The Phantom Menace

TL;DR: Revisiting an objectively bad movie did not improve the movie.

I tell this story often because 1) it’s funny to me and 2) it’s about someone I viscerally hate, an embezzler and saboteur who destroyed a company of mine. So, on the occasion of my re-watching The Phantom Menace for our Star Wars ranking podcast episode, allow me to tell it again:

It’s 1999 and we’re starting to see sneak peak trailers for a movie no one has heard about. The only way to see a whole trailer is to go to, our first foray into internet viral marketing. Two of my friends and I are very excited about seeing this movie, whatever it is, while a fourth – not a friend, let’s call him a coworker even though it turned out all he was working on was stealing our IP and fraudulently billing our clients for his time — turns to us and says, “There’s only one movie coming out in 1999: The Phantom Menace.”

The Matrix, of course, turned out to be a masterpiece and TPM turned out to be a mess.

Anyway, I haven’t seen TPM since that first time in the theater (from which I emerged fully dumbfounded and calling into question my love of Star Wars in its entirety) and with the Star Wars ranking episode looming on the horizon, I decided to give it a second chance, you know, just in case.

I can’t bear to write an entire post about this experience so I’m just going to include my live notes after the jump:

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The One Off

I have managed to exist in six decades as a Bond fan without ever having seen On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. This has now been rectified and I have a lot to say about my fee-fees on this — well, let’s call it a “film” to keep the typing down because it would get tiresome typing “Cubby Broccoli had a wart removed and made us watch” over and over.

Spoilers for a 50 year old movie follow.

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October Roundup

I have been AWOL from here for a while. I’m finding it difficult to cross the hump when it comes to writing, mostly because my attention seems to be constantly and continuously drawn away by this rapidly unfolding shit show our nation has become.

But I did manage to watch some stuff over the past month so I thought, you know, maybe I would talk about it here as a way to fill space with words the same way we fill our days with distractions, shuffling our feet until this — all of this — is over.

TL;DR: Nothing very good to watch this Halloween season.

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Remedial Chaos Theory

In the Multiverse, the coin always comes up both heads and tails. A version of you sees heads and another version of you sees tails. If you look at that coin toss as deciding between a preferred outcome (heads, the good) and an undesirable outcome (tails, the bad) then one of you gets to experience the good while the other suffers the bad.

By the law of averages, most copies of you will live through some equitable mix of good and bad outcomes, but there is a path out there in which a version of you catches the bad end of every decision.

The all tails branch.

There’s also an all heads branch in which Lyndon Johnson abandoned Kennedy’s Indonesian adventurism, fired the best brains dullards from Harvard, and spent his 2.5 terms prosecuting the war on poverty and building The Great Society.

Nixon was never elected because he didn’t have the Vietnam War to campaign on. Reagan never sought national office because the Democrats didn’t raise taxes to pay for their war (something only Democrats do as Republicans are happy to let our grandchildren pay for their wars). The war criminal family of Bushes tended to their carpet bagging instead of infecting politics with their unique brand of folksy fascism.

But we’re not living in that branch. We’re in the branch that ends with a deranged game show host leading a death cult over the cliff because he’d rather burn America to the ground than go down alone.

So, yeah, welcome to the All Tails Branch, otherwise known as The Worst Timeline.

The Do Over

I finished the work in progress that will go out to agents once beta readers have provided their feedback. That leaves me with too much time on my hands and no story to work on. In this situation, I always start digging around in uncompleted projects for something that lights a spark in my imagination.

Fortunately, as someone who just plunges in on ideas instead of mapping them out, I have a fertile garden of half worked out ideas. It took a week of reading, but I found the thing I want to attempt to complete, the thing that will become my current work in progress while I send Everywhere to the agents so eagerly waiting to hear from me.

The interesting thing about this piece is that I started it ten years ago. Think about everything that has happened in the last ten years and how those events have changed (most people’s) perspectives. Needless to say, much of what I had written conforms to my attitudes, conscious and subconscious, before my point of view literally got spun.

Rewriting it will be a fun process and new understanding of the story and characters that has come from new understanding in life will make it possible to actually finish it this time.

Forward ho!

Current Events Ep. 72: Discovery 2×1

Mike and I start the second season of Discovery. Huge changes are afoot along with a hint of Spock!

You can listen to it here:×1

or on Stitcher and Apple podcasts by searching for “Jake MacMillan” and subscribing.


Plague Diary 10: Get Outta My Tribe

Like many people, I’ve watched in horrified amazement as the country slips down the toilet drain of history while fully 40% of Americans stand around loudly vocalizing their support for a president the rest of us do not see.

Those of us who believe we’re rational, 60% of the US and 99% of the rest of the world, keep expecting the reality of the situation to change the minds of the cult members. But it never happens.

We’ve long given up trying to argue facts against their theories and feelings, but we at least hoped the country actually catching fire would wake them from their slumber.


So the question banging around inside our heads is: Why?

Why do 40% of Americans see federal masked troops disappearing nonviolent protesters off the street without badge or warrant and not see the very overarching dictatorship they’ve been paranoid about for decades?

How can Trump supporters watch him steal money from a cancer charity, funnel money into his own businesses, enact a fully Russian agenda, screw up a major pandemic that takes 200,000 lives and not have their minds turned?


