Why the New Republic had to die

Bye-bye New Republic! (Photo: Lucasfilm)
Bye-bye New Republic! (Photo: Lucasfilm)

Three weeks out, I think it’s finally safe to write something about the newest Star Wars installment, Episode VII: The Force Awakens. But still, here’s your obligatory warning: If you haven’t seen it yet, and don’t want even a single plot point spoiled, quit reading now.

Still around? OK, let’s continue.

While the reaction to the new film has been mostly ecstatic (a staggering 94 percent fresh on Rotten Tomatoes), several plot points have come in for real criticism, in particular the destruction of the New Republic at roughly the halfway point of the movie. Spencer Kornhaber, writing at The Atlantic, put it this way:

Return of the Jedi ended with galaxy-wide celebration following the deaths of the Emperor and Darth Vader, implying a hopeful and freer society could then thrive. The Force Awakens snuffs out that dream midway through and then moves on, quickly. If it had dwelled on the moment, viewers might realize that the heartwarming tale of overcoming they remember from the original movies was just rendered a horrific tragedy.

Do you really want Sen. Jar Jar back?
Did you really want Sen. Jar Jar back? Did you?

Kornhaber’s beef is that the destruction of the New Republic seems to him driven by needs outside the narrative of the universe bequeathed to us at the end of Jedi, allowing the reboot to once again focus on “scrappy underdog fighters versus a ruthless fascist force.”

He’s right. But you know what, I’m totally OK with that. Because consider the alternative. That’s right, instead of scrappy swashbuckling underdogs, X-Wings in the morning, and stormtroopers with personality and soul, the new film would have forced us back into the dismal depths of Republic politics, the likes of which we already had to endure in the prequels. Remember Sen. Jar Jar? Yeah, let’s have more of that.

Because as long as the New Republic is still kicking around, the story revolves around a proxy war between it and the First Order, with the Resistance playing the part of proxy. Zack Beauchamp lays it all out at Vox, likening it to the real-world fun of the Syrian civil war:

A foreign country (the Republic) is supporting an insurgency (the Resistance) against a nearby country (the First Order) that it doesn’t like. … That leaves us with a situation that’s quite familiar from the real world: An insurgency, supported by a neighboring power, is waging a guerrilla campaign against a local regime.

Under this scenario way too much of the drama will have to revolve around the decisions being made by the Resistance’s political masters back on Hosnian Prime.

Riveting debates in the Galactic Senate on the morality of backing proxies! Budget battles over the costs of covert war! Deep disagreement about whether to put Republican boots on the ground! Soul searching as the new chancellor considers abandoning the Resistance lest the conflict escalate into open warfare! Back room conniving as sniveling advisors urge her to betray our scrappy underdogs in the name of caution!

Thankfully we get spared all that. Hosnian Prime, its four inhabited moons, the New Republic and its fleet, all are sacrificed so that we could have the kind of movie we so desperately wanted.

After seven Star Wars movies, we know what works and what doesn’t. Adventure beats politics any day.

Let there be hamsters

I was going to write another depressing post about politics, violence, and injustice. Until I saw this:

In late summer the European hamster gets ready for hibernation. He fills up his pouches with grains, roots, plants or insects and transports them into his food chamber (that's why he is running).
In late summer the European hamster gets ready for hibernation. He fills up his pouches with grains, roots, plants or insects and transports them into his food chamber (that’s why he is running).

 

A hamster in the wild beats ISIS, presidential campaigning, white supremacists, and Syrian refugees any day of the week.

The photo, by Julian Ghahreman-Rad of Austria, is one of the winners of the 2016 Sony World Photography Awards. You can see more of them here.

You’re welcome. Happy Thanksgiving.

Watch this video

Then you’ll understand why I love playing music with my friends.

Maybe, just maybe, we’ll get a chance to make a road trip down to Carthage.

Music for a Friday afternoon

I’m thinking I might need to recruit a few extra members for the band …

woodie guthrieIn case you’re interested, “This Train” has a long history and obscure authorship.

It was a gospel hit for Sister Rosetta Tharpe in the 1930s, and the title inspired Woody Guthrie’s autobiographical novel Bound for Glory. He and Tharpe are among the dozens of artists who have performed and recorded the song over the decades, representing genres as diverse as blues (Little Walter Jacobs), zydeco (Buckwheat Zydeco), country (Johnny Cash), reggae (Bob Marley & The Wailers), ska punk (Sublime), and jazz (Louis Armstrong).

Here are the lyrics as recorded by Guthrie:

This Train is Bound for Glory

This train is bound for glory, this train.
This train is bound for glory, this train.
This train is bound for glory,
Don’t carry nothing but the righteous and the holy.
This train is bound for glory, this train.

This train don’t carry no gamblers, this train;
This train don’t carry no gamblers, this train;
This train don’t carry no gamblers,
Liars, thieves, nor big shot ramblers,
This train is bound for glory, this train.

This train don’t carry no liars, this train;
This train don’t carry no liars, this train;
This train don’t carry no liars,
She’s streamlined and a midnight flyer,
This train don’t carry no liars, this train.

This train don’t carry no smokers, this train;
This train don’t carry no smokers, this train
This train don’t carry no smokers,
Two bit liars, small time jokers,
This train don’t carry no smokers, this train.

This train don’t carry no con men, this train;
This train don’t carry no con men, this train;
This train don’t carry no con men,
No wheeler dealers, here and gone men,
This train don’t carry no con men, this train.

This train don’t carry no rustlers, this train;
This train don’t carry no rustlers, this train;
This train don’t carry no rustlers,
Sidestreet walkers, two bit hustlers,
This train is bound for glory, this train.

And for a change of pace, here are two more versions of it being performed. First from Sister Rosetta Tharpe and then Bob Marley.