Ordering Movies For Future Generations

I finally got to see Rogue One recently, and it got me thinking. I was an infant when Star Wars was released, so I only know a world where the Star Wars movies exist out of order. If you’re unfamiliar with the current state of things, storyline-wise, Rogue One tucks neatly in between the original trilogy and the prequel trilogy.) Between the prequel trilogy being released second, and trying to catch up with Clone Wars (I did finally do it. Someday, I’ll even get to Rebels.) it doesn’t even faze me.

There are people who see the prequel trilogy before the original trilogy. Because that’s where we are in the collecting of Star Wars movies. And there will be kids who will start with The Phantom Menace, knowing that they’re in for a nine-movie ride, more if they choose to keep Rogue One and any other spin-offs in the marathon.

It won’t always be this way. It’s already not always this way. Those who, like me, grew up with the movies not taking place in order are asking themselves how best to introduce their own children to the Star Wars universe. It’s not uncommon to see social media posts asking for people’s opinion on this matter. No one seems to have a solid answer to the question (beyond, “Is Jar Jar Binks really what you want your child’s first Star Wars experience to be?”), so there are now people who watched the movies in numerical order (or machete order in some cases).

You can already tell the kids who watch the movies in chronological number, because they can’t understand why the movie quality degrades so severely between the prequel trilogy and the original trilogy, and then you get to explain to them they have things a little backwards and the original trilogy was cutting edge at its time. (Please don’t ask how many times I had this conversation while I was teaching. I stopped counting after about a hundred.)

Star Trek has a similar problem, although theirs seems to be more wrapped up in keeping track of the development of alien races. “Day of the Dove”-era Klingons were not in Star Trek VI because the producers wanted Worf’s grandfather to look more like Worf than Kang. And with “The Last Outpost” in mind, I quit watching Enterprise when the (DS9-era) Ferengi waltzed in. Continuity and the world bible be hanged, apparently!

But it also brings to mind The Chronicles of Narnia, all published before I was born. I swiped my mother’s boxed set, arranged in order of publication, and read them when I was in college. My best friend at the time had just been given an omnibus that had recently been published, and contained the books in the order they happen. We couldn’t even discuss the books because we kept trying to work by book number instead of title, and we eventually gave up.

Of course, I had the luxury of reading The Dark Elf Trilogy before I read Icewind Dale, so what do I know?

Teaching by Example – Geek & Sundry’s DM Tips

I’m well behind the ball on this, but things have been busy. I’ve watched Critical Role from the beginning and I really enjoy watching Matthew Mercer weave his tale around his players (even when they cause him to literally slam closed his book of plans), so when the GM Tips webseries started with him as the host, it made sense to watch it as well. (One does not have to watch one to enjoy the other.) It was pretty much what I expected visually…mainly because it was very similar to the GM station on the Critical Role set at the time, and the tips were solid explanations of how he navigates thornier issues in running a game.

Mercer eventually bowed out, and Satine Phoenix took over the show. The set changed to reflect her DM style, and she started off her first episode talking about how different DMs have different styles and that’s perfectly fine and, really, to be expected. Without calling huge attention to it, she set the stage for this conversation by being exactly what she wanted to show. Where Mercer preferred takeaway tips, Phoenix has invited fellow DMs to come be interviewed for an aspect of DMing that they happen to be strong at. And it’s been pretty awesome.

It will be interesting see how things transition when the next host (assuming there is one) steps up.

One Last Misadventure for Rocket J. Squirrel

It was about twenty-four hours ago that we started learning June Foray had passed away yesterday morning. To generations who grew up with her numerous characters, the news was heartbreaking, despite the fact she was ninety-nine. (She would have been 100 in September.)

For me personally, I sort of shouted at Bob Bergen’s Facebook post. I didn’t want it to be true. I looked at Facebook’s trending topics, which knew nothing. (Not unusual.) So, I hopped over to  Twitter, where she was trending, but there was nothing official. Desperate to find out one way or the other, I searched Google…only to find a post from a self-proclaimed satire news site admitting to creating a death hoax for Foray earlier in the week, updated to confirm they had spoken with Foray’s reps yesterday and confirmed she was still alive and well.

No one knows who the site’s writers actually talked to, and that page vanished from the site for a bit. (It has been reinstated with the dates updated to today and tomorrow, but strangely…not with actual updated information.) In the time it took me to find that page last night, Bergen had explained that he had spoken to her caretaker yesterday. About half an hour later, the major entertainment blogs started picking up the story.

It’s not often that one of these “satire news sites” starts a celebrity death hoax, only to have the celebrity in question pass away just days later. But the better question is: What’s the value in starting these rumors to begin with? Do people really find it exciting to be told incorrectly that a celebrity has passed? Even worse, their rumor caused a valid announcement from a reputable source to be called into question…and then they willfully continue to lie, saying, “It’s okay. We admit we post fake news.”

