Tuesday, July 7, 2015

The Clone Wars: Downfall of a Droid

My friends and I are embarking on an exploration of Star Wars: The Clone Wars.  Every Tuesday, we will be featuring an episode from the series which began in 2008 (as opposed to the one that started in 2003).  All are welcome to join us for all or parts of the fun.

Episode: "Downfall of a Droid"
Series: Star Wars: The Clone Wars
Season 1, Episode 6
Original Air Date: November 7, 2008
via Wookieepedia
Star Wars just wouldn't be Star Wars without R2-D2.  No replacement will do.   We fans all know it and Anakin does, too.  When Anakin loses Artoo during a space battle, the Jedi is determined to retrieve the droid.  Obi-Wan warns Anakin against sentimental attachments (What about our sentimental attachments, Mr. Kenobi?) but the reckless youth conveniently remembers he forgot to wipe the droid's memory.  Now that it's a security matter, Obi-Wan gets all scoldy and Anakin has to go after all.

(Doesn't the old man realize how important Artoo is going to be to future stories?  Oh right, he doesn't even remember owning a droid...)

Meanwhile, the replacement droid, R3-S6, is woefully incompetent.  He mistakenly wakes up two IG-86 assassin droids which then attack Anakin and Ahsoka.  He accidentally turns on a tracking device that draws Grievous to Anakin's position.  It's almost as if he's undermining the young Jedi intentionally...
via Wookieepedia
General Grievous is Anakin's nemesis.  The character first appeared in Tartakovsky directed Clone Wars microseries in 2004.  George Lucas wanted the cyborg villain to be introduced ahead of the theatriacal release of Revenge of the Sith in 2005.  Papa George intended Grievous - 80% machine in Lucas's estimation - as foreshadowing of Anakin's own future.

Like Vader, Grievous always seems to have an escape plan when the mission goes awry.  He also shares Vader's lack of regard for his underlings, beheading battle droids with one sweep of his robotic arm when they annoy him.  The most meaningful revelation of Grievous's character so far came at the end of "Destroy Malevolence."  Ashamed of his own failure, he cuts off communication with his master, Count Dooku, before he scampers away via hyperspace.

via The Disney Wiki
Matthew Wood is the voice of Grievous.  Wood was born August 15, 1972 in Walnut Creek, California.  While he does have acting credits, including appearances in all three Star Wars prequel films, he is primarily a sound engineer.  He has received two Oscar nominations for Sound Editing: There Will Be Blood in 2007 and Wall-E in 2008.  He currently holds the position of Supervising Sound Editor at Skywalker Sound.

If you would care to join us for all or part of our travels, sign on to the list below.  Please visit the other participants today.  Next week: "Duel of the Droids."

Monday, July 6, 2015

On the Coffee Table: Salman Rushdie

Title: The Moor's Last Sigh
Author: Salman Rushdie
via Amazon
Salman Rushdie is probably the most famous Asian-born author in the world, and for all the wrong reasons.  In 1988, he published The Satanic Verses, a book so controversial in the Muslim world that Iran's Ayatollah declared a fatwa, calling for the author's assassination.  Until now, I'd never read any of Rushdie's novels.

The Moor's Last Sigh was Rushdie's first novel to be published after the hubbub.  The book provides the fictitious family history of narrator Moraes "Moor" Zogoiby, a Portuguese-Jewish-Indian man living in double-time.  For him, one year of chronological time equals two years of biological aging.  By the time he reaches ten years of age, for instance, he looks like he's 20.

Even with his temporal quirk, the narrator is the story's least interesting character.  The colorful personalities span four generations.  The family's history provides a window into the grand sweep of India's volatile history in the 20th century.  Moor's parents are both based on real-life figures.  Mother Aurora Zogoiby was inspired by artist Amrita Sher-Gil, father Abraham by arch-criminal Dawood Ibrahim.  All of the characters are thoroughly detestable, from Moor on up.  As such, it's difficult to find a rooting interest.  The footholds are found in the author's frequently beautiful prose and his occasional moments of trippy magical realism.

While I admire Rushdie's skill, I had a hard time getting into this one.  I was charmed by clever puns and Shakespeare and Wizard of Oz references but the playful language often goes a bit too far, pulling me out of the narrative rather than further into it.  I appreciate the unusual perspective on Indian history and the glimpse into the country's niche "Western" populations.  But the lack of likeable characters detracted from my enjoyment of the overall narrative. 

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Star Trek: Bem

My friends and I are embarking on a new journey to watch all 22 episodes of Star Trek's animated series.  We'll be posting on Wednesdays.  All are welcome to join us for all or parts of our adventure.

Episode: "Bem"
Series: Star Trek: The Animated Series
Season 2, Episode 2
Original Air Date: September 14, 1974
via Memory Alpha
"Bem" combines a couple of prevalent Star Trek themes: the testing of the Enterprise crew by an alien being and avoiding interference with a primitive civilization.  Ari bn Bem, a native of the planet Pandro, is aboard the ship as an independent observer.  Against Kirk's wishes, he accompanies the away team to a newly discovered world.  He soon justifies the Captain's misgivings, getting himself captured by the locals.  Meanwhile, a seemingly divine entity warns our friends against interfering with the reptilian humanoid society she protects.

via Memory Alpha
Bem is a colony creature, meaning he is a cooperative organism composed of multiple composite organisms.  As such, he is able to separate parts of his body from one another, allowing him to get up to all kinds of mischief.  There are precedents in nature among simpler life forms, known as superorganisms.  Coral is a good example.  The name Bem is derived from a sci-fi industry acronym: Bug Eyed Monster.  He isn't one, of course, but the idea still appealed to screenwriter David Gerrold.  Naturally, Bem is voiced by James Doohan.

If you would care to join us for all or part of our travels, sign on to the list below.  Please visit the other participants.  Next week: "The Practical Joker."

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Clone Wars: Rookies

My friends and I are embarking on an exploration of Star Wars: The Clone Wars.  Every Tuesday, we will be featuring an episode from the series which began in 2008 (as opposed to the one that started in 2003).  All are welcome to join us for all or parts of the fun.

Episode: "Rookies"
Series: Star Wars: The Clone Wars
Season 1, Episode 5
Original Air Date: October 24, 2008
via Wookieepedia
A small unit of inexperienced clones are stationed at a listening post on a remote moon in the Outer Rim.   Droid commandos attack, preparing a broader invasion by General Grievous, threatening Kamino, the clones' home world.  Quickly finding themselves at a severe disadvantage, the rookie clones must find a way to undermine the Separatists' devious plan.

"Rookies" provides something you don't get much in the Star Wars movies: the experience of the common soldier.  Just as in the real world, hours of tedium are peppered with moments of sheer terror, death and disaster a constant threat.  Take away the space opera trappings and "Rookies" could fit in nicely with the military adventure movies of the 1950s and '60s. 

via Twitter
"Rookies" features eight individual clone characters: Hevy, Echo, Fives, Cutup, Droidbait, O'Niner, Cody and Rex.  All are voiced by Dee Bradley Baker.  Baker was born August 31, 1962 in Bloomington, Indiana, though he grew up in Greeley, Colorado.  He majored in philosophy at Colorado College.  He got his first big break as the announcer and the voice of Olmec on the Nickelodeon game show, Legends of the Hidden Temple.

Apart from Star Wars, Baker's extensive television work includes American Dad! and Phineas and Ferb.  His most significant big screen performance came in 2014's The Boxtrolls, for which he was nominated for an Annie Award.  In video games, he has contributed to the Halo franchise and numerous television tie-in games.  He met his wife while both were working in children's theater.  The couple have two daughters.

If you would care to join us for all or part of our travels, sign on to the list below.  Please visit the other participants today.  Next week: "Downfall of a Droid."

Monday, June 29, 2015

Creative Blogger Award

I am both honored and humbled to be nominated for the Creative Blogger Award by Spacerguy, Star Trek Enthusiast, First Class.  His site, Star Trek - Sci Fi Blog, is one of my favorites.  Spacerguy is one of my companions for the Animated Series project.  Thanks for the nomination, sir!

The rules:

1. Thank and post the link of the person who nominated you.
2. Share 5 facts about yourself to your readers.
3. Nominate 10-20 blogs and notify them.
4. Pass on the rules.

Five Facts:

1. We just got back from a family vacation in Montana.  We spent a week on the northern edge of Flathead Lake, not far from Glacier National Park.  It was the first time in the state for me.

