Star Wars: The Last Jedi

It has been over a week since The Last Jedi was released, so if you haven’t seen it by now I honestly don’t understand your priorities.  But for those of you who have not, STOP READING.  This post is pretty much entirely made of spoilers.

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I LOVE LEIA

Whereas the two men from the original trilogy deal with their problems by running away, Princess General Leia stays in the action, leading the Resistance and clinging fiercely to hope despite all evidence to the contrary.  It’s no wonder the world has fallen in love with Leia, and perhaps even more so, with Carrie Fisher.

So much of this movie plays as a love letter to her, which is astonishing since it was completed before Fisher’s death.  Clearly, the woman is beloved and this film wants to honor her properly.  Was I the only one who thought-screamed, “That’s my Bipolar Space Mom!!!” when Leia rescued herself by using the Force to draw herself back into the ship after an explosion?  And let’s not gloss over that:  LEIA USED THE FORCE.  I don’t care about anyone who thinks it was hokey – the Force was bananas in this movie, and I loved it, so please complain elsewhere.  Leia finally got to use some of that Skywalker bloodline in something other than feeling people’s deaths long-distance.

Another scene that felt weirdly prescient was Luke and Leia’s reunion.  By the end of the movie we realize that it was an opportunity for Luke to say his goodbyes, but in the moment it just felt like a goodbye to Carrie Fisher.  I can’t even remember the lines very well, because I was crying hard throughout.  All I could picture was Mark Hamill watching the scene after his friend’s death and my heart was shattered.

Unfortunately, Luke is gone and Leia remains.  I am heartbroken that we won’t get to see more of Leia in episode IX, which was supposed to be Her Story in the way The Force Awakens was Han’s and The Last Jedi was Luke’s.  I don’t know what they’ll do, and I mostly trust them, but nothing they dream up will compare with Carrie Fisher alive and performing once again.

I LOVE LUKE

Luke Skywalker was my first fictional crush, and even though at the time I loved him for his purity, I love him even more now that we see he’s turned into a cranky hermit.  Every scene he’s in is a delight, and I 100% bought that his youthful idealism, once broken, would result in what we see in this film.  I also adored the revelation that, if even for a moment, Luke considered murdering his nephew, and that this is what turned Ben Solo entirely to the Dark Side.  This is my kind of drama!

Of course, we don’t end the film with Luke the Cynic – fittingly, it’s being reunited with R-2 D-2 and seeing his sister’s hologram that reminds him that there is still hope.  WHEN HE SHOWS UP ON CRAIT!!!  His decision to take control of his narrative and use his legendary status as a distraction to save the Resistance is beautiful.  I noticed that his hair was different and that he wasn’t leaving red sand footprints, but I didn’t connect the dots to realize he wasn’t physically there.  My awe at his ability to withstand so much firepower turned into awe at his projection ability, and then…having believed in hope once more, Luke dies.  I love that he disappears like Obi Wan, and I very much hope he will be a Force Ghost in episode IX.

