Loose Ends 2

More loose ends.

Yes, I have seen Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I’m only willing to dodge the spoilers for so long.

No, I’m not going to review it; the world doesn’t need yet another review. I am going to say a few words about it–if you’re sick of the coverage, feel free to skip down to the “Moving on” a few paragraphs down the screen–but it’s not a review in either the “good movie/bad movie” or the “go see it/avoid it like the plague” sense*. Just a few things that occurred to me during the show.

* There’s a lot of overlap between those two scales, but they’re not entirely equivalent. You can’t tell me you’ve never encountered something so bad it was wonderful or been bored to tears by a classic.

“Spoilers, Sweetie.” (So it’s a misquote. It’s better that way.) You’ve been warned.

Why the hell do both sides waste space in those little one-person fighters? Specifically, consider the shields. We’ve seen multiple cases of ground fighters with hand weapons attack–and damage, even destroy–X-Wing fighters. If the shields are so flippin’ wimpy, rip out the damn faster-than-light engines and use the space and power saving to beef them up! Moving the fighters from system to system is what carriers are for.

Speaking of shields, by now, shouldn’t somebody have figured out that the Millennium Falcon’s shields ought to come on automatically when the engines are started (or at least once it gets off the ground)? When was the last time you had to manually turn on the air bags when you started your car? Safety features should always default to “on”.

Mind you, the other side is just as bad at hardware design. Shouldn’t they have learned by now that single points of failure should be avoided? Don’t channel the entire output of a sun through a single thermal oscillator. Build three of the damn things, any two of which could handle the load.

An electromagnetic superluminal weapon (i.e. one that makes light travel faster than light)? That loses so much power as it travels that it can be seen by the people it’s passing at distances of millions of miles? That can turn corners? And be targeted so precisely it can hit a planet at those distances? That would be as if I shined a flashlight out of my office window here in California, aiming it so precisely that I hit the Eiffel Tower–and melted it! Look, I didn’t just suspend my disbelief, I locked it in my desk drawer before I got in the car, but even so, I heard it screaming in pain.

Light speed seems to be a continuing issue for fighter designers. Who thought it was a good idea to let the pilots control when to drop below light speed? Humans have trouble getting their timing right on a 95 mph fastball. Light travels 2,000 times faster. Why give your fighters one chance in 5,000 of arriving safely at their destination when every single one of them has an onboard computer (hello, R2-D2 and BB-8!) easily capable of doing the job right every time?

Shouldn’t this have been called Star Wars IV 2.0? There are a couple of good reasons for revisiting the original trilogy. Commercially, all those original cast members coming back make a compelling draw for the nostalgic and tie the reboot back to the original (see also Spock in the 2009 Star Trek relaunch). And artistically, the visual references and plot callbacks drive home the point that the rebellion has largely been marking time since the end of The Phantom Menace; it’s necessary to complete the cycle before moving on to something new. That’s all well and good. But couldn’t we have gotten that out of the way in the first, say, hour and a half, and then spent the remaining three-quarters of an hour moving into unfamiliar territory?

Don’t get me wrong. Despite all of the above gripes pulling me out of the movie at various points, I enjoyed the heck out of it. If you’re a fan, you will too–but if you’re not a fan, it’s not going to convert you.

Rant over.

Moving on.

With apologies to Arlo Guthrie, remember writing? This is a blog about writing. OK, sometimes. Occasionally.

One thing I’ve relearned over the last few years is that there really isn’t as much of a difference between writing fiction and non-fiction as we often think. Either way, there’s a process of selection, an answer to the question “What are the most important pieces of the story?” Whether it’s a novel, a news report, a scientific article, or a technical report, you don’t include everything. You summarize, you omit side issue (or save them for the sequel). And you make stuff up. Always. Think about the last status report you sent your boss. How much of that was “just the facts”?

And there’s no such thing as neutral writing. Even the much-reviled and ever-popular passive voice sends a message, either about your abilities as a writer or about what you think of the content of your writing.

Nowhere is that concept more obvious than in anything “based on a true story”. (I could tie this back to Star Wars with a reference to American politics and the prequels, but that way lies The Horror That Walks on Floppy Feet. Best to let it lie.) Which brings us to the final loose end I’m going to tie up this year.

All of our cats are indoor-only. Most of them are rescue kitties; they’ve spent time on the streets and seem to have little interest in going back to that life. We keep a watchful eye whenever a door is open, but for the most part, they’re happy to stay inside where it’s warm and dry, and where treats abound. But shit happens.

In March of 2003, Watanuki escaped. He got out through the kitchen window, which was a little too far open. We’re fairly sure it was an accident, that he was protesting the presence of one of the Backyard Bunch and just fell out. But regardless of how it happened, he was on the loose for several weeks.

Of course I wrote about it while it was happening, but that was in the very early days of the blog. Very early: ‘Nuki was already on the loose when the blog launched. At the time, I wasn’t confident enough in my writing to post anything I came up with.

But I couldn’t let the subject drop. I’ve written several different versions of the story of Watanuki’s adventure, but none of them has quite clicked for me.

Fast-forward two years and nine months. Finally, I’ve got a story–photo-illustrated, even–that I like. I can finally close that kitchen window and start 2016 with a different view of my writing.

Coming tomorrow: The Tale of Knuckles Malloy.

2 thoughts on “Loose Ends 2

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