Cenandi – Sam’s Shepherd’s Pie

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Cenandi
Sam’s Shepherd’s Pie
November 25, 2022

Note: I know that everyone dislikes the wall of text preceding the actual recipe, but the United States Copyright Office requires “substantial literary expression” to accompany the ingredients and instructions. You can jump to the recipe by clicking here.

This recipe comes from Sam the Cooking Guy. Sam Zien is a Canadian chef and restauranteur who lives in the San Diego area. I came across his YouTube channel some years back and started finding inspiration in his creations.

This particular dish looked amazing so my wife and I decided to give it a try. This was before he published the recipes as he demonstrated them, so I watched the video multiple times to estimate the proportions. You see, Sam is the kind of chef that cooks by what looks and smells right, so his bottle shakes and weights are educated guesses based on experience. We have tweaked this recipe over time to fine-tune the details to our tastes.

Among those details are the proteins and the produce. We have tried ground beef, ground turkey, and ground bison, and the key to the protein is the fat content. The higher the fat, the more likely that the ground meat will stick together and stay substantial. We have also experimented with produce by adding bell peppers and mushrooms.

If you are not a meat-eater, I would love to hear how you adapt this recipe to your dietary needs. I don’t have enough experience with tofu or meat replacements but I want to learn as I grow and experiment.

Our red wine of choice for the dish is the famous “two-buck chuck” at Trader Joe’s. It’s a wine that cooks well and is enjoyable on its own. Note that the alcohol cooks off in the making of the dish, so the wine is providing an earthy and fruity body to the meal. We have also tried Yellow Tail. The key is getting an inexpensive bottle because you’re cooking with it. There’s no sense in using an expensive bottle of wine here.

This is one recipe that I recommend playing with. Even if it isn’t quite right for your palate, the results are still amazing. The leftovers are even better since the extra time allows the flavors to meld and enhance.

The original video by Sam the Cooking Guy can be found on YouTube (and is embedded below).


Sam’s Shepherd’s Pie

Ingredients

Meat

  • 1/2 lb bacon
  • 1 lb ground meat or protein of choice

Produce

  • 3 to 4 Yukon Gold potatoes (or equivalent)
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 3-4 large carrots
  • 1-2 bell peppers (optional)
  • 2 mushrooms (optional)
  • 4 cloves garlic (unpeeled)
  • 2 cloves garlic (pressed/minced)
  • 1 handful of fresh spinach
  • Chives or parsley for garnish

Dairy

  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese

Liquids

  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1/2 cup beef broth (or equivalent based on meat choice)
  • 1 Tbsp Worchestershire sauce
  • 2 Tbsp tomato paste

Spices and Staples

  • 2 Tbsp flour
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 1 tsp rosemary
  • Salt (to taste)
  • Pepper (to taste)

Miscellaneous

  • Aluminum foil
  • Cooking oil of choice

Instructions

These instructions are separated into four parts, however, Part 2 and Part 3 should be accomplished simultaneously if possible.

Part 1 – Bacon

  • Chop the bacon into bite-size pieces and cook in a frying pan
  • Reserve 2 Tbsp of the cooking grease
  • Place the bacon (and a small amount of grease as needed for moisture) in a warm space

Part 2 – Mashed Potatoes Topping

  • Wrap unpeeled garlic cloves in aluminum foil and roast at 300°F for 30-45 minutes
  • Chop the potatoes into similar-sized pieces
  • Boil the potatoes for 20 minutes and drain thoroughly
  • While the potatoes are boiling, combine butter and cream in a small saucepan and stir over low heat until melted
  • Mash/whip the potatoes while adding the butter-cream mixture
  • Add salt, pepper, paprika, and roasted garlic (discarding the paper skin)
  • Mix in parmesan cheese
  • Fold in bacon
  • Set aside and keep warm

Part 3 – The Insides

  • Finely chop the onion, carrots, (optional) bell peppers, and (optional) mushrooms
  • Using the reserved bacon grease, soften the onion, carrots, and bell peppers over medium heat
  • Add minced/pressed garlic and a splash of cooking oil, then cook until fragrant (30-60 sec)
  • Add meat of choice and cook thoroughly
  • If using mushrooms, mix them in and cook briefly
  • Mix in the flour and allow to thicken
  • Mix in wine and broth and allow to thicken
  • Mix in Worchestershire sauce, tomato paste, thyme, rosemary, salt, and pepper
  • Add spinach and mix until wilted
  • Remove from heat

Part 4 – Finishing the Dish

  • Add Part 3 contents to an oven-safe dish
  • Top with mashed potatoes, ensuring complete coverage
  • Bake at 400°F for 30 minutes
  • Broil to crisp the top for 1-3 minutes
  • Top with garnish and allow to rest for a short time (approx 5 minutes)
  • Serve and enjoy

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Cenandi is a collection of recipes and culinary concoctions. Cooking is a dual expression of art and science, and I like making good meals and tasty treats for the people in my life.