ODDS AND ENDS

  • The “hope against all odds” theme felt very much like Rogue One to me.  Watching character after character willingly choose to die in order to help their friends live for one more day was suuuuper depressing and suuuuper beautiful.
  • I love Admiral Holdo.  I love that she contrasts Poe’s impulsive heroism with the boring, quiet, consistent heroism that is also necessary in a fight against evil.
  • After the movie, one friend said, “I think true Star Wars fans will be annoyed at the humor in this one.”  My other friend replied, “Uh, I’m a true Star Wars fan, and I loved it.”  YES, friend #2.
  • I don’t WANT to understand the Rey/Kylo shippers, but ugh, I kinda do.  Their loneliness and connection was pretty fascinating, but wow is he a classic abusive boyfriend.  “You’re worthless to everyone!  Except me.”  As interesting as their relationship was, I’m so glad Rey left him.
  • Although I have since changed my mind, I was initially disappointed with the reveal that Rey’s parents were nobodies.  (My personal fan theory:  she was the daughter of Luke and Leia.  I was really leaning into the oops! incest plot of the original trilogy, and I figured that explained why she was Extra Powerful.)  I appreciate this story a lot more now, especially connected with the force-sensitive slave boy at the end.  I assume that’s the direction they will take the story – showing us that the Force can be in anyone.  Really, I just blame the two year wait and how the Internet makes everything seem So Big, which made a reveal like this feel more disappointing than it should have been.
  • I love Rose!  She is a perfect human being, and I hope she continues to be a big part of the series.  I definitely ship Rose/Finn, and Rey can…I dunno.  She’s a Jedi, so probably she will be single, huh?
  • All the animals were great, from fish nuns to porgs to crystal critters.  Love them all!
  • It did feel overlong, and I was genuinely surprised when the movie didn’t end with Snoke’s ship exploding.  But then I really liked the scenes on Crait, so even though I don’t think it’s Good Plotting, I wouldn’t change anything about it.
  • Ending with the slave kids retelling Luke’s story and then revealing that one of them can use the Force is 100% a shout out to Star Wars fans who find inspiration in the story to change their own worlds in big and small ways.  It’s kind of unfair to make me cry seconds before credits, movie!!
  • “It’s not about destroying what you hate.  It’s about saving what you love.”  PLEASE let this be the theme of the last movie!  It is the most perfect sentence in the whole series.

 

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Cat Fostering: Amelie and Nelly

In my previous post about fostering, I ended by saying that Nine Lives, a cat shelter in Athens, Greece, was going to send me a kitten to help Amelie feel more comfortable after being rescued from a pack of dogs.  I showed a picture of a kitten who…did not come!  He ended up having some diseases that could have spread to Amelie, so instead  Nelly joined our temporary family.

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But first, an update on Amelie!  A woman from Nine Lives came to the house to take care of her while I was gone for a weekend vacation, and when I came back she was a totally different cat.  It was as though the fear of another stranger made my return a desperate, “Thank God, a familiar face!”  She started letting me sit beside her on the couch, and she was making so much progress I was a little scared that the introduction of a kitten would set her back.

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When Nelly first arrived, Amelie reverted to hiding under coffee tables and footstools.  I resented Nelly for that, which was unfair because she was relentlessly cute.  She’s a total kitten: playful and curious and slightly dumb.  And SO cute and cuddly.  She follows me around, burrows into the covers when I sleep, and falls asleep next to me like this.

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After a while, though, Amelie realized that she is a full-sized cat.  Instead of letting a kitten bully her around, she stood up for herself and asserted her dominance.  I was very proud that she came to this realization because of food.  Nelly tried to eat Amelie’s food, at which point Amelie slapped the kitten in the face and never had a problem again.

They still don’t cuddle with each other, but they will chase each other between rooms, and Nelly likes to sneak up on Amelie and try to catch her tail.  Somehow, all of this HAS made Amelie more comfortable, since she will now go into every room, and when I’m away for a while, she’ll actually follow me around and watch me from various doorways.  Most adorably, she will sit beside the couch and meow until I sit there, since she has apparently learned that that is where she will be petted.

Both Amelie and Nelly need to be adopted by mid-January, and at the rate they’re going, they will probably do well either separately or together!  If you or someone you know lives in Greece and wants two very cute cats, drop a line to Nine Lives and let them know!  If you can’t adopt cats, I still suggest you go to Nine Lives and leave a donation.  I love what they do, and I’m happy to do what I can to support them and the stray cats of Athens that they care for.

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Podcast Recommendation List | PART 5

‘Tis the season…to recommend podcasts!  I’ve found a LOT of nerdy podcasts to binge-listen to, and I hope some of them will be of interest to some of you!

best-episode-ever1| Best Episode Ever

TV nerds discuss popular finished shows, deciding on best and worst moments, how the series has aged since release, and ultimately deciding the, you guessed it, best episode ever.  So far they have covered Friends, Adventure Time, and 30 Rock, so these are definitely my kind of podcasters.

