Watching Loki S1E2: The Variant

Spoiler Warning.

I’ve been to Oshkosh. It doesn’t look anything like this. And I’m immediately reminded of Sheldon dressed as Spock at the Renaissance Fair.

“I Need a Hero” playing over the first scene is out of place unless it’s setting up a twist. An interesting thing about this show is that it isn’t clear who are actually the good guys.

Main-Loki goes into action with the TVA. His jacket begs the question: to which version is the title referring? Probably all of them. Loki’s fascinating on this mission; it’s clear he’s playing games even before they tell us.

I’m struck that the Time-Keepers may be an elaborate hoax. Looking it up, that’s not consistent with the comics. But they’re building up a sense of mystery about them. It will be interesting one way or the other.

I loved watching Loki’s face fall as Mobius perfectly laid out his plan. The dialogue in this scene is terrific; Wilson and Hiddleston together are a joy to watch.

Another image of Loki being tiny in his surroundings, this time with the Time-Keepers in the foreground. The look of the TVA is even more impressive this time, all vastness and grandeur.

That idea with hiding in the apocalypses is inspired.

It’s low-rent philosophizing, but I really enjoyed the conversation about mythologies and how ridiculous they all are. Also, now we’re discussing the Time-Keepers as mythology.

The name Ravonna just clicked. That’s the princess Kang the Conqueror was in love with during some of his early appearances (See Avengers (1963) #23). Of course, Kang/Immortus has links to the Time-Keepers. Unravel the threads far enough and we find Doctor Doom and the Fantastic Four I wouldn’t be at all surprised to hear the name “Nathaniel Richards.”

There’s lots of use of the term “Superior Loki.” Loki uses that term when there is a picture of Spider-Man in his black suit prominently in the background. A combined reference to two instances where Peter’s mind was somehow compromised, namely the Superior Spider-Man and the Symbiote. Clue? Misdirect?

I suspect the big reveal is why people love this episode and it’s pretty good but not particularly earth-shattering when we consider what we know about Loki from the comics.

But alternative Loki is demonstrated to be a badass. And when we see the TVA starting to react to the Variant’s attack, it’s the first time the surroundings seem cramped and mundane.

I’m psyched for episode 3.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Next Episode:

Previous Episode:

Juneteenth and Pride Month!

Two Flags for June

The Juneteenth Flag

Happy Juneteenth! I’ve been wanting to fly a Juneteenth flag for a couple of years now but I found an affordable one just this year.

You might be wondering what “Juneteenth” is. Also known as “America’s second independence day,” it’s been a state holiday in 49 states and commemorates the end of slavery in the US after the Civil War.

President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation and it took effect on 1 January 1863. It proclaims “all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free.” This changed the character of the war, transforming it from a conflict that could be perceived as an internecine squabble to a quest to expand basic human rights, Of course, it wasn’t that simple. But it meant that the tide of freedom advanced as the Union gained territory.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/55/Juneteenth_general_order3.jpg

The Army of the Trans-Mississippi was the last major Confederate force to surrender. On 19 June 1895, when General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas to take command of the Army forces there, one of his first actions was to issue General Order 3, which informed the citizens of Texas that slavery there was ended. It read in part:

“The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired laborer.”

Celebrations erupted as Granger’s men traveled forth announcing the order. A few months later, slavery finally ended throughout the US on 6 December 1865 with the ratification of the 13th Amendment. One year after General Order 3, the first commemoration took place in Galveston as “Jubilee Day.” That became an annual tradition.

The name “Juneteenth” is a contraction of “June nineteenth.” Actually, it’s a “portmanteau” if you want to be all fancy about it. In a nice bit of synergy, Juneteenth became a national holiday two days ago, as President Biden signed the “Juneteenth National Independence Day Act” into law. That was long overdue; we should celebrate the moments when we actually got closer to the ideals the US is supposed to represent.

The Juneteenth flag is stunning! it was originally designed by Ben Haith in 1997 and refined by graphic designer Lisa Jeanne Graf. The symbolism of the flag is profound.

The colors are an intentional callback to the American flag emphasizing that the people freed that day and their descendants were, are, and remain Americans.

The central five-pointed star not only represents the freedom of African-Americans in all 50 states but also symbolizes Texas, the Lone Star State, where the celebration originated.

The burst that surrounds the star is a nova, a new star which represents a new freedom, a new people and a new beginning for African Americans.

Finally, the arc depicts the horizon; a new horizon representing the promise and opportunities that lie ahead.

The Ally Flag

Also, Happy Pride Month! Until yesterday we’d been flying the Ally flag in honor of Pride Month. I didn’t have much new to say about it since I wrote about it last time we flew the flag.

