Learning the “Flow”

Lightsaber of various colors.
Image Source: Kyberlight.com

So, learning Lightsabers and Lightsaber combat has been with us for a while. This Wired article that covers some of the basics is from 2013. However, as lightsaber prices have come down and there are more and more companies making them due to the resurgent popularity of the movies, lightsaber combat and training videos are popping up more frequently, and there are more and more websites dedicated to helping people learn the “art” of lightsaber combat.

As a child, I actually had a “lightsaber.” I put in quotes because it was an actual “lightsaber” like the ones we have today. Now, obviously, none of the “lightsabers” are “real” lightsabers that contain energy that can slice off a hand or melt doors. However, the lightsaber that I had as a child was just a more rudimentary version of the ones out now. My childhood lightsaber was two pieces of molded plastic. The hilt had the bumps and groves of a lightsaber handle with stickers to mimic the “buttons.” The second part was a colored piece of plastic “blade” that then screwed on to this saber’s hilt. Less than $10, this was a cheap plastic toy in all the ways it could be, but it still gave me the impression of being a “jedi knight.” The blade was even hollow with a bit of plastic on the top, so that when swung very fast, the air would make a “whooshing” sound that was reminiscent the distinctive sound that lightsabers make. However, my the lightsabers of my childhood do not hold a candle to the current lightsabers as the more expensive ones are made from metal now and have LED lighting effects and (most) have some sort of sound chip for accurate sound effects.

One of my projects over the summer is to try to learn lightsabers, lightsaber combat, and to buy myself a fairly good lightsaber.

The Flow

So, I’m in the process of learning what’s called, “The Flow.” It is a discipline that has some applications to martial arts, but is more of “trick”-style of manipulating the blade. I’d like to learn that first before moving on to more martial arts/combat/forms for the blade. The “Flow” is much more involved with flashy twirling moves than with actual combat or fencing. There’s a lot of spinning and manipulating of the blade going on with “The Flow.” Below is a YouTube video of a really good professional lightsaber combat artist who is proficient with the “flow”:

Michelle C. Smith — YouTube Lightsaber Spinning Video

She has a beginning tutorial on “The Flow” and links it to working with the staff. Her rationale: learning on the staff gives you all the requisite skills for lightsaber use and is much easier while learning on the saber is a lot harder (and, for me, the implication is that it won’t necessarily be transferable back to the staff).

I’ve learned one of the techniques so far that she has described in the following video, but haven’t yet learned the second (related technique).

“Basic Flow” for Freestyle Staff — Michelle C. Smith

I still have quite a way to go, but I’m hopeful that by the end of the summer I will have learned enough in the way of lightsaber “Flow” skills to advance to at least one or two of Michelle Smith’s “advanced” videos, but we’ll have to see how it works out. I’ll keep you posted on the outcome! ūüôā

Sidney

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Weekly Round-Up (February 3rd-9th)

potpourri

Writing

  • 2nd Draft–Starlight, Starbright: “Exposition” — I worked on the beginning of the story and reworked it to add in more characterization, more character backstory, and to revise the introduction of the story so that it matches the changes that I made in the middle of the story in the 1st draft (I didn’t go back and revise it as I figured I would get bogged down and not finish the 1st draft which is what I wanted to do.
  • The market that I’m aiming this for is a yearly one and it stops taking submissions on February 28th. I already missed a different market that stopped taking submissions on Jan. 31st (& will have to wait until June for their next period), so I don’t want to miss this one and have to wait an entire year (along with it having a different theme, to boot).

Gaming

  • So, I finished the campaign for Star Wars Battlefront II published by EA. I bought it on sale (9.99) and I bought a digital copy. I played the first one (only because it was Star Wars) “day one,” and while it was fun, I really did miss having a campaign (I rarely played the first game, so it was money wasted). I decided that this time I would wait until the game went on sale before purchasing it. I thought the campaign was good–although Iden goes through a character change quite quickly about a third of the way through–and while I liked it, I did find it abrupt. I didn’t even bother with the multiplayer which is this game’s bread and butter because I didn’t like the “loot box” controversy–just let us play games EA, stop looking at you gaming customers as stupid sheep to be fleeced for your shareholders. Not cool.
  • Speaking of multiplayer, this week saw the release of Apex Legends, a first person shooter which mixes the best of Battle Royale games (like Player Unknown Battlegrounds (PUBg), “character shooters” (Overwatch) and cartoony action/combat (Fortnite). This game was released on Tuesday or Wednesday and it has taken the gaming world by storm. 10 million players have played it in approx. 72 hours. Whether it has staying power remains to be seen. Oh, I also one my first match today. It is a three-person team, and my contribution was healing, revives, and calling enemies, but even though I wasn’t the “star” on the team, my help was both necessary and critical to the win! ūüôā

