“Avengers: Endgame” a Worthy Ending

So I watched Avengers: Endgame today, and as vaguely unspoiler-y as possible…it was a very worthy ending to the Infinity Saga. I wondered how it would be able to wrap up everything that was established in Infinity War, but it managed it very well. My only real complaint is that it seemed to take Thor’s character development backwards a bit, but I suppose they could adjust it again in future films. But on the whole, it was very well done. I hope The Rise of Skywalker takes some tips from Endgame about how to end a saga.

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Public Service Announcement for Lovers of Gregorian Chant

There’s a YouTube channel called Adoration of the Cross that posts samples of Gregorian, Byzantine, and Templar chants. I highly, highly recommend it. I’m including one of my favorite videos from them as an example of why I recommend it.

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An Unsatisfying Conclusion

I recently saw the third installment of How to Train Your Dragon, and I have to say…I don’t really know how I feel about the ending. In a way it felt like it undermined what the first two movies were about, learning to put aside your differences and work together to solve a problem, how to forgive others who have treated you badly, how to accept responsibility and grow as a person, showing how you can achieve your dreams if you put in enough work and effort. But this last one had kind of a depressing message of sometimes jerky people will ruin your dream, and there’s nothing you can do to fix it.

Here’s the thing: the first two movies had excellent examples of what it takes to overcome obstacles. But now the third one is saying sometimes there are obstacles you can’t overcome? It just seems like a contradictory thing to say after the other movies.

But this brings up another issue–too many coming-of-age stories are really depressing. What kind of message does this send kids? That growing up is depressing? Is that really the message we want to send? I’ll be the first to say it isn’t easy, but out-and-out soul-crushing depressing? At least give kids something to look forward to! Like earning your own money so you don’t have to rely on your parents to buy everything for you. That’s a nice benefit, one I highly recommend.

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Towel Day 2019

Happy Towel Day, you hoopy froods!

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May the Spice be with You: 7 Parallels between Star Wars and Dune

This is actually an old article of mine that I wrote for another site; however, the site closed down and gave the writers their articles back. I’ve written before on how Star Wars is basically The Lord of the Rings in space, but the similarities between Star Wars and Dune are much stronger. And considering that DuneDune Messiah, and Children of Dune were published between 1965 and 1976, it’s not that much of a stretch to suspect that they may have influenced George Lucas’s development of Star Wars.

1. Messianic Figures

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The messianic roles that Anakin and Paul occupy in their respective universes is one of the most obvious parallels. In Star Wars, Anakin is the Chosen One, the man who is prophesied to destroy the Sith and bring balance to the Force. He had no human father but was conceived directly by the midi-chlorians, the microscopic organisms that connected living beings to the Force. Because of this, he was the most powerful Jedi who ever lived, even surpassing Yoda in his sensitivity to the Force.

In Dune, Paul is the Kwisatz Haderach, the “Shortening of the Way” in the ancient Chakobsa hunting language spoken by the Fremen. The Kwisatz Haderach meant different things to different people. To the Fremen of Arrakis, the Kwisatz Haderach was prophesied to help them transform the desert planet they called home and, in doing so, lead them to freedom. To the Bene Gesserit Sisterhood, the organization behind the plan to bring such a man into being, the Kwisatz Haderach was supposed to be a man with prescient powers that rivaled their own, as well as the ability to look into the cellular pasts of both male and female ancestors (the Bene Gesserit could see only the genetic memories of their female ancestors).

2. Young and Powerful (but Too Old for Training?)

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When Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan found the young Anakin living as a slave on Tatooine, they were amazed to find that he had the highest recorded midi-chlorian count, higher than any known Jedi. This prompted Qui-Gon to suspect that Anakin was the Chosen One, so he brought him before the Jedi Council and requested that the young boy be tested for Force sensitivity. The Council agreed with Qui-Gon’s findings, that Anakin was indeed very strong with the Force, but refused to train him as a Jedi. Most padawans were taken from their families as either infants or toddlers and raised in the Jedi Way their entire lives, never knowing anything different. At 9, Anakin was deemed too old to master the stringent self-control required by the Jedi. The Council finally relented when it became obvious that Obi-Wan was willing to defy their decision in order to honor his master’s dying wish.

