Star Wars

  • At last we have the mighty Butterball…


    “We’re going to get a turkey,” I said on the way to the grocery store last night. “Gobble gobble gobble!”

    From his car seat behind me, Kyle asked, “Why did you say ‘Gobble gobble gobble’?”

    “Because that’s the sound a turkey makes,” I said. “Well, a live turkey, anyway.”

    “But not dead ones?” Kyle asked.

    “No,” I admitted. “Not dead ones. The one we’re getting is a frozen turkey.”

    “Frozen?” Kyle asked. “In carbonite?”

  • Star Wars: My Chinatown Moment


    I had a Chinatown moment recently while watching one of the Star Wars movies with Kyle, my three-year-old son, and I realized that George Lucas is the Jake Gittes to my Evelyn Mulwray. 1If you haven’t seen Chinatown, starring Jack Nicholson as J.J. “Jake” Gittes and Faye Dunaway as Evelyn Mulwray, you should; this analogy makes more sense if you have. Go ahead: put … Continue reading It’s not that much of a stretch, is it? George delivered three prequels like so many slaps to the face of die-hard Star Wars fanboys like myself, and they hurt.

    Before Kyle was born, I banished the prequels from my home. Even after I began his training—introducing him to the space opera by way of the LEGO Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy video game on my old Xbox—I was determined that the prequels would not sully my DVD player. We played the entire game together, and he experienced Tattooine, Yavin IV, Hoth, Dagobah, Cloud City and the forest moon of Endor in a multitude of interlocking bricks. When I upgraded to an Xbox 360, Darth Elmo I decided that there was little harm in upgrading to LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga as well. I’d played through the prequel trilogy LEGO game before my son was old enough to pick up a controller and found that (surprise!) it’s much more entertaining when there’s no intelligible dialog.

    A few months ago, we graduated from the video game to the movies. Despite a few bumps (he’s not terribly fond of the Wampa ice creature in The Empire Strikes Back; ditto for Luke’s encounter with Vader in the tree-cave on Dagobah and Jabba the Hutt’s menagerie in Return of the Jedi) the movies are a big hit at the International House of Johnson, and I get requests to watch them on a daily basis.

    Then a couple of weeks ago I decided to lift my ban on the prequels. I realized that as much as I reviled them, the prequel films would be right up my son’s alley. He’d already been inoculated: he loves Yoda in all of his puppety glory, pretends to be Han Solo and Luke Skywalker, 2I have yet to convince him to pretend to be Lobot. refers to a Belle (Beauty & The Beast) PEZ dispenser as “yellow Princess Leia”, runs around the house yelling “Open the blast doors!” and “Oota goota, Solo?”; he even knows who is “in Darth Vader”. But there was an entire trilogy’s worth of characters that he’d only ever seen in LEGO minifig form.

    So I borrowed Star Wars: The Clone Wars from the local library. He’d seen the endless advertisements for the series on Cartoon Network and would often strike a Power Rangers-esque stance while yelling “Star Wars the Cone Wars!”—he’s not so good with the letter L just yet—so I thought we could ease into the prequels with the animated adventures of Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker. The reaction upon seeing the Star Wars logo was pretty much what I expected—an explosion of ecstatic joy—but the movie didn’t really hold his interest beyond a few oohs and aahs during one of the lightsaber battles.

    I suspected that my son would be more interested in the familiar characters and situations in The Phantom Menace, so I picked up the DVD from The Exchange, my local used music/movie/video game store. We watched the movie together and I saw everything that made me hate it: Jake Lloyd’s horrible acting, Natalie Portman’s inspired impersonation of a woodcarving, the utterly ridiculous Trade Federation droids. 3“Roger, roger!”? What kind of nonsense is that? If the droids are all controlled by a giant ship in orbit and every last one of them shuts down when that ship is destroyed, why do they … Continue reading All of it.

    And my son loved every last minute.