Is it ever okay to claim someone is dead when they’re alive? How morally and emotionally bankrupt do you have to be to find joy in that manufactured distress?

At any rate, this particular rumor became true too quickly, and the world is just a little bit darker now. (A lot darker, really.) But she earned her rest, and we’re all richer for her sharing her talents with the world. She’ll be missed.

Getting My Nerd On

I’m watching trailers for the new Death Note live-action movie…and holding my breath. The story has been Americanized, which is pretty hilarious given that Ohba and Obata were heavily flamed once the manga made it to the States for the strongly anti-American sentiments expressed in the manga/anime. And apparently, the live-action director wanted to make a “darker, edgier version”. Um…has he ever read or seen Death Note? It’s pretty dark and edgy in its own right.

I’m also a bit fascinated by the casting. I haven’t seen any complaints about the racial make-up of the cast, and I’m kind of amazed. Of course, in the manga/anime, Light looks remarkably American despite being Japanese, so that’s the harder one to argue against. But Misa (whose name is so radically changed it took a minute to realize who she was) looks more like Misa in the second Japanese live-action movie than in the manga/anime. (Japanese audiences never complained about that adaptation glitch. It was the first time I really thought about how that level of cultural sensitivity is very much an American thing…which makes it sound like I think other countries couldn’t care less about cultural issues, which isn’t at all true. They just don’t get hung up on the things we do.)

This reminds me that I’ve never seen the first Japanese live-action movie…and that no one will be able to play L as well as the actor in the second Japanese live-action movie (loaned to me when the high schooler I had introduced to Death Note discovered I had not seen either movie.)

I will see this one, but I imagine I’m going to be spending a fair bit of time facepalming, beating my head against a desk, or some combination thereof… At least I have roughly two months to wrap my mind around this.

Except…

I’ve now heard a disturbing rumor that there are no potato chips in the new live-action Death Note movie. That is just…unforgivable…reprehensible… How can they honestly think they’re gong to get away with that? Sure, I mean…we all hate the potato chips…but still… That scene seriously loses all its impact without the potato chips. (Really, it’s only one potato chip in that bag that gets all the scene-stealing glory. But by golly, it steals that scene for all it’s worth! And then they repeat it in the recap!!! I’m sorry, but the director will have to justify this if there is in fact no potato chip. The fan musical gave the potato chip its own song, for crying out loud.)

I… I can’t even…

 

I do realize I’m sitting here losing it over the possible omission of a bag of potato chips. And I’m having a pretty good laugh at myself over it. But if you’ve seen the Death Note anime, you understand. And if you haven’t, it’s on Netflix. Please fix this lapse in your anime viewing.

Reading Fan Fiction May Be Hazardous to Your Health

As much as I complain about tag abuse on AO3, tonight I may have found the best tags ever. A Yu-Gi-Oh fanfic bore the tags “Allergen warning: Contains milk” and “May not be appropriate for those with a lactose intolerance”.

As I am lactose intolerant (a side effect of that oh-so-lovely hypoglycemia), I appreciated the warning.

But I skimmed the description, which ended with “Cheese inside”. And then I was torn. I refuse to let lactose intolerance take cheese or yogurt away from me. (I take a pill to eat ice cream…and I’ve just realized that’s probably why I haven’t felt well all evening. Heh. Oops.)

I ended up skimming on, but still. That might just be the best use of tags and description I’ve ever seen on a fanfic, and is certainly far less disconcerting than some of the trigger warnings I’ve seen.

If You Science, You Can’t Not Math

If you claim to be a scientist or into science, but trash math in the same breath…I’m going to look at you like you’ve lost your mind, because you clearly don’t science.

I struggled with math off and on growing up. (More often than not, the problem was a bad teacher. Gave me great empathy for the kids I taught years later.) I struggled with science classes off and on growing up. (Biology and life science. *shudder*) It was finding my science/STEM field of interest that finally nudged me to conquer my issues with math. It’s also how I came to understand that my inability to transfer my understanding of vectors from calculus to physics meant certain doom for any hope of pursuing my aerospace engineering dreams. I was excellent at calculus and pretty decent at physics…except for the one section I most needed. I even sought out tutoring, the only time in school I ever did. But it was like there was a language barrier that I just couldn’t surmount…when I don’t suck at language acquisition. That always felt particularly cruel to me.

