Beyond the Algorithm Part II: Breaking the System

As I was thinking once again how much I dislike giving “star ratings” to things, I got to thinking about how the insistence of asking for them – or the simple binary “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” on Netflix – on sites is just a base manipulation to get the recommendations field populated by the algorithm.

And it occurred to me what I should have been doing all along, and what I should consider doing from this point forward. It might seem weird, but it might be the thing to smash the algorithm altogether.

Sure, I had the thought of finding things without the aid of the algorithm. This is the next step.

Instead of giving an honest rating to the media you just consumed – be it movie, book, television show, music, or anything else – give it the opposite rating of what you think it deserves. It’ll feel like a betrayal to the things you love. It will seem a lie to the world at large.

But what wonders might you discover with this little deception?

Will the algorithm start to expose you to other fantastic genres you’d never consider?

Like Sybok says to McCoy…the next steps, we’ll take together. Join me in this digital sabotage.

Like so many theoretical models we’ve seen in the last few months, garbage data produces garbage results. Feed the wrong input to the machine, and see what the machine produces.

What do we have to lose?

Give Neil Breen Movies Five Stars!
Give Neil Breen movies five stars!

Why Not Dr. Freeze?

This is just a random musing, because like most anyone else I kick this around in my head from time to time.

One of Batman’s many nemeses, Dr. Viktor Fries could only live in a special suit that maintained a ridiculously cold body temperature because of a condition whereby….so on and so forth. Along the way he was imbued with a tragic backstory of his wife being frozen while he searched for a cure to a deadly disease.

If you really don’t know his history or why he’s a sympathetic villain, I recommend you watch his episodes in Batman The Animated Series or its direct-to-DVD movie Batman/Mr. Freeze Sub-Zero.

Heck, the character is of such long-standing you could see him in the 1960s Batman TV series! It’s kind of charming, actually, to see him from an era when comic book programming was decidedly for children.

In the 1966 series, his original name was Doctor Shivel, not Fries. But for the purposes of this blog I’ll be using my preferred surname of his past life, Fries.

If you really want to bring the pain, you can watch Joel Schumacher’s Batman & Robin. But I strongly recommend you stick with the animated stuff instead. It’s the only time onscreen that Mr. Freeze’s character really found a compelling groove.

Today’s musing, though, is why Doctor Fries chose Mister Freeze as his criminal moniker. I’ve never been able to resolve it completely.

Mr. Freeze Batman Animated Series | kesseljunkie
The only truly interesting Mr. Freeze to be honest, outside the video games.

Possible Reasons

Did he believe it would throw people off the trail?
You could imagine people saying, “Oh it couldn’t be Victor. He’s a doctor.” That way he could let his old life die and, like Two-Face, draw a distinction between who he was and who he had become.

Is it an outward symbol of a doctorate he doesn’t feel worthy to hold?
Doctor Fries was an intelligent man and a great researcher, depending on the iteration. It’s possible that the outward manifestation of his limitations has made him forsake the honorific “Doctor,” to remind him to be humble while he works on a cure for his wife.

Has he simply moved past the pretension of your typical Ph.D., insisting everyone call him “Doctor”?
I really think this might turn the spotlight on me since I find Mr. Freeze sympathetic, I might just be making up a reason to have him be less of a pretentious sort.

Is he avoiding malpractice lawsuits?
While Batman may have a heck of a time keeping Mr. Freeze locked up, there are few things as tenacious as lawyers. He may just feel like running from one vigilante is a lot easier than having to change his phone number every six months.

Did the [whatever] board strip him of his doctorate when he turned to crime?
This seems feasible. It could also set up a nice arc where he traps everyone in a hearing room to present his case why he still deserves to have his accreditation. Then, when he loses, he freezes them all.

There’s also the easiest explanation, though it’s the least fun:

The writers just chose Mr. Freeze because it sounded cool.

But I’m an obsessive nerd in the online age, I want a better answer than that!

Mr. Freeze Batman & Robin Arnold Schwarzenegger | kesseljunkie
Of course, I also wanted a better movie than this, but you can’t always get what you want.

James Cameron’s Greatest Work of Art

The headlines recently touted how the release date of James Cameron’s next film, Avatar 2: Still Filming, was delayed “due to COVID.” This is incredibly disingenuous and designed to deflect people away from analysis and allow them to wallow in the “what else could go wrong” narrative that fulfills their days locked away from their regular lives.