948152| We Can Do This All Day

A husband and wife duo analyze Marvel superhero movies!  They’re both professional writers, so they bring a knowledge of storytelling to the show that elevates this beyond simply fangirling.  They also ran a lot of other podcasts together under the company Storywonk, and they are also well worth checking out!

eUny1NlQ3| Excelsior

Sadly, the aforementioned husband and wife duo divorced last year, so they no longer work together.  The husband joined two other people to continue analyzing superhero movies (now both Marvel and DC) in this podcast.

SASW-albumart4| Story and Star Wars

The divorced husband also runs several podcasts on his own, including this series analyzing the storytelling beats of each Star Wars film.  It’s nerdy and educational, and he’s also got ongoing series for Harry Potter (Dear Mr. Potter) and Lord of the Rings (There and Back Again) that I hope to get to soon.

1200x630bb5| Good Christian Fun

I am LOVING this podcast by two Christians diving back into the crazy Christian counter-culture of the ’90s and ’00s.  Sometimes scathing, sometimes fond, this podcast covers everything from Left Behind to VeggieTales to the OC Supertones.  If you listen through the entire episode, they have a running “What is the worst Christian song?” game to close that is a hilarious and horrific blast to the past.


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What I Read | NOVEMBER 2017

Wow, is it hard to go from working at a library to living in a foreign country.  From overabundance to scarcity!  Since my time is ending in Greece, I’ve decided to actual tackle the shelf of To Be Read books that I kept passing over.  This is actually pretty satisfying, though the going is slower.

Novel_the_blind_assassin_coverThe Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood

This book was immediately intriguing, flashing between an old woman remembering her past and an at-first ambiguous meeting of lovers discussing science fiction plots.  It’s a dense novel, delving into generational family relationships, complications, and regrets.  Because it’s Atwood, the story consistently reveals the underbelly of what it means to be a woman during the early 1900s.  The middle dragged a little for me, but the beginning and end were totally engrossing.

71epnYVGumLThe King Must Die by Mary Renault

A historical novel focused on the life of mythical Theseus, I was ALL about this book.  It covers only the first half of his life (I accidentally read the second book so long ago I was writing full reviews).  Theseus travels to Athens and then Crete, where he lives in the Palace of Knossos (I WENT THERE) and survives by becoming a champion bull-leaper.  Renault is a master at creating believable history out of mythology, and I am continually impressed by how she allows events to unfold in such a way that they can be read as natural events or godly interventions.  Very fun read for Greek mythology nerds!

51zEfKBgrdLAbraham by Bruce Feiler

A Jewish man goes to the Middle East to talk to leaders of the three great monotheistic faiths – Judaism, Christianity, and Islam – about the man that unites them all:  Abraham.  This is an excellent book for people who like history, culture, and/or theology, delving into sacred texts, oral traditions, and how people have twisted stories to suit their purposes throughout time.

220px-The-lost-city-zThe Lost City of Z by David Grann

A modern day journalist ventures into the Amazon in search of a mythical city and the man who disappeared while seeking it.  It’s more of a biography than a travel memoir, but Colonel Fawcett is a fascinating man.  I loved reading about the early 1900s and all the explorers trying to survive the Amazon rainforest.  Although a lot of it is horrific, and is portrayed as such, Fawcett himself is a man before his time, insisting upon pacifism when interacting with indigenous tribes.  So many people kept returning to the Amazon despite enormous difficulties, and this book does a wonderful job of conveying the enticing mystery that the forest creates simply by existing.

What I Read | OCTOBER 2017

33951646Jane, Unlimited by Jane Cashore

Yikes, this book!  About 1/3 of the way through, it ended, at which point I realized I was reading a Choose Your Own Adventure type book that laid out multiple directions for the story to take.  At first, it was super interesting, since her decisions to go in different directions revealed more secrets of the mysterious mansion she is visiting.  But it quickly gets SUPER WEIRD, and not the kind of weird that I adore.  It just felt like an author’s fever dream.  I’m sure some people will find this book fascinating, but it was not for me.

