain sanctions that Obama imposed in 2012, for which Moscow retaliated with a ban on adoption of Russian orphans by Americans, and refused to discuss anything else. So, no deal, these Russians kept the info they had on Hillary.

So all we have so far are the condiments.

ON EDIT: 7-14-2017: Now one of the persons at the meeting used to be a Soviet Counter-Intelligence officer. Curioser and curioser.

ON EDIT 7-18-2017: Now it turns out that the Christopher Steele dossier, commissioned and paid for by unidentified Democratic donors, has links to an unregistered Russian foreign operative and perhaps to Russian intelligence. How else could that alleged incident with Trump and the Russian Prostitutes have gotten on the record? Hmmm?

How else could it have happened?
Read the Forbes article!

UPDATE 7-24-2017: Now Trump is mulling canning US Atty General Jeff Sessions and replacing him with Rudi Giuliani. And he's tweet-blasting the GOP Congressional Majority for not protecting him from the Russia investigation. This is not a man who is confident that this whole thing about Russia, Russia, Russia! is a big, fat nothingburger. And if it is nothing but condiments, why?


UPDATE 7-31-2017: And here's why I though and still think the "Russia hacked the election" meme is BOGUS! Why ask the Russians to hack the election when GOP-loyal, US-citizen operatives can do it themselves?

Onward and Downward!

Sunday, July 9, 2017

E. T. on the Dark Side?

Remember that small midget extraterrestrial E.T. from that piece of dreck that Spielberg made of the same name?

Well there are some things you might not know about him! A major "oops" in the film department. Or Spielberg got onto Lucas' shit list.

From Cracked.com: [brackets, formatting and captions mine]

E.T. is a Sith Lord!

E.T. is the charming story of an alien who looks like your grandfather's swollen testicle arriving on a hostile alien planet and refusing to wear pants while hanging out with a small child. But, at least he was harmless, right? Yeah, except for the little fact that he was a goddamn Sith Lord.

Why It's Not That Crazy:

We know members of E.T.'s species exist in the Star Wars universe because we see them in the Galactic Senate during Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace, assuming you can bring yourself to watch it again and have enough money in the scotch budget.

This is the Galactic Senate! Now put some bloody clothes on.

When E.T. sees a kid in a Yoda Halloween costume he gets excited, as if he recognizes Yoda from, say, the Senate (as to why a kid would be wearing a Yoda costume if Yoda was a real creature from another galaxy, we'll get to that in the next entry [concerning Han Solo and Indiana Jones—except this could be E.T.'s dream!]).

E.T.: I didn’t know Yoda could be found in a dreary subdivision filled with builders’ Stockbrokers’ Tudor houses.
“Home, home, home! Home, home, home!”

E.T.: It’s Yoda, all right…

We also know that he has powers suspiciously similar to those displayed by Force users -- such as levitation ...

... and healing.

But, E.T. also demonstrates one power that goes way beyond what a goody two-shoes Jedi can do -- he brings a flower back from the dead and later revives himself.

Both a potted plant and E.T. himself are risen indeed!

Jedi can only kind of make like Casper and haunt their students, but [Chancellor Palpatine / Darth Sidious in] Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge Of The Sith told us that at least one Sith mastered death.


So, E.T. is from the Star Wars universe and demonstrates a power that only the Sith have, making our conclusion foregone. He must be an extremely powerful Sith, too, albeit one that's [been] severely weakened by his time on Earth. You can leave it to yourself to determine what he was doing on our planet, but E.T. has a very different tone when you consider that, rather than helping a kindly lost spacefarer home, Elliot was actually helping a Sith Lord get back to murdering the galaxy.

Now we know what E. T. is really like!


Saturday, July 1, 2017

Death Star, Death Trap!

I have one more thing to add: since the Death Star is the size of a small moon, and has docking bays open to outer space, how does the Empire keep the air from leaking out and escaping? You'll find the answer below.

Death Star = Death Trap

by Dan Vebber, in: Ted Edwards, The Unauthorized Star Wars Compendium, pp. 33-35, sidebars (formatting mine).

For all the yipping that Admiral Motti does about his station being the "ultimate power in the universe," certain aspects of the Death Star's construction leave a lot to be desired. Indeed, on several occasions the Death Star's sinister engineers seemingly designed things to be as dangerous as possible.


