60 Brick by Brick: Portrait 1.0 (and 1.5)

If you’ve been following along my blog, then you know I am working on a #60BrickbyBrick challenge, wherein I build a new something each month from one of the 60th anniversary sets by LEGO, and in the off weeks, continue my LEGO Portraits. Well, last week I did so and you can see that build in my last post. This week was a portrait week.

I first had the idea for this week’s shoot in the beginning of this week, but didn’t have time, predictably, until today to execute my idea in between loads of laundry. Ah. Such is the adult fan of LEGO’s life. A little adult obligation and a little LEGO fun. Anyhow, there was actually a seed part for this photo, which I will get to in a second, but it was also a chance to photograph a bit of my new CITY street baseplate and do a micro build. First I’ll show you the resulting photograph, then break it down a bit.

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So this is what I ended up with. I call it “Early Morning Trash Run” and I just love it. A lot of LEGO builders will begin with a single part, usually called a seed part, and build around that, sometimes to force creativity and sometimes just to have fun. In this case, my seed part was the dark colored trash bag you see in the foreground in front of the recycling trash can. For whatever reason that part popped in my head and I decided to use it. Now, that part has been used variously as a Santa’s Sack or a trash bag or just a loot bag for a traveler, but in this case is acting as a trash bag. I then, more or less, imagined the complete scene you see above. All that was left was a matter of building.

The new CITY baseplate is what you see in grey in the bottom of the picture, the extreme foreground, and what all this is built on a little corner of. I will show a behind-the-scenes pic in a minute and you will see what I mean. Beyond that, the fire hydrant was a micro build that needed to be there to give some contrasting color and something more interesting in the photo, and dog about to pee on it is just classic and funny. Add a wine bottle in the recycling trash can and a sleepy person bringing his trash bag and all you need is a wall behind for a background.

There’s the rub: I only had so many “brick” bricks available to me because most were being used in another build I haven’t photographed yet. So I had to build, literally, as much wall as I could and position it just so. SNAP! and a little editing and there you go, a nice little portrait that tells a quick little story.

Here is the behind-the-scenes look.

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In this photo you can see that the wall is not very big and all of this is on a very small corner of the baseplate. But that is the magic of photography: you don’t actually need very much in fact to tell a fun story. A creative angle of photography and, as I said, a little editing, and presto! you’ve got what you need. I don’t yet have an idea for next week’s photo, but that is the excitement for me…getting an idea and then executing it.

Anyway, I do have another pic that I took, this just as a practice for a LEGO set I built. I have been wanting a Star Wars Imperial backdrop for a while, featuring the iconic white and grey walls that are all over the Death Star and Star Destroyer hallways. So I found a set that had been released for San Diego Comic Con a few years ago that featured said walls, and then built my own from the instructions. The resulting piece of corridor is delightful, but I had to see if it actually worked in camera. I am pleased to say that it seems to. We will see in the future if it needs to be tweaked for future pics or if it works as is. But enough talk. I give you “Imperial Conversations”.

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In the foreground a pair of Imperial Officers talk, while in the background a pair of Stormtroopers stand sentry. Why? I don’t know. Anyway, behind them is my Imperial wall, completely brick built. As I said, I am happy with this little build and it yielded a bonus pic for this week, so win-win as far as I am concerned.

I hope you enjoyed my pics and and a look at how they were created. Come back next week for more #60BrickbyBrick!

Star Wars: The Phantom Confession

At last I will reveal myself to the internet. At last I shall have catharsis.” – Darth Me

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The Phantom Menace premiered in theaters on May 19, 1999. I had just turned 12 two months before and I was ecstatic to see this new Star Wars film. You have to remember, in those days, Star Wars was a trilogy, a finished masterpiece in three volumes. It had been since 1983, four years before my birth. For my entire life, Star Wars was the best set of films there were for a nerd, young or old. It was “this colossus, this great legendary thing”.

A new film, a new trilogy, was announced. I scoured the young internet for news, images, clips, rumors and at dial-up speed, fuzzy jpegs revealed themselves for my viewing pleasure. Articles kept me fascinated. There wasn’t much being disseminated, remember, again, this was before Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and every other network. We had no smart phones, no texting, no social media. I remember reading articles in actual magazines and the newspaper about this new Star Wars film. I cut out pictures from pages and savored images of Qui-Gon Jinn, whom I mistook for Obi-Wan Kenobi, and Jake Lloyd and Ewan McGregor whom I thought were playing Anakin Skywalker. I also remember savoring images of the Naboo starfighter: graceful, sleek, and deadly. Much of my information also came from LEGO, who had just signed a deal with Lucasfilm to produce Star Wars branded and based Lego sets. Most of my early spoilers came from LEGO fan club magazines that depicted ships, characters, and locations in brick form. Pepsi had also made a marketing deal in which every can of every variety of soda featured a different character image with a printed backstory that you could collect. Even Taco Bell got in on the marketing with their stupid chihuahua.  It was all glorious and amazing and wonderful. I annoyed my family and friends silly because I would not stop talking about the new Star Wars film. It was to be the best thing EVER.

