So, I reread Star Wars X-Wing Rogue Squadron (Rogue Squadron) over the weekend. I haven’t been reading much on my own except for school nights, but I thought I start to reread my collection once a week.
One of the Few Star Wars Graphic Novels I Own
Surprisingly enough, I don’t own that many Star Wars graphic novels (although I plan to increase that through used bookstore purchases) as graphic novels became a “thing” after I was already moving away from “comics” in general and moving more into “writing/creative writing.” It may have been a good thing since most of the Star Wars comics/novels/graphic novelshave been “removed” from canon once Disney acquired the license. However, I still like to dip into the world and universe, even knowing that most of the work is no longer “relevant” to the Star Wars world.
Good Story (Even Without the Lightsabers)
I tend to be a “lightsabers” kind of guy, meaning that I really like the ligthtsaber combat in the films. However, I also like the space combat as well. I feel that the new films have focused more on space combat than lightsaber battles, but I’d still like to watch them. And that extends into the graphic novel realm as I enjoy reading about the adventures of Rogue Squadron which is what this graphic novel is about. The story was good–not great–but good, as was the artwork. Finally, I thought the inclusion of a hard to find second story at the end was a nice touch.
Overall Grade: B (85)
While it could have been more dynamic, I still enjoyed the setup and the resolution of the story. Its a fun, “popcorn” story and one that I enjoyed. I’ll definitely look for others in the series.
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Okay, I know, a provactive title. And yes, The Last Jedi features into the discussion, but not nearly as much as one would think. I’ve known for a while now that the Disney version of Star Wars (at least for the last of the 3 Skywalker films) would be “sunsetting” the original characters and creating a whole new set of characters that we would follow through new movies for a “new” generation. My problem (at the time) wasn’t the sunsetting of the older characters–it was, would I like the new characters? Now, however, I have to say that it is isn’t the new characters that bother me (except the “grumpy Darklord”–Daisy Ridley’s term for Kylo Ren). What I really have a problem with is the way in which the old characters are being “retired.”
Be Fair to Your Audience
Yes, I know we live in an 18-35 year old world. I get it. This is where marketers focus their efforts on, this is where people really want to target their appeals to, but one of the things that I really dislike about the way Star Wars has treated its audience is that they haven’t honored the original actors/roles as much as they could have.
So, unless I get really heavily into spoilers, I can’t actually do a “deep dive” into the ways Disney has “disrespected” fans of Luke Skywalker, Han Solo and Princess Leia from the original trilogy. Suffice to say, the resolution of the two men have not ended well. Carrie Fisher unfortunately, passed away, so I suspect we will see footage of her in the new movie, but I feel that they will be far more respectful to her character because she (sadly) is no longer with us (the Paul Walker effect, essentially).
As a long time fan of the films, I don’t understand why we can’t get a resolution of the old characters that doesn’t feature them going out in the way they do. I feel that both of the characters who’ve we’ve “resolved” so far from the original trilogy do not end in a way that is either consistent or satisfying to what we as fans were presented onscreen during Lucas’ original run.
And this the cry that every fan asks every creator whether or not they originally created a character or not. Let me be absolutely clear–I don’t like The Last Jedi. One of the main reasons is that I don’t feel that the Disney Star Wars films are playing fair with audience expectations is that the characterizations are not even close to what the characters have exhibited in the past, nor do they honor the struggles that they originally had. For example, Luke struggled with redeeming his father from evil, yet his nephew “supposedly” (we see this off-screen) displays tendencies of “evil” and Luke most definitely (again, vague to avoid spoilers) does NOT try to even talk to the kid, let alone redeem him. That is antithetical to Luke’s characterization and doesn’t fit with what I know about the character. However, for plot reasons, we need Luke to ignore 20 years of history (his own history, btw) and act in a manner counter to what he has done previously.
The same is true for Han Solo’s character. While I can somewhat see what befalls him, he still has to act in a “dumb” fashion for his ending to occur. In the original trilogy, Han and Chewbacca rarely split up–it does happen, but it was in Jedi and close to the end. However, in Force Awakens, the split-up happens at just the right time for the “surprise” to happen and to allow Han to be “Solo” at just the right time.