Each of the superlaser's seven constituent beams shoots down a manned accelerator tunnel, causing anyone who might be standing next to these beams to shrink up against the wall and hope not to be disintegrated by a stray static charge. Each beam has at least enough power to destroy a planet one-seventh the size of Alderaan, so we can assume close-up exposure to any of them could lead to massive epidermal ionization, incurable melanoma, or at the very least, unwanted freckles. The superlaser accelerator tunnels probably have to be worker accessible -- and I'm not calling for removal of the catwalks along the beams' paths -- but couldn't they sufficiently warn the technicians before the thing was going to be fired so they could move out of harm's way? Would the installation of a few lousy warning lights really have cost that much more in the Emperor's grand scheme of things?


Any spherical battle station the size of a small moon would have its own gravity, wherein "down" would be directed toward the the station's center. But we can tell the Death Star uses artificial gravity generators, because "down" is always toward the station's "south pole." (Those Imperial boobs actually expend energy to defeat a core-oriented gravity situation that would have made more sense to begin with! Suckers!) Given that the station utilizes artificial gravity generators, why aren't they turned off or just plain not installed beneath the station's slew of virtually bottomless chasms? Countless stormtroopers (stormtroopers with families, I would remind you) would have lived to fight another day were their minor blaster wounds not followed by a plunge into oblivion.


Take docking bay 327, for example. There's a huge elevator shaft in the floor, in the middle of which is obviously a high-traffic area. And there's not so much as a Watch Your Step sign! Even more preposterous is the placement of controls for the tractor beam hundreds of feet up and surrounded only by a precarious six-inch-circular ledge.  Sure, this setup worked to the Empire's advantage at least once, significantly slowing down Obi-Wan's attempt to sabotage the controls, but I'll bet the ratio of Rebel sabotage incidents to legitimate tractor beam maintenance by certified technicians wasn't low enough to justify the risky panel placement.


Sure, they look cool, but how many stormtroopers have to whack their heads running into rooms before the Emperor takes notice? We saw it happen once, and we were privy to only an hour or so of Death Star footage. Imagine what goes on during those thousands of hours we didn't see! How many concussions have occurred? How many slow-moving saps have been cut in half by the doors as they sliced down into the floor with the efficiency of a galactic-scale French Revolution? It is my hope and dream that one day the Emperor's dark servants will form a union and work to correct these flagrant safety violations.

Oh, wait, I guess it's only a movie. *

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

The Very Worst Comic Book Serial in the World, for All Time

... is Marvel Comics' Star Wars, 1977 release, vols. 1 through 10. With vol. 11, they changed artists and the artwork was somewhat improved---but not by much.  At least it was neater.

But here, let me show you a few samples, reproduced in Marvel Comics' Star Wars: Skywalker Strikes.  At least in this reprint, they did a major recolorisation of the cover and the interior pages. In the original 1977 volume, the coloring was totally different, making the artwork appear even worse---and the volume and its nine successors look totally amateurish.

Recolorised version.
Original version.

Here, you'll notice that right off the bat, on the front cover of vol. 1, that their illustrated version of Luke Skywalker does not even look like Mark Hamill. Note the price: 30 cents, cheap! (MAD Magazine reference.)

And here the artwork within the original volume, the artwork was really, really bad. It's bad enough that everyone is portrayed as superheroic with superheroic proportions (even C3PO), but because everyone at Twentieth-Century Fox thought Star Wars was going to be a sure-fire flop, everyone in the cast and crew thought the whole thing was just ludicrous, and George Lucas himself though the film would only break even, Marvel Comics apparently assigned the comic book adaptation to their very worst and least capable artists, because it really shows! For example, in the lower left hand panel Luke Skywalker looks like a German soldier of Nazi propaganda.

And Princess Leia was made to look like a superheroine, too. She looks more like a Playboy Bunny (do they even exist anymore?) than like Carrie Fisher.

Now we are back with Luke Skywalker and appearing here is his uncle, Owen Lars, who does not at all look like the actor who played him, Phil Brown.  Neither does Luke Skywalker resemble Mark Hamill. Notice also that both Luke Skywalker and Owen Lars look different in each panel as compared to the others. And the sound effect for the breakdown of the R2D5 "Red" unit? It the movie it doesn't go "SPROING!" when the unit breaks down, it goes, "BANG! BADANG!!"