A few days, or weeks, I don’t remember exactly, into the premier my dad took myself and my brother to a Saturday afternoon showing of The Phantom Menace and I floated into the theater. I absorbed every sound, image, and musical cue with delight … except … except, something wasn’t quite right. Jar Jar Binks wasn’t funny, like he was supposed to be. There were fart jokes, in the middle of John William’s grand score even! Some bits blew my pre-teen mind – Darth Maul versus the Jedi – podracers roaring around Tatooine, but mostly it was boring with a shine and long with excitement. I didn’t realize it then, but every time thereafter that I saw it, my smile was less broad and the twinkle in my eye shrank. I remember visiting my grandfather, perhaps the next summer, and convincing him to Pay-Per-View rent The Phantom Menace. It was a day long thing, where you could watch it over and over again for 24 hours. I must have watched it 8 or 9 times that day. Over and over again. It was amazing! It was Star Wars! but it wasn’t quite the Star Wars I loved and had grown up with.

Truth is: I loved The Phantom Menace. Even with Jar Jar and the fart joke. In those early days, I couldn’t get enough of it. It wasn’t until 2002’s Attack of the Clones that I began to become disillusioned. 2005’s premier of Revenge of the Sith arrived and I was in college. It failed to end the new trilogy properly, but I had lost my love. Star Wars was nothing more than the Old Trilogy, as it was now known, and the new films were dead to me. I even spent time methodically watching Menace, Clones, and Sith and tearing them systematically apart on my blog (which you can still read under the Star Wars tab). I made a reputation among friends and a presence online by hating the prequels.

But. But. I did love Menace. I thought Clones had good parts. I figured Sith was mostly there. I don’t know when or why I let other people’s opinions and acidity eat through my heart of enjoyment. I like plenty of badly written movies that are chock full of bad performances and cheesy effects. So I suppose now we are here, at the end of my vitriol to admit a love I once held dear.

I haven’t watched the Prequel Trilogy in years, now, and I feel a strange urge and longing to do so. Maybe it is the 11 year old in me that collected Mountain Dew cans for their images of Yoda and Qui-Gon Jinn. Maybe it is the 12 year old that convinced my grandfather to let me spend a day watching a movie ad nauseam. Maybe it is the 13 year old that treasured old LEGO magazines and their pages of colorful LEGO Star Wars sets.

At least I am willing to admit it to myself, and now, the world that reads my blog: unabashed, unashamed, unfettered: I loved Star Wars The Phantom Menace a long time ago, and may yet love it. And that’s ok.

Embrace your famdoms, nerd out, rock on, love what you love. It makes you you and no one else. And that is the best thing ever.

Princess, Sister, General

I could never figure it out, and it isn’t really stated anywhere, so as a kid I never knew. Was Leia the elder Skywalker, or was Luke? I know they were retconned to twins sometime after Star Wars and before Return of the Jedi, but still, logically, one is older. Who was it? I was one of three boys in my family, complete and whole, until my sister came along six years later to upset the established order and complete us all. It wasn’t really until I was six or seven that I began to religiously watch the Star Wars saga, so in my mind I became Luke Skywalker and my new baby sister was Princess Leia.

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My sister and I never played that way, that is, never acted out the Star Wars story together, but in my head I saw Carrie Fisher’s Princess Leia as the twin sister I never had until I had a little sister, and then as my sister grew up to be a fierce, independent, wise, take-no-bullshit young woman she became Leia to my Luke.

We were raised differently, like Luke and Leia, as my parents doted on the only daughter, gave her her own room (where I had to share space with one or both of my brothers as conditions allowed), and in general lavished the favoritism upon her. I mean, of course my parents said they had no favorites, but really, three boys didn’t hold a candle my to parent’s little princess.

I never had my mind on where I was, or what I was doing, and was always craving excitement and adventure, like a certain young sand-locked farm boy, and my sister always knew what she wanted and how she wanted it and seemed to be driven in ways I wasn’t, like a certain young Senator from Alderaan.

I could stretch the metaphor and say that I like to wear black, and her white and interesting hair-dos but that would be stretching the truth as well. Suffice to say, we met late* in life and became a duo that learned to appreciate and love each other.

Now, as adults, past our “growing up” years, she is, as ever, driven, and I am wandering the galaxy in search of my own Force to guide me. She is the General: moving forward; I am the Jedi: mystically engaged with life’s triumphs and failures.

Given such a personal connection to the character of Leia Organa-Skywalker-Solo, I was deeply affected by the tragic death of Carrie Fisher last year. I had watched her all my life as she “grew up” as a character on Star Wars and I had followed her later life on social media. I always dreamed of going to a Star Wars celebration or ComicCon to meet her, and regret that I will now not have the chance to tell her what she meant to me. Like my sister, Fisher was feisty, funny, and familial. I am not the only one in the Star Wars community to view her as a surrogate-sister, and that was a role she embraced after a certain time. Certainly she was honest about her struggles with mental illness, substance abuse, and a dysfunctional family in a way that made me ok with my own depression and personal struggles.

I grew up knowing that women could be strong, resilient, heroic, steadfast, worthy, sexy, beautiful leaders and sisters and women all at the same time and that was because Carrie Fisher embodied that so well on screen and on the internet, and my sister was all those things and more in what I saw as a little mirror of Fisher.

It seemed at first a strange thing to be so sad at the death of a celebrity I had never met and who inhabited my star-struck fascination with Star Wars, but having come to this realization of what Carrie Fisher truly meant to me in such personal terms, it doesn’t seem strange at all anymore.

