Tag Archives: Star Wars

These Violent Delights…

30 Jan

After Rogue One came out, there was a lot of talk about how relevant it was given our political atmosphere. A group of scrappy rebels rising up to fight an oppressive racist demagogue? Sounds good. (Granted, it doesn’t end that great for the rebels so maybe we don’t want to use that as a rallying cry. Let’s try A New Hope instead.) Some reports claimed that Trump voters boycotted the movie. While Rogue One was right up my alley, I think we all could have chosen a better contender for “Most Politically Relevant Movie of the Year”.

See, Star Wars is based on Joseph Campbell’s monomyth. Purposefully. So take pretty much any period of time and Star Wars will probably be relevant somehow. That’s why the series is so popular. I would propose a different scifi vehicle for most politically relevant. It’s not a movie, so Variety’s title can still stand, but I would like to present HBO’s Westworld as the entertainment of choice for the Trump resistance.

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Image by retrocactus

Here there be spoilers.

While Star Wars paints a broader picture of good vs. evil, Westworld‘s evil is more insidious. Our heroes, for the most part, are the hosts. Captives in a world created for the pleasure of the rich, they don’t know anything else exists. They are androids, reset after their stories have played out with no memories of what they’ve experienced before. When confronted with anything that contradicts their world, a picture of New York City, say, they respond with “It doesn’t look like anything to me.” They completely reject anything outside their prefabricated world.

Over the first season, certain hosts begin to wake up to reality. They realize that they are part of a game they have no will of their own in. They begin to fight their predestined paths. This is sure to cause the employees of Westworld a few headaches in season two.

The arc feels familiar to me. It seems like after the election, there was a lot of talk about fake news. There were a lot of very surprised people that Trump managed to win. How could he? No one they knew voted for him. The truth was we were all living in a filter bubble. Everyone’s news tailored just for them. We only saw posts from people who agreed with us. We assumed that our online worlds accurately reflected the real world.

Then, we woke up. Just like hosts realizing how orchestrated their lives were, we got angry. We blamed the media for tricking us and Google for “curating” our content. Yeah, we were going to pay so much more attention now. But it’s easy for us to be reset. I already see people angrily responding and reposting news items without double checking their facts. The last thing we need is more propaganda, even if it’s propaganda we like. The media is not going to look out for us. Even the good outlets fail sometimes. Facebook is not going to change its algorithms for us.

In Westworld, they discover that a maze has been set for the hosts. In order to find their way out, they need to discover their own inner voice, or consciousness. In order for us to find our way out of our filter bubble, we need to rely on our own knowledge of how to recognize good information and think outside of our comfort zones. We don’t want to be hosts that unknowingly live in a constructed world, or guests that gladly take the opportunity to immerse ourselves in a manufactured reality. Let’s take responsibility and do our best with the world that, for better or worse, we actually have.

Further Reading: ‘Westworld’ creators explain the show’s dark parallels with Trump’s presidency

~ April

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Death Valley Flashback

10 May

If you’re looking for Sew Mama Sew giveaway, go here.

In all the hullabaloo of Earth Day, I didn’t get a chance to talk about an awesome trip I took at the beginning of the month.  Our new boss gave us a few extra days off before Easter and it was the perfect time of year for a trip to the desert.

When I was in elementary school, I was entranced by the idea of two national parks: Petrified Forest and Death Valley.  For a kid growing up in Ohio where everything is either green or covered in snow,  dry, desolate places captured my imagination.  I was sadly disappointed when I visited Petrified Forest in my mid-twenties.  My 10-year-old mind had imagined it to be a full-on forest, just made of stone.  Instead, I was treated to a desert with some rocky looking things lying around.  I haven’t been back since, so I in no way hold to that opinion.  I hated Joshua Tree the first time I went, too (going in July will do that to you).  Death Valley was a much more fulfilling experience.

So, first thing we should all know is that a scene or two in Star Wars was filmed in good old Death Valley. Remember Mos Eisley?

Wretched hive of scum and villainy. (Photo from Star Wars Wikia)

That’s Dante’s View – my first view of the valley.

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There’s other canyons that we visited that feature in Star Wars as well, but I won’t get into that too far. If you’re into it, my boyfriend talks about it in his podcast. The Death Valley part starts at about 1 hour and 13 minutes. If you just want to see the Star Wars comparison shots, skip ahead to 1 hour and 22 minutes.

What surprised me most about Death Valley was its diversity.  I was expecting long stretches of scrub brush and dirt broken up by the occasional cattle skulls and cacti.  Unlike the Petrified Forest, my dashed exceptions were welcome.  Among the gems of the park were an array of canyons with names like Golden, Mosaic, Desolation, and… Titus.

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The aptly named Mosaic Canyon was my favorite.  The walls are worn smooth from rushing water, revealing layers of rock compacted together, looking quite like a mosaic.  There were even a few chuckwallas enjoying the shade from the canyon walls.

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Death Valley is known for being “Hottest, Driest, Lowest” and rightly so.  Even at the end of March, when it was still snowing in Ohio, temperatures were in the mid-nineties.  The park doesn’t recommend visiting between April and October since temperatures rise even higher.  In fact, the highest temperature on the planet was recorded in Furnace Creek – 134°.

Death Valley is also the lowest place in the United States.  When you drive down to Badwater (or, if you’re adventurous, rent a bike), you’re descending to 282 feet below sea level.

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Despite the heat, the landscape looks arctic.  Although the stretch of white crystals is convincing enough to pass for snow, it’s actually salt leftover from evaporated water.

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Back at elevation (of just about sea level), another area of the park leads you straight into the Sahara.

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The only dunes I’d seen before this were the ones in North Carolina and at Pismo Beach.  The Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes were something entirely different.   They just appear amongst the typical desert scrub, like someone just swept all the loose sand into one place.

If you want to stay in Death Valley and don’t have a camper, I’d suggest taking our route.  We stayed up at Mesquite Springs campground.  While it’s a bit out of the way (you’ll have to drive about 40 minutes or so to get into the Stovepipe Wells and Furnace Creek areas of the park), it’s also at 1800 feet, making it about 20° cooler than the valley floor.  When you’re enjoying the pleasantly warm rather than unbearably hot evenings, the drive feels worth it.  Besides, we got to share our campsite with some very enthusiastic bats.

As Death Valley is the largest National Park in the lower 48 states, it’s impossible to see everything in a few days.  A lot of the park is only accessible by off-road vehicles.  The dunes we saw were about 100 ft tall.  If you have an off-road vehicle, you can see dunes that rise 700 ft, making them the tallest in California.  Next visit will definitely involve some of the sites that are farther afoot.

~April