Lightsabers: A May the 4th Blog Topic

A man in silhouette holding a glowing blue lightsaber in a fighting pose.
Image Source: https://www.geeky-gadgets.com/flowsaber-stunt-sabre-hits-kickstarter-17-03-2017/

I don’t usually “celebrate” May 4th, but today I’m just going to do a short blog topic on what is probably my favorite weapon of all time: The Lightsaber. When I saw it in the original Star Wars (Episode 4) , it blew my mind. However, it wasn’t until Empire Strikes Back (Episode 5) that I really understood the power and ferocity of what a lightsaber could truly do. The fight between Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader was something that I play out endlessly.

Toy Lightsabers

I’ve always had a lightsaber. I may have told this story before, but my local amusement park–Lake Winnepesaukah–had a gift shop that sold little knickknacks. One of those was a toy lightsaber. It was two pieces of plastic–a black plastic hilt and a red (or blue or green) plastic blade that was hollowed out so that when you swung it, it produced a whistling sound that–if you swung it hard enough–produced a sound effect not unlike that of the uncanny roar from the movies (if you used your imagination enough).

“Real” Lightsabers

Over the past few years, there’s been a cottage industry to build “real” lightsabers. Not the ones that are actual “lasers” mind you, but adult versions of lightsabers in which the hilt is metallic and the blade is some sort of PVC that is both light and durable. Most of the companies making the sabers are small businesses that create the blades for show, for competition, or for stunt-work. The prices can vary, anywhere from 75 to 500 hundred dollars (US) at the time of this entry, depending on the company and quality.

I Want One

In case there’s any doubt, I want one of these new generation “real” lightsabers. I don’t back Kickstarters as rule–my experience has taught me that I only have luck with products that have been released and reviewed, so I missed my chance to own the lightsaber that I really want–a Flowsaber. It is one of the “stunt” sabers that are out there that allow people to learn how to do lightsaber “stunts” with their saber. They offer a “balanced” lightsaber to help with those stunts, but they are currently in a 2nd kickstarter mode and have not offered “Gen 2” for sale. It is also probably on the expensive side (it is about 200-250 dollars US from what I remember for the Gen 1 versions).

There are other sabers out there, ones that look and feel much more like a real lightsaber, hilt that mimics the original designs from the movies, lighted PVC blades, and integrated sound effects chips embedded in the hilt. There are a couple of companies that make these, and of these two only Ultrasabers produces an affordable set ($75-125 US dollars).

I don’t have a lot of discretionary income (well pretty much none), but I think that my goal for the next year. To earn enough from my writing (and other endeavors) to get a good lightsaber.

May the 4th (and Force) Be With You!

Sidney


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What Writers Can Learn from Disney Star Wars Trilogy’s Mistakes

A combination of all 3 Disney Star Wars Trilogy movie posters side-by-side.
Image Source: https://www.quora.com/How-would-you-fix-the-Star-Wars-sequel-trilogy-1

Okay, not to flog a dead topic, but as SO many other reviewers have noted, while Rise of Skywalker does some things well, it turns out to be an unsatisfying end to the trilogy and 9 movie arc because it shows that there was no consistent plan. As the story goes, after J.J. Abrams finished Force Awakens, he had “loose” notes on the way the story should go that the next director, in this case Rian Johnson could use or not use as he saw fit.

Mistake! This why I’m always “banging” on about about the need/importance of outlines and trying to minimize “discovery” writing (for myself) as much as possible.

Why Outlines are Important!

I feel outlines are critical because stories (either fictional or ones that we hear about/tell others about in real life) are not just events. You’re not just relying a set of events that happened to you or someone else–although that’s part of it. You’re relating a series of events in order to 1) make a point about something or 2) reveal something (usually something you discovered as a result of those related events). Each case, while different, gets at the heart of storytelling and narrative.

Yet, if you’re just throwing random events together, or even if you are trying to following a logical progression of events, the one element you’re missing is the element of planning. What events are you going to foreground because they’re necessary to understanding the point of the story or what was learned/gained from the story? These are all questions that an outline helps to answer.