As I enter a world now robbed of Fisher, I embrace my sister all the more tightly and thank the Force that I was given such a wonderful gift and example of womanhood at such a young age, that despite not being twins, we grew to be very close, a closeness we share today.

Fisher is now one with the Force, and I have my sister to guide me always. I look forward to the next chapter in our Saga…

 

*If by being introduced when I was just 6 can be called “late” in life.

 

The Hope

I just left my local cinema, having seen Rogue One: A Star Wars Story for the second time and I loved it just as much the second viewing. This was the first Star Wars film not to be an official episode, that is, an installment in the saga of the Skywalker family, and thus is a stand-alone film, however, it flows into Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope so well it may as well be an extended prologue to that legacy film. If you wish to avoid spoilers, you can stop reading now. Otherwise…venture once again into that galaxy far, far away…

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Rogue One begins without an opening crawl, which is a bit jarring, since that is the Star Wars to which we have grown accustomed. However, the beautiful shots of space and Director Krennic’s shuttle quickly take hold and the film is begun and it hardly seems to matter. Small title screens give the location at which each bit of action takes place, so the viewer is never lost in space, however, just a little context would have been welcome to begin the film. I admit that this is a small criticism.

The film follows the journey of young Jyn Erso, left abandoned by her family at a young age and raised by a Rebel zealot. She eventually becomes useful to the larger Rebel Alliance, and is asked to make contact with her surrogate father in order to authenticate a message from her real father. That message is true, and it seems the Empire has built a super weapon, code name: Death Star, that can destroy entire planets, however the elder Erso, a secret Rebel, built within it a fatal flaw that only a thorough examination of the technical plans will reveal. Those plans must be stolen from an Imperial archive at all costs to prevent the reign of terror the Emperor is eager to unleash.

The characters in this Star Wars story are compelling, real, and interesting, from Captain Andor, his sassy K-2S0 droid, and a rag-tag group of Rebel agents that include a semi-Force aware Guardian of the Whills. So diverse and different is this group that it is amazing that they even work together, much less pull off the greatest heist in the history of the Star Wars galaxy, but succeed they do. Sort of. I mean, they win the day, but they all die. Every last one of them.

That is part of what makes this film special. Not a single one of these characters is to be heard from again, so their fate is ambiguous from the very beginning. Darth Vader makes an off-hand remark as to their deaths in the Star Wars novelization, but in the films proper there is no mention as to the brave Rebels who stole the Death Star plans, just that they were “provided by Princess Leia” which is at once true and inaccurate. Therefore, the tension mounts for each and every one as their deaths are perhaps certain, but not predictable. How they die is as important as how they live, and is a culmination of their own personal journeys.

Darth Vader appears, as do several characters from A New Hope, and none unnecessarily. Half recast (James Earl Jones again provides the voice of Vader) the Sith Lord intimidates Krennic at a crucial point, also motivating him to fulfill his villainous role in the film. Vader also reappears at the end to mop up the Rebel fleet and almost reclaim the Death Star plans before a brave Rebel soldier is there to stop him from doing so. Much less than the absurd Yoda fight in Attack of the Clones, Vader here does fight, but in a controlled and subdued manner that doesn’t conflict with anything he is shown doing in the original trilogy in tone or manner. He is devastating and unstoppable both with lightsaber and the Force.

The other characters from A New Home are Red and Gold Leaders, resurrected via found film footage cleverly spliced into the Rogue One footage, and Governor Tarkin and Princess Leia herself.* Tarkin is brought to life via body-double CGI and while the uncanny valley is alive and well, the effect is successful as a cold and calculating villain to Director Krennic and the Rebel beyond. Leia appears in less than 30 seconds or so at the end in the same way, and as such is much less jarring. Only because we see Tarkin walk and talk and intimidate are we able to see through the digital facade and realize that what we are seeing isn’t real.

I appreciated the level of detail that was brought to this film, through hair and makeup, wardrobe and costuming, and set design to emulate the look of the original trilogy and the time period in which it was created. 70’s styling and color pallets are evident, as is practical effects work and location scouting to match or even duplicate locations from the first film. So many little details are there to be found and enjoyed, but my favorite is two ill-fated stormtroopers on Scarif talking about a new model of speeder that was released, nearly identical dialogue to two troopers on the Death Star when Kenobi is tinkering with the tractor beam that holds the Millennium Falcon hostage. At once a call-back, foreshadowing, and a simply fantastic bit of universe appropriate dialogue. (Those must have been some exciting speeders to get multiple troops excited.)

Lastly, the music is majestic, being the first score not composed by John Williams (done instead by Michael Giacchino) but quoting and referencing Williams’ scores when thematically necessary and sonically appropriate.

I completely enjoyed the spectacle that is a Star Wars space opera, a heist film, a war picture, and a hero’s journey all rolled into one. Existing as it does apart from and kin to the first ever Star Wars film makes Rogue One no less compelling or able to stand on its own.

 

*Two other characters from A New Hope appear, via creature makeup, and that is the twisted human and unintelligible alien that accost Luke Skywalker in a cantina on Tatooine only to be mutilated by Obi-Wan Kenobi. Fan service much? While Tarkin, Rebel pilots, and even Leia are important to the plot, these two are pure cameo. Nice, but why those two? It cracked me up, but also took me out of the story for a minute. Ultimate reaction: a shrug and a smile.

The Awakening

Palpable was the excitement of going to see Star Wars Epsiode I: The Phantom Menace in the spring of 1999. I distinctly remember riding in the back seat of my father’s car, driving along the highway towards our local theater. I remember sitting on the end seat, next to him, and my brother on the other side of my father as the lights of the theater dimmed and the opening crawl floated up the screen. Despite my high excitement, disappointment followed. I was twelve years old then, and had grown up watching the original Star Wars trilogy so many times that my first experience with Star Wars had long been forgotten. It seems I had always loved watching Star Wars.

It is now nearly the end of 2015, and with it a new era has been born. Unless you’ve been hiding out on Dagobah with a broken holonet receiver, you know that the sequel trilogy has been launched with Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens. I’ve seen it twice now, once in regular old two dimensions, and once in IMAX 3D. If you want to stop reading now to avoid spoilers on the story, I will simply say this: it was better than the prequels and a true Star Wars film full of the space adventure and fantasy we’ve come to love from that galaxy far, far away…

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What has made the Star Wars universe great and has allowed it to endure for generations are the iconic, memorable characters. From the beginning of The Force Awakens, we receive terrific new characters that I believe will live on in the zeitgeist of the world consciousness just as have the original characters from the original Star Wars.

Right away we are introduced to the first non-human character that will drive a large portion of the film as a Macguffin and that is the orange and white ball droid BB-8. Early on in the marketing and releases about The Force Awakens we saw BB-8 and I must admit I was less than impressed. I thought the robot was overly cute, and was attached to my nostalgia for R2-D2 and C-3P0. But from those first few moments on screen, BB-8 captured my attention in exactly the same way Artoo and Threepio did in the beginning of Star Wars. Moments later we meet Po Dameron, the heroic and dashing X-wing pilot and Kylo Ren, the angry, yet strangely compelling new Dark Lord. At this point, I got caught up in the story and the film, and wondered where these characters would take me. Again, early on, as these characters were revealed, I thought that Kylo Ren in particular was trying too hard to be the new Darth Vader, but seeing him on the big screen, as the story unfolded, I saw an angry, hurting young man trying desperately to live up to a legacy he admired, albeit for all the wrong reasons. As the film progressed we were introduced to the main characters, Rey and Finn the defecting stormtrooper. Rey is a simple human living in the literal shadow of a decades old galactic war, scavenging for survival and awaiting her future. Finn is rejecting the only life he has ever known and seeking a way to freedom. Both meet up, and the adventure really gets going as they steal a familiar piece of space garbage and outrace the new Empire: the First Order. Reintroducing the Millennium Falcon and previous owners Han Solo and Chewbacca was less a slavish devotion to past glories, but an acknowledgement of the age of the universe and the passage of time. Things move on from our lives and sometimes old friends return in unexpected ways. Later we meet Leia Organa, less princess and more general, and even she feels like a totally new character. She is no longer young and feisty, but now strong and resolute with the burning fervor of conviction and experience. I loved the thousand year old Maz and her little cantina on a backwater world, her unexpected wisdom and yet shadowy side as someone who hung out with the dregs and downcast. She was the dark mirror to Yoda, ancient and wise and somehow a young outlaw on the back edge of the galaxy. All of these new characters immediately became as interesting and compelling to me as the droid duo, Luke Skywalker, Ben Kenobi and Yoda, and Han Solo from Star Wars. I desperately wanted to know their stories and follow them on their adventures.

Secondly, the locations hearkened back, in a good way, to the the original trilogy. There was the desolate desert world of Jakku, the ice planet/superweapon of Starkiller Base, the forest world of Takodana, all mirroring Tatooine, Hoth, and Endor. This became a theme to the Force Awakens: revealing the new through the lens of the old. There was the Millennium Falcon given new life as the fastest hunk of junk in the galaxy racing along the Jakku dunes and derelict Star Destroyers and the new planet destroying super weapon. Far from drudgingly repeating the past, the new Star Wars gave me quick tutorial in what I already loved, setting me up for something that I will never have imagined in Episodes VIII and IX.

Thirdly, there was plenty of new twists and further revelations of the galaxy far, far away, which is far more vast and old and lived in than I imagined. I loved the brief introduction to other smugglers and outlaws aboard Han’s new freighter, the rathtar beasts Han was transporting, again, hearkening back to Jabba’s den of despicable denizens and the rancor which lurked below. I loved the X-wing/TIE fighter battles, the exchanges of blaster fire, the familiar yet new First Order risen from the ashes of the Empire, Jedi mind tricks, and unexpected stormtrooper humor, no longer clones but real people fighting for a cause they believe in.

I thought the acting in this film was superb, and that is what ultimately won me over to the classic nature of the new Star Wars. Harrison Ford, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Adam Driver all did fantastic work in breathing into their characters the breath of life. I believed all of them. But the real surprise was the reveal of Luke Skywalker at the end. Mark Hamill communicated so much without saying a single word that I was totally blown away. The shot lingered on his face as he turned to see Rey and what her outstretched arm held and I saw sorrow, pain, recognition, remembrance, resolution and so many more emotions in his eyes. He realized the fullness of what his failure to train Ben Solo had wrought on the galaxy, he acknowledged what his absence fostered in current events, he recognized his lightsaber, and with it the pain of his failure and loss against Darth Vader so long ago, and he made the choice to no longer look to the past but to rejoin the present in hope of a better future with Rey and the Resistance.

