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Messages - blingdenston

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Princess Mononoke
dir. Hayao Miyazaki 宮崎 駿 Miyazaki Hayao



In ancient times, the land lay covered in forests, where, from ages long past, dwelt the spirits of the gods. Back then, man and beast lived in harmony, but as time went by, most of the great forests were destroyed. Those that remained were guarded by gigantic beasts who owed their allegiances to the Great Forest Spirit. For those were the days of gods and of demons...

Princess Mononoke (Spirit/Monster Princess) was the second Ghibli movie I ever saw (after the Fox video release of My Neighbor Totoro), and PROBABLY the first Miyazaki movie I can really remember hearing about anywhere but Real Stuf catalogues or the anime discussion chatrooms I foodled my way through on AOL, Prodigy, and MSN when I was a teenager. This was the one that got the idea that there was a 'Japanese Walt Disney' going in the public discourse...partially due to the Weinstein Brothers' bizarre half-steps towards introducing East Asian cinema to the world (but also hamfistedly mangling it, or relegating it to tiny releases unless Quentin Tarantino could convince them to just put it out there, like Zhang Yimou's Hero).

There was less-than-no-way I was going to get to see it in theaters, and I made the mistake of asking my dull friend who DID see it about it. He sniffed, "Yeah, it was pretty stupid. There's a part where the main dude uses his super-arm to decapitate a dude with a bowshot. That could never happen in reality." I should mention this is the guy who gave me his Dragon Ball Z RPG book and snickered about how it has an entire side-panel about how Krillin could DEFINITELY kill Superman.

So, I didn't really see it 'til it came on...geez, was it the Disney Channel in late 2001? It was around the time I graduated high school, anyway. I'd been watching anime for nearly ten years at that point (longer if you count stuff like Star Blazers, Captain Harlock, and Robotech), from when we were calling it 'Japanimation' and luxuriating in stuff like Project A-Ko and buying VHS tapes of Bubblegum Crisis for $35 an episode, and I'd seen some pretty great stuff...but I'd never seen anything QUITE like Princess Mononoke.

I didn't really think much of it at the time, but I recognized the incredible craftsmanship and attention to detail, the quaint and mysterious and exotic medieval Japanese setting (sometime around the 15th Century), and the evocative and foreign spiritual and supernatural elements. I kind of found the hero and heroine boring and uninteresting, though.

As time has gone on, though, I've repeatedly come back to Princess Mononoke and found more to like about it. It's a story about the conflict between the old ways of religion and mysticism versus modernity and self-actualization. A powerful woman makes her own way in the world, protecting and empowering the helpless and disadvantaged...but in doing so unbalances nature and offends the gods (though this, notably, due to her violent and rapacious overreach, as opposed to her progressive bonafides). The ripples of this action reach out from her stronghold and draw in opposition: a young man cursed by a byproduct of her sins, a group of government agents snooping around trying to keep these prodigies from affecting business-as-usual in the capital of Kyoto, and a mysterious wolf-girl bent on revenge. It's a dense tapestry, full of wonder at the secrets of the natural world, the industry of woman and man, and a powerful faith that the love of the young can overcome the politics, marvels, and weapons that shadow the world entire.

I like other Ghibli films better, but I think Princess Mononoke is a pretty good fit for folks on this site, full of action, fantasy and romance.  It's playing at Fathom event centers in the US starting with a dubbed showing on the 22nd (and another on the 25th) and a subtitled showing on the 23rd.

https://www.fathomevents.com/events/studio-ghibli-fest-2018-princess-mononoke

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4OiMOHRDs14

Next month...woof. Fucking WOOF.

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Outside Realm / Some Tabletop RPGs I'm Excited About
« on: 06/30/18, 06:17:29 PM »
Hey! I'm looking at some tabletop RPGs that are (tangentially) related to Star Wars, and I thought I'd let you guys in on it!

Tachyon Squadron - https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/evilhat/tachyon-squadron-fate-core-rpg/

Tachyon Squadron is a Fate Core Playset based on military sci-fi/space opera stuff like Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica, Wing Commander, et cetera. Fate is a narrative RPG aimed at replicating the experience of specific genre pieces, and Tachyon Squadron is specifically looking to replicate the feeling of being in a plucky starfighter squadron up against massive, implacable foes. It's really cool! It's also got a really neat hack of the Fate Core conflict system that simulates starfighter combat in a really neat way...it involves positioning, maneuvering and blasting in a really exciting manner that I'm pretty jazzed-up about. I'm actually pretty excited to run this sometime soon!

