Unrequited Death – 1870

To celebrate the occasion of the day I present the following short horro story.

Last year this was turned into an audio reading by Jessica Burkhart and my podcasting partner David Tavolier for our podcast TRIO SIMPATICO but I realized I never posted the actual text anywhere.  So here you are, I present to you in full Unrequited Death – 1870 by me, Joshua Scott Witsaman.

If you’d like to listen to the podcast featuring the reading simply go HERE!

Happy Halloween!

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Light Pollution and the Human Condition

Stars.  The guidepost of the cosmos laid out before us, heralding the greater universe.

To some, the message which the stars depict is a welcoming one, to others they represent a terrifying glimpse at the enormity of reality.  Regardless of how you interpret the stars and our cosmic horizon it is indisputable that the night sky and our view of the Milky Way’s starscape has continually sparked the human imagination to varying degrees.

Arguably the stars have been the single greatest guiding element of human culture since our prehistory.  Science, art, and mythology all owe their origins, in some part, to the stars and those ancient ones who studied them.

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The constellations of Earth’s night sky

From the roaming nomadic tribes of our earliest ancestors to the later sea faring naval adventurers of history, the stars were literal guides through the dark places.

Imagine eons ago, before the modern day, around fires and yurts when deep discussions and wild speculation took place regarding the nature and origin of the stars.  It is these conversations and stories, now multiples of millennium lost to us, which were passed down from family to family, generation to generation, clan to clan, and shore to shore.  It is this type of human speculative imagination along with our yearning to understand and provide meaning for our larger surroundings which eventually became the basis of human culture.

While deciphering patterns from the spaces between the stars humankind the world over formed tales of their own, myths which comforted them, evils which terrified them, heroes they aspired to, and Gods in their own image.  Though they certainly didn’t realize it at the time those ancient forgotten humans who were wondering wide-eyed at the vast night canopy were in fact creating the modern world through their star gazing.

But what significance do the stars hold in this modern world of ours?

Over the last several hundred years the stars have faded from the sight of many and there are doubtless some who have lived and died without looking up into the night and seeing the galaxy staring back.  All due of course to the gradually increasing amount of light pollution blazing outward from the most heavily populated modern locals.

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The lights of our modern world 

Now of course we can all see some stars at night, there are those bright and wondrous holdouts who burn defiantly and still shine even among the places of heaviest light pollution.  The moon too is a powerful looming reminder of the worlds beyond our own which wait in space.  But for all the light polluted city dwellers and suburbanites, the hundred or so stars that can clearly be discerned become almost laughable when compared with the true majesty of the cosmos which is revealed in places of near total darkness.

I’ve been lucky enough to experience this in places like Cimarron, New Mexico and to a lesser degree in some parts of rural Ohio.

There is something simple and amazing about finding yourself in a secluded spot of nature away from the ubiquity of electric lights and being able to take a few moments to stare up and truly examine the contents of the heavens.  When looking out into the unobscured mass of stars there can be some fantastic sensations: Feeling the almost oppressive enormity of the night sky overhead, being able to clearly trace the cloudy path of the Milky Way; the profile of the galaxy itself, and examining the range of sizes and hues which make up the stars.  These are only a portion of the inspirational effects a few moments of deep stargazing can elicit.

I am certainly no historian, psychologist, or social scientist but having had the chance to experience this view of the stars, which has widely been lost to many of us in modern times, I have to wonder what effect a lack of such views will have on future generations?  Something which has had such a formative effect on the human prehistory has slowly been lost to us through our gradual advancement.  As lights constantly spring up in greater numbers across our civilizations and as our nights become far less black, what change will that have on us as a sentient species?

light

On the left the constellation Orion seen in a “dark sky” on the right the same constellation near a light polluted urban area.

 

I can’t help but think the human psyche and imagination has already been affected in some way.

Perhaps as a way to assuage our hubris we as a species should have nightly reminders of our minuscule stature compared with the rest of the universe.

Perhaps we should have more exposure to the celestial orbs and sparkling heavens for the sake of our collective imaginations.

