I've got to say, I wasn't exactly a fan.
Part of it's subjective, of course. This wasn't exactly the Star Wars I wanted to see after 2016; Star Wars can be many things, but it should be fun, it should be exciting. I was expecting something of a heist film, what I got was a grim and gritty war film. Points to the writers for trying something different, but I really don't think we needed a Star Wars where rebels against the Empire are visually identified with mujahideen extremists, where the Alliance condones assassination in the name of expedience, where X-Wing fighters are harbingers of destruction and tragedy...
It's a film that tries to end on a note of hope, but seems to think the only way to get there is by wallowing in despair in every scene leading up to it. It's certainly an interesting approach, but not really an enjoyable one.
From a less subjective point of view, there's the issues with the characters and story:
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'Lek' Chailert is a Thai conservationist who runs the wonderful, wonderful Elephant Nature Park outside Chiang Mai, and also founded the Save Elephant Foundation. She's spent most of her life caring for elephants – her park is home to almost forty elephants, mostly elderly and rescued from exploitation and cruelty. She also looks after hundreds of homeless dogs and cats, a small herd of cattle and buffalo, and many other animals. She also campaigns against animal cruelty in general across Thailand and the surrounding countries, as well as setting up similar sanctuaries elsewhere.
She's one of my personal heroes, and I was thrilled to bits to meet her in person, quite by chance, while visiting the Elephant Park. I ran into her while playing with one of the many content-looking cats that call the park home, and she was kind enough to take me and my mum on a tour through the kitty 'dormitories' that house the other cats, with her dog accompanying us. It made us slightly late for our trip back into town, but I wouldn't have missed meeting her for the world.
Let's not forget that as we struggle through these dark times. We're not done for. There is no permanent Republican majority. There are still enough voices of sanity to swing the pendulum back and salvage what remains.
And for those of us outside America particularly, we need to remember this. The last few days, I know I've had to remind myself not to judge all Americans for the actions of a few. Trump did not win with a majority; he did not even achieve a plurality of voters. The silent majority remained silent – and, we can only hope, is and will be horrified by what has been unleashed and will, in time, stand against it.
Let's not be too optimistic; the tide of fascism, of populist nationalism, the politics of hate – they're all gaining in strength. In America, in Britain, in the Philippines, across Europe. But they remain a minority, and one that can still be fought.
And let us not forget that this was not an election won cleanly. This was an election tainted by Russian propaganda, by Wikileaks' idiotic grudges, and in the end, almost certainly swung by a partisan hack who used his position to add weight to an illusory scandal. We should not accept the hatred Trump spews under any circumstances, but under these, for him to claim any sort of mandate is farcical. Do not let anyone forget this.
For those of you in the United States. You are not broken. You are not defeated. You have a party that will – and must – oppose Trump and his agenda. You have the numbers to ensure they will. The world still hears your voice. Do not let yourselves be silenced. Do not let them advance without a struggle. If the arc of the universe no longer bends towards justice, then you must force it back towards it.
Maybe I'm a fool to still have hope. Maybe.
But sometimes that's all we have.
And all we need.
Maybe it was always a sham. Debates and policies, respect and civility, truth and reason. Maybe none of that ever mattered. Maybe anyone could have done what he did, they just always thought they needed the rest.
Maybe there was never any more to leadership than being the loudest voice in the room.
Maybe we just wanted to believe that somehow naked demagoguery didn't work any more, that we'd become better than that.
Maybe we should have seen this coming. Maybe we should have remembered that progress was just a story we told ourselves to bring order to chaotic events.
Maybe we were foolish.
Maybe we'll get a second chance.
Uploaded the better pictures from Africa to imgur, if you're interested, difficult as it was to cut down several hundred elephant pictures to a representative handful.
Odd little town; still firmly German in character and language. Streets and buildings named after Bismark or Kaiser Wilhelm are side-to-side with those named after modern African leaders. Quaint central German architecture will sit on one side of a road, while on the other, desert sands stretch out to the horizon. The nearby town of Walvis Bay is similar, if slightly larger and with British influences taking the place of the German, and with a harbor full of seals, dolphins and pelicans.
The desert and mountains are spectacular; in some places very reminiscent of central Australia. Also home to the welwitschia plant, an unusual species described by Charles Darwin as the 'platypus of plants' due to its unique combination of traits rarely seen together.
Dry, almost a desert in many places, the giant national park is nonetheless filled with animals, and staying here made for some of the most satisfying days of our holiday. We saw giant herds of elephants, zebras, kudu, springbok, impala and wildebeest, alongside jackals, warthogs, ostrich, and rhino. We were even lucky enough to spot a pair of lions at the waterhole, and a leopard one night!
We suspect because of the dry season and the current drought, animals were clustered around the handful of waterholes in greater numbers than usual. Whatever the reason, it was absolutely magical seeing a herd of at least thirty elephants, from elderly animals with worn tusks to tiny babies only a month or two old hiding beneath their mothers.
Another highlight, even in the dry season. Accommodations were wonderful, with elephants and other animals visible from the balcony of our rooms! As water flows south-east from Angola, birds follow, so we saw great flocks of cranes and eagles feasting on the fish of the river, alongside graceful lechwe antelope.
