Farewell to Rebels

Rebels Final Painting

To be honest, I’ve had some shitty days (mostly at work, some part as a writer), so I really needed something to cheer me up. Somehow, the Force listened and provided and I managed to watch the ending of Rebels. I could wax lyrical about it, but a) that would be too spoilerish for those that haven’t watched it and b) I don’t think my words can make it justice.

Suffice to say that the final episode was a masterclass in closing up. Every beat was earned, it fitted continuity (for those inclined to nitpick about that) and it leaves you with a sense of closure mixed with hopes for the new adventure hinted at the end of it. Plus hearing the classic soundtrack from the OT at the end made me tear up a bit.

While Rebels, in general, had a slow start and a few clunkers among its episodes, the whole show is proof of tight plotting, endearing characters, intelligent villains and serious work behind scenes. This is how Star Wars should be done, this is how the magic of the Force, what the Jedi originally stood up for and the true power of the Rebels are about. This is Star Wars well done, pure and simple. With this ending, Rebels has cemented its place in SW canon and in my personal Top 5 tv shows (I might write about this later on). If you are an aspiring writing (like me) or an SW fan (like me), then you MUST have to watch the show. It’s a tour de force (pun intended) on how to plot a series (given that it is the most common objective for an SFF author) and make it a rewarding experience. I know once it is in a box set or complete at Mexico’s Netflix I will binge-watch again and will be taking notes.

And while I liked TFA and TLJ, I wish Filoni had been the one writing the New Trilogy story instead of each individual director. Because he gets it. He really understands the core essence of Star Wars. I can’t wait for his next SW related project (which I really hope involves that ending teaser).

Archery doesn’t work that way.

Here is a little secret not so secret: I actually know how to shoot with a bow. A recurve bow to be precise. While I’m not practicing it anymore due the lack of shooting ranges in my hometown, I did practice archery for three years, while I was doing my Ph.D. at Loughborough University. I had the fortune that a friend of mine was my archery instructor as well as a fellow comic geek. So back in the day, we used to chat about how bad comics, movies, and tv shows get wrong the basics. I will share a few of those chats here from time to time because I’m that kind of annoying guy and this is my blog and not yours.

For context, I’m an industrial designer with an engineering background and my friend Birm is an actual engineer that has worked in a couple of big gigs. At the very least, we think we know a bit of physics.

So what’s wrong with this picture?

A lot.

And I say this as a big Green Arrow fan. Let’s explain why.

Me: Birm, have you seen those comic images where the archer is doing acrobatics on the air while shooting his bow?

Birm: Shooting whilst jumping? Nope, can’t say that I have.

Me: They say that an image tells more than 1000 words… *shows picture above*

Birm: That’s more like it, In real life, Green Arrow would then be flat on his back.

Me: so many Brokeback Mountain jokes here.

Birm: *roll eyes*

Me: Anyways, here is a second image.

Birm: Oh good grief.

Me: What?

Birm: Do comic book artists know nothing of momentum?

Me: Considering that they work with a fictional world where a super powered alien can catch a girl in mid-air without splitting her into thirds and thus automatically killing her, I would say that No, they don’t.

Birm: That’s because Superman alters his own gravitational field dammit. It can be explained away by pseudo-science, but ‘Word of God’ states these guys have no powers.

Me: I take that you have been watching the same argument on ‘The Big Bang Theory’ and reading TV Tropes.

Birm: Why yes, yes I have done both of those things.

Me: I guess we are going down a whole new level of geekdom

Birm: Well TV Tropes provides an excellent resource for giving names to things.

Me: Also provides a good way to lose years of productive life just by browsing it. Anyways, what is more, possible to do, the previous image or this?

Birm: Shooting whilst on a motorbike is possible, with a sufficiently skilled driver.

Me: well Dinah is a skilled driver so that is not a worry (except when she is in an awful mood). Now flying bike must present the same momentum issues than before, then again we are talking about a universe where Batman could just breathe in space just because he is BATMAN.

Birm: This is true, regardless of what the situation is, simple mechanics specifies that momentum must be maintained, so firing a projectile pretty quick in one direction will lead to a force in the opposite direction.

Me: Basic Newton’s law: to every applied force there is a reaction of equal value but opposite direction or something like that.

Birm: Yup.

Me: In a normal shooting we don’t feel it as our weight overcomes the force that an arrow could generate, however, the bow does get affected, as we explained in last month’s column about how to hold a bow.

