Star Wars: Jedi, Racism, and the Force Awakens

Three trailers have now dropped for the upcoming Star Wars film, and there has been some controversy about racial politics, with some “fans” threatening a boycott because one of the main characters is black. Boo hoo hoo. It’s about time that we see the racial diversity of the films expanded to a primary cast member. Sure, Lando Calrissian was black, but he’s very much a supporting cast member.

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The Dandelion Perspective

Where I see a field of green marred by malignant yellow weeds, my daughters see flowers growing in the meadow.

A bouquet of flowers, or of weeds?
A bouquet of flowers, or of weeds?

I’ve told them they’re allowed to pick as many dandelions from the lawn as they like. Like many things they do, their enthusiasm is endearing. Their perspective on the problem is limited to what they can see: a flower.

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First aid

For two days, I’ve watched videos featuring bloodshed, knife attacks, punctured lungs, objects embedded in eyes, and amputations. This wasn’t a slasher film marathon, but first aid training.

I’ve had first aid training many times over the years, probably starting with some training with Scouts Canada. First aid skills were far more likely to be required in scouting than in today’s modern office environment, but as the Scouts motto said: Be Prepared. So once again, I took the first aid, CPR and AED training.

Small hand injury
The real extent of injuries expected in my workplace

The training materials have changed over the years, most clearly showing the change are the instructional videos. The production quality has dramatically improved. They’re quite effective at showing the first aid techniques, and in drilling the basic components of giving first aid, such as assessing vital signs. They’re also obviously not likely to win any acting awards. While the makeup is quite realistic, showing increasingly pale and sweaty skin for those suffering from shock, and perhaps more closeups on the injuries than is entirely comfortable, all the actors remain remarkably calm during all the scenarios.

Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing for instructional videos. The focus is appropriately placed on the treatment of injuries, rather than on the reactions of those involved. This is likely more effective for training purposes, than a more realistic response.

There are also a few amusing moments in the videos, in particular when they show the first upper arm open fracture. The casualty in question is in a stable with a small pony named Killer, as seen on a sign outside the stall. It’s a small touch, appreciated by this audience. Most amusingly, the pony is far shorter than the casualty’s arms. In truth, having some humour in the material seems to be pretty important, especially when dealing with painful subject matter.

There are also a series of skits involving a construction site. In the last video involving the construction site, the workers create their own triangular bandage to form an arm sling out of other materials. It serves a good purpose in reminding the audience that you can make do with whatever you have access to, but it also raises questions about the safety of this fake construction site, if they’ve exhausted their supply of triangular bandages. Surely the Ministry of Labour would have shut the site down.

My hope, as always, is that the training remains unused and unneeded. But in the case of a freak espresso machine accident, I once again stand prepared to assist.

Lest we forget our freedom

On November 11th, 1918, in a train carriage outside Compiègne, France, an Armistice was signed, bringing an end to the war between Germany and the Allies, to be ratified January 10th, 1920 in the Treaty of Versailles. For 4 years, 3 months and 2 weeks before, 16 million people died, with another 20 million people wounded in battle.

Poppies in a field.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
      Between the crosses, row on row,
   That mark our place; and in the sky
   The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
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Authentic American History: Arizona

I’ve been reading more of Philip K. Dick’s stories lately. Mostly his short stories, but also The Man in the High Castle. Thinking about Dick’s stories, my impressions of Arizona are filtered through the lens of historicity.

What is the “authentic” Arizona experience? Is it one steeped in history, or that which reflects the current reality?

A view of the Superstition Mountains from the Goldfield Ghost Town.

The Phoenix Skyharbour Airport is similar to most other airports in North America: security checkpoints, slow moving lines, and long distances between where you are and where you need to be. It’s not until I was on the shuttle to pick up a rental car that I was exposed to the external environment. As expected, it’s hot. It’s dry. It’s very different from home. Yet the same sun sets over Arizona as does here.
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Crowd funding Second Contacts

There are many great stories about First Contact: when humanity first meets alien life. Bundoran Press, a small publisher in Ottawa, is currently in the last days of a fundraising campaign for a science fiction anthology of Second Contacts. The premise is interesting, as it allows the stories to explore the very real social changes that would occur during the fifty years after contact with an alien race.

Second Contacts promo image

Their fundraising will allow them to offer pro rates for the authors in the anthology. Please consider contributing to the campaign. Bundoran’s two previous anthologies were Blood and Water, and Strange Bedfellows, which also focused on very social issues with resource starvation, and political issues respectively.

There are also some great perks, should the project receive the funding it needs, including story critiques without going through a slush pile.

Second Contacts promo image