Should the Force Have Stayed Asleep?

Similar to a Jedi going into exile, I’m back on WordPress after a prolonged absence.  I haven’t been able to finish emotionally processing Episode VII (“The Force Awakens”), and writing sometimes helps in my grieving process.  Before I start, I wanted to warn anyone who hasn’t seen the movie about possible spoilers.  My definition of a “spoiler” is quite broad.  I don’t even want to know character names prior to seeing a movie, let alone a summary of the plot.  I’ll definitely be mentioning both character names and plot details in this post.

Did anyone else who’s seen the movie feel like they went to the wrong theater by mistake, or almost want to walk out?  I hadn’t heard any negative feedback regarding the film more than two weeks past its release date.  Financially, it keeps rewriting the record books (although, I probably haven’t watched half of the hype-driven films in the top 10).  IGN gave the movie an 8.8 rating.  Maybe IGN aren’t to be trusted?  A site that I consult to read about content promised “bloodless” and “antiseptic” levels of violence.  Compared to what?  I skipped over paragraphs about blood being smeared on a helmet, and overlooked the phrase “astronomical body count” due to those other positive terms.  Was it me, or did blood also get wiped/dripped onto snow, with the camera lingering on the bloody snow?  That was missed by the reviewer.

As someone who liked most, but not all, of the prequel content, I thought this film would be enjoyable, but I realized that it’s impossible to recapture the magic of the original, due to the fact that it was so original in 1977.  Instead, after all the patience, and mostly avoiding spoilers (one major event was completely ruined by, of all people, a political commentator), something intuitively kept telling me to “have a bad feeling about this” installment.

I’ve had over three days to reflect on what I saw, and I’ve reached the conclusion that, for whatever reason, virtually all of the character relationships in Episode VII are broken, regardless of where they left off in “Return of the Jedi,” with little to no explanation.  That theme even affected characters we just met for the first time on a big screen.  For this post, I wanted to focus on the main antagonist, Darth Tantrum (excuse me, Kylo Ren).

Starting from the opening sequence of the movie, I wasn’t sure what to make of this Kylo Ren.  First of all, who are the two men in some kind of hut or dwelling, discussing a USB thumb drive?  One is eventually revealed as Poe Dameron (like the ghosts who carry lanterns in “The Legend of Zelda” folklore?).  I had to read or listen to other reviews to find out Lor San Tekka’s name, if it was even mentioned at all.  Kylo taunts this gentleman, saying, “Look how old you’ve become.”  Immediately, my brain was scrambling for any similar content in previous films from this franchise.  Maybe Han Solo was dismissive of Obi-Wan, but did it ever sound like disrespect, purely because of someone’s outward appearance or chronological age?  I wanted to know more about Lor San Tekka than I did about Darth Tantrum, but Kylo apparently murdered him (the camera cuts away as the saber comes down and audio fills in the visual gap).

During the same sequence, Kylo is able to freeze blaster ammunition in the air.  Again, my brain was drawing a blank.  I’ve seen lightsabers parry away laser fire or possibly absorb it.  Darth Vader put up his hand to somehow impede laser fire or absorb it.  Was this new visual simply a cheap homage to “bullet time” from The Matrix?  How do these new rules of physics work in the Star Wars universe, or are they symbolic of a lack of imagination, and the sense that this new saga has very few innovative things to say to a modern audience?

I’m trying to remember the next scene where Ren appeared.  Possibly to interrogate Poe?  “I had no idea we captured the Resistance’s best pilot.”  First of all, how would he know that?  Did Poe give up his own name?  Secondly, why would you compliment a member of the other team?  It felt like an awkward line.

I’ve read message board posts where others describe Kylo as a “conflicted” character.  In what way?  Before I get to that, he asks a burnt mask to forgive him.  Isn’t that unusual behavior for a villain?  His plea to be forgiven is in reference to impulses to be a righteous person.  In my reading and researching a topic like forgiveness, the psychological perspective is that someone else has been harmed.  You vicariously feel that person’s pain, and recognize that it was caused by your own actions or impulses.  Therefore, you need to ask them to grant you forgiveness in return for your genuine remorse and refusal to hurt them in the future.  Does Star Wars even understand those concepts?  Was that dialogue inserted to symbolize how the modern world has twisted morality by 180 degrees?  Whatever used to be “right” is now “wrong.”  Darkness becomes the substitute for light.  Lies become the new truth.