Finally, the death of Han Solo, which I completely expected to happen given Harrison Ford’s complicated relationship with the character, was still shocking and emotionally gutting. Here was everything that was awesome, funny, and beloved about the original trilogy being brutally murdered by its own offspring, the sequel trilogy, and the message was clear: despite the winks, the references, and the familiar, this is not your father’s Star Wars anymore. This is a new beast altogether and in the future, nothing is certain. Here the brilliance of Lawrence Kasdan’s writing and JJ Abrams’ direction was shown in full: this was the narrative being constructed below the cool space story above.

I know I just said finally, but I must shoutout to the stellar John Williams and his amazing score. If the special effects and characters are the body of Star Wars, Williams’ music is the soul. One of the greatest composers of our time, Williams brings the best of his genius to underscore every beat of the Force Awakens and I will enjoy his new music just as much as I have loved the original soundtracks.

The Force Awakens is not without it’s flaws, but for every seeming plot hole or convenient occurrence, I am reminded of similar aspects to the films I love: Star Wars, the Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi. The original trilogy succeeded on the spectacle, heroics, and characters we loved, not from perfect plotting or consistently complete logic. Star Wars is a space opera, a grand fantasy adventure among the stars, and should be loved as such.

Star Wars: Episode III (Rewritten)

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Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

Opening Crawl

The Clone Wars have almost been won, and Darth Grievous has retreated to hide in the outer rim of the galaxy.

Exhausted from many battles and losses, Kenobi and Skywalker have returned home to Tatooine, where they are living in peace.

That peace is shattered when Yoda and Palpatine call on the legendary Jedi to seek out and destroy Darth Grievous once and for all…

Synopsis

While on Tatooine, Kenobi has retreated to a life of solitude and meditation. Skywalker has married a local woman and is living with her brother, Owen Lars and his wife Beru Whitesun working as moisture farmer. One day, while meditating, Kenobi receives a transmission from Yoda. Darth Grievous has been located on Mustafar. It is Kenobi’s duty, and final task before becoming a Jedi Master, to seek out and destroy the Sith once and for all. Meanwhile, back on Coruscant,  Senator from Alderaan, Bail Organa, hears troubling rumors of Palpatine’s political power and a coming reorganization of the galactic government.

Kenobi travels to the Lars homestead on the other end of the Jundland Wastes and finds Skywalker celebrating his wife’s imminent birthing day. Skywalker tells Kenobi he has given up the Jedi way, being haunted by the ravages of war in visions, but that he wants his son to have his old lightsaber when he is old enough. Kenobi tells Skywalker that Yoda has one final task for the Jedi: seeking out Darth Grievous. Skywalker is reluctant to jump back into war, and his brother-in-law Lars doesn’t think he should get involved in Kenobi’s quest. In the end, Kenobi convinces Skywalker to accompany him. Skywalker bids farewell to his wife, and the old warriors book passage to Coruscant from Mos Eisley.

Once on Coruscant, they meet up with Yoda, who gives them all the information he has, and they cross paths with their old friend Organa and his junior senator, the former Queen Amidala. They hear of President Palpatine’s plans to reorganize the Galactic Republic into a Galactic Empire. Yoda is particularly troubled by this news. With no time to do anything about it, Kenobi and Skywalker leave with an army of clones and conscripts for the Mustafar system to strike at Darth Grievous while Yoda plans to confront the would-be Emperor.

Generals Kenobi and Skywalker arrive at Mustafar and the final battle of the Clone Wars begins. While troops fight an orbital battle, the Jedi invade the stronghold of Grievous. Along the way, Skywalker’s emotional control begins to wane. He is striking out more in anger than from peace, and is letting his aggression lead the way in the fight. Kenobi sees this, and is concerned, but is caught up in battle himself. They fight their way to an inner sanctum where they find the Sith Lord waiting for them.

They inform their enemy that he is under arrest and advise him to order his troops to stand down. Grievous refuses, and sensing Skywalker’s lack of control and inner turmoil, goads the younger Jedi into attacking. During the battle, the Sith constantly entices the young Skywalker to give in to his desires for revenge, his hate of the Sith, and his anger at being forced into war again and embrace the Dark Side of the Force. Kenobi helps in the battle but is constantly trying to counter the Sith, not only in blows, but in ideology. Skywalker wants a quick resolution to the fight and increasingly becomes frustrated that Kenobi seems to want to take the Sith alive. Unable to take it any longer, Skywalker embraces his rage. He knocks Kenobi aside, and engages Grievous on his own. Becoming stronger by the second in the Force, seemingly, he soon overwhelms the Sith general. He disarms him, wounds him, and stands over him. He is about to kill Grievous when Kenobi blocks his lightsaber slash. Anakin, blinded by anger, engages Kenobi. Kenobi tries to appeal to the good in Skywalker and get him to back down, while the wounded Sith appeals to his dark side. Torn between two ideals, two ends to the same goal, and a mentor and a dark advisor, Skywalker becomes increasingly lost. He and Kenobi fight a long, exhausting duel. In the end, Skywalker is gaining the upper hand and now the Sith is enticing him to kill Kenobi. At the final moment, Skywalker slips and falls into a molten pit. Unable to help, Kenobi watches his friend burn. Unable to watch any longer, he retreats from the area, leaving the wounded Sith Lord in the custody of the newly arrived troops. Just after he leaves, Skywalker, using the Force and sheer will, claws his way out of the molten pit. Skywalker’s last act before losing consciousness is to obliterate the Sith Lord in a blast of dark energy. The troops transmit news of the Sith Lord’s demise to the government.

