The Highs and the Lows: 2016

Another year has come and gone.  I always feel like 12 months is so long in the beginning of the year and then at the end, I feel like it was a blink of an eye.  “The days are long, but the years are short,” is what someone told me when ARM was a newborn and I totally get it now.

This blog didn’t have so well of a year as it did in 2015, primarily for two reasons:

  1. I posted a lot less, and
  2. TFA really helped out my blog last year.

That said, it didn’t do as badly as I feared either!  Only ~7000 views less than last year.  My most viewed post was Costuming & Characters on Princess Leia, followed by the Han Solo, and lastly Luke’s costume analysis.  I remember how long those took to write last year so I’m happy to see they are still getting traction.  My most viewed post that I wrote in 2016 was In Which I Defend General Hux and Speculate on Supreme Leader Snoke.

When searching the Internet, most people came to my site by way of “pregnant Padmé”, “Boushh Scene” and “Princess Leia Endor Ewok costume”.

 

2016, overall, was a great year for me personally.  In fact, there were more highs than lows which is always a GREAT thing, but I feel like the lows had longer effects.

 

The Highs of 2016

  • Obviously my daughter’s birth. With a middle name of Rey, I’m hoping this child grows up strong in the Force, independent; open to change, and a kind hearted person.  After having two failed pregnancies, it was nice to see this come to fruition and meet our own
    One of my favorite photos taken in Ireland

    One of my favorite photos taken in Ireland

    child at last.  I really was hoping she would come to this world on a Star Wars date, but alas, that didn’t happen.  I love her anyway though.  😉

  • We still traveled quite a bit this year: Florida in the earlier part of the year, Ireland and London in October, and Nashville in November.  I went by myself to NYC last month as well.  I’ve wanted to go to Ireland for years so it was nice to finally have that dream of mine come true.  I loved the Western Coast the best and we stayed in a beautiful, relaxing Airbnb right on the coast.  The backyard was a cliff to the ocean! London was way more fun than I thought it would be and I sincerely hope that I get to go back one day. We visited family and stayed for two days and I really wish I had stayed longer!
  • My business continued to thrive, despite having to figure out an unpaid maternity leave. I lost some clients, but also gained some!  I have also learned how to be picky on who I bring on as a client as my new schedule with a young baby does not give me as much availability as before.  But on the other end, I now am working very early in the morning and until late at night, so there is a darker side.

 

The Lows of 2016

  • The election. I actually had a whole post devoted to this, but then scrapped it because I don’t want my blog to be about politics.  But I can write about it briefly here!  In a nutshell – I am a registered Republican, but was/am appalled by Donald Trump.  I am trying to keep an open mind now that he’s been elected, but I do worry about the direction our country is headed.  That said, I did not think padme-gifHillary Clinton was a good choice either…but I thought she was the lesser of two evils.  Trump reminded me of the Empire, in fact, many times uncannily so.  I am hoping I will never need to say Padmé’s famous line of “So this is how liberty dies, with thunderous applause,” during the next four years.
  • My health. My health has taken quite a beating this year and I am still having issues.  I got the flu back in March and let me tell you – when you have any kind of sickness and your pregnant and/or breastfeeding – life gets a whole lot harder!  Being pregnant with the flu was horrible.  You can only take Tylenol, and not a lot of it, but it doesn’t help much.  If I got a coughing fit, I would pee my pants due to the baby sitting on my bladder/extra pressure.  It took a good month and a half for me to feel well again.  Fast forward to mid-October, I get another cold…that hasn’t gone away.  I found out I had strep throat for a few weeks without knowing it.  I took the antibiotics and broke out in a horrible rash.  I stuck with them and though I am slightly better, I am not 100% and it’s been 3 months now.  I went to a naturopath Monday and am hoping I start to get better.  We are experimenting with cutting out lactose for a few weeks (ugh) and she has me on a few different supplements as well.
  • The death of my grandmother and godmother. I was not especially close with my grandmother and she lived in Australia, but it’s still a family member.  I have funny memories of her and she was quite a quirky woman (the complete opposite of my dad).  However, she was older, in a nursing home, and it was an unspoken thought that it was only a matter of time.  But I was close to my godmother, despite the distance.  She died unexpectedly and that is always hard to deal with.  I still have all her texts on my phone and even now, a few months later, I can’t believe she’s gone.
  • This blog and learning a new life with a baby. I’ve definitely been posting a lot less since having ARM.  I knew it would happen but it’s funny how fast the weeks go by.  I’ll have a draft started and it may take me 2 weeks to finish it!  Or, I work on a post and by the time I’m almost done, I change my mind and decide it’s now irrelevant (a lot of Rogue One posts had that happen).  I also haven’t been able to keep with other people’s blogs on WP as much as I would have liked either.  Having a baby is a total adjustment.  Not only with blogging, but with life.  If people joke around that marriage is a ball and chain, life with a baby is that x10!  My life revolves around her nap time.  If something wakes her up too early during her nap time…ugh, I’ve almost had break downs.  Nap time is my time and it’s interesting at how much I cherish those few hours now.  I love her, but it’s hard to take time for yourself.  (Please note that this is barely a “low” of my life – it’s more of a big change)
  • Carrie Fisher’s death. I guess 2016 was not content with the death of Kenny Baker, our beloved Artoo, it also had to take our beautiful princess from us.  I think anyone my age knew that we would be alive to see the main 3 OT characters die, but no one wants a shocker death.  I’m curious as to what this means for the other saga films (she was done filming VIII, but was slated to also appear in IX) and what they are going to do with it.  I don’t want more CGI Leia, but it may be the only option at this point.  Killing her off-screen would be cheap and CGI would suck.  So we’re left in a no win situation.

