Guess what Star Wars fan decided to finally binge-watch The Clone Wars the same month there’s an actual armed insurrection and ongoing coup against her country’s government, incited by the lame-duck president? If you guessed “This one!” you’re right!

I’ve been going through a lot of boxed wine, y’all.

Anyway, here we are. Long post ahead.

Why I Didn’t Watch The Clone Wars Before This

  • I tried, when it first aired. Made it I think two or three episodes? But it was all droids and clones blowing each other up, and it was really boring. Basically, the worst bits of the prequel trilogy on repeat. (I have since learned that the first couple of seasons’ episodes are not in chronological order. This was likely a contributing factor.)
  • I really dislike that animation style. It lacks nuance and expression. It’s kind of ugly. (Now that I’m halfway through, I don’t hate it. I don’t know if the animation has smoothed out over the seasons or if I’m just getting used to it.)
  • Even fans of the show are qualified in their praise. I’ve been told to skip the first season. Or the first and second season. Or, like, everything until season four, which puts us 2/3 of the way through the series and… no one has ever told me I must watch The Clone Wars. Not like they told me I must watch Rebels.
  • I remember and loved the Genndy Tartakovsky Clone Wars series. It was beautiful and intense and why does no one talk about this anymore? Anyway, part of not watching the new series is pure petulance that the previous one seems to have been largely forgotten.

How I’m Watching 

I’m giving myself permission to skip as much as I want. I’m not using any of the online lists of best episodes or most necessary episodes. I just…skip. If there’s a bunch of people standing around talking about trade blockades, I skip. If there’s a big droid battle, I skip. Basically, if it resembles the most boring bits of the prequel trilogy, I skip. If Anakin and Padme are being particularly toxic, I skip. (After the mutual respect and support and pure joy that is Kanan and Hera’s relationship, Anakin and Padme are tough to watch.) Jar Jar Binks appears? Oh yes, I skip.

It’s nice. If you judge me on this or tell me I’m missing some kind of nuance by not watching every single minute, I will ignore you.

My Thoughts So Far

The last years of the Old Republic are a nihilistic and dystopian hellscape, the Jedi Order is moribund and useless, and deep down the show knows this but doesn’t quite know what to do with that knowledge and so trundles on as if the Jedi are heroes who can actually make a difference when we all know they can’t and that most of these characters are destined to die horribly, and soon. Darth Sidious/Palpatine is manipulating everything. We know this. Which means that nothing anyone does is ultimately going to make any difference. It’s an existential nightmare.

But it thinks it’s a Star Wars heroic adventure and that’s… odd.  There’s a point where Obi Wan and the rest just can’t seem to figure anything out. Like, they’re just dumb. They simply aren’t allowed to solve what’s really happening. It’s so frustrating.

This is Greek tragedy. I felt this during the prequel trilogy – it’s Greek tragedy full of hubris and blindness. But it keeps acting like a Star Wars heroic adventure story. I think this cognitive dissonance does find its way into the show in various ways, but that only serves to highlight that this cognitive dissonance exists.

And this is why Ahsoka and Rex and the Clones are the best characters, and so very necessary. I’m happily following them to the point of skipping everything else, because they’re the only characters who are questioning anything. They’re the only characters whose arcs aren’t pre-ordained by what happens in the movies. The clones, who are giving themselves names and differentiating tattoos, and experimenting with independence and questioning their own motivation and existence. Ahsoka, who loves the Jedi, loves Anakin, loves fighting for justice, and you can just see how that’s all going to come crashing down around her, even as early as season 3. (Meeting Ahsoka in The Mandalorian, after she has matured and survived and learned a ton and has scars, was inspired. That episode is the main reason I finally decided to give The Clone Wars a shot. I want to see where she came from.)