Miscellaneous

  • So, not much going on outside of work–for school and for my second job.
  • Oh, I got new contact lenses, but I don’t think there going to work out. I’m extremely near-sighted so we added a “multifocus” lens so that I could do better at reading, but in doing so, the distance is now very blurry and limited and I’m not really “feeling” them. While I can’t go back to my old pair (too old), I may have to try to see if we can’t give up some “reading” clarity to get some clarity for my distant vision because of all the driving that I do.

Sidney




  • Current Work-in-Progress–February 2019: Project Dog  (Sci-Fi Short-Story ‚Äď 1st Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows (Sci-Fi Graphic Novel ‚Äď Script, Issue # 2, Currently on Script Page 32)

Star Wars: The Last Jedi Redux

Image Source: https://www.thecurrent.org/feature/2017/12/12/star-wars-last-jedi-review

During one of the orientation sessions, one of the other students happened to be talking about Star Wars and both Solo and The Last Jedi happened to come up. Now, I’ve not seen Solo (although it is on Netflix and I fully intend to watch it in the near future. One of the students thought that The Last Jedi was the best of the Star Wars films because it was by Rian Johnson and that it was “as close to an art-house Star Wars film that we were likely to get.”

I argued that the movie ignored the characterization in Return of the Jedi specifically where Luke is in danger of becoming the Emperor’s puppet when he cuts off Vader’s hand and comes very close to striking down Vader in cold-blooded anger/hatred. While we both didn’t change each other’s mind, we could see each other’s points without delving into the worst part of fandom–the endless bickering.

Main-line Star Wars

So, for me, I’m less inclined for things like experimentation and trying new things in the “main-line” Star Wars stories–the numbered stories. For those stories, I want awesome plot and action, great characterization and character moments, and new and inventive world-building. I really want to see some of the best that Star Wars has to offer in these “main-line” Star Wars movies, and I think that here is not the place for experimentation. You have a “prototype”/”blue-print” of what works in the original trilogy. While I won’t say, ‘just do that,” as it gives filmmakers the lazy way out, it would be awesome to have the original characters act consistent to their previous characterization and bring in the new characters and their quirks into the mix while slowly phasing out the old. The form is there, but it requires solid execution, which didn’t happen in The Last Jedi in my opinion.

Anthology Stories for Experimentation

In my mind, the best place for experimentation on the order of what Johnson did would have been better served for the “anthology” movies like Solo or Rogue One. As a director on one of these stories, I feel that Johnson’s more “art-house” aesthetic, as noted by the other grad student, would have been more appropriate and I would have had more inclination to give Mr. Johnston the benefit of the doubt on his interpretation of the Star Wars universe. The other grad student said unequivocally that he was “good on not ever seeing Solo again after having seen it once.” Now imagine what different viewpoint a more independent filmmaker like Johnson could have delivered for Solo. There have been many aspersions cast Kathleen Kennedy’s way as the new guiding light for the Star Wars franchise after Lucas sold it to Disney, but this is where, again in my opinion, I think everything went awry. She should have “saved” a more avant garde director like Johnson for the anthology projects rather than the “main-line” ones. Looper was a critical darling and made waves as “serious” Sci-Fi, but is totally anathema to the “main-line” Star Wars series. It would be like asking Ridley Scott to direct a Star Wars film because of Alien and/or Bladerunner. Great sci-fi for both films, but totally different in terms of tone, content, and form.

For me, Johnson’s tone was completely off and his content wasn’t what I was hoping for even if he is an artistically and visually striking filmmaker while working with the form of Sci-Fi.

Sidney




  • Current Work-in-Progress: The Independent (Sci-Fi Short-Story ‚Äď 2nd Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Project Star (Sci-Fi Short-Story -1st Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows (Sci-Fi Graphic Novel ‚Äď Script, Issue # 2, Currently on Script Page 32)

What’s All the Hoopla About?

hoopla_hightechsociety

So, I’m a little late today as I got up a bit later than normal. ¬†I would normally do the blog either during breakfast or shortly afterwards, but today (in addition to picking up my car–yay!) I needed to reset my password to¬†Hoopla, a service that my home public library,¬†Chattanooga¬†Public Library subscribes to and that I have access to by being a member.