 

MTFBWY Carrie Fisher on your next adventure

MTFBWY Carrie Fisher on your next adventure

2016 was overall a much better year for me than the past two.  I had very little lows that actually connected to my life, other than the death of my grandmother and godmother.  The birth of my daughter, though an adjustment to my life, has been so amazing.  Now that she is past the newborn stage, I’m loving her more and more every day.  She’s the joy of my life and I look forward to hanging out with her (isn’t that weird?  She can’t even talk).

In 2016, I learned that time passes even when you think it’s going so slowly.  There were moments of doubt, days with little sleep, fatigue due to sickness, and so much but I did learn that the “days are long, but the years are short.”  It’s so, so true.  My goal in 2017 is to appreciate more, love more, complain less.  Easier said than done, but it’s been so easy for me to fall into the complaining trap, especially when sleep deprived.  Is a positive attitude that hard?  Is smiling a struggle?  My goal is to fly a little bit more casual.  I have so much to be thankful for; I am so blessed.  I need to remind myself of that every day.

Thanks to all you guys for sticking around as I posted less in 2016 and my life has continued to evolve.  Here’s to Episode VIII.  Let’s hope Rey is as awesome as she was in TFA and has more personality than Jyn (teehee).

 

MTFBWY.

Haiku Me Friday! Luke’s Solidarity

A single Jedi Alone for most of his life Will Rey bring a change?

A single Jedi
Alone for most of his life
Will Rey bring a change?

I had a strange realization last night.  Luke is alone as a Jedi for most of his life.  The fate of the Jedi rests on him as soon as Obi-Wan died.  It’s such a strong juxtaposition compared to the Prequels where we see the Jedi in numbers.  In TFA it’s worse than it ever was – he’s a hermit on Ahch-To with no other human beings around.  He retreats due to failures and it seems like he may not want to train Jedi again…perhaps it’s come full circle and he has the same feelings as Yoda?  Perhaps he will also tell Rey he’s too old to train another Jedi?  Too scared of failure?

From reading Bloodline, the book indicated that he spent time with Ben Solo and worked to train him but it didn’t seem to imply that he had ever gone off in search of other Jedi to build a Council or anything similar to what they had in the PT.

Will Rey change this?  I wonder if this next Sequel Trilogy will leave us with the feeling that the Jedi will eventually expand in numbers?  Or will it only be Luke and Rey taking on the world?

Book Review: Bloodline

If you are going to read Bloodline by Claudia Gray, read it to understand the politics of The Force Awakens.  Actually, make sure you even like politics, because this book has a lot of it.  It fools you with some action, but the action scenes are more like side plots and a cover up to give you a greater understanding of where the political scene is leading up to TFA.

The entire novel centers around Leia Organa who is not yet a General, but a Senator of the New Republic.  We rarely get any moments with Han, unfortunately.  Luke and Ben are off doing their own thing (Ben has not yet turned to the dark side) so we don’t hear from them at all.  The only other returning characters that we know are Threepio who is now Leia’s protocol droid and a brief appearance on the last page of Nien Nunb and Ackbar.

bloodline cover

***Spoilers Ahead***

 

We start off the novel with Leia being completely disenfranchised with the New Republic, being a senator, and the senate itself, which is divided into two camps: the Populists (which Leia is) and the Centrists.  She intends to quit and go travel around the galaxy with Han, whom she still seems to have a pseudo marriage with, though they live apart.

