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Uncle Josh and Kylo Ren

After two viewings of The Last Jedi and trying to place it in the Star Wars mythos as I understand it and several attempts to explore the meaning of Star Wars in my life and especially after hearing the many mixed reviews and great trollings on internet essays, I feel I am ready to write about Kylo Ren.
(Spoilers, naturally.)
My first reaction to Kylo Ren after The Force Awakens was pure anger. He killed his father. That’s unforgivable. He’s not coming back from that. The previews for The Last Jedi made it look like he also killed his own Mother, but that was a trailer and as an art form to themselves, they are good at lying to the audience. I’ve no beef with the preview. Kylo went from impressive Vaderesque (stopping a blaster bolt in mid-air is so much cooler than Vader’s letting it bounce harmlessly off the palm) to whining brat who lost his temper over and over and even the stormtroopers just walked away instead of dealing with him mid-tantrum.
After The Last Jedi, I like Kylo Ren as a character a hell of a lot more. He is defined by inner conflict, and I believe this inner conflict is the key to the whole sequel trilogy and the saga itself. He killed his father to try to solve the conflict, but it didn’t work. In The Last Jedi, early on, he resolves one of his basic conflicts, and I’m not sure it was one he expected was even there. We see his take on his inner conflict as the Light vs the Dark, and after Snoke criticizes him for being a boy cosplaying his own grandfather, he realizes that it is the past vs the future. By destroying the mask, Kylo accepts and attempts to embody the idea of Kill the Past to Be Who You Are Meant to Be. This is so deep within him that Snoke doesn’t even see it. Kylo’s past is his enemy, and Snoke and Skywalker are part of his past, so he must Kill them. He sees his future with Rey, the balance, his counterpoint, his circuit breaker, even. He takes out Snoke and tries to convince Rey to join him, but it doesn’t work out for him.
I, too, tried to kill my past. I tried to walk away from Sparks Nevada and my high school and my church and everyone I knew and it didn’t solve anything. It left me stranded when my first marriage failed. I had a few good friends who saw me through the dark times of my twenties and I found a new church and Stephanie*, so those things worked out. I made the mistake of thinking that killing my past would allow me to start over and be someone new. Of course nobody can do that. I doubt even amnesiacs can do that. The patterns of who we are get shaped by the people around us as we grow up. We don’t get to start over every day, even when we need to.
And there are days when we need to start over every day. I’ve heard of this idea that if you do something for 30 days straight, you will ingrain a new habit and always do it. Nope. Doesn’t work for me. Write every day for 30 days, 60 days, 90 days, and one day off and it’s all over. Same thing with stretching, exercising, playing the guitar, reading, cooking at home, or any other life-fixing things I’ve tried over the years. There are things that come naturally to me, and things I have to treat as Day One Every Day to make work for any length of time.
The most recent intrusion to this failure of mine to Kill the Past** came on the second day of Christmas when I learned that Fr. Paul Towner, the rector of my church until I walked out at age 19, passed away on Christmas Day. He was in the last stages of his life, as I understand, and his passing was one of those that was a relief more than anything else. Every death is sad, but it is harder when a death drags on for months. Paul Towner trained me to be a chorister and an acolyte in the church. I had a hard time watching acolytes even in my own parish because of how I was trained and drilled. (Yes, drilled and paced through the nave on a Saturday morning lifting the cross and carrying the torches just so and balancing the flags.) I’ve loosened up a lot in that regard, because a number of our acolytes are younger folk (at St. Pauls at that time the acolytes were high school boys and college freshmen who were local) and they are kids. I gave up on the quality of shoes arguments years ago, but I also decided that I wasn’t going to dress up on Sunday mornings for church. I go as I am. I don’t need to dress up to be professional.
I have yet to give up on the quality of music in church. Fortunately I have a good choir and good leadership to back me up on that.
Back to Kylo Ren. Even had he successfully killed his mother, it wouldn’t allow him to start fresh. His tragedy in TLJ is he finally gets to a point where be believes his mother is dead, Snoke is dead, and his future is fighting alongside him. He is exactly where he wants to be. And his offer is rejected.
He flounders because he hasn’t fully seen his errors. He tries to kill Luke and he can’t do it, namely because Luke isn’t really there but he’s not ready yet. He’s off kilter and doesn’t have a center. He is truly lost in misery and unfortunately has the ability to force choke people into submission and body slam them against walls with a flick of his wrist. He can rule by fear and we all know that that never works out.
Before that ultimate failing, though, Kylo becomes a better character and puts down his boyhood dreams and begins to think of himself as an adult. He still can’t imagine killing the past as a metaphor. In one sense, I killed my past when I moved out of my parents’ house against their objections and I managed to never move back, but I did end up needing them to pay my rent for many years in college. What I needed to get away from was the feeling of living under other people’s rules, and while I didn’t get that until I was a bachelor, I found what I was looking for: Independence. I still could not get through Christmas without putting up a creche and for many years I tried to keep the traditions of my past, because no matter what lies I tell myself, it is impossible to kill the past.
But back to Kylo Ren. The middle part of TLJ has him in what has been dubbed “ForceTime” with Rey, and they can communicate without knowing where the other one is. They try to communicate over each other. How many relationships are created and maintained between people who have never met? How many people do I consider friends when I’ve only ever known their handle?***
Kylo tries to reach out, to be understood, to make a connection. Yes, he still thinks Rey will be a helper and not an equal, but he becomes for a while a mature person, because in a way Rey is the only person who takes him seriously. She doesn’t like him. She calls him a monster and he agrees with her. He has is reasons, but Rey never tries to manipulate him. She tries to understand him. She is foolish to think he is telling her the truth about Luke’s temple, but he has never presented himself as a liar to her, and never out of control. Maybe she has reason to think he’s being truthful.
It is also telling how she calls him by his given name. I tried wearing a false identity and a few people in high school called me Jason because I really didn’t like my name. Wearing masks and pretending to be other people is part of growing up. Kylo sheds some of that with the destroyed helmet. He may never accept Ben Solo in his life again, but Kylo Ren has the potential to be someone new, and someone greater.
So I like Kylo Ren. I don’t think he’ll survive the saga, though. I’m okay with that.
* In chronological order, not order of magnitude of importance.
** I am in the process of accepting this failure as a good thing, but failure and I have a strong bond that’s hard to break.
*** Yeah, I’m old enough to remember using that term on bulletin boards that we dialed into using 2400 baud modems so GET OFF MY LAWN!