For more creativity with a critical eye, visit Creative Criticality.

Debrief: Dragon Con 2022

Debrief: Dragon Con 2022
Atlanta, GA – September 1 through September 5, 2022

Boom! Dragon Con 2022 is in the books!

And it was an experience of highs and lows.

Attendance was reported at 65,000, and while it was definitely higher than the 42,000 from 2021, it was still pretty manageable. The big issue was the convention’s pandemic precautions (or lack thereof… more on that later), but I could still get behind an attendance cap in the 65,000 to 70,000 range. It felt comfortable enough.

As usual, we did a lot of good charity work this year. Open Hand Atlanta will be receiving at least $190,000, which is $70k more than we raised in 2021.

Dragon Con was also a getaway from reality that I really needed. Life and work have been insanely busy lately, and it was refreshing to decompress with the geek family, especially the former Scapecast folks that my wife and I hadn’t seen for three years.

On to the discussion!

Read More »

Dragon Con 2022

Dragon Con 2022
Atlanta, GA – September 1 through September 5, 2022

Logo_no_background

Dragon Con!

It’s an annual tradition for me. It’s also a family reunion of sorts as I catch up with dear friends from around the world. This year will be my (lucky) thirteenth time attending and my (lucky) seventh year as an attending professional.

If you plan to be there, you can find me at various places over Labor Day weekend according to the schedule below. This year is still a bit lighter than normal due to the continuing spread of COVID-19. It is neither joke nor hoax, and I fully support masking and vaccination until the spread is knocked down. I’ll still be around having fun while adhering to Dragon Con masking policies to combat the virus.

The convention app is available now – look for Dragon Con by Core-apps in the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store – and will have the schedule of events soon. The list of confirmed guests, performers, artists, and attending professionals is available on the official Dragon Con site.

Dragon Con itself takes place in downtown Atlanta spanning five hotels (Sheraton Atlanta, Hilton Atlanta, Atlanta Marriott Marquis, Hyatt Regency Atlanta, and Westin Peachtree Plaza) and the AmericasMart Atlanta exhibition center. The convention draws approximately 70,000 to 80,000 attendees (or more) annually and showcases one of the city’s most popular parades on Saturday morning at 10am. This year, the attendance numbers will be lower with a pandemic-related attendance cap between the reported 85,000 in 2019 and 42,000 in 2021.

Dragon Con prides itself on contributions to charity and the community. You can find more information about those efforts on their webpage. Each year, the convention partners with a local charity organization and this year’s partner is Open Hand Atlanta. Open Hand’s mission is to help underserved individuals prevent or better manage chronic disease through tailored nutrition interventions, which include a variety of therapeutic meal plans as well as nutrition counseling and coaching delivered by an experienced team of Registered Dietitian Nutritionists. With the dedicated support of over 14,000 volunteers, they currently prepare, pack, and deliver over 5,500 meals per day in Metro Atlanta and rural Georgia. Donations can be made at various locations around the convention, including donation buckets in each track room and contributions from the annual charity auctions. Dragon Con will match every donation up to $100,000.

The convention hosts the Dragon Con Hustle, a virtual 5K conducted on the honor system. The registration fee is donated to the annual charity and each participant gets a physical medal two weeks after the convention ends. This is probably one of my favorite ways to donate since I routinely log 30 to 35 miles during the convention as I walk to and fro. You can run, walk, roll, or even skip your way to the goal, and all Dragon Con asks is for a progress update on social media with the #DragonConHustle hashtag.

Dragon Con also hosts one of the most successful blood drives with the donations going to the non-profit Lifesouth Community Blood Centers. Lifesouth serves 125 hospitals in Alabama, Georgia, and Florida, and the Dragon Con blood drives routinely outperform those held at that big west coast corporate convention.

If you’re new to the convention, consider stopping by the Dragon Con Newbies group on Facebook. It is run by Kevin Bachelder, Sue Kisenwether, Kim McGibony, and me, and is an in-depth community resource for information about this massive (and sometimes overwhelming) event. Memberships (tickets) for this year’s convention are available, however, due to the pandemic-related attendance caps, memberships are limited.

Along with the attendance caps, all attendees are required to wear masks that adhere to CDC guidelines. The other preventative measures taken by the con this year can be found on their website.

Note: All Dragon Con schedules are tentative until the convention ends on Monday. Even then, things are a bit suspect. As things change before the convention, I’ll update this post.

Revision History:

    • Rev 0 – 19 Aug 2022: Initial post.

The Schedule

DC-Wednesday-1

Attendees start rolling in up to a week before the convention and start partying. I don’t have any big plans for Wednesday yet, but I will definitely be in the area on Thursday to check in to the hotel, pick up my badge and Hard Rock Dragon Con gear, and get started with programming.

DC-Thursday-1

12:00p-4:00p: Dragon Con Newbies Walking and Rolling Tours (4 hours)
Main Programming
Marriott Marquis, Atrium Level, A601-A602
Want to get a ‘lay of the land’ and find your way around the hotels? Did you know there’s a food court? Meet others new to Dragon Con and get a tour with some veteran con-goers. The last tours will leave at approximately 3:30pm.
Panelists include: Kevin Bachelder, Sue Kisenwether, Kim McGibony

5:30p-6:30p: Dragon Con Newbies Q&A (1 hour)
Main Programming
Marriott Marquis, Atrium Level, A601-A602
First Dragon Con? Confused or overwhelmed? Savvy con attendees will share tips and tricks.
Panelists include: Kevin Bachelder, Sue Kisenwether, Kim McGibony

8:30p-9:30p: James Bond: No Time to Die – A Review (1 hour)
BritTrack
Hilton, Galleria 5
Daniel Craig’s last outing as 007 has finally been released. Love it or hate it, it was definitely climactic. Our discussion will answer the burning question: was it finally time for Bond to die?
Panelists include: Caro McCully, Alan J. Porter, Janné McKamey, Tony Bowers, Niki Veasey

DC-Friday-1

10:00a: Dragon Con Newbies 101 (1 hour)
Main Programming
Hyatt, Regency V
First Dragon Con? Confused or overwhelmed? Savvy con attendees will share their tips and tricks for making your experience an awesome one.
Panelists include: Kevin Bachelder, Sue Kisenwether, Kim McGibony

11:30a: Go Web! Spider-Man Movie’s 20th Tobey-Versary (1 hour)
American Sci-Fi Classics
Marriott Marquis, M103-M105
Bonesaw is ready for our tribute to the movie that launched the Spider-Verse as well as webs from Peter Parker’s hands (that’s still weird.)
Panelists include: Michael Bailey, Kevin Cafferty, ToniAnn Marini, Derek B. Gayle, Gary Mitchel

1:00p: 60 years of James Bond (1 hour)
BritTrack
Hilton, Galleria 5
The 007 film franchise is turning 60 on October 5th, 2022. This panel investigates the long-lasting impact the film franchise has had on the action movie. Where has Bond Been, and where will the franchise go after ‘No Time to Die.’
Panelists include: Caro McCully, Lauren Carey, Van Allen Plexico, Alan J. Porter, Janné McKamey

2:30p: Severance: Of Two Minds (1 hour)
American Science Fiction and Fantasy Media
Marriott Marquis, Marquis Level, M302-M303
Working at Lumon Industries is complicated. First, you have to agree to a specialized medical procedure called severance, and then you are not entirely sure what you’re working on. It’s pretty stressful. Take a look at what the MDR team, Mark, Helly R, and one of its former members, Petey, have to say about the experience. Oh, wait, you can’t, unless you’re talking to their ‘innie’, since their ‘outie’ doesn’t have a clue. A unique story, an intriguing allegory, consider our panelists’ perspectives, and then offer your own.
Panelists include: Thomas Mariani, M.C. Williams, Felicity Kusinitz, Kevin Cafferty, Lindy Keelan

4:00p: Earth Station Who Podcast: A Look Back at the 13th Doctor (1 hour)
BritTrack
Hilton, Galleria 7
The era of Jodie Whittaker as the 13th incarnation of the Doctor is slowly coming to an end. The crew from the Earth Station Who Podcast will host a retrospective of her time in the TARDIS. We will look at how The Doctor and her “fam” took on villains of all shapes and sizes from across the universe as well as figuring out the mystery of the Timeless Child & the Flux, and reveal the good, the bad, and the Chibnall.
Panelists include: Mike Faber, Michael Gordon, Mary Ogle

