Hi, there, Dear Reader. As I write this, it’s still early afternoon on Thursday, September 10, 2020. In my neck of the suburbs – so to speak – it is a typically hot late summer day; the temperature outside is 90˚F under mostly cloudy skies. According to my smartphone’s AccuWeather app, the “feels-like” temperature is 99˚F thanks to high humidity and becalmed winds. Per the hourly forecast graphic, it looks like we will have scattered thunderstorms around 7 PM (Eastern), but nothing more serious than that.
I’m making progress with Ian W. Toll’s Twilight of the Gods: The War in the Western Pacific, 1944-1945. I’ve read eight chapters so far, and so far the book has kept me riveted with its mix of battle narratives, personality profiles, and the interweaving of politics, economics, and the divide between civilians on the “home front” and the sailors, soldiers, airmen, and Marines in the Pacific Theater of Operations.
Toll has done an excellent job telling the story of the last year of the war between Japan and the United States; it is mostly a “Big Picture” history rather than a Band of Brothers-type book that focuses on the trials and tribulations of a specific unit or the minutiae of “what it was like for the average American or Japanese military member to be at war in the Western Pacific.” Still, there enough anecdotes that describe specific details of the experience of war to give readers some idea of what it was really like at the Battle of Leyte Gulf or the typhoon that could have cost Admiral William F. Halsey his command due to poor decision-making that led to the loss of several U.S. destroyers and heavy damage to various other warships,
I’m past the chapters about the Leyte Gulf battles and the start of Japan’s kamikaze campaign; I’ve read about the U.S. Navy’s successful use of submarine warfare to destroy the Japanese merchant fleet and sever the vulnerable shipping lanes between Japan’s 1941-1942 conquests in Southeast Asia – especially the oil fields of Borneo and the Dutch East Indies – and the Home Islands. By the time I put the book down to take a shower, get dressed, and have some lunch, the U.S. had secured the island of Leyte and Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s Southwest Pacific forces were fighting with Japanese defenders near Manila, on the Philippine island of Luzon.
Other than that, I don’t have much to tell. I’m feeling somewhat melancholic about things lately; I miss my mom – she died on July 19, 2015 after a long and debilitating fight with dementia and other ailments – and my old neighborhood. I know that the townhouse I inherited from Mom had too many issues that were beyond my abilities (physical, emotional, and especially financial) to deal with alone, but I do regret not owning my own space and living independently. I try not to dwell on it, but every so often I am reminded that when I was in the townhouse, I could do my own grocery shopping, prep my own meals, and watch my favorite TV shows and not have to answer to anyone else.
Oh, well. It was not meant to be that way, I suppose. Still, I often think that if I had gotten that sixth number on a winning Florida Lotto ticket in January of 2016, I could have had the townhouse remodeled and renovated, and I would still be living there.
Well, it’s late morning here on this Wednesday, September 9, 2020, and in my corner of Florida, it looks like it’s going to be another hot and stormy late summer day. Right now, it’s 83˚F (28˚C) under partly sunny skies, although the feels-like temperature is 94˚F (34˚C). It’s a quiet – if perhaps a bit – grey-tinted day so far, but the weather forecast for today calls for thunderstorms in the afternoon.
Today is a good day for reading, so that is how I have spent most of my Wednesday morning. The book I am focusing on at the moment is Ian W. Toll’s Twilight of the Gods: The War in the Western Pacific, 1944-1945, which is the final volume in Toll’s Pacific War Trilogy. I received my copy on September 3, and over the past few days I have read the first five chapters. So far, Toll has focused on the events that led to the Battle of Leyte Gulf (a series of separate engagements around the Philippine Islands that historians grouped together for convenience’s sake), as well as the American submarine war against Japan’s merchant fleet and the use of B-29 heavy bombers against the Japanese home islands.
I started reading Toll’s Pacific War Trilogy when I bought the first two volumes, 2011’s Pacific Crucible: War at Sea in the Pacific 1941-1942 and 2015’s The Conquering Tide: War in the Pacific Islands, 1942-1944 on December 24, 2015. I bought the books as a “Christmas present to myself” a few months after my mother’s death. I still remember going to the pool closest to my erstwhile home, book in hand, and laying on a deck chair in the cool South Florida “winter” days while reading the first two-thirds of the trilogy.
At the time, Twilight of the Gods was scheduled for a 2018 publication, and I fully expected to be still living in what was then still my late mom’s house. I owned it de facto, but I had not started the probate process (I had no idea how to), so it wasn’t my house de jure, which Is what counts in the eyes of the law. Still, I planned to abide by my mom’s wishes and slowly but surely make the house my own, not only legally but by remodeling to reflect my distinct identity and decorative tastes.
Well, the book did not come out in 2018, and even though I won the legal fight to own the townhouse in Fontainebleau Park, I was not able to renovate or even stay put there. I ended up selling my house for far less than its assessed value and moving elsewhere.
As a result, sometimes I have weird flashes of my experiences reading Pacific Crucible and The Conquering Tide in late 2015 and early 2016; I have vivid flashbacks of taking the books from my TBR pile on the couch in what was then my living room and going to the “small pool” to read them out in the fresh air and sunshine….and then contrast those experiences to the new reality of living, well, elsewhere.
Oddly enough, because Pacific Crucible and The Conquering Tide are hardcovers, they have been out of their moving boxes and in a designated space in my Ikea Billy bookshelves since 2016. And yet, I have not re-read them in all the time I have been here.
In September of 2003, Britain’s Channel 4 TV network began airing The First World War, a 10-part series based on historian Hew Strachan’s eponymous book about the cataclysmic conflict that broke out in the summer of 1914 and ended on the “11th hour, of the 11th day, of the 11th month” in 1918. Produced and narrated by Jonathan Lewis (The Boer War, Stalin), the 500-minutes-long documentary is an engrossing overview of World War I that explodes many of the clichés and myths about the conflict that shaped the 20th Century and whose repercussions echo well into the 21st.