As a one last hurrah, Leia takes on a mission to investigate a cartel and is paired with a Centrist senator: Ransolm Casterfo.  In the beginning, we see him as a pompous young senator who is obsessed with the Empire.  Leia first meets him in his office where he has mementos from the Empire and he claims that he believes the Empire could have been a good thing, but the way Palpatine and Vader ran it was not smart.  Of course, this puts Leia and Casterfo’s relationship on the wrong foot right away.

Yet as Bloodline and their investigation continues, they manage to break past their opposing viewpoints and come to a mutual understanding that eventually leads to friendship.  Together, they discover the beginnings of the First Order and realize that the senate and government is in graver danger than they believed.

The senate decides to nominate a First Senator to create more order and the Populists naturally choose Princess Leia.  She has the name and the long standing goodwill of the people since many of her deeds helped in bringing down the Empire.  Leia, through her friendship with Ransolm, could unite the two opposing forces in the senate and bring it back to what it once was.  Though she realizes she can’t travel the galaxy with Han and can no longer quit, she feels that she must accept the nomination.

But (dun dun dun) then a conniving senator finds out that she is Darth Vader’s daughter and tells her new friend Casterfo, who then releases that news into the senate.  All hell breaks loose.  Leia loses her nomination, Ransolm turns against her, and she can’t continue her mission.  We find out that Ben did not know about this and Leia tells him via a recording (since apparently she can’t reach Luke and Ben because they are on some mission…that’s all very vague).

Being Princess Leia, she continues her investigation into the cartel without approval of the senate or her partner Ransolm and finds all the evidence she needs.  She is able to present the findings to the senate who seem to believe her, despite her tarnished reputation.  Ransolm backs her up, surprisingly, and she is able to hash out differences with him after the senate convenes.  They seem to come back to a neutral relationship of respect and understanding though Leia is still hurt by him outing her relationship to Vader in front of the entire senate without warning her first.

Unfortunately, that sneaky senator who found out that she was Vader’s daughter also doctors some of the footage from when Ransolm and Leia were investigating the cartel to make it look like Ransolm was behind an attack on the senate earlier in the novel – therefore committing treason.  At the end of the novel Ransolm is led off to be executed and Leia is heartbroken.  We have no idea what happens to him.  Leia, in the last pages of Bloodline, star-wars-bloodline-posterforms the very beginning of the Resistance without the knowledge of other senators.  She knows that it is only a matter of time until that glimpse they saw of the First Order threatens the New Republic on a larger scale and she wants to be ready.

 

Pros:

  • I finally understand the Resistance vs. New Republic vs. First Order.   Basically, the New Republic is the ruling government but has fallen to pieces with a lot of internal squabbling.  Amidst this, the First Order is forming on outer worlds and is filled with Empire loyalists and fanatics.  Leia created the Resistance to be ready for when the First Order decides to take on the Republic.  In the opening crawl of TFA, it says that Leia leads the Resistance with support of the Republic.  I’m not sure when that comes about since this is still in the early stages but at least I’m understanding this a bit better.
  • The galaxy finds out that Leia, and by default Luke, are Darth Vader’s children. I always assumed that no one knew about the familial relationship between Vader and his children, but I wondered when they let Ben/Kylo Ren know.  Even though we don’t see that happen here, we do see the beginning of how he found out.  By the time of The Force Awakens, everyone knows Luke and Leia are the children of Vader which puts an interesting new twist on viewing it.  That means Ben had only been on the dark side of the Force for a maximum of six years by TFA.  No wonder he still had some hesitations.
  • For a book that is almost entirely compromised of politics, Ms. Gray does a great job making the book engaging.
  • After the book got through introductions and settled into a good pace, it got a lot less predictable. Every time I thought it was getting predictable, I was thrown off course and what I thought would happen, didn’t.  I love that!
  • I thought she did a great job with Threepio. He still plays a minor role but she writes him so perfectly.
  • There were no real “bad guys” and I liked that. I’m so used to reading Star Wars novels where there is a clear delineation between good and bad that having this murky area was refreshing.  The leader of the cartel was obviously bad, but he wasn’t the main driving force behind this.  Then there was the terrorist in charge of the burgeoning First Order, but she wasn’t really the main bad guy either.  The main antagonist, if there was one, was the sneaky senator who goes around causing trouble.  But even then, it was almost a Professor Umbridge kind of bad.  She wasn’t Voldemort/Vader, just a normal person doing bad things.