More Thoughts

  • It’s really dark. So much torture. Lots of graphic on-screen deaths. Way more than in the live-action films. Remember in Empire, the torture of Han happens off-screen, except for the screaming, which somehow made it worse, right?  Well, Clone Wars just shows it. Frequently. It’s really disturbing. See discussion of dystopian hellscape above.
  • The Republic, which is anti-slavery, also utilizes an army of manufactured sentient beings with no freedom. The Jedi Order uses child soldiers. (The Padawans, early Ahsoka and Caleb Dume let’s say, are what? 15, 16 tops?)
  • It’s so weird when these villains pop up, terrorists and agitators aligned with the Separatists, and every time they get cornered they have a rant about how the Jedi and Republic and out of touch and corrupt and unable to stop the conflict and…they’re not wrong? They’re actually kind of sort of right? But they’re the bad guys?
  • I hate Obi Wan Kenobi. I really do, and the thing that clinched it is the way he’s always grabbing Duchess Satine’s arm and pulling her back and telling her she’s wrong. No, just no, he’s a jerk, he’s terrible. Let her alone. I’m starting to think that man died still believing he was right and not realizing what an absolute hash the Jedi Order made of everything there at the end. Also, there’s an episode where he basically saddles Ahsoka with the responsibility of keeping Anakin in check, and I’m shouting at the TV, no, you don’t do that to a young person lower in the chain of command. That’s terrible leadership. Obi Wan is an abusive menace.
  • Super weird watching it after Rebels instead of before. I can see now there’s all kinds of things that would have been big reveals and shocks had I seen Clone Wars first:  the appearance of Rex, Hondo, the Syndulla family, etc. I guess I’m getting those big reveals in reverse. Speaking of which, creepy evil Hondo of Clone Wars is a little disconcerting after bumbling comic relief Hondo of Rebels.
  • The most interesting thing of all:  There are ways in which Rebels is purposefully deconstructing all the squicky disturbing stuff about Clone Wars. Like, Ezra Bridger insisting that the Geonoshan, who has a name, be treated as a person deserving of respect and not cannon fodder. The episode where the gang encounters an enclave of battle droids who don’t know the war is over, and the droids get to be actual characters coming to grips with what has happened to them. In The Clone Wars, everyone is trapped in this existential nightmare. In Rebels, the characters achieve agency on their journeys. Rebels asks you to question everything that came before and find your own path.
  • That Hutt mummy. There’s a Hutt mummy. The Hutt mummify their dead. WTF. It’s in the episode where Sly Snootles is conducting a torrid affair with a Hutt who talks like Truman Capote and WTF is even happening.

I was telling a friend about the increasing levels of WTF in this show. She said I ain’t seen nothing yet.

I’m scared, y’all.

 

light

December 31, 2020

“Grief in the galaxy, is there? Oh, yes. Oceans of it. Worlds. And darkness? There you see darkness, darkness everywhere, and a few stars. A few points of light. If no plan there is, no fate, no destiny, no providence, no Force: then what is left? Nothing but our choices, hmm?

To be Jedi is to face the truth, and choose. Give off light, or darkness, Padawan. Be a candle, or the night, Padawan: but choose!”

–Yoda, in “Yoda: Dark Rendevous” by Sean Stewart

 

all Star Wars all the time

November 30, 2020

Star Wars is my comfort viewing and I’ve been deep into it the last couple of weeks — basically since season 2 of The Mandalorian started. (Loving it! I thought both Bo-Katan and Ahsoka were perfect.) I’m on my third watch-through of Rebels. And I’ve dug out some of my old comics.

I’m having so many thoughts I could talk about, but here’s the one for today.

This is Nomi Sunrider from Tales of the Jedi, by Tom Veitch, which takes place hundreds of years before the films, basically when the Jedi Order is at the height of its power. (We come to realize that the version of Jedi Order we see in the prequel films is a shadow of its former self and nearly powerless. We can talk about that another time.) She was one of the earliest visualizations of a woman Jedi and I love her to pieces.

I particularly love this cover by Hugh Fleming, and when I first got this issue, back in the mid-90’s, I had a thought that this would make a fabulous costume. And that’s as far as I ever got thinking about that, because I didn’t even know where to start with it. I was intimidated. So I never did it.

Looking at this now? I know exactly how to make this costume. Exactly what fabric to get to make the cloak and tunic — I even have patterns already in my stash. How to do the belt and vambraces, and who to call for help in making her lightsaber hilt.

And that’s what 20 years of costuming experience has earned me. What once seemed too difficult now seems not just simple, but exciting. I’m gonna do it, guys. It may be that no one will know who I’m cosplaying, but it’ll make me happy.

If I could go back in time with one message to my younger self, it might be: have patience. You need to practice a lot to get good at things. You’ll make mistakes but that’s okay. Don’t be afraid. Just keep practicing.

Yeah.

 

Halloween 2020

November 2, 2020

Here’s the costume I made for my niece this year:

Oh my goodness, it turned out great if I do say so myself! My brother 3-D printed the tricorder.

The challenge this year was sizing. I was able to borrow a Next Generation uniform pattern from a friend of mine — an adult, male Next Generation uniform pattern. Hmm.

The trick was taking one of Em’s shirts that fit the way we wanted the uniform to fit and using that to resize pattern pieces. That’s a technique I’m going to be using again, I’m sure.

Another successful costume creation in the books! And I might have enough fabric left over to make one for myself…

 

Halloween 2020

October 30, 2020

Halloween is not cancelled. A lot of traditional events may be, but the holiday will happen regardless.

My niece Emery has chosen the form she will take this year. As usual, I made the costume. I’m anxiously awaiting pictures.

We’re all very excited.

 

so that Dune trailer…

October 5, 2020

I’m a couple weeks late — a couple centuries, actually, the way the viral news cycle runs on social media — but I wanted to talk about that trailer for the new Dune movie that everyone is so excited about.

I’m not that excited.

We’ve been down this road before, everyone losing their minds over a fantastic-looking trailer. And then a year later no one even talks about the movie anymore. We’ve been down this road before with Denis Villeneuve, even, and Blade Runner 2049, which in the final analysis was not a particularly good movie (my long review here) and pretty much no one talks about it anymore.

So here we are again, with a visually spectacular tease of a greatly anticipated movie based on a classic book that’s already been adapted for screen twice before.