5:30p: Doctor Who New Series (1 hour)
BritTrack
Hilton, Crystal Ballroom
Doctor Who returned to our screens this year with the “Flux” saga and two other specials showcasing the Daleks and the Sea Devils (last seen in 1984’s “Warriors from the Deep”) We will discuss the themes, storylines, and ramifications of these stories, and how they might affect the upcoming 60th Anniversary special.
Panelists include: Caro McCully, Sue Kisenwether, Anthony Williams, J.M. Tuffley

DC-Saturday-1

11:30a: Host, Co-Host, or Group Host That is the Question
Digital Media
Hilton, Galleria 6
Do you need a co-host? Do you want one? What about group hosting? How do you find a compatible co-host and what do you do if the honeymoon is over? Whether it’s a new podcast or you are changing it up with your current one, we’ll talk about how you can find the right co-host, how to divorce a co-host, and how to create connections for guests to fill in the gaps without needing an HR department.
Panelists include: Tyra Burton, Mike Faber, Tony P Henderson, Sue Kisenwether, Leighann Lord, Lali DeRosier

1:00p: Space: 1999 – 45 Years Later (1 hour)
Military Science Fiction
Westin, Chastain DE
What is the enduring appeal of Space: 1999? Where else could it have gone? We look at this iconic show that, even now, still lives on in the hearts of fans. This cross-track panel between BritTrack, American Sci-Fi Classics, & Military SciFi Media discusses the legacy of Moonbase Alpha.
Panelists include: James Henson, Ryan Carey, “Badger”

2:30p: Shake Your Tailfeathers: You Have a Podcast, So Now What?
Digital Media
Hilton, Galleria 7
What do you need to do to take your podcast to the next level? How do you keep your listeners engaged while continuing to come up with evergreen content? We’ll talk about networking, topic generating, watching for scammers, and when you need to tackle the business of podcasting.
I will be the moderator for this panel.
Panelists include: Tyra Burton, Mike Faber, Bobby Blackwolf, Marc Leary

4:00p: So, You Have A Face For Radio: Surviving The Evolution of Podcasting To Video
Digital Media
Hilton, Galleria 7
Podcasting has evolved from being audio-only to including video and live broadcasts. How do you make the switch to being on camera? Join us as we chat about equipment, setup, solutions, and apps. Get ready for lights, camera, and action whether it is on Twitch, Facebook Live, or YouTube.
Panelists include: Tyra Burton, Mike Faber, Bobby Blackwolf, Rob Roberts, Todd Cochrane, Kyle Sullivan

DC-Sunday-1

No panels scheduled at this time.

DC-Monday-1

11:30a: Battle of the Fictional Bands: This One Goes to 11 (1 hour)
American Sci-Fi Classics
Marriott Marquis, M103-M105
Be part of the discerning audience of music connoisseurs who decides the winners in a tantalizing tournament of bands from Josie and the Pussycats to Spinal Tap.
Panelists include: ToniAnn Marini, Chris Cummins, John G. Hartness, William Joseph Roberts

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Debrief: ATL Comic Convention + Fandemic World Tour Atlanta 2022

Debrief: ATL Comic Convention + Fandemic World Tour Atlanta 2022
Atlanta, GA – March 18 through March 20, 2022
ACCFandemic

Atlanta Comic Con was (shall we say?) interesting.

As mentioned in my announcement post, Atlanta Comic Con joined up with the Fandemic World Tour to create an earlier and larger event. It’s typically been a smaller affair with various celebrities and fan panels, but linking up with Fandemic brought a bit more star power to bear.

Honestly, I think that it dampened some of the spirit. More on that in a minute.

I teamed up with Mike Faber and Michael Gordon of The ESO Network for three panels – Doctor Who, the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and Podcasting 101 – and took some time around those events to take in what this new convention experience had to offer. In fact, that’s what Fandemic offers on their website: Fandemic Tour – A New Comic Convention Experience.

ACC 2022 Panels

The panels were pretty awesome. The Podcasting 101 panel was very interactive and well-attended for the size of this convention. We had a lot of input from the audience and spent some time afterward chatting with people who wanted to learn more.

Mike Faber and I have been doing these 101-style panels and classes for a while, and my metric for success has always been that if even one person learns something new, then we’ve done our jobs well. The Atlanta Comic Con panel went above and beyond that measure.

The Doctor Who panel was also pretty engaging with a lot of questions and speculation, and the hour pretty much flew by. The MCU panel was quite a bit less engaging, and a lot of that can be attributed to the timing. When we did a similar panel at Atlanta Comic Con, it was right after Infinity War so there was a lot to talk about. If we had done this in July as planned, we’d also have a lot to talk about, but doing this panel right now leaves us in the infancy of the MCU’s Phase Four with a whole lot of questions and not much else.

But, overall, the panels were fun.

So, the rest of the convention…

The rest of the convention is where I feel like the spirit of Atlanta Comic Con has been lost. Fandemic is geared toward the fans and genre of The Walking Dead, and that does not lend itself to a general sci-fi/fantasy kind of event like Atlanta Comic Con has been.

The vendor booths were geared more toward the genre and toward the general fan. There were very few comic and book booths and very few specialized toy booths. There were a lot of vendors who specialize in Funko Pops, but even the offering they brought leaned heavily into the Fandemic genre. In fact, it’s disappointing to note that I wasn’t tempted by a lot of the offerings.

There were a handful of artists with tables, but they weren’t engaged with attendees. In fact, one interaction that I saw was telling: The artist physically walked someone through his portfolio because the name was familar in passing but the attendee had no idea who he was beyond that.

This felt like a convention for people at the 30,000-foot view. Fans who have a general idea of what’s out there, but aren’t specific on any one thing. Don’t get me wrong: That level of fandom is perfectly okay, but it didn’t feel like there was much engagement for anyone on a deeper level.

It’s also a celebrity-heavy event with a ton of space dedicated to photos and autographs, but only for the genre. Lines for photos and signatures were packed, which is good for fans who dig that, but I certainly missed the old-school/retro caliber of guests that Atlanta Comic Con used to attract. 2019’s show brought a variety of actors and talent – Cam Clarke, Kevin Conroy, Val Kilmer, Rob Paulsen, James Arnold Taylor, and Bonnie Wright, just to name a few – and I expected this variety to be mixed into the Fandemic attractions a bit more. Instead, it was all pretty much Walking Dead and similar.

It felt like Atlanta Comic Con was completely replaced by Fandemic.

The entrance fees for normal attendees were a bit shocking: $50 or $60 per day on the weekend and $85 for a three-day pass. That’s not something that attracts someone who’s interested for the day. I don’t have historic information for Atlanta’s show, but the similar convention in Tampa Bay runs $20-30 per day with a $45 three-day pass, and that’s with guest lists similar to Atlanta Comic Con’s previous offerings.

I was also surprised that there was no program of events being distributed. Atlanta Comic Con used to offer a poster with a schedule of events. On that note, the schedule of events wasn’t even solidified until a couple of days before the show, which is something I’d expect from an extremely large five-day event like Dragon Con, but not from a three-day lightly attended event like this.

I don’t want to see Atlanta Comic Con become absorbed into something else.

With the loss of so many smaller conventions in the area due to money and staffing concerns, we need conventions and events for people who want to get together and celebrate pop culture.  If this was truly a merger instead of a takeover, I’m hoping that 2022 was simply growing pains leading to something bigger and better.

I don’t want to lose Atlanta Comic Con’s unique voice in the process.

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ATL Comic Convention + Fandemic World Tour Atlanta 2022

ATL Comic Convention + Fandemic World Tour Atlanta 2022
Atlanta, GA – March 18 through March 20, 2022
ACCFandemic

Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s been a few years since I have visited Atlanta Comic Con. It’s one of Atlanta’s smaller conventions but it’s also a fun escape in the middle of the summer before Dragon Con rolls in.

This year, Atlanta Comic Con changed course, moving from their typical mid-July schedule to something a little closer to the Vernal Equinox.

Hey ATL friends,
July was too far away and we couldn’t wait that long to see all our amazing ATL Comic Convention attendees, so we joined forces with our friends at Fandemic World Tour Atlanta to bring you an even BIGGER and BETTER show! Fandemic is happening March 18-20, 2022 at the Georgia World Congress Center Building B.

So, next week, you can find me at the Georgia World Congress Center on the Saturday and Sunday of the event. I don’t have a definite schedule yet, but I plan to be there on panels with Mike Faber and Michael Gordon of The ESO Network as we talk about Doctor Who, the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and Podcasting 101.

UPDATE (3/18/22): The tentative programming schedule has been added to the website. 

So You Want to Start a Podcast? – Saturday 1:30PM – 2:15PM, Room B203

Doctor Who: Out With the Old, In With the New – Sunday 12:30PM – 1:15PM, B203 [Recorded for Earth Station Who]

The MCU: What Now? – Sunday 2:30PM – 3:15PM, B203 [Recorded for Earth Station One]

The convention will also have quite a few celebrity guests, including Sebastian Stan, Norman Reedus, Michael Rooker, James Marsters, John Barrowman, Jeffery Dean Morgan, Pom Klementieff, and more. More information, including ticketing information, can be found on their website.

I hope to see you there!

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The 2018 LEGO Star Wars Advent Calendar

The 2018 LEGO Star Wars Advent Calendar

Lego Star Wars Advent Calendar 2018

Day four of this look at our holiday tradition of LEGO advent calendars marks the last of this miniseries.

We’ve been doing these since 2015 and I have been chronicling the daily builds on Instagram. The 2019 and 2020 sets have been previously featured on this site, and to count down to this year’s builds, I’m taking a look back at the 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018 sets.

These boxes contain twenty-four unique small builds, many of which are abstract, along with exclusive mini-figures and whimsical winter-themed spins on Star Wars staples. Among my favorites over the years are the winter Chewbacca, the rebel pilot snowman, and the AT-AT and R2-D2 pair with reindeer antlers. The 2018 box bounced all over the Star Wars franchise, including the original trilogy, The Force Awakens, and The Freemaker Adventures (which I haven’t seen yet, but plan to soon since it’s on Disney+).

The 2021 day-to-day images are posted on my Instagram account. Feel free to follow me there for whimsical observations, tons of pictures of my dogs, and this annual tradition. That adventure (and December itself) begins tomorrow.

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This post’s cover photo is a remix of a photograph by Matthias Kabel. The original represents Hellbrunn Palace in Salzburg, Austria and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Generic license.

For more creativity with a critical eye, visit Creative Criticality.

The 2017 LEGO Star Wars Advent Calendar

The 2017 LEGO Star Wars Advent Calendar

Lego Star Wars Advent Calendar 2017

Welcome to day three of the look back at one of the holiday season traditions in my household. We typically like the annual LEGO Star Wars Advent Calendar, though we have been branching out a bit over the last couple of years.

We’ve been doing these since 2015 and I have been chronicling the daily builds on Instagram. The 2019 and 2020 sets have been previously featured on this site, and to count down to this year’s builds, I’m taking a look back at the 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018 sets.

These boxes contain twenty-four unique small builds, many of which are abstract, along with exclusive mini-figures and whimsical winter-themed spins on Star Wars staples. Among my favorites over the years are the winter Chewbacca, the rebel pilot snowman, and the AT-AT and R2-D2 pair with reindeer antlers. The 2017 box shifted the focus toward the Rebels television series, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and a little bit of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.

The 2021 day-to-day images are posted on my Instagram account. Feel free to follow me there for whimsical observations, tons of pictures of my dogs, and this annual tradition. That adventure (and December itself) begins in two days.

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This post’s cover photo is a remix of a photograph by Matthias Kabel. The original represents Hellbrunn Palace in Salzburg, Austria and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Generic license.

For more creativity with a critical eye, visit Creative Criticality.

The 2016 LEGO Star Wars Advent Calendar

The 2016 LEGO Star Wars Advent Calendar

Lego Star Wars Advent Calendar 2016

It’s day two of the look back at our holiday season tradition with advent calendars. We typically like the annual LEGO Star Wars Advent Calendar, though we have been branching out a bit over the last couple of years.

We’ve been doing these since 2015 and I have been chronicling the daily builds on Instagram. The 2019 and 2020 sets have been previously featured on this site, and to count down to this year’s builds, I’m taking a look back at the 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018 sets.

These boxes contain twenty-four unique small builds, many of which are abstract, along with exclusive mini-figures and whimsical winter-themed spins on Star Wars staples. Among my favorites over the years are the winter Chewbacca, the rebel pilot snowman, and the AT-AT and R2-D2 pair with reindeer antlers. The 2016 box focused on the original Star Wars trilogy with a heavy lean toward The Empire Strikes Back and a nod toward the prequel trilogy.