Let’s take Rey’s parents as an example as this was a particularly contentious “bone” that both Rian Johnson and Star Wars fans hotly debated. Let’s, for the sake of argument, pretend that The Last Jedi contained the “outline” that is supposed to have existed after Force Awakens. Had Johnson followed the idea, we could have been given the information about Rey’s parents (spoiler so I won’t reveal it here) in the 2nd movie (last act), and then she would have had to wrestle with it at the end of the 2nd movie, during the intervening time between movies (for characters) and then all through the 3rd movie. I mean, since we’re paying “homage” to Lucas anyway with the set-ups for these movies as they are very similar to the original trilogy, then this is what happens in Empire. Luke learns his parentage at the end of that movie, simmers over it during the intervening time, and then confronts Ben Kenobi’s Force ghost about it in Return of the Jedi. The revelation meant something, his conflict (inner turmoil) meant something, and him confronting Vader meant something (because Vader, at that point, wasn’t a nameless, faceless enemy, but his own father). A point was made and delivered. Not so with the Disney trilogy. As the reveal of Rey’s parentage comes in the 3rd act (or late 2nd act) Rise, there’s next to no impact on Rey outside of “shock value.” There was no emotional investment of the information.

Essentially, the storyteller focused on the “wrong” thing–shock value in learning Rey’s parents/heritage over emotional investment in seeing Rey struggle with the knowledge of who she was and is and a choice that she has to make as to whether to be defined by her heritage or break free from it. There could have been a powerful (American) introspection of are you bound by your circumstances or can you rise above them. However, with no outline, this is NOT in the story and helps to create the audience dissatisfaction that we see reflected in the 52% Rotten Tomatoes score.

In Defense of Outlines (and Drafts)

In closing, outlines help to provide a coherent framework to a story and keep it from meandering. It also helps the writer see (and focus) on the details that will most strongly make his/her points. Lastly, it allows the storyteller to see what the ultimate point or goal of his/her story is and make more effective choices on how to get there.

If you’re a “discovery” writer, should you drop that and start using outlines? No! That’s not what I’m advocating. I’m of the opinion that whatever works for you is something that you should do more of it. I might suggest however, that once you’ve finished the discovery draft, to go back and rewrite it (heresy, I know) because you now know you’re point and what events in the story have led you to the point and you may be able to get there more effectively with another draft or two, but if it’s working, I say keep doing it. As always, however, if it isn’t working, then you might give outlining a try.

Here’s an example of several writers who would like to “fix” Star Wars and the story outlines provided. They are all really interesting and, even though there are elements that I don’t agree with or would do differently, if I could “fix” Star Wars, they still illustrate how a cohesive (and competent, maybe even compelling) story can be told through outlining. (There are some spoilers for the movies, so be warned if you’ve not yet seen them all.)

Sidney


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Mini-Review: Star Wars IX: Rise of Skywalker

Rise of Skywalker Movie Poster--Rey holding a blue lightsaber against a cool blue backgroud while Kylo Ren holding a red lightsaber against a burgundy background
Image Source: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt2527338/

Last weekend, I watched Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker (RoS) for the first time. I know that it has a fairly poor rating, 52% on Rotten Tomatoes at the time of this writing, but I felt that it was, overall a much better story than its predecessor–The Last Jedi. I can’t (and won’t) go into too much territory in terms of spoilers (although I can’t be sure that what I discuss won’t give hints/clues to those the movie’s structure/plot, so you’ve been warned). I think–and will always think–that hiring Rian Johnson was a mistake because he’s not, at heart, a sci-fi writer. As you can see with Knives Out, he’s best when he’s being “clever.” Clever can mean a couple of different things here: 1) witty as Knives Out seems to be a satirical movie (based on the trailers) full of repartee between the characters and 2) provocateur, throwing things our/subverting expectations just because he can, something Last Jedi was filled with. Rise of Skywalker rights the ship, but is ultimately a decent movie, but is an unsatisfying end to a trilogy (and epic 9 film saga) because it has to spend so much time trying to undo the missteps of the previous two movies.

What I Liked

Action: The action of the first movie was back–thank goodness. Instead of action happening off screen in Last Jedi–Luke never getting to confront Kylo (or even Rey about what happened to her parents) was such a downer for me. Luke is (and was) the central character of the Skywalker saga that it was criminal for him to be dispatched in such a ignominious fashion in the previous movie. The action has returned in this one and while not nearly as thrilling as the original trilogy, there are some set pieces that were inventive and well-done. Action scenes, lightsaber battles, and space scenes seemed to be back to the level we expect from Star Wars films

(Some) of the Characterizations: These characters felt more like what we introduced to in The Force Awakens. While some things seemed notably off–the fact that Finn & Rey (first movie) were co-opted by Rey & Kylo storyline (the 2nd movie & fan-base with their “Reylo” fan-fic element)–comes to mind, the characters seemed to stay and be truer to their natures than in the previous movie.

