A Couple more thoughts this Wednesday

In Episode 2 of "Couple Thinkers," (I previously introduced Episode 1) Craig and Megan interview acclaimed astrophysicist, author, host, planetarium director, science communicator, and curious dude, Neil deGrasse-Tyson. Mr. deGrasse-Tyson, my bud Neil, discusses many big picture issues - since space and human existence are fairly big picture issues. Craig summarizes why astrophysics and philosophy are so engaging and then become depressing. Then, my BFF, Neil advocates how changing perspective might enable changing the entire experience of living. Just a couple things to think about.

Turkey Tuesday Thanksgiving week

I like eating, which is a pretty good thing because I do it fairly regularly. Still, I can't claim to be as prolific an eater as the host of the podcast, "House of Carbs," Joe House. Joe House very much seems to enjoy eating (and eating, and eating...). So that's what this podcast is about - where to eat, what to eat, how to eat...the ins and outs of eats discussed in an approachable, fun, and inviting way. 

Joe House lives in Washington DC. I came to know of him (in case you were curious about my personal experience) through his various appearances in my regular listens to Bill Simmons' podcasts. I've been a casual devotee of Simmons' audio for years. Simmons formed a podcast network when he joined HBO after departing ESPN.

After some time, one of the many, many podcasts the Ringer (Simmons' website) produced was, "House of Carbs" - a podcast hosted by the ultimate hungry homie, the sultan of sushi, the king of korean BBQ, the colossus of the cookout.

If the Ringer had S.A.T.s, one analogy might read: Babe Ruth is to hitting home runs AS Joe House is to eating. You see, Joe House is not just known for his affinity for food, he's known for his ability to ingest massive quantities of food. For anyone else, the enormous caloric consumption might seem gluttonous. But Joe House is such an endearing persona that I generally find all his involvements entertaining. If you don't want to take my word for it, the proof is in the pudding (or the podcast linked in the image below as it were).

Couple your thinking this Wednesday

I don't know if you know who Craig Ferguson is? I actually don't know what you know at all. You may remember Ferguson as the boss on the Drew Carey Show. He's Scottish in origin but now he's an American citizen. He's a stand-up comic. He hosted the Late Late Show after David Letterman's Late Show on CBS for a number of years. Being sober is a definitive factor in his person. On the Late Late Show he shared the stage with a gay skeleton robot and a costumed horse in a faux stall. For awhile he used hand puppets during his monologue and he would often purposely jostle the main camera. Yeah, it was a weird show, but I think that his irreverence, amplified by the awareness that sobriety afforded him, contributed to his likability. He frequently tore-up the pre-show questionnaire at the desk when interviewing a guest, preferring instead to instigate a more genuine interaction.

An escalation of his popularity with me came after Britney Spears very publicly shaved her head. Most late night hosts were quick to mock, but Craig Ferguson responded differently. Understanding the burdens of fame and life and a chaotic youth, Craig Ferguson responded with compassion. I had enjoyed him before but that made me a fan. 

Ferguson left the Late Late Show around the time David Letterman departed Letterman's own earlier late show. Ferguson went on to host the syndicated game show, Celebrity Name Game. Ok, even if you don't really know anything about Craig Ferguson I guess that I kinda, sorta, do. BUT...I've never seen him in-person nor have I read either of his books. I don't go out of my way to see him generally, I'm not a fanatic. I just enjoy him. I'm a strong admirer.

Recently, on YouTube, for Gant (a clothing retailer I had before been unaware of but now am because of this), Ferguson returned to his Late Late Show roots by interviewing some interesting people for a show starring he and his wife called "Couple Thinkers." He's a natural at interviews it seems. 

In the first episode (of 6) the Fergusons speak to Kimbal Musk. Kimbal is the brother of Elon (Elon Musk is the Tesla and Space X and hyper loop etc guy). I didn't know that Elon even had a brother, but then I'm not very up to date on Musk family genealogy. This familial revelation was even more surprising to me than when I learned that Skip and Rick Bayless are brothers. (WHAT!?) While Elon seems to focus on technological, species sustainability and advancement, Kimbal Musk focuses his efforts on the agriculture. So, in essence, they are both in the business of keeping things going for humanity.

Craig Ferguson and his wife, appropriately as two humans belonging to humanity, highlighted Kimbal's work in Episode 1 of "Couple Thinkers:" 

Theatre Thursday 5/4/17 - May the Fourth be with you!

Here are some of my thoughts about the new Disney Star Wars Cinematic Universe. The DSWCU? What makes me entitled to an opinion on this particular subject, you might ask. I have only read a few of the current Star Wars books. But I’ve repeatedly seen Episodes I-VII and Rogue One. I watch the Star Wars Rebels cartoon (Disney XD). I binged Clone Wars (Netflix). I watch Jedi Council (Youtube) and sometimes other Star Wars shows on the interwebs. I don’t read the comics, although eventually I might. I don’t play any of games, and eventually I probably won’t. So I possess more knowledge than most and a lot less than some on these particular topics. That, plus I’m a person, with an opinion. And it is also an opinion that is formulated and structured. Being a person alone entitles the having of an opinion and I think that formatting and structuring of the opinion entitles me to share it. Whether you ultimately agree or disagree is up to you, that’s how opinions work. But, either way, this is my opinion:

People say that someone can still enjoy the Star Wars films without the knowledge of the books. I know that it seems impossible that people might say something that’s not true, but I don’t think that’s true. Ok, I guess one could “enjoy” them, but that doesn’t mean those films couldn’t be better. Anyone can “enjoy” anything subjectively depending on how they choose to frame things. But when a sports team wins a championship in a given sport they don’t retire from competition all together after. They still try to improve for the next season. I think that the current desire to avoid politics theatrically in Star Wars actually confuses the theatrical audience. That’s right, I think Star Wars is missing more politics! What sort of lunatic, heretic, other -tic, would say such a thing? Me. I would. Read Bloodline and Catalyst and then contemplate whether they contain information that could have benefited The Force Awakens and Rogue One. 

