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Thursday, December 29, 2016

Carrie Fisher

     Way back in 1977, The ten year old boy who would become the man who would become Mister Smith saw an amazing movie. A year before this, My brother and I had believed a man could fly, as Christopher Reeve sailed across the screen in primary colors. In 1977, we had to learn the ways of the Force, to accompany Alec Guinness to Alderaan. My parent's battered green dodge dart got us there, and to Yavin IV, and back.

     In among all this jumping through Hyperspace (Which ain't like dusting crops) I saw an amazing vision.
Clad in a clinging white dress, Confident, Defiant, Sassy... I'm not sure how tall a stormtrooper is, but I knew I didn't want to be a little short to be one. She burned her signature on my young heart just like Daphne, Batgirl, Lois Lane and Lynda Carter's Wonder Woman had before, and just like Catherine Bach's Daisy Duke would in the future. Her luminous brown eyes and shining brown hair said "Princess" to me, and she left a mark on my soul that all my life still hasn't worn all the way away. She was smart, funny, and a crack shot with a blaster. She was never just a pretty face, but a dynamic force on the screen. Real princesses don't just wait to be saved. They do some of the saving themselves.

     I know I am talking about the character, not the actress, but for me they are indelibly painted together.  No one else could have made her the way she was on the screen. When the right actor takes a role, no one else can replace them.

     I read Postcards From the Edge when I was way too young to truly understand it. It was funny, a touching fictionalized memoir, but I should read it again. I remember it was a compelling read, and she a compelling writer. I should pick up some of her other books as well. She wrote satirically of what she had done to herself, candid, unapologetic. At the time I thought it was about what "Hollywood" does to you, but really it was about what it did to her, and how she handled it. It was about how she learned to handle it better.

     She's gone from us now, certainly one with the Force. She left a legacy behind of tough, yet vulnerable heroines that is both hard to quantify, and at the same time trackable. She broke the princess mold, she shattered the damsel mold, and forever changed what many of us young would-be Jedi or scoundrels sought out for our other half. 
From neck-to-ankles coverage to metal bikini, and everything in between. 

      She was brave, honest, and we learned, dealing with bipolar. I know a little of what it's like to have your mind betray you, and tell you things that make you feel anxious or self-hating or downright crazed, and I appreciate the courage it took just to function, much less give joy to so many people for so long. 

     Carrie Fisher was a class act. She had a unique ability to combine class with crass, and to be earthy and approachable. I am saddened by a world without her.

Here are some tributes by fellow Web Personalities

Monday, December 26, 2016

Round Robin Challenge: Christmas Wishes Vs. Christmas Reality

     These days, Practical gifts are the order of the day, if that day is Christmas. As I mentioned here, I have a tradition of picking up a little somethin'-somethin' for me.

I also prowl the aisles at Walgreen's(Open till 4:30 PM Christmas day!) looking for the strange and interesting, and Cherry Mashes for my Mom.

     My family tends to go either very big or very spartan, depending on the year. Now, by Spartan, I don't mean they get really cut abs and start kicking Persian emissaries. that would be madness, madness, I say. 

     I related the story of the last Christmas we really got toys. Dad decided he wanted his boys to have the Transformers toys I loved. So for my dreams, I pick that one toy I have had my eye on and order it to arrive right about the right time-frame for Christmas. It calls back to me the days of the Penney's catalog, or the Montgomery Ward's or Sears & Roebuck. Looking at those things and trying to 

     This year the Christmas reality got unusual. My middle sister proposed we each buy one gift, around $20, and draw numbers. (with you so far) and the the gift could be stolen, twice, by a later number(and we'll be cleaning the blood off the walls for months!)

     It actually turned out OK. I was number one, I chose a nice copper insulated mug, that got stolen by my niece, and ended up with another nice insulated mug at the end. where it got weird was when my brother in law chose the tangerine thong. 

     He pulled this out of the box, his expression went from "this can't be what I think..." to "whoa, wrong box" until my nephew showed him the real gift, a yeti mug (yep, lotta mugs.) I put an RC Stingray in the pile, and my nephew's wife ended up with it, which turned out nicely. They have a young son.  

     I think the reality of Christmas beats the dreams. A few years ago I started to really enjoy the giving aspect of Christmas... the choosing of personal gifts, or putting together a craft project. I still did that, despite the exchange my sister suggested, and I think my choices were appreciated. The dream was the waiting, the hoping, and the finding out whether it's transformers or socks. The new dream, for me, is the anticipation of seeing their faces as they open what I chose for them, and it generally matches the reality on the day itself. 

