Star Wars, Comin’ Right Atcha!

In case you missed it, the official site announced that the six live-action Star Wars films will be returning to your local theater, this time in 3-D starting in 2012.

My immediate response was one of apathy.  However, after a few hours of thought and sleep, I’ve slightly adjusted my position.

First, in the world of 3-D films, I’ve only been able to see the effect once or twice.  The first one that came to mind was during the stellar Space Station 3D IMAX film, which I caught last year.  In that documentary, there is a long shot along the axis of the International Space Station that looks out into the depths of space, and that shot stood out very well behind the 3-D glasses.  I remember taking off the glasses to look at the screen and get the full effect of what technology was doing.  Unfortunately, the only other time the effect returned was when the astronauts were demonstrating weightlessness with a ball, and that was intermittent for me.

The second time I saw a 3-D effect work was at the fun but intellectually vacuous 4-D “ride” based on A Bug’s Life at Disneyworld, and that was during the typical “coming right at you” moments.  I tried watching Up in 3-D, mostly because that was the only way our local theater presented it, but nothing ever looked three dimensional.  I know there were moments, because the audience was “ooh”-ing and “ahh”-ing at those points.

My second big concern is in the technology side.  If a movie is made in 3-D from the ground up, the effects tend to work better than if the movie is 2-D initially and rendered to 3-D later.  Unfortunately, the Star Wars saga was born in 2-D, which makes me apprehensive at the quality of the end 3-D result.

I think my problem with 3-D is because I know that it’s a visual trick.  In the sparse moments when I’ve forgotten where I am with a 3-D movie, the effects work, but if I’m thinking about the movie and the experience, all I see is a flat screen.  So, the next response is, “don’t think about it.”  Space Station 3D was a documentary about something I know quite a bit about, and honestly, was a significant chunk of eye candy.  Like I’ve already said, A Bug’s Life 4-D was low on substance, lasted about five minutes, and was broken up with the “fourth dimensional” effects of rumbling chairs and blowing air to represent things that happen to the viewer in the show.  Both instances involved distraction from thinking too much about the material presented on screen.  The problem is that I can’t switch off the analysis during Star Wars movies.  They’ve been a big part of my life since I was kid, and it’s hard to separate that.

Now, I don’t want to seem like I complete “Debby Downer” on this.  I am excited for the saga to get another big screen release for another generation of children, but if Lucasfilm uses the current 3-D technology, I won’t play.  I would love to see the films again with the theater experience, but I don’t want to sully that experience by filtering the imagery with 3-D glasses that don’t work for me.  Like any other visual filter, the glasses tend to remove a portion of the vibrancy that I expect on the silver screen.  Watching the 3-D films without the glasses is completely out of the question for obvious, headache inducing, reasons.

My opinion is tempered with the fact that George Lucas is an innovator.  If anyone can create a method for three-dimensional filmmaking that is revolutionary, it is Lucas, and to paraphrase Supreme Chancellor Palpatine, I’ll be watching the developments on this project with great interest.  If it looks like something I can enjoy, my butt will be in the seat for all six films.  Until then, I have no choice but to remain cautiously optimistic.

Either way, we all know what the end result will be:  A metric Bantha load of money deposited in the Lucasfilm coffers as fans either re-live or discover Star Wars again.


Obligatory Update Post

In the sinusoidal motion of existence, life turns into a cycle of feast or famine.  Recently, I’ve seen famine.  Not in the food sense, though I could probably survive for a while… that is until these trips to gym start paying off again.

No, life’s been relatively calm of late.  Hence, no updates.

I am working on my Dragon*Con report which will be posted here.  I’ve also been playing around with the idea of getting back into short story fiction, including submissions to an anthology and an e-zine.

So, yeah… calm with chance of continued work.

Quick Writing Update

I spent a little time back in the universe tonight.  I missed it and needed it after a long couple of days on travel for work.  It’s small progress, but it’s also a rather tricky spot for me.  I’ve also been brainstorming on my NaNoWriMo project.