Explanations: While seen as a “walk-back” by many reviewers, what Rise of Skywalker actually gives us is some answers (now I don’t always like those answers or the way they were delivered), but at least it wasn’t just thrown out there to flatly contradict what we were shown in The Force Awakens (“Rey, your parents were nothing special”).

What I Didn’t Like

The Need for “walkbacks”: You’ll notice I’m spending a lot of time talking about Rise of Skywalker in terms of what it did in comparison to Last Jedi. That’s intentional and it shouldn’t be necessary. In the Return of the Jedi, Lucas had already established the characters, deepened the plot, and made Luke’s conflict (destroy or redeem Vader) clear. In Rise, we are so busy explaining elements from the previous movie that made no sense, that the actual “trilogy” went out the window.

No Trilogy: related to the last point–this actually wasn’t a trilogy arc. It was movie 1, movie 1 again (Rian Johnson’s interpretation), movie 3. The “Reylo” storyline proves it. In the original trilogy, Han & Leia “spark” in movie one, their feelings are exposed in movie two, and they deepen in movie 3. In the Disney trilogy, Rey and Finn “spark” in movie one, “why do keep holding my hand?”, but in movie two (Rian Johnson interpretation), Rey and Kylo “spark” and Rose and Finn are supposed to “spark,” and in movie three Finn hints to Rey his feelings, but never says them outright and is in a “platonic” relationship that includes his best friend Poe Dameron (3 way hug) and Rey and Kylo expose their feelings for each other (“Ben”) in that “star-crossed” lovers way. Nothing in the trilogy pays off in the way that it should because movie two didn’t “deepen” anything in the way that a good second chapter of a trilogy should have and the “payoff” you would normally get from the third movie either isn’t there or is far below what it should have been.

Little Details: So many of the little details were off. Some of it was due to the untimely deaths of original trilogy cast members (or advancing ages). Obviously, Carrie Fisher’s heartbreaking and untimely death meant that the filmmakers had to incorporate scenes that were already shot into the narrative to give Leia’s character an appropriate sendoff, but even Chewbacca didn’t look like, sound like, or “run” like Chewbacca as it was different actor portraying him. C-3PO’s voice is higher than normal (again do to age of actor), and Artoo Detoo is hardly used. Some of it was due to the “walk backs” necessary. And some of it was due to the way Disney wants its SW movies to appeal to a new audience while trying to “pander” to the old audience as well. Disney is like look–here are the old droids you remember, but aren’t the new droids–BB-8 and the new droid they introduced just for Rise whose name I can’t even remember (it’s that forgettable as a droid) so cool because, hey, they’re new, and everyone likes new stuff, right, right? There are so many small issues that one only notices if the person is truly invested in the Star Wars world. For me, there are so many of them that it begins to seriously detract from the quality of the story and begins to make it seem more and more like a pale imitation of the original.

Overall Grade: B- (80)

I really think this is a stellar improvement of the last movie, but there are so many flaws in it because it can’t do what the 3rd movie in a trilogy should do, but must spend so much time trying to address the poor choices of the 2nd installment that it really weighs the film down for me.

While not a 52% (which would be a low, low F on a grading scale by the way), and yes I know that RT isn’t a grading scale, but a percentage of people who like/dislike the movie, but my point stands–this movie isn’t as bad as some would have you think as they would like to “punish” this movie and Disney with a low RT score–I still think that it is hamstrung by the fact that it has to essentially be a truncated 2nd act and then a partial resolution that has so many compromises that, while a fun and satisfying movie on its own, it can’t be a satisfying conclusion to a trilogy, let alone a 9 movie saga which is what is was purported to be.

Sidney


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The YouTuber vs The Director: Why Hollywood Needs to Stop Being a “Closed” System

Gameplay capture from a “modded” version of Empire at War (Star Wars Fleet Battle Strategy Game)

Hi Everyone,

So sorry for taking an extended break from the blog. There are reasons, which I will articulate, but probably in a post sometime in the New Year. Right now, I just want to say thank you to those who have stuck with the blog by reading older (and liking) many of the older posts here. I will be posting more regularly here (I haven’t gone away from blogging; I just needed to take a break–again, I’ll go into those reasons later). Again, a big thank you for sticking with the blog!