One of the things that’s got me cranky is that I love the David Lynch movie. It’s weird and gonzo and fun and visually really interesting. Part of why so many people are so excited about this new version is there’s this idea that it will correct what’s wrong with the Lynch film and be a better adaptation of the book. This is where I really get people’s dander up by suggesting that maybe it’s the book that’s not that good and not particularly suited for adaptation. But okay, let’s see if we can get a more faithful adaptation.

Guys, the trailer looks just like the Lynch version. I mean, it’s modern production values and all but it’s a lot of the same scenes, a lot of the same framing of the same scenes… for something that’s supposed to be new and better, it sure feels familiar.

So, either this new one isn’t going to be any closer to the book than the Lynch version, or the Lynch version is closer to the book than people like to admit.

But I still want to see it and I’m still excited about Timothée Chalamet because casting a really good actor as Paul may be the one thing no one’s tried yet.

Meanwhile, I can name ten classic science fiction novels right off the top of my head that deserve screen adaptations that would make better movies than Dune. And we’re not getting them, and that makes me cranky. (The Stars My Destination, Dragonriders of Pern, The Left Hand of Darkness, Ringworld, Downbelow Station, Neuromancer, Wild Seed, Gateway, A Canticle for Leibowitz, Doomsday Book.)

 

 

Worlcon Masquerade

August 19, 2020

Hey! I just realized I never talked about the Worldcon Masquerade! Like the rest of Worldcon, it went virtual. Which meant I could actually enter it. Usually, I’m so over scheduled at Worldcon that I don’t even consider taking out the chunk of hours it would to participate. Never mind packing costumes across the country and world. But this year, the organizers requested videos, prepared ahead of time.

So I went for it.

I entered in the Journeyman category. This was my very first masquerade, but I have so much experience, the judges and I agreed I should probably enter in the more advanced category. And I won the category!  You know what this means? I’m going to have to figure out how to do this again.

Here’s my video:

 

I’m being really good and drinking tea during programming, rather than the Old Fashioned I was thinking about. No booze until after I finish programming. I don’t normally have to make these decisions when I’m at a convention and don’t have the kitchen literally ten feet away.

I’m enjoying Worldcon so far, even though I’ve only dipped my toes in. But it’s also a bit strange. Conventions are usually literally a different world — I’ve traveled, I’m in a hotel, I’m in a strange place, it’s an adventure!

At Virtual Worldcon, I have to remember to take the trash out because it’s trash night and make sure I walk the dog before my programming item starts and maybe no one will notice if I’m eating a cheese snack off camera. And while I’m not going No Pants, I’m definitely not wearing my usual convention polish.

Not good or bad, just an observation.

One thing that I’m not sure I mentioned:  I entered the masquerade. We all know I love costuming, but I’ve never entered a Worldcon masquerade because, well… no time. Transporting costumes takes more energy than I usually have, and managing a masquerade on top of my other programming is a bit much.

Well, this year it’s all via video. No transporting costumes required. I submitted the material last week, and I can do all my regular programming without worrying about showing up all dolled up in person. The masquerade is tonight, AND I’M VERY EXCITED. I might have to sneak an Old Fashioned in for this one.

Eeeek!

 

Global Big Day 2020

May 11, 2020

Saturday was the Global Big Day bird count, in which birders all over the world try to spot as many bird species as they can in a 24 hour period. I’ve participated for four years now. I really look forward to it, even though every year I end up feeling like I’m not a very good birder.

This year, I was worried about going to my usual birding spots, which are popular public parks and likely to be crowded. So in the interest of social distancing, I picked a spot on private land that I’ve been wanting to birdwatch at for awhile:  the farm where I ride horses. It’s got a stand of cottonwoods along an irrigation ditch, which is excellent bird habitat. I got up early, was out there with my binoculars by 7:30 am, which is virtuously early for me.

It was a good plan. Then the wind started blowing. Then it got cold. The sun was shining, but I was shivering and battered within an hour. And the birds just don’t come out when it’s that blustery. Only logged 14 species, and I was a bit disappointed. Highlights:  western kingbirds and a blue-gray gnatcatcher.

I seem to be doing worse and worse at this each year. But hey, at least I got out there at all, right?

I’ve just about decided not to wait for the next official Big Day, but at some point pick a nice, warm, sunny, beautiful day and do my own personal Big Day, no pressure.

 

masks

April 27, 2020

Like lots of cosplayers and historical recreationists, I have been sewing masks. It takes me a long time to sew them, so I haven’t been making a lot. But I managed to get my whole family masked up, and now I’m making them for donation.

I haven’t had to buy new supplies to do this. It’s all from the pre-existing stash. I might finally be making a dent in it! Which feels pretty good, especially for such a good purpose. I’m making my own bias tape, which is tedious (even with the tricks I’ve been learning, and the bias-tape gadget a friend 3-D printed for me), but it’s saving me from having to order or track it down elsewhere.

I’ll probably keep making them, a few at a time, since we’ll likely be at this for awhile.