Avatar 2: Probably Never Coming Out has been delayed so many times that I am not even sure how to count each instance. The man responsible for so many stunning achievements in cinema history – The Terminator, writing Rambo: First Blood Part II, Aliens, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, and Titanic (look, it was, OK?) – has become consumed with the idea of creating a perfect arc of sequels to the billion-dollar blockbuster that people weren’t all that much in love with in the first place, Avatar.

It’s frustrating because I want to see him make something else in the interim. I want to see him direct a music video, or challenge Michael Bay to a cage match, or even just appear in a commercial for deodorant. ANYTHING.

But what assuages that frustration is that I realized he’s actually engaged in the greatest piece of performance art in history.

Avatar | kesseljunkie
For someone who cares about the environment, all these little plastic balls seem…not great.

The Great Work

He’s milking the production pipeline, and now the Rodent Overlord Conglomerate, for all the money they’re willing to spend for him to deliver…something eventually.

Even if he never delivers Avatar 2, 3, 4, or 5, or however many there are now supposed to be, he’s getting paid by Disney®™© regardless. He’s already sitting on a giant pile of cash, and he can just keep adding to his bottom line just filming and toying with effects to no end.

He is single-handedly exposing how to get a giant production house to hand someone endless cash with no pressure to deliver on a timeline.

How many filmmakers bemoan that their timelines affected their vision for a movie?

Ron Howard had to reshoot most of a film in record time, and complete post-production, when the original filmmakers were fired and Disney didn’t want to move the release date. It worked out well because Solo: A Star Wars Story is far better than the cranky nerd-ragers think, and even has a grassroots demand for a sequel simmering online the same way Zack Snyder’s cut of Justice League did.

But there are many examples of compromises and shortfalls along the way. Last Action Hero is a famous example of a movie was rushed through production to compete for a summer release, and became regarded as an Ishtar-level disaster.

JJ Abrams had to adjust his production methods to meet an arbitrary release date for Star Wars: [Don’t Say Episode IX:] The Rise of Skywalker, and it was the first of his films to have an overwhelmingly mediocre reception from critics and rational audience members.

But not James “Jimmy” Cameron. He gets paid, is given resources, and gets to deliver his film(s)…whenever the hell he wishes.

He’s a model for other filmmakers to follow, and I have no idea why more can’t follow his lead. He’s showing that you don’t have to be a slave to the release schedules dictated by Disney©®™ and its near-monopolistic dominance of the multiplex.

His greatest work of art will always be this moment in time…

Avatar | kesseljunkie
…because it certainly wasn’t Avatar.

The Sybok Series: Introduction

I have to be me.

We all know that, long ago, I started on a strange journey of adoration with one of the least-respected franchise films of the last three decades, Star Trek V: The Final Frontier. What started as a playful means of self-soothing evolved into a legitimate respect for the film.

Some would argue this is inevitable with any film you watch many times over the years; you will learn to love what there is to love and ignore what there is that could have been better-executed. Some would argue that as we change, our tastes change. Some would argue this is an extension of “Stockholm Syndrome.

Either way, I do love Star Trek V: The Final Frontier and all its quirky imperfections. From the quality chemistry of the lead characters to the brazen camp of going on a literal search for God, to its obvious budgetary shortfalls and resultant creative missteps, it has charm to spare.

But at the core of my love and respect for this film is the performance of Laurence Luckinbill as Sybok.

Sybok Star Trek V | kesseljunkie
Sybok for President of the World!

Why Sybok?

Sybok is a sympathetic character! He’s a powerful, motivated individual with tremendous talents who is looking for answers to life. As he observes, the “ultimate knowledge” is what we all seek.

He is driven to the point of madness by a vision – which ends up being true! – given to him that God is physically at the center of the galaxy. This madness doesn’t make him harm people, but rather convert them to his cause.

He does this by sharing, and seemingly absorbing, a piece of someone’s greatest emotional pains. He makes people confront these pains with the idea that it “frees” their souls. As Kirk reveals, Sybok’s spiritual salve is a reactionary fake, but the intent is pure. The road to Hell, as we all well know, is paved with good intentions.

This power of his motivates this next series I’m releasing this week.

Sybok Star Trek V | kesseljunkie
Sybok was feeling your pain before Bill Clinton stole his bit.

Sybok Helps Notable Characters from Other Franchises

Previously, I asked if Sybok could have saved Darth Vader. Beyond that, I pondered whether he could have stopped Thanos, the monomaniacal genocidal murderer in the much-venerated Disney’s Marvel’s Cinematic Universe, by having him confront his pain.