Creative Progress Ticker

Perdition’s Progeny:  Outlining
Pro Patria:  First draft — 45,672 words — (+595)
Bhriar’s Blade:  Outlining

Elemental:  Researching

Project “Ark”:  Concept

Project “John”:  Concept

Project “Recursive”:  Concept

Project “D Christmas”:  Concept

Project “Democ” [NaNoWriMo]: Concept

“Meruva”: Submitted — 12,433 words

Tuesday Morning

It started like any other Tuesday. I had to be at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City by 7:30 for class, and that meant joining the fray with every other commuter who fought the non-stop rush of cars from Davis County to the capitol.   Up early, showered, and fed, I ventured into the temperate September air along the Wasatch Front. The drive was uneventfully normal along the I-15 corridor as I hit 100 South and started east toward the campus, the Todd and Erin morning show playing on the radio.

At about 6:45, Todd and Erin returned from a song to some breaking news: a small twin-engine plane had just flown into the World Trade Center. While I was amazed, I wasn’t too terribly concerned, but I remember hoping that no one was hurt too badly. Minutes later, the story changed. It wasn’t a small Cessna-like plane… it was a commercial airliner.

I reached the university and waited a few minutes before walking to the Naval Sciences building to start my navigation class, but no further news came. When I got to the boxy two-story building, I checked my mailbox – every NROTC midshipman had one to deliver important messages from the battalion – and went upstairs to get ready for class. Once I crossed the threshold, I found the speculation in full gear. Our instructor gave permission to listen to the radio while we worked on our assignment, and that’s when we got the full details.

I remember the sense of fear I had, coupled with anger and frustration. I will admit that I was angry at all Muslims at that point, but that was before I fully understood the details about extremism and terrorism. I now understand, nine years later, that my anger was misdirected. I never acted on those emotions, and I am glad I didn’t. I also am happy that I was able to learn about another complexity in the human tapestry.

In the immediate aftermath, Americans were buoyed up as a single voice under the call to action based on revenge. For every question of “where were you when the world stopped turning,” there was a yell to kick some ass because it’s the “American way.” New legislation that was supposed to protect national security and make us more safe ended up biting back with illegal wiretaps and tracking of born and raised American citizens who had no intention of betraying the red, white, and blue. Now we stand divided amongst ourselves and listening to the screaming voices who still believe that all Muslims stand allied in favor of the actions of extremists.

The scenes nine years ago were certainly shocking and game-changing, but I firmly believe that we should stand together against those who would do us harm, not against a category of people who had no more to do with the attacks than I did. “Patriot Day,” which in my opinion needs to be re-named, should be a day of solemn reflection, not political grandstanding.

I honor those who sacrificed their health or lives in efforts to rescue the fallen. I honor those who sacrificed their lives to prevent United Flight 93 from impacting in Washington, DC. I honor those who were killed in the impacts of American Airlines Flight 11, American Airlines Flight 77, and United Airlines Flight 175. I honor those who died in the aftermath.

I honor those who fight to defend our freedom from those who would take it. I honor those who practice tolerance in the name of those freedoms in lieu of allowing hatred and bigotry to rule their actions. I honor those who rise above petty politics and divisive labels to ensure our freedom persists and help to heal our wounds.

I honor those who remind us that we are all members of the human race, despite our color, religion, sexuality, gender, or other factors are used to divide us.

Above all, I vow to never forget.

Changes Coming at Dragon*Con

If you didn’t know, there is a community page set up on LiveJournal for Dragon*Con.  One of the threads on the page centers around the lines for pre-registration, which we all know are the nemesis of Dragon*Con.  For those not in the know, D*C has people who registered months before the event standing in line at (and around) the Sheraton for hours waiting to pick up their badges.  Once you get to the head of the line, the queue splits into individual lines for each letter of the alphabet.  The end goal is a volunteer with a binder of names on stickers, which eventually end up on your badge after they verify that you are indeed you.

After significant griping, there is hope.  On the page, Troy Bradley has made the following statement:

First off, let me put the big bullseye right in the center of my forehead now.
I am the Director of On Site Preregistration for Dragon Con.
Let me first apologize for the waits in the line this year. We were trying a new system and it obviously did not work as intended. We were also limited on how many people we were allowed to have in the building at once by the fire marshal and hotel security. This only served to add to the delay as they would not allow more people to enter until so many lanes of the cue were emptied.
We are developing a bar code system for 2011’s show. This of course means you MUST remember your post cards and if they are emailed to you, the print out with this individual bar code. If not, you will be in the main line only to be moved to the solutions line to be looked up and printed out. As it stands the plan is to have printers and scanners at each kiosk and NO MORE ALPHABET LINES. You will be in the main line and when you get to the front, you will move to the next available open kiosk to be scanned and handed your badge. This should greatly speed things up for everyone.

