Luke Island Blues

Rian Johnson has been either praised or blame, according to taste, for subverting, in The Last Jedi, the expectations raised by J. J. Abrams’ The Force Awakens.

In some respects the description is accurate – for example, in regard to Rey’s parentage, with Johnson subverting Abrams, and Abrams subsequently counter-subverting Johnson (like the humorous alternating-teacups-and-battlefleets round-robin mutual-hostility story that used to hang on the wall in the Chapel Hill Philosophy Department, and which I wish I could find online).

But one aspect that has been viewed as a subversion that I think is no such thing is Johnson’s treatment of Luke Skywalker. It wasn’t Johnson’s decision to have Luke hiding on a distant planet while the First Order was rising, his sister was fighting a desperate battle against it, and his nephew and former pupil was stalking around as a Vader wannabe. That was what Abrams established in TFA. If Rey had shown up and told Luke his sister and the galaxy needed him, and he had immediately replied, “oh, then I guess I’ll end my hermit-like existence and go fight the baddies,” it would have rendered inexplicable his not doing so long before Rey’s arrival.

The opening of TLJ¸ with Luke tossing the lightsabre over his shoulder and walking away, wasn’t a subversion of the final scene of TFA; it was pretty much the only continuation that made sense. If you wanted a more active role for Luke, blame Abrams, not Johnson.

Thursday’s Child

Theory: the character of Aurra Sing (as she appears in The Clone Wars, not as she appears in The Phantom Menace) was inspired by Paulina Porizkova’s character in Thursday.

Echo Location

Has anyone else noticed that Ava Sharpe (on Legends of Tomorrow) and Kim Wexler (on Better Call Saul) have very similar voices and facial expressions? (The effect is magnified by the fact that they tend to dress alike and have similar hair, despite not looking all that much alike otherwise.)

The main difference is that one’s in love with a resurrected ninja assassin while the other one has made questionable relationship choices.

Hail Aunts!

Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice (1813), Oscar Wilde’s Importance of Being Earnest (1895), and P. G. Wodehouse’s Jeeves and Wooster stories (1915-1974; my favourite is Code of the Woosters from 1938) span over a century and a half, but they all take place in the same social milieu – where idle young men, who somehow manage to be simultaneously wealthy and impecunious, divide their time between flats in London and estates in the country, seeking or avoiding romantic entanglements while dodging the dictates of terrifying aunts who control the familial purse strings.

That P&P belongs to this tradition is less obvious than the affinity between IBE and J&W, because in P&P the milieu is seen from a viewpoint partially outside it – not of the flitting men but of their female love interests. Still, someone needs to do an era-defying mashup where the three sets of characters are all interacting at once.

The Way We Live Now

“‘[T]his machine … has access to the Congressional Library St. Louis Annex, does it not?’ …
‘Certainly. Hooked into the Interlibrary Net, rather, though you can restrict a query to one library.’”

— Robert Heinlein, I Will Fear No Evil (1970)

“[H]is screen came alight with the assembled faces of his Council, each face in its own little square. Broey conducted the conference quickly ….”

— Frank Herbert, The Dosadi Experiment (1977)

Southern Comfort

Recommended quasi-lockdown viewing: an excellent pair of docudrama miniseries about early Antarctic exploration – The Last Place on Earth (about the competing Scott and Amundsen expeditions) and Shackleton (about, duh, the Shackleton expedition – though Shackleton also features briefly in the former series). They’re not just exciting dramas but also useful case studies in virtue ethics.

When The Last Place on Earth first appeared it was vigorously attacked by the right-wing press in the u.k. for casting aspersions on the great British national hero, Robert Scott, by suggesting that the failure of his expedition owed more to his defects of character than to bad luck. But from the reading I’ve done I conclude that the miniseries is pretty much accurate.

It was my mother who got me interested in the history of Antarctic exploration. Her interest dated from coming across, in her youth, the remains of Amundsen’s boat (at that time preserved, kind of, in a neglected corner of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park as a monument; it’s since been relocated to Norway). Although this was not the boat he used for his Antarctic expedition, the plaque named him as the first to reach the South Pole, leading her to wonder why she’d never heard of him and had only heard of Scott. She subsequently became a great admirer of both Amundsen and Shackleton, though not so much Scott.

The Last Place on Earth is out of print on DVD, and so is available at only astronomical prices in that format, but subscribers to Amazon Prime can stream it for free.

I couldn’t find Shackleton streaming anywhere (places advertising it turn out to have conflated it with a documentary recreating Shackleton’s voyage), but the DVD is only ten bucks.

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