Thursday, November 1, 2012

When Darth Met Mickey ...

The big geek news of the week is that George Lucas sold Lucasfilm to Disney. That's resulted in some fun photos that have been going around Facebook, like the Death Star with mouse ears, or the Death Star hanging overhead with the "When you wish upon a star" logo below.

But I think my favorite Star Wars/Disney mash-up is an official one. This is what Disney Parks put together, and though I don't normally embed videos, this one is totally worth it. So, Darth Vader, Disney just bought Lucasfilm. What are you going to do next?

Listen very carefully to the music. On the surface, it sounds like the kind of tinkly music they play in all those Disneyland ads, but it's actually a rather familiar theme in a way you've never heard it before. That alone makes this a work of art, and if this is the kind of thing that comes out of this merger, I'm totally on board with it. I have to admire the kind of minds that would come up with this sort of thing.

They've said they'll be putting out new Star Wars movies, but in my wildest dreams, what I'd love them to do is reboot the prequels. Those stories need to be told, but they did it wrong. Now they need to claim that those movies were badly produced Imperial propaganda and set the Disney-Pixar writing team to work on telling the real story. They know character and story and know to focus on that, no matter how many pretty bells and whistles they're throwing at the screen. I think they'd realize that they have to totally scrap the idea of Anakin being the "hero" of the prequels because that puts them in the uncomfortable position of making the Young Hitler Adventures. The hero should be Obi Wan, who's struggling with this kid he loves like a brother but who's going down the wrong path. I'm sure they could get Ewan McGregor back (try to keep him away), and he hasn't aged that much, plus he was actually way too young before to have turned into Alec Guinness in only 20 years after the end of Episode 3. They could scrap everything that wasn't already directly referenced in the original trilogy, which would get rid of Jar Jar, make Luke and Leia's mother less useless, allow Anakin to be a darker, less whiny figure (when out of Lucas's grasp, he'd have to be less of a Mary Sue), scrap that awful immaculate conception pseudo-scientific "midichlorian" nonsense, and just tell the tragic story of a young Jedi who was so full of himself that he was easily seduced by the dark side.

Not that I expect that to happen, but in my geeky mental happy place I'm picturing Pixar writing allowed to go into more complex, adult places, with better acting coming out of a better script and better directing. I am curious about where they might go with the new movies. I've lost track of that expanded universe and haven't even finished the last two Zahn books (his are the only ones I've really liked), but I think I'll always be a Star Wars geek at heart, since that was my gateway drug into science fiction and fantasy.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Who is a Geek?

In the wake of Comic Con, there's apparently been much discussion about various "my geekery is better than your geekery" articles that tend to come out after an event like that. So, there was this lament about the booth babes and attention seekers. And then John Scalzi wrote a scathing reply that I do think kind of missed the point (that wasn't made particularly well in the original article, I admit) but that had some awesome things to say about being a geek.

Namely, this:

Many people believe geekdom is defined by a love of a thing, but I think — and my experience of geekdom bears on this thinking — that the true sign of a geek is a delight in sharing a thing. It’s the major difference between a geek and a hipster, you know: When a hipster sees someone else grooving on the thing they love, their reaction is to say “Oh, crap, now the wrong people like the thing I love.” When a geek sees someone else grooving on the thing they love, their reaction is to say “ZOMG YOU LOVE WHAT I LOVE COME WITH ME AND LET US LOVE IT TOGETHER.”

Any jerk can love a thing. It’s the sharing that makes geekdom awesome.

And that's what it's all about, and that's what I think the original author was trying to say, that the people he was targeting weren't there to share. They're the ones going in hipster mode. As a stealth geek, I don't go to conventions in costume. I generally fall into the "one of these things doesn't belong here" category (although at the moment the length of my hair makes me a little less stealth because it's the kind of thing you see among SCA members). I do dress nicely for conventions because I'm there as a professional, but I'm probably too old for anyone to assume that I'm there just to make geeky men gawk at me.