Right now, however, I really want to talk about Star Wars for a moment, now that the newest movie has released. Now, I’ve NOT seen Rise of Skywalker as of yet. Will I see it (at the theaters)? I’m not sure–so far, the reviews that I’ve seen have been mixed. I think I will probably email a professor that I know who is an ardent Star Wars fan to see what their reaction is and, if the professor likes it, I’ll probably attend a matinee showing in January before the new semester starts again. However, while watching a YouTube video, I discovered another reason why the previous movie (w/Rian Johnson at the helm) didn’t work for me and that has to do with an “amateur” (as Hollywood would see them) seeming to know and care more about the Star Wars universe than the director (and “professional” as Hollywood would brand them) does based on the content that both have “created.”

The Case Against Rian Johnson (and the script of The Last Jedi)

So, I’m probably “blacklisting” myself as I have designs of writing screenplays in the future, but in watching the YouTube video that I linked to above (don’t worry–at over 50 minutes I don’t expect anyone to watch the whole thing, but watching 10 mins or so, especially in the middle, should make it clear to readers why I chose to include the video). Now, before I lay out my major argument, let me be clear: while I respect Rian Johnson as both a person and director (I’ve never met the guy, so I have no opinion on him outside of his work–for me, it is the “content of one’s character”) in ALL situations), I’m not a fan of his science fiction efforts. Looper was something thing I couldn’t even finish, while The Last Jedi was disappointing to me as a lifelong Star Wars fan. While I understand the need to distance the old characters and invite the new characters, I felt that there were so many better ways that this could have been accomplished. Going against conventions just to be “radical and new” doesn’t necessarily mean that it is good. And that’s the main problem that I saw with The Last Jedi: its desire to show the main protagonists in the story in a different light that had already been explored. I won’t go into a long diatribe about it, but will ask all those who liked Knives Out–his currently critically acclaimed movie–a question: what if I took the characters in that movie and wrote a sequel in which none of them acted liked they had in the first movie and rewrote the ending so that none of it happened the way the first movie made it appear? (Don’t worry, there’s no spoilers as I’ve yet to see the movie) .Would you then think that this new movie was “cool and unique?” Chances are good that you would hate my script because neither the characters nor the world had anything that made them who they were–just changing them “to subvert expectations” would likely appear arbitrary, capricious, and dare I say, stupid (for an exercise, I may just write that script whenever I do see Knives Out just to show how subverting expectations isn’t really “clever” when it is done to something that someone else likes–when the person doing that subverting doesn’t really like it themselves–assuming, of course that I don’t like Knives Out).

Why Does a YouTuber Display More Reverence for Star Wars Than a Director (or Producer)?

Yet, for all my whinging on about Rian Johnson (and by extension, the producers of the newest trilogy), there are many people who are passionate about the series–but more importantly, who are knowledgeable about the Star Wars universe. In some ways, it seems like there are fans who know (and care) more about the property than the creators of that series. Now, there is a YouTuber who goes by the handle of TheXPGamers who produces quite a bit of Star Wars content. In this particular case (for the video that I linked above), he is playing a Star Wars game published by Lucasarts Games before the Disney buyout that deals with giant spaceship fleet battles between the forces of the Empire and the Rebels. Even though he is playing a “modded” copy (meaning that another software author has created a patch that changes the look, feel, and gameplay elements) of the original/base game, just from viewing a short portion of the video, one can see two things are evident: 1) his passion and 2) his knowledge about the SW universe. First, his passion is clear–he loves this series and learning more about it and he’s clearly invested in the lore. Second, he has both knowledge of the lore, but also strategy and how it applies to the SW universe. He is clearly a master of the game and of the tactics used to win.

