Some links for today. We’ll start with Star Wars and go from there.
The Best-Case Scenario: ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ – There’s a new Star Wars film out this week. It’s a total surprise; I haven’t seen ads or merchandise for it anywhere. Reviews are starting to trickle in, albeit ones light on details. The thing most important to me — the scene wipes — aren’t mentioned at all. I haven’t decided when I’ll see the new film; I may wait until January. Certainly before Farpoint. NPR
Star Wars: The Force Awakens Is a Mashup Masterpiece – Christopher Orr’s spoiler-free review of the new Star Wars film has a little more detail than NPR’s; this one mentions the Max von Sydow character and sketches out who he is, for instance. Orr enthuses over the film; he finds the film entertaining and a labor of love, but he also levels some critiques at the film — there’s no backstory (which the NPR review also mentioned), and the film is largely a pastiche of the original trilogy, “ensnared in its own nostalgia.” The Atlantic
Why The Politics Of The ‘Star Wars’ Universe Makes No Sense – More Star Wars — NPR political correspondent Tamara Keith leads a discussion about the politics of the Star Wars universe and to what extent those politics make sense. The discussion leans on the prequel trilogy, which is more politically oriented than the original trilogy, but then again, I enjoy discussions about the taxation of trade routes. NPR
Maddux pencils Roark into starting rotation for next season – What will the Washington Nationals’ starting rotation look like in 2016, now that Jordan Zimmermann and Doug Fister have departed? If you listen to new pitching coach Mike Maddux, Tanner Roark is the team’s fifth starter. Roark had a phenomenal 2014 in the Nationals’ rotation, then the acquisition of Max Scherzer sent Roark to the bullpen where he had no fixed role — spot starter, long man, even closer. As a result of the inconsistency in his work, Roark’s numbers in 2015 weren’t the best, and the role he had didn’t seem suitable to his talents. Maddux is talking up Roark, and he sees not just potential but results there. It’s also possible that Maddux sees an opportunity as pitching coach to help Roark’s game hit the next level. I’ve been a fan of Roark for a long time; I used the check for my federal jury duty in Harrisburg last spring to buy a Roark jersey. CSN Mid-Atlantic
Neil Gaiman On Returning To ‘Sandman,’ Talking In His Sleep And The Power Of Comics – Neil Gaiman talks to NPR’s Fresh Air about The Sandman: Overture (just collected in hardcover) and what it was like returning to the series after a decade. Also, there’s a fascinating bit about how Gaiman talks in his sleep and can carry on conversations while asleep. NPR
Donald Trump’s Walmart Candidacy for the Republican Presidential Nomination – David Frum argues that Donald Trump is like the Walmart of presidential candidates; while the rest of the GOP field caters to the donor classes and a niche clientele, Trump caters to everyone else. The Atlantic
Here are 5 reasons to suspect Jesus never existed – I have Mythicist leanings — I harbor doubts that the Jesus described in the New Testament and believed in by Christians has little, if any, historical basis. My thought on Jesus is that he’s similar to King Arthur; there may be some historical incident that has been lost to time and memory, but the story that we know is so layered over by myth and fiction that the historical facts are completely obscured and impossible to uncover. So, just in time for Christmas, Raw Story looks at five reasons why there may not have been an historical Jesus. Raw Story
BBC World Service – Discovery, Enceladus: A second genesis of life at Saturn? – Beneath the icy surface of Saturn’s moon Enceladus lies a world-spanning ocean. Might that ocean harbor life? This half-hour documentary looks at the latest discoveries of the Cassini mission, including the water geysers that spout from the moon’s surface and the organic compounds that are believed to be beneath the ice. BBC World Service
This Child Is A Reminder Of Just How Bad Things Are In Yemen – Long-time readers will know that I’ve taken an interest in the Yemeni civil war (see, for instance, this blog post from June). This Buzzfeed photo essay of how the Saudi-led bombing campaign has affected the life of one three-year-old girl is a potent reminder of just how war can forever alter the lives of innocent non-combatants. Warning: contains images that may be disturbing. Buzzfeed
With US help, Saudi Arabia is obliterating Yemen – The war in Yemen has reached a temporary pause thanks to a week-long cease fire (though there are reports that the Saudi coalition has already broken the cease fire). For background on the war — its causes, who is fighting whom, even the nature of American involvement — this article goes in depth. PRI
And for fun, I’ll mention that I’m intrigued to notice that this week there are people reading my blog in China, the Ukraine, Latvia, Brazil, and Malaysia.