Returning to the idea of Kylo being “conflicted,” I’d ask again, how do we know this as a viewer?  I can only think of the incident with the helmet, and a conversation with a hologram called “Snoke,” in which Kylo self-identifies as being “conflicted,”  That takes me off on a tangent about the modern idea where it’s up to each individual to self-identify as (fill in the blank).  Has there been any precedent for Star Wars characters declaring their own identity?  I think of Luke (“I am a Jedi, like my father before me.”).  In most cases, the idea of someone being conflicted came from a third party, outside influence.  “I feel the conflict within you.”  “I trust that your feel-ings are clear on this.”

If I were deciding whether a character was “conflicted,” I’d look at his or her actions.  Did Kylo enjoy performing interrogations, or did he seem “conflicted”?  It’s hard to mention the interrogations without again wondering where the idea of pulling thoughts or images out of someone’s head has been seen before or described as a Force power.  Putting false images there, maybe (in the case of a “Jedi mind trick”); but, removing them almost seemed like witchcraft or the occult.  To take one more detour, what was the purpose of the interrogations in this movie?  Initially, it seemed like the First Order were trying to find a complete map with possible military intelligence.  In a later interrogation, Ren was saying that the Order already has a map that’s over 90% complete, with only a section missing, and possibly a yellow or orange dotted line showing places to look for evidence of where to search next.  For 30 years, or whatever time period they had the mostly complete map, didn’t they think of deploying assets to the uncharted territory?  Everything else had narrowed down where not to look.  Let’s even say that the Resistance got their hands on this information.  How would it have been useful to them without the Order’s portion of the map?

I’ll mention one more thing, since my post is getting verbose.  Why does Kylo wear a mask?  Typically, I think that characters are wearing masks to hide their identity, to conceal a disfigured face, for protection in battle, or for life support (Darth Vader).  In the case of Darth Tantrum (which I won’t get to in this post – but those were also perplexing), I would not have guessed his identity or his parentage if he went without the mask for the whole film.  When he did remove it, his face didn’t look scarred or abnormal.  He obviously lived without wearing it, and he was able to stop blaster ammunition in the air, which seems to rule out protection.  All I can figure is that Darth Vader wore a mask.  Kylo wants to be the next Vader (never mind being the first Kylo), and it makes his voice even more distorted and monotone.  Was there any significance to him revealing himself to Rey first?  Almost as if to say, this woman is a strong feminist archetype, so of course she can give an order to remove one’s mask, and men automatically obey her.

For my next post, I’ve thought up an alternate ending to “The Force Awakens,” which I hope to share.  It may actually enhance the idea of Kylo being a “conflicted” character.  At the very least, I wanted to try and redeem what seemed like a very weak ending to this new chapter set in the Star Wars universe.

The “Metroid” Game Series

She’s certainly got a cannon for an arm!

By that, I mean bounty hunter Samus Aran, heroine of the “Metroid” video game series.  I’m not sure who came up with that phrase (cannon for an arm).  I couldn’t find that exact quote on Google, meaning that hopefully I haven’t plagiarized.  In the 2002 edition of John Madden’s EA sports game, he’s commented hundreds of times that, “He’s obviously got a cannon for an arm; But sometimes, on the shorter throws, you need to put some touch on the ball.”  Obviously, that was describing a male – specifically the quarterback of any given team.

What’s fascinating about the “Metroid” game series?  It’s hard to say!  I’m pretty sure that my first exposure to the series was via a used copy of “Super Metroid” on the Super Nintendo home console.  There was an opening sequence that reviewed the results of completing the previous games in the series.  Was there even voice acting for that sequence?  It’s been a while since I’ve played the game.  From that point on, I was hooked on the story.

Since then, I believe I’ve only played “Metroid Prime” (up to the final boss), and still have a high level of appreciation for the whole series.  Out of curiosity, I looked up a timeline of when each title was released.  The NES title “Metroid” was released close to my birthday in 1987.  It took about 6 years and 8 more months to see Samus make her only appearance on SNES, in April of 1994.

After that point, and based on reading Wikipedia articles, it seemed like the series had a rough patch.  Samus technically appeared on Nintendo’s third home console, the Nintendo 64, but only as a fighter in the “Super Smash Brothers” compilation, which brought together multiple franchises.  I can remember playing a demo of “Metroid Prime” in the days of GameCube, and wondering if the game was too “dark” and bad for my mental or emotional health.  If I were to play it today, I’d probably laugh at that idea – if only because the “real world” is consistently a dangerous place.

Samus’ return to a home system (that “Metroid Prime” appearance mentioned above) came after a hiatus of about 8 years and 7 months!  If you add up all the time between the original “Metroid” and the first GameCube release, it took just over 15 years and 3 months for Samus to appear in three console games!  Then, starting from the success of the first “Prime” title, she appeared in a total of three console games (the Prime Trilogy) over a span of just over 6 years and 9 months.  I believe the pattern has been that she stars in two games starting from the GameCube console, and continued on the Wii (although, an upgraded version of the first Prime was released in Japan, using the Wii controls, and the entire “Prime Trilogy” was published as a Wii title).  Thus far, she’s been missing from the Wii U, though (unless you count a role in the newest “Super Smash Brothers” sequel).

To get back to a question I asked four paragraphs ago, it’s hard to pinpoint how this series has impressed me so much, considering how I’ve only played two of the games.  The games themselves stick out to me as among the best I’ve played on those two consoles.  When you start each adventure, you’re not that powerful.  Actually, you do have some power-ups in a “training” stage of “Prime,” but (spoiler alert) those don’t last (end spoiler).  At first, it can seem frustrating that many areas are blocked off, because you don’t have bombs yet, or whatever attaches to that interesting track along the wall, or a way to swing over a pool of magma.  In that sense, the series reminds me a bit of Zelda.  How often are those silly boulders stopping you from exploring a cave?  If you don’t mind coming back to those areas later in the game, you tend to get rewarded for your sense of exploration.

Technically, there are enemies in the foreign worlds that Samus explores, but it’s sometimes hard to notice!  You might just be enjoying the scenery, and a silly nest of bees or hornets decides to make trouble.

Graphically, I felt like “Prime” was one of the most polished games I’ve played on any system.  The developers took a risk putting you inside Samus’ helmet, with a “heads up display” (HUD), but there was so much attention paid to every detail!  How do you know you’re in a steamy place?  Your visor probably starts to collect condensation.  Is it raining outside?  Did you jump out of a pool of water?  Watch it bead off of the visor!  In a dark room, where you fire off a glowing beam or weapon, you can see a brief reflection of Samus’ face in the visor.  The visor’s infrared and x-ray modes added even more depth and detail.

The environments are creepy, and the soundtrack is almost perfect.  There are hardly any sounds that would remind you of Earth, and that seems to be just fine.

One aspect of these games that I’ve noticed others emphasizing is the idea that you’re alone.  Other than being an introvert, I’m not sure why that sounds appealing.  In Mario games, I suppose you can sometimes play as Luigi (or Peach and Toad).  In Zelda games, part of the plot usually involves Link making friends with nonplayable characters.  In “Metroid,” there’s Samus, and a lonely planet with alien species.  I believe that changed somewhat in “Other M,” but I haven’t played that game.

Overall, it’s an amazing series.  I’m not sure if it stands out because of the relatively low number of titles, or for other reasons.  There doesn’t seem to be a poorly reviewed or low-rated game in the bunch, with the possible exception of “Other M” for the Wii.

For tonight, I believe I’ve written enough.  I’ll have about two weeks to think of a new idea for a Tuesday post.  Look for that entry on May 5th.

The Sequence of Creation

“We come to it at last …” – Gandalf

Actually, if you were reading the full quote beyond the ellipsis, Gandalf was speaking about a different context.  I must be conditioned by formal education to avoid even the appearance of plagiarism when it comes to verbatim quotes (even if they were uttered by fictional characters?).

For my first true post, I wanted to examine the text of Genesis chapter 1.  Why the Bible?  It’s the only printed source I’m aware of that presents a coherent narrative of creation events in one convenient place.  I tend to worry that my blogging style might be too “dogmatic” or “didactic,” but I hope you can catch some of the passion I have regarding the study of these words and the kind of value I place on them.

What was created on the first day, as described in Genesis?

Time itself?

The temporal phrase “In the beginning …” (Genesis 1:1) only seems to make sense within the dimension of time (not to mention later references to days and years).

The heavens

My English translation uses the plural for this word, which I think is important.  My understanding is that there are three possible “heavens.”  One is the Earth’s atmosphere (although, that “heaven” isn’t mentioned until day two).  A second is what we’d call “outer space,” containing all the other matter in the known physical universe.  The third is a spiritual realm, often (appropriately) called “Heaven.”

The Earth

Although there were already “heavens,” it’s interesting to note that stars, the sun, and even the moon don’t appear yet.  The Earth seems to be either made entirely of water, or the outer surface is watery (Genesis 1:2).

Light

I almost typed light and darkness, but that doesn’t sound accurate from a straightforward reading of the text.  It makes me wonder if there’s special significance to God only speaking light into existence.  He gives the darkness a name (“night”).  I guess the darkness naturally occurred in any place that wasn’t permeated by light?

At the end of the first day, you can see how my curiosity is already posing several questions.

What was created on the second day?

The sky

Early in the process, there seems to be an emphasis on separation between two objects or two concepts.  First, there were the divisions between day/light and night/darkness.  This day focused on a division between the Earth’s surface and the atmosphere.

Question from the second day: Why isn’t there a mention of God seeing that this work was good?

What was created on the third day?

Dry land

Seas

That makes me wonder whether the land was submerged up until that point.  Also, with the water being “gathered to one place” (Genesis 1:9), did that leave one large continent?  If so, then it’s slightly confusing to read about plural “seas” in verse 10.

Vegetation (ground plants and fruit trees)

Keep in mind that there isn’t a sun yet, or even insects to pollinate some of these plants.

What was created on the fourth day?

Lights in the sky (sun, moon, and stars)

This is where the process starts to sound like 24 hour days (if it hadn’t before).  The plants would be in need of heat and a light source to photosynthesize their own food.

What was created on the fifth day?

Every type of sea creature

Birds

Now the birds, and possibly flying insects, would be able to pollinate flowers and other plants.

What was created on the sixth day?

Land creatures

Wild animals

A human

At first, it sounds confusing that man seems to be plural.  Then I remember how God often looked at certain individuals as if they were already fathers and grandfathers of future generations (prior to the birth of any offspring).

The seventh day isn’t described until chapter 2, and it was considered a day of rest, because God was finished creating new things.

You may wonder why any of this is important, so long as God was the one doing all the creating.  I suppose a skeptic or a “mocker” looks at the sequence and points out “flaws,” because he/she would’ve done it differently.  All I personally know is that I’ve never built any universes.  Yet, why not create a sun before the plants?  All I can figure is that I wouldn’t want to spend a minimum of 24 hours scorching the ground prior to any seeds being planted.  The longer each “day” becomes, it would only seem to compound the problem of scorching the ground.

At a certain point, it also becomes apparent (at least to me) that these events can’t be synchronized with various details of an evolutionary timescale.  In a future post, I hope to talk about the miracle of lizard-hip dinosaurs somehow morphing into flying birds.  In the creation account, you see that birds predate anything that moved along the ground.  In that case, how would a dinosaur becoming a bird represent either a) the addition of a new species to the diversity of animal life, or b) a step forward in the evolutionary process?

In the process of preparing this post, I consulted these resources, which may be of further interest:

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Genesis+1&version=NIV

(Technically, I own a hard copy, but the text should be very similar.  My printed copy doesn’t contain any edits that were copyrighted in the 2011 edition.)

http://www.gotquestions.org/creation-days.html

(A very thorough [yet more concise] summary of the creation events.)

https://answersingenesis.org/why-does-creation-matter/evolution-vs-creation-the-order-of-events-matters/

I plan to write one or more future posts describing some of these chronological “continuity errors,” which further suggest that only one view of how matter and life originated seems to be accurate and consistent.