The series’ writing credits include Strachan and various historical figures from whose memoirs and other writings much of the narrative is drawn, including Karen Blixen (Out of Africa), Vera Brittain, Winston Churchill, Rudolf Hess (who, after the war, would be infamous as Hitler’s Deputy Fuhrer), Edward Grey, Georges Clemenceau, David Lloyd George, and Siegfried Sassoon.
The First World War was also directed by Marcus Kiggell, Simon Rockell, Ben Steele, Corina Sturmer, and Emma Wallace, each of whom directed two 50-minute-long episodes.
Per the series’ descriptive blurb on the Amazon listing for the reissued 2014 Entertainment One three-DVD set:
The popular view of the First World War is dominated by cliché. Young soldiers were led to ghastly deaths in muddy wastes on the Western Front by incompetent generals for reasons that were seemingly futile. And although clichés are not necessarily lies, they are, at best, a selective view of the truth.
On the centenary of the start of this terrible conflict, this special edition ten-part series offers a stunning account of the war, presenting new insights into one of the defining events of modern history, and, for the first time ever, a truly global vision of the conflict.
The First World War is divided into 10 parts and covers the major events of the conflict that toppled three great European empires, sparked the Russian Revolution, marked the United States’ entry into the club of world powers, and paved the way for the great calamities of a Second World War, the U.S.-Soviet conflict known as the Cold War, and the never-ending strife in the Middle East.
The 10 parts are:
To Arms 1914 An 18-year-old terrorist secretly aided by Serbian intelligence assassinates Austria-Hungary’s Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife at Sarajevo, and a cold war between two European military blocs – the Entente and the Central Powers – turns hot as a regional crisis in the Balkans becomes a global conflict.
Under the Eagle 1914 – 1915 Germany invades Belgium and France in accordance to the Schlieffen Plan, but the German Army’s harsh occupation methods – including the mass murder of civilians – helps stiffen Allied resolve to win the war.
Global War 1914 – 1916 Germany struck against the mighty British Empire at sea from the North Atlantic to the Pacific, and waged war on land in Africa in a bid to force the British to divert forces away from the vital spaces of the Western Front.
Jihad 1914 – 1916 The Ottoman Empire, already weakened by the loss of its Balkan territories in the late 19th Century, throws its lot with Germany and Austria-Hungary, a move that proves disastrous for both sides.
Shackled to a Corpse 1914 – 1916 In the Eastern Front, Generals Hindenburg and Ludendorff beat back a Russian invasion of East Prussia, and the war in Eastern Europe becomes a contest pitting Teutons vs. Slavs in an all-out battle that will weaken the Romanov dynasty’s precarious hold on power in a war-weary Russia.
Breaking the Deadlock 1915 – 1917 In the West, both sides look for strategies and weapons to break the stalemate created by trench warfare. Germany seeks to bleed France white at Verdun, while the Allies attempt to break German defenses at the Battle of the Somme.
Blockade 1916 – 1917 The British Royal Navy imposes a blockade on Kaiser Wilhelm II’s Kaiserreich, the German High Seas Fleet and its British counterpart duke it out in the indecisive Battle of Jutland, and Germany’s leaders decide to use U-boats in a counterblockade of Great Britain. But unrestricted submarine warfare draws the U.S. into the war.
Revolution 1917 The war’s seeming endlessness saps at the morale in various armies, especially the French in the West and Russia’s ill-equipped and ineptly led hosts in the East. In the vast Russian Empire, war-weariness and social unrest give a Marxist revolutionary who calls himself “Lenin” an opportunity to bring down the Tsarist regime, and Germany eagerly gives him safe passage across her territory to sow the seeds of revolution and knock Russia out of the war.
Germany’s Last Gamble 1918 With Russia teetering on the edge of collapse and Lenin seeking an immediate end to hostilities, Berlin shifts vast armies from the East and transfers them to the West, where Ludendorff and his generals plan a last great offensive in March. One million German troops are massed for a huge blow on French and British armies before Gen. Pershing’s American Expeditionary Force can make a difference on the battlefield.
War Without End The Allies’ defeat of the Ludendorff offensive and the combined effects of British, French, and U.S. counteroffensives in early fall of 1918 force the German high command to realize the war is lost. Revolution in German cities and battlefield defeats in the West force Kaiser Wilhelm II to abdicate. On November 11, 1918, the guns go silent, and for the first time since August 1914, all is quiet on the Western Front. But the Armistice and the Treaty of Versailles that ends the “war to end all wars” is only a momentary respite, and the grievances caused by the First World War will fester for nearly a generation, until Adolf Hitler promises to make Germany great again and unleashes a Second World War.
As a viewer who is interested in military history, I tend to focus primarily on World War II and other conflicts that are closer to our current times and give short shrift to earlier wars. Only after watching Ken Burns’ now-classic 1990 The Civil War did I start breaking away from the “World War II, all the time” routine of watching military-themed documentaries.
As far as World War I is concerned, I wasn’t too keen on it until I started watching The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones: Volume Two – The War Years DVD box set almost 13 years ago. Produced by Lucasfilm Ltd. and released by CBS DVD and Paramount, this multi-disc set not only has seven “movies” that were re-edited from the original 1990s TV series The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles,but also offers viewers a treasure trove of short documentaries that cover many aspects of the “Great War” of 1914-1918.
Since then, I’ve bought several books and TV documentaries about the war, including the 1964 CBS series World War I, which features a narration by actor Robert Ryan and music by Morton Gould.
The 2003 counterpart, The First World War, was made for British TV and, though it has fewer episodes than the CBS series, is based on a scholarly book by a renowned Scottish-born historian named Hew Strachan. It mixes contemporary (2003) location footage of such places as Sarajevo (where the assassination of Austria-Hungary’s Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie triggered the coming of the conflict) and Verdun with black-and-white footage of the leaders, the soldiers, the navies, and the battlefields of World War I.
As noted above, the series examines the war through eyes that look beyond the popular narrative that World War I was just a four-year-slog through muddy trenches and not much else. In the Western Front, trench warfare was the defining hallmark of “the Great War,” but in other fronts the war was unimaginably mobile, especially in Africa and the Middle East. In the latter theater, Col. T.E. Lawrence (best known to us as Lawrence of Arabia) fought a hit-and-run guerrilla war against the Turks as one of the leaders of the seminal Arab revolt. In the Eastern front, too, great armies marched across vast expanses of Central and Eastern Europe, without the deadlock seen in France and in Flanders, where most of the trench-centric battles were fought.
The First World War may not be as comprehensive for grognards who are well-versed in the “war to end all wars,” but it is a perfect documentary for viewers who are more familiar with the conflict’s bigger and bloodier sequel, World War II. It is well-written, nicely shot and edited, and ably narrated by series producer Jonathan Lewis.
It’s late afternoon here in my corner of Florida; right now the weather outside is typical of the wet season – hot, muggy, and, after a passing thunderstorm, partly sunny. The temperature is 89˚F (32˚C), but with humidity at 64% and an easterly breeze blowing at 6 MPH, the feels-like temperature is 99˚F (37˚C). For a while there I thought the rest of the afternoon would be a total washout due to thunderstorm activity in the area, but thankfully the line of storms that passed through has moved away and it doesn’t look like the rest of Labor Day will be as wet or punctuated with the K-r-r-a-a-c-k Booms of lightning strikes nearby.
We didn’t do anything special here today in observance of Labor Day. The global COVID-19 pandemic has put the kibosh on many festive activities, so we made no plans to go to the beach, have a picnic, or even host a barbecue. Everyone here does pretty much his or her own thing anyway, especially now that we have two college-age youngsters who have their own social lives and other interests. To be honest, I don’t think we did anything for Labor Day last year, but at least then there wasn’t a coronavirus pandemic to worry about.
Earlier today I wrote a review of my latest Star Wars The Black Series action figure acquisition – the six-inch scale Imperial Snowtrooper (Hoth) in cardback packaging designed to resemble the 1980 Kenner Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back Imperial Stormtrooper (Hoth Battle Gear) carded bubble-pack. I received my figure from Amazon yesterday, so I spent most of my morning evaluating the figure (in its original packaging) and doing research about snowtroopers, the original Kenner figure, its Star Wars The Black Series history, and downloading images from Hasbro. (I can’t take good pictures cos my hands tend to shake a bit.)
Stormy weather moved into our neighborhood around 1 or so in the afternoon, so after a late brunch I decided to read out in the living room for a while. I began browsing through Peter Caddick-Adams’ Snow & Steel: The Battle of the Bulge, 1944-1945. I’m not quite ready to deep-dive into it since I am also reading Caddick-Adams’ Sand & Steel: The D-Day Invasion and the Liberation of France, as well as Ian W. Toll’s Twilight of the Gods: The War in the Western Pacific, 1944-1945. I want to finish those books before tackling Snow & Steel, but I did want to see how the book starts and if it will be profoundly different from other books about the same battle. It looks promising; so much so that I read the entire introduction and part of the first chapter.
Unfortunately, since I am not used to sitting on the couch for long periods of time and the lighting in that room is not reader-friendly, I got tired after an hour or so of reading, so after making sure the storms had moved out of the area, I logged back on to my computer, et voila! I’m here with a rare second WordPress blog post.
As Labor Day 2020 begins to wind down – it is late Monday afternoon where I am – and we all get into “regular work week” mindset, I fervently hope that this is the last one that takes place during a Trump Presidency. I’m still angry about his “just-for-show” patriotism and his pretense at caring about America’s military forces and veterans. I happen to believe The Atlantic’s revelation that he calls military personnel – especially those that have given their lives in battle – as “suckers” and “losers.”
I know that Trump’s “base” – the closest to a Stalin-like cult of personality that I have seen in American politics – is in denial, but the comments attributed to the 45th President are not out of character for Donald Trump. Not in the slightest. After all, no one in the Trump family has served in the military since his grandfather fled from Germany to the U.S. to avoid obligatory military service there in the late 19th Century. His father, Fred Trump, Sr. didn’t serve during World War II, and the President famously got several deferments from the draft during the Vietnam War. Some were granted because he was in college, but after becoming eligible once he earned his degree, his father bought off a doctor who certified Trump as being unfit for military duty due to “bone spurs” in his feet.
I mean, just look at this statement from a Trump supporter on a social media post by The Hill related to Trump’s pushback on the Atlantic article:
[O]nly the most nieve [sic], and hate mongers would think he did.
Trump has used his own private plane to bring home US Soldiers. He has used that same plane to bring families to their wounded loved ones. He has stepped into his limousine and asked the driver to take him to Arlington just to pay his respect. He has also been at Dover Airbase when our military dead have been brought home. This man has more respect for our Military than possibility any other President in history. Use your brain start thinking, lose the hate!
Hopefully next Labor Day, we won’t have Donald Trump occupying the Oval Office anymore.
On Friday, August 28, Hasbro released the latest addition to its Star Wars The Black Series collection of figures commemorating the 40th Anniversary of Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back: Imperial Snowtrooper (Hoth). Like quite a few of Hasbro’s Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back 40th Anniversary 6-inch scale action figures, the Snowtrooper is not a new offering. Rather, it is a repackaged version of Star Wars The Black Series # 35, which was originally released in November of 2016 along with Princess Leia Organa, AT-AT Driver, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Darth Revan, and Sabine Wren.
Star Wars The Black Series #35 is, of course, a descendant of Kenner’s original 1980 Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back 3.75-inch scale mini-action figure Imperial Stormtrooper (Hoth Battle Gear). This was the first “specialist” variant of the Imperial Stormtrooper figure Kenner produced, and although many fans referred to the Hoth Battle Gear version as the “snowtrooper,” it was never referred to as such in any canonical material of the times. The nickname stuck, though, even being mentioned as such in the section on Imperial Stormtroopers in the Star Wars Visual Dictionary:
Based on the Republic’s cold assault clone troopers, Imperial snowtroopers are self-sufficient mobile combatants in freezing terrains. They rely upon their backpacks, breath masks, and suit systems to keep them warm. Each suit can last for two weeks on battery power alone before they need to be recharged. – Star Wars: The Visual Dictionary (2018 Edition), page 190
Because the fan-created nickname for Imperial Stormtrooper (Hoth Battle Gear) stuck and eventually was adopted by the Lucasfilm licensing division, Hasbro – which bought Kenner in the 1990s and eventually absorbed it wholesale – decided to go with the flow and tweaked the original nomenclature accordingly, branding the reissued Star Wars The Black Series #35 as Imperial Snowtrooper (Hoth)
The 2020 Imperial Snowtrooper (Hoth) is a representation of a “specialist” variant of the Galactic Empire’s elite shock trooper equipped for cold climate warfare on worlds such as Hoth. As mentioned earlier, it’s a reissue of Star Wars The Black Series #35 Snowtrooper, repackaged in a reproduced “cardback” that is based closely on the Imperial Stormtrooper (Hoth Battle Gear) Kenner action figure’s packaging, even using the same image from Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back and blending the two versions of the figure’s nomenclature so that they match a bit better.
Imperial Snowtrooper (Hoth) includes:
“Kenner” branded 40th Anniversary cardback packaging with 1980s-style Star Wars: The Empire Strikes livery and the classic blue-and-white Kenner logo
Star Wars The Black Series #35 Snowtrooper action figure, renamed here as Imperial Snowtrooper (Hoth)
Back in 1980, when I was 17, I bought the original Imperial Stormtrooper (Hoth Battle Gear) action figure for the then-princely sum of $2.49 plus Florida’s 4% sales tax, or $8.14 in 2020 dollars. Like its 1978 Imperial Stormtrooper forebear, this figure was cool-looking but only had four points of articulation (POA) – at the shoulders and hips – and one accessory (a long-barreled Stormtrooper rifle) that looked cool but was actually difficult to use in an action pose.
The figure was uber-cool looking, but it had its share of issues. Imperial Stormtrooper (Hoth Battle Gear) lacked a swivel point at the neck, you couldn’t pose him in life-like poses; your best bet was to stand him stiffly with his long-barreled rifle pointing down at a slight angle. And the kama that snowtroopers wear as part of their insulation gear was made of the same vinyl-like material used by Kenner to simulate the “capes” worn by such character-based figures as Darth Vader, Princess Leia Organa, and Ben (Obi-Wan) Kenobi and often came off from the figure’s legs if you weren’t careful. (I hated that removable kama, but I managed to not lose it.)
Recall intense moments from the Star Wars Galaxy with this Star Wars The Black Series 40TH anniversary 6-inch-scale Imperial Snowtrooper (Hoth) action figure that includes 3 accessories and features premium deco across multiple points of articulation. – Product description blurb, Hasbro official website
Even though I was reluctant to order Imperial Snowtrooper (Hoth) when I saw that the figure was available for preorder at Amazon, it dawned on me that my collection doesn’t include many Imperial characters. I had not purchased the original Star Wars The Black Series #35 Snowtrooper in 2016, and I had already passed on the AT-AT Driver and Imperial TIE Fighter Pilot figures. So after mulling it over for several days, I ordered the figure on August 26.
I wasn’t expecting to get my new Snowtrooper for a while; it was supposed to ship in time for a delivery on the 3rd, but Amazon emailed me to let me know it would be delivered sometime between September 11 and October 1 and to ask if I still wanted it. I hit the Yes, I Still Want My Order option and let the matter stand. After all, it was only a delay and nothing more. To get angry or sad about such a thing seemed a bit much, even in these troubled and scary times.
As with all of the Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back 40th Anniversary figures from Hasbro’s Star Wars The Black Series, I am impressed by the attention to detail lavished on Imperial Snowtrooper (Hoth). The multiple POAs allow collectors and kids alike to pose the figure in realistic action stances, and the sculpt-and-paint job captures every detail of the artistic visions of costume designer John Mollo and concept artists Ralph McQuarrie and Joe Johnston for the arctic warfare version of the Empire’s white clad stormtroopers. From the top of the eerily anonymous snowtrooper helmet and its breath mask to the tips of the rugged ice boots, every detail of Imperial Snowtrooper (Hoth) is true to the outfit seen in Irvin Kershner’s Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back.
I also appreciate the fact that Hasbro tried to stay true to the Kenner legacy by blending the original product name and the more current character nickname and labeling the repackaged #35 Snowtrooper as Imperial Snowtrooper (Hoth). That, to me, acknowledges the canon status of the “snowtrooper” label – which, as mentioned earlier, was a fan created name – while still respecting the original name of the 1980 figure.
Well, this wraps up another review of a Star Wars The Black Series figure from the The Empire Strikes Back 40th Anniversary collection. I enjoyed writing this piece, and I hope you enjoy reading it.
Until next time, Dear Reader, stay safe, stay healthy, and remember: the Force will be with you…always.
Hello, Dear Reader. I hope this Sunday post finds you in good health and safe from the current global COVID-19 pandemic. If you are a citizen or resident of the U.S., I also hope that you are enjoying a nice pre-Labor Day weekend, even if the coronavirus health crisis means you have to put up with social distancing and having to “do without” big gatherings or public events such as baseball or football games.
As I write this, it’s late afternoon in my corner of Florida. It’s not quite “evening” yet, but it is almost 5 PM right now, and because I am not the fastest typist in the world, it will probably be evening when I post this on WordPress. It’s hot outside; the temperature is 92˚F (32˚C) under mostly sunny skies, but it feels like 99˚F (35˚C). The humidity is at 51% and the wind is blowing from the northeast at 6 MPH. So, yep. It’s a scorcher out there!