And this is the scene where Luke is cleaning up the two droids. The artwork makes the garage appear completely dark, not dimly lit as in the movie.  And again, Luke Skywalker looks totally different from panel to panel, and not like Mark Hamill in a single one of them.

Well there you have it... a big fat Star Wars ripoff from 1977. But today, the surviving copies are collectors' items.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Star Wars Ripoffs

"My fellow Americans, I have a dream."

Star Wars The Phantom Menace.

Gungan people's underwater city: The Deep.

Undersea biped predator: Godzilla.

Statue in Coruscant conference room: The Exorcist (opening scene).

Statue in Anakin Skywalker's Room: E.T.

The Whole Plot: (the original) Star Wars A New Hope.

Galactic Republic: The Roman Republic.

Naboo Architecture: Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Renaissance, Baroque, Neoclassical and even Westminster Abbey.

Naboo Sculpture: Greek, Roman, Renaissance, Baroque, Neoclassical and Impressionistic (one statue after Auguste Rodin).

The fact that Anakin Skywalker has no father: how Jesus was conceived in Matthew and Luke.

The very name "Skywalker": the Acsension of Christ in Luke and Acts. Jesus Skywalker!

Anakin's Nickname "Ani": Little Orphan Annie.

Anakin's departure from his mum: a similar scene in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (although Charlie comes back).

Trade Federation costumes: Mediaeval outfits of the Roman Catholic Church and of Catholic scholars.

Speeder Race on Tatooine: Chariot Race in Ben-Hur (hat tip to Bill Miessner).

Battle between Gungan forces and the Droid army: old westerns' battles between Union forces/cowboys and Indians.

Anakin's good shooting: Annie Get Your Gun.

Star Wars Attack of the Clones.

Title ==> Send in the Clones ==> Send in the Clowns. Yes?

Crawler reference to several thousand systems threatening to secede, basically the whole premise of the movie: The War Between the States.

Crawler reference to "The Army of the Republic" and the chancellor's call for "a Grand Army of the Republic" at 1:35 into the film: The Grand Army of the Republic.

Grand Army of the Republic Hall
in Scituate, Mass.
Coruscant city scenes: Metropolis.

C3PO (also in the original Star Wars): Robot in Metropolis, Dr. Smith from Lost in Space.

The Robot in Metropolis.
Romance between Padme Amidalya and Anakin Skywalker: Romeo and Juliet

Diner in Coruscant city: so many 80's 50's diners.

Coruscant City Jedi Library: The Boston Athaeneum.

Coruscant City Jedi Library.
The Boston Athenaeum.
The rainy ocean planet Kamino, clone factory public relations persons: Close Encounters.

Kamino, circles in factory reception room: crop circles!

Kamino, clone foetus gestation area: Brave New World (the novel, not the movie).

Kamino, flying bird: Jurassic Park, pterodactyl.

Trade Federation planet Geonosis, entering the factory complex, where the walls come alive: The Matrix.

Geonosis, attempted execution scene: Roman ludi (games), specifically exposing to wild animals and the bestiarii (condemned persons fighting wild animals).

Star Wars Revenge of the Sith.

There are fewer ripoffs I can remember considering this is a very sad, moving film. But here goes:

This movie appears to be a reprise and foreshadowing of The Empire Strikes Back.

The Clone Wars: The War Between the States.

The parachute droids: the gremlins in Gremilns.

The falling of General Grievious's ship to Coruscant: Titanic.

The chancellor's powers: emergency powers appropriated by Abraham Lincoln during The War Between the States. Also in Attack of the Clones.

The falling weight at General Grievious's hideout: Monty Python karate sketch 16 Tons.

Handover of a lightsaber to Obi-Wan Kenobi: handover of Gen. Robert E. Lee's lost Special Order 191 to a Union Officer, who forwarded it to Gen. George B. McClellan in the War Between the States.

Chancellor's address to the Senate announcing the transformation of the Galactic Republic into the Galactic Empire is delivered in a very cartoonish manner. Before this Palpatine was presented as a very slick politician. The more cartoonish evil is presented as, the more unbelievable the film--in my estimation.