What_Happened_(Hillary_Rodham_Clinton)_book_coverWhat Happened by Hillary Clinton

A perfect title for a perfect book.  I loved reading Clinton’s perspective of the last couple years even though it left me banging my head against the wall because we could have had an experienced, intelligent, level-headed leader of our country, but we’re all idiots instead.  I thought she did a great job of owning up to her own failings throughout her campaign while also pointing out larger systemic issues at play (I especially adored her takes on being a woman in politics and the role of media coverage in affecting voters’ opinions).  Like all things politics, I’m not sure this would change the mind of someone who hates her, though I’d like to think they would come away respecting her.

33590214Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin

It was good timing to read this right after What Happened, since this is the story of a political sex scandal from the perspective of the women surrounding the issue.  We hear from the mother of the young woman involved, from the woman herself (now decades older and living with a false name because her career was decimated while the senator emerged unscathed), from the young woman’s daughter, and from the senator’s wife.  It was an entertaining read, and mostly just an excellent example of how men’s predatory actions often ruin the women involved (which is very fitting in light of recent Harvey Weinstein news).

61RdD2N2mEL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Magnus Chase: The Ship of the Dead by Rick Riordan

The third book in Riordan’s Norse mythology series, I just…continue to adore his writing style.  Myths retold with a wink are still my favorite thing, and this series in particular goes to new heights in creating an incredibly diverse dream team.  I think I go over this list in every review of his books, but our main cast of characters includes 1) a homeless teen who hates fighting, 2) a genderfluid teen (which is SUCH a cool real world analog for being a child of Loki, the shapeshifter), 3) a fashionable black dwarf, 4) a deaf elf, 5) a Muslim Valkyrie fighting and fasting through Ramadan, 6) an Irish girl who died in Bloody Sunday, and 7) a Viking.  All this awesome while also pursuing mythical mead made from the blood and spit of the gods in order to help Magnus win an insult contest (flyting) with Loki.  A+, this is exactly my jam.

939334The Forgotten Beasts of Eld by Patricia McKillip

In classic fantasy style, this is more ethereal than plot, though there’s definitely an all-powerful female wizard who falls in love with a prince AFTER marrying him as revenge plot against a king who tried to magically take away her sense of self.  Also she uses her magic to summon mystical beasts from legends to her backyard where only she can talk to them.  I think it is pretty clear why I was so interested in this book.

51YjlK890rL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

Based on the premise “NO, having a mental disorder does not make you better at solving crimes,” John Green’s latest novel is about a teenage girl with severe OCD and anxiety who finds herself trying to solve a missing person’s case.  It’s a really lovely and melancholy story about friendship, first love, and trying to figure out how to connect with other people despite feeling so different all the time.

23281856Garden of Lies by Amanda Quick

A friend mentioned that this book was about a brooding archeologist that reminded her of Toby Stephens, so naturally I read it the next day.  It is all that is silliest in an anachronistic historical romance mystery, but…it was about a brooding archeologist that reminded me of Toby Stephens, so I got what I wanted.

Learning the Enneagram RESOURCES

Books

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  • The Road Back to You by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile

    This book is a perfect primer for people new to the Enneagram.  It is simple, relatable, and the lists at the beginning of each chapter, “What It’s Like to be a Four,” go a long way toward helping you identify your type.

  • The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective by Richard Rohr

    A step up in complexity, Rohr’s book brought the Enneagram into cultural, and personal, awareness.  It includes the same sort of descriptions of each type, but with a bit more depth than The Road Back to You.

  • Mirror for the Soul: A Christian Guide to the Enneagram by Alice Fryling

    Once you’re sure of your type and asking, “Okay, now what?” this is the book for you.  Fryling’s focus is personal transformation and using the Enneagram to identify your God-given gifts, how your false self twists them, and how to reclaim your true self.  Really excellent.

  • The Complete Enneagram: 27 Paths to Greater Self-Knowledge by Beatrice Chestnut, PhD

    If you want the equivalent of an Enneagram textbook, Chestnut’s book is what you’re looking for.  Whereas other books devote sixteen pages to a type, this book offers forty-two.  It also delves into the three subtypes (self-preservation, social, and sexual) found in each type, which can help you narrow in even further on who you are.