General Leia

Cons:

  • I thought the first ¼-1/3 of the book was yawn worthy and played out like any Star Wars novel. It was a little predictable and I felt like skipping through many of the pages.
  • Where were Leia’s feelings for Han and Ben? She occasionally seemed to feel sad that Han wasn’t around but that was it. If I was separated from my husband almost permanently, I would not be as distracted as she was and I would definitely make more of an effort to see him.  She seemed way too resigned to rarely being physically together.  And I think Ben was mentioned only two to three times in the entire novel.  I’m only a new mom, but I can tell you that I’d be thinking of my child more than three times a day.
  • On that subject, I didn’t feel like Han was Han. He was in the novel sporadically but I’m not sure he was captured very well.  I also think Han Solo is one of the hardest characters to capture on paper so I understand the challenges but I thought he was lacking a bit when he did show up.  He was almost too goofy-like, even though his scenes were serious…it’s hard to explain but there was something missing.
  • The action scenes were not well written. I felt like Ms. Gray’s strength lies in writing character’s emotions and relationships – not action. You could figure out what was going to happen in the actions scenes and it felt like they were thrown in just so the book would feel like “Star Wars”.  Instead of trying to interweave action in it, the book should have been entirely about politics and stuck to that.
  • Leia was a little mopey. At some points it was believable…other times not so much. Leia is not a sit on her butt kind of person.  There were times when Ms. Gray remembered that and Leia seemed like the person we remember from the OT, but there are pages where she kind of falls off and I was left thinking she really took after her father in the sulking category.  I know she was trying to make Leia seem jaded, but instead I thought she was moping about.

 

I’d give Bloodline 3.8/5 stars.  It was better than A New Dawn, but it still isn’t Zahn worthy.  (The new Thrawn book coming out by Zahn is definitely going on my list!)  Many people had great reviews for this book and I wasn’t feeling it as much as everyone else, I guess.  I am happy to understand more of the politics of this time in Star Wars, but thought that a few things were too disjointed to make me appreciate this fully.

Haiku Me Friday! The Bridge

A chasm between Father and son, tensions build In truth, a long bridge

A chasm between
Father and son, tensions build
In truth, a long bridge

First, a few administrative updates.  My Friday posts have been lacking because I have a doctors appointment every Friday now since I’m in the last haul of my pregnancy.  And because I am considered high risk, I have to go to the hospital for this appointment instead of my normal doctors and the hospital is further.  So by the time I’m done with all the monitoring and driving round trip, I’ve lost about 2 hours of my day and I spend the rest of that time catching up on my work.

Secondly, I am due in 3.5 weeks!  Soooo soooooon.  I don’t know what’s going to happen with this blog, but I’m sure I’ll be taking a hiatus for a while as I begin my new life and learn how to adjust.  Follow me on Instagram if you are interested in updates, if not, eventually I’m sure I’ll be back.  This is my only outlet for Star Wars!  I need something to keep me sane, haha.

Third, Mei-Mei and I have started a once-a-month Friday initiative where we will both be coloring the same page from the same Star Wars coloring book.  We won’t confer with each other and it’s just a chance to see what we did differently and why.  This month, she colored in the one I did just a few days ago on May the 4th.  Check it out!


I watched the Han Solo death scene three times last night.  It’s just so good.  I think it could be one of the best scenes in the movie acting-wise, cinematically, and artistically.  Abrams did a great job with it.

First, there’s that really long bridge separating both Kylo Ren and Han Solo.  Though bridges are known as a support, it’s made to look almost like a chasm in this instance, emphasizing the long distance emotionally and physically between these two characters.  When Rey and Finn barge in on the top landing, the light falls as a spotlight onto the two characters.  When we take in that expansive shot, it’s foreboding, but the light gives hope: you thinks that maybe there could be redemption here.

Kylo Ren calls out, “Han Solo!” after Han had yelled his name.  I noticed last night that Han calls his son by his true name (I would expect nothing less), but Kylo Ren also uses Han’s true name.  Not “Father” or “Dad” or anything like that…Han Solo.  I’ve written about the importance of names in Star Wars before, but this is just another perfect example of how by using Han’s given name, Kylo Ren distances himself from his father.  Han uses “Ben” to try to bring his son closer and Kylo Ren uses “Han Solo” to create a distance.

han solo deathAs we transition into the conversation between Kylo and Han, Kylo removes his helmet (and also his conviction) and turns into the petulant child that most people have grown to despise about the character.  Instead, I found that it made a lot of sense.  He’s trying to defend his actions and his turn to the dark side (though not spelled out like that) to his father.  Sometimes I find myself acting like a child a bit when I’m trying to defend myself against my mother or father’s unspoken accusations.  I am listing reasons and I sound a little pathetic, even to myself, similar to Kylo’s excuses that Han’s “son” was weak and foolish so he had to be destroyed.  And when Kylo says Snoke is “wise”, it’s almost like he’s grasping at straws.