    I’ve watched bits and pieces of The Phantom Menace three or four times since then, and it still makes me cringe to hear Anakin Skywalker ask Padmé Amidala if she’s an angel. Something screams inside me anytime midi-chlorians are mentioned. 4Riddle me this, George: If the Jedi believe the Sith have all been wiped out, do they not understand that one who will “bring balance to the Force” is going to have to kill a cubic … Continue reading And when Yoda appears, his face swollen and his features distorted as though he’s in the midst of a horrible allergic reaction—possibly to a gundark bite—I just shake my head.

    But it’s still Star Wars, and my son loves it. And while we were watching it together one night before bedtime, I suddenly felt like Evelyn Mulwray.

    I love it!


    I hate it!


    I love it!


    I hate it and I love it!

    Lucas has always maintained—despite the froth and fury of fanboys like myself—that the prequels were geared toward children. Watching my young apprentice’s reaction, it’s clear that Lucas wasn’t just blowing smoke; I am a generation removed from what passes for Star Wars these days, but experiencing them with my son has brought an unexpected appreciation for something I was convinced I loathed.

    This was originally written for Whateveresque, a web forum maintained by author John Scalzi. It is reprinted here—in a slightly altered form—at my wife’s request.

    1 If you haven’t seen Chinatown, starring Jack Nicholson as J.J. “Jake” Gittes and Faye Dunaway as Evelyn Mulwray, you should; this analogy makes more sense if you have. Go ahead: put in in your Netflix queue or run down to the corner video store. This blog will be here when you get back.
    2 I have yet to convince him to pretend to be Lobot.
    3 “Roger, roger!”? What kind of nonsense is that? If the droids are all controlled by a giant ship in orbit and every last one of them shuts down when that ship is destroyed, why do they need to communicate verbally with each other at all, much less in an idiotic homage to Gomer Pyle?
    4 Riddle me this, George: If the Jedi believe the Sith have all been wiped out, do they not understand that one who will “bring balance to the Force” is going to have to kill a cubic buttload of Jedi? Why would any Jedi in his right mind want to find such a person?
  • Welcome to Parenthood: Want some candy?


    Belle PEZ DispenserThough I do not consider myself a collector of PEZ dispensers, I do have an assortment of the candy-disgorging hinged heads and I keep most of them on a shelf above the television in the living room. Every once in a while, I fill Batman or Spider-Man or Darth Vader with candy and give the dispenser to Kyle, who proceeds to eat every piece in a matter of about ten minutes.

    Some time ago, my niece—who is, as one might expect a young girl to be, a fan of the Disney princesses—gave me a Belle 1The “Beauty” in Beauty and the Beast. PEZ dispenser. Disney princesses aren’t really my thing, 2Exception to the rule: Jasmine is hot. but it was a gift and I like PEZ dispensers so I gave Belle a place on the shelf next to Spider-Man and Chewbacca and the Unnamed Snowman.

    Kyle and I have been enjoying LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga on the Xbox 360, so lately the Darth Vader 3“Darf Vay-to!” says Kyle. PEZ dispenser has been in heavy rotation, but something absolutely magical happened last weekend: after R2-D2 and C-3PO 4“Artie-pee-oh!” says Kyle. escaped from the besieged blockade runner, Tantive IV, Kyle wanted some PEZ.

    “Daddy,” he said. “I want some candy. I want yellow Princess Leia.”

    I’ll admit that it took me awhile to parse his words, but when I finally figured out what my young apprentice wanted, my heart was filled with joy. My son looked at Belle and saw Princess Leia dressed in yellow.

    That’s my boy.

    1 The “Beauty” in Beauty and the Beast.
    2 Exception to the rule: Jasmine is hot.
    3 “Darf Vay-to!” says Kyle.
    4 “Artie-pee-oh!” says Kyle.
  • Non Sequitur: Sixteen Things


    Once again, I have been tagged to enumerate some random tidbits (factual, one presumes) about myself. The magic number here is sixteen and the tagger was none other than Chris Miller.

    Off we go.