They proved only a sideshow, though, compared to the real stars, the hippos! At least thirty rose from the water as we came around a bend in the river, surfacing, snorting, and submerging again, occasionally stopping to challenge us with a threatening 'yawn'. It is rather intimidating being eyed by several dozen half-submerged hippos, any one of which could easily overturn our boat if they grew aggressive.
Sadly, we only had a single night here before crossing the border and reaching Victoria Falls, but it was delightful! Like the Okavango, the Chobe River flows from Angola – where it's known as the Cuando – before flowing south-east through Namibia and Botswana. Much of its length is protected national parks, and the countries that control it have been surprisingly good about managing its water in a sustainable way.
We sailed down part of it at sunset, taking in the view and the diverse wildlife. Hippos, though not as numerious as at Okavango, alongside giraffes, cape buffalo, various antelope, any number of birds, a handful of baboons, and a great many basking crocodiles!
- Victoria Falls (Mosi-oa-Tunya)
Our final stop saw us cross the border into Zimbabwe, and the great falls more than lived up to their reputation! They were almost full when we visited, so mist and spray blocked much of our view, but really, that just added to the sense of size and power. We got drenched – a welcome relief after the arid stretches of Namibia and Botswana.
Like everywhere else we visited in Africa, the Falls had their fair share of wildlife. Baboons crossed our path at the Falls themselves, while near our hotel, we were treated to the sight of whole families of vervet monkeys and banded mongoose. Finally, on the hotel lawn itself, we ran into a small group of warthogs, who seem to have found a niche as lawnmowers.
All in all, an excellent holiday, and I recommend everywhere we went. If I went again, probably instead of doing the overland tour from the coast, I'd fly direct to Windhoek and then travel direct to Etosha and stay there for a few days, then return, fly over to Maun and from there go to the Okavango Delta and spend as much time there as I could afford. Both were the absolute highlights of the trip, and I heartily recommend them to anyone looking to visit southern Africa.
If you do want the full overland experience, though, we booked with Nomad travel, and they provided an excellent service. Accommodation and meals were much higher quality than I expected, and while the pace was hectic, I never felt like we were being rushed from one attraction to another – the driver was always willing to stop and give us as much time as we wanted if we spotted something interesting.
I've got a good feeling about this holiday. :)
Let's talk 'droids'. Short for 'android', literally 'in the form of a man'. And plenty of droids are roughly humanoid – C3PO, 4LOM, IG-88, battle droids, those pit droids in the Phantom Menace that somehow got their own puzzle game...
But there's also 'droids' that aren't humanoid at all, most notably R2D2.
Now you might just say 'droid' is just a generic term for any robot and doesn't have to refer to literal androids... but it got me thinking. After all, there's plenty of non-humanoid aliens in Star Wars too, and presumably they'd build androids in their own image...
Max Rebo. Remember him? The blue elephant guy from Jabba's Palace? Did you know he wasn't meant to have arms? The limbs he plays the keyboard with were meant to be his legs, and that was all he had. The original prop designs make this a lot clearer.
Short, only one set of limbs, blue... Sound like anyone we know?
I'm proposing then, that Max Rebo's people designed R2D2, and he is a true 'droid', built in the form of an Ortolan!
Guess who just nearly went mad trying to find connecting flights to southern Africa?!
(Seriously, a two hour flight from Johannesburg to Namibia should not include two other stops and a six hour layover...)
You know, it's not that I want to spend more time at airport checkpoints, but I do think it defeats the point of searching my bag if you're just going to take my word for it regarding what's in the boxes in there.
“Nope, nothing suspicious here, just a bunch of opaque containers. Next!”
My favorite is learning that Captain Phasma's armor is salvaged from the hull of one of the Naboo cruisers from the Phantom Menace that had once been owned by Palpatine! Nothing says pulp space adventure like knowing the history and manufacturing process of a specific suit of storm-trooper armor!
I fully expect to see Tales from Maz's Cantina on shelves soon.
Alright, maybe that's a bit unfair, but the movie really struggles when it's not following A New Hope beat for beat.
( The Good, the Not-So-Good, and the Baffling (Contains Spoilers)Collapse )
And for years, it’s annoyed me that the line references Romulus Augustus, because while he was technically the last Roman Emperor, Rome had long since fallen, he was half-German himself, reigned for less than a year and was little more than a puppet for his father. And normally I’d accept historical errors in TV shows as errors on the part of the character (Captain Sheridan, I’m looking at you…), PICARD SHOULD AND WOULD KNOW BETTER!
And then the other day, I watched the episode again. Picard doesn’t say Romulus Augustus, he says Honorius. Flavius Honorius, emperor during the sack of Rome of 410. Whose name doesn’t sound anything like Romulus Augustus. I don’t know how the hell I misheard it.
I am sorry I ever doubted you, Jean-Luc.
(Though, technically, Honorius would have been in Ravenna when the Visigoths came over the seventh hill, but I’ll allow Picard the poetic license…)
I do find it a little darkly amusing that his family kept the news confidential for four days though - they say it was to privately inform his extended family and friends, but honestly, I can't blame them for waiting three days... just in case.