Again, I have to be super-vague to keep from spoilers (& this may be hurting my argument), but I feel that a grave disservice has been done to the old school characters. Leia will probably get a “hero’s sendoff,” but why does she get to be the only one? And why after she’s passed away? My grandmother subscribed to the idea that we should give “people their flowers while they are living,” meaning that one should honor people while they are alive and not wait until they are dead. The actors in the original Star Wars did a wonderful job and their characters are well loved by millions of fans. Is it really so bad to ask the creators of the new series to honor that idea and to give the characters a “sunset” that is consistent with their characters and honors their actors in an appropriate way (which I don’t think is what has actually occurred).
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So, learning Lightsabers and Lightsabercombat has been with us for a while. This Wired article that covers some of the basics is from 2013. However, as lightsaber prices have come down and there are more and more companies making them due to the resurgent popularity of the movies, lightsaber combat and training videos are popping up more frequently, and there are more and more websites dedicated to helping people learn the “art” of lightsaber combat.
As a child, I actually had a “lightsaber.” I put in quotes because it was an actual “lightsaber” like the ones we have today. Now, obviously, none of the “lightsabers” are “real” lightsabers that contain energy that can slice off a hand or melt doors. However, the lightsaber that I had as a child was just a more rudimentary version of the ones out now. My childhood lightsaber was two pieces of molded plastic. The hilt had the bumps and groves of a lightsaber handle with stickers to mimic the “buttons.” The second part was a colored piece of plastic “blade” that then screwed on to this saber’s hilt. Less than $10, this was a cheap plastic toy in all the ways it could be, but it still gave me the impression of being a “jedi knight.” The blade was even hollow with a bit of plastic on the top, so that when swung very fast, the air would make a “whooshing” sound that was reminiscent the distinctive sound that lightsabers make. However, my the lightsabers of my childhood do not hold a candle to the current lightsabers as the more expensive ones are made from metal now and have LED lighting effects and (most) have some sort of sound chip for accurate sound effects.
One of my projects over the summer is to try to learn lightsabers, lightsaber combat, and to buy myself a fairly good lightsaber.
So, I’m in the process of learning what’s called, “The Flow.” It is a discipline that has some applications to martial arts, but is more of “trick”-style of manipulating the blade. I’d like to learn that first before moving on to more martial arts/combat/forms for the blade. The “Flow” is much more involved with flashy twirling moves than with actual combat or fencing. There’s a lot of spinning and manipulating of the blade going on with “The Flow.” Below is a YouTube video of a really good professional lightsaber combat artist who is proficient with the “flow”:
She has a beginning tutorial on “The Flow” and links it to working with the staff. Her rationale: learning on the staff gives you all the requisite skills for lightsaber use and is much easier while learning on the saber is a lot harder (and, for me, the implication is that it won’t necessarily be transferable back to the staff).
I’ve learned one of the techniques so far that she has described in the following video, but haven’t yet learned the second (related technique).
I still have quite a way to go, but I’m hopeful that by the end of the summer I will have learned enough in the way of lightsaber “Flow” skills to advance to at least one or two of Michelle Smith’s “advanced” videos, but we’ll have to see how it works out. I’ll keep you posted on the outcome! 🙂
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So, I’ve been away from the blog for a while due to school and reading for the tests for this semester. I’ve been consuming media on the weekends, but I just haven’t really had a chance to blog about it. There have been several major video game news items that I’ve wanted to blog about (& with luck, I still will), but basically, today I wanted to talk about the “streaming future” and the way it will work in the future.
Goodbye Star Wars: Clone Wars
After trying to get through the series when it was first released and not being able to due to the erratic nature of its broadcast schedule originally, I tried to get through it on Netflix when it first appeared. There was an episode that I couldn’t get through–the one where Padme and Annakin have to use Padme’s former boyfriend to get information on the Separatists–and so I dropped it. This was when Star Wars: Clone Wars (SWCW) had first entered the Netflix catalogue. I recently (this year) finally got past that odiuous episode and was making my way through the series when I got the notice that SWCW would be leaving the service on April 7th. As I was in the midst of studying for tests, there wasn’t really anything I could do about it–no major binges or anything like that–so I was only able to get to Season 3 (first episode) before the show was pulled. Now, it isn’t gone forever–more than likely this show is going to appear on Disney’s new “Streaming” service.