Scum and Villainy https://www.evilhat.com/home/scum-and-villainy/

Scum and Villainy is a Forged in the Dark game where you play the crew of an outlaw spaceship trying to make ends meet at the edge of civilization, dealing with cutthroat crime syndicates, distant and powerful star-aristocrats, and strange mystics and aliens. 'Forged in the Dark' refers to games based on Blades in the Dark, and the core concepts are this: you play as some form of rogues who are part of a nascent, underdog group of some sort and you run jobs to support and build-up your power-base (in this case, a starship). You actually plan out the job (which could be a heist, a smuggling run, a bounty hunt, or whatever else your crew is interested in) IN play, so that you jump immediately into the action and 'fluff it out' in-game, with each character taking responsibility for an aspect of the job. Each session is a run of some sort, followed by downtime, recovery, and character/crew advancement. It's a REALLY cool concept, and Scum and Villainy is the first one I'm really itching to get into and run for myself.


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Worldbuilding and Community / Re: Jedi and mental disorders
« on: 06/26/18, 10:03:23 AM »
I was literally just thinking about this the other night...specifically, I was talking about 'psychic chirurgery' in the old Ravenloft setting and ideas I'd had for the horror implications of seeking a cure for madness from a mysterious psychic. 'Psychic surgery' is a fraud technique, very common way back in the 60s-80s, where quacks would use laying-on-of-hands to remove 'illnesses' from a sick person's body (usually just chicken guts or other forms of bloody offal). In the context we were talking about, 'psychic chirurgery' referred to a psionic power that allowed the practicioner to heal people's minds, ending feeblemindedness or confusion or the effects of a symbol of madness. In Ravenloft, where madness is a common affliction simply by adventuring in the world, it offers an uncommon but more reliable method of dealing with mental derangement than putting yourself in a fantasy sanitorium to be treated by psuedo-Victorian elf alienists or whatever.

This lead me to thinking about specifically Jedi and mental illnesses, and how (depending on the source) Jedi healers are capable of alleviating wounds and illnesses that even space medicine can't touch, but how rarely that reaches out to psychic harm...but then I thought about Revan from KOTOR (who was literally 'reprogrammed'), and I was thinking about how it was appropriate that Jedi, who often have psychic powers, would have special techniques for that sort of thing.

As in the aforementioned Revan example, though, grand manipulations and hubristic 'overwatch' of people's innermost psyche should have deep consequences and terrible implications. The way I see it, I'd say that Jedi likely DO have techniques for 'Force healing' mental illnesses, but they're dangerous and frowned-upon: an attempt to force someone's personal trauma to be 'fixed' is no balm to most people.

The Jedi 'mind trick' only works against the weak-willed and, as someone with experience with dealing with mental illness, the trauma-drive of an afflicted individual is not 'weak'...it takes hard, long work to help someone get through their issues, and no doctor or counselor can do it alone. Without effort and dedication from the patient, it's almost doomed to failure. Thus, I'd see it like this: Jedi, especially those with skills at mental manipulation, probably can wave a hand at someone with mental illnesses and 'fix' them...but not without endangering their long-term recovery and threatening 'psychic breaks' that can damage them even worse. Jedi counselors, on the other hand, can likely use a combination of 'calming effects' (like the mind trick, but nice...or like Force stun, but on a low-setting) and their preternatural awareness of consequence and empathy to guide folks into a treatment and recovery program that is supernally effective...with time.

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Pom Poko
dir. Isao Takahata 高畑 勲 Takahata Isao


They used their balls as weapons in a brave kamikaze attack.

Pom Poko is my favorite Isao Takahata project. I've only seen it once, late late at night on a cable channel in the early aughties, and was FLABBERGASTED by A). how beautiful it was, B). how bizarre it was and C). how emotionally complex and sincere it was. It was what inspired me to really look in to the oeuvre of Studio Ghibli beyond the big Miyazaki movies.

Pom Poko is about a community of tanuki dealing with the urbanization of Japan in the mid 20th Century. Anglicized as 'Raccoon Dogs', tanuki aren't raccoons and they're not QUITE dogs...they're actually a bit more like foxes, and have a folkloric reputation as shapeshifters and tricksters* (as well as, similar to western raccoons, being urban pests).