Birm: Yeah, the main principle behind it is that the bow is creating a force forwards which is transferred into the arrow. Some of this force is dissipated into the arrow but there is still a lot of force trying to force the bow forwards. This is why a lot of recurve archers use a finger sling, instead of trying to hold onto the bow they just let it drop and let the sling hold it, so the forward force is allowed to throw the bow forwards a little and is then dropped in the downward direction.

Me: And in a normal shooting we are flat footed so our legs transfer the effort towards the floor.

Birm: Yup, what happens on these images it’s not possible to do this with a longbow, you have to hold on and use your weight and stance to dissipate the force, which isn’t possible when you have nothing to brace against.

Me: Something that is lacking on these images. Basically, in these instances, Ollie or Clint would get pushed backward.

Birm: Hmm, I’m not convinced about that, I think they would get pulled forwards.

Me: Following the bow and the string vector?

Birm: Yeh, the bow enacts a force forwards of the archer, which is what is transferred into the arrow to make it move, the rest of the force is then transferred into the limbs and down into the grip resulting in a net force forwards, it’s usually up to the archer to provide a rearwards force to counteract this.

Me: So if you shoot while jumping you might as well use a pointy hat and become another arrow.

Birm: Yeh, pretty much.

Me: Arrowman!!! The Amazing pointy vigilante… or circus act. You know? I think the problem has its roots on the gunplay from action flicks.

Birm: Yes, it’s possible to shoot guns whilst firing through the air but they operate on completely different firing principles.

Me: Well they do still have the recoil, so you still get pushed backward isn’t?

Birm: The problem with a bow is that your arm is at its full extension already so there’s nowhere for the force to go to.

Me: But in movies, people shoot a gun at full arm extension. I guess the issue is that it looks cool, regardless of how possible it is and with archers, the problem is even bigger as there are just a handful ways to make the look cool in a comic. In a film/tv/cartoon is easier due to the fluidity of the movement, the speed and the dramatic moment, think Legolas in LOTR, Green Arrow in Smallville and JLU or Robin Hood in the Costner movie (and yet there the writer takes a lot of liberties).

Birm: Depicting the action of firing a bow is difficult in comics as you either show the bow at full draw which looks dramatic, or you show it with an arrow flying off it, which looks a bit rubbish because it looks like the archer isn’t doing anything. That’s why you have silly things like Legolas in the LOTR films, sliding on a shield down a staircase.

Me: I guess this is one of those cases where we might have to cut some slack to the artist and allow suspension of disbelief as in comic format it would be hard to do it unless the bow has some magical properties like the one you are trying to build and the FX of the arrow would do all the job.

Birm: It’s definitely a case for suspension of disbelief, it’d be pretty difficult to take an archery based superhero seriously if they fell flat on their face every time they fired an arrow.

Me: It would make comedy gold though… or it would be a bit sad as the BBC Robin Hood show.

Birm: I still think that would be comedy gold.

Me: I can’t stop picturing someone doing that.

Birm: That would be brilliant.

Me: Human Arrow, the acrobatic archer/arrow, he shoots himself to stop crime.

Birm: Priceless.

Me: Let’s call a major publisher, we might get lucky if we pitch this. Maybe even a movie deal with Will Ferrell as Human Arrow.

Remember, in real life -and as a writer, if you have an archer in the story- you need a good shooting positioning to make it realistic. And don’t drink while using a bow unless you are planning to share it with us.

The Three Eyes Raven told me…

 

screen shot 2015-12-03 at 6.29.05 pmAs Season 7 of Game of Thrones just wrapped up and we start the watch for the final season that with any luck will be on our screens before some idiot president decides to end the world, I have a few predictions of my own of what will happen in that season and how might the story end. Be aware of some potential spoilers if you are not updated with the season finale episode. I’m focusing on the show, because who knows how (or when) the books will end. However, there are bits from the books that have to be considered for the sole reason that Martin gave Weiss and Benioff the overall plot of the story just in case.

So without further ado, these are my predictions. This is of course just pure speculation. And I’m not meant to cover all the characters, just a few ones that come to my mind with plausible futures.

-Cersei will die. Well yes, that is obvious, but instead of Jaime killing her (Tyrion at this point is beyond caring, he is just trying to keep Dany alive), it will be her baby. She won’t even reach childbirth. She will lose the baby and the blood loss shock of that will finally end her. It fits the ‘valonqar’ prophecy as well as the subversion of expectations that Martin is famous for. Now, will she die before or after the Great War? That’s the question. I suspect it will be after the war, in some sort of coda like in Lord of the Rings (the books) with the Hobbits returning to the Shire and dealing with Saruman.