While both films accomplished one goal - large box office returns (ok, and the goal to return a general feel of Star Wars, that too) - they fell short in another main goal which is to explain why. Not major cliffhangers, in the case of The Force Awakens particularly, that pave the path to the next film in ticket stubs. I understand the strategy of keeping those things out. Intentional designs to encourage future debate and continued relevance. However, there was other information. Information that I only discovered in the books that I did find extremely useful. I read Bloodline after I watched the Force Awakens and I read Catalyst before I saw Rogue One.

Lets start with Catalyst. Catalyst is a book that explains some of the characters and their histories leading up to Rogue One. Rogue One just starts with Galen Erso and Lyra Erso and Orson Krennic heatedly disagreeing on the Orso’s moisture farm? Galen and Lyra’s daughter, Jyn, is hiding. How would anyone who hasn’t read Catalyst understand the dynamics of those relationships? They wouldn’t. Basically the entire Catalyst book explores that relationship. How Galen and Krennic were old friends. And how Lyra fit into their past. And how Krennic took advantage of Galen’s mental acuity for his own gain. And how Saw Gerrera gained relevance for them. Why is this supposed genius, Galen Erso, on a moisture farm to begin with? Basically everything that gets brushed over in the first third or earlier of the film is explained much more adequately in Catalyst. The political realities of real life and the meaning of family in the context of the Empire and the Rebellion. 

Oh, actually, speaking of family, in Rebels, they are exploring how the Rebel Alliance came to be. That’s an even better example of how these disparate ideas can meld together in real time. The Ghost is at the attack on Scariff, Chopper rolls through the rebel base, and they call for General Syndulla over the loud speaker. All the elements provide a small treat for the avid fan without detracting from the experience of the casual observer.

Now The Force Awakens. Rey’s parentage, who’s Snoke, where’s Luke? All legitimate tools designed to entice conversation. But what is this First Order thing? What is the Resistance? Why do we care beyond film making conventions telling us to? Just feeling how we’re told is a pretty First Order/Empire way to approach things. And now what’s the situation with Han and Leia? And then we briefly see some people on Hosnian Prime. But what is Hosnian Prime? We don’t know that. We’ve never seen that place before. And who are these people that we've never actually met? Why care about them at all? Upon first viewing I didn’t know about much of this. Unfortunately this lack of knowledge simply led me to apathy. Not necessarily an emotion you want to inspire in your audience. Or, what about Lor San Tekka? Or the Church of the Force? That sounds awesome. Who is that guy? What is the Church of the Force? Or what are the Knights of Ren…? There was some cool action, and hitting stuff, and flying around in The Force Awakens but more than nostalgia could have fed my hungry eyes. I read Bloodline and could not believe the deep and rich context provided. It doesn't answer the later questions but it touches on many of the former. I was blown away when reading. If even a modicum of similar service would have been paid to these missing story elements in The Force Awakens I would have had a much better, fuller, clearer, understanding of the entire context. 

These stories incorporate a political context. They just do! It’s a part of their DNA. Any far ranging tale does, and a galaxy is a fairly broad subject. Republics, senates, empire, rebellion, resistance. Maybe even more than something else, these subjects necessitate a political explanation. It’s not possible to adequately portray the events of the movies while avoiding political discourse.

The producers of these films understandably felt burned by the large negative reaction to the prequels. They associated that reaction, in my mind for worse, to the inordinate amount of politics present in those films. But instead of aiming for a middle ground, they aimed at purging politics from the new films. I see that purge as a detriment. In my mind, Catalyst should have been incorporated further into the earlier parts of Rogue One. And in my mind, the story of Bloodline should have comprised most of The Force Awakens. Gun-shy-ness, when it relates to political topics, hurts the films and in turn hurts the fans. The pendulum has swung too far back in the other direction. It’s not currently in danger to diminish my enthusiasm for these stories, because the intensity of my interest, but it is a pendulum.

Update Re: WELCOME

Back in February I started work on this site. The blog contained a little initial message for those who ventured here. But I accidentally deleted that post. Now it's frighteningly possible that someone could venture on to this page with out any welcome. That's my bad. You, who are reading this, you are truly welcome so I wanted to include a little of what I recall from that welcoming message with some current added embellishments: 

Welcome. Today (that one day a few months ago) is (was) the first day of me working on Smorgasbored. Some may hail its arrival as an epic paradigm shift for all of humanity, nay for the world and the entirety of the human race! While I might not choose to so hyperbolically note it, I do recognize that it represents something new for me and hopefully something you can appreciate too.