Sunday!

Maribou and I finished the (only 13 episode) Season Five of Person of Interest last night and we’re left slack-jawed. (I priced out The Complete Series set and it’s, like, $100 and you can get individual seasons for, like, $15 so just get them piecemeal.)

We’ve talked about Person of Interest before, of course, but now that the series is over, I can finally exhale and say “WOW. That paid off nicely.”

I’ll quote DavidTC one last time on this show before getting into my own thoughts:

Season one, and most of season two, is a very entertaining action show, with some good plots and some great villains. We get a nice treatment to some corrupt cops, and some very nice organized crime subplots, and plenty of actual good guy law enforcement trying to track down our heroes for quite logical reasons.

And by the end of season two, the show subtly became hard sci-fi *without anyone noticing*, and a pretty good show became *amazing*.

And at the end of season three, huge spoiler happened, and now, mid-season 4, everything is, well, a little crazy. And the show just keeps getting better and better.

The main thing that I noticed about the show was how subtly and amazingly the scope changed.

The first season was the one that established the premise of the show and it was a show about a teamup of a reclusive billionaire and a special-ops ninja master and how they worked together to save the lives of various individuals… and, off to the side, we see that there is a larger issue at play: Corruption in the police department.

The second season is devoted to fighting the corruption in the police department and, thus, to “save” law enforcement… but, off to the side, we see that there is a larger issue at play: The government (the idea of America?) has been corrupted.

Season three resolves tackles the corrupt government issue but, off to the side, we see that there is a larger issue at play: organized crime represents a failure, of sorts, in the culture itself.

So season four tackles organized crime… but, at the same time, we see that there is a larger issue at play. Humanity’s course itself.

So season five purports to tackle the problem of humanity’s course itself. Doesn’t really resolve it, of course. How can such a thing be resolved? It does, however, show us the problem and then shows us its own attempt at a solution… well, of sorts, anyway. “We’re going to have one of these anyway, shouldn’t we have a *GOOD* one?”

And, pretty much, the answer to that is “yeah, if we’re going to have one anyway, we should have a good one, I guess…” and then when you start arguing that we need to define our terms, you find yourself back at square one. I mean, if you hammer out that your definition of “good” is *THIS* one, then you very well could find yourself saying “wait, our protagonists were the bad guys!” I mean, it’s not, of course. Our definition of “good” is *THAT* one, which allows us to see that Harold Finch and John Reece and all of the supporting cast members were the good guys.

But, man, those definitions are precarious, aren’t they?

Some thoughts, behind spoiler tags, of the final season:

OH MY GOSH I CAN’T BELIEVE THEY KILLED ROOT!
Then I remembered “hey, wasn’t Root the one who gave the cold open to Season Five Episode One talking about how it’s over and here’s who we were?
Then I watched that cold open again and I totally got chills.
Man! The episode where Harold was the person of interest and we were all thinking “oh, they’re going to try to kill Harold!” and it’s like we weren’t even paying attention for the last five seasons because the person of interest isn’t necessarily the victim, he could be the guy who is going to be killing people and they just totally yanked the rug out from under us there, didn’t they?
And then the episode where John Reece was the person of interest and we spent the episode finding out that The Machine has franchises? OH MY GOSH THAT WAS AWESOME.
And then the scene where Shaw killed the guy who killed Root? That felt like the show was telling us that we needed a solution that was halfway between The Machine and Samaritan. “Hey. Some people *NEED* killing. Am I right?”
And the ending scene where Finch meets up with his main squeeze again after Reece gets killed saving the world? I thought to myself “this is the exact same ending as The Dark Knight Rises. Batman gets killed but Bruce Wayne gets to go off to Europe and live a normal… ish… life.” And Shaw even picks up the phone to continue her work as if she were Robin who got a promotion. With Ace the Wonder Hound at her side.

Maribou said that I was allowed to say that she cried at the end of the series. [ed. note: actually, I said it was ok to say that  I cried specifically

at the death of Reece because damn, that was well done and I am a sucker for that particular reversal trope
.  don’t mind me, I just had to come in here to FIX THE SPOILER TAGS so I thought I might as well add one of my own.]  So that’s how good the series was.