As I worked to think up things to write to keep this playful and therapeutic bit of writing going, I realized there is a whole treasure trove of heroes that would be interesting challenges for Sybok.

Could his power, his empathy, change the course of history if it were introduced to another fictional world? I want to explore if it would, and if it did, what the repercussions would be.

And for those that might think having an introductory piece at the start of the series is abnormal, I will point you to several others that I’ve done to open other series. Also I’ve been told that some people aren’t terribly familiar with my sense of humor and these might help.

So as you can see, this is just how I approach the idea of a series. The question now, is, which franchise care do I first treat to Sybok’s penetrating, insightful gaze?

I know who it will be, but you’re going to have to wait to find out til next time.

Sybok Star Trek V | kesseljunkie
Go ahead and shoot. I’ll never stop saying that Star Trek V is more enjoyable than Iron Man 2 or Thor: The Dark World. And at least one other MCU movie that I won’t name because I want you to guess it.

A Disturbing Realization About the Death Star in Star Wars

I cannot be the first person to think this or state this.

If I am, then congratulations to me for just handing it out there to you…the people.

As I was thinking about Star Wars again, in large part thanks to my musings about how Han might have lost the Millenium Falcon in the run-up to Star Wars: [Don’t Say Episode VII] The Force Awakens, and as I am wont to do on occasion, in the reaches of my mind I came back to a thought I’m sure I must have had before.

We’re all familiar with the ending of the original Star Wars. We’ve watched it so many times we’ve lost sight of the fact that Luke makes an impossible shot. People have made jokes about how dumb it was that there was an exhaust shaft at all, when they forget the line of dialogue from General Dodonna saying that it’s “ray shielded.”

For added context on that last bit, ray shields stop lightsabers. That’s why Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan get separated in the duel with Darth Maul in Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace. It’s what captures the armed Jedi in Star Wars: Episode II: Attack of the Clones.

Additionally, many have misinterpreted a key bit of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Galen Erso was telling Jyn to get a bomb into the reactor in a sapper mission. He doesn’t even mention the exhaust port. He goes on to simply say an explosion should cause a malfunction and power failure, but it’s all good.

That’s all beside the point.

With all the thinking about Star Wars and the Death Star and an exhaust port, I started to think about what an exhaust port is. It made me chuckle.

They beat the planet-destroying mega-machine by shooting it in the a**hole.

death star explosion star wars a new hope | kesseljunkie
Ka-blooie!

Burgers v Pizza: Dawn of Food Fight

Recently I asked a friend – surprisingly I have a few left – for topics he’d like to see me write about. He suggested, “Why burgers are the best food.”

It’s not something I’m inclined to accept as a truth without analysis, but as I tricked one nerd into thinking I believed that Masters of the Universe was the unsung trailblazer for dark & gritty comic book movies, I enjoy writing things that seem like sound arguments just for the sake of it. It speaks to the weakness of “expertise” and the strength of confirmation bias, since people skip close reads and miss the part where I say I’m kidding.

I even had one friend think I was arguing that Tommy Wiseau’s The Room was a metaphorical tale about the human soul. That blog was removed ages ago when I was being harassed and targeted by someone’s horde of followers, because I realized at that point people don’t “get” humor very well. It’s a shame because I thought it was pretty funny and I liked to remind him that he’d missed the joke.

It’s for this reason that satire is dead and has to be clearly labeled. Jonathan Swift would have been “cancelled” in a moment by the current internet hordes. I’m beginning to wonder if anyone understands what Monty Python’s real point was.

Anyway, back to the point at hand.

This is a stock photo. I don’t know who this is.
Photo by Edward Eyer on Pexels.com

Burgers v. Pizza

As I started to ponder whether I could construct an argument that burgers really are the “best food,” I realized that they’re up against a major contender from the start.

Pizza is the ubiquitous, delicious food readily available to waiting bellies that I think would outstrip demand for burgers if it came down to it. Pizza has myriad combinations, allowing for nearly unlimited variance in crust, sauce, toppings, and size. It’s possible to order a pizza that is for only yourself, or for a family.

When kids have birthday parties, they serve pizza. It’s because it’s a safe bet. Pizza can be served with water, tea, soda, or anything else.

Now, popular opinion isn’t necessarily correct, so that doesn’t mean that pizza is the “best” for just those reasons. But you do have to admit that burgers are a dicier proposition.

Burgers can be cooked “wrong” pretty easily, whereas pizza is pretty difficult to screw up. No matter where you go, even if it’s bad…it’s still satisfying.