-Jaime Lannister will survive, but won’t be the heir to Casterly Rock. When all things are settled and done, Jaime will have earned (I hope) his redemption during the Great War. He will become Lord Commander of a reformed Night’s Watch, depending who sits on the Iron Throne (if there is a throne left, that is). He is far too damaged, his crimes too many to go out easy, but his military experience and fighting prowess will be handy to have around. Brienne, if she survives might take his place a Lady Commander of the Kingsguard.

-The Night’s Watch will be reformed into something else. The Wall won’t be repaired, as the magics that brought it into place are long gone. Thus the Night’s Watch will be reformed as a new kind of army ready for any possible supernatural enemy.

-The wildlings won’t be seen as enemies anymore. There won’t be many survivors either. Tormund, if he survives may be their new leader.

-Neither Jon nor Dany will sit on the Iron Throne. That one of them is on borrowed time (as much as I hate that), is almost certain, maybe both. None of the legends of the Long Night mention what happened to the heroes that stopped it afterward. The end will be bittersweet but if Dany’s vision and the House of the Undying are true, there will be someone ruling Westeros after the Great War and settling the disputes with Cersei. My guess is if someone becomes ruler of the Seven Kingdoms, will be Jon and Dany’s child. Hence the title of the story ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’.

-There won’t be an Iron Throne anymore. Not as we know it. The wheel will be broken and maybe a new government system (a parliamentary monarchy is my best guess) will be put in place. Thus the Great Houses will disappear as we knew them and instead become figureheads, at least in the South. Odds are that the North will be separated into its own semi-independent region along the Wildlings or dispensed as ‘A Stark must always be in Winterfell’. People like Gendry will become leaders in their respective regions to work as representatives of the smallfolk, as Dany wished.

-Tyrion will become the Prime Minister and regent of said child and will help to carry further into the future the legacy of both Dany & Jon. He might or might not remarry Sansa, given how the North ends after the War. Sansa will become one of the new leaders of Westeros, along with Ser Davos.

-And in that regard, neither King’s Landing nor the actual Iron Throne will exist anymore. I think Cersei might go Mad Queen on us and set everything to blow the place when she sees the army of the Living coming back home.

-Both surviving dragons will fly towards the sunset and disappear to never be seen again (there is a precedent of this in the books, with the Cannibal and Sheepstealer).

-The same will happen with Arya, who I suspect will become some sort of folk hero, maybe alongside the Hound (in a homage to Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser by Fritz Leiber), traveling along Westeros.

-Bran will be Bran the Builder, due time warging shenanigans. Time is circular and things repeat over and over. I doubt the battle against the Walkers will be completely done so something might return in future centuries. In any case, he is far too detached from humanity to remain at Winterfell. He either goes back in time or back to Beyond the Wall.

So these are my conjectures. Do you have one? Share it below in the comments. If I have more of my own I will edit the post.

The blood of the wolves. Some musings on Game of Thrones.

Warning: Possible spoilers from last Sunday's episode. If you are not up to date then don't read this.

I know many people are excited about the last minutes of 'Spoils of War', finally witnessing the full power of a gamebreaker weapon as a dragon against a medieval army. And for all intents is cool. But for me, there was a second scene that made the episode:

 

Not only it was well choreographed, it showed two of the best fighters of Westeros merely sparring. But more than that it was Arya's face full of unbridled joy that made the scene for me. It goes back to the first season and her training at hands of Syrio Forel. For all the awful things the Starks kids have gone through, it was nice to see one smiling for a change -Jon rarely smiles, Sansa has learned not to, Bran is dead and the Three Eyed Raven (3ER) has taken his place- and I think it is fitting that Arya, the wild child of the bunch is the one doing it.

But the other reason this scene struck me as important is one tiny detail. It's not the fact that Arya can go toe to toe with Brienne and basically play with her. It is how she acquired such ability and what that does means for the Stark family.

My theory is that at the end of the day, the only great house -in which form, it remains to be seen- that will remain standing is the only house that long ago forsook any mundane power. House Stark, with their grim house words, was never about getting more powerful for the sake of power, unlike the Lannisters or even the Targaryen. The Stark aimed to obtain power but of a different nature. They wanted magical power because they are at the end of the day the first and last line of defense against the supernatural in Westeros. The Game is just a side activity to cover their tracks.

