Mawaru Penguindrum 17 and 18 Liveblog Chat Thingy!

How to participate in the liveblog chat:  Option 1: Whenever you watch the episode, comment on this post as you watch with whatever responses you feel like posting! Option 2: Go to http://webchat.freenode.net/. Enter a nickname, then for the Channels field enter ##rabbitcube, and finally fill in the Captcha and hit Connect! We’ll be watching Penguindrum and commenting there starting at 1:00 p.m. EST. That’s one hour earlier than normal!

I will update with the chatlog after the chat.
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Welcome to the second year of JedABlue.com!

Yes, that’s right: yesterday was the 1-year anniversary of JedABlue.com! This first year was pretty good: Near-Apocalypse of ’09 is off to a rollicking start. My Patreon grew from a few buck a month to $70+ and counting. I started vlogging, and that’s been going really well. And I’ve got a small but excellent group of regular commenters, including the weekend liveblog gang–and I’ve had a blast doing those! (Well, except when I didn’t, but, y’know.)
I’ve got a lot planned for this coming year, too. My Little Po-Mo vol. 3 launches next week; the last of the commissioned essays associated with its Kickstarter should be ready some time next week as well, and I’ll be working to get the fourth and final volume out later in the year. Hopefully sometime this year I’ll finally get to vlog seasons two of Gravity Falls and Steven Universe. re:play Season 1 (Final Fantasy VI) should wrap up later this year or early the next; I already know what I’m doing for Season 2. There’s a new Star Trek movie I’ll probably hate, new MCU stuff that may (Luke Cage, hopefully) or may not (the movies, probably) be good, I’ll be writing about that. And of course I have no intention of ending the adventures of E.N. Morwen anytime soon!
So, basically, thanks everyone for a great year, and I look forward to a great year to come!

Captain's Log, Weekly Digest 59

A summary of the past week of posts to my in-character Star Trek Online Tumblr, chronicling the adventures of E.N. Morwen, a science-loving and thoughtful young woman trapped in a galaxy of warring space giants.

  • War Party: The Klingons arrive in the Wake.
  • The Glorfil Alliance: Morwen tries to put together an alliance of Wake species, Federation, and Klingons against the Bni.
  • Relay Race: The fledgling Alliance faces its first task: seizing a subspace relay from the Bni that will allow the other powers to communicate with the Xic.

As the flag officer of a fleet or tactical group, Starfleet regulations also require Morwen to provide a Fleet Status Report briefly summarizing the current status and mission of all ships under her command, every Stardate that’s a multiple of 10.
I am still trying to get an RP-focused fleet together! I am now up to four of the needed five people, so this is happening SOON! Contact me in-game at Morwen@froborr if you’re interested.

Vlog Review: Over the Garden Wall Ep. 5 & 6

[youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WL2ZJUDlKZE] 
Patreon backers can see these videos (including Rick and Morty, my Near-Apocalypse panel, and now Over the Garden Wall) 4-5 weeks early AND Near-Apocalypse articles four MONTHS early!
Those of you who follow on Tumblr, for whatever reason the videos don’t play there. Click through to JedABlue.com to watch.

Took me weeks to get tickets (Birds of a Feather)

