Lords of the Sith – Review

Lords_of_the_SithIt has been a tough start for the new Star Wars book line. A New Daw began things perfectly by telling a story that introduced us to Kanan and Hera of Star Wars Rebels. It chronicled their first meeting, giving us our first canon book as well as our first taste of these new characters. Tarkin followed and unfortunately felt like little more that filler which is more than can be said about the dismal Heir to the Jedi.  A seemingly promising start has been watered down to stories with little impact on the saga, ranking with some of the worst in the old Expanded Universe. Can Lords of the Sith turn things around?

This is the book you are looking for

Paul Kemp’s Lords of the Sith is exactly the book I was hoping it would be. It has weight to its story and adds depth to the characters in the tradition of the best tie-in fiction. The story follows  Cham Syndulla, Hera’s father, as he uses all of his resources to take down Vader and the Emperor who are traveling to Ryloth on their own mission to root out traitors in Orn Free Ta’s delegation.

Kemp is able to add so much to our understand of Vader, his growth as a Sith as well as his relationship with Palpatine. It’s the thing many readers have expected from this new line of books, that they would add something legitimate to the characters, as well as deepening our understand of what drives them. Lords of the Sith has this in spades, in it’s story of the Sith and the Rebels. By telling this story of Cham Syndulla we not only have a greater insight into a character first seen in The Clone Wars, but his daughter who is the star of Rebels. Both stories have the impact you’d hope for.

There is so much that is worth talking about in this book but that would lead to spoilers that are best left to discovery while reading. So pick up Lords of the Sith and enjoy how the Star Wars new canon books should feel every time you read one, significant.

Disclosure: This book was provided by Del Ray as an early review and in no way affects the thoughts or feelings of the reviewer.

Dead McDreams: The Hubris of Television

greys-openerThere is a quote from The Patriot that has been rolling around in my head for a while now, Mel Gibson’s character says at the start of the movie, “I have long feared that my sins would return to visit me, and the cost is more than I can bear.” You may wonder, “Why is he thinking about this?” I have been thinking about it in terms of television shows and so the quote, in my mind is altered slightly; ” I have long feared that the number of seasons would return to haunt me and the cost is than I can bear.”

Television shows start out with an idea, characters and a vision for how they should evolve as the show progresses. If you are a good creative, you may have an outline that stretches quite far into your character’s future and hopefully you have some ideas where they land in the end. On American television there is an inherent difficulty involved because our television seasons tend to last 23 to 24 episodes. As writers, you are required to fill these episodes, so you create drama through problems between the characters and from outside them to drive story lines, while hopefully creating something people want to actually watch. It’s never easy.

As a show grows and becomes successful, it becomes a balancing act to keep it all together. How does the story keep going strong and at the same time remain true to the premise and arc for each character and not just devolve into another stat for the rule of diminishing returns? This is the struggle. For every show that has been a hit for 7-10 seasons there are a plethora of others that have just fizzed out, the fire died and therefore they did as well. There are some prime examples of shows that stayed beyond their time, ER and The X-Files are two of the most prominent. Each one wore out it’s welcome and failed to end satisfactorily for it’s fans; so much so that The X-Files is about to be brought back after 13 years for a short stint. They both failed to economically tell their stories so that characters arcs and show mythologies had a clear beginning and ending.

This happens a lot, creatives have a successful show, that should only have 4-5 seasons, yet because of it’s popularity they stretch it out. Like Bilbo with the ring in Lord of the Rings, the story lines become like too little butter on too much toast. On top of that, outside influences begin to affect the story being told. Instead of doing things for creative reasons, the real world intrudes on the make-believe and dictates terms. Actors want to move on to other things, actors die, creatives get famous and create other shows and the original show begins to suffer. It’s no longer driven by the story of the characters and where they need to go it’s driven by the quota of the season and who’s still left in the cast to tell it. It is the hubris of continuing to extend television shows past their true story potential,

For a show to be popular and to last in the in maelstrom of Hollywood, it must connect with people. The characters and story must reach them on a fundamental level. If they don’t, people will just not watch. If a show does make it and succeed, it takes the commitment of the fans to keep it on the air. As we watch we get invested in the characters and what happens to them. It might not be real, but it does have an impact. After watching a show for ten or more years, it’s a part of you, there is an investment there, you care what happens. Television is also the place we go to escape. When it comes down to it, we want the happy ending because we know that real life isn’t like that. The problem becomes that when you continue to make show for so many seasons you begin to loose the ability to end on the right terms. Characters die that shouldn’t and story lines don’t conclude to anyone’s satisfaction because the resources to do so aren’t around anymore.