The toppings on the burger are meant to complement the flavor of the meat but are frequently just wilted salad leftovers that they need to serve or throw out. The toppings on a pizza can define it, enhance it, or just prove unnecessary. Burgers, on the other hand, tend to require them.

So weighting the factors of ease to prepare, general guarantee of positive experience, serving size, acceptable recipe variance, and ability to be served without any accoutrement, I think we have a winner.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The Winner & The Meaning

In the end, burgers are not the best food. Pizza wins this matchup in the tournament.

So clearly, you have a lesson here on the dangers of being my friend. I may love you dearly and then turn your proposed blog topic into an argument against your favorite food. I may spend years plastering your face into movie scenes to troll you, only to have it backfire and become a compulsion for myself.

So who who could challenge pizza in the next round?

The Prophecy of Total Recall

Let’s get something out of the way first and foremost. The title and the inspiration for this blog came from a conversation with my pal, @craigsorrell. If I don’t acknowledge that off the bat, I’ll get an earful.

Total Recall, released in 1990, is not a particularly good film. To be sure, it’s got cheesy nostalgic appeal; there was a young kesseljunkie many years ago who saw the film in the theater and loved it.

He loved it so much he wanted to go right back in the theater and see it a second time. I know that he saw it more than once in the theater, because back then it was a lot cheaper to go to the movies and if something was mediocre it was still a cheaper option than anything else, so long as you didn’t get popcorn.

(That young kesseljunkie also had a friend who immediately pointed out that the physics of the atmosphere wouldn’t blah blah blah something something oxygen who cares yes we know and do not care.)

But part of growing up is being able to be honest with yourself about the things you once loved, and their place in your life. It’s OK to change and have your opinions or tastes change. It happens! Anyone who thinks they have it all figured by the time they hit their twenties is an idiot, a cult member, or both.

But what I’m talking about this time is the eerie prophetic quality of one scene in particular.

Two Weeks Total Recall GIF | kesseljunkie
You hear the voice in your head every time. EVERY TIME.

TWO WEEKS!

If you haven’t seen the movie, there’s a scene where a woman is going through customs on Mars and she declares she’s going to be there for two weeks. She then starts repeating “TWO WEEKS” with more and more fervor, pulling at her own lips as if her body has betrayed her.

As her breakdown continues, repeatedly saying “TWO WEEKS,” she backs away into the wall. You then find the real surprise: it’s Arnold Schwarzenegger in disguise! It’s not as satisfying as a Lando in disguise, but we make do.

But what I was discussing with my pal was, in this time we’re living everything is measured in TWO WEEKS. We just have to wait TWO WEEKS to see the latest doomsday predictions come to pass. We just have to wait TWO WEEKS to find out if that stuff about the thing is true. We’ll see in TWO WEEKS if Ghislaine Maxwell didn’t kill herself.

So I ventured an idea. What if Total Recall was at least partly written by someone who traveled from the future and was just screwing with us because TWO WEEKS would be a permanent GIF in usage and people would keep discussing and watching Total Recall.

I’m going to investigate this possibility and get back to you with what I find out.

In TWO WEEKS.

This is from my personal Special Edition of the movie.

My Dog Ate My Homework

I paint. I’ve painted my whole life. Some people think I’m pretty good. I think I’m mediocre at best, but I enjoy doing it and that’s that.

Now that the preamble is out of the way, let me explain something to you about the creative temperament. I don’t know what it is.

Anyone who speaks about groups of people as if they’re amorphous blobs of groupthink is a fool or a liar. Every person, even if they’re not “a creative,” is unique. There are as many creative temperaments as there are people who are creative.

I just know my temperament, and it drives me up the wall when people claim that they know about “creative temperaments” because they know themselves. But I digress.

I create in fits and spurts. Sometimes I blog for 30, 60, or more days in a row. (That’s a funny story how that got started, too, and the jackass who prompted it is snickering somewhere as well.)

At one point I was on four different regularly-occurring weekly podcasts and still appearing on friends’ shows. I’ve composed in a journal every day for years, and gone months without writing a single thing.

But one thing that really keeps the momentum going is when I start experimenting with media or techniques that are outside the norm. I love to experiment and mix.

I’d started using candle wax to build a textured, layered, multi-colored abstract on canvas, just starting to see where I’d lay on the paint. I had a vision in my head and could see it clearly. I’d nurtured it along for days, seeing that vision come together in my mind’s eye.

Given that melted wax can run, I’d decided to leave it on the floor to let it dry and set. I went to bed.