Near Apocalpyse of '09 Logo
It’s February 8, 1993, the day after “Robin’s Reckoning Part 1” (appropriately enough), so see that post for news and charts.
“Birds of a Feather” is one of those cases where an episode is more interesting to discuss than to watch. The plot of it is fairly straightforward: socialite Veronica Vreeland (in her first of several appearances) and her friend Pierce hatch a scheme to get attention by bringing the Penguin to a party. Veronica pretends to be romantically interested in him, but he overhears her and Pierce talking about their scheme, so he kidnaps her for ransom and tries to murder both her and Pierce. Batman, of course, intervenes.
Oh, and one of Penguin and Veronica’s dates is to a performance of Pagliacci, at the opera house where Penguin will eventually hold her and Pierce, which is a bit on the nose, seeing as Pagliacci is about a man who jealously murders his wife and her lover on stage while performing in a comedic play about adultery. But the characters of both the episode and the opera map well onto one another: Penguin is Canio, who loves Nedda and believes she loves him, but responds to her betrayal with violent rage. Veronica is Nedda, who is desired by all three of the others, but chooses Silvio. Pierce is Silvio, who exposes himself to Canio’s revenge when he tries to help Nedda.
But that leaves one character from the show and one from the opera unaccounted for: Batman and Tonio, respectively. They seem not to match up at all. Batman is largely a witness to the drama played out between Penguin, Veronica, and Pierce, while Tonio is the driving force of the opera, as he wants Nedda for himself and exposes her infidelity to Canio out of jealousy.
But then, we shouldn’t assume the mapping has to be one-to-one. It isn’t in the play-within-an-opera of Pagliacci, after all; Canio’s great arietta is a declaration that he is not Pagliaccio, the character he plays, and Silvio is in the audience, not playing Nedda’s character’s lover. Nested fictions are necessarily imperfect mirrors of one another; indeed, it is Canio’s inability to separate his real emotions about Nedda’s infidelity with his character’s feelings about Columbine’s infidelity that leads to the opera’s tragic conclusion, a double murder in front of dozens of witnesses. As either Tonio or Canio (depending on the production) says in the opera’s final line: “The comedy is now over.” The performance cannot survive the performer’s inability to keep their own feelings out of it.
Oddly, the episode implies that it is Veronica who struggles most with this problem. She claims at the episode’s end that she was starting to genuinely like the Penguin, which is to say that her performance as his lover might have been starting to leak into her real self. Conversely, Penguin is damned in part by a failure to recognize parallels between the opera and himself–he sings along with Canio/Pagliaccio at the opera–but this is in a sense going even deeper into his role than Veronica does hers, taking to heart the declaration that he isn’t Pagliaccio (and therefore not Canio either). A declaration which is entirely wrong when the Penguin says it; he is the sad clown, the butt of the joke, the grotesque creature whose suffering is a source of amusement for the rest of us, his beloved Columbina included.
But in all this performance and performativity, let us not forget the most experienced performer of all. This is one of those episodes in which Bruce Wayne, slightly dim socialite and philanthropist, appears, and we all know he is just a mask worn by Batman, who is in turn a mask worn by Bruce Wayne, trauma victim. There are signs that he, too, is struggling to keep his performances organized. Remember that we discussed before that part of the reason for Batman’s code against killing, the reason he keeps putting his enemies in Arkham despite them escaping and wreaking havoc time after time, is his hope that they can be redeemed, which is little Bruce’s hope that he can be healed. And here we have an ostensibly reformed Penguin. He should be overjoyed!
But instead his attitude throughout the episode is watchful mistrust of exactly the sort which could have driven Penguin–who, until he snaps in response to learning he’s been duped by Veronica and Pierce, seems to be genuinely intent on reforming–back to crime. Because of course it is; Batman’s purpose is, above all else, to protect his traumatized innermost self from further pain. Part of that means protecting him from the pain of hopes dashed, by not permitting hope at all. His self-contradictory actions, which simultaneously assume that criminals can be reformed and that criminals are fundamentally Other and can never be trusted, are simply the product of the doublethink necessary to give himself the hope without which he would descend into despair while also protecting him from repeated disappointment.
Which brings us to the one way in which Batman and Tonio really do work as parallels to one another. While today it is far more common to have Canio say the last line of Pagliacci, that was a change made in 1895. For the first three years of the opera’s existence, that line belonged to Tonio, who manipulated this tragedy into existence, and from his perspective, there never was any comedy: he is the one character who is unhappy at the opera’s beginning, due to his desire for Nedda.
So, too, is Batman the one character unhappy from the start. Veronica and Pierce have their scheme, and Penguin the illusory happiness of his false relationship, but all Batman has is suspicion and doubt. They are all he ever has, because for him, the murder of a man and woman during a show happened a long time ago. The comedy ended when he was eight years old.