Certainly all types of pollution are harmful.

Our waste is killing our planet, it’s flora and fauna.  Smog and garbage, chemicals and putrescence all slowly kill our natural home and our individual bodies.  However what about our minds and our abilities to wonder and dream?  Does light pollution in some ways extinguish imagination and the sensation of awe in the same ways it extinguishes the stars?

What benefits might there be for us if there could be a restoration of darkness?

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The Colonel’s Pants

So before you read any further I must warn you that I am about to discuss some very obscure Star Wars material, and will be arguing a point that may very well only be important to me.

Now, when I say obscure I don’t mean a Wedge Antilles or Bossk level obscurity, think more obscure!  I’m talking about a specific character so minor that they only appear on screen for a few seconds and have absolutely no dialogue.  On top of that I’ll be nitpicking the details of that characters costume and posit some ideas which may go against the standard conventions for said character.

So if you’re not ready for some serious Star Wars deep cuts then get the fuck out!

Ok let’s talk about Colonel Wullf Yularen.

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That is a name which in recent years has become only slightly more recognizable with Star Wars fans.  Before that Colonel Yularen was a character with very few background details and even fewer fans who seemed to give a shit about him.

In the original Star Wars (A New Hope) from 1977 Colonel Wullf Yularen appears in a single scene (though later in this essay I will put forth the theory that Yularen actually appears a second time in that film).  The colonel’s only film appearance (though possibly first of two, see previous parenthetical) is during the infamous Death Star Conference Room scene where Grand Moff Tarkin informs his heads of staff that the Emperor has dissolved the senate and later Darth Vader chokes a guy.  Sitting directly next to Admiral Motti (the haughty Imperial who gets Force choked by Vader) you will see Colonel Wullf Yularen in his distinctive white uniform jacket.

yularen20.png

From the years of 1977 to 1995 the character was left unnamed and without a title or any background information whatsoever.

However in 1995 Colonel Wullf Yularen was first named and given a brief biography within the Star Wars Customizable Card Game put out by Decipher.  At the time the names and lore text of those cards was considered canon and it was there stated that the colonel was a leader of the Imperial Security Bureau contingent aboard the first Death Star.

After his inclusion in the card game the character found his way into subsequent Star Wars encyclopedias and information tomes that would be published later but little was done to further his biography.

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The Colonel Wullf Yularen card was printed in the original release of the Star Wars CCG

It was from this glance of the character of Yularen in the CCG and his concise but interesting biography which really made me a fan.  I would often try to include the colonel in my Star Wars decks despite the fact that he was not that powerful and his abilities not all that impressive.

Regardless Yularen still intrigued me.

I mean this is the guy who was apparently briefing Grand Moff Tarkin on stuff and who was apparently in such good standing with the Emperor that he’s the one Palpatine sends to ensure everyone on board the Death Star is towing the Imperial line.

Eventually in 2006 an action figure of Colonel Wullf Yularen was created in a special boxed set of the Death Star Briefing Room.

It was a joyous day for Yularen fans in particular or Imperial officer completionists in general.

However despite my personal excitement I was confused by the look of the figure whose uniform was revealed to be entirely white, which is unlike any other standard Imperial uniform seen in the movies or the books.

In the expanded universe books Grand Admirals did wear all white uniforms but those uniforms were also adorned with golden epaulets and the corresponding double rowed rank insignia.

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“Oops looks like my pants got mixed up in Thrawn’s laundry again and his with mine!”

A mystery and controversy had begun.

The controversy lies with the fact that Yularen was clearly defined in the lore as being part of the ISB, the Imperial Security Bureau.  The uniform of the ISB would eventually become associated with the black cap, white coat, and black pants which is seen worn by various officers in various background shots of the first Death Star.

Conversely the black/white/black uniform of the ISB was always sort of a mystery because it only ever appears in the first Star Wars movie and is only ever seen on the Death Star.  Until it was established as the accepted ISB uniform those Imperials were simply known as “Death Star Officers” or “Imperial Fleet Officers.”  Now as stated before Yularen only appears in A New Hope and is only seen on the Death Star and was later established as a high ranking officer in the ISB.