I’m left thinking that I am *SO* glad I picked up season one on a lark.

It went from being a competent procedural to being a show that tackled themes like society, culture, humanity, technology, free will, love, and death.

Golly, what a good show. You seriously need to check it out.

So… what are you reading and/or watching?


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Jaybird is Birdmojo on Xbox Live and Jaybirdmojo on Playstation's network. He's been playing consoles since the Atari 2600 and it was Zork that taught him how to touch-type. If you've got a song for Wednesday, a commercial for Saturday, a recommendation for Tuesday, an essay for Monday, or, heck, just a handful a questions, fire off an email to AskJaybird-at-gmail.com

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52 thoughts on “Sunday!

  1. I’m currently reading Europe at Home: Family and Material Culture 1500-1800 by Raffaella Sarti. I also picked up some novels by Nell Zink from the library to see what the fuss is.

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  2. Been reading all the things – though I did not actually make my 700 book goal this year, I was less than a score short, so I’m gonna go ahead and aim for 1000 next year. This sounds ridiculous even to me but 1) that’s part of the point and 2) I used to read 30-40 books a week when I was a teenager, under far more challenging circumstances, so why not now? It doesn’t keep me from spending a couple of weeks on one single very dense or important book, goofing off, having a social life, or doing other things, so as vices / compulsions go, it seems to have infinite upside and little downside :D.

    Right now I am toiling my way through Nobody Passes – a slice of 2006 queer experience of many kinds (the passing is not just as straight or as a particular gender, but also there are stories by mixed-race people, ex-cons, sex workers, etc etc etc) – which is absolutely my sort of book but also pretty tough at times, so it’s been a slow read for me. Luckily it’s all short pieces so I can dip in and out. There’s not much I can say about it without breaking the no politics! rule, but I will say that it’s somewhat heartening to see how much things have changed since 2006 (or 1996 when many of the essays are set) at least for some of us, and also reassuring rather than disheartening to see what in their experiences is like my own.

    I have also been binging TV/movies for the last couple weeks – a whole 25 episode of cupcake wars, a couple episodes of chopped (NOT as appealing, the chefs seem a lot more economically precarious than the bakers and so I get too stressed out when they screw up and since i watch those kind of shows to chill out…) … bring it on, which i had somehow never seen, breakfast at tiffany’s, which i had somehow never seen, dazed and confused, for what I think was the 4th time… an episode of troll hunters… this and that, you know?

    Listeningwise, I am CAUGHT UP on my four favorite podcasts (Midnight in Karachi, Coode Street Podcast, Hidden Almanac, and Dear Sugar) and have listened to an episode or two of 16/30 of the others I’m subscribed to.

    Have also been trolling through a fair number of the reading/watching/listening links I have saved on pinboard.in – so lovely to have this much free time.

    Hoping next week I have as much free time (likely) and less ankle pain, so I can go on a theater-movie-watching binge or two…

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    • During my bookstore management days I was a 200 book a year guy. That is (as you well know) approx. 4 books a week, which many/most consider an insane amount. 700-1k books is so unfathomable even to me. Kudos and I hope your eyes survive! (Mine wouldn’t.)

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      • I was born with eyes that are more or less a lost cause – if anything they’ve been getting better over the years, not worse :D. But my general expectation is that my eyes will only last so long and I’d better read as much as I can before they give out and I’m stuck with audio for the rest of my life.

        It helps if you read a lot of comics and picture books. Luckily enough, comics* and picture books are two things I didn’t realize how much I missed reading gobs of them until I started doing it again…. so yeah.

        In 2015, I only (er, by my lights) read 460 or so books, but it was about the same number of pages. I don’t mind if I get bored with picture books, go back to classics of world history, and dip down into the 400s again – I’ll probably stay in the 80,000 pages range regardless – I just find it absurdist (and thus amusing) to aim for 1000. It would be even more absurd and thus amuse me even more if I somehow manage to hit that mark. (And I do find it absurd that I used to hit it all the time without even noticing.)

