Sunday, December 31, 2017

Love, Betrayal, and Other Star Wars 8 Predictions

Phillip and I have only been in a movie theater three times in the last three years, and each film we saw had lightsabers in it.

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This month, some friends watched our kids while we went to see Star Wars: The Last Jedi, and I went in with a few predictions about what would happen in the film.  As a Star Wars geek with a history degree, I can't help noticing that history tends to repeat itself in the Star Wars trilogies.  For example, in the first movie of all three trilogies, there's a damsel in distress to save, a deadly space station to blow up, and a mentor/father figure who gets killed by a Sith (the bad guys with red light sabers).  After reflecting on Episodes 2 and 5 ('cuz that's what geeky history majors do when we're washing the dishes), I had some guesses about things we'd see in Episode 8 (and yes, all the photos are from the original trilogy, 'cuz I like it a whole lot better than the prequels) . . .

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1) Somebody's gonna lose a hand.

In Episodes 2 and 5, the headstrong Jedi apprentice rushes into a fight with a Sith, discovers he's totally outclassed, and comes away one hand short.  Things don't look good for Rey's right hand in Episode 8, but maybe they'll throw us a curveball, and Kylo Ren will lose a hand instead?

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2) Somebody's gonna fall in love. 
(Bonus points if the girl resists on principle, then confesses her love 
when it looks like one or both of them is about to die).

Leia and Padme both fall in love against their better judgement.  Leia prefers NICE men, not scoundrels, and Padme resists Anakin because she's a law-abiding senator and romance with a Jedi is totally illegal (though apparently a Jedi-in-training can flirt like crazy without getting in trouble?).  When it looks like the object of their attraction may not survive till the final credits, both girls finally cave in and say, "I love you" (we know).  Who will fall in love in Episode 8?  Finn and the new character Rose?  Rey and Kylo Ren???


3) A new character acts friendly, but betrays the good guys.

In Episode 2, we meet Count Dooku who asks the shackled Obi-Wan Kenobi to help him resist a powerful Sith Lord in the galactic government (who Dooku is secretly working for).  Obi-Wan doesn't trust him for a second.  Lando Calrissian's approach is more persuasive and charming in Episode 5 (no shackles for you, Princess--yet), but he too turns out to be working with a Sith (though more as a matter of necessity than preference).  At least he redeems himself at the end; will the traitor in Episode 8 do the same?

4) A Sith apprentice invites a Jedi apprentice to join forces with him and bring order to the galaxy.

Count Dooku: You must join me, Obi-Wan, and together we will destroy the Sith!
Obi-Wan: I will never join you, Dooku.

Darth Vader: Join me, and together we can rule the galaxy as father and son!
Luke: NOOOOOO!  [OK, actually he just let go of the railing and plummeted a mile or two, but that basically means the same thing as, "NOOOOOO!"]

Kylo Ren: Join me, and together we will rule the galaxy!
Rey: Um, I don't think so.

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5) An apprentice ignores their mentor's counsel and leaves to help someone they care about, but they don't actually help.

In Episode 5, Luke senses that his friends are in danger and decides to take a break from Jedi lessons to go help them.  His mentor Yoda begs him not to go, but Luke takes off anyway and heads to Cloud City, where he gets clobbered by Darth Vader and his friends escape without his help.  Anakin actually tries and fails to help someone TWICE in Episode 2.  Master Obi-Wan instructs Anakin to keep Padme safe on Naboo, but the pair go to Tatooine to try to save his mom (who dies in his arms), and then they travel to a far more hostile planet to rescue Obi-Wan, only to be captured and scheduled for execution right along with him.  They all escape, of course (Obi-Wan managing to do so without any help from Anakin or Padme).  In Episode 8, will Rey leave Luke Skywalker to try to help a friend in trouble, only to find that her effort was futile?

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6) A Force-sensitive person (not the main protagonist) comes to the rescue when it looks like all is lost.