Obviously, I don’t really like this. To the best of my knowledge, Disney’s new service will not be “free.” If it costs money, then I have to decide whether I need Disney’s service over Netflix’s service, or whether I can afford (notice I didn’t use the word need as I don’t need either service, but I want them for entertainment). I don’t really like this idea of starting new services when there are already market leaders in the market. I’ll explain why in a moment. For the moment, the point is moot as Disney’s service hasn’t actually premiered.
Farscape is a early to mid 90s Sci-Fi show that, like Babylon 5 (B5), I saw a few episodes when it first premiered. Afterwards, it was one of the first shows on streaming. I managed to see approx. the first 2 seasons before it went away (again, much like SWCW where it went away before I could finish it). I’m starting over again. It has been long enough that I really don’t remember the characters or the relationships well enough to try to pick up where I left off. I will try to finish this series this time around (again, like B5), and if I do so, I will post a review of the series on the blog.
Streaming: Hello and Goodbye
So the thing about streaming is that it is almost a lot like broadcast network: you are at the whim of the providers and licensors as to what you can watch when. It takes away choice. The providers go out and acquire the content and you watch it. However, not all providers have all the content, meaning subscriptions to multiple providers to get a good coverage of old and new content. Now, content provider sees these subscription fees as way of guaranteeing revenue (hence, CBS All Access, Disney’s upcoming streaming service, and the myriad of others who want in on the act, like NBC Sports). However, the market cannot and will not support all these services, so just like all other markets, most will fail until an oligopoly has been established of the main players (usually 2-3, sometimes more, but rarely) and equilibrium will be established. There will always be smaller players (a fair amount), but in the end, there will only be a few major players. The problem is that everyone, no matter how late they are to the party (I’m looking at you Apple) wants to be a part of the oligopoly. And while the consumer may ultimately win through competition, we’re about to enter a phase where the consumer will be the ultimate loser since the only way to get all the content will be to buy as many services as one can afford–not great on the consumer’s bottom line.
Until the shakeup happens and content providers stop there own services and partner with larger companies, the consumer loses. And will this happen? I point you to the immenient shutdown management platforms like VUDU and the like. They wanted to be a place where you dumped all movies that you purchased so as to diffuse the power and domination they felt Apple had in the marketplace. Now they are going away and Apple still maintains its dominance in purchased content, but has seceded its in content to the “streaming” platforms.
My point is that capitalism is NOT always good for the consumer, especially whenever there is market upheaval. The market doesn’t always work in the consumer’s favor and we need to stop gushing over capitalism as if it is a “perfect” system. Like all human inventions and endeavors, it has its flaws, and the fact that I no longer have access to watch a show through no action of my own that I hadn’t finished highlights just one of the many flaws in the system.
I guess I’m writing about this, not to gripe or to propose a better system, but in the hopes that by pointing out the flaws, someone (an economist or theorist) many be able to implement ideas that can correct these flaws.
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2nd Draft–Starlight, Starbright: “Exposition” — I worked on the beginning of the story and reworked it to add in more characterization, more character backstory, and to revise the introduction of the story so that it matches the changes that I made in the middle of the story in the 1st draft (I didn’t go back and revise it as I figured I would get bogged down and not finish the 1st draft which is what I wanted to do.
The market that I’m aiming this for is a yearly one and it stops taking submissions on February 28th. I already missed a different market that stopped taking submissions on Jan. 31st (& will have to wait until June for their next period), so I don’t want to miss this one and have to wait an entire year (along with it having a different theme, to boot).
So, I finished the campaign for Star Wars Battlefront II published by EA. I bought it on sale (9.99) and I bought a digital copy. I played the first one (only because it was Star Wars) “day one,” and while it was fun, I really did miss having a campaign (I rarely played the first game, so it was money wasted). I decided that this time I would wait until the game went on sale before purchasing it. I thought the campaign was good–although Iden goes through a character change quite quickly about a third of the way through–and while I liked it, I did find it abrupt. I didn’t even bother with the multiplayer which is this game’s bread and butter because I didn’t like the “loot box” controversy–just let us play games EA, stop looking at you gaming customers as stupid sheep to be fleeced for your shareholders. Not cool.