I hope this clears up any misconceptions about the Preregistration process as well as shows we are working to streamline and change this so it is a faster process.
Troy Bradley
Dragon Con On Site Preregistration

Well, that is good news.  I’m not too peeved in particular about waiting in line in Atlanta heat, but there are some folks who understandably get very upset about it.  It looks like Dragon*Con is listening, and I appreciate it.

One other thing:  Troy Bradley also said one thing that royally pissed me off.

Please remember that the staff of Dragon Con are volunteers. They are fans like you who give their time to the convention. They are cursed at, abused, called names, and have had things thrown at them. While many waited 2 or more hours, remember also that Thursday this year alone, we were there at 9am or earlier and we did not leave until 1:30am on Friday morning and were still back again at 7:30am on Friday to work until 10:30pm on Friday evening.

In my opinion, this is unacceptable.  I’ve never volunteered at Dragon*Con for anything more than guesting on panels, but no one should ever be abused for doing their job.  I personally believe that anyone who abuses a volunteer should have their badge pulled and be asked to leave the event.  Repeat offenders should be banned.  Such people give the rest of us a bad name and do not belong at the con.

In the same vein, there are volunteers who sign up to work, get the free badge, and then never contribute an hour to the con.  They should be banned from volunteering for a year.  If they repeat the onerous performance after that, they should be banned from the con.

These may be the thoughts that keep me out of the really good schools, but good manners should be universal, as should the concept of promises and volunteering one’s time.

FLASHBACK: Jar Jar Binks

Originally submitted and posted on September 16, 2008 in response to the September 12, 2008 episode of The ForceCast

Jason, Pete, Jimmy, and the crew,

On the September 12 show, you asked for opinions about Jar Jar Binks, and I’d like to share mine with you.

In the movies, Jar Jar is portrayed as a bumbling idiot and an outcast in his society. He’s a klutz and responsible for making an annoyance of himself in Otoh Gunga in a vain attempt to fit in. Why do I love him? Because I personally identify with him. Jar Jar Binks in 1999 is me in 1999, when I was getting ready to graduate high school.

Jar Jar was in the wrong place at the wrong time, looking for breakfast when the Trade Federation invaded Naboo. He was confused by the goings-on around him, not sure why giant vehicles are plowing through his home, and not sure why some arrogant off-worlders are pushing him around. The thing is that Jar Jar Binks is pure of heart, even if he’s somewhat dim intellectually. He offers what he has, quite selflessly, and tries his best to help with the search for a hyperdrive and the Battle of Naboo, even if the tasks are well beyond his capabilities.

Later, as we know, he becomes a senator for Naboo, is bullied by Palpatine into declaring a state of emergency, and is the catalyst for the Clone Wars and the Purges. The reason he was selected by Palpatine is that he was a target of opportunity.

Star Wars fans don’t like him because he talks strangely, is somewhat slow, and not what we expect from the other street-smart characters in the saga. I identify with him because he is so willing to help out if given the chance, even if it is clumsily. I embrace the diversity that Jar Jar brings to the Saga’s table because he isn’t the same character as any random Jedi or smuggler.

To think that fans would shun this character because he is different than the norm saddens me, because wonder what they would think of any person who is clumsy, mentally challenged, but pure of heart. If they are willing to throw away the Gungans, or even one character for this, then do the fans have the grasp on diversity that we give them credit for?

While Jar Jar Binks is far from my favorite, I find him to be one of the strongest characters in the Star Wars universe. He may not have the Force, and he may not be good in a firefight, but he is like the focus of the Saga, Anakin Skywalker, in his purity of heart and passion to do the right thing.

I have grown and matured in many ways since the release of The Phantom Menace, but I still admire Jar Jar Binks for doing the best with what he had to offer the galaxy. He’s not a racist, and he’s not annoying; Jar Jar is a test of our acceptance for what others have to offer, which is the same lesson Qui-Gon tried to teach Obi-Wan. I hope we can learn the same lesson.

They’re Conspiring, Aren’t They?

I swear that author Keith R. A. DeCandido and his fellow Star Trek authors are conspiring against me.  A long time ago, I used to collect a great deal of genre goods, including action figures, video games, music, and books.  It’s to the point now that I’m paring down my collections.  Part of that is finally reading those books and casting out the ones I don’t enjoy or will likely never read again.  Don’t worry, Keith, I haven’t jettisoned one of yours yet.