Kenobi arrives on Tatooine and gives the bad news of Anakin’s death to Skywalker’s family. The news shocks her into labor and Beru helps Anakin’s wife deliver a surprise set of twins.

On Coruscant, Palpatine, hearing of the end of the Clone Wars, seizes power as Emperor and reorganizes the Republic into the Galactic Empire. Yoda immediately confronts him, but the Emperor reveals himself as a Sith Master and in a surprise attack nearly kills Yoda. He is about to finish the job when he is interrupted by a cadre of Senators who are outraged about the newly formed Empire, led by Senator Organa. Yoda escapes while the Senators plead with the Emperor to relinquish power to the elected populace. Palpatine rebuffs the Senators and sends them away.

Yoda, hiding out with Senator Organa, contacts Kenobi and reveals the truth of the Sith. Realizing that Anakin’s Force powerful children could be a threat to the Emperor and in danger from him, they decide to hide them. Organa marries Amidala, and they new royal couple adopts Leia as a refugee child. Luke remains on Tatooine as the adopted child of Owen and Beru Lars. Kenobi retreats into the Tatooine desert to live as hermit and protector of young Luke Skywalker.

Yoda flees into exile on Dagobah. Meanwhile, an emergency medical team, and the rest of the Jedi’s army, returns to a hero’s welcome on Coruscant. Anakin Skywalker’s grievous wounds are treated, and his body rebuilt into a fearsome black suit of armor. He is unveiled as Darth Vader, ender of the Clone Wars and hero of the Empire.

End Credits

Star Wars: Episode II (Rewritten)

Star Wars
Episode II: The Clone Wars

Opening Crawl

War! Disaffected systems within the Republic have joined the greedy commerce guilds to form the Confederacy of Separatists in an all out attack on the Republic led by the Sith Lord Darth Grievous.

The Jedi have come forward to lead the Clone Army of the Republic in defending the defenseless, seeking to end the threat of the Sith and the war.

Darth Grievous, in a stunning raid on Coruscant, has kidnapped President Palpatine. The Jedi, and their clone soldiers, scramble to retrieve him before all hope is lost…

Synopsis

Darth Grievous is trying to make his escape with President Palpatine through the city streets of Coruscant from the Senate building into space. In hot pursuit are Jedi Knights Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker.  A speeder to speeder chase becomes a ship to ship chase when escapee and pursuers confiscate atmospheric craft and head into the space battle above. After both crash land aboard Grievous’s Super Star Destroyer, Grievous realizes the gambit is up, and while Anakin and Obi-Wan rescue Palpatine, Grievous sets the SSD to self destruct and escapes in the confusion. Kenobi and Skywalker make it off in a shuttle just as the ship explodes.

Back on Coruscant, the Jedi realize the war has begun in earnest as reports of attacks in multiple systems come into the war headquarters. A year passes.

Anakin and Obi-Wan are holed up on Selucemi, holding siege to a city they believe hides Darth Grievous. While the rain falls and skirmishes take lives of Jedi and Clones alike, Kenobi tries to train Anakin in the finer points of the Force. Back on Coruscant a concerned Yoda notices that Palpatine is using the war to amass more power than he should have and is quietly eliminating opposition. On Selucemi, a captured Confederate spy reveals that Grievous is not there, but is in fact on a planet called Geonosis. Kenobi takes Anakin and a squadron of clones to Geonosis.

Anti-aircraft fire shoots down their craft near a seemingly abandoned arena on Geonosis. Hiking through the desert for a few days exhausts their supplies, but the Jedi make it to the arena only to be ambushed by Grievous. Barely managing to hold their own against the Sith Lord, they are relieved when their clone forces show up to reinforce them. Grievous leaves while setting loose three ferocious beasts on the Jedi and their troops. Most of the clones are slaughtered and Anakin and Kenobi barely survive. While fighting, Anakin’s barely restrained emotions fray and he nearly gives into the Dark Side. His blast of dark energy levels the arena, but he almost immediately regrets his outburst as he breaks down over the death of his comrades. Meanwhile on Coruscant, Yoda confronts Palpatine about how he is running the government in a time of war. Palpatine seems to acquiesce but Yoda remains unconvinced of his sincerity.

Three years pass, and now Anakin is in charge of his own group of clones, a starfighter squadron above the Wookiee home world Kashyyyk. Kenobi is on the planet’s surface. Together they try to repel a sudden invasion by the Confederacy. During the space battle, Anakin is shot down and crash lands in the forest. On the beachhead, overwhelming assault forces push Kenobi back into the forest. The planet is nearly lost. Back on Coruscant, Palpatine confronts the massive loss of personnel by passing a law forcing conscripts into the armed forces. Clones can not be replaced as fast as the droid armies can. A conscript army leaves for Kashyyyk.