In Greek drama, there was a term "deus ex machina" (literally "God in the machine") for when a playwright wrote their characters into a corner and then had a god come and fix everything at the end.  You might say that happens at the end of Episodes 2 and 5, when it looks like all is lost for the would-be Jedi until another character unexpectedly uses the Force to come to their rescue.  In Episode 2, after a brief lightsaber duel, Anakin is unconscious and at the mercy of Count Dooku until Yoda hobbles in, turns on his mini lightsaber, and shows the Count who's boss (er, master).  Near the end of Episode 5, Luke is clinging weakly to an antennae on the bottom of Cloud City, with no possible help or escape route in sight.  He uses the Force to call to Leia, who tells Chewie to turn the Millennium Falcon around and go back to Cloud City to rescue Luke.  Who will be the "Jedi ex machina" in Episode 8?  Luke?  Leia?  Finn???

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7) The Jedi apprentice faces their worst fear, and the result foreshadows their destiny.

In Episode 2, Anakin is confronted with his worst fear: the death of his mother.  He responds by vengefully slaughtering the sandpeople who killed her, foreshadowing the future when he turns to the dark side in a vain attempt to save the life of someone he loves.  In Episode 5, Luke enters a cave filled with the dark side of the Force and confronts the image of his greatest fear: Darth Vader.  When he cuts the simulated Vader's head off, the helmet's face mask disappears revealing Luke's own face, warning him that if he kills Darth Vader he will really be destroying himself.  Luke takes the message to heart in Episode 6, choosing to spare his defeated father instead of killing him out of anger and fear.  What is Rey's greatest fear, and how will she respond to it?

If you're still reading this post, you're probably geeky enough to care whether and how history repeated itself in Episode 8.  I'll share what I guessed right (and wrong) in the comments section.  Feel free to add your own geeky thoughts, if you like.

P.S. I thought of calling this post "Somebody's Gonna Lose a Hand," but most people who read this blog are family members who just want to see what my kids are up to, and I didn't want anyone to freak out when they saw the title.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

The Museum of the Bible

This afternoon we braved the freezing cold . . .

. . . to visit the Museum of the Bible, which opened last month a few blocks from the U.S. Capitol Building. 

One interesting room contained a copy of the Bible for every language it has been completely translated into.  The shelves of yellow books on the right represent languages for which only a portion of the Bible has been translated.  There was also a section for languages (including some sign languages, which would need a video translation) which currently have no portion of the Bible translated at all.

Nearby, there was a display of some unique Bibles such as a "teen study" Bible, a colorfully illustrated Russian Bible, and The Brick Bible whose illustrations are made with Legos.  That last one seemed really weird to me at first, but I have to admit, it would be a very effective way to teach lots of kids about the scriptures.

The museum also had a recreation of a Nazarene village from Jesus's era.  A robed actor demonstrated a worship service in the synagogue, and this table is laid out with a feast including olives, pomegranates, dates, and boiled eggs.  Anna and Todd were intrigued by the plastic "water" in the ceramic pots.

Old testament experience at museum of the bible

Our favorite exhibit was a presentation on the Old Testament, where we walked from room to room learning about major themes and stories from that book.  We strolled through Noah's Ark full of squawking and bleating animals . . .

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. . . then passed through the Red Sea (made of blue, lighted strings that stretched from floor to ceiling).  That room was probably one of the easiest to create on this tour, but it filled me with wonder at what it would have been like to walk along the floor of a sea with huge walls of water towering on either side of me.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

The Dance Pad Lives!

It's the day after Christmas . . .

. . . and Anna (still in her mermaid Snuggie) spent the morning playing Fuffenbufers with Daniel.  I have no clue what the rules are, but it sure looked like they were having fun.

Daddy spent the day completing his capacitive dance pad.  He has put a lot of work and research into it, and I'm really impressed that he used wood, copper, wire, and a tiny computer to create something that uses our bodies' energy to play a dancing video game.

We all took turns trying it.  Daniel and Daddy have the best sense of rhythm so they tend to get better scores, but the girls and I enjoyed dancing too.

In other news, we watched our friends' girls while they went on a date to see Star Wars: The Last Jedi.  Anna entertained our guests with a performance showcasing her Slinky slinging skills.

Monday, December 25, 2017

A Busy Christmas Day

After we finished unwrapping our Christmas presents this morning . . . 

. . . Anna (still wearing her mermaid tail) set right to work on her BrainQuest book . . .