Some real-life tanuki

The tanuki in Pom Poko find themselves in existential danger due to the rapid urbanization of the Tama Hills near Tokyo, and take up the old practices of shapeshifting and playing supernatural tricks on humans to try and save their territory from being consumed in the concrete explosion that radically changed the landscape of the former outskirts of Tokyo with unforgiving swiftness. The tanuki we follow are, in turns, silly, brave, desperate, psychotic, and mournful, and the movie switches art styles and tones rapidly, but never falteringly or inadequately. Scenes of bucolic silliness early in the movie give way to scenes of supernatural oddity and thanatotic processions later on...it's a truly bizarre movie.

But it's also incredibly charming. It gets dark later on, but there's a sweetness and spirit of fun that remains even as our shapeshifting heroes face the inevitability of urban sprawl, and I give it one of my highest recommendations. You are unlikely to see any movie quite like this on the big screen this year, or maybe ANY year.  A dubbed screening is playing Monday, June 18th, with another subtitled screening on Wednesday, June 20th. https://www.fathomevents.com/events/studio-ghibli-fest-2018-pom-poko

*Of note, tanuki males have prominent testicles, and they folklorically have ENORMOUS testes that they often pound like drums and carry over their shoulders like a pack. As such, the movie makes mention of them using their 'balls' as part of their shapeshifting (unless you're watching one of the dubs which may bowlderize it to 'pouches'). So, expect that!

https://youtu.be/_7cowIHjCD4

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Outside Realm / Re: Solo: A Spoiler Thread
« on: 06/18/18, 01:02:23 AM »
The villian sucked...I can't even remember his name except that it's temper tantrum jarvis. T

'Temper Tantrum Jarvis' is what I'm going to think of him as from now on. Personally, I thought he was adequate...I was afraid he was going to be 'the secret origin of Snoke' or some dumb crap, so that was a relief...plus I think that having a villain who's not physically intimidating, someone prissy and unpredictable is a neat change-up.

That said...you may notice that he's not in it much, and he only has one costume (in a movie where even Han Solo gets, like, three or four outfits). That's 'cause...he's a reshoot character! The ORIGINAL Dryden Vos was played by Michael K. Williams, intended to be CGIed over as a Thundercats-type lion-man. That's right. Omar Little from 'The Wire' was going to be the villain...as a big cat-dude. Unfortunately, when they swapped directors and changed the tone of the movie, they couldn't get Williams back to do the reshoots...so they just cast a new guy and filmed new scenes and saved some money on the CGI. Think of how awesome that would've been if Han and Chewie and Beckett were shitting their pants across from LION-OMAR. Ugh! I want it so bad!

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Outside Realm / Re: Solo: A Spoiler Thread
« on: 05/31/18, 11:38:15 AM »
And the point I'm making is that droids can definitely die, because they treat the passing of L3 as a death. SHE acts like she's dying. LANDO acts like she's dead. Lando is OFFENDED when Han suggests they upload her database to the Falcon. Lando is rueful but happy when he realizes L3 will live on as part of his beloved ship.

Whether or not she could have been reuploaded to a new droid body (which would be tough, considering that she's a completely unique droid made from a mosaic of different models, plus the amount of damage she had taken had likely damaged her verbobrain and personality core) doesn't change the EMOTIONS of the characters responding to what happened. You can either say, 'Ha, what a bunch of doofuses for caring about a stupid robot' or you can pay attention to the themes present in the actual movie and deal with them.

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Outside Realm / Re: Solo: A Spoiler Thread
« on: 05/30/18, 03:12:39 AM »
R2-D2 literally exploded on a republic ship filled with rhydonium and was rebuilt not a few hours, possibly days later: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wRjrlBJwCLk

Things you'll notice aren't in this scene: a somber beat as Artoo is dealt a mortal blow; a scene of desperate efforts to rescue Artoo against unbeatable odds; a tender scene where a perishing Artoo gives it's last words; a somber note of hope as Artoo's essence lives on in a different form.

This is, in point of fact, a sawed-off 'get this hero to a medic!' scene.  If Artoo was, say, a plucky young private who attempts to sacrifice herself, is pulled from the wreckage in dire shape, treated by doctors, and then gives a thumbs-up from the sickbed, the feeling would be the same. The context of L3's final moments and fate as the 'soul' of the Millennium Falcon is blatantly that of a death scene.

Also...is the pacing on this show ALWAYS like this? It feels like an issue of Youngblood. Things just happen, no build-up, no tension...just...stuff.