What is Hoopla?

Hoopla is a streaming service that is¬†more than just a traditional streaming service. ¬†It allows you to borrow (for my institution) 10 items per month. ¬†Notice that I said,¬†items, not movies or TV shows. ¬†It does have movies and television, like¬†Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu. ¬†However, it also has¬†comics/graphic novels,¬†ebooks,¬†audiobooks,¬†and¬†music (!). ¬†I’ve used it before and really liked it. ¬†What it lacks in terms of terms of hit releases (very few major releases), it makes up with breadth–there are a¬†lot of good genre materials embedded within each of the categories.

Summer Hoopla

So, while I’ve got a ton of work to do over the summer, in terms of getting ready for my summer classes this summer, I’m going to try to catch up on reading some of the comics/graphic novels (& books) that I’ve put off over the school year. ¬†They have quite a few¬†Marvel¬†graphic novels,¬†Star Wars, Star Trek, and other properties (again, books and graphic novels, mostly, not so much with movies/television). ¬†Still, now that I trying to integrate Popular Culture into my scholarship as a Pop. Culture scholar, I actually need some pop. culture to go with my scholarship.

I would encourage you to check out Hoopla if your library has a subscription.  If not, then you might want to see if your library has something similar.  It is a really useful service that I plan to investigate more over this summer.

Sidney




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What’s On My Bookshelf: Star Wars: The Complete Saga

starwars_the complete saga_zavvio

Star Wars: The Complete Collection (box, slipcase, and discs).  Image Source: Zavvi

This collection is available from Amazon.com, however, it appears to have been rereleased later with the packaging being different than the one I bought.

The Prequels

Star Wars: The Complete Saga is one of those purchases that¬†Lucasfilm marketing and¬†George Lucas counted on fans like myself buying. ¬†Until Lucas sold the¬†SW brand to¬†Disney,¬†SW¬†was pretty much my favorite series of all time due to the characters, mythology, and world-building. ¬†Regardless of how you like (or dislike) Disney’s handling of the sequels,¬†SW: TCS represented all 6 of the movies on Bluray up until that point. ¬†The fidelity of the movies (picture quality and sound) are stunning. ¬†While the prequels are of questionable quality based on their story and characterization, they are a masterful technical achievement with the space battle sequence of the 3rd movie integrated computer graphics.

The “Original” Story

It should be noted at the outset that if you are “purist,” you still aren’t getting the “original” release of the original¬†SW movies with this collection–rather the “Special Editions” of those movies that Lucas recut in the late 1990s with the additional CGI material added in. ¬†Just so you’re aware. ¬†I¬†prefer the original cut of the movies, but it isn’t a make or break deal for me. ¬†I’ve gushed over this trilogy before in other blog posts, so I won’t rehash it here, but I think that the audio and the picture fidelity is really good. ¬†Not 4K unfortunately, but still an awesome 1080p master of the movies.

No Sequels (or Digital Editions)

So, that’s right–this came out before Lucas sold the rights to the brand to Disney, so¬†The Force Awakens isn’t included (nor¬†Rogue One, and now,¬†The Last Jedi), so it really is the “Not so Complete Edition,” but at the time it was “complete.” ¬†One thing that really bums me out about this edition is the lack of¬†Digital Editions. ¬†This almost was a deal-breaker for me, and I almost didn’t purchase this edition. ¬†The Lord of the Rings: The Motion Picture Trilogy Extended Editions¬†did come with Digital Editions (and the Extended Editions to boot–but I don’t think Amazon is selling that “edition” anymore as it wasn’t there when I looked for this post). ¬†Lucasfilm wanted to “double-dip” and get paid twice for the same content. ¬†As much as I would like the convenience of digital as these are my favorites, I refuse to pay again for these movies and I do¬†not own them in digital format, especially when their competition figured it out. ¬† Still, to have the “complete” (at the time) set, I ultimately decided it was worth it.

Well, that’s it for today, and I hope you enjoyed this brief look at another boxed set that is on my Bookshelf.