Do you follow me so far?

So with all of that in mind shouldn’t the pants of the action figure for Wullf Yularen have been black, and not white?

To me the answer was obvious, and clearly Hasbro had made a mistake.  That being said however he is such a minor character and the pants in question are never actually visible while the character is seated at the Death Star conference table, so there is really no way to prove otherwise.  Oh well, what can you do?

The issue of the all-white uniform became further compounded when in 2008 a younger version of Wullf Yularen was included in the prequel cartoon series The Clone Wars.

In the series Yularen is given the rank of Admiral in the Republic fleet and works closely with Jedi knight Anakin Skywalker as they battle the forces of the Separatists.

Another banner moment for Yularen fans!

Who would have thought that we’d ever get more Wullf Yularen!  But alas this inclusion in the Clone Wars brings with it further Yularen scandal.

The wonderful Dave Filoni, show runnder of the Clone Wars and it’s followup series Star Wars Rebels, has stated that they decided to include the character of Wullf Yularen as a nod to the original trilogy and gave him the rank of Admiral in order to show his rise through the ranks to the position of Grand Admiral, a rank which the show’s creators mistakenly thought the character had attained at the time of A New Hope as signified by his white uniform jacket.

Once this mistake was realized a good old fashioned retcon was deployed which stated that Yularen had retired from the Navy at some point after the Clone Wars with the rank of Admiral but was later at the time of A New Hope was personally asked by the Emperor himself to reenlist with the ISB in a new position as colonel aboard the Death Star.

However the damage was already done.

Despite the relatively unadorned rank insignia of Wullf Yularen (three red squares and three blue squares) along with a pre-established history, the idea that Wullf Yularen was a Grand Admiral at the time of A New Hope seemed to have found a foothold within the fandom.

Until now!

It is at this time that I would like to get to the point of this entire post and present my evidence of precisely how Colonel Wullf Yularen should be depicted and to firmly establish his position as colonel within ISB operations.

First of all as most of us know by now the Expanded Universe was completely wiped out just prior to the release of the newest Star Wars installment, The Force Awakens.  That meant that pretty much anything was once again up for grabs in the Star Wars universe and unless something explicitly took place in the first six movies or the Clone Wars cartoon it was no longer considered Star Wars canon.

The first expanded universe book of this new canon was titled “Tarkin” and documented the rise to power of the titular character.  In that book Wullf Yularen made a few very minor appearances and thankfully was firmly reestablished once again as a colonel in the ISB (and also, yay more Yularen!).

So that bit of business is taken care of.

Now for his uniform.

A couple of years ago I put together an ISB uniform of my own to wear to conventions, Death Star briefings, or fancy dinners.  I figured an Imperial officer costume would be a nice alternative to my much more cumbersome stormtrooper armor.  Wanting to do something a bit more unique then the typical grey fleet officer I decided to go with the Imperial Security Bureau look.

Black cap, white officer jacket, black pants.

As a fan of Yularen I gave myself the rank of colonel and adorned my costume accordingly but I wanted to examine the movie with a fine toothed comb and seek out as many of the ISB uniforms as possible in order to make sure the details of my costume were precise.

Through my observations I found that there are actually two variations of the ISB uniform in A New Hope.  One with the typical imperial cropped riding pants and tall boots and another with a straight legged pant and dress shoes.  Not a huge difference and from all observations my costume was spot on.

Below are most of the uniforms appearances in the film.

 

Now here’s the big moment!

As I was going, frame-by-frame, looking for ISB officers aboard the Death Star I came across the scene where Han and Luke, disguised as stormtroopers escorting Chewbacca, are awaiting a turbolift to the detention area.

In that scene our heroes are passed by a pair of ISB agents.  These two agents are actually the clearest examples of the uniform in the movie and as I was examining them I realized something.

The officer on the right is Wullf Yularen!

Could that be?

Is that Colonel Yularen out and about walking the Death Star corridors?