However, my message to the original author and those who think like him is that ultimately, the attention seekers might be doing you a favor because they help weed out the shallow gawkers, and the discerning geeky women will then be able to notice the men whose heads are turned more by a brain than by a scanty costume.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Greeting Cards for Geeks

Earlier this week, I was shopping for a Mother's Day card, and if I had any artistic talent and if I were capable of being pithy and terse, I think I sense a potential untapped market: Greeting Cards for Geeks.

None of the cards the store had really fit my situation. For starters, the syrupy sweet cards with "meaningful" poetry and drawings of flowers just wouldn't work. As my mom would say, "Urp."

There were some amusing cards about Mom taking a well-deserved break that might have applied while the kids were at home, but my mom is retired and the kids are grown. My dad's the one who needs to tell her she deserves a break because he's the only other person in the house.

The cards about now appreciating how tough it must have been to be a mom don't work for me because they're about the shared bond of motherhood now that you have your own kids. Spending 45 minutes a week with preschoolers hardly applies (even if I do have 17 of them at a time).

A lot of the cards are about how awful you were as a kid and needing to make that up to your mom now. I did have a bad bratty phase when I was about ten and probably should have been stranded in the woods without even any breadcrumbs, but for the most part, I think I was a low-maintenance kid. I did my homework, made straight As, practiced my band instrument, didn't spend that much time on the phone, didn't stay out late, didn't run with a bad crowd, didn't go through a rebellious teenager phase and didn't get into trouble. I don't think I'm responsible for that many gray hairs.

A lot of the cards meant for adult daughters to send their moms are based on the idea of what mom taught and how your relationship has transitioned to a friendship, and I like that concept, except that all of the cards seem to express that through shopping or shoes (or shopping for shoes). Newsflash: women can do other things. I'm not opposed to recreational shopping (though I haven't done it for anything other than books in ages), but that's definitely not anything I learned from my mom, who hates to shop for things other than books.

What I need is a card about a mom who started the geeky indoctrination early by watching the original Star Trek with me when I was an infant, who took me to all the Disney fairy tale movies and gave me books of fairy tales, who introduced me to Broadway musicals and who gave me my first Narnia book. We're more likely to watch Firefly or Doctor Who together than to go shopping. Our conversations are more about this week's episode of Grimm or the last Terry Pratchett book we read than about shoes.

So, what we need is a line of cards that expresses that kind of sentiment. Ditto for Father's Day, though in that case it would be about my dad dragging me to see Star Wars, Star Trek the Motion Picture, the original Battlestar Galactica pilot (it was released as a big-screen movie overseas) and Raiders of the Lost Ark. We also need birthday cards for geeky friends. Instead of stuff about shoe shopping and drinking martinis, we need cards about Firefly marathons and seeing movies on opening weekends. It's really difficult to find birthday cards for female friends that celebrate female friendship in some way other than buying shoes together. Forget about finding a card that's appropriate for a woman to give a platonic male friend. All the cards aimed at men seem to be about beer and sexy women -- unless they're about getting old. It does seem like platonic male/female friendships are more common in the geek world, perhaps because a lot of geeky interests are stereotypically "male" and geek girls grow up hanging out with guys because those are the people they have more in common with. Hallmark doesn't seem to acknowledge that men and women might be friends and might not want to give each other cards laden with innuendo, though.

I bet cards for geeks would sell really well at conventions -- unless geeks are more inclined to just send e-cards and have forgotten how to use postal mail. For special occasions, I do like to send or give a real, physical card, though, and the right card is very hard to find.

Friday, March 2, 2012

How to Watch Star Wars

This blog post has been making the rounds among my friends, and it resolves one of the burning issues of our time: the proper viewing order of the Star Wars series. Should you view them in release order, starting with the original Star Wars and the first trilogy and then moving on to the prequels, or should you view them in chronological order, starting with Episode 1? (That's putting aside the whole "the prequels don't exist, la, la, la, can't hear you" mindset.)

