Rogue Thoughts

So heads up this piece is definitely about Rogue One; If you haven’t yet seen it turn away for here there be spoilers. Of course feel free to come back and engage with this after you’ve seen it but the discussion I want to have requires a working understanding of the film. 

So before I went and saw Rogue One I had seen this piece by one of my favourite YouTube content creators. I enjoyed the analysis that the video put forward and the evidence seemed to support the thesis. So I was super pumped for this film to be a gritty Blade Runner-esque New Space Opera. What I feel I got however was worlds different to what I was expecting – but it was just as good.

For me at least Rogue One feels like the best elements of the traditional fantasy adventure – particularly the type of narrative I am used to seeing in the pulp fantasy novels in the D&D canon I.E Dragonlance or the R.A Salvatore novels. There is a deeply personal narrative that creates a through line for the protagonist and the audience but also political level sideplots and tie-ins to make the stakes high enough to be interesting. 

The thing I’d really like to draw attention to is the wonderful feeling Rogue One manages to elicit in the way it presents both the build up and eventual diminishing of ‘The Party’. This for me iOS the strongest element of the film. For the first half of the film we see the rebels pulling together the rag tag and unlikely bunch of heroes. The standard assortment of Prisoners, criminals, spies and holy men that typify the pulp fantasy genre. These characters are given scope to bounce off one another for comedic banter and development which is always heartwarming in it’s execution. It feels natural and easy much like the banter around a D&D table does and this helps draw you into the world the film presents. 

At the halfway point of the film we get a shift into the more emotionaly and politically complex subject matter of the film concerning both the protagonist and the political parties within the film. A traditional complication in the three act structure – this serves to round out the characters and show us slightly different and human sides of them – even those that aren’t human. 

The final act is where things take on their most tropey tones for me- I must stress here that this isn’t a criticism, Star Wars as a franchise is responsible for so many cinematic tropes and this film subverts some of the most famous ones that it is very rewarding to see Director Gareth Edwards embrace the full value of the tropes he utilises in this final act. 

With the heroic last stands and sacrifices of every member of the team getting loving attention and individual scoring it is hard not to be sucked in by the majesty and honour of their endeavour. As the team members lay their lives on the line and sacrifice themselves one at a time to ensure the success of the mission and the greater good it is hard not to bring to bear the collective experience of every similar sacrifice we have ever seen committed to film. This is the value of embracing the tropes ion this final sequence, allowing this film to so explicitly reference the traditions of the pulp[ genre that gave rise to it allows these short sequences to be so so much more than what their running time might allow. It really is an ingenious move by Edwards. 

The final great strength of the film I’d like to put forward is the villain. It is not very often that we get as compelling a beaurocratic villain as what we are treated to by Rogue One. Krennic is a wonderfully menacing character that doesn’t fail when asked to stand shoulder to shoulder with cinematic titan Darth Vader. The inclusion of Vader, who is a far more traditionally impelling villainous archetype, would have sunk a lessor villain – he would have been completely overshadowed by the two cameos that Vader makes. Krennic’s insidiousness is so palpable that he still remains compelling despite inclusion of not only Vader but also Grand Moff Tarkin. 

If I have one critique of the movie – it is that whilst it is incredibly structurally pleasing and refreshing to see new ground covered within the Srtar Wars universe Rogue One fails to have anything new or challenging to add to it’s own tradition. Again this is part of why the film is so so good to watch – but it does feel like it won’t quite hold up to the type of analysis that other franchise films like A New Hope are subjected to. Not a huge flaw and certainly not one that impedes repeated viewings. 

All in all the point remains Rogue One manages to be both original and referential in equal parts to incredibly great effect. Whilst watching it I felt the film drawing one he sum of my experience not only in the Star Wars universe but also in fantasy and SciFi more broadly. We finally have an anthology Star Wars film and it has stuck the landing – Bring on the Bobba Fett film!!

Vignettes Of Memory.

So this is a bit of a different one – well not all that different, in that it is an analysis of how a media piece has made me think/ affected my thinking – but it is the first foray we have had on this blog into my love of musical theatre. So I by no means count myself as an officionado of musical theatre but i certainly enjoy the atmosphere of a well staged musical and the things that the medium iOS specifically designed to be good at capturing – I.E. The very visceral styles of human emotion or bombastic larger than life characature of drama. 

One of the musicals I have come to later in life is Jason Robert Brown’s ‘The Last 5 Years’. I really do adore this piece for a great many aesthetic reasons. I love the choice to never have the two leads appear on stage together, I love the musical callbacks to some of theatre’s greatest hits in the composition, I love the self referential humour and the Tarantinoesque timeline. The thing I love most of all however is the really beautiful way the Musical invites us to think about the nature of memory and time. 