The conscript army finds a ravished Kashyyyk. The droid army left a smoking forest behind as they fled a week ago. Medical teams rescue Kenobi and Anakin from the forest. Aboard a medical frigate, Anakin’s wounded arm is amputated and replaced with a mechanical substitute. Both he and Kenobi are devastated by the war.

End Credits

Star Wars: Episode I (Rewritten)

Star Wars
Episode I: The Oncoming Storm

Opening Crawl

It is a dark time for the galaxy. Ambition and greed have started to corrupt the once great Galactic Republic.
The massive organs of commerce, after enacting harsh trade tariffs, have begun to enforce penalties on the defenseless planet of Alderaan with their remorseless droid armies.
Bail Organa, Senator of Alderaan, seeks to escape to the capital of the Republic so that he can plead with the newly elected President for help in this crisis…

 

Synopsis

Senator Bail Organa, seeing the imminent invasion of his home planet Alderaan by the Trade Federation is underway, and under orders from his Queen, the young Amidala, to seek help, manufactures an escape. While being pursued in a vicious space battle, his ship, the Tantive IV is damaged. He diverts to the small, outlying Tatooine system for repairs before continuing on to the galactic capital of Coruscant.

Meanwhile, the mysterious half droid, half man General Grievous leads an invasion of Alderaan. His mechanical limbs and tattooed face give him a fearsome appearance. The pitiful local resistance is swept away as Alderaan has no planetary defenses.

On Tatooine, Organa is finding the junk dealers mostly corrupt as he salvages for parts. A helpful teenage slave named Anakin Skywalker directs him to the local Jedi for help. Organa finds a young Jedi Knight named Obi-Wan Kenobi, who has himself been lead to a strong force presence in the area. Together with Anakin, the Senator and the Jedi hatch a plan to win the money needed betting on the morrow’s podrace. With Anakin piloting, who by now Kenobi has secretly identified as the strong Force presence he was seeking, the podrace is won. With the parts purchased and Organa about to leave, Kenobi incites the Senator to purchase Anakin and take him and the boy to Coruscant so that he can contact the Jedi Council.

Enroute to Coruscant, Kenobi begins lecturing Anakin about the history of the Jedi and Organa receives a burst transmission from Amidala detailing the atrocities of the invasion. Once on Coruscant, Organa seeks an audience with the newly elected President of the Republic while Kenobi and Anakin seek out the Jedi Council.

The Jedi Council, led by Master Yoda, accepts Anakin as their new pupil. He is assigned to Kenobi, at Kenobi’s insistence, as his padawan. Meanwhile, Palpatine hears Organa’s plea and admits something must be done. He orders a special session of the Senate and they vote to send the newly created Clone Army of the Republic to liberate Alderaan. The Jedi Council sends Kenobi and Skywalker, as guardians of peace and justice, to ensure that the Senator remains safe and that conventions of war are followed.

The Clone Army arrives and engages the Trade Federation in battle above the planet Alderaan while a small force penetrates to the planet below. The clones invade the palace and route the poorly fortified battle droids. Kenobi briefly engages General Grievous and realizes Grievous is a Sith Lord when he draws lightsaber against him. Meanwhile Anakin and Organa free Amidala. Kenobi is wounded as Grievous escapes. The droid control ship is destroyed in orbit and Alderaan is won.

End Credits

(Repetitive) Poetry

I sojourned down to Barnes & Noble for my weekly poetry meet up with Stephen Fry (oh how I wish I could actually meet up with Fry to write poetry!). It was a cool, crisp fall morning, just perfect in every way.

Today’s poetry is a continuance of the rigid forms I have been exploring, with repetitions and rhyme schemes and convoluted processes. It sounds burdensome, but when you get into writing within the form, it can be quite fun to see the poem unfold. Today I have two (one is quite long, which is why I only have two): the sestina and the pantoum which my spell check wants to correct into phantom. Anyway, the sestina repeats ending words in a specific pattern at length followed by a three line Envoi that includes all six ending words in a set pattern. There is no official metre, though I have chosen iambic trimeter for my sestina. There isn’t a rhyme scheme, other than the way repeating words might be said to rhyme. As given to me by my friend Bobby Callaway, the theme of my sestina was “double” whatever that may mean to me.

Double

I wash my face and stare
into the frosty mirror.
What I see there scares me,
or is it me I see?
It could be him that looks
at me from out that glass.

I wipe and clean the glass
and start to climb the stairs.
From each picture a look
at me as if a mirror.
Each one is tossed, a sea
of thoughts churning in me.

I want to know: who’s me?
My soul’s fragile, like glass.
The cracks that form, I see,
I lose my gaze, I stare:
each one a hundred mirrors.
I am compelled to look.

Within each crack, a look,
a gaze, another me.
Each one another mirror.
Am I hollow as glass?
Do they, at me, all stare?
All this I can’t un-see.

But now that this I’ve seen,
I’ll take another look.
With new purpose I stare
into the eyes of each me
and find, as clear as glass,
the clear answer in’th mirror.

I’m me and him, mirrored,
each self that I have seen
in every single glass
a different side, new looks
at the same old, same me
at whom each day I stare.

Envoi

Into the mirror I look
And now just see just me
into the glass I stare.