Yoda throwing the Emperor: Spaceballs, Dark Helmet being thrown by the braking from Ludicrous Speed to sublight speed.

Emperor's winged ship: Batman (the comic and the movie), how the protagonist descends.

Failing to credit Global Warming for the much cloudier and more active atmosphere of Tatooine at the end of this prequel. This next to last scene even had thunderstorms on the far-off horizon.

Star Wars Rogue One.

This is a insert between George Lucas's prequels and the original trilogy.  Lucky for us, Disney, who bought Lucasfilm before this was produced, did not completely overdo it. Other plusses are the bittersweet ending and the diversity of humans in this movie, something Lucas overlooked almost entirely.

Jedi Holy City on the moon of Jeddah: Mecca. The city itself is very Middle Eastern in its look and feel.

Splinter group off the Rebel Alliance on Jedha, which I called Jedisis: any modern real-life insurgent group, or any one from antiquity such as the Judaean people's fronts (hat tip to Monty Python's Life of Brian) described by Josephus in his Jewish Wars.

Jedi religion itself: alternatively Islam in its holy city and Bhuddism in the oriental  blind spiritual warrior Chirrut Îmwe's "I am with the Force and the Force is with me."

Star Wars a New Hope.

Originally it wasn't called "A New Hope", just Star Wars. This is the one that made the rest possible! 😊 It's a lot better than it might have been, considering the scenes that ended up on the cutting room floor (the editors got an Academy Award for this). Yet George Lucas decided to change things in it and add things to it.

Genre: Flash Gordon.

C3PO: robot in Metropolis and Dr. Smith from Lost in Space.

Jawas: Munchkins (Wizard of Oz).

Luke Skywalker's line "teleport me off this rock": Star Trek, USS Enterprise transporter room and its teleportation device .

Need I say more?
Leia held captive by Darth Vader / Governor Tarkin: Dorothy being held by the Wicked Witch of the West (Wizard of Oz), and many other stories with damsels in distress.

The Death Star: looks awfully similar to a Panasonic Ball Radio.

The sets, especially those featuring the advanced technology, look very Irwin Allen-ish. But they actually expected this to be a sure-fire flop, and not a smashing film. Hence the budget which Lucas had to top off with his own money.

Cantina scene when Han Solo shoots Greedo: George Lucas took it upon himself to change the scene in a digital re-edit so that Greedo shoots first, for no reason. In the 1977 original version, Han shoots Greedo in a surprise move, which establishes his character: what sort of person we're dealing with. The way Lucas aimed the blaster bolt, Greedo would have missed point-blank range without Han moving a muscle. But to make double sure Greedo misses, Lucas has Han Solo jerk his whole upper body--torso, neck and head--further out of the way like a department store dummy would. The torso jerk was completely unnecessary to the do-over, it reminded me of SNL's sketch for Haddaway's What Is Love? which inspired A Night at the Roxbury, All this re-edit to to Greedo being shot was totally unnecessary (tip o' the' hat to Hello Greedo) . RIP-OFF!

Star Wars the Empire Strikes Back.

This is another sad, sad movie, and the first sad Star Wars movie. 😢  As such it is also the best rated movie of the whole bunch (Phantom Menace being the worst). I think the real test of an excellent movie maker are his sad movies, not just or necessarily those with a happy ending.

Bespin Cloud City, whole: The city of Boston shown in the albums of the rock group BOSTON, The Emerald City from the Wizard of Oz.

Bespin Cloud City, Millenium Falcon landing platform gate: Airport terminals designed in the Art Deco style. Example: Shushan Airport, New Orleans, La.

Bespin Cloud City, interior rooms and corridors: European Art Nouveau architecture, specifically the work of Victor Horta. (In my opinion the windows in the 1997 enhancements were a necessary addition.)

Shots of the Emperor: in the original, the Emperor could have been anybody. In the 2004 do-overs, this anybody was replaced with the visage of the actor who played Palpatine in the prequels (also done in Return).

Star Wars Return of the Jedi.

Okay, there are some serious ripoffs in here. Also some do-overs---some necessary, others completely and utterly unnecessary.