In Paul’s case, he had had prescient dreams ever since childhood, and at the age of 15, the Reverend Mother Mohiam tested him with the Gom Jabbar to determine if he followed his human intellect or his animal passions. Paul endured more pain than anyone else subjected to the test, yet when he found himself an exile in the desert, the Fremen cared little for his results in the Gom Jabbar test. Surviving as a Fremen in the desert required specialized training from childhood, and very few Fremen believed that a teenage boy could master those skills so late in life. It took a knife fight and a dead man for Paul to convince them that he could learn to survive in the deep desert.

3. Warrior Heroes

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The Council may have protested that Anakin was too old to be trained as a Jedi, yet he excelled in every aspect of his training. Once he finished his apprenticeship to Obi-Wan, he became a valuable asset during the Clone Wars. The tales of his legendary exploits earned him the name of The Hero With No Fear.

In a similar way, Paul rose through the ranks of the Fremen to become the greatest general the desert dwellers had ever seen. He took the name Muad’Dib, The One Who Points The Way (it was the name of a constellation of a mouse whose tail pointed North), and led the entire Fremen nation in a legendary battle against the Sardaukar, the Padishah Emperor’s most elite and dangerous fighting force. It was this battle that led to Paul’s ascension to the throne as the new emperor of the galaxy.

4. Visions of Death

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Anakin may have been one of the most prominent Jedi of the order, but that could have changed in a heartbeat if anyone had discovered his secret marriage to Senator Padme Amidala of Naboo. Attachments of any sort, including marriage, were forbidden to the Jedi. If Anakin’s marriage was discovered, it would result in his expulsion from the Jedi Order. This secrecy meant that he could not speak openly to anyone about the troubling visions he received of Padme dying in childbirth (he spoke to Yoda about seeing the death of someone close to him but didn’t elaborate on the details). It was his desperate search for a way to save Padme’s life that led him to seek answers from the Sith and ultimately precipitated his fall to the Dark Side. In an ironic twist, the acquisition of his Sith powers were what led to Padme’s death, for her husband’s devastating descent into darkness caused her to lose her will to live.

On Arrakis, Paul had engaged in the “marriage of youth” with a Fremen girl named Chani Kynes, but their union lacked imperial recognition. In order to assume the throne, Paul had to officially marry the Padishah Emperor’s daughter Irulan. From a legal standpoint, Chani could never be anything more than a concubine. However, Paul considered Chani to be his true wife while Irulan was nothing more than his key to the throne. Because of his devotion to Chani, he was devastated when his prescient powers showed him the events that would lead to her death in childbirth, a death that he admits was the first vision he ever had of Chani when his prescience was first developing.

5. Twin Children

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It was startling enough for Yoda and Obi-Wan to discover that Padme was pregnant with Anakin’s child, but the revelation that she was actually carrying twins presented a whole new set of problems. They would have to take care that Vader never detected their presence through the Force, and the young Luke and Leia were split up to make it more difficult for the Sith to track them. If one of them was discovered, the other would still be safe. Bail Organa and his wife adopted Leia, and Obi-Wan took Luke to Tatooine to be raised by his aunt and uncle. Vader did eventually learn that Luke was his son (the Skywalker last name probably contributed to that), but he never realized that Leia was his daughter until Luke inadvertently revealed it to him in Return of the Jedi.

Paul Atreides also had twin children with his Fremen concubine Chani, who was often confused as to why he always talked as if she was pregnant with one child, not two. She assumed his prescient visions had revealed the twins to him, yet he remained ignorant of the existence of a second baby until Chani actually gave birth (we’ll get to the reason why that happened in just a minute). Leto II and Ghanima Atreides were not separated as babies, but they still had to struggle with the burden of inheriting their father’s paranormal powers.

6. Death and a New Identity

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After the execution of Order 66 in Revenge of the Sith, the Jedi order was in tatters. The majority of the Jedi were dead, and the few that survived were eventually hunted down and killed (with the exceptions of Obi-Wan and Yoda). With so many Jedi lost and dead, it was widely assumed that Anakin had been one of the many victims of Order 66. But around the same time Anakin disappeared from public knowledge, Darth Vader, the right-hand man of the Emperor, rose to prominence, and hardly anyone thought there was a possible connection between Anakin and Vader.