But I didn’t hate math or science. I hated the bad teachers. And I hated vectors. Neither was enough to condemn either subject. (I did take a math specialization for my teaching degree even though I had more than enough science credits to take the science specialization because I didn’t want to look like the giant science nerd I am. How broken is that? I taught at the local science and history museum. I created science programs for them (astronomy, geology, water, and weather, thankyouverymuch). I used physics to fix my biggest problems in the ballet studio…and I was afraid people would find out I was a girl who loved science. Of course…I denied being a geek for well over a decade because I thought I was the least geeky person in the room. I never was, though…)

Anyway…

Smart Girls, Good Friends, and Pretty Dresses

Given my interest in girls in STEM, it made sense that I took notice the first time I saw an ad for the Project MC2 fashion dolls. The way the ads were structured, they appeared to be girls with interests across science, technology, and the arts, and I loved that. Then, I learned there was a series, and binge watched that while I was sick last month. As expected, the girls work together, each coming from her own STEM interests, to solve problems. And each girl is absolutely crazy about her own interests, and in exploring where her own interests intersect with the other girls’ interests. And this is all from girls wearing cute clothes and learning how to navigate the interpersonal skills appropriate to girls of their age. The series has a lot to offer.

I’ve since learned the dolls each come with experiments appropriate to the girl represented by the doll, along with tips for how to continue those experiments at home.

While I was sick, I also gave Liv and Maddie a shot. I’d heard an explanation of how the show was filmed (that involved splitting scenes oddly) that seemed so backwards for current technology. Having now watched the entire series (because I couldn’t stop myself), the show does not support that explanation. (It turns out they actually opted to use a technique from an older show with a single actress playing two roles.) But that’s not why I stuck it out. I watched the entire series because I was fascinated by Liv, the twin I assumed I wouldn’t like at first because she initially came across as stereotypical and flaky.

Except that seems to have been the point. Liv is an actress who has spent more time away from school than in it (beyond what would be required on set). She is into fashion and helping her friends get the boy. But she tends to make personal choices that support her friends and family. And no matter what she may think of someone, she tries to always have a kind word and not assume the worst of someone unless she has a reason.

She’s also been working on a science-heavy show, and has a great skill for recognizing where something she’s learned from the show can be applied to a situation she’s currently in. She helps out her nerdy brother by building the winning Rube Goldberg device in a competition. Taking construction skills she’s learned from her inventor best friend, she leads the other girls in her cast to build their own woodblock car and win a derby against the boys in the cast, changing the storyline in her show in the process. When she needs to quickly learn basketball for an audition, her athletic twin realizes she can use Liv’s ability to see connections and apply skills to use shopping to turn Liv into a passable player for the audition.

Both shows are great examples of interesting girls who are smart, while being good friends and people, while being totally girly. And girls need more opportunities to see that.

A Lifelong Geek Girl Tries to Process Today

Even though I think we all sort of knew it was coming (certainly, a number of news outlets and geek blogs were expecting it, for how quickly they got their articles published), Carrie Fisher’s passing earlier today has left all of us stunned, sad, and trying to decide how we each want to process it. Many are reflecting on her body of work both as an actress and as a writer. Many are reflecting on the way she moved through the world, warts and all. Many women are reflecting on how much Fisher’s iconic role Princess Leia has impacted their lives.

That’s pretty much where I’m sitting. I wasn’t quite two when Star Wars was released, so I really never knew a world where there wasn’t this sassy princess helping to smuggle information, unafraid to take up whatever was necessary (be it words, arms, or chains) to protect herself and those dear to her, and walking that line between being assertive and compassionate at the same time. And then The Force Awakens happened, and those of us who met Leia as children were suddenly gifted with this beautiful example of how to age gracefully (and thank Fisher for fighting for that).

No matter how you look at it, Leia was a badass. So was Fisher.

Because this is the last week of a year that hasn’t played nice with anyone on any level, a lot of us are looking at this afternoon’s grim announcement through a lens of, “How can I be that level of badass in my own life? My own communities? My own work?”

And it’s not like we were all asleep and are just waking up. It’s that so many of us were already starting to think about these questions when, one last time, Leia inspired us with her own journey. When Carrie Fisher inspired us, one last time, with her journey. The question now is how do we honor that in our own lives, to show our gratitude for her facing and fighting demons of all shapes and sizes?

This is going to take some time…

Someone on Twitter reminded everyone that Kenny Baker also passed away this year. He passed away in August. Erik Bauersfeld, who played Admiral Ackbar, passed away in April. This hasn’t been a good year for Star Wars people.

Coding and the Evolution of Math Education

Every time someone posts one of those visual algebra problems on Facebook, my mother and I get into a discussion about order of operations. When she was in school, PEMDAS wasn’t a thing they taught. You just solved problems moving left to right. By the time I got to elementary school, teachers were drilling us about our dear Aunt Sally. I’d been teaching algebra for a few years when it finally occurred to me why the order of operations was even a thing (and why it was more likely to produce a correct answer than simply working left to right regardless of the operators).

