Saturday, December 23, 2023

2023 Star Wars Advent Calendar - Day 23

Hah! This was good - I opened the little door and saw the diagram and thought "What is this?" Then I built it, and said, "What is this?" 

Partly because I was thinking the ewok would show up today to have whatever the big special thing is tomorrow; and partly because I just couldn't figure out what this is.

So I thought for a few moments and then it came to me - it's the flying wings used by the Ewoks!

23 days in - just one more day to go!

Friday, December 22, 2023

2023 Star Wars Advent Calendar - Day 22

Today's build is an Imperial Star Destroyer. I'm assuming this is to be one of the Destroyers as seen in ROTJ, though I don't think there was any difference between those and the ones we saw in Episodes IV and V. 

It's not a bad build - take a look:

Given the detail of other builds in this calendar, it's a bit of a letdown - it's very few parts. But that's a complaint based more on "Other builds had so much more this time!" than it is based on any objective reason to be disappointed in this one. In previous years' calendars, this would get a high rating. I'm totally cool with it, but it also feels like being at a restaurant and after 21 courses of exceptionally creative and tasty dishes, they brought out some of Aunt Martha's meatloaf warmed up from yesterday. At any other time, Aunt Martha's meatloaf - even warmed up in a microwave - would be an excellent meal, but in this context, it's like a conductor deciding that halfway through the Urlicht from Mahler's Symphony No. 2 a couple measures of "Louie, Louie" is a necessity. [side note: there are times I have seriously wondered if Mahler was actually an angel or demigod or other divine or semi-divine being, and not just a mere human; it seems to me that no mere human could have written such utterly sublime and soul-destroyingly beautiful music]. Yeah, Louie Louie is an awesome song; but it would come as a disappointment in the midst of the Urlicht. 

[[double side-note: Zappa, of course, included a modified "Louie, Louie" in a lot of his music, and so the hypothetical inclusion of "Louie, Louie" in the Urlilcht that I mentioned would definitely not be the Zappa form of it, because such an inclusion would make it even cooler and say to me "Oh, that conductor is a freaking genius if he knows Zappa that well!"]]

So, anyway, I'm still very happy with this year's Star Wars LEGO Advent Calendar! The destroyers are my second favorite of the interstellar ships, exceeded only by the far larger and more powerful Super Star Destroyers, such as the one that Darth Vader got to ride, and which was forced to crash into the Death Star II, the Executor. 

Thursday, December 21, 2023

2023 Star Wars Advent Calendar - Day 21


Today the calendar delivers... The Imperial Throne!

That upon which the magnificent (long may he reign!) Emperor Palpatine sits in the Imperial Throne Room on the Imperial Death Star II and from which he controls the entire Empire, including the entire fleet, and even his sith apprentice. At least, for most of the movie he controls his apprentice.

Look at this beauty! 

And of course, Palpatine fits great on it! Look at this menace, with his force lightning, his Christmas sweater, and his cup of coffee. Or hot chocolate. Or maybe it's some liquified ewok jerky. I could see Palpatine liking that, just for the cruelty: "Less taste, but more cruel than other beverage choices - try to new liquified Ewok Jerky(tm)!"

For my money, one of the greatest sets in all the Star Wars movies is the throne room in Return of the Jedi. It's all metal and sharp edges - even the throne is all sharp edges - exceedingly minimalist. The room only has metal stairways (with lots of openings) and metal walkways (with lots of openings), and a bunch of computer console areas that don't get used because the Emperor doesn't need computers - he has the Force!

I gotta say, best Star Wars LEGO Advent Calendar so far, and I think this is my tenth one. 

A Quick Meditation on the Holy Family and other refugees

It's important for those of us who follow Jesus to not think of the nativity as a once-and-done moment in time about which we can be angry at the innkeeper for not having enough room, or be angry at Herod for killing the children, and sit back and say "I would have made room for them" or "I would have helped". Through Jesus' incarnation, we ought now to see this situation wherever it occurs, and to consider our own actions toward the holy family when we're being the ones who say "no room" or "they are a threat, let them die" or similar.