It certainly appears that way to me, despite the addition of the black cap everything is exactly the same down to the rank insignia.

Unless there were two actors with the same face and same pristinely trimmed mustache on the set of Star Wars then I had to be looking at what was essentially an unacknowledged second appearance of Wullf Yularen!

Here take a look at the side by side comparisons.

yularensidebyside2yularensidebyside

A second appearance by the colonel is completely in keeping with the rest of the film seeing as several of the Imperials from the conference room scene appear later in the movie.

Admiral Motti and General Tagge discuss the fate of Princess Leia with Tarkin and Vader after the conference room scene.

Chief Bast is seen in several scenes before and after, most notably as the officer who warns Grand Moff Tarkin that the Rebel’s attack against the Death Star might be more dangerous than previously expected.

What this whole long drawn out rant is trying to explain is that Colonel Wullf Yularen wears black pants and it’s irrefutably proven in one quick scene.

With the discovery of that full body shot of the colonel those black pants should now be considered official canon, despite the implications of the white panted action figure.

From everything that I’ve researched no one seems to have realized that one quick corridor scene is in fact a display of Wullf Yularen’s full uniform in motion.

So in the future whenever you’re discussing Star Wars or Star Wars Costuming with your friends, family, and colleagues and find yourself in an argument over the uniform of Wullf Yularen or of the ISB in general (as I’m sure happens on at least a weekly basis) feel free to point them in the direction of Mindless Philosophy and I’ll be glad to set them straight!

 

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A piece of fan art in the Clone Wars style which incorrectly depicts Wullf Yularen wearing white pants.

 

That is all!

People I Know: David Tavolier

 

One of my favorite regular segments of this blog has always been the interviews I conduct with various people I know which I like to call People I Know!  Several nights ago I sat down with a good friend of mine, David Tavolier, in order to bring this glorious segment back to the resurrected Mindless Philosophy!

I have known David Tavolier for over 10 years now and in that time we’ve worked on several things together not least of which have been the internationally acclaimed Reginald Sterling series of videos.  Mr. Tavolier has also been a regular source of inspiration and criticism for several of my long form writing projects.

For reasons that will become apparent during the course of the interview we decided to record this interview and post it here for you to enjoy!  So for the first time ever you can hear the sultry tones of my voice as I conduct one of these interviews now broadcast across the interwebs for all to hear!  Allow me to apologize in advance for being so loud and repetitively saying “yeah” throughout the interview.  Trust me I’m aware of my faults, that’s never been a problem for me!

Below are some teaser images from several of the topics we cover during our talk.  I may transcribe this interview in the days to follow but it’s really time consuming and I currently have a sick two year old in the house so it can wait for now.

     In the meantime click HERE to enjoy the interview of David Tavolier!

 

Mindless Philosophy: 2011 in review

In case you’ve been wondering I’ve taken a brief holiday hiatus in order to get through the multitude of celebrations the wife and I attend with our families this time of year.  However have no fear, I will be returning to my regularly scheduled blogging shortly!  Until then here is the year in review from the good folks at WordPress.com!  Take a peek.

 

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 6,600 times in 2011. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 6 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Mindless Philosophy’s 100th Post!

So here it is ladies and gentlemen, the post you have all been waiting for!  This is Mindless Philosophy’s 100th post!  Huzzah!  Break out the champagne, send in the strippers, and let us commence the debauched celebrating!

Actually this post probably won’t really be all that exciting.  When I realized number 100 was approaching I started thinking about what sort of epic post I could create to exclaim my 100th blog installment to the world.  I thought about listing 100 of my favorite things, or sharing 100 bits of my personal observations, or some other such list of 100.  As I began to really mull it over however, I realized that would be rather wordy and quite an undertaking just to come up with 100 various items and then type it all out here.  So I kept putting it off, and putting it off, until finally several weeks have gone by without any posts whatsoever!  I was forced to postpone a couple of Friday Funny Pages because I didn’t want those regular segments to be my grand 100th post.  Now however you just get this. (Cue fanfare).