Sidney


  • Read Skin Deep¬†(Sci-Fi) for Free at Aurora Wolf
  • Read Childe Roland¬†(Fantasy) for Free at Electric Spec

 

 

The Trouble with Villains

Each week, a YouTube channel that I subscribe to called¬†Digital Trends puts out a couple of different podcasts. ¬†They are a tech-based show, covering Home Entertainment, Home Theater, Laptops, HDTVs, Smart Home/Smart Speakers, etc., so their content, including podcasts are mostly tech-focused. ¬†However, one of their podcasts,¬†Between the Streams is a fun, “end-of-the-week” look at the happenings in movies, entertainment, etc. ¬†As someone whose 2nd Academic speciality is probably going to be Popular Culture, I find myself tuning in more often than not. ¬†In the latest episode,¬†BTS 093, they mentioned villains and how they “love” a good villain.

Generation Shift

Okay, so this is probably where the generations have diverged in culture. ¬†Baby Boomers and Gen X’ers (like myself), tend to prefer¬†heroes (John McClain, Han Solo/Luke Skywalker, MacGyver, Hercule Poirot, etc). ¬†We¬†like villains, but only in so much as we want things to be challenging to the hero. ¬†For instance,¬†Alan Rickman‘s performance as the villain in¬†Die Hard was so tense because he was the smart enough to go toe-to-toe with¬†Bruce Willis’¬†tough, no-nonsense cop John McClain, who had grit and determination. ¬†However, in the past ten years or so, I’ve heard a shift where a cool¬†villain seems to be the¬†only¬†requirement now for good entertainment. ¬†They were discussing various incarnations of the The Joker, but they make no mention of various actors or incarnations of¬†The Batman. ¬†Batman is a non-entity in his own movies. ¬†For them, it is all about the villains and the Rogue’s Gallery and that makes me sad.

“A More Wretched Hive of Scum and Villainy”–Star Wars: Episode IV, A New Hope

Let’s take Star Wars as a quick example. ¬†There are people giddy with joy over¬†Kylo Ren and the fact that the¬†Last Jedi has a scene (no spoilers) where he and Rey meet. ¬†They’ve even fashioned a name for the pair, “Reylo” in hopes that they will become a couple. ¬†Really? ¬†You want your hero character to become an item with someone who has¬†murdered other people in cold blood? ¬†And let’s say that happens, then what does that say about your main character/hero? ¬†Are they then complicit in the act? ¬†Rey knew about it and knew that the character escaped justice/consequences, so would she now be tainted with the same “blood” as her murderous “boyfriend” (again, assuming the producers follow up on the “Reylo” idea). ¬†Luke is a “whiny kid” up until a turning point in his later into¬†Star Wars and that’s¬†all anyone ever cares to remember about him (esp. in relation to the cooler¬†Han Solo character), but¬†Luke’s arc is critical the successful revelation to the story because he has to¬†deny evil in order for the story to work. ¬†If he were anything like¬†Kylo (whom the new¬†SW) movies seem to dote on, the whole universe would be under the power of the malevolent¬†Emperor now, with Luke standing by the Emperor’s side dealing out murder and injustice and bathed in blood like his father before him.

“There are Always Men Like You”–Marvel’s Avengers

Not to get all us vs them generational divide, but it is that¬†denial that is at the center of it all. ¬†Too many people today seem to want to be¬†in power/have power even if that power comes at the expense of doing what is¬†right. ¬†In the mind of a villain,¬†might makes right where as in the mind of a hero doing right is a struggle to be overcome. ¬†Like Yoda said when Luke asked him about the¬†Dark Side of the Force–“No. No. No. ¬†Quicker, easier, more seductive.” ¬†That is what villainy entails–a quicker, easier route to what you want and if that means crushing the life (sometimes literally) out of whoever is in your way, then so be it. ¬†But that doesn’t mesh with our belief that all life is unique and should be allowed to prosper in their own way. ¬†A villain says there is only¬†one way: my way! ¬† And shouldn’t we (especially as a species–older generations and new alike) stand up and say, we reject this and we reject you!

And that’s the role of a true¬†hero.

Sidney



Star Wars (The Original Trilogy) Themes

One of the reasons that Rian Johnson had so many problems and so much of a backlash against¬†SWTLJ¬†is the exact same problem that I had with¬†Looper–he relied on visuals rather than trying to create epic themes that¬†SW (especially the original series). ¬†SW¬†at its core is about relating its characters to the world and showing how much more you can be. ¬†SW is about¬†themes that resonate through the characters’ (& by extension, our own) lives.