On Tuesday, I hope to cover a much lighter subject – the “Metroid” series of video games.  Until then, happy reading!

Tentative Schedule

A few weeks back, I brainstormed the ideas that I’d like to cover in my creation series.  So far, it’s a short list:

The Sequence of Creation (likely publication date: 4/17/2015) – There seems to be a preoccupation with time when it comes to how the universe was created (first, the number of days until it was complete, and then the elapsed years since anything new was introduced).  My goal is to gloss over all of that and focus more on the order of events, which may give more insight into when things may have been created, based on other prerequisites.

Why 10,000 Years? (projected publication date: 5/1/2015) – In this case, I would focus more on a timeline, but not for the creation events themselves.  When a number like 6,000 or 10,000 is mentioned, it’s often said in a skeptical or sarcastic way, and dismissed without further explanation.  There are actually strong reasons for mentioning numbers in the range of 6,000 to 10,000, which I hope to research by the end of April, in order to keep on a schedule of one post every two weeks.

Ages of the Earth (projected publication date: 5/15/2015) – Similar to the universe described by Tolkien, I strongly believe the Earth has gone through at least two previous “ages.”  The Bible suggests at least two more that are set in the future.

That’s currently the end of the list, although I’m not completely out of ideas (mostly short on time/organization).  One thought is that, for every topic relating to creation, I could try to discover what the opposing viewpoint has to say, and make some comparisons (or mostly contrasts?) between them.  I’m actually most familiar with creation, and would need to read about evolutionary history before feeling confident enough to write a post.  As an example, the concept of multiple “ages” could probably partner with “Uniformitarianism,” since many of the default assumptions in evolutionary theory appear to rely upon conditions remaining the same for long periods of time.

For my alternate series about hobbies and other interests, I’m starting to formulate a few ideas, such as video games, collecting Amiibo, and The Silmarillion.  The part I’m not sure of yet is whether to create a similar two week rotation for those posts that falls in between creation posts, or to make them more frequent.

For now. it’s off to study the concepts that I’ll present in Friday’s post!

First Things First

Welcome to my new blog!

Yes, it may look a little “generic.”  When I considered what kind of theme I pictured in my head, it was a two column layout, with the emphasis on the wider left column.  Thankfully, WordPress has such a theme; it almost resembles a digital sheet of blank paper.

Some of the people who’ve gotten to know me the best think I should have some type of journal or blog.  I’ve thought for a few months about what I would post if I had a blog, or what topic(s) to feature.  I came up with the idea of: creation.

My intent isn’t really to be a stereotypical “creation vs evolution” writer.  In fact, I’d prefer not to insult or “attack” popular personalities who may disagree with the information I present.  I’m still in the early stages of figuring out how I’ll do that, because I may mention a few such people by name along the way.

At least at the beginning of my article series, I plan to create new posts every two weeks.  Why every two weeks?  The world is used to an instant streaming, microwave dinner, fast food pace of activity.  How are you supposed to stand out in that kind of culture?  Another reason may just be the speed at which I study and process information.  Often, when I’ve volunteered to lead a Bible study, I might start preparing two weeks in advance.  My goal is to make sure I have a chance to read all the material, and then seek out sermons or other commentary that help to explain certain passages.

There’s only one ground rule that I request.  I’m very intolerant towards profanity and personal attacks or verbal abuse.  Chances are, we don’t know each other, or we’re not close acquaintances.  How is it possible that you would be angry with me?  Are you sure you’re not comparing me to a caricature you’ve heard somewhere else, or misplacing your anger, which is actually burning towards someone else?

Another idea I have is to alternate between spiritual topics and some of my hobbies, or thoughts about pop culture (books I’m reading, movie reviews …).  In that case, I might write a new article each week, but on a different weekday.  In other words, there may be 4 to 5 days between a creation post and a hobby post, but probably longer than a week until the next creation post.

Thank you for your readership, and I hope to present some original ideas that may not have been presented to you up until now.