Tatooine, Jabba the Hutt's house: the set to Barbarella.

Tatooine, Jabba the Hutt's only friend Ephant Mon: The Elephant Man.

Ephant Mon

Tatooine, Jabba the Hutt's hookah: Barabarella, "We're smokin' a man!"

Tatooine, girl group entertaining Jabba the Hutt: Pointer Sisters? This is from the "improved" 1997 version.

Tatooine, evil midget gremlin that laughs a lot: Gremlins, Sesame Street, The Muppet Show (it's that obvious!).

Yoda's line, "Night Must Fall" Title of the play and movie of the same name.

Shots of the Emperor: same as Empire. In addition, the insane expression is the same as in Revenge and even the yellow color of his eyes in the scene where he proceeds to kill Luke by electrocution are exactly the same as in the scene of Revenge when he tried to kill Mace Windu the same way.  Yes, I know they used the same actor for this one as they did for

Speeder chase: Chariot race in Ben-Hur, auto race in Grease (the movie).

Ewoks: teddy bears. Did someone have an unmet need in the merchandising department??? They copuld have used African Americans but that would have been too "frightening" for Whites and too racist for Blacks.

Luke's line "like my father before me": from the lyrics, The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.
Spirit of Anakin Skywalker in the 2004 do-over of the 1997 "improved" version: The Portrait of Dorian Gray. The original with Sebastian Shaw as the middle-aged Anakin Skywalker was perfectly fine--people don't have their looks remain the same as they age. Yet for some reason Hayden Christiansen was substituted instead. Fool and knave, George Lucas! Keep the scene the way it was and don't change it! The four city celebration scenes (Bespin Cloud City, Tatooine Mos Eisley, Coruscant Metropolis, Naboo Capital City): They weren't there originally and were totally unnecessary for the plot.

Star Wars The Force Awakens.

The ripoffs to this film basically revolve around the utter cartoonishness of the evilly evil evildoers of evil, otherwise known as "The First Order" which, according to the plot, arose from "the ashes of the Empire." This cartoonishness George Lucas almost completely restrained himself from indulging in until Revenge, which at least gave his (pre-Disney) films plus Rogue One a sense of plausibility. But Americans generally are a Manichaean lot, believing ourselves individually and collectively to be good and our opponents evil no matter how bad we act (ex's.: Sherman's March to the Sea, Sand Creek Massacre) or how graciously and virtuously our opponents act.

But a major character---Han Solo---is killed off and the ending is bittersweet so we know this film does have some redeeming qualities.

Subplot revolving around the Starkiller: A New Hope, Death Star subplot. And how this Starkiller destroys planets when compared to how the Death Star destroyed them is totally over the top, even for a nine-part movie mythos where objects with mass travel faster than the speed of light... as does light itself.

The First Order: Nazi Germany, the only cartoonishly evil power of real-life in our parents and grandparents' time. Its visible leader himself is a ripoff of Adolf Hitler, himself cartoonish and far too real.

Kylo Ren: ripoff of Darth Vader---and although Ren displays powers Vader could only dream of, Ren is still not as powerful as Vader ever was.

Supreme Leader: Emperor Palpatine, and The Wizard of Oz himself. I expect that in a future episode Rey will expose the real Supreme Leader, who will then cause his larger-than-life version to bellow, "Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain! The great and powerful Supreme Leader has spoken."

Which means Rey is Dorothy Gale from Kansas!

Star Wars The Last Jedi.

This has yet to be released, yet already Disney has polluted this film with its imagineering: when Rey goes into a dark, watery cave like into a flotation tank, Yoda appears, bringing a thousand balls of light with him.  This never happened with the appearing spirits in the old Star Wars films, why should they start now?

Anyway, that's my short list of Star Wars ripoffs. Mind you, I like Star Wars, even love it, ripoffs and all (okay, I admit it--I didn't and still don't like Phantom Menace). Star Wars is the defining myth of our time, tailor-made for the Russian soul-- that nation is going to become the next great civilisation according to Oswald Spengler, if global warming doesn't get us all first--and a collection of great works of art.  And George Lucas, by his actions, has treated it as just a bunch of movies to be changed at will and Disney has turned it into just another Disney children's film franchise.