Uncle Josh and Kylo Ren was originally published on Uncle Josh Talks Too Much

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Uncle Josh Thinks About Men

A tweet that crossed my feed a couple of days ago (and is now lost so attribution is a mystery) that asked (in paraphrase):

Do men ever look around and ask “what’s wrong with men?”

My answer is this: No.

Naturally, this is a highly personal answer, and I don’t dare speak for all men, but I suspect in the case of the Straight White WASP-ish Male, I share some common habits with my demographic. Being a representative of the Dominant Culture where I live, not only do I have the ability to think to myself (and say out loud) that I treat everyone as an individual, I have the cultural freedom to be a prick and think this is actually true.

In fact, when I am dealing with other men, I do categorize them into one of three groups: Idiots, Assholes, and Heroes.

Idiots

These are the easiest to spot and this is the easiest bucket to fill. It doesn’t take very long in conversation or just listening to a dude to determine that they are an idiot. When a guy says oil is never running out, he’s an idiot. When he says tax-cuts for the wealthy creates jobs, he’s an idiot. The problem with idiots is you have to give each bit of useless misguided noise they present a chance, because it is possible that the idiot may know something about the subject.

Assholes

This second bucket is a little harder to fill because usually they spend time in the idiot bucket first, and it takes some prolonged exposure to determine that the idiot is really an asshole. Of course, some people land there immediately. Racists, sexists, homophobes, white nationalists, and others who take stands that require other people to suffer, are assholes. Assholes are easily dismissed without worry of the ad hominem fallacy rearing it’s head. I don’t listen to these people because they’re assholes, not because I think they’re wrong about a subject. They may be right, but I don’t have to listen to an asshole. In the same vein, as a capitalist I don’t see movies starring Tom Cruise or Mel Gibson. I don’t criticize their acting, I just refuse to give them my money.

Heroes

This is not the bucket for supermen and there is no sense of worship involved in this bucket. Heroes, in this context, are people who have attributes I can admire and emulate. My friend Rob is a kind man, and his kindness defines him in a way that I wish I could be more like Rob. My co-worker John can understand the vast wodges of idiocy I encounter at work and the overly complicated systemic idiocy that big companies collect like dust bunnies. My father-in-law has incredible self-control (unless he’s being snarky), and my own father was able to talk to anyone without fear.

When I described this to Stephanie, she thought there would be a bucked for Bros, and I suppose extroverted men may have that bucket, but Bro to me is not a relationship but an attitude and most Bros I meet end up in the Asshole bucket.

So what about women? How do I think about women? When I look at women as a whole do I ever think “what’s wrong with them?”. No. I tend to place them into the same three categories. There are women in my life who are idiots, assholes, and heroes.

I am sure that anyone who really knows me will read this and call me on bullshit. I hope they do. I’d hate to be living a lie.