The presentation scene to scene of the musical alternates between the lead character’s perspectives. This from a structural standpoint allows the audience to see both halves of the story and the relationship it details but more importantly it acts as a method for seeing their titular 5 years pass. Magically despite the run time only being about 90-100 minutes it actually feels as if we have lived the whole 5 years with the characters. Both through incredibly clever writing that loops in on itself and shows how the things we love in people can inform the things we hate, or how our strengths are merely the reflections of our weaknesses, it highlights the paradigm of long term memory. We remember long tranches of time as vignettes.

Our moment to moment experience of life is gripping, visceral and totalising but when we remove ourselves and look backwards as the vastness of our own experience it all blends together and only those critical or truly remarkable moments stand out. Moments that become imbued with significance post-facto are brought to the fore and those that lose significance fade into obscurity. This is where ‘The Last 5 Years’ truly shines. It captures this pheminon perfectly. Both in the choice to include highlight moments that are clear in their significance – but also moments that as they occurred or soon thereafter would not likely have been of great importnace to either character and it is the end of the relationship and thus the foreshadowing nature of these moments that makes them important when reflecting back on the time as a whole.

Very few experiences in media feel this human, this alive and this real and it the way that they experience time along with the audience that really brings them to life and makes their pain and their joy palatable. 

When I reflect back over the progress I have made in my life and the mistakes I have made this type of vignette-vision is one of the saving graces of my existence. H.P Lovecraft said that we are only spared from madness by our inability to perceive the whole truth of our situation within the universe. To me this is what our memory is doing with vignette-vision it is bringing into focus only as much information as we need and is pertinent to allow us to learn, grow and move forward with purpose in our lives. 

Time makes fools of us all, remembering it as only as human can is something to be embraced. The fallibility of both our judgement and our memory is a well documented phenomenon and certainly not something that we should become enraged to see portrayed or fearful of. It is human – allow that to bring you comfort and contentment as you take the next step forward in your life – knowing that this too shall pass into vignettes memory to be fogging recalled when it is necessary. 

You Wanted It

Warning this post will contain some fairly adult and sexual themes. If that is not for you – thanks for stopping by and I’ll see you some other time. – The Brave Bothan 

 

So I mentioned some time ago that I had worked my way through Netflix’s Luke Cage, and had been confronted by a scene about mid way through. I didn’t write about it immediately because I wanted to make sure I had all of the information on that scene before presenting my experiences with it.

So here goes – *breathes deeply*

About mid way through Season 1 of Luke Cage there is a scene where series antagonist  – Cottonmouth – accuses his cousin – Miriah- of seducing her uncle as a teenager (fairly explicitly underage) crying out ‘You wanted it’ when she begins to imply that she had been raped.

This scene was so so so very challenging for me. I have been the victim of rape before and so know from personal experience the deep scars it leaves.

This assertion that ‘You wanted it’ should have been immediately and obviously repugnant and evil to me – only it wasn’t. For a shameful few seconds the presentation of the character of Mariah Dillard made me question if in fact Cottonmouth was right and justified in his assertions. It made me question if Mariah had been playing a different game the whole time.

The absolute lurch in my stomach when I caught myself pondering these things was truly momentous. I felt absolutely loathsome – more loathsome than even the character of Cottonmouth. I couldn’t believe that even knowing as I do the pain of those experiences that I had been positioned so effectively by this program and by society more broadly to tacitly accept Cottonmouth’s accusation – if only for a split second.

In the months between the moment I saw that scene and this one I’ve spent many, many hours trying to puzzle out how I feel about it all – to find a way to unlearn the societal values that allowed me to become so monstrous. I’ve read feminist theory and philosophical musings on the nature of sexual violence – I’ve talked to professional Psychologists about the societal conditioning present in that moment and yet nothing has made me feel better or less culpable for thinking that Cottonmouth could have been ‘right’ to say what he said.

This admission isn’t meant to garner sympathy – or absolve me of the guilt of having held that thought for those moments. Rather it is meant to show you readers that even those of us subscribed to liberal and socially progressive ideologies can fall prey to the unconscious bias and privilege that we are stopped in an surrounded by.

Since that moment I have spent hours and hours focusing on improving my continual awareness of the Male privilege I am afforded in my thoughts, words and actions. It is a continual struggle to not only avoid falling into the use and acceptance of this position but also to strive at every moment to ensure I am evening the playing field for all those minoirities around me and within my sphere of influence.

I struggle with the concept that such a realization came through such a revolting thought – that such a vile moment should be what it took to slap me awake from my malaise of indifference but I am incredibly thankful that it has. I cannot unsee, unhear or unthink that moment and so I cannot fall backwards into ignorance of just how susceptible we all are to those types of normalized privileged ideas.