Previously I have shared my musings online about Game of Thrones in Altered Instinct's blog. Back then it was about the source of power in the greater story. Back then I pondered that for different reasons, the common trait of several key players on the story rested deep in their blood. It conflagrated nicely with the medieval idea that royal houses and more important royal blood had divine powers, an idea better reflected by the imagery used in legends such as the Fisher King and even the Holy Grail and JesusChrist'sfamily. And then I read this essay at Tower of the Hand, written by Steven Attewell that tangentially mentioned the fact that for the great houses of Westeros, the Stark had the strongest link to the magic of the world.

We know the Starks not only are descended of the First Men but somehow have Children of the Forest's blood running through their veins. It is what gives them their warg abilities, as seen with Bran. Their founder, Bran the Builder created the Wall and Storm's End, both structures enhanced with magical properties to deflect supernatural enemies. He also started the construction of Winterfell.

The interesting thing that the aforementioned essay brings forth is that the Stark continued adding magic to their bloodline. For starters, they reined on the Bolton's, their direct northern rivals that the canon books suggest were something akin to necromancers or used blood magic, hence the flayed people decorating their gardens. Odds are that some Bolton blood got into the Stark one at one point.

Then, during the Targaryen rule, they had a royal dragon rider staying there for a few days and it has been rumored that the crypts of Winterfell guard a few dragon eggs. Considering that Winterfell was built to have warm waters from a thermal underground source running inside the walls to keep a comfortable temperature during winter, it becomes out of the sudden a nice place to keep dragon eggs, just in case of an emergency.

This leads me to the following. While Bran -sorry, the 3ER- signals the return of the wargs abilities long dormant on the Stark bloodline, Arya and Jon represents the most recent acquisitions of magic powers.

In the case of Arya -and here I will deal now with mostly the show as you know the status of the books- the power of the Faceless Men is hers. Yes, her training might have been truncated, but I doubt that the Faceless Men would let her go so easily. There must be something else afoot. As Melissandre once told her, she has a destiny of many closed eyes in front of her. And she has put those powers to great use for her family, avenging her mother, brother and unborn niece/nephew. The ability to shape-change into another person -an ability I might add that was rumored the Bolton had as well at some point in the past- is the main power here. The mechanism of how that works haven't been explained, but certainly, needs a degree of magic in the blood to make it work. Her combat style as while has some preternatural movements, reactions faster than any seasoned fighter.

As for Jon, well by now we are sure who his parents are and he has Targaryen blood, which makes him a potential dragon rider. But I think it goes beyond that. For starters, I'm getting to the point where I doubt that Lyanna's father and elder brother weren't aware of Rhaegar's plans. I'm starting to think that they knew they were in love and Rhaegar wanted her as a wife. I think as well they knew of the prophecy of the 'Prince that was Promised' as it fits with the Imaginarium of the Northern myths and traditions. That the Mad King killed them and Robert started a rebellion was result of unforeseen actions (I blame the 3ER) and unexpected events. At the end of the day, what better weapon to fight the ancestral enemy of the Starks than a dragon? Jon was the first true attempt to bring the dragon blood into the Stark bloodline. If you add the fact that Jon has now tasted the power of R'hollr and has returned from the dead (another parallel to Christian motifs), we can see that Jon's blood has more power than he even knows. It's no wonder the Night King has targeted him as his main rival.

My nascent theory is that when all is done and the 'wheel is broken' leaving Westeros in a new shape, and providing people survive the Second Long Night, House Stark will remain standing, maybe in a different shape, as custodians of the underworld. The dragon might need three heads, but you know what else had three heads in mythology? Cerberus, the guardian dog of the Underworld. That, I believe, is the true endgame for House Stark. Because the world of Game of Thrones has two other continents full of eldritch abominations -the eastern shores of Essos, Sothoros- and the Iron Men pray to what basically sounds as Cthulhu. There are plenty of things that need to be beaten by the Wolves.

I dunno, at the end of the day these may just be random ramblings written while I should be working. But makes me wonder if that is the intention Martin had at the start or was something that developed organically. What is truth is that as for now, House Stark, the perennial underdogs of the story has now three powerhouses in term of superhuman power. And in a world where a dragon is such a game breaking weapon, the ability to warg into animals -including flocks of ravens and maybe a dragon-, shape-change into other people, moving as a ninja and have ice and fire in your blood plus coming back from death, all concentrated with three siblings make for a very interesting perspective of what might happen. If not, it would make good material for a story.