The following morning, the canvas was devoid of anything but a shadow of the composition I’d been building. There were tears in the canvas, as if someone had dragged a blade or some sort of tool like a pencil across the canvas and worn holes in it. Not jabbed, but worn through in patches like denim in the 1980s.

The dog, smelling the candle wax, had decided that I must have left a treat out. That lovable dope ate it by scraping it and licking it off the canvas. The dog then made a new composition called “vomit on the carpet,” but it’s not been preserved for the art crowd.

Too experimental.

And so that beautiful vision in my mind’s eye has to be reset, and I have to soldier forward in hopes I can recapture it somehow. I’ve churned out 11 paintings in the last three months, I’m sure I’ve got the momentum to find that inspiration again.

I’m sure there’s a lesson about life in there somewhere, but all I can think is that finally I experienced one of the most clichéd moments a boy can have.

My dog at my homework.

The Problem with CHAZ

I’ve read a lot of headlines and seen a lot of stories about the CHAZ in Seattle. For those of you who don’t know, the acronym stands for Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone. I won’t get into the ironies of the fact that it doesn’t seem very autonomous, or that some people there seem to think you can garden on broken down pizza boxes, but that’s just me being silly about it. When I make jokes like that, some of my friends get grumpy.

Anyway, I think the name got changed to CHOP now? “Occupied Protest” are the new last words, leaning into the fact that this is just a follow up to the Occupy movement from 2011. After all, people love sequels.

Maybe by the time you read this it’ll be named…I don’t know. I don’t care.

And that’s the problem! The name doesn’t make me care. That’s a marketing and messaging failure!

CHAZ is a nickname for Charles, and doesn’t instill the respect and slight air of fear that new nations require to keep their enemies at bay and instill the confidence they need with trading partners.

CHOP? CHOP sounds like an action, and not a pleasant one. I chop meat to consume it. I chop the air with great vigor when running through martial arts forms. It sounds like a joke.

The Name They Should Have Chosen

This is why they should have consulted me. My deep knowledge of bad movies, and horror movies, and bad horror movies, and movies in general, could have helped them!

I would have told them to name it the Capitol Hill Utopian District.

C.H.U.D. for short.

As you should well know, C.H.U.D. is a 1980s “horror” movie about Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers. They’re cannibalistic humanoids (natch) who were mutated by toxic waste illegally dumped in the sewers of New York.

It’s a name that will make people pay attention and think twice about trying to take your city blocks back.

Shot from C.H.U.D. Movie 1980s | Alternate name for CHAZ.
Come on, man. I’ve already got chills!

Names Should Instill Cautious Respect!

Trust me, no one is screwing with a C.H.U.D! They won’t even think to challenge you.

Cops will run away and troublemakers will think twice. You won’t even need an ad hoc police force to remove the police force you don’t want policing you.

Best of all, C.H.U.D.s live in the sewers so they won’t take up space on your city blocks. Of course, if the real C.H.U.D.s in New York City hear about it, they might get a little upset.

Or, if you want, you can go with this Simpsons reference to C.H.U.D.s for your context.

“…and then the C.H.U.D.s came at me…”

In Conclusion

So listen to me, spontaneous revolutionaries of Seattle! Rename yourselves now to drive away those who wish you ill. Name yourselves after an atomic horror that eats people, and people will stay far away.

As a side bonus, you’ll raise awareness of toxic environmental damage.

It’s a total win! And if you ever do institute your own currency, and rename yourself C.H.U.D., I’m going to demand some form of payment.

C.H.U.D. Movie Poster 1984 horror movie | kesseljunkie.com

Also you should see the movie. It’s a kick.

Exploring Force Lightning, Part III: Questions of Lethality

The next step in our exploration of the power known as Force Lightning, a lightning storm summoned by Dark Side users and directed through their fingertips is to examine how demonstrably lethal it is. If this is your first stop on this grand journey, I invite you to read the first two posts in this series before reading further.

Beyond the Extension Cord

Since this series was born out of thoughts while handling an outdoor extension cord, and how its shielding was a flexible barrier between me and death, it’s only logical to explore the specific lethality of Force Lightning.

As we’ve established that Force Lightning is some form of mystical electrical energy, we can still tell clearly that it isn’t immediately deadly; Mace Windu gets jolted for quite some time before being blown out the window, Luke is in agony but recuperates fairly quickly, and Snoke (ugh) zaps Kylo Ren from a distance like anyone who figures out dragging their footy pajamas on shag carpet lets you shock someone.