Current status of the Patreon:

Mawaru Penguindrum 15 and 16 Liveblog Chat Thingy!

How to participate in the liveblog chat:  Option 1: Whenever you watch the episode, comment on this post as you watch with whatever responses you feel like posting! Option 2: Go to http://webchat.freenode.net/. Enter a nickname, then for the Channels field enter ##rabbitcube, and finally fill in the Captcha and hit Connect! We’ll be watching Penguindrum and commenting there starting at 1:00 p.m. EST. That’s one hour earlier than normal!

I will update with the chatlog after the chat.
ETA: Chatlog after the cut!
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Elements of Harmony 7: Cadance Is Best Pony

The Elements of Harmony series are commissioned essays in which I examine a character selected by the Kickstarter backer who commissioned the essay, and construct an argument on why that character is best pony.
For starters, Cadance has one of the best names in the series, and almost certainly the most oversignified. Start with the first name given for her, Princess Mi Amore Cadenza. Mi amore is, of course, Italian for “my love,” and likely a title indicating the nature and source of her power; much as Twilight Sparkle is the Princess of Friendship, Cadance is the Princess of Love. But cadenza has a very different meaning: it is a musical term, referring to an ornamental passage, usually a solo designed to show off the virtuosity of one musician, placed near the end of a work. This is very much Cadance’s role in her first appearance.
Let us go back, a moment, to the end of Season Two. It has been something of a triumph, with a number of episodes that stand among the series’ best: “The Return of Harmony,” “Lesson Zero,” “Sweet and Elite,” “The Super Speedy Cider Squeezy 6000,” “Read It and Weep,” “It’s About Time.” Now, here at the end of the series, we’re introduced to a new character, Princess Cadance, and just as swiftly (a mere couple of minutes into “A Canterlot Wedding, Part Two”) introduced to the real Princess Cadance, bedraggled, scratched up, desperate to save Shining Armor. What follows can only be described as a virtuoso solo passage, as the two Cadances sing “This Day Aria.” It is easily the best song in the show to that point, alternating verses in which the true and false Cadance sing light and dark versions of each other’s lines, with the false Cadance, Queen Chrysalis, wanting to control and devour, while the true Cadance mourns the disruption of her special day and worries about the loss of her love, Shining Armor.
Chrysalis isn’t just disguised as Cadance; in a sense, she is Cadance, another side of the same coin. Their song together is an aria–a piece performed by one singer–not a duet, and their power is the same: love. Chrysalis devours while Cadance creates, yes, but such is the nature of love; it can be grasping, greedy, possessive, or it can be giving, nurturing, healing. Usually, it’s both at once. And within a universe where friendship is magic, love is pure power; Chrysalis is able to defeat Celestia in a direct battle of power against power, and Cadance in turn is able to empower Shining Armor to do what Celestia can’t, and drive the Changelings from Equestria. Because, of course, one lover alone can only be selfish; it’s when love is shared by two or more people that it becomes able to accomplish something good.
This is the power of love: connection, binding, bridging gaps, enabling sharing and cooperation. Cadance is, in more ways than one, a bridge. She is, for example, a unicorn that became an alicorn princess: according to Lauren Faust, Cadance was a unicorn, neither an alicorn nor a princess, when “A Canterlot Wedding” was first planned; sometime after Faust left, she became an alicorn princess. This, perhaps, is why she is so different from Celestia and Luna: less distant, smaller, more down-to-earth and approachable. She is a living bridge between “ordinary” magical ponies and the goddess-like Princesses of Sun and Moon, someone who has ascended extradiegetically, and thus traced the path for Twilight to do so extradiegetically a season from now.
But Princess Mi Amore Cadenza is only one of her names. She has two more: Cadence and Cadance, the former her name according to the credits and closed captioning of some episodes, the latter her name in other episodes, most merchandise, and the Elements of Harmony guidebook. Cadence has multiple meanings, all related to sound. First, it is a musical term, the sequence of chords that ends a passage, with different types of cadences used to different effects–deceptive cadence, for instance, generates a feeling of hanging incompleteness. (As something of a joke, “B.B.B.F.F. (Reprise)” in “A Canterlot Wedding” ends with a deceptive cadence, moments before Chrysalis-as-Cadance attacks Twilight.) It can also mean a particular style of speech or intonation, or a rhythm.