Despite it being a Sunday, I spent quite a bit of time writing a post for this blog’s forerunner, A Certain Point of View on Blogger. It wasn’t anything terribly special; just a fluff piece about how I beat the Cold Waters Beating the Odds single mission. But I had not written a new post on ACPV since August 20, and I needed to get past the 1,352 mark there lest my readers there think that I have abandoned them. I have not, but now that I have two blogs instead of just the one, I find it difficult to create content for both every single day. I thought that I could, but since my online time is limited during the regular work week, I have to choose between growing my new A Certain Point of View, Too blog here or focus more on its Blogger sibling.
So instead of reading more from Ian W. Toll’s Twilight of the Gods or watching a movie, I wrote. Which is perfectly fine with me. I love writing; I fell in love with the written word when I was a kid, and all I have ever wanted to do since was to be a writer. Sometimes, like today, I have to push myself to stay at my desk and compose something; I slept poorly last night, and I am tired, but if I don’t write anything, I feel guilty as hell afterwards.
Today I received two packages from Amazon. One contained my Star Wars The Black Series Imperial Snowtrooper (Hoth) 6-inch scale action figure in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back 40th Anniversary packaging; the other holds my copy of Snow & Steel: The Battle of the Bulge 1944-1945 by British historian Peter Caddick-Adams. Though it was written in 2014 (in time for the 70th Anniversary of the Ardennes counter-offensive, I see it as a sequel to Caddick-Adams’ Sand & Steel: The D-Day Invasion and the Liberation of France. As you can see, my TBR pile keeps growing!
Other than that, dear friend, I don’t have much to say on this late Sunday afternoon. So I’ll just wrap this up by saying thanks for reading, and I’ll catch you on the sunny side of things.
Hi, there, Dear Reader. It’s late Saturday morning in my corner of Florida as I start this post, and – no surprise – it’s going to be another hot late summer day here. Currently, the temperature here is 83˚F (29˚C) under mostly sunny skies. With a slight breeze blowing from the east at 2 MPH and humidity at a sticky 83%, the “feels-like” temperature is 92˚F (34˚C). Today’s forecast calls for mostly cloudy skies and high humidity with a high of 92˚F (34˚C). No precipitation is expected in our area, and a local flood warning in a nearby part of the county expired over three hours ago.
As I sit here in my air-conditioned writer’s study, I am bamboozled by the cognitive dissonance shown by Trump supporters on social media every single day after Donald Trump does or says something controversial and the media reports on it. (Which is, unfortunately, an everyday occurrence!) I mean, seriously, the Make America Great Again crowd is a cult; its members figuratively close ranks and – like Pavlov’s dogs – reflexively chant “fake news” at any new revelation of their man’s crass self-centeredness.
Take, for instance, the brouhaha over a report published a couple of days ago by the respected publication The Atlantic in which Donald Trump’s disdain for the American military was put on display for all to see.
When President Donald Trump canceled a visit to the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery near Paris in 2018, he blamed rain for the last-minute decision, saying that “the helicopter couldn’t fly” and that the Secret Service wouldn’t drive him there. Neither claim was true.
Trump rejected the idea of the visit because he feared his hair would become disheveled in the rain, and because he did not believe it important to honor American war dead, according to four people with firsthand knowledge of the discussion that day. In a conversation with senior staff members on the morning of the scheduled visit, Trump said, “Why should I go to that cemetery? It’s filled with losers.” In a separate conversation on the same trip, Trump referred to the more than 1,800 marines who lost their lives at Belleau Wood as “suckers” for getting killed.
I believe Goldberg’s story, which is based on anonymous accounts from individuals who know former White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, a retired Marine Corps general who was present when Trump called the fallen World War I Marines “suckers.”
And, as the article points out, this is not the first time that Trump’s disdain for the military – especially those men and women in our armed forces who fall into enemy hands and become prisoners of war (POWs) or are from unpopular minorities – has come to light.
Per The Atlantic:
Trump’s understanding of concepts such as patriotism, service, and sacrifice has interested me since he expressed contempt for the war record of the late Senator John McCain, who spent more than five years as a prisoner of the North Vietnamese. “He’s not a war hero,” Trump said in 2015 while running for the Republican nomination for president. “I like people who weren’t captured.”
There was no precedent in American politics for the expression of this sort of contempt, but the performatively patriotic Trump did no damage to his candidacy by attacking McCain in this manner. Nor did he set his campaign back by attacking the parents of Humayun Khan, an Army captain who was killed in Iraq in 2004.
Trump’s comments about the late Senator McCain – namesake son and grandson of two Navy admirals and himself a Vietnam War veteran- are on record, as is the attack on Capt. Humayun Khan’s parents during the 2016 Presidential campaign.
Yet, his cult-like followers refuse to accept facts, calling The Atlantic’s report – what else? – “fake news.”
I will never believe Trump would say this they are trying every way to bring him down I am sure the military has his back.
“D.T.” – Trump supporter, on The Hill’s Facebook page
Here are some comments that I saw on Facebook on a related story posted on The Hill’s social media page:
“D.T.” started a comment thread with this bon mot:
I will never believe Trump would say this they are trying every way to bring him down I am sure the military has his back.
“M.M” chimes in and adds: D.T. thank you. This publication thinks the readers are idiots. If you hate Trump this low hanging fruit
“F.D” says: I agree with you. Trump loves our military. He’s had so many people that was with him that he didn’t say anything like that.
And regarding Trump’s insults aimed at John McCain, “A.H.” writes: who cares if McCain was a loser . He also did some very sneaky things . I am not impressed with john mccain
My personal opinion about Trump’s denials – he swears he loves the military and that he never, ever said this – can be summed up thusly:
Trump can deny this report as much as he wants. So far, the official line from the White House is, “Fake News,” but I – sadly – stopped believing anything the Trump Administration says the minute that it claimed that the Inaugural crowds at the Mall on January 20, 2017 were larger than President Obama’s in 2009.