And here’s my ultimate point: Rian Johnson got criticized for many things, but one of the major things that people called “BS” on was his fleet interactions. Now look, I know how hard writing is, but this where being a “closed” system hurts Hollywood. How hard would it have been to call in TheXPGamers as a “consultant” or even as a reader to help “punch up” the scenes dealing with the fleet? And if he did a good job there, then perhaps touch on characterization and other things in order to improve the script? Oh, but that’s not the way Hollywood does things–they don’t want to be sued for “stealing ideas.” Granted, that is a thing, but Hollywood wants a hit, but isn’t always sure what will deliver one. In dealing with art, the only time they seem to want to take risks is when they already have an established property (a la SW) that has a built in fanbase–but to actually open themselves up to 1) original properties/screenplays or 2) allow outsiders to come in and help shape there projects–no, that is NOT allowed. Yes, I’m aware of the “guild” structure and the like, but my point remains: if you have resources at your disposal to help you and you chose not to use them, then you cannot very well become upset when the fans call “BS” on a story/story elements. The “chase” in The Last Jedi was central to the storyline, but based on what was written in the script and presented onscreen, the director knew little-to-nothing about the “boring” ship-to-ship battles in the SW universe, so let’s make it “exciting” with a “chase” sequence (because “chase” scenes = tension, see Bullitt). However, as linked in the video, TheXPGamers knows how large fleet warfare works in SW, can describe it effectively, and can illustrate the reasons and rationales for certain decisions to be made, so why not use him as a resource as well, not to mention Lucas and any other SW alumns who are still working with (Filoni, Chow, or even other SW directors/artists/conceptual designers, even actors) come quickly to mind. And that doesn’t even count the legion of fans who have produced content (via the internet or in other forms) who have massive amounts of knowledge as well (but because they aren’t “professional”–i.e., known in Hollywood industry circles–their opinions and knowledge doesn’t count). Look, I get it, we all have to “pay our dues” if we want something, but not all “dues paying” looks exactly the same. If some pay there dues through YouTube videos, some through extensive reading and writing, and some by directing, shouldn’t that count for the same? Why does directing a moderately successful Sci-Fi movie give you access to the reins of the biggest, most important Sci-Fi franchise out there, but producing content (in the form of YouTube videos) on that very same large, successful franchise earn you nothing but contempt and being ignored by the very movie studio/entity producing that franchise?

Until Hollywood realizes that not everyone who isn’t “in” the industry is not the enemy, I predict there will be more fan/community backlash to Hollywood’s seemingly increasing arbitrary decisions to their franchises. Instead of more control, it might be better in the long run to relinquish the tight grip on their franchises and bring in fans (especially fan-based experts) to help craft the stories and shape the ultimate direction of the narratives. Otherwise, like Princess Leia predicted to Grand Moff Tarkin: “The more you tighten your grip, Tarkin, the more star systems will slip through your fingers.”

P. S. Alien 3 and Me

And lest I be called a Rian Johnson hater (as I am pretty harsh about him in this entry), I’ve already had my moment with “fandom” with the release of Alien 3 and that is when I learned how horribly wrong a sci-fi movie can go in the hands of an “avant garde” director. Alien and Aliens were my favorite films outside of the SW universe and I was ecstatic when A3 was announced. I went to a showing at U.T. Knoxville, where I was a sophomore at the time. Words cannot express my disappointment in the film. As there was no internet at the time (not in the way there is now–AOL was just beginning to be a thing . . . I think, but it may have been a couple of years before even that if I remember correctly), there was no “fan outrage” that happened. However, I never saw another David Fincher film (I made sure to note the director of that travesty) and after the lukewarm Alien Ressurection, I’ve basically sworn off the Aliens franchise until the reviews indicate that they (the filmmakers) truly intend to make good movies again (so, no I’ve not seen Prometheus, nor Alien Covenant, nor the AvP films, nor do I intend to). So you see, I don’t hate on directors or franchises when they disappoint–I just deny them my business. That’s why Leia’s quote is so appropriate–a closed system means that you (the filmmakers) have no margin for error, so the director/writer/producer had better love the franchise as much as the fans because, like The Last Jedi (and Alien 3) shows, it is painfully obvious when they don’t.

Sidney


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Let’s Talk About the Mandalorian (on Disney+ Streaming)

Image of the Mandalorian (a man in sci-fi armor with a cape and a rifle strapped to his back) walking down a dusty sci-fi street.
Image Source: https://www.bbc.co.uk/newsround/47935790

Okay, before I begin, I should note that I’m a HUGE Star Wars fan. While I haven’t been particularly impressed with some of the later Star Wars movies (The Last Jedi & Solo I’m looking at you), I have been a pretty ardent fan of the series since I was a child. According to my mother, I did see SW is the theaters (although I have no concrete memory of it as I was younger than 5 at the time), but my first SW movie that remember concretely was Empire Strikes Back (and yes, I’m old enough to remember the movies without the annoying Episodes numbers in front of them, so that’s how I’m going to roll). I remember being taken back to see SW again in a discount theater a week later (because I liked Empire so much and it was much better the second time around as I now had some context). I give you all this backstory so that you can understand that if my comments seem too positive, it is because I’m coming at this as a fan and not as a scholar and/or dispassionate viewer.