So there you have it: a sestina. By nature, a long poem as it takes time to work through all the ways the end words may be jumbled. It can continue indefinitely, but with each sixth paragraph it starts to repeat the way the lines end.

Onto the next, the pantoum. The pantoum has an endless number of four line stanzas, each line composed of 8 syllables, and ending with a rhyme scheme of ABAB BABA etc. At least, it should rhyme, but it doesn’t have to. Additionally, starting after the first stanza, the second and fourth lines of each stanza are repeated as the first and third lines of the next stanza until the poem ends, in which case the first and third lines of the first stanza become the second and fourth lines of the last stanza. The explanation will perhaps be clearer with my example. The repetition and rhyme often lends itself to solemn themes, so I have chose the Battle of Hoth, from Star Wars: the Empire Strikes Back as my theme.

Invasion: Hoth

It’s a cold, snowy day on Hoth
The battle lines are drawn in snow.
Lord Darth Vader, all black and goth:
fear in the hearts of rebels grows.

The battle lines are drawn in snow,
The Imperials cut a swath.
Fear in the hearts of rebels grows
of troopers, white visigoths.

The Imperials cut a swath
Vader at their head, a black crow,
and troopers, white visigoths,
rebel blood in red icicles flows.

Vader at their head, a black crow,
Lord Darth Vader, all black and goth,
Rebel blood in red icicles flows:
it’s a cold, snowy day on Hoth.

This pantoum is fun, a bit like a villanelle, but to my mind and poetical sensibilities, a bit easier to pull off.

I hope you have enjoyed this week’s poetical musings, with all their repetitions and fun-ness. I certainly have. Until next week, then…

An Ode to Odes

It was cold and rainy as I made my weekly trek to Barnes and Noble, a perfect fall day. On the trees the leaves were changing and in the air there was a crispness. I felt juvenated and alive. I sat down at a large table in the back of B&N and took out my copy of the Ode Less Traveled and began to read and write.

Today’s forms included the many types of odes. These days an ode can refer to any kind of poetry, but there are specific forms that are “proper” odes. Among those I attempted the sapphic ode, the pindaric ode, and the horation ode. A sapphic ode is usually written with three stanzas, and each stanza is composed of four lines, three of iambic tetrameter and one of iambic dimeter. I say usually because there are many variations possible within the form, but as described is the classic form.

An Ode to Stormtrooper Armor

All gleaming white, the armor stands,
the black insidious eyes do stare.
It clothes the Empire’s ruthless bands;
should just be bare.

It takes a hit, a hole appears;
the soldier dies, a flash of light
upon the chest: what poor career
the choice, a blight.

Why wear the armor bright? It yields
no benefit. The man beneath
just groans and dies. Bury him in fields
of green, the heath.

A pindaric ode is written in three stanzas. Each has a function, and while overall the meter is variable, each stanza must be composed identically in form. I chose to write each stanza with four lines of iambic dimiter, trimeter, tetrameter, and pentameter in ascending order. This ode need not rhyme. Actually, no odes need to rhyme as odes are originally a Roman thing, and there isn’t much rhyme outside of English.

An Ode to Stormtroopers

Strophe (Turn)

All hail!
the brave, the few, the true,
an Empire’s legion: stormtroopers.
They fight and die to win the Empire’s day.

Antistrophe (Counter Turn)

But they
cannot take aim or shoot
a straight and forward beam of light
at their targets, through “crack” and “best” they be.

Epode (the Stand)

Perhaps:
secret rebel dreams hold
behind their masks of white and black
to let the heroes live to fight back.

Then there is the Horation ode, which is much like the pindaric ode where the prevailing method of the form is that it remain consistent to each stanza. I chose three lines of iambic trimeter and one line of iambic pentameter. Just because.

An Ode to Barnes & Noble

I love thy smell of books
and coffee commingled in’th’ air
I love thy stacks and rows
of history, humor

of toys and games and Nook
the digital book for all
and desks at which to sit
to read and write a poem

There are a few other odes, some proper, some not, but due to the variability and required subject matter, I skipped them.

Lastly I moved to other forms and attempted a villanelle, which is a fun, favorite form that I love to try. A villanelle has no set meter, but does have a set rhyme scheme in which certain lines repeat. Usually it is A1BA2, ABA1, ABA2, ABA1, ABA2, ABA1A2.

An Villanelle Ode to Baseball

Baseball is a many pleasured thing:
the ball that buzzes, the bat that cracks;
it starts after the anthem rings.

Pitcher fires the ball, batter takes a swing,
he hits a double with a mighty thwack!
Baseball is a many pleasured thing.

The runner’s picked off, a sneaky sting.
He jogs to the dugout, bent back.
It starts after the anthem rings.

The submariner a curveball slings,
the batter whiffs, the ball glove smacks.
Baseball is a many pleasured thing.

The centre fielder to the wall springs,
he leaps and makes the catch at the track:
it starts after the anthem rings.

It all can change with just a swing,
a swift strike or a homer bat crack,
baseball is a many pleasured thing:
it starts after the anthem rings.

As usual, I claim no greatness or mastery, unless it be of fun and adherence to form. I do my best to enjoy the process of writing and sharing poetry, and leave greatness to the eventual tinkering and adjusting that is editing and the time that is the measure of all things. I only hope you enjoy reading my poems as much as I enjoy sharing them.