Speaking of multiplayer, this week saw the release of Apex Legends, a first person shooter which mixes the best of Battle Royale games (like Player Unknown Battlegrounds (PUBg), “character shooters” (Overwatch) and cartoony action/combat (Fortnite). This game was released on Tuesday or Wednesday and it has taken the gaming world by storm. 10 million players have played it in approx. 72 hours. Whether it has staying power remains to be seen. Oh, I also one my first match today. It is a three-person team, and my contribution was healing, revives, and calling enemies, but even though I wasn’t the “star” on the team, my help was both necessary and critical to the win! 🙂
So, not much going on outside of work–for school and for my second job.
Oh, I got new contact lenses, but I don’t think there going to work out. I’m extremely near-sighted so we added a “multifocus” lens so that I could do better at reading, but in doing so, the distance is now very blurry and limited and I’m not really “feeling” them. While I can’t go back to my old pair (too old), I may have to try to see if we can’t give up some “reading” clarity to get some clarity for my distant vision because of all the driving that I do.
During one of the orientation sessions, one of the other students happened to be talking about Star Wars and both Solo and The Last Jedi happened to come up. Now, I’ve not seen Solo (although it is on Netflix and I fully intend to watch it in the near future. One of the students thought that The Last Jedi was the best of the Star Wars films because it was by Rian Johnson and that it was “as close to an art-house Star Wars film that we were likely to get.”
I argued that the movie ignored the characterization in Return of the Jedi specifically where Luke is in danger of becoming the Emperor’s puppet when he cuts off Vader’s hand and comes very close to striking down Vader in cold-blooded anger/hatred. While we both didn’t change each other’s mind, we could see each other’s points without delving into the worst part of fandom–the endless bickering.
Main-line Star Wars
So, for me, I’m less inclined for things like experimentation and trying new things in the “main-line” Star Wars stories–the numbered stories. For those stories, I want awesome plot and action, great characterization and character moments, and new and inventive world-building. I really want to see some of the best that Star Wars has to offer in these “main-line” Star Wars movies, and I think that here is not the place for experimentation. You have a “prototype”/”blue-print” of what works in the original trilogy. While I won’t say, ‘just do that,” as it gives filmmakers the lazy way out, it would be awesome to have the original characters act consistent to their previous characterization and bring in the new characters and their quirks into the mix while slowly phasing out the old. The form is there, but it requires solid execution, which didn’t happen in The Last Jedi in my opinion.
Anthology Stories for Experimentation
In my mind, the best place for experimentation on the order of what Johnson did would have been better served for the “anthology” movies like Solo or Rogue One. As a director on one of these stories, I feel that Johnson’s more “art-house” aesthetic, as noted by the other grad student, would have been more appropriate and I would have had more inclination to give Mr. Johnston the benefit of the doubt on his interpretation of the Star Wars universe. The other grad student said unequivocally that he was “good on not ever seeing Solo again after having seen it once.” Now imagine what different viewpoint a more independent filmmaker like Johnson could have delivered for Solo. There have been many aspersions cast Kathleen Kennedy’s way as the new guiding light for the Star Wars franchise after Lucas sold it to Disney, but this is where, again in my opinion, I think everything went awry. She should have “saved” a more avant garde director like Johnson for the anthology projects rather than the “main-line” ones. Looper was a critical darling and made waves as “serious” Sci-Fi, but is totally anathema to the “main-line” Star Wars series. It would be like asking Ridley Scott to direct a Star Wars film because of Alien and/or Bladerunner. Great sci-fi for both films, but totally different in terms of tone, content, and form.
For me, Johnson’s tone was completely off and his content wasn’t what I was hoping for even if he is an artistically and visually striking filmmaker while working with the form of Sci-Fi.
Project Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel Page Count: 12
I managed to add 71 words yesterday, well below my 250 word goal. In my defense, I only had about 40 minutes in-between assignments, but I probably could have gotten it done, but I had to eat dinner, and eating ribs and typing on a computer keyboard is a recipe for disaster. I also had time on my breaks, but chose not to work on it. Instead I skimmed YouTube for most of break time. Today, I’m going to make a concerted effort to use my break times for writing and save YouTube for the weekend. We’ll see tomorrow if I make it happen.
I, Robot = “bad”?
