NY ComicCon

Last week I talked about Kids These Days. This past weekend I went with my daughter to NY ComicCon. It was a late 8th grade graduation present she had requested. Due to me messing things up last year, we missed our chance to go, so I made up for it this year. And it was well worth it, for a couple of reasons. I want to focus on two, one topical and one personal. The topical first.

The topic is in the above photograph.  I apologize for it being blurry, “I’m a DBA Jim, not a photographer.”  But I took it for a reason. This was the panel for a talk titled: Join the Resistance! (Journey to Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker). It was an interesting panel that talked about the books they wrote that cover the time between The Last Jedi to this December’s The Rise of Skywalker. But partway through listening, something dawned on me about the panel.  Can you figure out what I realized?

It’s there in the picture, but if not, let me list the panelists: authors Rebecca Roanhorse, Justina Ireland, Kevin Shinick, Ethan Sacks, Delilah S. Dawson, audiobook narrator Marc Thompson and moderator Ashley Eckstein.

What strikes you about that list of names? Now compare that to the panels you see at a number of tech events such as various SQL events. Note what it’s not. This is NOT a MANEL!

Science Fiction has for far too long been treated as the domain of boys and then later men. Marketing for decades often focused on boys. It was assumed that every boy wanted to be Han Solo or Luke Skywalker or Captain Kirk.  Women in shows and books were often only there as props for the male characters to react to. Granted, this statement isn’t 100% true, even Princess Leia had some meat to her character in the original Star Wars (back before it was episode IV or A New Hope.) Even then though, she served the role set out in much of mythology as the princess in distress to be rescued. Fortunately her role and the role of women in Star Wars was greatly expanded over the series, to the point now where Rey is our hero.

Ahsoka Tano in triplicate!

Ahsoka Tano in triplicate!

And this panel shows exactly how equitable the Star Wars universe has become. The moderator was Ahsley Eckstein, who voices the character Ahsoka Tano in various animated Star Wars series. Three of the authors on the panel were women. In other words, women were well represented.

Think about this when planning your tech event such as SQL Saturday. Do you have equal representation? “But wait Greg, there’s just not that women doing SQL! I only had 3 women apply to talk and 30 men!” I’m going to give you some advice. Ask for more women. Talk to those three, see if they know anyone who might want to speak, but was too nervous to put in a submission. Talk to Kathi Kellenberger and Rie Irish of the PASS Virtual Group Women in Technology.  Yes, there may not be as many women in tech as men, but I can guarantee that there’s more than you think and that it won’t change without encouragement and representation. If you as a guy get invited to speak on a panel, make sure there’s diversity. Turn down opportunities if it looks like it’s going to be a manel. Call out your fellow community members if they’re engaging in sexist behavior. It’s not always comfortable,especially if it’s a friend or a co-worker, but it needs to be done. Do your part.

If ComicCon can have an equitable panel in regards to Star Wars, you can do the same in regards to SQL or other tech panels.

Now for the personal:

Live Long and Prospoer

Autograph and picture with two amazing women, Nichelle Nichols and my daughter Rebecca.

Two amazing women: Nichelle Nichols is an amazing woman and helped represent African Americans on television in the 1960s and helped inspire people like Whoopi Goldberg and Mae Jemison. And as for my daughter, her future and journey is in front of her.  I will admit to basically being speechless in front of such an icon and here I am, still three days later grinning ear to ear thinking “I was in the presence of Uhura!”

(BTW, for those who recognize it, that’s a 1st edition Star Fleet Technical Manual with her signature. It also contains the signature of George Takei and James Doohan.)


Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Ok, fair warning there may be spoilers ahead.  So unless you’ve seen the movie, or don’t care, postpone reading this particular post for awhile.

So let me start by saying, I loved it. I had some issues with it, but overall I loved it.

But, this post isn’t a movie review per se. It’s more about how a story might be crafted.