    1. My most recent meal (as of this writing): four sliders and half an order of Not-So Fries at Yours Truly. This is just part of the reason I’ve found the weight I lost last summer.
    2. I play with my wedding ring a lot; it drives Laura nuts. On long trips (such as driving up to my parents’ house), I occasionally take the ring off and place it on the little joystick for adjusting the side mirrors. I often take it off or switch it to my pinkie finger when I’m typing.
    3. I still have my tonsils and they are ginormous, even more so when they’re infected (which seems to happen once or twice annually).
    4. The first Star Wars film I saw in the theater was Return of the Jedi at the Lode Theater in Houghton, MI. I was a little concerned that my eight-year-old brother, Adam, might not be able to keep up with the subtitling of Jabba the Hutt’s dialog, but I don’t think he had any problem with it. After the movie, we ate dinner at the Douglass House across the street. As we were leaving the restaurant, I realized I’d left my jacket in the theater, so went in to retrieve it. Luke and Leia were chasing scout troopers on speederbikes and I found my jacket with no trouble.
    5. I once lived in an apartment above a video store and still could not return a rented movie on time, even though I could have easily dropped the tapes through the hole in my bathroom floor directly into the video store.
    6. The last time I assembled one of these lists, my wife indicated that she could come up with seven weirder things about me than I had. She has yet to deliver.
    7. Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe Deluxe Edition, No. 12
      I still remember the cover of the issue of The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe Deluxe Edition my mother bought me the day I got my first pair of glasses, way back in elementary school. The feature that I remember most distinctly: Stilt-Man’s leg, which is the only part of the villain visible on the cover and extends up beyond the boundary of the image.
    8. I have smoked precisely one cigar in the thirty-five and a half years I’ve been on this planet. I do not intend to smoke another, no matter how many more years I remain here.
    9. I once stuck my tongue on a metal handrail in the middle of winter. I was at school and had snuck outside, so no one knew where I was. After a brief bit of panic, I tore my tongue loose, and the next several meals I ate were incredibly unpleasant. I didn’t tell anyone about it until years later.
    10. If I were compiling a list of United States I don’t feel compelled to visit, I would probably put Idaho at the very top, but only because I’ve already been to New Jersey.
    11. I spent two weeks trying to “hack” a broken copy of Hacker II: The Doomsday Papers for the Apple //GS before giving up and calling Activision Customer Support only to learn that the game was not supposed to boot to a command prompt after all. They sent me a replacement copy and I eventually beat the game.
    12. The only items of clothing I have purchased for myself since getting married are hats, gloves and winter boots. I will probably purchase a pair of gloves on the way home from work today.
    13. I always put my shopping cart in the corral; if there’s no corral, I’ll return it to the store. I do this simply out of a desire to feel morally superior to those people who leave their carts in the middle of the parking lot.
    14. The Rocketeer' class=
      I think The Rocketeer’s helmet is one of the coolest things ever. If I could have one accurate replica prop from a movie, that helmet would be it. If I could have the entire costume, I might never take it off.
    15. It was a list like this one that convinced Laura she needed to introduce herself to me more than fifteen years ago.
    16. I often clean my glasses in the morning with the underwear I am about to don. The cloth is clean, soft and apparently lint-free, so it’s pretty much perfect for the job. I’m well aware that this is probably something you neither needed or wanted to know, but that’s the risk you take when you read one of these lists. Let it be a lesson to you.

    Do I even know sixteen people to tag? Let’s try Jason Penney, Rachel Ross, Eric Feldhusen, Rae Lamond, Eric Bork, Sam Chupp, David Moore, The Bearded Goose, Sudrin, Jude, Not Andrei, The Cynical Optimist, Wesley, Jaxvor, Slowhand and Laura Johnson. Yes! Laura Johnson, who does not have a blog. Get one! Your husband can help!

  • Moviestuff: Indy 4 gets a title


    SCI FI Wire has a blurb about Shia LeBeouf announcing the title of the new Indiana Jones movie at the MTV Video Music Awards last night.

    Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

    Sure, it’s got a pulpy, movie serial feel to it, but hasn’t Harrison Ford already done crystal skulls? Well, no. But yes. Sort of.