The 2021 day-to-day images are posted on my Instagram account. Feel free to follow me there for whimsical observations, tons of pictures of my dogs, and this annual tradition. That adventure (and December itself) begins in three days.

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This post’s cover photo is a remix of a photograph by Matthias Kabel. The original represents Hellbrunn Palace in Salzburg, Austria and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Generic license.

For more creativity with a critical eye, visit Creative Criticality.

The 2015 LEGO Star Wars Advent Calendar

The 2015 LEGO Star Wars Advent Calendar

Lego Star Wars Advent Calendar 2015

One of the holiday season traditions in my household is advent calendars. We typically like the annual LEGO Star Wars Advent Calendar, though we have been branching out a bit over the last couple of years.

We’ve been doing these since 2015 and I have been chronicling the daily builds on Instagram. The 2019 and 2020 sets have been previously featured on this site, and to count down to this year’s builds, I’m taking a look back at the 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018 sets.

These boxes contain twenty-four unique small builds, many of which are abstract, along with exclusive mini-figures and whimsical winter-themed spins on Star Wars staples. Among my favorites over the years are the winter Chewbacca, the rebel pilot snowman, and the AT-AT and R2-D2 pair with reindeer antlers. The 2015 box focused on the original Star Wars trilogy with a hoiday twist.

The 2021 day-to-day images are posted on my Instagram account. Feel free to follow me there for whimsical observations, tons of pictures of my dogs, and this annual tradition. That adventure (and December itself) begins in four days.

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This post’s cover photo is a remix of a photograph by Matthias Kabel. The original represents Hellbrunn Palace in Salzburg, Austria and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Generic license.

For more creativity with a critical eye, visit Creative Criticality.

Culture on My Mind – Rogue Squadron Grounded

Culture on My Mind

Culture on My Mind
Rogue Squadron Grounded

November 22, 2021

I’ve seen various reports about the Star Wars: Rogue Squadron movie to be directed by Wonder Woman alum Patty Jenkins. The more reputable sites are saying that movie is merely delayed while others are reporting that the film is shelved indefinitely due to “creative differences” and friction with Lucasfilm.

Either way, this makes the third (at least) film project in the galaxy far, far away that is delayed, following trilogies by Rian Johnson (Star Wars: The Last Jedi) and the David Benioff/D.B. Weiss duo (Game of Thrones).

The film by Taika Waititi (Thor: Ragnarok) is still on the books.

Honestly, considering the immense popularity of starfighter titles in Star Wars history and the success of television for the franchise, this might be for the best.

In 1993, LucasArts released a space flight simulator game called Star Wars: X-Wing. It placed the player in the cockpit dogfighting against the Empire. It was followed by TIE FighterX-Wing vs. TIE Fighter, and X-Wing Alliance, along with several expansion packs. These titles advanced the stories of the galactic jet jocks and their missions.

Between 1996 and 2012, authors Michael A. Stackpole and Aaron Allston crafted a ten-book series about the adventures of Rogue and Wraith Squadrons. This series still stands as a major milestone and fan favorite in the former Expanded Universe, divorcing readers from the Skywalkers and the Force and exploring the world of aviators. Michael Stackpole also had explored this territory a year earlier with the 35-issue comic book series Star Wars: X-Wing – Rogue Squadron. That series also included the 2005 prequel X-Wing – Rogue Squadron, which tells the story of Luke Skywalker’s departure from the fighter team.

The Prequel Era also got involved with 2001’s Star Wars: Starfighter and 2002’s Star Wars: Jedi Starfighter.

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The tales of Star Wars fighter squadrons are immensely popular. It’s evident thanks to nineteen years of books, comics, and video games that the stories are easily serialized. I think that Lucasfilm would be better served by putting Rogue Squadron on television, treating an eight to ten-episode stretch as a novel length presentation in a continuing series of missions against the Empire, Imperial Remnant, or First Order. The stories of these pilot heroes are better served by long-form serialization instead of one-shot film treatments.

The room exists in the Star Wars legend and has potential for many years on Disney+ as the pilot roster can naturally shift. It’s also a great chance to explore the galaxy without lightsabers, Jedi, and the Force.

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Culture on My Mind is inspired by the weekly Can’t Let It Go segment on the NPR Politics Podcast where each host brings one thing to the table that they just can’t stop thinking about.

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