If one is so sure that one would have helped the holy family, then why not help those in similar fate right now? Helping those now is the only way to help the family back then.

We have refugees who will be resettled in my home area of Eau Claire, WI, through the help of World Relief. Oddly, even in this pre-Christmas time, many locals (and I'm sure many of them would very much proclaim themselves Christian) have been fighting the city and county to try to keep this from happening, and doing so with some fairly weak arguments based mostly on fear: economic, racial, cultural, and some out of sheer ignorance of the process itself. As they place the baby Jesus in their mangers at home all snug and lovely, they are actively trying to prevent other very real people, who are in very real danger, from placing their babies in safe beds - to set up a nativity while basically supporting Herod is a significant failure to understand the nativity and its implications for us.

Without going into the details that any refugees being resettled have years of vetting behind them, and federal law prohibits communities from choosing who gets to live there, and other legal issues, or economic or social ones, from a theological standpoint there is no excuse not to help the stranger, the foreigner, or the refugee. The requirement to do so is right there in the law in the Bible, and using that very language of "foreigner" and "refugee", and right there in the words of Jesus, and right there in the Holy Family's status as refugees when they were forced to flee the violence of the state (Herod killing the children) by going to Egypt for a few years.

As I said at a press conference recently that World Relief, JONAH, and the Eau Claire Hmong Alliance held, as a voice of our moral responsibility to take care of refugees, "The question should never be, 'Can we help?' or 'Can we afford to help?', but, 'We must help, so, How are we going to make this happen, How are we going to make sure that they're safe and taken care of?'" Love for neighbor is an integral part of all the major religions.

Helping those who are currently in the same situation as the Holy Family were 2000 years ago is the way to show that we would indeed have helped them back then. But if we create roadblocks to keep those who are currently in the same situation from finding relief, or if we straight out deny them relief, then we're putting up roadblocks for the Holy Family. "Whatever you do to the least of these, you do to me." Until we see Christ in our neighbor, are we really able to see Christ at all?

Wednesday, December 20, 2023

2023 Star Wars Advent Calendar - Day 20

I found out today why the Palpatine minifigure came earlier than I would have expected. Turns out, Palpatine was behind the door of Day 20, not Day 19. I went to open the door for Day 20 today and it was already opened... I double checked the date... checked the door... checked the date... and realized that I was off by a day yesterday!

Yesterday should have been this amazing build of the SLD-26 planetary shield generator on the Forest Moon of Endor! Wow! Another great one! It's so simple, but it really looks like the dish from the movie.

Check that out!!

Here's the one from the movie: 

Here it is from a still from the movie:

And here it is being blown up:

No photo of my version being blown up. Sorry.

Tuesday, December 19, 2023

2023 Star Wars Advent Calendar - Day 19

 ooh - today we get the big guy himself! And in a Christmas sweater, too! Love it. Lightning in one hand, coffee in the other. Sith are fueled on caffeine, perhaps.

Welcome, Emperor Mr. Palpatine!

I normally try as much as possible not to look at the images on the Advent Calendar box so that I don't ruin the surprise of what's in it, but it was very difficult to not see the image of Emperor Palpatine sitting on his throne. So I knew Palpatine was coming. But I thought he'd be closer to the final day. This seems a significant character and minifigure to get while there are still five unopened doors in the calendar. This was quite the welcome surprise today!

Monday, December 18, 2023

2023 Star Wars Advent Calendar - Day 18

We're still on the Forest Moon of Endor, where live the creatures from which tasty Ewok Jerky can be made. 

We've had an Ewok treehouse, Princess Leia minifig in camo, the entrance to the shield generator, an AT-ST, and now today, the Speeder Bike! (the version that appeared in Return of the Jedi; so I'm glad that we haven't moved to a different move yet. And maybe we won't. Maybe the next 7 days will also be ROTJ stuff!). 

Wonderful! This looks pretty good, and I can see Leia jumping on one of them and speeding away, zipping through the Redwood National Park in California trees of Endor.

Not bad. Not bad at all. Thanks, LEGO! That's 18 great builds in a row!