    Star Wars fans may recognize the cover of Han Solo and the Lost Legacy by the late, great Brian Daley, published way back in 1980.

    Han Solo and the Lost Legacy

    As long as I’m on the topic of Star Wars, I may as well invoke that old familiar quote: I’ve got a bad feeling about this. But I’ll be thrilled if Lucas, Spielberg and Ford prove me wrong.

  • Geekstuff: May 2007 Roundup


    One of these days I’m going to write another real blog entry, but for now a little of the stuff that’s currently flipping my geek switch will have to suffice.

    Star Wars Roleplaying Game. My copy of the core rulebook for the new “Saga Edition” has been shipped from Amazon and should arrive in a few days. I’m looking forward to digging into this one, as from most accounts the changes made by Wizards of the Coast make for faster, more cinematic gameplay than was possible using previous editions. Ken Newquist has posted a review on and more thoughts in two separate Nuketown posts.

    Game Night. On the 29th, Chris Miller, Miscellaneous G™ and I got together intending to play Primetime Adventures, the roleplaying game in which players create a television series then roleplay episodes of the same. We got a little carried away during the creation phase and before we ever got around to deciding who our major protagonists would be we had outlined the major story arc for season one leading up to and including the cliffhanger season finale. I’m not sure whether we’re going to pull it back into Primetime Adventures or take it in another direction, but it was three solid hours of a very interesting creative vibe and we could all see a lot of potential in the end result.

    Habeas Corpses by Wm. Mark Simmons. I bought this book at the airport in Oklahoma City because I didn’t relish the idea of three hours on two planes with nothing to read. Had I realized that Habeas Corpses is the third book in a series, I definitely would have bought something else. As it was, I was in a bit of a hurry and the cover doesn’t in any way indicate that it’s part of a seriesNot that I saw anything on the cover but cleavage and bare midriff., so I put my money on the counter and rushed to my gate. It’s a decent read that involves, vampires, werewolves, Native American tribal spirits and Nazis. I would give it a wholehearted recommendation except for one thing: the puns. I could understand giving the protagonist a propensity for punnery, but it seems like every one of Simmons’ characters spews puns left and right and after a while it just gets annoying and detracts from the story.

    Pan’s Labyrinth

    Pan’s Labyrinth. This is quite simply the best movie I’ve seen in recent memory. Over the past few evenings, Laura and I have been watching Pan’s Labyrinth with director Guillermo del Toro’s audio commentary. It’s clear that this project was a labor of love for del Toro, and his commentary explores everything from mythical elements in the story to how scenes were lit to how Doug Jones’ faun makeup changes during the course of the film. Unfortunately, del Toro has a voice that puts Laura to sleep after about fifteen minutes, so it’s taking us a bit longer than usual to get through the commentary track.

  • Geekstuff: The Birthday Rundown


    Well, I’ve been thirty-four years old for a week now and I’ve gotta say I’m liking it so far. There are times when being an adult is all about socks and shirts and ties, oil changes and mortgage payments, but I’m happy to say that my family and friends know that I’m still all about the books, comics, toys and games. Apart from a very nice polo shirt from my mother-in-law, most of my birthday bounty would have been eagerly received by seventeen-year-old me.

    • LEGO Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy for the Xbox, from my young apprentice. Everything is proceeding as I have foreseen.
    • The Making of Star Wars by J.W. Rinzler, from Laura.
    • A Boba Fett t-shirt, also from Laura.
    • The Ultimate Fantastic Four trade paperbacks volumes 1-5, from Miscellaneous G™.
    • Three Hellboy comics signed by Mike Mignola, from Chris.
    • A green FlyTech Dragonfly, from my sister-in-law and her family. A remote-controlled ornithopter! How cool is that?
    • A musical Batman card from my elder, bigger little sister.
    • Filthy lucre from my parents, mother-in-law and grandparents-in-law, which I used to buy:
      • 18 by Moby (CD)
      • Play by Moby (CD)
      • Hellboy: Sword of Storms (DVD)
      • Dune: Extended Edition (DVD)
      • Blade Runner: Director’s Cut (DVD)
      • Pan’s Labyrinth (DVD)
    • Last but not least, pumpkin pie from my grandparents-in-law. Yes, it’s more of a fall pie. I don’t care. I will eat it now and then, I will eat it anywhen!