My previous Ally Flag Post

At the time I’d written about an alternative version that I liked a bit better and wished had been available. It’s still not available, but I’ve recreated it so you can see it here. In retrospect, I had some mixed feelings about this version as I realized that the background was initially a “Straight Pride Flag.” Frequently, things like that are a reactionary backlash to some new group looking for equality.

But the standard ally flag has the same problem; the black-and-white striped flag has a similar origin and it’s time to reclaim those images in any event. Having either as the background of an ally flag does nothing but decrease its salience as a reactionary symbol. And aesthetically I still like the shades-of-gray better. I’m not completely happy with this recreation though. The contrast between the pure black on top and pure white on the bottom is too stark. I’ll probably go back and try a version with shades of gray throughout.

References:

Watching Loki S1E1: Glorious Purpose

Spoiler Warning.

The first new image of the series is a bug, reflected in a drop of water. Hmmm…

Loki arrives in the Gobi Desert

It’s a nice touch that they took the long shot of #Loki’s arrival; we see he’s tiny in this context. His landing is reminiscent of Iron Man 1.

We jump into action right away. I remember the Time Variance Authority (TVA) from the comics but only vaguely. Looking them up, there’s some good stuff (She-Hulk) and some egregious nonsense that I really didn’t care for. That might have been it’s precursor, the Dimensional Development Court which originated in MarvelUK’s Captain Britain stories.

There’s a cat. I hope we get more of the cat.

The informational video has the feel of a 1950s cold war propaganda video. In fact the whole TVA has a Twilight Zone vibe.

A less frenetic Owen Wilson is new but welcome.

As he traverses the TVA bureaucracy it becomes clear to us. Loki is like the bug we first saw; a distorted reflection with no ability to affect anything.

I suppose the sacred timeline must be the single one where the Avengers were able to beat Thanos. Maybe?

I did kind of enjoy it when Loki got the upper hand on Hunter B-15. In retrospect. When it was clear she survived.

The denouement of the episode is Loki gaining some self-awareness and realizing he’s the bug in this scenario. “I don’t enjoy hurting people… it’s part of the illusion. It’s the cruel, elaborate trick conjured by the weak to inspire fear.” Maybe. You really never can tell with this guy.

But he’s about to get some agency by joining an agency. Stay tuned.

So far not as weighty as #FalconAndWinterSoldier, not as emotionally resonant as #WandaVision but good solid entertainment. Strong performances all around.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Next Episode:

My Voyager Rewatch: S4E12

(This is the point where I started tweeting the episodes.) S4E12 “Mortal Coil.”

The Star Trek Gallery: Ships

I’m in the middle of a StarTrek Voyager rewatch and I’m up to “Mortal Coil.” As soon as I heard the word protomatter I knew someone was going to die and be brought back to life. Sure enough, Neelix gets zapped and is revived by Seven’s nanoprobes.

Of course, it had to be Neelix. The episode is now about questioning religious beliefs. They wouldn’t try that with a human character.

The most amazing thing so far is how damn dumb Chakotay is. He’s on his way to watch a holodeck recreation of the accident & he invites Neelix along without batting an eye. “Sure! Come watch yourself die! That won’t traumatize you at all!”

Mortal Coil (episode) - Memory Alpha, the Star Trek Wiki ...

This got heavy-handed fast. And of course, there has to be a vision quest that inexplicably requires a piece of technology.

Neelix contemplates his new condition and the episode almost stops without any real ending. This might be okay if they circle back to it, but without a real epiphany, this is merely a return to the status quo.

It’s a pleasant enough episode but ultimately unsatisfying.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Images used under the fair use doctrine.

My Star Trek Voyager Rewatch

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I’m not always a good Trekkie or Trekker. Whichever.

Until about 2 years ago, I hadn’t rewatched Star Trek: Deep Space 9 or Voyager since their first airings twenty-odd years ago. I’d done partial rewatches of TNG and Enterprise that petered out toward the end of the series.

Star Trek: The Next Generation - The Complete Series (DVD ...

Of course, rewatching wasn’t always as easy as it is now. The Next Generation attempt was actually quite an investment. I’d had some old VHS tapes that we recorded during the first run of the series but those were getting old and they weren’t exactly taped in order. But then in March of 2002, CBS started releasing TNG on DVD. The seasons cost just over $100 each, and I thought, “Here we go! I’m going to enjoy these, in order from beginning to end as the Great Bird of the Galaxy intended!” Although he probably didn’t. Long story short, this was about the time I got serious about finishing my doctorate and finding a tenure-track position somewhere. Season 7 is still wrapped in cellophane.