Expanding to the animated stories (as anyone with sense should), Tyranus (Count Dooku) straight up tortures Savage Opress with Force Lightning, as does Sidious torture Maul on Mandalore.

The stunning thing that all these examples highlight is that we don’t really see Force Lightning kill anyone.

Say what?

And *I* call it motivation.

Maybe It Doesn’t Kill

Given the fact that we don’t see it actually kill someone onscreen, maybe there’s an argument that it doesn’t. Maybe Force Lightning is simply a tool by which to torture someone into submission.

After all, if we see all of these examples of its use but never a conclusive evidence of it being deadly, maybe it’s simply meant to break someone effectively enough to make them unable to resist the coup de grâce. Torturing someone until they’re unable to fight back certainly seems like a thing that Dark Side users would do.

If we go with story chronology, the first use of Force Lightning we see is Dooku’s simple blast of Anakin at the opening of the duel on Geonosis. That left Anakin weak enough that, if Obi-Wan hadn’t been there, Dooku would have been able to kill him. Anakin was in no shape to fight back. And that blast only lasted a moment.

If we go with release chronology, though, the first time we see Force Lightning used we also encounter an interesting line of dialogue that may speak to Force Lightning actually being deadly. When Luke is laying helpless before the Emperor, Sidious smiles and says, “Now, young Skywalker…you will die.”

A Certain Point of View

The line, as it stands, indicates that the Emperor was about to kill Luke outright with the power of Force Lightning. He smiles, the music starts its crescendo, and Luke wails as Sidious pours his malice into purple-white bolts of manic energy.

If not for Vader’s intervention, Luke presumably would have been fried like chicken.

But this is Star Wars. There is a lot of room for interpretation. Since we don’t see Luke die at that moment, we could even presume that Sidious was just torturing Luke to the point of senselessness, after which he could just push him over the edge and watch him fall to his death.

Heck, we could imagine even that the Emperor would impale Luke with his hidden lightsaber after enjoying the torture. He might even summon Luke’s own saber and kill him with it just for the poetic flair.

After all, this boy – this child who should never have been – caused great grief for Sidious. After destroying the first Death Star, then helping the Rebellion survive Hoth, then proving that Vader was an even bigger disappointment than he thought, this boy had the gall not to turn to the Dark Side when offered the power of the galaxy.

I could absolutely see him torturing Luke until he could move in for an easy kill. The Force Lightning was the fun, the kill was the business.

I. Am. Not. Happy!

In Conclusion

Some might say I’m just stretching at this stage to hold onto the idea that Force Lightning itself doesn’t kill. And I concede that possibly, for someone with a weaker connection to the Force or already injured, Force Lightning could be a killer.

While you may argue that it killed Vader, he was already beaten down pretty hard by Luke. It’s possible that Force Lightning was just the final push like the flu for someone whose heart was already on the verge of failure. (In fact, there’s a pretty interesting argument about this that, as I write this, just inspired another blog. I’ll leave it at that for now.)

Given the examples onscreen, it seems like I’ve got a pretty solid case that Force Lightning is not deadly in and of itself.

So now that we’ve covered Surge Protection, Personal Insulation, and Questions of Lethality, I think we’re done with this for now. Tomorrow will lead to a new topic, and since I know some people don’t want to read just Star Wars related stuff (what?) I’ll choose something that’s not in that galaxy far, far away.

Also, if you like what you’re reading, maybe give me a break and leave a comment or send me a cup of coffee. Usually sites charge you for entertainment like this.

Exploring Force Lightning, Part II: Personal Insulation

In continuing our exploration of the cool Star Wars power known as Force Lightning, through which a Dark Side conjures a lightning storm and directs it through their fingertips, we come to the true spark for this series of questions. If, by some chance, you missed the initial post exploring its potential effects on electrical systems, feel free to read Exploring Force Lightning, Part I: Surge Protection.

Revisiting the Extension Cord

To recap, this series was born out of a musing while I was running an extension cord outdoors. The shielding of the wire prevented the current from coming into contact with me.

Force Lightning is some form of mystical electrical energy, as demonstrated by its effect on Anakin Skywalker, Mace Windu, and Luke Skywalker, among others like Maul and Savage Opress. If that’s the case, what are the implications for the users like Dooku and Palpatine, and that one guy who wound up being a non-entity?

This would be a killer cosplay outfit, to be honest.