My fellow participants
  • Toy Break Like, me, can't always get what he wants, but if he tries he can get what he needs
  • Alexis' Universe knows friendship is the true magic of the season
  • for The Toy Box, his wishes are made real 

Round Robin Challenge 1

Pages over in the right column, Gentlebeings, start your engines

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Ghost of Christmas Presents

     Way back in December of 2011, I made my first tentative foray into the dark, troubled world of the underground third party transformer Market. "this is my Christmas present to me", I said. Or probably it was something like "Give it to us, because we wants it, precious" 

It was the Mastermind Creations Knight Morpher Commander- A Homage to what Optimus Prime could have looked like in the IDW Series Hearts of Steel

December 2012-MP-12- Masterpiece Sideswipe- from BBTS

December 2013- accessories for generations Springer and Blitzwing

December 2014-Planet X Neptune, MP 21- Bumblebee

December 2015: Ocular Max Sphinx

     I think I have been getting better with my photographs over time .

     This year, I am back to planet X for their take on Optimus Prime from the Fall of Cybertron game. He is big, and mighty looking- His transformation is complex but fairly intuitive, and not quite to the level where I would rather have a hangnail than transform him. The plastic he is made from has a swirling metallic pearlescence which looks great in the light, and the light piping in his eyes is excellent, He came equipped with an energy axe, an energy sword and a cannon which represents the "Path Blaster" from the game. He is one helluva fun piece to have on the shelves. As an added bonus, he has a matrix chamber that opens in his chest to show a removable matrix of leadership. 

Friday, December 23, 2016

Pop Culture League Challenges

     As of 12/20/16, Cool and Collected decided to discontinue the Pop Culture League

     I'm sad about that. I really enjoyed the writing prompts, enjoyed the interaction and sense of community with the other bloggers. So what to do?

     I realized, that I know these other bloggers, the core group at least. I realized, that all I need is a dream, and a way to evoke interest, some evocative writing prompts of my own, and willing participants. I realized that while Cool and Collected paved the way, we can follow, if we have courage, and we can blaze the trail further. I'm going to give this a go, and I hope you will come along.

     Introducing: The Round Robin Challenge
     Ancient legend tells of a man who saw four robins flying in a tight circle. That man saw this "Round Robin" as a challenge to dare greatly, and to challenge others to excel as well. Thus came to be born,

So the technical details: there shall be one challenge per week. Whoever gets theirs in first(excluding the author of that weeks prompt) gets to select the next weeks prompt. hence- the Round Robin, or you can think of it like dealing poker, if you prefer.

Merry Christmas 2016

And to a new year filled with wonderful posts, and crazy pop-culture phenomena and lots and lots of birds

Monday, December 12, 2016

Pop Culture League Challenge: Do over

 A temporally anomalous musing from...

     What do I regret so much that if I had the chance to go back and do it all again...?

     My big life decisions I have actually looked at like this. What if I never got married, either time? what if I kept dating this girl, and never met that one? What if my parents never kissed at the enchantment under the sea dance back in 1955? What if my father followed his gut in that fire, and ran the way that killed him? What if I had never been born to lose that $8000 from the building and loan? What if, instead of focusing on my career and becoming a wall street executive, I had married my sweetheart instead?

     If I had never married the first time, I wouldn't have my daughter. If I had never married Sam, I wouldn't have Tango. I'm pretty happy with my life as is, give or take a health snafu or two. I do sometimes wish I had not gone so deep on Power of the Force figures, but if it hadn't been them, it would have been something else.

     But we love this type of thought problem, even though our minds can't possibly grasp every ramification of even the smallest flap of the time butterfly's fractal wings.

     So in that spirit, I'm going to hit a few of the time travel stories and tropes I have seen or read. After, all, for want of a nail...

     So first of all, for the season, two offerings. Both courtesy of angels who are apparently out in force this time of year. During the christmas season, you can't throw a rock without hitting three archangels and a cherub.

  • It's a Wonderful Life. First, I'm gonna admit a terrible thing. I don't love this film. I saw it in it's entirety way late in life, after seeing so many different takes on it. The short of it is George Bailey is thinking of ending his life due to missing money and a potential scandal. He is shown by the apprentice Angel Clarence that his life has a greater value to those around him than he knows or even suspects. It's a beloved Christmas classic about suicide, depression and supernatural forces. 
  • The Family Man- Jack Campbell is given a short vacation in an alternate life where he married his girlfriend, had kids and a happy but only moderately successful life. This one also takes place around Christmas. Campbell finds his alternate life is preferable, but can't stay in it, leaving him to try to apply the lessons he learned and make the best of mixing the life he has with the one he wants.
  • Speaking of Christmas stuff, the Smallville Episode Lexmas  did this with Luthor. He was shown a life where he gave up power, married Lana Lang and had kids. Since this is Lex Luthor, I think you know how this one goes...
     A lot of the big decisions we make are in high school, which is where our next time journeys come from. 
  • Back to the Future Sends Marty McFly Speeding at 88 MPH in a DeLorean bound for 1955, where he first disturbs and then has to put back together his parents relationship in order to preserve his own life and those of his siblings. He returns to a subtly changed world, as he had managed to improve his parent's lives in significant ways. 
  • In Peggy Sue Got Married, Peggy Sue Bodell is transported back to her high school days and initially decides to break up with her high school sweetheart, then realizes that she never realized that he likes pina coladas. she wakes up in the hospital after seeing her youth through new eyes and rekindles her relationship with her husband.
Above, I mentioned for want of a nail- there was a three part DC:Elseworlds graphic novel called The Nail which posits what could have happened if the Kents never took a drive that fateful day, due to flat tire. It's an interesting and worthwhile read. 