6d9fb990-cc4e-0132-45c3-0ebc4eccb42fThis is what has happened to Grey’s Anatomy. It has lost the ability to give us the happy ending and the resolution we all want because it’s outlived it’s actors. Seriously, this show starts with two people, Meredith and Derek. From the first seconds of the show we can tell that no matter what other stories they tell, this is the important one, it’s the beating heart of the show. With all that they went through, there was one constant, we knew they would be together. Callie Torres said it best in a recent episode, “…Look, you and Derek are living proof that love exists, that it works, that there is hope. You guys are a freaking romance novel. And I, for one, am rooting for you two. Team MerDer!”.

Because Grey’s is in it’s 11th season there has always been a looming danger that each successive season would ruin the previous more that help the whole. This is possibly the biggest danger of having a show endure past it’s optimum end, that it will taint the previously loved story lines. I believe this is what has happened to Grey’s. Now the entire show will forever be altered because of the knowledge that there is no happy ending for the first two people we see on screen. In fact, Meredith’s story is a tragedy of epic Greek proportions. The amount of death that surrounds her is astounding. Someone on Facebook posted, “Grey’s Anatomy, this is not what I signed up for”, and I can’t help but agree. I don’t need this show to remind me that life is not fair or that bad things happen. What I did want was there to be a good payoff to my years of investment in the characters.

What gives it that bitterness is that there have been great exists on this show, none more celebrated than Sandra Oh. She had a whole season to celebrate her character and it was deserved. She had been such a major part of the story from the beginning. What is most frustrating in this loss of Derek Shepherd is that there was no celebration of this character. He spend most of the season away from the show, fighting with Meredith, had a heart-warming realization of what was important in life and came home finally, only to be killed unceremoniously. In fact his death and the way it happened is so similar to George O’Malley that his loss stings all the more. Seriously, this is the second character we see on screen in the pilot (well his butt is) and this is the best we can do sending him off?

In the end, it is just a show and life will go on. It’s unfortunate that a show I’ve enjoyed for ten years has irrevocably been changed for the worse, all because it forged ahead when it should have found resolution a long time ago. Ferry boats crash and so do our McDreams of a happy ending. derek-meredith-bar-pg

I’m on The Seriously Grey’s Podcast discussing the episode as well.

GAs11e21

The Force Awakens and Batman V Superman Trailers

Both of these films will be monster hits and both of them will have their haters. For me, I am just as excited for each one. Star Wars looks to be capturing the entire saga’s weight and carrying it forward, BvS looks to challenge us with all the right questions and differentiate itself from what came before, boldly going where no superhero movie has gone before. It is a great time to be a geek! Look for upcoming discussions of both trailers in The 602 Club, coming soon.

Star Wars: Episode VII: The Force Awakens

Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice 

The 602 Club S2: He’s George Freaking Lucas

tsc-0S2-th-squareThe Star Wars Saga.

Some nights after closing time Ruby serves up something special and in this supplemental episode of The 602 Club host Matthew Rushing and John Mills enjoy a rare vintage and talk Star Wars. We discuss everything, the Prequels, The Clone Wars, the Jedi, unexplored time periods, the expanded universe then and now, the Holiday Special, Special Editions, the new films, comics and the digital releases. It’s a conversation of love and laughs about the entire saga of Star Wars.

The 602 Club 25: Paradise Lost for Pirates

tsc-025-th-squarePirates of the Caribbean.

In 2002 Disney decided to make a film based on one of it’s theme park rides. The Country Bears was a box office flop, yet this did not deter the studio from continuing to mining it’s rides for inspiration. The very next year, Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl would become a monster hit, going on to inspire 3 more films with a 5th one currently in the works.