This is the Star Wars TV show that You’ve Been Looking For

So, let’s talk about what works. To me, Mandalorian represents a show that does the “Space Western” genre correctly. While I don’t want to “crap” all over Defiance as there are talented actors and crew members who worked on that show, Mandalorian represents a shift away from that nihilistic and “grimdark” show of Defiance that emphasizes recreational drug use and heavy doses of sex/sexual innuendo over storytelling. I’m not a prude, but come on, this is supposed to a sci-fi show where people are just barely surviving rather than (being uncharacteristically crude here) getting their “freak” on. Luckily (and blessedly), there’s none of that “grimdark” ambiguity here. The titular Mandalorian is no hero–he is a bounty hunter for whom remorse and emotions are a detriment, not an asset. This is no wide-eyed farmboy here (one of the many criticisms that early Star Wars fans had with Luke Skywalker. However, we’re only 3 episodes in, but we are beginning to see an arc developing for the Mandalorian. I won’t go into details as they could be considered spoilers, but suffice to say, we’re seeing new depths to the character. One of the things that makes this show so good is the high production values of the show. In many ways, this show looks like a Star Wars movie, but given to us in 30-35 minute chunks complete with storytelling arcs that work both on a shorter level (episodic), but also sustain a longer narrative (Episode 3 had consequences so I eager to see where Ep. 4 takes us).

No Disintegrations

So, what are the downsides to the show. Well, for me, not many. The show seems to really do a good job of presenting a live-action version of the Star Wars show (much like the live action remakes of famous Disney animated movies. If there was a downside, I would have to say length (although that could also be considered a plus as well). I really like getting wrapped up in the mythology of the world and so I hate it when the show ends–it feels like the foray into the world is all too brief. However, the fact that it doesn’t overstay its welcome might also be one of its strengths, so I’m torn on whether or not this is truly an issue. For some, not me, the fact that the hero never removes his helmet might be a problem, but I like the mystery. I also like the “everyman” motif happening as well. And since there is a “matriarch” of sorts who also doesn’t remove her helmet, there’s even an “everywoman” vibe happening as well and I think there should probably be more of that. I can say with a fair amount of certainty that those who want “grimdark” storytelling (in which everyone dies a horribly gruesome and unfair death, people “crapping” all over each other just because they can) probably won’t find much here to excite their interests–it just isn’t that type of show (at least, so far, and thank goodness)!

Not a Mini-Review

While I’m enjoying my time with the show, this shouldn’t be considered a mini-review. I’ll wait until the show is finished its run to pass judgement over it. So far, however, I have to say that I like what I’ve seen and hope that it will finish its first series/season run out with distinction. Finally, a contemporary series that I can enjoy!

Sidney


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ReRead: Star Wars X-Wing Rogue Squadron — Battleground Tatooine

X-Wing Fighter destroying a Tie Fighter over an alien world.
Image Source: https://www.amazon.com/Battleground-Tatooine-X-Wing-Rogue-Squadron/dp/156971276X

So, I reread Star Wars X-Wing Rogue Squadron (Rogue Squadron) over the weekend. I haven’t been reading much on my own except for school nights, but I thought I start to reread my collection once a week.

One of the Few Star Wars Graphic Novels I Own

Surprisingly enough, I don’t own that many Star Wars graphic novels (although I plan to increase that through used bookstore purchases) as graphic novels became a “thing” after I was already moving away from “comics” in general and moving more into “writing/creative writing.” It may have been a good thing since most of the Star Wars comics/novels/graphic novels have been “removed” from canon once Disney acquired the license. However, I still like to dip into the world and universe, even knowing that most of the work is no longer “relevant” to the Star Wars world.

Good Story (Even Without the Lightsabers)

I tend to be a “lightsabers” kind of guy, meaning that I really like the ligthtsaber combat in the films. However, I also like the space combat as well. I feel that the new films have focused more on space combat than lightsaber battles, but I’d still like to watch them. And that extends into the graphic novel realm as I enjoy reading about the adventures of Rogue Squadron which is what this graphic novel is about. The story was good–not great–but good, as was the artwork. Finally, I thought the inclusion of a hard to find second story at the end was a nice touch.

Overall Grade: B (85)

While it could have been more dynamic, I still enjoyed the setup and the resolution of the story. Its a fun, “popcorn” story and one that I enjoyed. I’ll definitely look for others in the series.