So, towards the end of the day at the Writing Center, a discussion emerged about the concept of Artificial Intelligence in video games and movies, and I brought up I, Robot as an example. Now, I know I, Robot isn’t regarded fondly in the Sci-Fi community, but I was surprised to hear a MA (Master’s level) student pull a “Freshman Fiat.” This is my term for when a freshman (or any other beginning level student) pronounces that something is “fact” and then provides no evidence for this pronouncement. He categorically stated that I, Robot was a “bad” movie, but without giving any shred of evidence (such as characterization, plotting, setting, tone, etc) to back up his statement and I was supposed to just agree because that is the general consensus.
But I don’t agree.
Not only do I not agree, but as a student learning more and more about Afrofuturism, I would argue that the general consensus has less to do with the movie’s quality in terms of story construction than it does with the appearance of the hero and the formation of the hero’s identity.
But Looper = “good”?
As a counterpoint to the I, Robot narrative, I would offer the (as evidence, which the other participant in the debate never gave, I must repeatedly emphasize), the movie Looper. Looper is a time travel story, one which (minor spoilers–skip down if you want to know nothing about the plot) sets the protagonist against an older version of himself.
Looper was hailed as a “great” movie and was critically acclaimed. It also made its director Rian Johnson a powerhouse in the Sci-Fi movie community (which ultimately lead to The Last Jedi and the splintering of the Star Wars fandom). However, I found Looper (and The Last Jedi to a lesser degree) to be one of the least inventive, least original, and a movie so lacking in character motivation that it made the main character seem flat and uninteresting. And yet, this movie is hailed as what we should aspire to in Science Fiction filmmaking, while I, Robot, which tries to explore the idea what a soul is and where does it reside, and can it reside in a machine created by man (i.e, first explored by “high” literature such as Frankenstein, and explored in many different movies, including the highly successful Terminator films).
What Makes It So?
I would challenge viewers to watch (or rewatch) each film and focus on the protagonists–the main characters. I would also encourage viewers to take a moment to look at the way each character is defined and acts within the context of his respective movie. Although one is a darker shade in terms of skin tone and borrows from his cultural heritage, I would argue that it is Looper’s protagonist who acts in a more stereotypical way. The protagonist in Looper doesn’t emote (characteristic of the “strong, silent” type), his actor has the classic “Hollywood” face (“square-jawed”), and the character acts out of a misplaced sense of “love” (the character himself isn’t faced with any overriding conviction), whereas the protagonist of I, Robot hates the robots in his world as a way of displacing his own “self-hate” at the way his circumstances turned out.
I would argue that I, Robot challenges the stereotypical narrative far more than Looper does, but that the casting of the protagonist in Looper conforms more to the expectations of the viewers and thus, allows Looper benefit from a story that is far less engaging and far less revolutionary than the story that I, Robot tells.
If you happen to disagree, that’s perfectly valid. I just wanted to take a moment to highlight a few of the reasonswhy I think that I, Robot gets a bad “rap.” At least, there’s no “Freshman Fiat” to deal with here–you have points that you can refute if you disagree.
And that was ultimately the point of today’s post: a little more reason and a little less fiat. Thanks for reading!
This collection is available from Amazon.com, however, it appears to have been rereleased later with the packaging being different than the one I bought.
Star Wars: The Complete Saga is one of those purchases that Lucasfilm marketing and George Lucas counted on fans like myself buying. Until Lucas sold the SW brand to Disney, SW was pretty much my favorite series of all time due to the characters, mythology, and world-building. Regardless of how you like (or dislike) Disney’s handling of the sequels, SW: TCS represented all 6 of the movies on Bluray up until that point. The fidelity of the movies (picture quality and sound) are stunning. While the prequels are of questionable quality based on their story and characterization, they are a masterful technical achievement with the space battle sequence of the 3rd movie integrated computer graphics.
The “Original” Story
It should be noted at the outset that if you are “purist,” you still aren’t getting the “original” release of the original SW movies with this collection–rather the “Special Editions” of those movies that Lucas recut in the late 1990s with the additional CGI material added in. Just so you’re aware. I prefer the original cut of the movies, but it isn’t a make or break deal for me. I’ve gushed over this trilogy before in other blog posts, so I won’t rehash it here, but I think that the audio and the picture fidelity is really good. Not 4K unfortunately, but still an awesome 1080p master of the movies.