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Outside Realm / Re: Solo: A Spoiler Thread
« on: 05/28/18, 03:40:00 PM »
Don't mistake my meaning: I'm not saying you're not entitled to your own perspective, or even that you're a clattering fool for following different strains of interpretation than my own...indeed, the general bittersweet tone of the movie does, in a way, support the irony you've identified.

But I don't think that the movie presenting L3's death as a tragic, heroic (slightly foolish) moment should be ignored, nor should Han and Lando be rendered slavesr and butchers forevermore, abusers and monsters without sentiment. That's...woof.

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Outside Realm / Re: Solo: A Spoiler Thread
« on: 05/28/18, 01:28:30 PM »
The entire character is about the idea that lived experience and emotion should be what count towards 'personhood', not origin. She gets a DEATH SCENE, literally DYING in her friend (maaaaybe lover)'s arms. After he uploads her navigational database into the falcon, he smiles fondly, knowing that part of her will remain even while she's gone.

This ain't rocket surgery, people.

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Outside Realm / Re: Solo: A Spoiler Thread
« on: 05/28/18, 12:30:52 AM »
What are you guys, Socrates? Afraid that using the record of L3's memories is a violation of the spirit of her existence, that writing captures the essence and imprisons thought in a lexigraphical cage? L3-37 died. What remained of her after death became part of the ship's navicomputer. If that's slavery, I'd hate to think of poor Robert Frost, doomed to linger tortured as 'the road less traveled by' hangs on a million walls and imprisons his mind-force to slavery forevermore.

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Outside Realm / Re: Solo: A Spoiler Thread
« on: 05/26/18, 02:26:56 AM »
Loved it! Not quite as much as TLJ, but even more than Rogue One. Despite this one's...similar troubles as a 'Star Wars Story' (overbearing producers, reshoots, changing directors midstream, etc.) it's not nearly as sliced apart and respliced as Rogue One was, and the music was not even NEARLY as weak and rushed as Rogue One's.

As folks MAAAAY have noticed, I'm a big fan of the Han Solo Trilogy (and, also, fond for the Lando Calrissian books, too!), but I'm not nearly as married to them as I am to the movies, and getting a replacement for them (and, hopefully, nipping off some awful shit like the Sal-Solo stuff at the goddamn bud) is pretty much a positive to me! Hopefully, we can put behind the odious Wookiee lifedebt and other old cruft, too.

That said...I'm not at all fond of the reveal of who the big cheese of Crimson Dawn is. I was worried that it was gonna be something REALLY dumb like...I dunno, revealing that Dryden Vos was the 'origin' point for Snoke, that Han gave him those nasty bone deformations or something and he dedicated his life to mastering evil magick and corrupting Han's kid as revenge or some shit.  So, this is better, I guess.

I just have no attachment to Maul or any of his further appearances as a fallen Sith or a Mandalorian warlord or whatever. He's not a real character, to me. He's just a look. The more he sticks around, the more talking he does in lieu of backflips...the weaker he is. I DO, for the most part, approve of them setting up Crimson Dawn as a kind of meta-threat to stretch across Star Wars Stories (even if it's just the Solo-related ones, though I'm gonna bet it's bigger than that)...but it DOES reek of 'Shadows of the Empire' and the Black Sun Syndicate and Prince Xizor and oh God, please, don't. Don't put him in there. Don't. Don't. Don't.

I think it's fairly obvious that the NEXT thing that happens to Han and Chewie ain't gonna be Ep. IV. They have a LOT more wrecking-up of the Falcon to do...Ehrenreich is about seven years younger than Harrison Ford was when he starred in Star Wars...they've got two more of these movies to make, potentially...it's nothin' to be worried about. I'll bet that the 'big time gangster' he's going to Tatooine to meet isn't going to be Jabba. And, if it is...hey, he's gotta get some successful stuff under his belt before he can even APPROACH the three years of credit Jabba gives him before coming after him hard in TESB.

Oh...and on Orell's point about L3 never being mentioned again...remember Empire Strikes Back, how Han asks Threepio to communicate with the Falcon, find out what the problem is?

C-3P0: "Sir, I don't know where your ship learned to communicate, but it has the most peculiar dialect.  I believe, sir, it says that the power coupling on the negative axis has been polarized.  I'm afraid you'll have to replace it."

(Also, again: possibly two sequels.)

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Porco Rosso
dir. Hayao Miyazaki 宮崎 駿 Miyazaki Hayao


I'd rather be a pig than a Fascist.

