History is a great teacher. Now everyone knows that the labor movement did not diminish the strength of the nation but enlarged it. By raising the living standards of millions, labor miraculously created a market for industry and lifted the whole nation to undreamed of levels of production. Those who attack labor forget these simple truths, but history remembers them.

I suppose I can always quote Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. twice in one month, can’t I?

This quote is near and dear to my heart for a lot of reasons. Firstly, in the current economic climes I am all too aware of the consequences of the diminished nature  of  the labour movement and secondly, I’m all too well aware of the implications of failing to learn from history…

Right, the update. I found this new software called yWrite. It’s free, has somewhat better (to me, anyway) features and layout compared to Scrivener or MS Word and I think it’s really going to help a lot.

This Is Halloween is finished and will be up tomorrow.

That’s it for this week. Happy Black History Month and I’ll see you next time.

Star Wars Analysis

All right guys, here’s some Star Wars analysis for you all:

  • First, the title: The Last Jedi. Much ink has been spilled on this already, but to me it is clear that it refers to Luke Skywalker, who has been identified as the last (of the) Jedi at several points: by Yoda, in ROTJ and in the opening crawl of The Force Awakens, to name two. And yet, the foreign translations are in the plural. Does that mean more than one Jedi survived the massacre? Possibly. I would be hesitant to trust translations, even official ones. They can be misleading, even deliberately.
    • Who it does not refer to is either Rey or Finn. Rey is clearly in training to be a Jedi, but like Luke before her is not one yet. And Finn, based on what we’ve seen so far, is neither.
      • To elaborate: the Force is strong with Finn, this much is true. His empathy and skill against Kylo indicate that much. But the Force was strong with Leia, too, and ultimately she never did take up the lightsaber. So it remains to be see what fate ultimately befalls Finn.
  • The box art:
    • First, Rey. Like I said before, Rey is clearly in training to be a Jedi. She’s wielding a blue lightsaber, presumably Anakin’s, and wearing what appears to be Jedi robes. She isn’t a Jedi yet, though, and her continued use of Anakin’s saber proves that. Luke wasn’t considered a Jedi by either Vader or Yoda until he had constructed his own lightsaber and confronted Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine. Given that Rey’s story so closely parallels Luke’s, and that constructing one’s own lightsaber is a vital part of Jedi training, Rey will almost certainly go down the same path.
      • Her black under robes: personally, I don’t think this means all that much. Black undergarments, so I’m told, are often worn by women for eminently practical reasons and it’s entirely possible that these reasons apply here, too. If it does mean anything, it signifies her maturation and growth, as Luke’s black robes in ROTJ signified his.
      • Her hair: this is much more important. In Rey’s Survival Guide, it’s explained that Rey kept her three-buns style in order that her family would recognize her after being left on Jakku for over a decade. That she has found it indicates that she has found her family, namely in the person of Luke Skywalker. Personally, I believe that this is biological family, but it could be found family, too. Though if it is biological, it tells us that new!Mara is apparently an elf, ’cause man, does Daisy Ridley look like Arwen of Rivendell here.
    • Finn: Finn actually has the least amount of details here. We can surmise that he’s awoken from his coma, and that he has fully transitioned into a soldier of the Resistance: he’s ditched the black stormtrooper undershirt for a white shirt, possibly robes, and has either repaired or replaced the jacket that was destroyed in the final fight. Not much to go on, really.
    • Poe Dameron:
      • Poe is much more interesting because of what his presence implies, rather than anything in his actual costume. Mainly, that he has continued his narrative promotion from glorified extra that he was in the early drafts of TFA into a fully-realized member of the main trio. This is important for a number of reasons:
        • In the original drafts, Poe was supposed to die and Kylo Ren was supposed to be a member of the main trio. This is a terrible idea.
          • Firstly, there’s the problem of interacting with the other members of the trio. Kylo Ren is the villain, his interactions with the other heroes is going to antagonistic. Not friendly, supportive or even just good-natured bantering. Further they’re going to be limited: Kylo Ren simply cannot be hanging out with the heroes ’cause he’s busy being the bad guy.
            • So in order to fix that interaction problem, you have two choices: you can redeem Kylo in TFA, which leads to the same revolving-door dragon symptom we had in the prequels. I get why George did that, but that doesn’t make it a good idea. Especially not twice in a row.
            • Or, you could do what they did in Buffy which was neuter Spike so bad he became a bad joke. It wasn’t until season seven of Buffy and season five of Angel that he became a character worth watching again, and the ‘romance’ between him and Buffy was pretty terrible. So for Kylo’s sake, please don’t do this to him. Modern villains are pathetic enough, can we at least keep Kylo vaguely threatening?
          • Poe Dameron, then, as an already bona fide badass hero in the lines of Philip Marlowe and Chris Adams (played by Yul Brynner in the The Magnificent Seven, a much better film than the 2016 remake, although that one’s pretty good too) comes as an easy fix for these problems. He’s damn fun to watch, being fast talking, gutsy and empathic, connecting with Finn easily while having himself some good fun at the villains expense. Poe also connects swiftly with others, Finn being the most notable example but also most likely extending this connection to Rey. A good match, in short, for the other two members of the trio and just way better character dynamic than Kylo Ren.
          • Note: Kylo Ren is still going to be important. Like Vader, and unlike the dragons of the prequels, Kylo is The Heavy: he is going to drive the plot. Not Hux, not Phasma, not Snoke, but Kylo Ren. It’s his redemption or death that will consume the final volume and it will his power the need to confront it that will drive Rey into becoming a Jedi. Just like Darth Vader before him. He’s just not a part of the power trio. He’s off being a badass villain in his own right.