Podcasts

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  • The Road Back to You by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile

    Much like their book by the same name, this podcast is an introduction to the Enneagram.  Each episode interviews someone famous-ish from the Christian world, highlighting their type and how it affects their life.  Quite good for hearing practical examples of what it looks like to be aware of your Enneagram type.

  • Typology by Ian Morgan Cron

    After their book was released, Cron continued similar work with his own podcast.  This one goes a bit deeper, though, offering a variety of interviews (so far there has been a panel of Nines and of Sixes) sharing personal experiences AND educational episodes by authors Richard Rohr and Beatrice Chestnut.


Are there other Enneagram resources that have helped you?
Comment and share them with us!

What I Read | SEPTEMBER 2017

 

Long Way Round by Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman

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Long Way Down by Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman

I loved the documentaries by the same name, so it was fun to read about Ewan and Charley’s motorcycle travel adventures from their perspective.  Although it covers the same ground as the films, there were some fun extra scenes and interior thoughts.  These books only confirmed that 1) yes, I do love Ewan McGregor very, very much, and 2) it would be amazingly fun to travel across Asia or Africa with a best friend and film crew.

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Not My Father’s Son by Alan Cumming

A memoir of a life so incredible (and sad) that it confirms the phrase “truth is stranger than fiction,” I loved this book despite being largely unfamiliar with Cumming’s work.  He’s a fantastic writer, and he tells an intentionally small story surrounding a month of his life in which massive family mysteries were brought to light.  A great read for fans of his or not, because you probably will be by the end.

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Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes

I really loved the beginning of Don Quixote with the descriptions of our protagonist going mad from reading too many books and inserting himself into a fantasy world of his own making.  It was uncomfortably delightful to read of the misadventures in which he makes things worse by trying to be chivalrous, and after 150 pages I was a bit tired.  Are all 1,000 pages more of the same, or does a plot develop?  Help me out and let me know if I’m missing out by stopping early.

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Genuine Fraud by E. Lockhart

I devoured this book!  It is a story in reverse, starting with a girl hiding out in a Mexican resort, gradually taking steps back in time to reveal what she did to necessitate escaping from the law.  It is a really fun mystery (what did she do rather than who did it), and I just feel so blessed to be living in an age in which fictional teenage girls can be murderous psychopaths.

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Mrs. Fletcher by Tom Perrotta

This book is about a middle-aged woman exploring her sexuality, and I was super impressed by how…nice it is?  What I mean is, a bunch of people do a bunch of things, some questionable, some lovely, some awful, and these actions are always separated from the value of these characters.  Mrs. Fletcher might think or do things that make herself (and us) cringe, but we’re never meant to think that she’s a bad person because of them.  Lots of gender and sexuality stuff too!  This book was literally made for me.

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They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera

Despite a very direct title, reading this book is like watching Titanic thinking, “I hope they avoid the iceberg this time!”  Because they do die at the end.  And it sucks, because we’ve just spent a novel getting to know our two protagonists.  But the story is worth it, both because it’s an uplifting “if you knew this were your last day, how would that change the way you live your life?” query, and because it’s a cool sci-fi think piece on how society would change if people were notified of their death on their last day.  Not a fun book, but a very good one.

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Love with a Chance of Drowning by Torre DeRoche

It’s another romance/travel memoir, though this very much leans into individual growth more than romantic love.  I wasn’t surprised to discover the pair split after this book, because I was honestly surprised they lasted throughout their two years sailing around the South Pacific.  Not that that’s a bad thing!  Torre and Ivan are a great example of why dating someone very different from you is a great way to push you beyond your comfort zone into new experiences…just don’t expect a happily-ever-after at the end of it.  Still, my main takeaway was:  I want to go sailing around the South Pacific, NOW.

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I Hate Everyone But You by Gaby Dunn and Allison Raskin

Written incredibly well in only emails and texts, this is a book about two college freshmen staying friends despite a long distance separation, exploring their sexuality with varying levels of success, and figuring out what they want to do with their lives.  It’s surprisingly deep for also being very witty and compulsively readable.