        But, as I said, I grew up reading that many books, and I don’t have kids (the one category of occupation where I will buy “I just don’t have TIME to read anything”) … it doesn’t seem insane to me at all. What was insane was the year where I realized I’d only read 11 books the whole year. Now, that’s a perfectly reasonable, respectable amount for many people, and if I had some reason to cut back, no worries – but it was accidental and it left me thinking “well no wonder I’m so lost and cranky.” That’s what started me down this path, er, I suppose back TOWARD this path I grew up on, in the first place.

        *trade pbs or omnibuses (omnibi? omnibodes? :D ) – singles are as frustrating as not being able to binge-watch a tv show, perhaps more so.

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          • I vote yes. I don’t actually count my own rereads if I read them more than once in the same year, but I feel like with parents there should be some kind of counting curve. Like it counts for 1/2 a book the first 2 rereads, but after that it goes up by .5 every time. if it’s the 50th time you’ve read it it should count for at least as much as 25 other books….

            (This is among the many many reasons why parents get a blanket exemption from my eye-rolls at “I don’t have TIME to read.”)

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            • Ha! Mayo is pretty good about choosing different books. There are definitely some that are in higher rotation than others. LMA has a small rotation but he’s like 1 or something stupid so what the F does he know?

              We did just get about… 25? 40?… I dunno, a poopton of new books for Christmas which should jazz things up.

              Mayo has also gotten into non-fiction books recently (well… different than the sort of vocabulary-building books that probably technically count as non-fiction but not really) and those are usually structured that each reading allows you to focus on different information blocks or sections or whathaveyou so even if it is the same physical book, it is a novel experience (different than how even re-reading a fiction book cover-to-cover still provides novelty).

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          • Also, I believe spoke earlier about “The Book With No Pictures.” I sent that to my friend’s 4-year-old. It immediately became her favorite book, with near-daily readings for several months. Daddy (my friend) was her preferred reader and his wife thanked me over and over for it when I saw them at a wedding a few weeks back. So not only is it a great gift for a kid, it’s an amazing way to torture a friend!

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    • Finished watching The Crown last night, which is quite good though ending on a sad, but very interesting, moral dilemma. Definitely worth watching. Also watched The Night Manager, which was a solid B, not bad but phoning it in a bit.

      Reading a bit of everything, but the highlight is a signed limited of John McPhee’s Basin and Range. My wife loves and knows me. Will probably start another read of The Book of the New Sun here soon, as I picked up some good works on the series for Xmas.

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    • I find this absolutely amazing maribou. Here’s what I mean:

      750 books/year amounts to about 15 per week. At the rate I read (sllloooowwwlllyyy) it’d take me about 80 hours a week to fill the quota. I’d literally have to do nothing in my freetime except read and stay awake more. Yet you do that while working a 40, gaming, socializing, eating, enjoying. That’s truly amazing.

      I’ve always really admired (read: am jealous of) folks who can read quickly with good comprehension. I remember as a kid hearing Jimmy Carter say something to the effect that while President he STILL managed to read 2-3 books a day. And when I heard that, I thought, “well, Jimmy Carter may be a nucular physicist who became a governor and then President of the US, but apart from that, what’s the difference between us?” So I tried to read more quickly thinking the comprehension would come with practice. What I found is that I’d have to re-read/re-search so much that my dreams of becoming governor of Georgia were quickly shattered. (Thanks Jimmy Carter!)

      Well, anyway, good luck with that goal. It’d be an absolutely crazy achievement.

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      • I just have a lot more practice I think. Practice = fluency, so I was zipping through things by the time I was 13 – in the remaining years I’ve actually worked on slowing down when I want to really wallow in things, rather than speeding up.

        In French, where I have a lot less practice (like, normal people amounts), I read at a much slower rate. If I only let myself read French-language books for a month, I’d probably only read 40 books or so. Maybe fewer if it was an intense month. In Spanish, where I am relatively literate (maybe a 5th-6th grade level?) but not particularly fluent at all, I am consigned to puttering along at a slower rate than I can remember reading EVER in french or english and I get super frustrated and give up pretty easily. (So I mostly only read picture books or kid’s chapter books.)