     My favorite pieces regarding Do-Overs are:
  • a novel by Terry Pratchett called Night Watch. Sir Samuel Vimes, the watch commander is thrown back in time and aided by the History Monk Lu-Tze in getting back to his home time while preserving the timeline so that there is a home to go back to. 
  • and Frequency-Not the show, which is entertaining enough, but the movie- the past becomes connected to the present via the Aurora Borealis and a short-wave radio- a father and son thirty years apart speak in real time and alter the fathers future. I love this one because each change brings on a new set of memories, and effects in the present. Changing the father's life endangers the mothers life and they must scramble to save her by figuring out what else they changed. 
Other leaguers made their own trips

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Chicago Trilogy

     Last year, Sam suggested I watch a couple of episodes of Chicago Med- for parrot-related reasons- basically, one of the doctors adopts a parrot(looks like a blue-crowned conure)which is diagnosed with PTSD by the psych attending of the hospital. The doctor who adopted him also has PTSD, which is why they get along so well.

     I found it to be a high quality show, and ended up watching most of season 1, whatever was available on Hulu. I have a personal theory that the parrot is actually bonded to the actor, based on body language.

     This year, in a TV dry week, I watched the available episodes of Chicago P.D. and Chicago Fire

     what they have done with these three shows is not unprecedented- I remember(and have backup) for the old TV Show "Emergency!" crossing over with "Adam 12" and "CHiPS" but these were quick jaunts, and what the Chicago Trilogy has is actually a shared universe, like the CW DC shows, where characters from one will show up on another show, or are related to characters on another show, and often plots spill over from one show to the other.

     I love this kind of Universe building in media, where characters exist in a larger world, where their story is not in a vacuum- what the Chicago universe does so well is to have it be an everyday thing. These characters all know each other, have real relationships, and affect each other. Where the Chicago shows excel and stand out, is the casual nature of these stop-ins. It's brilliant marketing, as one show directs you to the others, but it also gives you a sense of neighborhood.

Chicago Fire was the first one- exploring the lives and work of a single firehouse- a family pulled together by their responsibility to the people around them

Chicago P,D, was the second show, focusing on both beat cops and the elite intelligence unit that investigates and combats major offenses

Chicago Med is the third, and focuses on the emergency department at Gaffney Chicago Medical Center

Let me say at this point, there are no transformers on these shows at all. That we know of...

Here are some more of these TV crossovers, including ones I mentioned

Monday, December 5, 2016

Pop Culture League Challenge: Space Marines

A futuristic vision from ...

     So I am(no surprise) going off book here- while I am aware of Space Marines, in various media, they don't quite hit for me, They don't really inspire me quite the way a couple of other things do.

     The first thing I thought of was Phule's Company by Robert Asprin- A series of books about the Space Legion- an organization that takes in the worst of the worst: criminals, the disgraced, the incompetent. The books chronicle the adventures of Willard J. Phule, a weapons and munitions manufacturing heir, and his unique ways of solving problems and getting the best out of the people around him. He is given command of an "omega company" which is where the worst of the worst of the worst end up- screw-ups who have burned their bridges everywhere else. He quickly makes this omega company the best the legion can offer and becomes the most sought after commander in the legion.

     Rather than being a regular military force, the Space legion is more like a private security contractor. They are characterized as perpetually strapped for cash and kind of a laughingstock until Phule and his Omega Mob.

The series consists of
  • Phule's Company (1990)
  • Phule's Paradise (1992)
  • A Phule and His Money (1999) with Peter J. Heck
  • Phule Me Twice (2000) with Peter J. Heck
  • No Phule Like an Old Phule (2004) with Peter J. Heck
  • Phule's Errand (2006) with Peter J. Heck

     The second item is a little more personal. Back when I was married, in both the good old days adn the bad old days, Sam and I lived, ate and breathed Stargate SG-1. We watched it, season by season, and then about three seasons of Atlantis, and then what of Universe there was. 

     At some point in there, we picked up this:
     What we created was another branch of the Stargate command, under General Branch, which used organic ships instead of the gate system. Together, we populated a couple of galaxies, but my two favorite characters to play were Charles Emory Landscomb, reformed eco-terrorist and certified genius-"Chalky" to his friends
And Colonel Walker Bruce, Soldier, sometime straight-man, and good guy. 
     Sadly, when Sam and I divorced, one of the things that got lost was that world-building. I still miss it sometimes, and I miss the friends I made there. I miss those adventures. 

From my fellow leaguers: