Happy Life Day

Sorry for the slow posts, it’s now our other dog’s turn to be sick and in need of ’round the clock care. Here’s hoping the little guy can get better soon.

In other news, there’s a new Star Wars movie out and it’s like 1977 all over again. I assume all of you are wearing corduroy pants and velour shirts with collars big enough to be makeshift airplane hangars, and tube socks up to the knee, to really get the full effect. I saw the new film, I liked it, and I think it’s just about the best Star Wars movie, one could expect out of JJ Abrams. Although I’m still kinda sad they passed over Jodorwsky again. And David Lynch, Woody Allen, Quentin Tarantino,and Werner Herzog too.

So just for fun, how come they can’t show a planet that doesn’t have earth standard 1g of gravity? What about a scene set with the characters wearing spacesuits in space? (the answer to that one is probably “they have droids for that sort of thing”). Now that we’ve seen desert planets and water planets and planets entirely covered by a single city, to extend the single use per planet zoning, are we going to see the strip mall planet? The light industry planet? The offsite data storage planet? The suburb planet? The farm planet? The amusement park planet? The call center planet? Since the Galactic Republic has existed for thousands of years, there have been spacecraft for thousands of years, and more than a few giant space battles, how come these planets aren’t covered by craters from falling space wrecks? Orbital velocity for a planet the same mass and size as earth is 17,000 mph. What keep all those wrecked spaceships, some of which are miles long, from hitting the planet below like the Chixulub meteor that killed the dinosaurs? And that’s not even counting hyperspace accidents, a ship traveling at light speed could pulverize a planet just as well as the Death Star for one billionth of the cost. Or are planets being popped like an overripe pumpkin every other week or so and it’s so common it doesn’t make the news? Why do bad guys keep thinking that blowing up planets is the ultimate expression of military might given that any jackass with an extra hyperspace capable spaceship and a brick to lay on the gas pedal could do the same?

How come every redneck can afford a spaceship, but computer graphics are stuck in the 1970s while at the same time droids are rolling around with human level intelligence and the capability to (for example) speak in six million different languages? They can clone up an entire army but not a hand for Luke Skywalker, or if he had moral qualms, for Darth Vader who sure wouldn’t have?


Comments: 27


Well, they’ve said that standard shielding (the cheap stuff) bounces or deflects higher-speed particles but not lower-speed ones, and they’re pretty common.

I assume the rest is just ‘that’s what the market bears’. The human-intelligence robot was worth 240x more than the daily wage she was living off of… Maybe it’s just that when they make things (like R2) they tend to keep working so long that the market has collapse under the pile of things which are already built?

The Empire also had, and outlawed, other people making 3d high graphics interfaces. See also the emperor’s vidphone.

But the tolerance of some people to ‘what we’re doing now’ can be huge. I remember in the 90s working in several offices where the VPs didn’t even understand that things could be automated with the equipment they had, let alone whether or not it should be.


Hey, now. You’re not allowing for the fact that these planets all have hyperspace avoidance technology. So any brick with a rocket attached to it automatically misses the planet. And the planet itself has a tractor beam for ships falling out of the sky, to land them gently on the surface, so they stay recognizable as what the once were even after they collapse under their own weight.

These things are all very complicated, involving higher math and special physics. I wouldn’t expect a layman such as yourself to understand.

Do you think I hit the correct amount of fanboy smugness in that explanation? I am practicing for the ticket lines…


Hey! I have a pair of corduroy pants. Unfortunately rather than having shirts with ridiculously wide collars, too many of my shirts have such narrow collars that you have to yank the back of the collar down several times to keep it from riding up.

Big Bad Bald Bastard

There’s got to be a Planet of Misfit Toys out there somewhere.


The lunch lady will get her job back!

Apparently Republicans are capable of feeling shame…


Merry War On Christmas!


You didn’t write <>!!!

Thanks a lot


You also didn’t write SPOILERS!!!

(fuck–I blew that one)


You also didn’t write SPOILERS!!!

(crap–I blew that one.)


Perhaps Ursa Minor Beta from the Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy could make an appearance:

“The rich and sunny planet Ursa Minor Beta has the quite peculiar property that most of its surface consists of subtropic coastline. Even more peculiar, on this world it’s always Saturday afternoon, just right before the beach bars close.”


Thank you for this excellent post. If you’re legitimately curious, Charles Stross has already answered your questions. His hard sci-fi novels are set in universes with relativistic physics and everything. Throwing a ship doing a high fraction of c at a planet is hell on the biosphere.

Also you must check out Iain M. Banks’ universe of the Culture. It’s non-relativistic but explores the “droid” business as far as you would ever want to go.

Star Wars was always lame — but the original was an awesome date movie. I saw it 3 times in original release with 3 different girls and will always remember it fondly for that reason. May everyone reading this be as blessed with Episode 7.

Big Bad Bald Bastard

David Brin’s Startide Rising was a hell of a read. There was one really great scene in which hostile aliens pursuing a spaceship crewed by humans, “uplifted” dolphins and (if I remember correctly, an “uplifted” chimp) receive the final shock of their lives when their quarry performs a routine task. That book really hits the “sense of wonder” sweet spot.


Startide Rising was a good one. One of these yrs. I have to read the whole Uplift series.


Bad guys use death moons to destroy planets for the same reason that the Bond villains had overly complicated mechanisms to do whatever it was they were doing. They’re movie villains, for fuck sake. It HAS to be over the top.

Bouffant, Startide Rising was far and away the best of the Uplift series. The rest are worth reading, no question, but you know what happens when a director / author gets into the sequels (and prequels also too).


PS – Ross “Chunkier Reese Witherspoon” Douchehat is mystified that Star Wars: The Forces Awakens has wowed nearly every single critic its come up against

Ta-Nehisi Coates has a good take on the matter but in a bigger picture it seems that Ross “Neckbeard” Douchehat just doesn’t get context. Nor intent / purpose. For example, he has only one standard by which ALL movies are judged. To him, Citizen Kane and Sleepless in Seattle and Star Wars are all movies and therefore evaluated exactly alike.


NOOO ! The Packers lost ! Colour me devastated.


Ross Douthat is mystified that a Hollywood sequel would recapitulate it’s source material in a bigger and flashier display of whatever made the first movie a success? Is he familiar with the concept of a sequel? In any case, his particular fixation on ‘decadence’ in that column suggests that it was what his ‘word of the day’ desktop calendar showed for the day he wrote his column.


Helmut that reminds me – I forgot to mention that David Edelstein, speaking about the movie on Fresh Air, said “the brilliantly unoriginal JJ Abrams.” Oh Douchehat, please please please just STFU and go away already.

PS – the rational wiki page for RD is fun. http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Ross_Douthat


Hello again kids,been awhile and have missed. Many of you. Merry Xmas and happy new yahr and such.



I saw the new film, I liked it, and I think it’s just about the best Star Wars movie, one could expect out of JJ Abrams.

Well there’s a carefully chosen phrase.


It is a carefully chosen phrase, I think that JJ Abrams has made a living by building a personal style into everything he does, and nothing short of truly extraordinary leverage on him personally was going to get him to direct anything out of his comfort zone.

Would I love a John Woo style balletic action sequence, like a blaster and lightsaber fight in the rain, with raindrops smoking off a hot lightsaber while doves burst into flight at the sudden violence? Yes I very much would, but JJ Abrams doesn’t do that.

For films as heavily derivative of Akira Kurosawa’s work as the Star Wars films are, the fight scenes have always been flamboyant and acrobatic rather than sudden, violent and brutal. (Except for Obi Wan’s first use of the light saber in the Mos Eisley Cantina)

I guess my point is, Disney knew what they were doing when they got JJ Abrams to direct, and they got what they ordered, which is, an action movie in the Star Wars universe. I’d just like to see them at some point get a director who’s as good at inspiring wonder and magic and most importantly – surprise as George Lucas and company were back in 1977.

I want to see at least one Jedi doing something wise. Just one reason for us buy into the Jedi as wise warrior monks instead of indecisive, purposely vague, dealers of fatal violence. I want to see a Jedi come out on top by choosing not to draw his light saber, or mind tricking some storm trooper. Why even have a Jedi code in the first place if at the first sign of trouble they start hacking off limbs?

I want to see some evidence for the multi thousand year history of the Galactic Republic. I want to see space stations that aren’t another Death Star, I want to see alien races that can’t be broken down into a three word stereotype. I want to see a main character that isn’t a human and isn’t a sidekick.

And if Disney wants to play all the sequels as straight up action movies that’s fine, but in their upcoming “Star Wars Universe” films it would be really cool if they could try something a little riskier. Not all of the movies have to be “hidden fortress”+”the Dambusters” with a coat of science fantasy paint. They could very easily make a Star Wars film like “A Fistful of Dollars” (or Yojimbo if we want to be more accurate). There’s plenty of action movies suspense and war movies they could appropriate and blend into a good movie. How bout “Das Boot”? “Kelly’s Heroes”? “Dances with Wolves”? (just kidding) “The man who would be King”? I’m not asking the series to stop being unoriginal, part of the joy of seeing the movies is seeing familiar stories in wonderful new clothes and settings, just to think a little broader in terms of where they get their source material, and who they choose to interpret it.


If you’re looking for applying new and different genres in the Star Wars universe instead of just repeating the trilogy, the old novelverse (now the books printed with the “Legends” tag) might be for you.

Fair warning: it’s hit or miss, and when they miss, they miss hard. But they’ve definitely “expanded the universe” into every possible genre. The A-Team in space, Mission: Impossible in space, Ocean’s Eleven in space, M*A*S*H in space, the Cthulhu mythos in space, Romeo and Juliet in space, Night of the Living Dead in space, X-Men in space, Apocalypse Now in space, Rainbow Six in space, Top Gun in space (and not fucking awful), Xena Warrior Princess in space, Starship Troopers in… oh, right. They’ve even adapted stuff from the alien invasion genre and from Star Trek.

Views differ on how good the novelverse actually was, but it’s so huge and got so many different authors that most fans can find at least one niche that they like.

“X-wing: Mercy Kill” fulfilled the requirement of having a main character (not a sidekick) who’s an alien, although it doesn’t do as much with it as it might (he’s one of a kind, so it’s not like you get to explore another species). The X-wing books in general try pretty hard to subvert the three-word-stereotypes that go with various species or planets.

Unfortunately, some of the books do try pretty hard to just rehash the movies in a way that’s reminiscent of The Force Awakens. A lot of the nineties novels especially got tagged with as “superweapon of the week” books for their constant attempts to invent something that would be like a Death Star, only cooler, which watching TFA gave me flashbacks to.


I want to see at least one Jedi doing something wise. Just one reason for us buy into the Jedi as wise warrior monks instead of indecisive, purposely vague, dealers of fatal violence. I want to see a Jedi come out on top by choosing not to draw his light saber, or mind tricking some storm trooper. Why even have a Jedi code in the first place if at the first sign of trouble they start hacking off limbs?

I want to see some evidence for the multi thousand year history of the Galactic Republic.

Yeah, this was one of the annoying things about the old novelverse towards the end, and TFA seems to be setting the standard for more of the same (the government exists to be wiped out by the not!Death Star and restore the good old status quo of heroic freedom fighting underdogs versus conquering fascist overlords). It’s not just Star Wars; a lot of fiction as a whole seems unable to portray a government that’s reasonably functional or at least pulling in the right direction. Authority must be either corrupt and evil or well-meaning but incompetent. Heroes have to be freedom fighters or, if they’re authority figures, have evil authority figures above them that they can stick up a middle finger to (cue all the cop shows in which Internal Affairs, the mayor’s office, and the entire “system” that keeps them in check is bad).


Chris: Did you see this?

From “A New Hope” to no hope at all: “Star Wars,” Tolkien and the sinister and depressing reality of expanded universes
When fantasy sagas never end, we see the cycles of brutality and totalitarianism that fuel them don’t, either


Never read it, but now that I have, yeah, I’d have to agree that expanded universes often tend towards repeating their original material, and portraying worlds in a never-ending state of crisis. I think they figure it’s the only way to keep things interesting.

At first, the Star Wars expanded universe didn’t fit that profile. The original stories have a sort of years-long process of Empire falling to pieces while Republic takes over. Return of the Jedi, in that story, isn’t The End, but it’s basically a Gettysburg/D-Day moment – afterwards, the writing’s on the wall and the ultimate victory becomes a question of when, not if. Which makes sense and doesn’t, IMO, really take away from ROTJ or invalidate its happy ending.

And while the books aren’t quite as black and white as the movies, they stick to the view that Republic is a vast improvement over Empire in every possible way. That’s something I really miss. It’s hardly a groundbreaking message, but it still stands out in an age when so much of fiction – which eventually came to include Star Wars – holds that all government must be either evil or useless.


In terms of what government might be — I think the best science fictional treatments of government so far that I have read are Allen Steele and Kim Stanley Robinson.

Politically they are miles apart. But both actually get into the nitty-gritty of how governments have to work, and what kinds of systems people need to set up to function. And such governments aren’t universally good or evil, they muddle along as best they can because that’s what any government has to do to keep the lights on and the fire department paid.

Star Wars by its nature is pretty simplistic. My biggest disappointment with the new movie was in fact the rehashing [MILD SPOILERS FOR SOMETHING THAT MIGHT BE OBVIOUS TO ANYONE WHO HAS SEEN THE FIRST SIX MOVIES] of the superweapon of the week plot.

That is, the TFA premise is more to me like the Spanish Republic facing the threat of insurgent fascism and there’s a lot that you could do with that if you want to wrap it up in an action movie.

One thing that bothered me was pacing. I do not know how much of it has to do with modern movie trends but the old Star Wars movie (A New Hope) was actually pretty discursive in a lot of places and as Helmut Monotreme notes, you do get a Jedi (Obi-Wan Kenobi) saying wise things, and doing wise things. ANd there are great quiet moments in that movie, and in The Empire Strikes Back.

The last three films and TFA don’t have any of that (or much less) and that means the stories don’t IMO have space to breathe a little.


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