In this episode of The 602 Club host Matthew Rushing is joined by the ladies of Educating Geeks, Alice Baker and Megan Calcote to talk about the original Pirates of the Caribbean movie. We discuss the shock of learning Disney was making a movie based on another theme park ride, the casting, the way the movie winks to the audience, the surprising depth of the story, the music, production value and why this should have been just one film.

The 602 Club 24: The Dr. No of the Marvel Franchise

tsc-024-th-squareIron Man.

Some movies spend years languishing in development hell and Iron Man was one of the longest. From 1990 to 2005 it bounced around from studio to studio; it wasn’t until 2006 that Marvel acquired back the rights and decided to use it as the launching pad for it’s own studio as well as a cinematic universe that the film would finally materialize.

In this episode of The 602 Club host Matthew Rushing is joined by Jose Munoz, Andi VanderKolk and Daniel Proulx to talk about Iron Man. We discuss the long production history of the film, our first thoughts, realism in comic book movies, The cast, the villain, story, music, direction and ask if it still holds up. 

The Passion of Doctrine

I have been slowly reading though Dorothy Sayers work, Letters to a Diminished Church. Her very first chapter is about the drama of the incarnation of Christ and what sets it apart in human history. It felt like the right time to share it, just a few days before Easter, to meditate on what it is that we celebrate and just how incredible it is. I love the way she brings to life the doctrine to life.

nativity“The Church’s answer is categorical and uncompromising, and it is this: that Jesus Bar-Joseph, the carpenter of Nazareth, was in fact and in truth, and in the most exact and literal sense of the words, the God “by whom all things were made.” His body and brain were those of a common man; his personality was the personality of God, so far as that personality could be expressed in human terms. He was not a kind of demon pretending to be human; he was in every respect a genuine living man. He was not merely a man so good as to be “like God”— he was God.

“Now, this is not just a pious commonplace; it is not a commonplace at all. For what it means is this, among other things: that for whatever reason God chose to make man as he is—limited and suffering and subject to sorrows and death—he [God] had the honesty and the courage to take his own medicine. Whatever game he is playing with his creation, he has kept his own rules and played fair. He can exact nothing from man that he has not exacted from himself. He has himself gone through the whole of human experience, from the trivial irritations of family life and the cramping restrictions of hard work and lack of money to the worst horrors of pain and humiliation, defeat, despair, and death. When he was a man, he played the man. He was born in poverty and died in disgrace and though it well worthwhile.”

“Christianity is, of course, not the only religion that has found the best explanation of human life in the idea of an incarnate and suffering god. The Egyptian Osiris died and rose again; Aeschylus in his play, The Eumenides, reconciled man to God by the theory of a suffering Zeus. But in most theologies, the god is supposed to have suffered and died in some remote and mythical period of prehistory. The Christian story, on the other hand, starts off briskly in St. Matthew’s account with a place and date: “When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the King.” St. Luke, still more practically and prosaically, pins the thing down by a reference to a piece of government finance. God, he says, was made man in the year when Caesar Augustus was taking a census in connection with a scheme of taxation. Similarly, we might date an event by saying that it took place in the year that Great Britain went off the gold standard. About thirty-three years later (we are informed), God was executed, for being a political nuisance, “under Pontius Pilate”—much as we might say, “when Mr. Johnson-Hicks was Home Secretary.” It is as definite and concrete as all that.”

“Possibly we might prefer not to take this tale too seriously— there are disquieting points about it. Here we had a man of divine character walking and talking among us—and what did we find to do with him? The common people, indeed, “heard him gladly”; but our leading authorities in Church and State considered that he talked too much and uttered too many disconcerting truths. So we bribed one of his friends to hand him over quietly to the police, and we tried him on a rather vague charge of creating a disturbance, and had him publicly flogged and hanged on the common gallows, “thanking God we were rid of a knave.” All this was not very creditable to us, even if he was (as many people thought and think) only a harmless, crazy preacher. But if the Church is right about him, it was more discreditable still, for the man we hanged was God Almighty.”