    [EDIT: I forgot a couple of things!]

    • Police Squad! The Complete Series on DVD, from the Wiitalas. Police Squad! didn’t succeed as a television series (a shame, because it’s hilarious), but it eventually evolved into three Naked Gun movies.
    • Spamalot Original Cast Recording, also from the Wiitalas. Laura and I saw Spamalot last year, and it was fantastic. My favorite song is probably “The Song That Goes Like This”, but they’re all good.
    • The first season of Arrested Development on DVD, from my sister and her boyfriend. Despite several people telling me I should have been watching this show when it was originally on the air, I’ve never seen it. I’m probably directly responsible for its cancellation.
    • The Omnivore’s Dilemma, also from my sister and her boyfriend. I’m not sure, but I think this book has something to do with that “fourth meal” I’ve been hearing about at Taco Bell.

    Are my friends and family not awesome? Yes. Yes they are. They made me a very happy birthday boy.

  • Gamestuff: Jedi Outcast (Complete)


    Jedi Outcast @ Amazon.comI derive an inordinate amount of satisfaction from the completion of video games, and Jedi Outcast is no exception. In fact, this particular triumph is especially sweet because it fulfills half of my gentleman’s wager with Miscellaneous G™. Now all that remains is finish Vampire the Masquerade: Redemption before mid-August and the victory will be mine!

    The following is an account of the last four chapters in the saga of Kyle Katarn’s journey in Jedi Outcast. If you’ve not played the game, you should be aware that the landscape ahead is riddled with spoilers, lying in wait like so many laser trip mines.


  • Gamestuff: Jedi Outcast (Part 1)


    Jedi OutcastJedi Knight II: Jedi OutcastAlso known as Dark Forces 3: Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast in my circle of friends. is probably my favorite non-MMO multiplayer PC game of all time. In the days of once upon a time when I attended or hosted LAN parties, everyone else was hot and heavy on Counter Strike or Day of DefeatIn the FPS wargame genre, I preferred Medal of Honor: Allied Assault. but I longed for four-on-four capture the flag on the streets of Nar Shaddaa. The combination of lightsabers, “conventional” weapons and Force powers was fantastic, and Nar Shaddaa’s perilous walkways suspended above bottomless pits made every mis-step a potential disaster. Whether you preferred to snipe your enemies from halfway across the map or get up close and personal so you could use Force Grip or Force Push to send your opponents plummeting to their death (or just cut them down with your lightsaber), the Nar Shaddaa maps could accomodate your play style.

    As much as I enjoyed the multiplayer mode, I never finished the single player campaign. If memory serves me correctly, I stopped playing shortly after the hero, Kyle Katarn, gained the Jedi Mind Trick ability. When the sequel, Jedi AcademyAKA Dark Forces 4: Jedi Knight III: Jedi Outcast II: Jedi Academy. was released, I tore through the single-player campaign in about a week, but never played the multiplayer and never went back to Jedi Outcast. Well, never until now.


  • Non Sequitur: The Lobot Thing


    A couple of years ago, I posted the following want ad:

    MWM Seeks Loyal Vassal

    I’d like my own Samwise Gamgee, if you please.

    I’m not carrying the one ring, or anything, so there’s very little chance you’ll have to carry me up the slopes of Mount Doom. But you shouldn’t eliminate it as a possibility.

    To the best of my knowledge, there isn’t a dark army bent on my capture or destruction. Nor is the eye of any ancient and powerful evil fixed upon me. Still, the future is unwritten, and it’s best not to discount any potential conflict.

    It’s the little things that I’m looking for: loyalty, undying devotion, and yes, even love. I’m talking about fealty. In return for all of this, I offer the benefit of my protection and a promise that I will act in such a manner as assures your welfare.

    “But,” you might be tempted to object, “you’ve got a wife.”