So, what does he do?  Over Labor Day, whilst I’m away, he publishes a post on his LiveJournal account by fellow writer David Ward explaining how Star Trek: Vanguard is one of the best Trek series in a long while, including mention that it’s more gritty and realistic than the rest of the franchise’s novels.

I already had the post-Nemesis books in the Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager series to look for.  Now I have another series to read as well.  Insert overly-hyperbolic but no less dramatic sigh here.

No, in all seriousness, thank you for continuing to add some much needed depth to the Trek tie-in novels.  There are some true jewels in the ranks, but a lot of your predecessors didn’t quite speak to me in the same language as the on-screen characters.  If we’re getting some great work — as I’m sure we are — then I may have no choice but to tune back in for the continuing adventures.

FLASHBACK: Celebration of an Idiotic Lifestyle

Previously posted on February 24, 2009

On February 4, 2009, famed movie critic Roger Ebert launched his rather scathing review of the movie Fanboys. For those who don’t know, Fanboys is a film about Star Wars fans by a Star Wars fan. If you’re thinking Trekkies, then do yourself a quick favor and watch the trailer.

Trekkies was a focus on Star Trek fandom, highlighting the really wacky things they do. When I saw that film, I didn’t feel happy that someone was examining Trek fans. In fact, I wanted to melt into my chair and disappear. Trekkies implied that every fan of Gene Roddenberry’s franchise was a Starfleet uniform wearing social introvert who still lived in their parents’ basements with about fifty cats. Need I remind you of Barbara Adams, the alternate juror for the 1996 Whitewater controversy who wore her Starfleet uniform to the trial?

Apparently, this prejudicial mindset carries over to all science-fiction fandoms.

To quote Ebert’s review:

A lot of fans are basically fans of fandom itself. It’s all about them. They have mastered the “Star Wars” or “Star Trek” universes or whatever, but their objects of veneration are useful mainly as a backdrop to their own devotion. Anyone who would camp out in a tent on the sidewalk for weeks in order to be first in line for a movie is more into camping on the sidewalk than movies.

Extreme fandom may serve as a security blanket for the socially inept, who use its extreme structure as a substitute for social skills. If you are Luke Skywalker and she is Princess Leia, you already know what to say to each other, which is so much safer than having to ad-lib it. Your fannish obsession is your beard. If you know absolutely all the trivia about your cubbyhole of pop culture, it saves you from having to know anything about anything else. That’s why it’s excruciatingly boring to talk to such people: They’re always asking you questions they know the answer to.

While I defend Ebert’s right to his opinion, I have to take issue with the content. My interpretation of his words is that being involved in fandom means that you are enabled to be a social introvert. Furthermore, it enables you to have shallow relationships built on nothing more than your love of a facet of popular culture. Forget trying to build anything meaningful in a relationship because you’re incapable of doing it.

Roger Ebert, you’re doing it wrong.

In fact, Ebert went on to state:

[Fanboys] is a celebration of an idiotic lifestyle, and I don’t think it knows it.

While it is true that some science-fiction fans have trouble distinguishing between fantasy and reality, I argue that the majority of Star Wars fans do not share that problem.

First, let’s take a look at the 501st Legion, an international fan-based organization dedicated to constructing and building screen-accurate villain costumes from the Star Wars universe. At first glance, with over 4200 active members in 40 countries, one might think that this is just a worldwide Trek-esque Starfleet uniform party. That’s why they need a second glance.

From their charter:

“…The Legion is a volunteer club formed for the express purpose of bringing together costume enthusiasts and giving them a collective identity within which to operate. The Legion’s aims are to celebrate the Star Wars movies through the wearing of costumes, to promote the quality and improvement of costumes and props, and most importantly to contribute to the local community through charity and volunteer work…”

The 501st proudly contributes to charity organizations, and maintains a list on their website of groups they’ve worked with. In fact, they are famous for working with the Make-A-Wish foundation and terminally ill children.

I wonder what part of putting a smile on a young cancer patient’s face as they get to “meet” Darth Vader is idiotic. Anyone want to answer that for me?

The 501st works other events, such as conventions, for free. All they ask is that any money offered for their work is donated to a charity in their name.