Let me put it down here in a way even Trump supporters can understand: “Many people come up to me, big strong men, men who never cry, with tears in their eyes and say, ‘Sir, thank you for strengthening my tribe’ It’s called Tribalism. Nobody knew about it before me.”

The theory of tribalism is that some people (or maybe all, we’ll get to that in another post) identify themselves not by name, race, or family tree, but by a collection of shared beliefs.

If, subconsciously, you think of yourself as belonging to a group of people who believe white people are superior, the rich are better, face masks are dangerous, and COVID is a hoax, then you’re not open to new information about these subjects because not believing in them means you are no longer in your tribe.

Trump supporters literally can’t wear a mask without being kicked out of the club and since they’ve turned their backs on everyone else, that would leave them utterly alone.

There’s no changing those minds unless you change the definition of their entire tribe. And good luck with that if Fox News exists.

So how does a regular belief differ from a tribal belief? Put simply, a regular belief is open to new information. If you quietly suspect the weatherman is a gorilla dressed in a human suit and then later you see him at the pool and are able to reevaluate this theory as provably false then that’s a regular belief.

If you belong to a Facebook group called The Weatherman is a Gorilla then you have to ask yourself if you want to be kicked out of that group or if it’s possible the gorilla has gotten himself a human suit made out of skin.

If you think that sounds ridiculous, imagine believing in the Pizza Gate conspiracy theory about a pedo chain operating out of the basement of a pizza store that has no basement but not the actual pedo chain headed by Epstein and Maxwell because your favorite president was a good friend of theirs.

It’s hard to see your own tribe in the present. For instance, as someone who started out as a conservative Republican, I can see my beliefs changing over time, so I’m pretty sure those weren’t tribal beliefs, but I can’t see which of my current beliefs aren’t fungible.

For instance, I can’t imagine someone coming to me with evidence that proves police departments deserve 99% of a city’s budget. So until that happens, I will continue to support the idea of defunding the police. Is that a tribal belief? I don’t know and I won’t until I’m faced with a reason to change it.

Plague Diary 9: I’m Too Old For This Shit

Sometimes I try to imagine this generation of Americans putting up with the sacrifices it took to get through WWII. Everything was rationed, women had to take factory jobs, a large portion of the population was hauled off to fight overseas.

Our country has now lost ~160,000 people to a hostile invasion on our homeland because 38% of our population has joined a death cult led by a reality TV Jim Jones.

How it could have gone: The GOP could have provided ample unemployment benefits for those who can’t work from home which would have limited rent and mortgage defaults and provided enough general income to keep many businesses alive. Notional leadership could have put out a strong, united message in support of social distancing, masks, and staying home whenever possible. New Zealand did this and they are now opening back up.

How it actually went: The GOP went into denial mode, claiming the virus was a hoax invented by George Soros to derail Donald Trump’s reelection. And I just want to say, if this is actually true, what a stroke of brilliance to unleash a hoax that has killed at least half a million people worldwide in order to unseat an already highly unpopular president.

They made a onetime payment to some Americans of $1200 of their own money which one of the vampires in the cabinet expected to last people four months. They also increased unemployment by $600 a week which helped but wasn’t enough to cover rent/mortgage which led to the current wave of forced homelessness during a pandemic.

Republicans also came out against masks for reasons that still aren’t clear, an action that led to the rise of #mealteamsix, outraged suburban bloviators larping special forces operators agitating for early reopening even as cases per day were climbing.

These super spreader events were effective in getting many states to reopen at a time when it made zero scientific sense, including California where I live. The ICUs in these states – especially Florida, Texas, Arizona – are now running out of beds and refrigerated trucks are being used for overflow morgues.

If you’re thinking this evidence would be enough to change the minds of the Q-Anon believers and Evangelical Christians and fascist conservative ideologues on the right, you must be living in a better, future America.

The reason this plague diary is so political is that the plague has been politicized by Republicans. At first they sought to deny it existed because it might hurt the economy, then they doubled down because the Democrats had come out early for a standard pandemic response (and it turned out Trump had defunded the very task force Obama set up to handle an event like this).

Even if the desire had been there, the GOP has cultivated a base that will not tolerate bipartisanship in any matter, even saving their own lives.

After that, the “President” who is so narcissistic he can only see the world in how it pertains to him attacked the science as an effort to undermine his reelection bid. The right has literally painted themselves into a corner where they cannot admit the virus is real.

Meanwhile there were 70,000 new cases yesterday.

Current Events News

Is that redundant?

Anyway, I will no longer be hosting the podcast on this site. Instead, you can listen on Stitcher and Apple Podcasts. The current season (i.e. all the episodes about Discovery season 1) will be free but archived episodes will be moved behind a paywall at some point in the near future. So listen now while they’re cheap.

You can find us on Apple at:

Current Events On Apple

And on Stitcher at:

Current Events on Stitcher

Or go to podcasts and search for “Jake MacMillan”. For some reason you get no results when you search by podcast name.

Current Events 64

Discovery 1×11: The Wolf Inside

Burnham and Tyler try to save a group of mirror universe rebels including someone Tyler knows very well back home. Whatever’s wrong with Tyler is getting wronger and we get to meet the Emperor. A lot happened in this week’s episode, come listen to us talk about it.