Sidney

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  • The Independent  (Sci-Fi Short-Story)–
    3rd Draft of 3 Drafts 
    Drafting Section 1 (of 3)
    Mythic Mag. Deadline = July 31, 2019
  • I, Mage (Fantasy Short Story)
    Pre-Production Phase (Planning)
    Pre-Writing on Rough Draft & Character Sketch
    Mythic Mag. Deadline = January 31, 2020
  • Current Longer Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel 
    (Sci-Fi) Issue # 2, Currently on Script Page 32
    Personal Deadline = September 30, 2019
  • HawkeMoon (upcoming) = Edits turned in to editor 5/31/19

Sunsetting Star Wars

Sunsetting Star Wars Two characters from Star Wars watch the twin suns set.
Image Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u2W5YPQJqUs

Okay, I know, a provactive title. And yes, The Last Jedi features into the discussion, but not nearly as much as one would think. I’ve known for a while now that the Disney version of Star Wars (at least for the last of the 3 Skywalker films) would be “sunsetting” the original characters and creating a whole new set of characters that we would follow through new movies for a “new” generation. My problem (at the time) wasn’t the sunsetting of the older characters–it was, would I like the new characters? Now, however, I have to say that it is isn’t the new characters that bother me (except the “grumpy Darklord”–Daisy Ridley’s term for Kylo Ren). What I really have a problem with is the way in which the old characters are being “retired.”

Be Fair to Your Audience

Yes, I know we live in an 18-35 year old world. I get it. This is where marketers focus their efforts on, this is where people really want to target their appeals to, but one of the things that I really dislike about the way Star Wars has treated its audience is that they haven’t honored the original actors/roles as much as they could have.

So, unless I get really heavily into spoilers, I can’t actually do a “deep dive” into the ways Disney has “disrespected” fans of Luke Skywalker, Han Solo and Princess Leia from the original trilogy. Suffice to say, the resolution of the two men have not ended well. Carrie Fisher unfortunately, passed away, so I suspect we will see footage of her in the new movie, but I feel that they will be far more respectful to her character because she (sadly) is no longer with us (the Paul Walker effect, essentially).

As a long time fan of the films, I don’t understand why we can’t get a resolution of the old characters that doesn’t feature them going out in the way they do. I feel that both of the characters who’ve we’ve “resolved” so far from the original trilogy do not end in a way that is either consistent or satisfying to what we as fans were presented onscreen during Lucas’ original run.

Be Consistent

And this the cry that every fan asks every creator whether or not they originally created a character or not. Let me be absolutely clear–I don’t like The Last Jedi. One of the main reasons is that I don’t feel that the Disney Star Wars films are playing fair with audience expectations is that the characterizations are not even close to what the characters have exhibited in the past, nor do they honor the struggles that they originally had. For example, Luke struggled with redeeming his father from evil, yet his nephew “supposedly” (we see this off-screen) displays tendencies of “evil” and Luke most definitely (again, vague to avoid spoilers) does NOT try to even talk to the kid, let alone redeem him. That is antithetical to Luke’s characterization and doesn’t fit with what I know about the character. However, for plot reasons, we need Luke to ignore 20 years of history (his own history, btw) and act in a manner counter to what he has done previously.

The same is true for Han Solo’s character. While I can somewhat see what befalls him, he still has to act in a “dumb” fashion for his ending to occur. In the original trilogy, Han and Chewbacca rarely split up–it does happen, but it was in Jedi and close to the end. However, in Force Awakens, the split-up happens at just the right time for the “surprise” to happen and to allow Han to be “Solo” at just the right time.

Again, I have to be super-vague to keep from spoilers (& this may be hurting my argument), but I feel that a grave disservice has been done to the old school characters. Leia will probably get a “hero’s sendoff,” but why does she get to be the only one? And why after she’s passed away? My grandmother subscribed to the idea that we should give “people their flowers while they are living,” meaning that one should honor people while they are alive and not wait until they are dead. The actors in the original Star Wars did a wonderful job and their characters are well loved by millions of fans. Is it really so bad to ask the creators of the new series to honor that idea and to give the characters a “sunset” that is consistent with their characters and honors their actors in an appropriate way (which I don’t think is what has actually occurred).

