Movie Review: Solo: A Star Wars Story

Solo: A Star Wars Story directed by Ron Howard
Solo: A Star Wars Story
Directed by Ron Howard
Written by Jonathan & Lawrence Kasdan
Produced by Lucasfilm, Ltd.
Distributed by Walt Disney Studios, 2018

What I find most interesting about Solo: A Star Wars Story is that it doesn’t really feel like a Star Wars movie. That’s mostly a good thing.

What I mean is: it doesn’t feel important. It’s the only Star Wars movie so far that isn’t significant. In the original trilogy, Lucas explicitly sought to create a modern myth, a la Joseph Campbell. There’s an inherent sense of weight to it. The new trilogy sought to bring the Star Wars universe back to relevance and so it has a sense of mission, as well as a similar sense of modern myth. Rogue One tells a tale of emotional, moral, and narrative consequence.

Solo doesn’t have any of that. It’s not important to the main trilogies and it doesn’t take itself all that seriously. Which makes it one of the most fun Star Wars movies I’ve seen. It’s pure entertainment. It’s refreshing.

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What If…?

I wanted to be a cosmologist when I grew up.

In third grade, I wrote an essay about it for class. I went through my whole childhood assuming that would be the path I followed, right up until I started high school and discovered theater. I don’t regret turning away from cosmology to follow the theater path, just as I don’t regret leaving theater to become a librarian, but some days I find myself melancholy over the loss of what could have been.

I’m still as fascinated by the universe as I ever was, that part of me didn’t disappear when I changed paths. I still love to ponder the big cosmological questions, to try to unravel the mysteries of time and space and the nature of existence.

Every now and then, I get an idea that sings in my head—I’m certain there’s something to it, a possible answer. But I don’t have the training or the tools to explore my ideas properly, to test their merits, to trace their implications. I can’t do the work that’s required. I have ideas but I don’t have the math.

Perhaps it’s presumptuous of me to think I have any ideas that haven’t already been thought of, considered, and most likely discarded by people who do have the expertise and training and who do the work for a living.

Years ago, I wrote a fan letter to Dr. Martin Rees—I had just read his latest popular science book and some of the theories he discussed in it reminded me of ideas I’d been mulling over the years. I told him so and shared some of my other amateur theories with him. He responded to my letter and stated that some of the ideas I had shared were already in serious discussion amongst professional cosmologists.

So I know I’m capable of having ideas on the subject that are substantive and worthy. My brain is capable of thinking about these issues in a productive way. I was also very good at math in school (especially as it becomes more theoretical and less applied) and would have remained so, had I continued studying it. I’m confident I would have made a competent cosmologist if I had taken that route.

But I didn’t.

I still have ideas that I know are good and interesting and worthy of exploration. But I can’t do anything with them now. These are the days I’m most aware of what I gave up to follow a different path.

I don’t regret it. I love the life I’ve made for myself. The work I’m doing now is important and rewarding and I’m very good at it. I also grew up wanting to live in a library someday, so I managed to achieve at least one of my childhood dreams.

But some days I find myself wondering, “What if…?”

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Free Speech & Hate Groups

Or: OK, I Lied—My Previous Post Wasn’t the Last I Had to Say on This Subject. Honestly, I Won’t Ever Run Out of Things to Say about This Issue.

It’s illuminating to peruse the history of judicial interpretations of the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America. Time and time again, it’s noted that the goal of the freedom of expression is to enable and promote the free exchange of ideas.

The free exchange of ideas is the fundamental purpose of public libraries.

The freedom of expression requires us to engage with the presence of hate speech and the various expressions of hate groups in our communities. As we debate the proper approach to and place of hate in society—and more specifically within public libraries—we must at least acknowledge that hate groups don’t care about participating in the free exchange of ideas. If we believe we must allow hate groups and hate speech in libraries because we believe that we should provide access to all ideas, and a platform for all members of our community, it should matter to us that hate groups don’t care about any of that.

Hate groups have no desire to engage in discussion or debate. That’s not why they speak their hate.

They speak to cause harm.

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Theory vs. Practice

Or: My Last Thoughts on the Controversial Update to the Interpretation of the Meeting Room Policy of the Library Bill of Rights

I’m happiest when exploring the realm of ideas, big picture theory. As a kid, I would spend hours sitting in my room thinking about the nature of reality and existence, our minds and souls and bodies, perception, the Universe and time. As an undergraduate in college, I took enough philosophy classes to qualify for a minor in philosophy. A good intellectual debate is one of my favorite things.

I love delving into theory. But there’s one thing about this world which I know to be true:

Nothing ever works in practice the way it works in theory. Reality never matches the model.

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Nazis in the Library

I published a post a couple of weeks ago about neutrality and why I don’t think it’s possible for libraries (or any organization, for that matter) to be neutral in a society riven with historic and structural inequality. I cited posts by Dr. Donna Lanclos and Dawn Finch. I concluded that I would prefer to use the terms nonjudgmental and unbiased.

On Twitter, Dr. Lanclos pointed out that “unbiased” is also a problematic term. She warned, ” ‘Unbiased’ could still end up with Nazis in the library.”

I responded: “We allow Nazis in the library.”

This was the week before the American Library Association’s Office of Intellectual Freedom updated their interpretation of Article VI of the Library Bill of Rights (pertaining to meeting rooms) to explicitly include “hate speech” and “hate groups” alongside religious and political groups, charities, non-profits, and sports organizations as civic groups that must be allowed to use library meeting spaces, and how these groups are allowed to express themselves. Reaction to this change was swift and spawned the #NoHateALA hashtag.

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True Love & The Princess Bride

Ever since posting my review of Kill the Farm Boy, I’ve been thinking anew about The Princess Bride. I don’t think I understood until recently just how much it influenced my sense of storytelling.

I first saw the movie when I was in junior high. I was beginning to form an abiding interest in the craft and techniques of storytelling but I wasn’t consciously aware of it at the time. It would be some years yet before this interest broke the surface of my subconscious and explicitly revealed itself. There are several movies and books from this period of my life which influenced my understanding of the subject without me realizing it.

Like most people of my generation, I fell in love with The Princess Bride the first time I saw it. It was sarcastic and funny with beautiful young leads—I was young and sarcastic and wanted to be funny and beautiful. It was romantic and I was deeply invested in the ideal of being a hopeless romantic.

Or, everyone said the movie was romantic. It talks about True Love a lot and it has the shape of a love story. But I never really bought that part of it.

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The Problem of Neutrality

I’ve written before about my misgivings regarding the ideal of neutrality in public libraries. I recently read an excellent post by Dr. Donna Lanclos titled, “Maybe We Shouldn’t Talk About Diversity Anymore.” There’s a quote in this piece which echoes the argument I’ve made about why neutrality is a problematic concept:

What about notions of ‘neutrality’ and ‘nice’ that talk about the importance of ‘all voices’ when we really should be protecting voices that historically have no platform. Let’s end false equivalencies, and recognize that people who have traditionally had power and influence (especially white men) don’t ever really lose their opportunity to participate just because we make sure that people and especially women of color get to take up space and have their say.”

(http://www.donnalanclos.com/maybe-we-shouldnt-talk-about-diversity-anymore/, posted June 30, 2018)

I want to explain a bit more about why neutrality makes me uncomfortable.

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