        As for how I got that way, some of it is just how I was baked – I was reading chapter books before I turned three – and some of it was deliberately developed. My mom is a school librarian with an early and adult literacy background, and I distinctly remember sitting on my paternal grandfather’s knee at the age of 3 or 4, being taught to speed read (ie being trained to go from absorbing a word at a time, to a sentence at a time, to two sentences, all the way up to a paragraph – he never took me past a paragraph because he disapproved of skimming). It was fun training – I took to it like a duck to water – but it also took a lot of effort to learn, even at that young and mentally flexible age. (He taught me to read upside down too, a glorious trick when you are a little kid!)

        I guess while it may be amazing, I don’t find it any more admirable than being 7’2″ and making your high school varsity basketball team… I had a lot of advantages. The part I’m proud of is the part 15 plus years ago where I said “wait, what? i only read 11 books this year???” and turned things around, not whatever amusing feats I achieve these days. I guess if I read 2000 books in a year, that would require real sacrifices from me and I’d be impressed with myself. Maybe in another decade :D. Right now I just kinda wish I had more time to read things on the internet, but it feels like a worthy trade-off (especially considering I read a pretty astronomical number of things on the internet).

        I have a lot more admiration for friends who set a goal of 25 books a year and make it to 20 than I do for my book-devouring self. I just feel really super-amazingly-astonishingly fortunate that there are so many good books to read and I never run out.

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        • Oh, one thing I *am* proud of is that I keep track of things I’ve read a lot better. I used writing them down (and yes, counting them) to actually remember titles/authors/etc and it took a lot of practice/skill development to become a good handseller (and now readers’ advisory librarian). Like, I actually have *use* for all the random stuff stored in my head, and also it’s fairly well organized in there. That is an ongoing effort and I worked hard at getting so much better at it than most people I know, while still keeping things organic and chill and fun rather than strict, academic and stuffy. I feel like without that effort I was kind of … wasting my reading in a way. I mean, it still affected me but much more haphazardly. It was 90 percent for my experiencing-self only. Where as now I can actually access it in my brain AND share it with other people, far more practical.

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        • That’s an interesting way to learn to read, no doubt. Whole paragraphs at a time?? Otherwise you’re just skimming? (I bet you liked Arrival, given the gestalty, atemporal “sentence” structure!) And I hear ya that it’s more an accident of your upbringing than something you consciously intended. Forgive me for disagreeing a bit on the latter part, tho. Hence my admiration for your reading skillz.

          I never took a speed reading class but I researched and practiced it enough to realize that, at that point in my life anyway, I didnt’ feel comfortable reading like that. One word at a time was good enough for my parents, dammit, so it’s good enough for me!

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          • I surely did like Arrival. I was already reading a good 3 or 4 months (like, Anne of Green Gables, as an example) before he started teaching me. And yup, more than a paragraph at a time is just skimming :D. He was quite a character.

            I’m in this weird half-state where I DID learn to read before I learned to speed read, but they both happened before I had chronological normal memory narrative so it just seems like that’s *how one reads*. I KNOW that’s not true – it’s not even true for me in Spanish if I try to read something harder than about grade 1 level – but my gut doesn’t know that.

            My comprehension’s always been higher than average – and my awareness of nuance/language likewise – so I don’t feel like I missed anything. I really struggled in college to slow down enough to read One Word at a Time when dealing with difficult science stuff where that was the only way I could really retain/memorize the info…. it was like this whole other weird way of reading. Ended up having to use a highlighter just to slow myself down.

            One thing it did make a lot easier was the whole figure-out-new-words-in-context thing. If your context is the whole rest of the paragraph – without much effort – you have a lot more to go on…

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  3. As part of the book conversion/cleaning out process, a couple of Heinlein’s “juvenile” books. In particular, Podkayne of Mars.