Body of Evidence

A strong argument for Force Lightning being electrical in nature is Darth Vader’s failure to use it while in the iconic black suit. It’s an accepted truth among fans that Vader channeling Force Lightning would have resulted in his own immediate demise as it fried his implanted survival systems. He was, after all, more machine than man.

This is supported by the image of him, dying, after throwing the Emperor to his death. (And it still counts as a death, even though the sequel trilogy brought him back to life after they let themselves get painted into a story corner.)

There are numerous counter-arguments about this, not the least of which is Vader summoning lightning in the not-officially-accepted-in-story-continuity Splinter of the Mind’s Eye. Technically, in release order, Vader unleashed a form of Force Lightning years before we saw it onscreen.

Of course, a lot of that book has been invalidated by later films and stories, but it’s proof at least that lightning wasn’t necessarily unavailable to someone in a mechanical suit.

Force Lightning also has a question of lethality attached to it. This is complicated by the fact that we see both death and survival when it is used onscreen. We’re going to table that consideration until next time, then.

Taking into account the previous argument for a power surge frying circuitry, it still seems like summoning Force Lightning could have been a very bad idea for Darth Vader unless he found a way to ground himself very effectively.

The Argument for Insulation

So the question at hand is what’s necessary to protect the person wielding Force Lightning from some sort of shock harming them in return. Having seen it used by several people, we never saw direct evidence they wore certain materials to ensure they wouldn’t be harmed, but we never saw anything to the contrary, either. In Star Wars that can be a lot of wiggle room.

To the point, did Darth Sidious wear rubber underpants?

If we want to accept that yes, he did have to wear specific protective clothing, then we have to entertain another question. Is it possible that someone wearing the right types of material could mitigate the effects of being hit with Force Lightning?

It seems that would have been a great tip for Obi-Wan’s ghost, or Yoda, to give to Luke. However, given the past failings on honesty there it may be that I’m expecting too much.

“Those leather boots seem comfy, Luke, but they could leave you vulnerable to evil lightning.”

The Argument Against Insulation

When the Force Lightning is thrown, it doesn’t seem to come into contact with the hands per se, but initiate from the space around them. It seems that while they are a valuable focusing tool, the hands aren’t essential to the conjuring.

Also, I think Snoke summons it from some distance away? I’m pretty sure I’m right about that. I’m not watching The Last Jedi again to check, so please feel free to confirm this on your own.

There’s evidence as well of the intended target being able to stop, absorb, and redirect Force Lightning. (Minch) Yoda does this against both Darth Tyranus (Count Dooku) and Darth Sidious. In those instances you can see that the Force Lightning never comes into direct contact with him, but redirects or absorbs before direct contact. This supports the idea that the summoner is not actually summoning the power through their physical body.

Additionally, while the insulation note argues against Vader calling it, we have some evidence that the circuitry wouldn’t overload. Luke takes a whole heapin’ helpin’ o’ lightning and his robotic hand worked perfectly well.

That robotic hand was attached in a funding-strapped rebel field hospital, not an Imperial facility, and if it worked after Force Lightning then Vader could theoretically have handled it, too. (That touches off a whole separate argument about the quality of state-run medical care in the Empire, but maybe some other day I’ll hit that one.)

This dovetails into the next topic for Force Lightning, though: Questions of Lethality.

Tune in Next Time!

Exploring Force Lightning, Part I: Surge Protection

One of the coolest powers revealed in Star Wars, at least for a time, was what’s been dubbed Force Lightning. Summoning power from the darkest depths of the Force, a Dark Side user could conjure a literal lightning storm of fury and direct it through their fingertips.

As this series progresses I’m going to look at several questions left unanswered by its onscreen use. I’ll also share some thoughts on its continued appearance in the series.

Let’s face it, you didn’t come here for the latest social media debate to score cheap endorphins from people with whom you agree.

Above please see your complete list of options during online debate.
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The Extension Cord of Pondering

I was running an extension cord outdoors to do some yard work one day, and I pondered on the implications of electrical contact. Here I was, handling a conduit for certain death while shielded by a certain thickness of rubber insulation designed to be marvelously flexible yet strong enough to save my life.

If there was a flaw in the insulation it would undoubtedly be bad for me, but it would also blow a circuit. It could potentially render inoperable something not shielded properly that was on the same line. This happens with lightning ground strikes; a home’s electrical systems can be damaged by the surge of a close hit, or a strike on the home itself.

Being me, this naturally led to pondering about Force Lightning. If it is, in fact, some form of mystical electrical energy, what are the implications on electrical systems around it when it is unleashed?