These latter meanings of the word resonate with Cadance’s second major appearance, in “The Crystal Empire.” Though she spends most of the episode sidelined, her role is tremendously important, as she is (with Shining Armor’s support, a nice reversal of their roles from the climax of “A Canterlot Wedding”) the one actually battling King Sombra; the entire plot of the two-parter is Twilight trying to find ways to help Cadance finish him off. She’s the obviously correct choice for the job; having already confronted her own dark mirror in Chrysalis, she is more than prepared to take on the Shadow. But there are subtler ways in which cadence permeates the episode. For example, the Crystal Ponies are marked by a particular cadence of speech, a dour and overprecise intonation that represents the repression of their past and their light. As the Crystal Faire frees them, they begin speaking with a more normal cadence and regain their full shine, only to lose it again to Sombra. Their light and their cadence are equated, and it is Cadence who brings both once she grasps the Crystal Heart, recovered by Twilight and Spike.
What is the connection between Cadance and the Heart? The Crystal Ponies seem to recognize her as the Crystal Princess, and after “The Crystal Empire” accept her and Shining Armor as their ruler. The Crystal Heart bears a close resemblance to Cadance’s cutie mark, and flares to life when when she takes it, after which she leads the Crystal Ponies in using its power to dispel Sombra’s Shadow for good. But she’s not a Crystal Pony: like the Mane Six, she sparkles only temporarily after the activation of the Crystal Heart, not permanently like the Crystal Ponies, and she clearly has no memory of their realm, so she’s not their millennia-lost princess. What she is, however, is Cadance, which is to say, cadence, a rhythm–and the most primal rhythm of all, one accelerated both by the love that is Cadance’s power and the fear that is Sombra’s, is the beating of a heart.
Which brings us to her third, and apparently official, name: Cadance. Which is not itself a word, but fusion of two, cadence and dance. Dancing is, of course, another activity closely associated with both rhythm and with love, but the name carries more meaning than that: Cadance, from her first appearance, has been a character who dances on the edge of the spotlight, doing important things but never being at the heart of the story. She is not a mentor like Celestia, nor is she someone who can serve as the focus character for an episode like Twilight or Luna; she is the friend, the loved one, the one who holds down the home fort while others go questing. This fits well with her personality, as one of the most grounded and down-to-earth characters in the series. In “Three’s a Crowd,” for example, she’s happy to go along with either visiting the Star-Swirl the Bearded Museum or going on Discord’s absurd quest with Twilight, while in “Games Ponies Play” she tries to get Twilight and the others to relax and accept events as they unfold. And, as already observed, she is a pony who works by empowering others.
Friend, lover, wife, mother, quest-giver. The balanced center around which all else revolves, a font of power which others wield, the beating heart of the Crystal Empire whose love is refracted across all Equestria. Bridge between the three tribes of ponies and the alicorns, between the everyday and the exalted. Yes, there is definitely a case to be made for Cadance as best pony.

Captain's Log, Weekly Digest 58

A summary of the past week of posts to my in-character Star Trek Online Tumblr, chronicling the adventures of E.N. Morwen, a science-loving and thoughtful young woman trapped in a galaxy of warring space giants.

  • World Half Empty: Drawn forward by strange text-only messages, the crew of the Inverse searches a seemingly abandoned planet for the Xic.
  • Following World Half Empty, I went on a semi-hiatus, during which I posted daily background notes:

As the flag officer of a fleet or tactical group, Starfleet regulations also require Morwen to provide a Fleet Status Report briefly summarizing the current status and mission of all ships under her command, every Stardate that’s a multiple of 10.
I am still trying to get an RP-focused fleet together! Contact me in-game at Morwen@froborr if you’re interested.