You can read that very long blog post if you want the whole story, but here's my perspective. I'm a child of the 70s, and I saw the original Star Wars in the theater during its original theatrical run (yes, I'm old). We were actually kind of late to the party, as this movie had been the smash hit of the summer of 1977, while we didn't see it until Labor Day. I think that was mostly because of practical reasons. There was one theater in the entire city showing it, and you had to wait in line for hours to get in. That's not something you want to do with two children, one of them a preschooler. Even on Labor Day, we waited in a very long line and got less than ideal seats in a totally packed theater. I didn't actually want to see it. The other movie playing at that "twin" cinema was The Slipper and the Rose, a live-action Cinderella musical, and that's what I wanted to see, but my dad insisted on Star Wars (bless him -- I did eventually see the Cinderella movie on TV, and he so made the right call). And I was totally blown away. That movie changed my life and had a lot to do with me wanting to be a writer. I'm still not entirely sure how that worked, how my lifelong love of books didn't trigger that, but a movie did, but I think it had something to do with so totally capturing my imagination and making me want to tell stories.

Flash forward a few years. I was late, again, to The Empire Strikes Back because I was living in Germany at the time and the base theater didn't get it until November. I was thoroughly spoiled, since one of my mom's women's magazines had published a condensed version of the novelization during the summer. I didn't believe the big reveal until I read it in the actual novelization, which I obtained through a school friend who had an extra copy from her grandparents in the States. Even so, that big moment when Darth Vader tells Luke that he's his father was a big shocker, and I remember the gasp in the theater.

That's the big problem with watching in episode order. If you've seen the prequels and have watched Anakin Skywalker turn into Darth Vader, you know all along who Vader is and it's no big shock, assuming you're showing these films to someone who's been living under a rock and has never heard of any of the major plot developments. But even if you've heard about it, it's still different from seeing it in context. However, if you watch the movies in release order, you end with the big downer of the Republic falling and Anakin becoming Darth Vader. The author of the original blog post also mentions the problem of not knowing who the ghost dude at the end of Return of the Jedi is, but I guess that's a Blu-Ray problem as I haven't watched the version where they replaced older ghost Anakin with young ghost Anakin (the original DVDs have both original and special edition versions).

The solution he proposes is rather clever -- watch Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back, then treat the prequels as a backstory flashback to tell Anakin's story after the big revelation, and then return to Return of the Jedi to finish it off and conclude both Anakin's story and Luke's story as well as the restoration of the Republic. Everything comes full circle. There are a few continuity errors that become more obvious this way, like Leia remembering her mother in Return of the Jedi when you'd have just seen that their mother died in childbirth, so neither of them knew their mother. But still, the idea of using the prequels as an extended flashback works better than most viewing orders.

Then the original blogger goes on to propose that you don't even need Episode 1 here, and that makes a lot of sense. Everything you need to know from that episode is explained in Episode 2, and skipping that one means no whiny boy Anakin, less reminder of the kind of creepy way that Anakin and Padme meet when he's a child and she's a teenager (not to mention that whole thing of a planet being ruled by a teenage girl who is elected to that office -- who the heck came up with that political system?), next to no Jar-Jar and no talk of the pseudoscience "immaculate conception" of Anakin (another "seriously?" item). The few good parts of Episode 1 are mostly just action scenes that don't lend much to the plot. Just watch the lightsaber duel at the end for kicks (and the music for that is truly awesome).

I may have to try this during the March TV hiatus/rerun season, and it's convenient as Episode 1 is the only one I don't have on DVD. Of course, it's hard to purge the knowledge of all the films from the brain to really see how it works, and I don't think I know anyone who hasn't seen these movies. It's sort of mandatory for geeks, and all my friends are geeks. Still, it might be an interesting experiment from a story structure perspective.