To start off let’s take a look back at a few of my personal favorite posts from the 100 thus far.  These aren’t necessarily the ones that have had the most views but the ones I enjoyed writing or have a real connection to:

#3 – Updated!  Possible New Series For Babylon 5?

This particular installment does actually happen to be one of my most read blogs on the site.  I really am proud of this one because I was on the forefront of this news at the time.  Thanks to the efficiency of Google Alerts I happened upon this story rather quickly.  In my continuing mission to raise the general awareness about Babylon 5 I hurried to address the rumors and tossed in a few of my own opinions as well.  I’m usually not the type of person to be on the forefront of knowledge, generally information like this goes through several filters before it comes to me.  I’m pretty sure my post here actually was a primary source for a few people, and I’m kind of proud of that.  Sadly however the rumors were false, and the hopeful talk of a new B5 series was swiftly squashed which necessitated this follow up article:  Babylon 5 NOT Returning According To JMS

#2 – Listening To Star Wars

This wordy proclamation regarding all things Star Wars, and the radio dramas in particular, is a favorite post of mine.  It has not been heavily viewed over the course of its life here on the blog, but it has incited a few comments and pushes of the like button.  I have a tendency to ramble in some of my blogs which generally is a detriment to articles in this type of forum.  More often than not people are just looking for a humorous picture, short review, or relatable anecdote.  Generally if a blog post is more than a few hundred words long folks just pass it by.  I’m as guilty of this as anyone, a story has to focus on something I’m truly interested in if I’m going to invest my time reading it, either that or it has to lure me in with the promise of some sort of revealed knowledge at the end.  Anyway, this article is just me sharing a portion of my love for the Star Wars films and my obsession with the Star Wars Radio Dramas which have been one of my favorite elements of Star Wars since about middle school.  It focuses mostly on how I believe the radio dramas are wrongly overlooked these days, how they fill in some crucial moments that are absent from the movies, and how I think real Star Wars fans should be as excited about them as I am.

#1 – Two Cents From Two Witsamans. Our Oscar Picks.

This one has lost some of its relevancy now that this particular group of Oscar nominees has come and gone.  The one nice thing about that however is that you can immediately see which of our Oscar picks were correct and which were way off.  The reason I enjoyed this so much was because I was able to convince my wife to participate in this mundane little blogging hobby of mine and I think with our combined talents we were able to come up with some good picks with some fairly solid reasoning to back them up.  Plus there’s no shortage of witty banter between us.  My wife is incredibly amusing, if you haven’t read her interview in my very first People I Know segment I suggest you do so now by clicking HERE.

Now over the course of my 100 posts I’ve somehow prompted a few misguided souls to actually subscribe to my blog!  Sure I only have 13 regular followers, but hell, that’s one more than Jesus!  So I’d like to take this time to personally mention and thank the loyal readers of Mindless Philosophy and encourage them to keep reading and make sure to comment and share their thoughts on my writings, after all that’s what this is supposed to be about right?  (Of course at this point those Mindless Philosophy email notifications have probably been flagged as spam.)

But without further ado I say thank you to:

Eldon

LouLaMay

secretcastle

pimpdaddylovemuffin

RiverUnderWater

Arlo J. Wiley

comfortingstrangers

Scott

Hannah

Carl

Brian

ryuk8488

and last but certainly not least

salsabiscuit82

Please continue to read, tell your friends, and share your thoughts!  You guys are the best group of mostly anonymous blog subscribers a fella could ask for!

Moving on now to the future!  In the next couple of days I will have my next installment of People I Know in which I interview Jason Lemmon, a friend of mine and fellow blogger, one of his blogs can be found HERE.  During our chit-chat before and after the interview we casually discussed the idea of starting a combined podcast where we would talk about the various plethora of things that interest us in the humorous manner in which we generally discuss such things.  Since then we’ve been toying with the idea more and more and have tossed a few ideas around.  While I won’t confirm or deny anything at this time, I will say that it is quite possible that there just might be such a production in the very near future.  Expect to read more news about that here as it develops!