I also don’t care if his supporters believe Trump. It’s their right to do so, even though I believe they are saps who have been conned by a grifter and liar.
What I do believe is The Atlantic‘s account of how Trump does not understand the notion of sacrifice and service, especially when it comes to the men and women who volunteer for our armed forces. He and his dad, Fred Trump, never served in the military, and Trump did everything possible to avoid the draft during the Vietnam War.
Well, Dear Reader, it’s Friday, September 4, 2020 – the first weekend of the ninth month of perhaps one of the worst years I’ve ever lived through, on par with 2015. It’s also the start of the Labor Day weekend, which is not exactly one of my favorite holidays, but whatever.
Right now, it’s still early afternoon in my corner of Florida. It’s also hot; the temperature outside is 95˚F (35˚C) under sunny skies, but with humidity at 58% and an 8 MPH breeze from the east, it feels like 110˚F (44˚C). I’m in an air-conditioned house and the sun is not yet streaming in through my window, but I can tell it’s a scorcher out there. I feel ripples of warmth wafting through the room, and with so many air-conditioning units working at the same time, I am sure the strain on the electric grid is immense. We already had a momentary loss of power – less than a minute long, yes, but my computer shut down and the digital clock in the kitchen was blinking as a result of the “micro-outage.”
I haven’t done much of anything today; I feel tired, headachy, and unmotivated. I didn’t stay up all night as I sometimes do when I get the occasional bout of insomnia, but I did wake up unnecessarily early. Worse, I had no idea what I was going to write about today – I usually have a topic chosen either by the time I log on to my Lenovo all-in-one PC in the morning or, at the very latest, by noon on days when I have to put my computer on airplane mode to free up the Wi-Fi for others who need it more for work or school. Today…well, I had to force myself to sit down and write this Musings & Thoughts post.
I was hoping to receive my Hasbro Star Wars The Black Series Luke Skywalker & Yoda (Jedi Training) 6-Inch-Scale The Empire Strikes Back 40th Anniversary Figures yesterday; until late Tuesday night, Amazon kept telling me that the status of my order was “Will arrive on Thursday, Sept. 3.” Turns out that the shipment of the two-figure sets has been delayed; the new delivery window is “September 24-October 11). I am thinking that the COVID-19 pandemic is playing merry hell with Hasbro’s supply line; like its former competitor-turned-subsidiary Kenner, Hasbro manufactures its Star Wars products overseas – in China, to be more exact. Something may have gone awry somewhere between the factories – in the Kenner days, Star Wars toys were labeled “Made in Hong Kong” – and the States. ( I have no idea if Hasbro moved its facilities to the mainland or if its operations stayed in place in the post-1997 Hong Kong SAR,) So now I’m wondering if COVID-19 is gumming up the works for the toy-making giant. I had also ordered a 40th Anniversary Imperial Snowtrooper (Hoth) figure and it was also supposed to arrive on September 1. Now Amazon’s delivery window for that figure is October 1.
I’m not angry about the delays; I know that the pandemic has had a detrimental effect on every aspect of life throughout the world and getting angry about something as trivial as a Star Wars figure is neither rational nor mature. I was disappointed; I was looking forward to getting my Luke Skywalker & Yoda (Jedi Training) 6-Inch-Scale The Empire Strikes Back 40th Anniversary Figures and writing about them here, but I have to be philosophical about it and accept reality. As the Rolling Stones once put it, “You can’t always get what you want.”
As for the rest of my Friday….
As soon as I publish this post, I’ll probably go to my favorite reading area – the living room couch – and resume reading Twilight of the Gods: The War in the Western Pacific, 1944-1945 for a bit. I have read three or four chapters and I am enjoying Ian W. Toll’s concluding volume of his Pacific War trilogy. It is one of the best books about World War II naval history that I’ve read, but I am not quite ready to review it yet.
I could also read another chapter from Sand and Steel: The D-Day Invasion and the Liberation of France by Peter Caddick-Adams. I don’t know why (a) the book subtitle suggests that it delves into the whole battle of France – it does not – or (b) Amazon’s image of the book cover has a typo (“invasions” instead of “invasion”), but the book is excellent. So much so, in fact, that I ordered Caddick-Adams’ previous book, Snow and Steel: The Battle of the Bulge, 1944-45. I will get that on Sunday.
Heck, I might even play a quick session of Cold Waters. As a Tom Clancy fan and long-time player of such games as Red Storm Rising and Silent Service II, I enjoy stepping into the role of a nuclear-powered fast attack sub and pitting my skills as a commander against the computer-controlled Soviet and Chinese navies portrayed in this 2017 sub warfare simulation.
Beats curling up in a fetal position in bed and wishing it was 1983 all over again, no?
As Supreme Leader of the First Order, Kylo Ren wields more power than ever before. Nevertheless, Kylo Ren continues to search for secrets of the Force from the depths of the dark side. – Supreme Leader Kylo Ren (#90)
On October 4, 2019, Rhode Island-based Hasbro, Inc. released a “wave” of eight new Star Wars The Black Series six-inch scale action figures based on characters from several films and TV shows in Lucasfilm Ltd.’s Star Wars franchise. Most of the new figures were tie-ins to the (then) upcoming Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker and Jon Favreau’s TV series (for Disney+) The Mandalorian, although Star Wars: Rebels and the video game Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order are also represented.