Starbase-Wandavision

Fast forward to 2019; I finally started enjoying Deep Space 9 again. I’d made it into the fourth season and it was, shall we say, better than I remembered. But the 25th Anniversary of Voyager was approaching and my old friend Rick announced that he would be talking about Voyager season by season on his podcast Starbase 66. That itself sounded like fun! I’ll listen to those! Okay then, Voyager it is, I’ll get back to DS9 later.

And the rewatch has been interesting. I distinctly remember initially finding Voyager electrifying. I watched the first few episodes twice within a week of their airing and hunted for clues on the internet about what might be coming. That quickly turned into a kind of low-key malaise about the show. The characters seemed formulaic and a lot of the episodes felt like they might have sat on the shelf since TNG because they hadn’t quite been good enough to film. I mean, seriously, you’re trying to get home and that’s 70,000 light-years away! How do you keep running into the Kazon? You should have been out of their space after episode 3 or something. Think about the premise for crying out loud! This is Star Trek: Gilligan’s Island. The Mosquitos didn’t come back to the Island after they decided that the Honey Bees were a better band who would threaten their success. You encounter them ONCE because you’re STUCK ON THE ISLAND!

So the Voyager rewatch has been happening for a bit over a year. It’s been a lot of fun even with the show’s flaws. Once again, better than I remembered.

Mid-season 4, I decided to tweet about the episodes. I liked how those came out. I restricted myself to a maximum of 6 tweets and that kept the comments pithy; no weird tangents or references to Gilligan’s Island. I can’t believe that was kicking around in my brain somewhere.

Turns out that’s a pretty efficient way to “review” a teevee episode and that’s a good thing. Two years ago I started a post about Mad Magazine and it’s still gestating there in my drafts folder waiting to see the light of day. So that’s what you’ll find in this “Voyager Rewatch” column. Short efficient quasi-reviews as I work my way through the series. Basically the same as they appeared on Twitter before they’re so far back in the past that they’re hard to find. I hope you’ll join me and enjoy.

Stars End Episodes 3 and 4

There have been two new episodes since I shared Stars End episode 2 here. Is a podcast the last refuge of the Incompetent like the title to Episode 4 claims! Find out! Time to get caught up! Please like, review and share!

Episode 3: As foretold! Mayors! Bridles! Saddles! Oddly, no actual horses! And the ultimate answer to the ultimate cliffhanger! Also show news, we react to the trailer for the Apple TV+ series and and more Asimov trivia!

Episode 4: We talk about “The Traders,” part four of Foundation. This story first appeared, with surprisingly little fanfare in the October 1944 issue of Astounding under the title “The Wedge.”

In addition we have our second Apple Plus Minute and another edition of Asimov Trivia with a new contestant and a new quiz master!

You can find all the episodes here:

‘Ring of fire’ solar eclipse: How to watch Thursday morning

This is a reblog from mytwintiers.com, that wasn’t obvious enough. Sadly, here the sky was a uniform shade of grey so nothing to see. But there are still live feeds to check out!

Skywatchers will be treated to a “ring of fire” solar eclipse on Thursday, but their location will determine how much of it they get to see.

‘Ring of fire’ solar eclipse: How to watch Thursday morning

More Star Trek Apple Watch Faces

I’m a big Star Trek Fan and so, I enjoy having stuff that looks like it might be used in the show if the show were real life.

Over the holidays I was inspired to create a couple of Apple watch faces that make my watch look as if it runs on the “Library Computer Access/Retrieval System” (or LCARS). That’s the operating system used in all the Star Trek shows set in the 24th century from Next Generation to Lower Decks. I created two, which you can see here.

But here’s the thing: These are made using the Apple Watch’s Photo Face. These are static images that look like they have buttons, but the “buttons” aren’t functional. The only things that are active are the complications that are active from the Apple watch itself.

This isn’t ideal. So what’s the next best thing? How about a watch face that seems interactive? We can get closer. If we load a number of images to the Photo Face the Apple Watch will display a different one every time you raise your wrist and, if you want to pretend it’s actually interactive, you can tap the watch face and it will switch to another image. You can’t control which image you get next, but you can make-believe. Here’s a collection of images you can use.

This collection includes:

A home page with the UFP Logo, three astrometrics faces, two each of planetary conditions, tactical, and medical faces, one face that appears to scan for life signs and a face that looks as though a communications system is active.

So, if you want a watch face that looks like it might be used on a federation vessel, feel free to use the collections above!

To install, save all of the images above to your iPhone.

Then:

  • Select all the images you want to use from your gallery.
  • Scroll down and select “Create Watch Face.”
  • Select the “Photos” face.
  • Set the position of the time, “Bottom” for all of these, and choose the complications you want above and below the time.
  • And select “ADD.”

You should be all set. Comments and suggestions are welcome; and if you’d like a Voyager face let me know in the comments. If you use the watch face please leave a picture in the comments!

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