    Indeed I do, and let me tell you something, my wife has all of the qualities I’d look for in a vassal. She is devoted, loyal and loving. She remembers all of my siblings’ birthdays and my parents’ anniversary. She makes sure the bills get paid. She would find some way to carry me up the rocky slopes of Mount Doom if she had to.

    Let’s not forget the flipside. She is most certainly under my protection and I am responsible for many aspects of her well-being.

    So what’s the difference? Well, for starters, she’s got her own stuff going on. That’s right, she does. She’s on the church council and one or two committees. She runs a weight loss group.

    Now, lest you get the wrong impression, let me be perfectly clear on this: I am very much in favor of my wife having her own stuff to do. It pleases me that she has activities that don’t involve me. Her life doesn’t adjourn when I walk out the door in the morning and reconvene when I return, and that’s the way it ought to be.

    Secondly, we share the same bed. My wife loves me in a way no vassal would, or should. Sam loved Frodo but he didn’t love Frodo.

    Ah, but to have a vassal. Part chauffeur, part butler, part tinker, tailor, soldier and spy. Could you be the Watson to my Holmes? The Friday to my Crusoe? The Butler to my Fowl? The Gamgee to my Baggins? The Tucker to my Ogilvie?

    If so, this could be the life for you.

    Please provide appropriate references.

    I got a couple of requests for further information, but nothing came of it. Then, I had an epiphany.

    A couple of days after I posted the vassal job notice, blob and I were discussing Lobot (which happens more often than you might expect), and it occurred to me that he’d be perfect for the job. First off, he’s a cyborg, and that means I could control him with my watch. Press a button and he wakes up. Oh yeah, he’s just standing in a corner, looking like he’s asleep until I press that button. And then his eyes just open and he’s ready for action.

    Second, Lobot is cool. I mean, just check this out.


    See what I mean? He’s cool. Ears? Doesn’t have ’em. Instead, he’s got a wraparound electronic gizmo. And he’s bald, because that makes the gizmo look ten times cooler. And that gizmo is what’s going to enable me to control Lobot with my watch. Press the button, gizmo blinks, Lobot’s eyes open. It’s just that simple.

    Third, he’s a cyborg. Really, nothing else matters. He’ll be absolutely loyal until his programming goes haywire and he becomes a death machine intent on exterminating me. And a malfunctioning cyborg bent on destroying someone may be even cooler than the regular, loyal kind.

    Now, where does one order a Lobot?

    As it turns out, ordering a Lobot isn’t as simple as you might expect.

    The folks at Comercial Lobot, S.L. apparently aren’t interested in my business. I’ve sent a few e-mails to their sales department, and the responses I’ve gotten are somewhat cryptic. Here’s a sample:

    Sr. Johnson:

    Pues he hecho claramente en mis comunicaciones anteriores usted, Comercial Lobot, S.L. no fabrica ni vende cyborgs, ni somos capaces de proporcionar la información con respecto cómo usted puede ser que construya su propio cyborg. Observe por favor que ésta será mi comunicación final con usted, y que el resto de las investigaciones serán dirigidas a nuestro departamento jurídico.


    Jorge Carnitas Cabron
    Director De Ventas
    Comercial Lobot, S.L.

    What does all that mean? Probably that I don’t have the level of security clearance necessary to purchase a cyborg. I suppose that’s reasonable. After all, we’re talking about some pretty serious technology. In the wrong hands, Lobot could wreak havoc; an unscrupulous individual might use Lobot for evil.

    Okay, so the thought had crossed my mind. But only briefly.

    That was two years ago, and my Lobot situation has not improved. Why am I bringing this up now? Well, my birthday is only a few days away, and I often draw a blank when people ask me what sort of gift I’d like. As you might expect, it’s not possible to put a Lobot on your wish list (they don’t seem to have an ISBN/ASIN), so there’s no handy reminder of my desire to have a Lobot of my very own. If you’re reading this and you’ve got clearance for cyborg procurement, keep in mind that it would make a perfect gift. Almost as good as the iPod I got for Christmas a couple of years ago.