Friday, June 17, 2016

We've Moved

Hello, all!

I've moved my base of operations over to a new blog called Starship Cafe. I'm hoping to bring you more thoughtful content on sci-fi, geek culture, and mid-century pop culture in a more consistent and streamlined format. All the posts on Potassium With a Capital K will remain here, but all my new posts will be at

I'm finally starting up my series on 50 things I've learned from Star Trek for the 50th anniversary, so go on over and check it out. As always, thanks for reading.

And, for the last time on this particular blog...

Keep on glowing in the dark,

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Star Wars Quick-Takes: The Force Awakens- Does it Fit?

I know that a lot of people have seen The Force Awakens already, but since it is still so new, I am going to keep this review as spoiler-free as possible.

We’ve seen a lot of reboots, remakes, and continuations of 1970s and 80s sci-fi franchises lately. Some of them have stuck faithfully to the heart of the original franchise, and some have not. So, how does J.J. Abrams’ Star Wars measure up to the series that has been engaging (and occasionally enraging), geeks since 1977?

One of the main selling points of this new Star Wars movie for me was the return of the original cast. It was exciting to sit in the theatre opening night, and cheer along with all the other fans as favorite characters returned to the screen. Luke, Han, Leia, Chewbacca, C3PO and R2-D2 were some of my earliest childhood imaginary friends. There were some times in the film when I wanted more of these characters, but overall, I thought their characters had progressed naturally from where they were in Return of the Jedi.

The new characters introduced were relatable and fun. They had some similar characteristics to old characters, but also felt like their own people. I am excited to see more of them in the future.

The style of The Force Awakens definitely hearkens back to A New Hope. The starfields, ships, and common speech plants the viewer firmly in that familiar, well-used, and exciting galaxy. I was impressed by the use of practical effects, and excited by John Williams’ newest score.

The plot will probably seem familiar to Star Wars fans. Once again, we are seeing a variation on the classic hero’s journey tale. I’ve heard some people complain about the re-use of this plot, but as it seems to be the heart of Star Wars’ narrative, I wasn’t terribly upset to see familiar moments and themes pop up in this first movie.

If you’ve seen the movie, I’d love to know some of your thoughts. If you haven’t I definitely recommend it.

Thanks for coming with me for this voyage through the Star Wars franchise. However, this is the year of Star Trek, as the original series is turning 50 in September. So, leading up to the anniversary, I am going to blog through every episode, starting with the first pilot,“The Cage”. If you’re interested, stay tuned!

Keep on glowing in the dark,

Star Wars Quick-Takes: Return of the Jedi- What is Left

We know that humanity is corrupt. We made the choice at Eden to reject the light and cling to the darkness. Therefore, we may feel like dismissing Luke’s statement that there is “still good in” his father right off. Sounds humanistic. Sounds like “everyone is basically good”. Is that truly the story arc we see, however?

We discussed the story of Anakin’s fall and redemption in the posts about the prequel trilogy. Anakin was deceived by the dark side of the force, but he was not altogether innocent. He chose to give into his fears, and reject the counsel of his superiors in the Jedi Order. He turned from a kid who wanted to free slaves and protect the ones he loved to a power-hungry mass-murderer. This doesn’t seem like a character who is “basically good”.

Yet Luke Skywalker, with the compassionate eyes of  a Jedi and a son, looked for the things that were still redeemable in him. In his search for the good that was still left, he was able to bring his father back to the light side of the force in Anakin’s last moments.

Though we are all flawed human beings, there is still something in each of us that is good. Something God imbued us with at creation that is waiting to be restored. He looked through the eyes of The Son, and saw those things- those people that He had designed, and reached out to bring us back into His light.

As children of this God, one of our jobs is to see the image of God in everyone. It is so easy to see people’s sins, and darkness, and failure. However, if we, like Luke Skywalker, choose to see others with compassion, we will witness the miracle of God’s redemption in their lives. We may even, by His grace, be allowed to take part in the story He is telling in the lives of other human beings.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Star Wars Quick-Takes: The Empire Strikes Back- The Danger of Isolation

Yoda sure does seem wise, doesn’t he? A lot of the things he says do make good sense. However, there’s one instruction he gives to Luke that we just can’t tolerate. Much to our relief, Luke can’t either, so he decides to ignore the sage, old Jedi Master’s advice, and set off on a quest to rescue his friends and fight Darth Vader.
Did Luke make the correct choice by rushing out on this ill-advised rescue mission? In spite of Yoda’s statements, The Empire Strikes Back presents several examples of the deadly folly of individualism.

Early in the film, at the beginning of the battle on Hoth, Luke’s co-pilot, declares that he feels like he could take on the Empire single-handedly. This overconfident attitude does not serve him well, as he is killed soon afterwards.

Later, in what is probably the most iconic light saber battle in all of Star Wars, Luke takes on Darth Vader by himself,(without even the companionship of his faithful droid R2-D2). Though Luke develops his skills with the force, and is enlightened as to the true fate of his father; he loses his hand, and is nearly killed in the fall from Cloud City.

In the end, he discovers that one of the most important things a force-sensitive person can learn is to reach out to others around him. The only way he is saved from certain death is by calling out to Leia, who directs Lando and Chewbacca to go back to the city and rescue him.