No Sequels (or Digital Editions)
So, that’s right–this came out before Lucas sold the rights to the brand to Disney, so The Force Awakens isn’t included (nor Rogue One, and now, The Last Jedi), so it really is the “Not so Complete Edition,” but at the time it was “complete.” One thing that really bums me out about this edition is the lack of Digital Editions. This almost was a deal-breaker for me, and I almost didn’t purchase this edition. The Lord of the Rings: The Motion Picture Trilogy Extended Editionsdid come with Digital Editions (and the Extended Editions to boot–but I don’t think Amazon is selling that “edition” anymore as it wasn’t there when I looked for this post). Lucasfilm wanted to “double-dip” and get paid twice for the same content. As much as I would like the convenience of digital as these are my favorites, I refuse to pay again for these movies and I do not own them in digital format, especially when their competition figured it out. Still, to have the “complete” (at the time) set, I ultimately decided it was worth it.
Well, that’s it for today, and I hope you enjoyed this brief look at another boxed set that is on my Bookshelf.
Each week, a YouTube channel that I subscribe to called Digital Trends puts out a couple of different podcasts. They are a tech-based show, covering Home Entertainment, Home Theater, Laptops, HDTVs, Smart Home/Smart Speakers, etc., so their content, including podcasts are mostly tech-focused. However, one of their podcasts, Between the Streams is a fun, “end-of-the-week” look at the happenings in movies, entertainment, etc. As someone whose 2nd Academic speciality is probably going to be Popular Culture, I find myself tuning in more often than not. In the latest episode, BTS 093, they mentioned villains and how they “love” a good villain.
Okay, so this is probably where the generations have diverged in culture. Baby Boomers and Gen X’ers (like myself), tend to prefer heroes (John McClain, Han Solo/Luke Skywalker, MacGyver, Hercule Poirot, etc). We like villains, but only in so much as we want things to be challenging to the hero. For instance, Alan Rickman‘s performance as the villain in Die Hard was so tense because he was the smart enough to go toe-to-toe with Bruce Willis’ tough, no-nonsense cop John McClain, who had grit and determination. However, in the past ten years or so, I’ve heard a shift where a cool villain seems to be the only requirement now for good entertainment. They were discussing various incarnations of the The Joker, but they make no mention of various actors or incarnations of The Batman. Batman is a non-entity in his own movies. For them, it is all about the villains and the Rogue’s Gallery and that makes me sad.
“A More Wretched Hive of Scum and Villainy”–Star Wars: Episode IV, A New Hope
Let’s take Star Wars as a quick example. There are people giddy with joy over Kylo Ren and the fact that the Last Jedi has a scene (no spoilers) where he and Rey meet. They’ve even fashioned a name for the pair, “Reylo” in hopes that they will become a couple. Really? You want your hero character to become an item with someone who has murdered other people in cold blood? And let’s say that happens, then what does that say about your main character/hero? Are they then complicit in the act? Rey knew about it and knew that the character escaped justice/consequences, so would she now be tainted with the same “blood” as her murderous “boyfriend” (again, assuming the producers follow up on the “Reylo” idea). Luke is a “whiny kid” up until a turning point in his later into Star Wars and that’s all anyone ever cares to remember about him (esp. in relation to the cooler Han Solo character), but Luke’s arc is critical the successful revelation to the story because he has to deny evil in order for the story to work. If he were anything like Kylo (whom the new SW) movies seem to dote on, the whole universe would be under the power of the malevolent Emperor now, with Luke standing by the Emperor’s side dealing out murder and injustice and bathed in blood like his father before him.
“There are Always Men Like You”–Marvel’s Avengers
Not to get all us vs them generational divide, but it is that denial that is at the center of it all. Too many people today seem to want to be in power/have power even if that power comes at the expense of doing what is right. In the mind of a villain, might makes right where as in the mind of a hero doing right is a struggle to be overcome. Like Yoda said when Luke asked him about the Dark Side of the Force–“No. No. No. Quicker, easier, more seductive.” That is what villainy entails–a quicker, easier route to what you want and if that means crushing the life (sometimes literally) out of whoever is in your way, then so be it. But that doesn’t mesh with our belief that all life is unique and should be allowed to prosper in their own way. A villain says there is only one way: my way! And shouldn’t we (especially as a species–older generations and new alike) stand up and say, we reject this and we reject you!