And finally, I would like to know what you the readers would like to see on this blog.  After 100 posts of me spouting off randomly perhaps there might be some unexplored or underexplored topics you’d like to see get the Mindless Philosophy treatment, what subjects should be subjected to the Joshua Witsaman filter?  Therefore I present to you this poll with which you can help shape the future of my random spoutings.  Vote.

So there you have it folks, big ol’ post 100.  Now as always . . . .

That is all!

Occupy Coruscant: Life Imitating Art

Now I don’t claim to know the specifics about the whole Occupy Wall Street movement, nor do I wish to be perceived as having a complete grasp on all the implications of the Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission case.  I’m fairly laid back when it comes to politics and I try to shy away from getting into political debates.  However being a big geek I do enjoy drawing parallels between real life situations and my favorite fictional universe, Star Wars.

When it comes to Star Wars I consider myself something of an expert.  Obviously my love of the movies stems from the original trilogy but I do enjoy the prequels as well, and don’t have quite the feverish hatred for them as some others out there.  In fact one of my favorites of the three prequels, despite the great fount of dissenting opinions from across the opinion-sphere, is The Phantom Menace.  Sure there’s too much Jar Jar, despite that though I found myself extremely engrossed by the scenes on Coruscant and the political environment there.  For as we all knew, this would be the political realm that would usher in the end of democracy in the old Republic, and set up the power base of the nefarious Emperor Palpatine!  One of my favorite additions to the Star Wars mythos in the prequel films was the Trade Federation and its lot of greedy cronies.

For those who might not be as familiar with the movies as myself, the Trade Federation is a large conglomerate of intergalactic corporations and trade guilds run by a central council which is responsible for regulating and overseeing most of the galaxies trade, trade routes, and trade taxation.  Of course there are some checks and balances on the power of the Federation by the Galactic Senate which had the power to propose legislation for or against the policies of the Trade Federation.  The fictional history of the Trade Federation has its origins as a simple commerce lobbying organization associated with the Galactic Republic, however by the time of Episode I the Federation had been monopolized by the Neimoidians and had amassed such power and political sway that the entire entity of the Trade Federation was granted its own representative in the Galactic Senate in the form of Senator Lott Dodd.  Along with other manufacturing and banking conglomerates similar to the Trade Federation lobbying and special interests in the Galactic Senate were brought out from behind the scenes and given full disclosure and equal voice to those of individual star systems and their local populations.

Senator Lott Dod of the Trade Federation addresses the senate

 

Sound familiar?  I remember when I first heard about the Citizens United case, and the phrase “Corporations are people.”  My initial thoughts were, without skipping a beat, “Wow, they just created the Trade Federation.”  Of course corporations having the ability to create political ads is quite a stretch from intergalactic groups of corporations creating standing armies and invading neighboring planets.  Or is it?  Well not really, when you think that companies like Halliburton and others hire private security contractors and their own groups of armed forces to protect military supply lines and logistics outposts.  The number of private, corporate security forces in Afghanistan and Iraq are second in size only to the U.S. military itself.  For more information on that subject check out this LINK.

I’m not sure exactly what I’m getting at with all of this, I suppose that I’m just doing my own small bit of political activism by trying to illustrate how scary the phrase “corporations are people” really should be.  If that mindset is allowed to take hold, what’s to stop it from becoming “corporations are citizens” and eventually becoming “corporations deserve representation.”  I can almost hear the reasoning for it now, that such a move would be able to alleviate the economic sway of special interests over politicians, when in fact it would simply give special interests exactly what they want, a political voice, and more power.  Such things or course are only theoretical, but we already have corporations theoretically being people.  What’s to stop these theoretical ‘people’ from forming theoretical states within states which could then be granted a voice and legislative power equal to the very real individuals who have to then toil for and deal with these over powered and gluttonously wealthy corporations.  People are people and from what I remember in my social studies classes in middle school governments are supposed to exist to support and protect their citizens, not cater to shadowy businesses who have buckets full of money which they can use to sponsor the direction of political discourse.  Ah but what do I know?

That is all!