The wave consisted of – in no particular order – the following figures:
Supreme Leader Kylo Ren
Rey & D-O
Second Sister Inquisitor
First Order Stormtrooper
Although the 90th figure in Hasbro’s seven-year-old (as of this writing) Star Wars The Black Series collection is billed as a new figure based on the Dark Side half of the “Force dyad” formed by Rey and the conflicted Kylo Ren (aka Ben Solo), it is actually a tweaked version of an older figure from 2017: Kylo Ren (#45),
• STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER: Fans and collectors can imagine scenes from the Star Wars Galaxy with this premium Supreme Leader Kylo Ren toy, inspired by the Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker movie. – Product description on Hasbro’s official web site
More to the point, Hasbro took the nearly identical “body” – including the four articulated limbs – of Kylo Ren (#45) from Star Wars: The Last Jedi and equipped him with a new mask that reflects the one rebuilt by Sith alchemists and metallurgists during Kylo’s reign as the Supreme Leader of the First Order.
Supreme Leader Kylo Ren portrays the Sequel Trilogy’s most fascinating character, Kylo Ren, the powerful but conflicted leader of the First Order. As incarnated on screen by actor Adam Driver (A Marriage Story), Kylo is not only an angry young man obsessed with the Dark Side of the Force, but he is also a member of the Skywalker family. His mother is Leia Organa, the natural daughter of Anakin Skywalker and the twin sister of Jedi Master Luke Skywalker, and his father is the smuggler-turned-Rebel hero Han Solo.
Born five years after the events of Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, Ben Solo trained as a Jedi Knight under the tutelage of his uncle Luke Skywalker; however, the powerful but troubled young Jedi Padawan was seduced to the dark side of the Force by the mysterious Dark Side user known as Snoke. Eventually, Ben turned his back on the ways of the Jedi and destroyed Skywalker’s Jedi Temple, killing many of his fellow apprentices and joining the dark side users known collectively as the Knights of Ren. By the time of the Starkiller Incident, Ben called himself Kylo Ren, and was known throughout the First Order as “the Jedi Killer.”
The figure of Supreme Leader Kylo Ren is a representation of the former Jedi apprentice and “Darth Vader wannabe” as seen in the first act of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, clad in an evil-looking black outfit reminiscent of his infamous grandfather Vader’s iconic and fearsome armor, complete with a flowing black static-dampening cape.
In addition, Supreme Leader Kylo Ren (#90) is equipped with both a deactivated lightsaber hilt and an activated lightsaber with an unstable red energy blade. It appears flame-like in comparison to other lightsaber blades because Kylo Ren’s kyber crystal is cracked, which is why the hilt has crossguard vents from which excess energy can be expelled.
As is the case with Hasbro’ Star Wars The Black Series’ action figures based on human – and humanoid – characters, Supreme Leader Kylo Ren (#90) is fully posable thanks to the number of points of articulation (POA) that the company’s designers and manufacturers have incorporated into the six-inch scale figure. Supreme Leader Kylo Ren has at least 13 POAs, including a swivel point at the neck to turn the head from side to side.
This multiplicity of articulation points, which are analogous to “joints” in human anatomy, allows collectors and fans alike to display their Star Wars action figures in more realistic poses than was possible with the original Kenner-era (1978-1985) “mini-action figures” from Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi.
Of course, on some figures, say, Luke Skywalker (Jedi Training), the multiple POAs have the unavoidable effect of making the figure look more like a toy than something an adult collector would buy, especially if the character is not wearing armor or a flight suit that can hide the more obvious hinge-like mechanisms of the POAs.
In this figure, although Supreme Leader Kylo Ren’s points of articulation can be seen, they tend to blend into the black plastic of the Vader-like armor worn by the leader of the Knights of Ren throughout Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.
The red-and-black packaging of Supreme Leader Kylo Ren contains the following:
Supreme Leader Kylo Ren figure with a non-removable “re-forged” mask
Deactivated lightsaber hilt
Activated lightsaber with simulated “unstable” energy blade
Removable cape and optional “hood” accessory
I purchased Supreme Leader Kylo Ren (#90) shortly after my birthday in March, along with a batch of other Star Wars The Black Series figures (including Luke Skywalker (Yavin Ceremony, Rebel Trooper, Emperor Palpatine and Throne (Amazon Exclusive), and Rey & D-O. I usually don’t splurge on so many figures at once, but, hey, you only live once, y’know?
As a fan from the “1977 Generation,” I tend to favor collectibles from the Original Trilogy, but I also love the Prequel and Sequel Trilogies. As a result, I try to get Star Wars The Black Series collectibles from the entire Star Wars Skywalker Saga, although my collection still reflects a bias toward Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi.
Hasbro did a good job with this rendering of the Sequel Trilogy’s almost Shakespearean antagonist and dark side “twin” to the Jedi-in-training called Rey. Yes, it’s essentially a reissue of an existing figure with a new head (the rebuilt mask is not removable) and slightly altered accessories, but since I don’t own Kylo Ren (#45), it doesn’t bother me one bit.
I never intended to restart collecting Star Wars stuff after certain life-changing incidents occurred between July of 2015 and October 2017. I didn’t even know that Hasbro had a Star Wars The Black Series collection, much less that it featured six-inch scale action figures until a friend gave me the 40th Anniversary Darth Vader and Legacy Packas a Christmas present almost three years ago.
But, as Hasbro’s promotional department loves to point out in its Shop Hasbro site:
Kids and collectors alike can imagine the biggest battles and missions in the Star Wars saga with figures from Star Wars The Black Series! With exquisite features and decoration, this series embodies the quality and realism that Star Wars devotees love. Star Wars The Black Series includes figures, vehicles, and roleplay items from the 40-plus-year legacy of the Star Wars Galaxy, including comics, movies, and animated series. (Additional products each sold separately. Subject to availability.)
I have been collecting Star Wars figures since Kenner Toys (the original Lucasfilm licensee) introduced them in early 1978. I have figures and vehicles from various product lines created between 1978 and the present, most of them from Hasbro’s Power of the Force 2, Episode I, and many other post-2002 “collections.” And as you can see from my reviews here and elsewhere,Star Wars The Black Series products are my all-time favorites.
As a collector and Star Wars fan, I recommend this Star Wars The Black Series figure of Supreme Leader Kylo Ren. The sculpt and paint jobs are well done; Hasbro even added the red detailing that shows where the red-gold material used to reconstruct the shattered mask fused the myriad shards to make them whole again.