I have a daughter, 14 now, who was 12 when The Force Awakens came out. I can’t recall when she became a Star Wars fan, but she’s a huge fan and I love that about her.  I introduced her to the original trilogy and, only because the movies are about the good and the bad, the prequels. I still recall while watching The Phantom Menace she turned to me and said, “Dad, this makes no sense.”  She was right. But that didn’t stop her from watching all of them, The Clone Wars and pretty much anything else she could get her hands on that involved Star Wars.

So, 2 years ago, she told me for my birthday she wanted to take me to The Force Awakens. We went after school a day or two after it opened. The theater we went to was nearly empty, and honestly, not a great one. (I’ve come to really enjoy stadium seating, if only so it reduces the chances of someone’s head in front of me).

The theater darkened, the previews passed and that iconic chord rang through my ears and the scroll started; and I was looking at my daughter’s face. Suddenly, I was transported back to 1977 and I was 9 and I was watching Star Wars (it had no subtitle back then, let alone episode number) for the first time, all over again. I realized that at that point it didn’t matter if the movie was good or not (it was) I was being given a gift she didn’t realize she was giving. I was watching Star Wars through the eyes of a child.

That said, I did watch the movie. But I did turn to look at her one more time; the scene where Han is confronting is son, telling him to do what he knows he must do.  I knew what was coming. I also knew my daughter didn’t. The look of shock on her face as Kylo committed patricide was clear and apparent. She was shocked and upset.

We left the theater and she was clearly upset. “How could Han die! He’s a major character.” We stopped for dinner at Moe’s Southwest Grill and we talked. I explained how the scene almost certainly HAD to happen; that the movie was about Poe, Rey, Finn; that in a sense, the past had to fade to the past or even be killed off so that the story could advance. I also explained how Kylo’s character had to develop and that this was one very definite way to do so.  She wasn’t happy then.  A day later though she understood my point.

I think this was the point where she went beyond simply watching the story and trying to understand WHY a story is crafted the way it is. Sometimes it’s obvious, sometimes, not so obvious. Or a story may go in a direction the viewer may not like.


Last warning!

So, again, this year she took me to see a Star Wars movie for my birthday. It’s a tradition I definitely enjoy. On the way to The Last Jedi, we talked about what Luke would do when she handed him his original light saber. I jokingly, but only 1/2, said, “eh, he’s going to throw it over his shoulder.”  So of course when the scene happened, I watched her face. It was worth it.  I say only 1/2 jokingly because again, to advance the plot and to make it more successful, I felt the movie had to break with the past. Him simply becoming a Jedi Master again much like Obi-Wan would have just made that part of the movie a rehash. Instead, we explored new ground. What happens when the Master doesn’t want to be? How does the apprentice react? How do WE as an audience react?

Luke asks Rey several times, “Why are YOU here.” She continues to respond with “Leia sent me”. Luke doesn’t accept that answer and neither do we.  We even know Rey knows it’s not the honest answer.  She finally gives the honest answer. But it’s not until much later in the movie she finally learns what is important; something far more important than anything a Jedi Master can teacher her, and it’s the one lesson that Kylo learns in the negative.  And as any well crafted movie, they learn their opposite lessons from both the exact same place and from very different places. But I won’t say more.

BUT, as I do try to tie these blog posts into something relevant to my overarching goal of this blog:

Ask yourself; “Why am I here?” “Why am I doing this job?” I once interviewed a candidate for a position. His answer was, “For the money.” While important, it wasn’t the answer I needed to hear. There’s always another, higher paying job down the street.  If you’re in it for only the money, you’ll never be content because you’ll always want a bit more. (that said, I don’t suggest working for less than you’re worth either.)

And when facing a problem. Don’t simply ask, “what happened” “Oh, Kylo killed Han”. No, ask yourself, “Why did it happen?” or “Why did it have to happen THAT particular way.” “Kylo killed Han to advance the plot and his character development.”

Ask the question behind the question. Get to the truth.

And every once in awhile, take the time to see the world again through the eyes of youth.