When we get to that moment when Kylo Ren acknowledges that he knows what he has to do but doesn’t know if he has the strength, I find the acting of both Adam Driver and Harrison Ford really comes up a notch…especially on Driver’s end.  The tears were in his eyes when he was struggling and petulant but they slowly disappear as he hands the lightsaber to his father.  The beam of light that was on the bridge disappears and you know that last glimmer of hope is gone. As Han tries to wrest the lightsaber, Adam Driver’s subtle progression from conflicted to decided is perfect.  I remember thinking this the very first time I saw the movie in the theaters too.  You can tell that he realizes he does have the strength and he commits the unforgivable act of murdering his own father.

But after Han Solo registers surprise, he pulls his hand up to touch his son’s face.  His last act before death takes him is one of kindness and love.  I teared up watching this yesterday, and I’m sure it’s because I’m going to be a parent so soon, and I realized that no matter what – parents really do love their children.  No matter what.  Han just got killed by his son whom he trusted, but reached up to touch his face one last time before falling off the bridge.

han kylo gif

Interestingly, if you read the script for this scene, there is no directive for Han Solo to touch Kylo’s face.  This was Ford’s interpretation of Han Solo’s last moments.

Han’s last moment is looking into his son’s face. HAN’S
KNEES BUCKLE. The blade tilts down with him… until KYLO
REN EXTINGUISHES IT AND HAN HOLDS onto the catwalk — his
life slipping away.
Finally Han FALLS BACK, OFF THE CATWALK, INTO THE DEPTHS OF THE STRUCTURE

As the scene wraps up, we watch Chewie attempt to gun down Kylo Ren, hitting him with a blaster bolt that seriously weakens him.  I’m not sure if anyone else noticed, but when Kylo Ren leaves the oscillator, he also leaves behind his mask.

Will we see him with another mask in VIII?  A new mask?  Or, if the mask was to hide his indecision and conflict with the light side, will he now no longer need one?  He’s got a pretty good looking scar to make him look a little more intimidating so they might decide to keep him mask-less.

I enjoyed this scene even when watching it in the theaters, but being able to rewatch it at home and picking up all these nuances has brought it to a new level.  I think it’s one of the best scenes in TFA.

What do you take away from this scene?

Haiku Me Friday! Under the Shadow…

Under the shadow A new dark lord rises up Yet struggles so much

Under the shadow
A new dark lord rises up
Yet struggles so much

This has to be one of my favorite haikus I’ve written in a while.

When I wrote this haiku, I thought that Kylo would be rising up as a dark Force user under the shadow of Darth Vader.  But after watching the bonus disc material that came with TFA, I wonder if perhaps the shadow he felt were his parents: these two prominent figures in the fight against the Empire.  Adam Driver mentioned that his parents were not often there for Kylo Ren as they struggled with the politics of putting a new government together.  So under this shadow, did Kylo Ren turn to the dark side because Snoke offered him attention?  And his struggle with the light side come from the fact that now he finally has his parents attention so he wants to turn back to the light side?

But added to that is the shadow of his grandfather.  He wants so badly to live up to these standards he has set for himself and carry on the legacy of Darth Vader.  Yet as he goes through the process, he constantly battles with the pull to the light side of the Force.  Is this because the light side is stronger (Yoda said it is in ESB) or because of his personality?

It seems like Kylo Ren’s biggest struggle was living under the shadow of his family.  His parents helped rid the galaxy of the Empire.  His grandfather was the most powerful Force user in the galaxy’s history.  His Uncle is the sole remaining Jedi.

And not only does Kylo struggle with the light side, but he also struggles with the respect he feels he deserves as a Sith (or soon-to-be-Sith…I’m still unclear if the Knights of Ren are actually Sith).  Clearly General Hux tolerates him but I’m not sure he respects him as a member of the First Order.  Lor San Tekka derided him as soon as he showed up on Jakku.  Supreme Leader Snoke seems to go back and forth on if he trusts Kylo Ren and I bet he knows he’s taking a gamble with him.  Heck, I would too…the grandson of Darth Vader to possibly use as your tool, even if he ends up dying or turning to the light side would be worth it for a bit.

I’ve come to the conclusion that the shadow of Kylo’s family (Vader, parents) drove him to the dark side where he rose up high due to his natural inclinations with the Force.  But he struggles with the light side and gaining respect from others.

Ahhhh I love it when my haikus force me to think.

Have I convinced any of the Kylo-haters to give him a second chance or rethink about him a bit?