Sidney

Please consider supporting these fine small press publishers where my work has appeared:




  • The Independent  (Sci-Fi Short-Story)–
    3rd Draft of 3 Drafts 
    Drafting Section 1 (of 3)
    Mythic Mag. Deadline = July 31, 2019
  • I, Mage (Fantasy Short Story)
    Pre-Production Phase (Planning)
    Pre-Writing on Rough Draft & Character Sketch
    Mythic Mag. Deadline = January 31, 2020
  • Current Longer Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel 
    (Sci-Fi) Issue # 2, Currently on Script Page 32
    Personal Deadline = September 30, 2019
  • HawkeMoon (upcoming) = Edits turned in to editor 5/31/19

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! 🙂

Sidney

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  • Current Work-in-Progress–February 2019: Project Dog  (Sci-Fi Short-Story – 1st Draft — Character Draft “Finished”)
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Goodbye Star Wars: Clone Wars, Hello Farscape

Image Source: https://reelgood.com/show/star-wars-the-clone-wars-2008

So, I’ve been away from the blog for a while due to school and reading for the tests for this semester. I’ve been consuming media on the weekends, but I just haven’t really had a chance to blog about it. There have been several major video game news items that I’ve wanted to blog about (& with luck, I still will), but basically, today I wanted to talk about the “streaming future” and the way it will work in the future.

Goodbye Star Wars: Clone Wars

After trying to get through the series when it was first released and not being able to due to the erratic nature of its broadcast schedule originally, I tried to get through it on Netflix when it first appeared. There was an episode that I couldn’t get through–the one where Padme and Annakin have to use Padme’s former boyfriend to get information on the Separatists–and so I dropped it. This was when Star Wars: Clone Wars (SWCW) had first entered the Netflix catalogue. I recently (this year) finally got past that odiuous episode and was making my way through the series when I got the notice that SWCW would be leaving the service on April 7th. As I was in the midst of studying for tests, there wasn’t really anything I could do about it–no major binges or anything like that–so I was only able to get to Season 3 (first episode) before the show was pulled. Now, it isn’t gone forever–more than likely this show is going to appear on Disney’s new “Streaming” service.

Obviously, I don’t really like this. To the best of my knowledge, Disney’s new service will not be “free.” If it costs money, then I have to decide whether I need Disney’s service over Netflix’s service, or whether I can afford (notice I didn’t use the word need as I don’t need either service, but I want them for entertainment). I don’t really like this idea of starting new services when there are already market leaders in the market. I’ll explain why in a moment. For the moment, the point is moot as Disney’s service hasn’t actually premiered.

Hello Farscape

Farscape is a early to mid 90s Sci-Fi show that, like Babylon 5 (B5), I saw a few episodes when it first premiered. Afterwards, it was one of the first shows on streaming. I managed to see approx. the first 2 seasons before it went away (again, much like SWCW where it went away before I could finish it). I’m starting over again. It has been long enough that I really don’t remember the characters or the relationships well enough to try to pick up where I left off. I will try to finish this series this time around (again, like B5), and if I do so, I will post a review of the series on the blog.

Streaming: Hello and Goodbye

So the thing about streaming is that it is almost a lot like broadcast network: you are at the whim of the providers and licensors as to what you can watch when. It takes away choice. The providers go out and acquire the content and you watch it. However, not all providers have all the content, meaning subscriptions to multiple providers to get a good coverage of old and new content. Now, content provider sees these subscription fees as way of guaranteeing revenue (hence, CBS All Access, Disney’s upcoming streaming service, and the myriad of others who want in on the act, like NBC Sports). However, the market cannot and will not support all these services, so just like all other markets, most will fail until an oligopoly has been established of the main players (usually 2-3, sometimes more, but rarely) and equilibrium will be established. There will always be smaller players (a fair amount), but in the end, there will only be a few major players. The problem is that everyone, no matter how late they are to the party (I’m looking at you Apple) wants to be a part of the oligopoly. And while the consumer may ultimately win through competition, we’re about to enter a phase where the consumer will be the ultimate loser since the only way to get all the content will be to buy as many services as one can afford–not great on the consumer’s bottom line.

Until the shakeup happens and content providers stop there own services and partner with larger companies, the consumer loses. And will this happen? I point you to the immenient shutdown management platforms like VUDU and the like. They wanted to be a place where you dumped all movies that you purchased so as to diffuse the power and domination they felt Apple had in the marketplace. Now they are going away and Apple still maintains its dominance in purchased content, but has seceded its in content to the “streaming” platforms.

My point is that capitalism is NOT always good for the consumer, especially whenever there is market upheaval. The market doesn’t always work in the consumer’s favor and we need to stop gushing over capitalism as if it is a “perfect” system. Like all human inventions and endeavors, it has its flaws, and the fact that I no longer have access to watch a show through no action of my own that I hadn’t finished highlights just one of the many flaws in the system.

I guess I’m writing about this, not to gripe or to propose a better system, but in the hopes that by pointing out the flaws, someone (an economist or theorist) many be able to implement ideas that can correct these flaws.

Sidney

Please consider supporting these fine small press publishers where my work has appeared:




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

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