It seems that while Yoda may offer decent life advice when he says “do or do not, there is no try”, he doesn’t have it all worked out. People need to be able to rely on each other, and to help each other. We can’t make it on our own...That’s not how the Force works! (Or real life, for that matter).

Friday, January 29, 2016

Star Wars Quick-Takes: A New Hope- Tatooine and The House of Bread

Almost every story of redemption begins in the most hopeless of places. Perhaps it has to. Maybe that’s part of what makes a story a redemption story. Suppose Star Wars had started out on Alderaan, an epicenter of the Rebellion. It would have been an entirely different type of movie if a highly trained and educated rebel leader faced up against the Empire’s destructive symbol of power.

But we so love the stories where hope comes out of left field. Out of the places least expected. We want to follow the transformation. To hear lines like “There’ll be no escape for the princess this time”, and “Well, if there’s a bright center to the universe, you’re on the planet that it’s farthest from”, and then see them proved wrong.

That’s why Star Wars, was , has been, and continues to be so popular. It takes the hopelessness so prevalent in the world around us, and flips it on its head. It finds its heroes in the most unlikely, least desirable places.

That resonates with us. I wonder why. I have a funny feeling it began a long time ago in a little town far, far away (at least from me). The city they called The House of Bread. Bethlehem.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Star Wars Quick-Takes: Revenge of the Sith- A Shattered Mirror

Part of what made the original Star Wars trilogy so influential was the simplicity of its narrative. It was the classic hero’s journey. The first three movies told the story of Luke Skywalker’s progression from a simple farm boy to a heroic and powerful Jedi Master.

The prequel trilogy tells the opposite story. It is the tragic tale of Anakin Skywalker’s rise to power and fall from grace. Some of the most poignant moments of Revenge of the Sith are dark reflections of similar scenes from the culminating film of the original trilogy, Return of the Jedi.

Throughout Revenge of the Sith, Anakin has trouble seeing the line between good and evil. Both Chancellor Palpatine and Mace Windu are willing to kill to accomplish their goals, and encourage him to kill to further their purposes. Throughout Return of the Jedi, Luke sees clearly the delineation between good and evil. He can see the good left in his father through the evil. He knows that his conscience will not allow him to kill, in spite of the fact that the evil Emperor Palpatine is encouraging him to do so for seemingly good reasons.

The story of the first six episodes of Star Wars are also the story of Anakin Skywalker’s fall and redemption. The motif of this plot line is the mask of Darth Vader. At the end of Revenge of the Sith, Anakin’s descent into darkness is complete, and he puts on the mask for the first time. At the end of Return of the Jedi, his redemption is sealed when he takes of the mask for the last time. (I am interested to see how the motif of Darth Vader’s mask is used going forward in the new trilogy).

Whether or not you like the Star Wars prequels, it is very interesting to see how they mirror the plot of the original series, and provide a background against which its story of redemption truly shines.

Keep on glowing in the dark,

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Star Wars Quick-Takes: Attack of the Clones- Blind Seers

We don’t get too much about what the Jedi Order used to be like from watching the Star Wars film, (you people who write for Wookiepedia can fill me in on the expanded universe stuff), but we get the impression that the age that the prequels are set in is far from “The Golden Age of The Jedi”. When we discussed The Phantom Menace, we took a look at how blind the Jedi Council had become to things going on outside of their ranks. In Attack of the Clones, we see the true extent of their hypocrisy and blindness.

Obi Wan Kenobi’s diner-owner friend Dex makes the poignant statement in his conversation with Obi Wan, “I should think you Jedi would have more respect for the difference between knowledge and wisdom”. This seems to be a good summary of the decay that is taking place within the Jedi Order in the prequel trilogy. They have retained knowledge, but lost wisdom.

Generally, knowledge is considered to be the cold, hard facts of a matter. The raw data, the charts, the graphs, the numbers, the word-for-word recitation, the names and dates, and technical ability. Wisdom is knowing what to do with knowledge. It is being able to see through the data, charts, graphs, and numbers to the heart of the issue. It is understanding and applying the word-for-word recitation. It is knowing the faces behind the names, and the significance behind the dates. For the main spiritual and philosophical entity in the galaxy to have lost the ability is a grave situation.

When Obi Wan goes to the Jedi Temple to investigate the planet Kamino, and discovers that it has been wiped from the databases, he is told by the temple librarian that it obviously doesn’t exist. This reflects the prevailing attitude of holding to facts without discernment. Later, when the plot to create a clone army has been uncovered, Yoda admits to this fault on the part of the Jedi leaders, “Blind we are if the creation of this clone army we could not see.”

When the spiritual leaders of a society sacrifice their wisdom for mere facts, that society is vulnerable to attack. When the artists, and thinkers, and prophets forget about wisdom and focus merely on transmitting information, crisis is inevitable. Rulers come to power who would rather that understanding remained dim; because, if the people were enlightened to the truth, these rulers would lose their authority. The masses are deceived, and the truth remains suppressed until a new group of people,who have the ability to see, rises up. The restored balance between wisdom and knowledge brings with it, well, a new hope.