I adore the way that adult media has the ability to teach indirect lessons and particularly that Marvel’s Netflix team are not willing to beat around the bush on issues that matter to our society. Whilst this has been a tremendously challenging and confronting experience it is not one I would forgo if I had the ability to issue a do-over.

I merely implore you dear readers – don’t let it take such a horrid shock to wake you as it did me. There are people around you every day being oppressed by ideas and actions that we consider normal – that we let ourselves believe because it is convenient to do so and society has allowed us to do so for a long period of time. Live the change we all want to see.  Make sure that even inside the privacy of your own head you hold yourself accountable to the highest ideals of a progressive agenda.

Be better than me.

Meaningless Language

So unsurprisingly for someone who writes a blog for fun; I adore language. Language to me is the measure of human achievement. I don’t mean disrespect to the visual arts but I have never had the same level of buy in with them personally as I have experienced with and through language.

Language to me serves as the means by which I can experience lives other than my own – and also allow others a window into mine.  This sharing of souls is central to my experience of art, love and life. I would be a radically different and arguable reduced human were the ability to engage in this conduct to be taken from me.

One of the highest pursuits within language for me has to be the trial of capturing the experience of love. For many people love is the highest of emotions and the motivating factor behind so much of their lives, myself included. Be it self love or external love – love is the driving force behind so much of my experience of life on a day to day basis.

One of the easiest way I learned to try and express my emotions to those around me was through song lyrics. For almost as long as songs have existed less gifted folk have borrowed them to express themselves better to those they care for, or seek to. As an aside my favourite way of thinking about this sentiment is actually in a  borrowed line from Motion City Soundtrack’sLGFUAD

 It’s the only way I have learned to express myself around other peoples’ descriptions of life.

But this is not a full proof method communication sometimes things are too deeply personal or complex to be phrased in another’s words.

I remember the first time I ever heard ‘All This and Heaven Too‘ – by Florence and the Machine. The beauty of it astonished me. It was as if someone had captured my exact thoughts on the difficulty of truly expressing one’s love and the elation of making progress toward it. One segment has always stuck in my mind:

No, words are a language
It doesn’t deserve such treatment
And all of my stumbling phrases never amounted to anything worth this feeling

Few who hear Florence sing would ever describe her lyrics as ‘stumbling phrases’ the beauty of her art is almost immediately apparent. It has always been this that resonated most strongly with me – the thought that even those whose words I borrow to express myself in lesser ways struggle with the enormity of love – struggle to truly capture the tenderness and care that passes in the quiet moments of the world.

I adore the concept that even those mighty muses of our modern world also feel that very same struggle as I – it is incredibly humanizing and empowering to realize that the language of emotion is entirely universal and humbles all members of the race in the exact same ways. It is one of the reasons I consider language to be the highest expression of humanity.

However you choose to express your love – whatever language or words you use, you will struggle. Embrace that struggle, it is what links you to the collective emotional existence of the race. it is this shared burden, this shared weakness that makes love such a beautiful, personal and unique thing to any number of people either alone or together. By embracing that reality and holding it tight to yourself, by understanding that even in the heights of language words have not yet been penned that can capture and bring into the R real space your love, your emotion you can find the freedom to try -the freedom to fail in the most charming of ways.

The important thing is that through the simple act of trying you will bring more love into the world – you might not capture the totality of your experiences with love every time you try to but each little excavation you make – each little piece of that love you do find the words for and bring into our shared reality makes our world a little better. So keep trying.

Gaming Life Lessons Vol. 3

So as a teenager I loved Dungeons and Dragons. Yep I was a straight up nerd, Magic The Gathering, D&D, Video Games, Books and Movies. My misspent youth really has given me  a breadth of media experience that is largely unparalleled within my peer group. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.  I will always have a soft spot of table top games. Board Games, Card Games and Miniatures – anything that gets a group of individuals into a space to interact and chew the fat, whilst the online space can do much the same with the use of voice comms there is just something about being physically collocated with the person who has just screwed you over with a move and being able to see the delight in his eyes as he does it or the feeling of triumph when your party overcomes a challenging encounter by working as a team.

For me the quintessential example of this is Dungeons and Dragons – I cannot count the hours I have spent huddled around tables with dice and a group of stalwart and adventurous mates. The real benefit of these types of experiences for me is the tangential learning opportunities they offer. There are two really big ones that have influenced the way I see and interact with the world.

The first is social skills – As such a hyper nerd it should come as no surprise that socializing hasn’t always been one of my strong suits. However now as an adult I have a very socially focused job that requires me to be able to instantly communicate with just about everyone I meet and I really do think my time with D&D and the people I shared that time with have played a large part in my success. So the wonderful thing about social D&D as organised through a store – is that it has to be all inclusive, the store wants customers. This results in a very, very eclectic group of players; particularly a very wide span of ages. In my earliest memories of playing D&D I was 15 and spending 10 -12 hours a week talking with people as old as 45 in my party. I learned a lot from these guys and gals. They became a surrogate family in a lot of way and helped me overcome my fears of interacting with people whose experiences differed from my own. They helped me calm down and get over a lot of my anger issues and more eccentric public behaviors. They really did teach me what it was to be a friend. That sense of community is often talked about in Australian culture ass only really existing around team sports but it is alive and well in hobby shops the country over and it is allowing those less athletically inclined children to achieve the same social conditioning as our future NRL superstars.

The second key thing I took away from my time with D&D was a sense of curiosity. I started playing D&D in 3.5 Edition. The source books for this edition of the game were rife with references to real life concepts of philosophy, cosmology and history. This lead to me, in an effort to learn more about the game, researching a spate of disparate topics as a child that were miles ahead of or outside my high school curriculum. This really did liberalize and round out my experience with education as a  young adult and has served me incredibly well all throughout my life to date.  The habit has also stuck – these years have endowed me with an ability I think of as ‘inspiration sense’ this is when I get the feeling whilst engaged in some media or another that the fictitious concept that is being employed has been directly inspired by elements form the real world. Whenever my ‘Inspiration Sense’  tingles I am compelled to go read more about the real world influences.

Moving into adulthood I have volunteered my time at local hobby shops to run their D&D nights. In the process of doing this I have seen dozens of people go through a similar journey to the one I have enjoyed. So I am fairly certain that the game and the way it is played has this effect on the majority and not just ‘edge cases’. It has been an absolute privilege to see autistic spectrum people truly come out of their shells in a safe environment and learn how to make friends and interact with people in a far more normalized fashion than one would expect of a D&D ‘nerd’.

For a game that has since it’s inception been met with scrutiny, mistrust and fear Dungeons and Dragons has had an amazingly transformative effect on the lives of many many children that would otherwise have done far worse or far less with their lives than what they have – because of the friends they made and lessons they learned around the table.  This is just a small look into my life and the way that D&D has helped me become the man I am.

Thank you D&D.

Heavy Time

So as we age ideas evolve. As we change so to does the way we think. This isn’t a great or retaliatory statement to many, myself included, but I still find myself being surprised by how often it catches me off guard to observe this phenomenon in myself and those around me. It isn’t very often that I get to see such a prefect glimpse of the journeys we take through life so those moments of stark contrast are invaluable for the progress they represent.

So I distinctly recall to formulation of a thought from my younger self – It ran as follows – ‘It must be nearly impossible for the middle aged and elderly to hold their heads up, living with the weight of time seems impossibly daunting’. Now this is fairly indicative of the negative head space younger me was in at the time of formulation – but it stuck with me because it had the air of importance about it. It was only later that I found out the Heidegger’s seminal work was basically dedicated to this concept and that’s why it seemed important.

Younger me already had regrets – could foresee the accumulation of even more regrets as the years washed over and engulfed me and that honestly terrified me. The concept that I would have to carry a whole life of experience on my shoulders simultaneously seemed to be a fate far worse than death. It was at this point I had a tattoo inscribed upon these shoulders – It reads ‘Death is lighter than a feather, Duty heavier than a mountain’. I have always loved that quote because it summed up many many disparate thoughts for me. The concept that time weighed one down and was a heavy duty to bear was one such thought.

Today I happily remove a thought from the list of things that the tattoo means to me.

For a little while now time has seemed less daunting, regrets less scary and the weight of the overall endeavor less overwhelming. It struck me fully today that taking control of and responsibility for ones life makes one infinitely more able to deal with the weight of time. It renders time not only weightless but a strengthening and fulfilling force. Taking control and responsibility turns endeavors that would otherwise have ended in regret into valuable lessons for continues existence.

It seems foolish that it has taken me this long to realign my thinking with this more positive outlook on the world – but the liberation is palpable. The ability to see those more challenging moments in my life not as weights to be carried or let to drag me down but ways of increasing my integrity, strength and character is honestly life changing.

Of course this was a slightly slower than instantaneous revelation it is one that has built over the last year or so, the last year of internalizing more positive readings of existentialist material and a trend towards contemporary positivism. So I am not suggesting that by thinking in this manner will solve all the worlds problems overnight. I just wanted to share with you a shining new point of hope on my personal horizon – I hope it can ease your heavy time the way it has mine.