Similarly, I learned in high school to describe translations through words or some really bizarre shorthand that never seemed to carry over to other math classes. But when I finally had to teach translations to middle schoolers, they were learning a uniform notation that actually made sense to me. They learned to craft a statement that would tell every single point in whatever they were moving where to go to keep the shape. In short, they were learning to write algorithms. (I was so jealous of them. *grin*) Thankfully, I had some computer science classes and random attempts at coding under my belt at that point, so I was able to help them understand what they were doing and why. (Seriously, A’ = (x+3, y-2) would have been a million times easier than all the garbage we had to write.)

At the time, it struck me as pretty cool, because taking a logical opportunity in math class to introduce students to thinking algorithmically has some benefits. First off, it gives them exposure to algorithmic thinking. (Exposure is always a good thing.) It shows them a situation where algorithmic thinking can be useful. And for those students who might move on to code in school or on their own, it gives them an opportunity to start thinking about how to craft efficient code.

All of this was rolling around in my head this morning while I was messing around with Santa’s Village, Google’s interactive Christmas countdown calendar. A couple of days have had coding games using the visual coding tools that are starting to show up more and more in children’s toys and apps. (Seriously…how cute is this coding caterpillar?) I’ve never played with visual coding tools before, so it took a moment to see how what I know about coding translated into these brightly colored blocks. But I caught on quickly and beat the coding games.

What struck me most (once I moved on from how cool it would have been to have things like this to play with in between learning to write lines of BASIC and lines of Turbo Pascal when I was a kid (I’m a little old. Heh.) was how it presents the idea of programming. Each action is a bit of code displayed as a puzzle piece. How you put the puzzle pieces together dictates how your little elf moves. If there is a more efficient way to move your elf, the game lets you know and then gives you an opportunity to find it. (For those curious, it will display the javascript you created for that level, creating the mental connection between the puzzle piece and the actual code for those ready to explore that.)

It was certainly far less stressful than searching through a hundred lines of code looking for that one forgotten semicolon when you’re still learning how to read code. *wink*

But that’s how it works. I learned a long convoluted way to present translations, only to teach a much more efficient, meaningful method years later. I learned to just sit down and write lines of code. Children younger than I was when I wrote my first BASIC program (and I was in elementary school) are learning,”This tile does this. When I connect it with this tile, they do this and that.” And they’ll continue to grow and learn this way of thinking until they’re presented with an opportunity to actually write the lines of code, or read the lines of code, or find other ways to apply that algorithmic thinking they learned through play and visual means.

As a funny side note, I’ve talked a little here about kids learning algorithmic thinking and then finding non-coding ways to apply that to the world around them. The last computer class I took focused on object-oriented programming in C++. A few years later, I took that mindset to develop some interchangeable educational programs for a museum. You really never know where or how you’re going to end up using what you’ve learned. That’s why exposure and general practice are so very useful when learning a skill.

Considering Portal Science Fiction

Earlier this month, Writing Excuses set a prompt to take one big idea from two favorite books, and mash them up into something new. What quickly came to mind was the locative art in Pattern Recognition and tessering in A Wrinkle in Time. And then the question became: How does anyone do anything with those?

As I sat there thinking about this over breakfast, I realized that in a way they’re kind of the same thing. Sort of. We have locative art today. Artists and performers are doing some pretty impressive things with it. We just call it augmented reality. Have the appropriate app on your phone or tablet. Go to the designated place (at the designated time, if necessary). Look around through the app to see the art or performance that’s been installed there to experience it. It’s not really there, and is only visible through the tool…like looking into another world through some sort of portal (if you’re into science fiction and fantasy…).

Tessering is a child’s primer to quantum mechanics. I’d been obsessed with the ant in A Wrinkle in Time for eight years before I read the Shiva paradox. And the moment I read that, I knew I was looking at a variation of the ant crossing the skirt hem. (Not bad for a fifteen year old drama queen. *wink*) In the books, tessering is moving across space and time by folding both as necessary to allow you to take the fewest steps. You’re moving across planets and planes as simply as one would cross a room (barring two-dimensional and frozen planets. Always take along Aunt Beast!)

Stepping away from tessering into the greater realm of quantum mechanics, you eventually get to the mathematical theories that are enabling physicists to seriously consider the nature and reality of shifted planes in the same space (which is murder on the whole “two separate instances of matter cannot occupy the same space at the same time” thing). So, while you may not be tessering when you engage in augmented reality because you aren’t literally going somewhere, you are experiencing a shifted plane of sorts, an alternate reality.

It’s not a mashup. It’s a weak rationalization at best.

What’s really funny is that I’m now thinking about the fact The Chronicles of Amber is on my list of favorite books. Tessering. Walking to/from Amber into the Shadows. Really not different. Seriously, how long have I been obsessed with portal stories?

What’s even funnier? Portal stories are typically a fantasy thing. But so many of my favorite portal stories are science fiction, and don’t necessarily directly involve a portal, just the idea of long-distance travel in short time.

Something to keep in mind…