“So that is the outline of the official story—the tale of the time when God was the underdog and got beaten, when he submitted to the conditions he had laid down and became a man like the men he had made, and the men he had made broke him and killed him. This is the dogma we find so dull— this terrifying drama of which God is the victim and hero.”scandal-of-the-cross

“If this is dull, then what, in Heaven’s name, is worthy to be called exciting? The people who hanged Christ never, to do them justice, accused him of being a bore—on the contrary, they thought him too dynamic to be safe. It has been left for later generations to muffle up that shattering personality and surround him with an atmosphere of tedium. We have very efficiently pared the claws of the Lion of Judah, certified him “meek and mild,” and recommended him as a fitting household pet for pale curates and pious old ladies. To those who knew him, however, he in no way suggests a milk-and-water person; they objected to him as a dangerous firebrand. True, he was tender to the unfortunate, patient with honest inquirers, and humble before heaven; but he insulted respectable clergymen by calling them hypocrites. He referred to King Herod as “that fox”; he went to parties in disreputable company and was looked upon as a “gluttonous man and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners”; he assaulted indignant tradesmen and threw them and their belongings out of the temple; he drove a coach- and-horses through a number of sacrosanct and hoary regulations; he cured diseases by any means that came handy, with a shocking casualness in the matter of other people’s pigs and property; he showed no proper deference for wealth or social position; when confronted with neat dialectical traps, he displayed a paradoxical humor that affronted serious-minded people, and he retorted by asking disagreeably searching questions that could not be answered by rule of thumb. He was emphatically not a dull man in his human lifetime, and if he was God, there can be nothing dull about God either. But he had “a daily beauty in his life that made us ugly,” and officialdom felt that the established order of things would be more secure without him. So they did away with God in the name of peace and quietness.”

“And the third day he rose again.” What are we to make of this? One thing is certain: if he were God and nothing else, his immortality means nothing to us; if he was man and no more, his death is no more important than yours or mine. But if he really was both God and man, then when the man Jesus died, God died too; and when the God Jesus rose from the dead, man rose too, because they were one and the same person. The Church binds us to no theory about the exact composition of Christ’s Resurrection Body. A body of some kind there had to be since man cannot perceive the Infinite otherwise than in terms of space and time. It may have been made from the same elements as the body that disappeared so strangely from the guarded tomb, but it was not that old, limited mortal body, though it was recognizably like it. In any case, those who saw the risen Christ remained persuaded that life was worth living and death a triviality—and attitude curiously unlike that of the modern defeatist, who is firmly persuaded that life is a disaster and death (rather inconsistently) a major catastrophe.”

“Now, nobody is compelled to believe a single word of this remarkable story. God (says the Church) has created us perfectly free to disbelieve in him as much as we choose. If we do disbelieve, then he and we must take the consequences in a world ruled by cause and effect. The Church says further that man did, in fact, disbelieve, and that God did, in fact, take the consequences. All the same, if we are going to disbelieve a thing, it seems on the whole to be desirable that we should first find out what, exactly, we are disbelieving. Very well, then: “The right Faith is, that we believe that Jesus Christ is God and man, Perfect God and perfect man, of a reasonable soul and human flesh subsisting. Who although he be God and man yet is he not two, but one Christ.” There is the essential doctrine, of which the whole elaborate structure of Christian faith and morals is only the logical consequence.”

“Now, we may call that doctrine exhilarating, or we may call it devastating; we may call it revelation, or we may call it rubbish; but if we call it dull, then words have no meaning at all. That God should play the tyrant over man is a dismal story of unrelieved oppression; that man should play the tyrant over man is the usual dreary record of human futility; but that man should play the tyrant over God and find him a better man than himself is an astonishing drama indeed. Any journalist, hearing of it for the first time, would recognize it as news; those who did hear it for the first time actually called it news, and good news at that; though we are likely to forget that the word Gospel ever meant anything so sensational.

Perhaps the drama is played out now, and Jesus is safely dead and buried. Perhaps. It is ironical and entertaining to consider that at least once in the world’s history those words might have been spoken with complete conviction, and that was upon the eve of the Resurrection.”*empty_tomb11

*From pages 2-7 of Letters to a Diminished Church by Dorothy Sayers.