In Dune Messiah, Paul is blinded by a stone burner, yet he is still able to live a normal life due to his powers as the Kwisatz Haderach. After Chani’s death, however, his visions fail him, leaving him truly blind. According to Fremen law, a blind man must be left in the desert to die because he is a safety risk for the rest of the tribe. Despite being Emperor, Paul obeys this rule, leaving the empire under the rule of his sister, Alia, until the twins are old enough to take the throne. In Children of Dune, a blind Fremen man known as the Preacher comes out of the desert to rail against the corruption of Alia’s reign. Those who knew Paul best immediately suspect that this Preacher really is Paul, who found some way to survive in the desert for nine years.

7. Like Father, Like Son

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While Darth Vader imposed fear into the hearts of everyone in the galaxy, his son was growing up on a moisture farm on Tatooine, dreaming of a life that would let him escape from the unending dullness of everyday life. Little did Luke realize that an adventure would literally turn up on his doorstep that would plunge him into exile and danger, lead him to mastering the ways of the Force, and ultimately reunite him with the father he thought was dead. More importantly, he recognized the good that still dwelt within Darth Vader and never lost hope that the Sith Lord could be redeemed. Also, if it weren’t for Luke, Anakin never would have fulfilled his destiny as the Chosen One.

Like Paul, Leto was a Kwisatz Haderach, considered by some to be even more powerful than his father (this was the reason Paul could not see his son in his visions — those with prescient powers can hide from those who share the same power). He was one of the people who suspected the Preacher was really Paul and sought out his advice for following the prescient visions that would guide humanity onto the Golden Path, the path for ensuring the human race would push forward and continue to improve itself instead of stagnating and decaying. It was Leto’s insistence that pushed Paul to attempt a direct confrontation with Alia and reclaim control over the Fremen.

And there you have it, folks–my summary of the parallels between Star Wars and Dune. I probably overthought this a lot, but when the dots first started connecting, they just wouldn’t stop.

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Star Wars Day: A Tribute to Anakin Skywalker

Happy Star Wars Day, everyone! To commemorate this auspicious occasion, I wanted to share this excellent video I found in my YouTube travels. It’s a tribute to the Chosen One himself, Anakin Skywalker. His life was fraught with twists and turns, but in the end he broke his chains and saved a galaxy.

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Some Thoughts on “Doctor Who: The Awakening”

I had the urge recently to watch some classic Doctor Who, so I scrounged around for something I haven’t seen yet (it’s been eleven years; I’ve seen most of the surviving episodes). Eventually I came across “The Awakening” from 1984, starring Peter Davison as the Doctor with Janet Fielding as Tegan Jovanka and Mark Strickson as Vislor Turlough. “The Awakening” is surprisingly short–only two episodes–but it is just as worthy a story as any of its longer counterparts.

Tegan asks the Doctor to take her to the village of Little Hodcombe so she can visit her grandfather, Andrew Verney, only to find that the village is in the middle of a re-enactment of the Civil War (English, not American). Normally this wouldn’t be too alarming, but the man in charge of the re-enactment, Sir George Hutchinson, has taken things too far this year–he’s had the village sealed off from the outside world; no one is supposed to enter or leave. And Tegan’s grandfather has disappeared with very few people willing to talk about what happened to him. With mysterious apparitions seen all over the village and a young man from 1643 stumbling his way into 1984, there’s no way the Doctor can resist getting to the bottom of the situation. But what he finds at the bottom could be more than even he can handle…

For such a short episode, this had a lot of exciting material–the mysterious apparitions, the disappearance of Tegan’s grandfather, Will’s sudden appearance from 1643. And the re-enactment angle was kind of cool; the juxtaposition of characters in 17th-century clothes while in 20th-century buildings made for interesting visuals (as did the mounted soldiers trotting down the asphalt road). It may not seem like a particular exciting or memorable episode at first glance, but “The Awakening” is definitely worth your time.

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