I give this figure four and-a-half stars (out of a possible five) and a wholehearted recommendation for fans of both the Skywalker Saga and Hasbro’s Star Wars The Black Series figures and vehicles.
In 2019, during the runup to the premiere of the ninth and final Skywalker Saga film, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, Hasbro – the Pawtucket, RI based toy and game manufacturer – released Wedge Antilles, the 102nd character based 6-inch scale figure in the Star Wars The Black Series collection. It is based on the Rebel pilot played in all three of the original Star Wars trilogy films (plus a cameo in The Rise of Skywalker) by British actor Denis Lawson.
Wedge Antilles is 5.5-inches tall and is depicted in his orange-and-white Rebel Alliance-issued flight suit, complete with a chest-mounted life-support unit, black flight boots and matching pilot’s gauntlets, as well as a grey G-force harness, a customized Rebel-issue flight helmet with yellow tinted visor, and a DH-17 blaster rifle similar to the one used by Lando Calrissian in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back.
Kids and collectors alike can imagine the biggest battles and missions in the Star Wars saga with figures from Star Wars The Black Series! With exquisite features and decoration, this series embodies the quality and realism that Star Wars devotees love. Star Wars The Black Series includes figures, vehicles, and roleplay items from the 40-plus-year legacy of the Star Wars Galaxy, including comics, movies, and animated series. – Promo blurb on Hasbro’s official web site.
As with all of the other Star Wars The Black Series action figures in my modest collection, Wedge Antilles is a good representation of a supporting character from the original trilogy. Although he doesn’t have much screen time in the four films in which he is portrayed by Denis Lawson (who is also famous for being uncle to the Prequel Trilogy’s Ewan McGregor, who plays the young Obi-Wan Kenobi), Wedge is – along with Luke Skywalker – one of the few veterans of the Battles of Yavin, Hoth, and Endor.
The 6-inch scale Black Series Wedge Antilles action figure is detailed to look like the character from Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, featuring premium detail and multiple points of articulation. – Promo blurb on Hasbro’s official web site.
The sculpt and paint job on this Star Wars: The Black Series figure is excellent. The detailing is so good that the figure bears a resemblance to the then-29-year-old (when he was cast as a supporting cast member in Star Wars: A New Hope) Lawson. In figure #102, Wedge is rendered in the variant of the flight gear he wears in both A New Hope and Return of the Jedi, even though Hasbro’s product blurb touts the figure as a representation of the talented Rebel pilot as he appears in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back.
Although the figure’s multiple articulation points are so obvious that it mars its verisimilitude – after all, #102 Wedge Antilles is a “mass-market” toy and not one of those pricey collectible character replicas for adults, they do allow Star Wars The Black Series fans to display it in life-like action poses. This simply wasn’t possible with original Star Wars licensee Kenner’s Star Wars “micro-action” figures from the late Seventies to the mid-Eighties because those toys had, at most, five points of articulation and could only be posed in a few and rather stiff-looking stances.
This Wedge Antilles can be posed in various ways and can be shown wearing his flight helmet and wielding his Rebel-issue DH-17 blaster – the latter of which we never see him do in the films. Or, if Hasbro ever releases an X-wing fighter vehicle in the 6-inch scale, you could probably sit this figure in the cockpit and relive his harrowing experiences in the space battles which resulted in the destruction of two Death Stars.
What’s in the Package?
MOVIE-BASED CHARACTER-INSPIRED ACCESSORIES: This Star Wars The Black Series action figure comes with 2 Wedge Antilles-inspired accessories that make a great addition to any Star Wars collection. – Promo blurb on Hasbro’s official web site.
Because Kenner, which Hasbro acquired in the mid-1990s during a period in which the erstwhile toy manufacturer changed ownership at least twice, never made a Wedge Antilles figure for its Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back line of 1980-1982, the Star Wars The Black Series figure does not come in a reproduced “cardback” package with Star Wars: The Empire Strike Back 40th Anniversary or “Kenner” livery.
Instead, the figure comes in a standard red-and-black Star Wars The Black Series box which has a “window” on the front panel so you can display Wedge Antilles without opening the packaging. Inside, you’ll see:
Wedge Antilles (#102) in his flight gear
Rebel issue flight helmet as customized by Wedge
A DH-17 “Bespin” blaster – so-called because it was prominently wielded by many Bespin-centric figures in Kenner’s original 3.75-inch Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back collection
Overall, this is a good figure to add to any Star Wars collection. Of all the non-top billed supporting characters in the original Star Wars trilogy, Wedge Antilles is one of the most prominent on the Rebel side, and unlike many others, he actually has a few lines in each film. So it is fitting that Hasbro (formerly known as Hassenfeld Brothers) would feature the stalwart veteran of three major battles (Yavin/first Death Star, Hoth, and Endor/second Death Star) as its 102ndStar Wars The Black Series offering.
Well, this wraps up another Star Wars Toys & Collectibles review. I enjoy writing these writeups because I get to share my views on my favorite collectibles, and I hope, Dear Reader, that you enjoy reading them as well. So until next time, may the Force be with you, and I’ll catch you on the sunny side of things.
 Wedge does get his due in many Star Wars novels and comics, both in the old Expanded Universe (Legends) continuity and in Lucasfilm’s official canon. He is a major character in the long-running X-Wing series of novels inspired by the classic Lucas Arts games of the X-Wing trilogy, and he is also a central figure in Chuck Wendig’s 2015 canon novel Aftermath. A younger version of Wedge Antilles also has a story arc in the canonical Lucasfilm Animation/Disney XD series Star Wars Rebels (2014-2018),
 I usually don’t quibble with Hasbro’s marketing scribes, but the gear replicated in #102 Wedge Antilles does not resemble costume designer John Mollo’s “winterized” flight uniform and footwear issued to Alliance pilots based on the ice world, Hoth.