Uncle Josh Thinks About Men was originally published on Uncle Josh Talks Too Much

Uncle Josh Bids LiveJournal Adieu

Apparently LiveJournal has gone bad. I haven’t read my friends feed over there in a long time, and added nothing to the journal there that wasn’t cross-posted here. So, like many others, it’s time to leave.

Of course, that means a retrospective, which is a good time to catch up with myself, look at the great patterns of my life, and come to the conclusion that I’m pretty much the same person I was when I started on Jan 4, 2006. I left Blogger for LiveJournal. I had several Blogger blogs (I think they still exists, so abandoned they don’t even get porn-spam comments) because Blogger didn’t handle tagging back then, and I wanted to separate the different thought streams. Because I thought it mattered.

2006

I was writing and submitting a lot back then, and discovering new literary loves. I wrote of finding Raymond Chandler that month, the perils of writing for your workshop (short version: don’t), and started my ill-named Story-A-Day project.

Highlight from February: My first vaguepost:

The Email was still there

This was my first fiction sale: $5 for Memory of Flesh in AlienSkinMag.com (it’s not as dirty as it sounds.)

I also replaced my old desk with my current desk. Mmmm… maybe I should buy another desk.

I also read a lot of comments from Jay Lake, whom I still miss.

I also read a strong implication that we went to a talk by Sir Roger Penrose but for the life of me I don’t remember doing that.

Another gem from a first draft:

She sat in her chair and fucked up this story so badly that there’s nothing I can do to fix it.

Hey, it got a giggle out of Jay!

I also took (and publicized) and embarrassingly large number of internet personality quizzes.

Finally, it seems there were a lot of people commenting on that blog who I remember, but could not identify with a real name.

I’ll keep reviewing this cleanup of a decade of my life.

Uncle Josh Bids LiveJournal Adieu was originally published on Uncle Josh Talks Too Much

Uncle Josh does the NaNoWriMo thing again

This morning the plan was to get up at 6, make a cup of coffee, and start writing for NaNoWriMo. My body decided that I needed to be up at 5:30, but I wasn’t aware of the time and after failing to fall asleep, got up about ten till six and made my coffee and managed to start writing by 6:08. Not bad.

One hour later I heard Stephanie up and about and so I called it a day and checked my word count: 1,714.

That had to be wrong. I don’t write that fast. Yes, I’m a fast typist but I average 1,000 wph when drafting. I have a new computer. It’s possible the program I’m using (Focus Writer, damn fine tool) wasn’t calculating it correctly. It’s possible something went wrong with the file. I opened it LibreOffice and it confirmed the count.

On the way to work, Stephanie and I went through the mental math to figure it out: I hit “flow”. I found that spot where I could just keep on writing at a steady pace without worry. We figured I was going at about 30 wpm, which is a slow typing speed. It’s maybe 2 to 3 keystrokes per second. If that pace is kept up and consistent, 1,800 words in an hour is feasible. The scary thing is this means if I was really on fire and really knew what I wanted to say I could get 3K in an hour, and that seems ridiculous. It’s the sort of thing that makes me want to do the math all over again.

30 wpm @ 5 cpw  = 150 kpm = 2.5 kps. (@ 6 cpw = 180 kpm = 3 kps.)

30 wpm × 60 m = 1,800 words.

Shockingly, this works.

I am taking a different tactic this year. Usually I start at the beginning  and crap out mid-way through. After extensive work with Mark Teppo’s Planning, Plotting, and Progress I have a pretty good idea of the pace of the novella and where things need to happen. This year I decided to start right after the midway point where the standard plot crisis occurs. I don’t plan on writing this thing in order, which should help solve my perennial problem of not knowing what happens next.

So, with a sample size of one day, I’m going to look forward to NaNoWriMo this year and I think I’ll have a successful year.

Uncle Josh does the NaNoWriMo thing again was originally published on Uncle Josh Talks Too Much

Uncle Josh is Half the Man He Used to Be

Well, not literally, but I am a writer and allowed to bump the baseline, as the song goes. But I am feeling smaller, and I’m not sure I’m comfortable with that.

This is the end of Day 13 of our Whole30 and on top of getting sick and tired thinking about and working for our food. It seems like all our free time is going into food prep and cleanup. I carve out enough time to work out three times a week, and I feel like I’m  losing ground.

I started serious strength training on June 20, 2013. I did my first set of squats (5×5) at 25 lbs. On September 16, 2013 my squat was 215 lbs. It maxed out at 290 lbs that November and had read Starting Strength on the recommendation of a chiropractor, so I only needed to do three sets of five, but I did them. I tried to go higher but my standard bar was full and the plates popped off once and there was another dangerous incident where I bottomed out and could not get out of the squat and had to roll the bar over my neck to escape.