2. I'm trying to learn more about food, partly by reading but also by cooking.  One food hobby I really enjoy is mixing cocktails.  While I'm generally more likely to drink beer or wine, I love the mad scientist aspect of amateur bartending.  My wife generally favors fizzy gin drinks: gin rickey, gin fizz and gin and tonic.  Sidecars have also been a gratifying discovery.  Mixing doesn't exactly qualify as cooking but I think there's a lot to learn in terms of balancing flavors.  Citrus, for example, can overpower a drink, even in modest proportions.  Every once in a while, though, a delightful combination emerges.  Almond and lime are a dazzling duo.

3. Playing table top games is one of our favorite family hobbies.  Our most satisfying recent discovery has been the card game Gloom.  Each player has a family.  The object is to make each family member miserable before killing them off, one by one.  Colorful storytelling is encouraged.  Any fan of Edward Gorey would be charmed by this game.

4. I took my first yoga class a couple weeks ago. My wife had done yoga before but it had been a few years since she took a class.  We went together to a Saturday beginner class at a relatively new studio.  I'm hoping it's a hobby we'll be able to pursue together.  I was actually pleasantly surprised by my own flexibility though several of the poses provided ample challenge nonetheless.
5. The Armchair Squid began life as a sports blog, initially tennis.  While I don't write about sports nearly as often now, I still watch plenty.  Wimbledon kicks off this week, always an exciting time of year for me.

My nominations for the Creative Blogger Award:

1. What's Up, MOCK?
2. Hungry Enough to Eat Six
3. Servitor Ludi
4. Strange Pegs
5. The ToiBox of Words
6. Cherdo on the Flipside
8. mainewords
10. Stephanie Faris

Saturday, June 27, 2015

The Cephalopod Coffeehouse: July 2015 Blog List

Greetings to all!  I hope you'll join us for the next installment of the Cephalopod Coffeehouse, an online gathering of bloggers who love books.  The next meeting is set for Friday, July 31st.  If you're interested, please sign on to the link list at the end of this post.

The idea is simple: on the last Friday of each month, post about the best book you've finished over the past month while visiting other bloggers doing the same.  In this way, we'll all have the opportunity to share our thoughts with other enthusiastic readers.  Please join us:

Friday, June 26, 2015

The Cephalopod Coffeehouse: June 2015

Welcome one and all to the Cephalopod Coffeehouse, a cozy gathering of book lovers, meeting to discuss their thoughts regarding the tomes they enjoyed most over the previous month.  Pull up a chair, order your cappuccino and join in the fun.  If you wish to add your own review to the conversation, please sign on to the link list at the end of my post.

Title: Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex
Author: Mary Roach
via Amazon
My Wife's first book swap choice of the summer for me was Bonk, Mary Roach's survey of sex research.  Just as The Omnivore's Dilemma inspires an assessment of one's relationship with food, Bonk inspires a re-examination of one's sexual being.  Am I going to share that assessment with you as I did with the other?  Well, no, I'm not that kind of blog (I can hear your collective sigh of relief).  Suffice to say, the book did leave me feeling grateful for my own lot in life and gave me plenty of reason to hope for continued health in the future.

I wouldn't consider myself particularly prudish.  In fact, I am of the opinion that people should be able to talk about sex openly and respectfully.  I don't mean the locker room talk.  That's about ego gratification.  I simply mean that we shouldn't all be so embarrassed by the idea that sex is a significant element of human life.  Learning more about it and being able to discuss it frankly with the important people in our lives is both healthy and responsible.  I wouldn't say I'm always able to do that but I think it's a worthy goal as a society.  As such, I think Mary Roach and the scientists she studied are to be commended for their contributions.

That is not to say the book didn't make me squeamish from time to time.  For me, the discomfort had more to do with surgery than with sex.  I'm okay with discussing body parts unless you're talking about cutting them open.  Yick!  There are plenty of leg crossing moments for both ends of the gender spectrum.  I was tempted to skip a few particularly cringe-worthy passages but I soldiered on.  Even with the occasional wince, I think I'd be up for more from Roach.

Be forewarned, the book is very funny.  I would not be comfortable reading Bonk on an airplane - less for the subject matter than for my own incessant chortling.  Roach's commitment to the project is total, even offering herself and her husband as study subjects.  Her sense of humor about both sex and herself make for a highly engaging read.

Please join us and share your own review of your best read from the past month.  This month's link list is below.  I'll keep it open until the end of the day.  I'll post July's tomorrow.  Meetings are the last Friday of each month.  Next gathering is July 31st.