I was the conductor of the Underground Railroad for eight years, and I can say what most conductors can’t say — I never ran my train off the track and I never lost a passenger.

Good afternoon!

So, this weeks update is going to be light, as I’m now in the middle of outlining and plotting, so there isn’t really a whole lot to, you know, update you on. It’s mostly just slog work at the moment.

Instead, I want to talk about Black History Month, both it’s successes and it’s failures.

First, the failures:

  1. It’s too damn short. It is and you know it. One month isn’t nearly enough time to cover the entire history of black people in my hometown of Calgary, Alberta, Canada, never mind the entire province or country. And forget the states entirely.
  2. Black History Month lends itself to the Great Man style of history. And admittedly, I’m not helping by using quotes as my titles, even if they are from genuine bona fide heroes like Harriet Tubman or Frederick Douglass. At lot of this has to do with how short it is: a biography of a person is a lot easier to condense into a single month than the complex socio-political-economics that first created the slave trade and then ended it. That is not to say that these heroes do not deserve recognition; rather in order to understand just what made them such great heroes in the first place we must understand the world they were born into, the world that changed them, and the world that they changed.

Secondly, the triumphs:

  1. It is a month, a whole solid month dedicated to one single historical topic. That’s it, but it’s a damn sight better than most history we get. History today, especially in Alberta, is watered-down white-washed pap that conforms to easy to sell narratives that fit people’s political agendas rather than delving into the glorious complexity of human life. Black History Month, and its compatriots like Asian Heritage Month, while not doing nearly enough to counter the devaluation of history rampant throughout our political sphere, but they are a start.
  2. History, fundamentally, is a good thing worth studying. It helps teach us empathy and counter false narratives, like the anti-Semitic, nativist, Islamphobic, blatant falsehoods currently being spewed from the White House of Donald Trump. Or the blatant American exceptionalism of Noam Chomsky, which denies the agency of thousands of nations.
  3. Black History Month celebrates black culture and history, and that too is fundamentally a good thing. To celebrate one’s culture is inherently good; it encourages empathy with a set group, transmits history both good and bad and for those of mixed heritages allows them to reach into and understand all aspects of their past and the world around them. But for a marginalized culture? The affects are not only amplified within that marginalized culture, but help break down the chains of hatred and fear that marginalized them in the first place, both within themselves and within the marginalizing culture. And brother, have black people ever been marginalized.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of the flaws and strengths of Black History Month, but it hopefully gives you an idea of why BHM is not the end of our celebration and study of black history, but a platform from which we must expand aggressively.  It is history, our study and understanding of it, that will allow us to thwart the falsehoods and resurrection of Naziism that has come to characterize the Presidency of Donald Trump and his white nationalist allies such as Bannon.

I’ll see you all next week!