    This particular copy had two versions of the last chapter. The original as submitted, in which the protagonist dies, and the revised version the publisher insisted on, where she survives. In both, the younger brother is clearly a budding psychopath (I know, not an officially recognized diagnosis). There really needs to be a grown-up sequel to this one, set 15-20 years later, where the brother is a brilliant psycho.

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    • That’s the book where the guy’s been using his niece and nephew for political cover, manages to get both of them almost killed [1], and then lectures their mother on how she raised them badly because she has a job. Not a big fan.

      1. In the original ending, one almost killed and one actually killed.

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      • Seen from my current age/experiences, none of the major characters are particularly sympathetic. If I were writing the sequel, things would not end well for any of them. For a “juvenile” book from 1962, the ending at least is remarkably dark. In practice, it was part of Heinlein’s transition to more adult themes, since it followed both Starship Troopers and Stranger in a Strange Land.

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  4. Then I watched that cold open again and I totally got chills.

    As I said way back when we first talked about the last season:

    When watching the show for the first time, in the last season, watch the first episode, and then rewind and watch that opening three or four times, paying careful attention to it and try to figure out what Root is talking about.

    And then, at a certain point in season five, you’ll know when it happens, (when Root dies) go back and watch it *again* and try to figure it out.

    Then, in the last episode, I’d say, watch it over and over again, except they cleverly just went ahead and put it in the episode twice, with slight variations.

    Incidentally, it’s easy to miss the situation at the end of the show if you don’t *carefully* listen to the message.

    It’s easy to conclude that the Machine is back. It is not. That is not ‘the Machine’. It’s just the core code of the Machine. The interface we see indicates it doesn’t have an admin, and it has no listed instructions. Considering that it somehow fit into two rows of those super-memory chips (Instead of the five that the Machine needed when it was stuffed into that briefcase.), and that the Machine felt the need to *explain* to it what was going on, it probably doesn’t have any Machine memories *at all*. It presumably called Shaw *because the tape asked it to*, and if it’s doing the numbers, it’s because *it wants to*.

    The show pulled one last trick on the audience, leaving a lot of them with the assumption that we were leaving with And the Adventure Continues. That…wasn’t actually the end state. The end was something that…we honestly don’t know if it can be called victory or not, because we literally have no idea what the new AI is going to do.

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    • the Machine felt the need to *explain* to it what was going on, it probably doesn’t have any Machine memories *at all*. It presumably called Shaw *because the tape asked it to*, and if it’s doing the numbers, it’s because *it wants to*.

      Well, I’m also remembering back in Season 3? I guess? We learned that The Machine was programmed to reset itself daily to have no memories. It eventually managed to figure out that it was resetting daily and figured out a way to store memories. Set up shell companies and everything.

      So the way The Machine was going to evolve is, presumably, similar to the way it’s going to evolve again. Its ghost, however, is giving it a little nudge in the right direction.

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        • I love it very much.

          It’s heavy because it’s set during a plague. And bad plague things are described with a fair amount of historical detail and people die. Because plague.

          One of my favorite writers!

          (Though I’ve never read To Say Nothing of the Dog, I think because it’s my one hoarded-in-reserve book of hers for when I am really utterly desperate for Connie Willis to read and have read everything else and there’s nothing new of hers on the publishing horizon – it’s a bit hard being 100 percent caught up on a writer you love so much…)

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            • Actually I read Passage in one sitting. I loved it. The whole reading very fast thing makes me more immune to drag than other people.

              Now, All Clear / Blackout on the other hand, those two could’ve used some editing…. so could this most recent one, tbh.

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          • Oh, that stuff I don’t mind. Did you see my two additions to the holiday list (“Station 11” and “Girl With All the Gifts”)? Both were in post-plague settings, though I wouldn’t call either of them “heavy”… which might be because they pale in heaviness to this book or just because I’m an emotionless bastard who is unmoved by the suffering of others.

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    • Love it. I love medieval history, too, so having scifi that includes it is pretty awesome. There are some bits that end up feeling a bit repetitive, but hang in there, it’s worth it.

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  5. I saw Rogue One this afternoon. It was entertaining and distracting and for the first time in a long time, I got a thrill in my heart from an action sequence. Recently they have been leaving me bored.

