Star Wars: The Force Awakens as Our Empire Dies

Star Wars: The Force AwakensI went over to visit my brother, who turned out to be doing somewhat better than I had expected (but still not good). He had purchased Star Wars: The Force Awakens through his cable provider, and so I ended up watching the first half of it. My brother was in a surprisingly good mood and was generally amused at my MST3King of it. The whole thing really is just a remake of the original film. But I have to admit: it’s better.

What most struck me was that Finn in the part of Han Solo was far better. Even in 1977, the Han Solo character was nothing but a stereotype. He had all the depth of character that an actor of the depth of Harrison Ford is capable of delivering. But the Finn character has actual nuance. His is a character that I can actually believe.

The film starts with basically the Star Wars equivalent of the My Lai Massacre. And despite supposedly being trained from birth to be nothing but a robotic killing machine, he turns against the First Order. I left right after he told Rey (a much less annoying Luke Skywalker) that he was just running away. I know that he will come back, just like Han Solo, because this is not meant to be a film that surprises you.

Still, as much as I liked Finn and Rey, most of the rest of Star Wars: The Force Awakens was crap.

My brother is incredibly conservative, which is interesting given that he’s been on the government dole most of his life. That’s not a slight on him. I love him. He’s my (half) brother and his biological father badly abused him, and my father was not exactly the understanding kind. But I’ve noticed a lot of people who are dependent upon the government going in exactly the opposite ideological direction than you would think. I assume it is because they are compensating. And when asked, they always say more or less the same thing: they deserve their benefits they are just against other people who “abuse” the system.

But I find it curious that my brother (and let’s face it: the vast majority of people everywhere) find a character like Finn a hero. But he is only a hero because the film defines the First Order as evil itself. If the film had even the tiniest amount of nuance, Finn would be a morally ambiguous character. Consider Bowe Bergdahl: the narrative is that he went AWOL and this is considered a bad thing because it is taken as a given that anything the US does is right. I personally think that running away is the most natural thing in the world.

Still, as much as I liked Finn and Rey, most of the rest of Star Wars: The Force Awakens was crap. The opening scene was clearly shot on a sound stage. It had the look of those Roger Corman television science fiction shows where everything happened in more or less a single room. And then there was all the humor regarding Han Solo being shocked about a modern woman. That sort of thing creates dissonance because it makes explicit the change in the sexual mores of the 1970s and those of today — something that makes no sense in the universe of the film. And if I, having seen only the original film once in 1977, can make out all the references, it’s a pretty ham-handed effort.

For what it is supposed to be, however, it seemed to work just fine. Star Wars: The Force Awakens is, of course, the kind of entertainment that a dying empire creates for itself, so it can pretend that it is still on the side of the rebels. But, of course, we aren’t. We are just an old power doing everything we can to hang onto it. And that means that we will lose that power, just as surely as the First Order will by the end of the third film.

Morning Music: Die Bosniaken Kommen

Die Bosniaken Kommen - Eduard WagnesOne of the writers I work with is from Bosnia. And I wanted to complement him on something he had written by quoting Patton, “Rommel, you magnificent bastard, I read your book!” This particular writer is actually quite well known and only works for us as a kind of favor. Since I know his other work, I know what kind of things he would do a very good job on, and I was very impressed with something he had written and I wanted to use the line. If I knew him really well, I could have just written, “You magnificent bastard, I read your book!”

The whole thing ended up in an exchange about Rommel. He seems to know a great deal about the wars of the last century, which isn’t exactly surprising, given that he lived through the Bosnian War himself. Anyway, he mentioned that Rommel became famous on the Isonzo front — I believe in the Battle of Caporetto in particular. He wrote, “Due to the extremely harsh terrain, the Central Powers had to deploy elite mountain infantry… As a tribute to their gallantry, Die Bosniaken Kommen march is still played at Austrian military events.”

I don’t like to pass up any opportunity to do something different for a morning music. So I grabbed onto it. We’ll get back to Merle Haggard tomorrow. But today, we’ll listen to this march. I find it curious that marches aren’t used more in the teaching of music theory. You can see in them so clearly two-part counterpoint. And from there you can add the harmonic structure. But I suppose the use of Baroque music is more pure.

Die Bosniaken Kommen was written by Eduard Wagnes in 1895. According to Wikipedia, it is “played on all military events in Austria.”

Anniversary Post: Colfax Massacre

Colfax Massacre 'Riot' SignOn this day in 1873, the Colfax massacre occurred. As you can see in the image on the left, it is referred to as the “Colfax riot” by bigots. The end of “carpetbag misrule” was really the the new beginning of white rule by terrorism. That sign was put up in 1950.

This is what Ian Millhiser wrote of it in his book, Injustices:

Led by Christopher Columbus Nash, an ex-Confederate army lieutenant who was also the Democratic candidate for Grant Parish sheriff, Democratic forces marched on Colfax on April 13. Though the approximately 150 black men defending the courthouse slightly outnumbered Nash’s men, the Republican forces were massively outgunned. About half of Nash’s men were Confederate veterans, including four officers. Each of them was well armed, many of them with multiple guns, and they had even brought a small cannon to Colfax on a two-horse wagon.

Think about the Colfax Massacre in a modern context. This is what you get when you take a “forgive and forget” (one president might say “look forward as opposed to looking backwards”) attitude toward misbehavior. I’ve discussed this issue many times. I recommend that you check out, Let’s Destroy Laudatory Confederate Monuments. It includes the amazing statistic that although the people of Kentucky stayed with the Union and overwhelmingly supported it, the state has 72 Confederate monuments compared to only two for the Union.

Rewriting the Colfax Massacre

When you allow people to pretend that they did nothing wrong, you allow them to rewrite history. Looking at monuments around the United States, you would think that the Confederates had had some great injustice done to them. They were traitors. They committed treason. General Lee should have been put to death by the mores of the time, not allowed to ride away on his horse with his sword.

I think the same thing about torture. Now we have Dick Cheney going all around talking about how great torture was and how it kept us all safe. Now there’s a man who should have died in prison long ago. But instead, he’ll continue to live to the point where he is all machine and no flesh. There is absolutely no great new life extending technology that won’t be put to use for this most vile of men.