Porco Rosso is my favorite Ghibli movie (second favorite Miyazaki movie, after The Castle of Cagliostro) and I'm INCREDIBLY excited to see it on the big screen. It's fairly closely related to Laputa: The Castle in the Sky, both of which are inspired by Miyazaki's love of early 20th Century aeronautics and the culture of airplane designers, engineers and pilots. A particular scene of ethereal encounters in a cloudbank recurs from Laputa to this film, as well as a general theme of independent passion versus societal oppression (more distinct in Laputa...but we'll get there in November!)

The film depicts the adventures of the bounty hunter known as 'the Red Pig', a veteran of the Great War afflicted by a mysterious curse that has transformed him into a pigman. Fighting pirates for profit over the Adriatic Sea, the regrets and mistakes of his past and the influence of the rising Fascist government in his home country of Italy threaten his future as he finds himself besieged on all sides by enemies, while friends old and new help him keep his monoplane in fighting trim for what may be his last duel. Winsome, cool, and packed with scenes of Mediterranean beauty and white-knuckle aero-battles, Porco Rosso probably isn't for everyone...but it's for me, and I love it dearly.

It's playing Sunday, Monday and Wednesday through Fathom Events. https://www.fathomevents.com/events/studio-ghibli-fest-2018-porco-rosso

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=awEC-aLDzjs

Next month, comical raccoons in a nostalgic tale...

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I just rewatched TFA for the first time last night, and I just wanted to put some thoughts down, nearly three years later.

I found the pacing of the movie to be much, much worse this time...the quiet moments we get with Rey feel like the only real pauses for air in the entire movie (though, luckily, she gets them all the way up until the last shot). I appreciate JJ's desire to have a bunch of Muppets and practical effects around, but he rushes and wooshes past them so fast that it's almost sickening to watch.

The dialogue is also mundane and boring...it's almost unbelievable how much this movie leans on the incredible cast and the inertia of 'this is Star Wars' to make us ante up our attention and attachment. Both times I've watched this movie, I've been reflexively rewriting the dialogue to spice it up. I actually misremembered a small scene from a little head-bubble I latched on to back in 2015...when Leia and Han meet back up, and she comments on his jacket, I would've sworn he said: "No, it's a new jacket! ...same shirt, but the jacket is new."

I again credit the casting and direction for attaching me so strongly to these characters...the amount of development and screen time Poe gets in Ep. VIII had almost erased how little there is for him in this one other than being ultra-Wedge and also Finn's boyf-for-life. Daisy Ridley was probably the weakest of the main cast, but she, luckily, gets the strongest character and the most to do out of the movie (and I've seen the next one, so I know she's got the juice).

The special effects were spectacular! Even on a 1080p screen I was flabbergasted by how gorgeous the crashed Star Destroyer on Jakku was, and I once again praise Abrams for the incredible Falcon escape sequence...which staggered the hell out of me by (despite the often breakneck gait of the film) clearly establishing the landscape of the area (from the SD, to the open desert, to Unkar Plutt's outpost) so that, despite a big whirling chaotic takeoff, we can follow where the Falcon is going and what the hell is happening. Kudos!

I don't really have any thoughts other than a general excitement for the rewatch of Last Jedi we'll be doing in celebration of Solo coming out soon (and a trepidation about rewatching Rogue One. And just general bile at Snoke and the stupid Starkiller Base).

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Cantina / Re: Roll Call - How active are you?
« on: 05/14/18, 11:54:46 PM »
EDITED: Mispost! Ignore this!

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Roleplay Workshop / Re: Awareness of Sith history
« on: 04/27/18, 08:47:32 AM »
They hold Korriban and raid the tombs constantly, so I'd say it's probably a topic of interest. That said, they ALSO use Korriban as a mass-production facility for Sith Lords meant for war, so it's probably only a matter of true interest to the Sith equivalent of nerds and Sith sorcerers, obsessed with discovering some ancient secret that will grant them absolute power.

So, I'd guess that it's easy for most Sith warriors and assassins to just know some names and the ritual steps of Sith attainment, only really learning about that stuff if they decide to return there out of a desire for knowledge and power. Sith sorcerers would be more conversant, but still not necessarily true students of the history. It'll be the Pureblood obsessives, who are nearly wiped out, who would treat it like a precious treasure, locking it all away in their holocrons for future Orders of the Sith Lords.

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