. . . then watched Joy start assembling her little robot Max.  We were told to expect that assembly would take about five hours.

Later in the afternoon, Anna and Todd decided that Christmas would be a perfect day to get out the washable paint we haven't opened in a few years.  I expected the paints to have all dried in their bottles, but they were still good.  Anna painted a picture of herself, Daddy, and me.  Daddy is always easy to spot because he has the darkest hair of anyone in her pictures.

Speaking of Mr. Tall, Dark, and Handsome, he was hard at work with power tools in the next room over.  Most of his Christmas and birthday budget went toward supplies for building his own StepMania dance pad.  The floppy one he bought in November was stomped to death in the first week, so he decided to build his own sturdier version with capacitive copper plates.  Fingers crossed that it will work.

After seven hours of assembly, Max lives!  He's cute and really friendly, for a pre-programmed, plastic-based life form.

Christmas Traditions, Old and New

Christmas is a time of fun traditions and family quirks.

Last night I lined up our stuffed  stockings on our couch because we don't have a mantle, and because that's what my parents always did even when we did have a mantle.

Bright and early this morning, Phillip gathered the kids, not around our Christmas tree, but to our computers.  Last night he worked some techie admin magic to create enchantments to improve their Minecraft gear.  He made sure to create at least one fireproofing spell for Joy, who tends to fall in lava a lot.

After visiting the communal Minecraft base, our next stop was the family room with the Christmas tree.  Phillip says it's a Daddy job to distribute the Christmas presents, because that's what they always did in his family growing up.

Joy received a book from Pink Grandma, and set right to work reading it (that's my girl).  My favorite gift was a book too--a permaculture memoir called Paradise Lot (thank you, Honey).  I love to read it and daydream about the yard full of fruit trees and berry bushes I hope to have someday.

Joy was also thrilled to receive a toy robot named Max, which she's been asking for for weeks.

Todd was pleased to receive a new BrainQuest book (I got him the Kindergarten one, but later in the day I saw him working on Anna's First Grade one too).

Anna was delighted to receive a mermaid tail Snuggie blanket.  She wore it all day.  I'm still not sure how she manages to climb stairs in it.

Engineer Daddy was pleased to get a Drosselmeyer nutcracker.  He loves cracking nuts, but hates the simple and unwieldy nutcrackers we have, so he searched the internet for a better one.  He likes things that are well built and do their job efficiently, and the Drosselmeyer definitely fits that bill.

Daniel loved his new laser maze game, but he completed all of the puzzles before the day was over.  I'd prefer to get my kids something they'll enjoy for many weeks to come, but I guess there's also something to be said for a solid morning of  fun.  Maybe I'll put the game in a cupboard for a few weeks, then bring it out again when he's forgotten all the solutions to the puzzles.  It will be like Christmas in January!

Speaking of the gift that keeps on giving, a couple weeks ago I bought myself this box of twelve mystery caramels from Trader Joe's.  I ate one each morning of the twelve days leading up to Christmas, and I have to say, amid all the hectic busyness of the holidays, it was nice to take a moment each day to slow down, savor a caramel, and try to guess what flavor it was (ginger? maple? orange? HOT CHILI!!!).  If they sell them again in the future, I am totally going to make this an annual tradition.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

The Bear, the Grinch, and the Florist

Todd and I decided that this chilly December day would be a perfect day . . .

. . . to snuggle on the couch and read some Christmas books. 

The big kids reached the same conclusion when they got home from school.  I favored the group with a spirited reading of "How the Grinch Stole Christmas," then Joy read us the sweet book "Bear Stays Up for Christmas." We also took some flowers to the kids' Primary president, who recently had eye surgery.  The kids weren't wild about going out in the cold, but by the time we arrived at our friend's home they were all excited to give her the flowers.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Nativity at a Nursing Home

Todd's little preschool group went to a nursing home today to act out the Nativity story and sing a few Christmas songs.

Todd's attitude toward costumes hasn't improved since Halloween, but we somehow persuaded him to put on a simple costume to be Joseph.  Good thing, since he's the only boy in the group.

Some of the residents didn't seem very aware of our visit, but others were really happy to see the kids, and their delight was contagious.  I'm so glad we went.