Strength training has come and gone, but I am back at it and did a 215 lb squat today, almost three years after I first hit that milestone. My squats are okay, but my press is deteriorating and my deadlift is crawling up and getting dangerous. I need some serious checks on my form and perhaps some special instructions to avoid the–ahem–soprano maker deadlift.

In all this lifting, in this rebuilding of my strength, I don’t feel strong. I used to feel strong. Maybe what I felt all that time was muscle soreness and constant inflammation and that’s the sort of thing the Whole30 is supposed to be fixing in my system. No inflammation, or at least heavily reduced, leads to faster recoveries. Gains in the gym are included in the Whole30 success stories. Perhaps the diet and heavy protien is helping. Although I haven’t counted protien in a while. I counted the first couple of days and didn’t get enough according to the strength training advice for building muscle.

Considering I’m hungry a good portion of the day, perhaps this is the case.

Besides feeling smaller and not feeling my strength, my mood swings have stabilized but my energy level seems to putter around 75%. I just don’t have the oomph to get started on anything. This is mental as well as physical. I tried getting up early to write and so far I have done that three times this month.

According to the Whole30 timeline, this is normal. I should be getting my energy back next week. I miss it. I miss feeling strong. Granted, my strength is there when I need it. I felt it when I put Stephanie’s spinning wheel in the car. I felt it when moving a television table to the garage. Sitting at my computer, I don’t feel it, and I used to.

Uncle Josh is Half the Man He Used to Be was originally published on Uncle Josh Talks Too Much

Uncle Josh breaks a mayonnaise

This is day 6 of our #Whole30 and it was a tough one. I was tired all day no matter how much coffee I drank. I ate everything I had taken to work and was hungry by the end of the work day. Tonight was also a lifting night, and I was afraid of what the iron would do to me.

I had to run and errand during the day and I turned a corner to see the sign of a sub shop and my first thought was “she’ll never know.” I was tempted. Hungry. Worried. And there was the promise of forbidden foods that would make me oh-so-very happy. I even persisted in the illusion that I could hide it. No, that’s not bread and onions on my breath, not at all. Gee, hon, I don’t know how that sub shop charge landed on our bank account. 

I was, in short, thinking like a heel.

The sub shop was closed anyway. A Mexican joint is under construction in that place. 

So I came home and had some almonds and raisins and went to the bar. Whole30 leads to some strange snack options. I gained my scheduled ten pounds on my squat, and did worse on the overhead press than last time. This has me worried. Then again, I looked at some Starting Strength workout logs and people with twice my squat are doing about the same in the overhead press. So maybe I’m okay there and should work to maintain a weight while everything else returns.

Our dinner plans were foiled by a lemon. This was the result of a series of discoveries that rivaled a Douglas Adams text adventure. After dinnet I went to the store to get the lemon so we could make a mayonnaise so we could make a ranch dressing so we could make something resembling one of our favorite fallback recipes: chicken ranch wraps. Of course, being on the whole30, it was to be unwrapped ranch chicken wraps.

And so I made a mayonnaise. We’ve made two batches already and I tried for the third. We don’t have a food processor, only an immersion blender. The first batch we tried mixing in a mason jar. it was okay but the shape or the jar fought the emulsion. Then we tried the plastic mixing cup for the blender. It was okey at first but fought us net the end. The emulsion was so thick we had a heck of a time getting the last quarter cup of oil integrated. (But it tasted great. We used half of it to make the ranch dressing and I fell in love with a food all over again.) The next experiment was to use a small mixing bowl, but this didn’t work as well as we’d hoped. The oil flies to the edges and the mass of mayo doesn’t come together. I finished it, but I don’t think it will hold up.

Now I am tired, and I’m going to bed.

Uncle Josh breaks a mayonnaise was originally published on Uncle Josh Talks Too Much

Uncle Josh Dreams of Food (Whole30 Day 2)

Yesterday, according to Weight Watchers, I only ate about 63% of my daily allotment of SmartPoints™. I was satisfied with breakfast, but fell into hunger mid-morning and mid-afternoon. I ate raisins as a pre-lift snack and because it was cool I managed a pretty good workout between WW and dinner. Dinner was wonderful, and there was a hint of peckishness as I fell asleep.

I was not prepared for the dream.

It was a common scene: I was in a parking lot outside a grocery store moving soda waters and chips from the cart to my car. I opened a bag. I ate a chip.

And then I had this horrible feeling that I had done something horribly wrong and betrayed everything that is good and wholesome in the world and had cheated on my wife.

I was not prepared for the dream.

I tried to hide my sin. I tried to return the chips for a full refund (except the bag I opened because it’s not the store’s fault I opened it), and at some point I woke up.

I was not prepared.

Tonight I sleep ready.

Uncle Josh Dreams of Food (Whole30 Day 2) was originally published on Uncle Josh Talks Too Much