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is c45fe-e0e8122503a4444c2bfe0fc677b7446147637f2f_hq.jpg
These guys could be in a lot of trouble.

Wielding the Unwieldy

Most times we’ve seen Force Lightning unleashed, it’s been incredibly focused. But there is also demonstrable “bleed” wherein it hits additional spots other than its intended target. The very first time we saw it onscreen in Return of the Jedi (1983), the lightning hit more than just the writhing Luke.

This isn’t much of a concern to Darth Tyranus (Count Dooku) on Geonosis, who is able to deliver focused blasts within the confines of a lair carved from rock. Rock isn’t the greatest conductor, and energy searches for the easiest path, so I can see why it isn’t the greatest concern, especially as he never directs a blast toward his solar sailer.

(As a side note, Dooku’s solar sailer remains one of the coolest ship designs in all of Star Wars. Thus have I proclaimed.)

However, the question at hand is insulation and protection. We’ve seen Force Lightning unleashed within the confines of an artificial environment built from metal, wiring, and complex circuitry. Is there any reason to believe that surge protection and insulation were a concern for those systems?

Please accept this example of how evil clouds are.
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

When Darth Sidious (Sheev Palpatine) unleashes Force Lightning in the Chancellor’s Office in Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (the best Star Wars film to date, and a true work of art), and subsequently in the Senate Chambers as he fights Minch Yoda (look it up), we don’t observe any specific effects.

We’d have reason to believe that surge protection and insulation would be part and parcel of these areas’ construction. However, you can argue that it’s inconclusive what effect it has.

The Chancellor’s office has systems and power working after his attack on Mace Windu, and the Senate is essentially running on low power. To be argumentative I can can construct that some systems were damaged, but the ones still operational only suffered incidental contact that wasn’t enough to cause an issue.

I could argue that the Senate had to undergo some renovations before it was opened fully again. While there are functional systems after the fight with (Minch) Yoda &emdash; Sidious is in a pod, and the shock troopers are also using at least one &emdash; I could say that thanks to volume of pods those were the ones left functional while others were damaged. If they each had closed systems, the damage would have been limited.

He had an excuse to keep the Senate chambers shut down anyway as they cleaned up the pods destroyed by Sidious’ wanton attempts to crush Yoda.

That feels more like being argumentative for the sake of it, however. It leads me into the second topic for the series, though, and the one truly spurred by the extension cord.

What insulation does an individual require in order to wield Force Lightning in the first place?

That’s next time!

Nobody Cares About Your Diet

I should preemptively qualify this blog by saying, “The only person who needs to care about your diet is you.” There’s my effort to avoid the criticisms from someone’s quick read of a harmless blog.

I understand everyone wanting a support system. I’m not shaming anyone, except for that one person who knows what they did. We’re all still ashamed on their behalf.

I’m not coming from a dismissive place, either. I’ve worked on my own weight and fitness ever since I realized binge drinking and heavy cigarette smoking were things that weren’t helping my longevity.

So this isn’t about people not needing to watch what they eat, or saying that healthy lifestyles are a fad, or any of the typical garbage reads & hot takes that happen on the Internet.

I’m talking about the tedious, tendentious topic of diets. I’m talking about how boring they’ve become in our daily conversations.

It’s a conversational blight in any given social space. It’s as boring as people who discuss their gym memberships, workout routines, or latest sleep fad they’ve chosen to follow. It’s as engaging as hearing about a new blanket.

The thing that makes it worse is that the only people who engage in the conversation are other people who are already converted, and want to talk about their own diet. Like political screeds on social media, the only aim is to validate choices by looking for agreement.

It gains momentum from there. No one wants to be outdone with what they’re doing to look better, feel better, or be better. It quickly becomes a passive-aggressive contest, and the people who don’t want to listen desperately search for other points of interest. They pray for headphones or, like an animal caught in a trap, consider removing a limb to escape the trap.

The worst part is that you can’t even fire off a zinger to shut it down, the way you could with a “hot take” discussion about the latest event movie. You can’t shout “no spoilers” as someone prepares to divulge how they’ve decided to cook their food while on a new supplement.

So let me repeat myself from earlier. The only person who needs to care about your diet is you. It’s great if you’re on one, it’s fine if you’re not, and we all love you no matter what. Well, except for the people who don’t love you, but a diet won’t change that.

I’m just pleading for people in general to pick more interesting topics in the public square. Perhaps we could all discuss the weather.

None of this applies reflexively to me, either. I always jump into group conversations with minutiae about movies.

That’s never boring for anyone.