The Fascinating Allure of RuPaul’s Drag Race

drag-race-title

Gentlemen start your engines and may best woman win!

This SNL skit made consider writing this blog entry. I think many identify with it and the fascinating allure that RuPaul’s drag race has. And also I write this thanks to my wife.

Now, my wife barely watches cable (she hates it) and the only reason we still have it is due Disney XD and HBO (for Gravity Falls and Game of Thrones respectively). She usually watches vloggers on YouTube or binge watch the strangest things she can find on Netflix (she has good taste in shows btw).

So last year she introduced me to her latest obsession: RuPaul’s Drag Race. I admit that at first I didn’t give the show much stock ( she was watching the middle part of season 7, one of the less interesting seasons in my opinion, despite having great drag queens like Katya & Ginger Minj) and found the ‘lip synch for your life’ a bit silly as form of elimination.

However, my wife insisted me to give it a try and showed me a comedy ‘Hurricane Bianca‘ featuring the winner of Season 6 Bianca Del Río and several other queens and I liked it so I give it a try.

And I was hooked.

From the drama of hypercompetitive Season 5, to the flawless runs of Season 6 I enjoyed watching the show (in a very hectic order). As my wife said, the seasons become more interesting once you choose a queen to root for, to the point that you develop a Top 5 list of favorites (mine starts with Katya at Number 1, I’m fond of the smart comedy queens).

Soon we found ourselves as a couple watching the new seasons, debating our favorite seasons ( mine is All Stars 2), discussing queens and watching YouTube videos by them.

By the way, if you haven’t watched UNHhhh by Trixie Mattel and Katya you are missing one of the best independent comedy shows of our time. It’s so random and smart at the same time that it becomes a tour de force.

We are so into the show that our couple private jokes now include several catchphrases and references from the show) and understand most of the lingo ( we are still novices though). Know I now what’s a fishy queen (someone that looks like a real woman), a pageant or a comedy queen or ‘what spill the t’ and ‘shade’ mean.  Or what’s tucking, which I admit sounds painful to me.

And that made me ponder why this show is becoming a media phenomenon (if you are featured in SNL you have gone mainstream, despite RuPaul’s infamous quote of ‘Drag will never be mainstream’), and why I have become so interested in it.

For starters, despite being a reality competition, it focuses less on the drama and more on the skills and personalities of the contestants. Of course, it has drama, like Alyssa Edwards feud with Coco Montrese, Rolaskatox vs. Jinxs Moonson, Phi Phi vs. Sharon Needles. Trust me, it has plenty of drama. But the drama takes a second place to the actual focus of the show: the artistry that goes into drag.

The queens have to show versatility, comedy, impersonation and acting chops, sewing skills on par to Project Runway, marketing knowledge, makeup, fashion and styling abilities that rival pros of those areas. Even live singing and dance (two former American & Australian Idols and several choreographers are among the queens). All of that in the same episode and against the clock. This race is a marathon distance run at 100mts race speed. Not for the faint of heart.

But also something that endears you to the show is to know the person behind the drag : their personal stories (without being exploitative like in other reality shows),  the sense of community they have. Yes every season has a villain sort to speak and unfair eliminations, but you sense that the rivalry between drag queens is for part on the professional side not personal. They solve their issues like intelligent, mature people and above all they are consummate professionals. There is no body shaming, nor derogatory comments, just humor and fellowship that you rarely find in other fields. So when you are rooting for a queen you do it based in her skills and performance.

This show also has put unde the limelight in a respectful way the struggles of the LGTB community (like Stonewall). It raises awareness of what the LGTB community is and makes you understand them better.

I’m not a fan of reality shows, but this one. For me it is the most professional, fun and endearing show in current tv. You owe to yourself watch it and learn from it. While I’m not an expert on LGTB issues now I have a better idea of what they go through and my respect and admiration has increased even more. My sheer respect for their artistry makes me enjoy the show even more.

I think that contrary to what RuPaul thinks, Drag will become mainstream. Why? Because the world needs this show now more than ever, we need a world where we tolerance, community and acceptance, where you are evaluated on your skills, your grit, your attitude and the gender where you are born into is of no consequence. A world with greater acceptance and equality. That’s why my wife and myself love the show.

Remember: We’re all born naked and the rest is drag. Now sashay away.