Star Wars: Believe in Something Greater/Higher than Yourself
The theme of¬†SW is to believe in something greater/higher than oneself–to have faith. ¬†There are a multitude of scenes that illustrate this including the famous¬†“Trench Run”¬†scene where Luke is told by Ben’s voice to trust the Force and he turns off his targeting computers. ¬†In doing so, he is questioned by “ground control” as they wonder what is wrong. ¬†It is most explicitly talked about, however, during Luke’s “training” with the drone with Ben teaching him about the Force. ¬†We see that once Luke realizes that he can “see” beyond the¬†physical and into the immaterial, then the Force “guides” his actions and helps to move him from good to great.

The Empire Strikes Back: 1) You May Not Have All of the Facts Even When You Believe You Do and 2) The Power of Belief.
The¬†ESB¬†is a darker movie, not because it is literally shot darker, but because it deals with more complex and more nuanced themes. ¬†Most specifically, one of the main themes that runs throughout the movie is the idea that even if you think you have all the information at hand, you actually might not not and a closer look might be wise. ¬†This happens to both Luke while training at Dagobah and to Han, Leia, and Chewie in Cloud City. ¬†In each situation, both groups think that they have all of the pieces of information they need, when in fact, they are missing valuable pieces that would greatly enhance their understanding of the situations they find themselves inhabiting. ¬†It really comes down to¬†trust. ¬†Should Luke trust his teachers or trust himself, should Han, Leia, and Chewie¬†trust Lando or not? ¬†Luke also learns from the raising of the X-Wing that he doesn’t really truly believe in the power of the Force. ¬†Yoda has given himself over to it completely where Luke has learned the lessons, but when things get hard, he doesn’t really trust in the Force to see him through it. ¬†This ties back into the first theme when Luke doesn’t trust Yoda enough to see his training through even though it might cost him his friends.

The Return of the Jedi: Point of View as well as Friends versus Lackeys
For¬†RotJ¬†the theme is trifold: 1) One’s Point of View, 2) the idea of having Friends vs. Lackeys, and 3) Don’t make the same mistakes. ¬†One’s Point of View is very important in orientating/grounding the character to the world and has an important bearing on how the person/character looks at the universe. ¬†Luke is angry with Ben Kenobi for not telling him the truth about his father, but Ben tells Luke that many of truths that we cling to in the universe depend greatly on our point of view. ¬†Had Luke not learned that lesson then he might have fallen into the trap of believing that his father was completely lost. ¬†Having friends that one can depend on was very important to the¬†SW characters as they are always bailing each other out and formed an interconnected web. ¬†The Empire, however, relied on lackeys to serve and fulfill the Emperor’s will and this ultimately cost them the battle. ¬†Many fans hate the Ewoks because they reason that the Empire shouldn’t be able to be defeated by “teddy bears with spears,” but history is replete with examples of finer military forces getting upended by smaller, less advanced forces because those smaller forces have better “grit” for lack of a better word. ¬†Even the biggest Imperial Walker can be taken down with the right combination of grit and moxy–something the Ewoks had in spades. ¬†Finally, Luke learned a valuable lesson in¬†ESB–that under the right circumstances he could find himself in the same position and be lured to the Dark Side. ¬†Luke was especially conscious of this based on his experience in the “cave.” ¬†When his time came to be tested, he saw what he had done and stepped away from the “precipice,” something his father couldn’t do. ¬†So he learned his lesson well and ultimately, it served to save his life as well as to ensure the victory of the Rebellion.

This is where¬†SWTLJ ultimately failed in that it really didn’t go deep enough with the themes that the characters inhabited to make it a truly satisfying movie for fans of the original trilogy. ¬†There is a reason that many are calling Rey/Kylo Ren’s “relationship” “Reylo” and that is a true disappointment to me personally, but to many other OG¬†SW fans out there.

Slight spoiler here–Skip down to the next paragraph if you want to know nothing about¬†TLJ–you know you’ve gone off the rails somewhere if there’s a scene in a¬†SW movie¬†where Rey is telling Kylo Ren to put a shirt on (and yes, that scene exists). ¬†Why does that scene even exist? ¬†What function does it perform that either a) ties into the greater universe as a whole or b) reveals something unique about the characters or the world? ¬†It was simply a throw away line designed to get laughs and get tweens speculating on how cool it would be if Rey and Kylo “hooked up?” Gah! ¬†Please, someone get that out of a SW movie and put it in¬†Twilight where it belongs!

We talk about suspension of disbelief–well, for me, that was the moment when the “magic” was broken and I saw¬†SWTLJ as a movie rather than a¬†story.