Next, I focus on an astromech droid. In 2005, Jerry Greene worked with the R2 Builder’s Group to fulfill a little girl’s wish. Her name was Katie Johnson, and she had brain cancer. Her wish was to have an R2-D2 with one caveat: she wanted it pink. Soon enough, R2-KT was born.

R2-KT exists to entertain children and raise awareness for pediatric cancer. Money raised in events with R2-KT goes to Make-A-Wish and the Children’s Cancer Fund. Building on the penchant for Star Wars fans to collect, R2-KT has been made into a Hasbro action figure and a coin, the proceeds again going to charity. As of the release of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, R2-KT also entered the official canon, which is Lucasfilm acknowledging the efforts of their fans by making an icon part of history.

Again, Roger Ebert:

“Fanboys” is an amiable but disjointed movie that identifies too closely with its heroes. Poking a little more fun at them would have been a great idea. They are tragically hurtling into a cultural dead end, mastering knowledge which has no purpose other than being mastered, and too smart to be wasting their time.
When a movie’s opening day finally comes, and fanboys leave their sidewalk tents for a mad dash into the theater, I wonder who retrieves their tents, sleeping bags, portable heaters and iPod speakers. Warning: Mom isn’t always going to be there to clean up after you.

I have news for you, Roger. It may be fun for you to poke fun at Star Wars fans as we tragically hurtle toward a cultural dead end, but rest assured that we are above that. Being a Star Wars fan is not about knowing how many midichlorians Anakin Skywalker has or how many parsecs — an astronomical unit of length — it takes to make the Kessel Run. Being a Star Wars fan is about embracing the spirit of George Lucas’s vision and running with it.

I am a naval submarine officer, a faithful husband, a physicist, an engineer, a struggling author, a writer for a podcast, an Eagle Scout, and a college graduate nearly twice over. I’m also a Star Wars fan and a proud science-fiction geek. Believe me when I tell you Star Wars isn’t a lifestyle, but merely a facet of one. It’s a common ground and a solid foundation to start building relationships that mean something beyond the fantasy of pop culture.

If you spent any time at all with Star Wars fans, you would understand that we’re not about running around in costume for the hell of it or endlessly spouting lines from the films. We have social relationships that run deeper than movie scripts, most of which are developed and maintained for life. We believe in friendships that are maintained not only for the purpose of having them, and we don’t knife each other in the back when it’s convenient, unlike other fandoms.

I only wish that people could understand it instead of cowering behind their fear of diversity.

Dragon*Con Schedule

Here’s where I’ll be during Dragon*Con this year.

Military in Sci-Fi: 4:00p, Marriott A704
I’ll be a panelist for this discussion about the use of military in science fiction and if it is a crutch or good planning.

The 2010 Parsec Awards: 4:00p, Hilton Regency V
The Scapecast is up for their third Parsec against some pretty stiff competition.  I’m also there to support my fellow podcasters.  The ceremony runs 2.5 hours.

“Browncoats: Redemption”: 7:00p, Peachtree Ballroom Westin
The world premiere of a highly anticipated fan film set three months after the events of Serenity. (2.5 hours)

Mighty Fine Shindig!: 10:00p, Peachtree Ballroom Westin
I had a lot of fun last year at this party for Browncoats.

Scapecast Live Show: 11:30a, Hilton 204
I’ll be on the panel with my friends from the show, Kevin Bachelder, Lindy Rae, and Wendy Hembrock.

“Farscape: Uncharted Territory?” 4:00p, Hilton Regency Ballroom
Fellow Scaper Angela Dean has the opportunity to interview Ben Browder, Raelee Hill, and Virginia Hey.

Geek Radio Daily Live: 7:00p, Hilton 204
I’ve recently become a fan of GRD, and I look forward to meeting this lively bunch.  Rumor has it that Corin Nemec (Parker Lewis Can’t Lose, Stargate SG-1) will be a special guest.

Imagine Greater: 8:30p, Marriott A704
I’ll be on a panel with fellow sci-fi fans discussing the merits of Syfy’s Saturday night B-movies.

Aside from that list, I’ll be attending various other panels, hanging out with family and friends, and wandering about having a grand geeking time.  For those of you who can’t be there, I’ll miss you and hope to see you next year.

If you will be there, come on by and say hello.  I’m always willing to meet new friends.