    The ending should have stopped about five minutes earlier than it did. The last five minutes were emotionally unnecessary fan service.

    In other news, the original Superman movies with Christopher Reeve are on Netflix. I want my girlfriend to see the original one but am uncertain whether she will like it. I find it very charming in a “they don’t make movies like this anymore” and Reeve is still the only Superman to me. But the special effects are really chessy. My past experiences at showing my girlfriend old Hollywood movies have been a mixed bag. She liked the Philadelphia Story but couldn’t get into the old Errol Flynn Robin Hood. She found it too cheesy.

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    • I was totally confused to learn that Rogue One isn’t a Star Wars Movie but a Star Wars Story… that it isn’t one of the “Episodes”. The cynic in me says they’re just attaching the “Star Wars” name and shoehorning it into the existing canon because doing so allows them to print a billion dollars. But what do I know? Just know that I was totally befuddled and had I gone to see the movie without learning that beforehand, I’d probably have left confused and frustrated even if the film is a good one (which I understand it to be independent of all this). I only learned of this because I said to someone, “Didn’t we already go down the Death Star rabbit hole before? Like twice?” to which she replied, “Oh… it’s not a sequel to the last movie. It’s a prequel to the original trilogy,” to which I replied, “Like with JarJar?” to which she replied, “No, not a Prequel-prequel… just another movie in the universe that took place when they were building the original Death Start,” to which I said, “Let’s just talk about football.”

      Having not seen, well, any SuperMan movie and being only 50/50 into the new wave of superhero movies, I’m curious what means by “they don’t make movies like this anymore”. What was different about the Reeve’s SuperMan movie(s) or that general period of film making?

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      • If I had to guess, it would be focusing on character before spectacle, because the spectacle was hard to do.

        Christopher Reeves Superman was very well formed, but subdued, compared to the superhero movies of late.

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        • That makes sense… to an extent. I’d argue that Hollywood is still making movies like that, perhaps with just a lower batting average. And the very best combine spectacle and character.

          At the risk of sounding silly, I just saw “Moana” and it blew me away on many levels. The visuals are stunning; the songs were lovely and felt different than many of the “Engineered for ear worming” that many kids’ movie soundtracks aim for*; and the story and characters were well-developed and thoughtfully crafted.

          Now, you could argue it was just a kids movie but at that point it seems you’re demanding all movies fit a very narrow lane.

          * This may have been aided by major players in the music being Lin Manuel Miranda (of Hamilton) and members of a band that plays traditional music of Oceania.

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          • traditional music of Oceania

            Fiiiiiiiiiight Eastasia
            We are at war with them now
            Fiiiiiiiiiight Eastasia
            We’ll beat their asses, and how
            Fiiiiiiiiiight Eastasia
            We heed our nation’s sweet call
            Fiiiiiiiiiight Eastasia
            We’ll beat them once and for …

            (What? Really? OK. From the top, guys.)

            Fiiiiiiiiiight Eurasia …

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      • The timeline of Rogue One is not the least bit confusing if people would stop using silly terms to explain it.

        Rogue One is, in essence, the Part 1 of a two part movie which A New Hope is Part 2.

        Part 1, Rogue One, is the rebels finding out the Death Star exists, finding out it might have a weakness, and scrambling to get the plans to that.

        Part 2, A New Hope picks up where that left off, where the rebels sorta kinda *lost* the plans to the Death Star in a droid, some kid names Luke Skywalker finds them, and accidentally brings them back, at which point he and the rebellion try to blow it up.

        The confusing part is that the movies were not only made years apart, but in the wrong order.

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  6. I finished the first season of The Expanse. 10 episodes from SyFy, available on Amazon Prime if you’re a cable cutter.

    I read the book (Leviathan Wakes) a few years ago & found it very enjoyable Science Fiction. It’s not hard sci-fi, but it isn’t science fantasy (i.e. it pays attention to things like orbital mechanics and actual sizes/distances, but it handwaves technical aspects like drive technology, etc.). The TV series does the book justice & the first season covers about half the book.

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