Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Hump Day Dweebing....Star Wars Odds-N-Ends



Star Wars boosts entertainment Web usage
The release of the new Star Wars film brought millions of Web users to movie-related sites, according to ComScore/MediaMetrix.

Movie ticket merchants capitalized on the interest with year-over-year traffic increases as much as 75% EDITOR'S NOTE: 75%!!!! WE ROCK!!! to, and Moviefone.

MediaMetrix's movies category of Web sites had a 12 percent increase in visits during May, to 58.5 million.

Meanwhile, announced it has added 20 theater chains to its online ticket selling services. It now represents more than 10,000 screens through 59 movie exhibitors. EDITOR’S NOTE: AND WE HELPED!

Norwegian Princess Leah is christened
Two-month old Norwegian princess Leah Isadora, whose first name was inspired by Star Wars heroine Princess Leia, was christened in the royal palace chapel.

Born on April 8, Leah Isadora is the second child of Princess Maertha Louise and writer Ari Behn, and the third grandchild of King Harald and Queen Sonja.

Her mother told Norwegian paper Aftenposten that Ari Behn had travelled much in the Middle East, "and Leah comes from there".

"And I have to admit that I am a great Star Wars fan and Princess Leia has always been the most beautiful woman in the world," Maertha Louise said. EDITOR'S NOTE: TWO WAYS TO LOOK AT THIS COME TO MIND. 1) STAR WARS FANDOM IS SO OMNIPRESENT, EVEN ROYALTY ARE NOT IMMUNE. OR 2) ROYAL FAMILIES ARE STILL RATHER IN-BRED.

In the first Star Wars movie trilogy released in the 1970s and 80s, Carrie Fisher played Princess Leia who, unaware that she is the dark lord Darth Vader's daughter, is adopted by the royal family.

Her other first name was inspired by Isadora Duncan, a famous American dancer early in the last century, who was choked to death in 1927 when her scarf got caught in a wheel of her convertible car while she was driving through the French riviera city of Nice. EDITOR'S NOTE: INTERESTING MIX OF ROLE MODELS. (HOPE SHE PICKS PRINCESS LEIA OVER THE LOONIE DANCER).

Leah Isadora is fifth in line to succeed King Harald as sovereign.

Turn On, Tune In, Veg Out
Published: June 17, 2005

IN the spring of 1977, some friends and I made a 40-mile pilgrimage to the biggest and fanciest movie theater in Iowa so we could watch a new science fiction movie called "Star Wars."

Expecting long lines, we got there early, and found the place deserted.

As we sat on the sidewalk waiting for the box office to open, others like us drifted in from the towns, farms and colleges of central Iowa and queued up behind. When the curtain in front of the big Cinerama screen finally parted, the fanfare sounded and the famous opening crawl appeared against a backdrop of stars, there were still some empty seats. "Star Wars" wasn't famous yet. The only people who had heard about it were what are now called geeks. EDITOR’S NOTE: AHEM…..OR DWEEBS.

Twenty-eight years later, the vast corpus of "Star Wars" movies, novels, games and merchandise still has much to say about geeks - and also about a society that loves them, hates them and depends upon them.

In the opening sequence of the new Star Wars movie, "Episode III: Revenge of the Sith," two Jedi knights fight their way through an enemy starship to rescue a hostage. Ever since I saw the movie, I have been annoying friends with a trivia question: "Who is the enemy? What organization owns this vessel?" EDITOR’S NOTE: THE ENEMY IS US? (NO…THE CIS, THE CONFEDERACY OF INDEPENDENT SYSTEMS. IT IS A TRADE FEDERATION SHIP, ISN’T IT?)

We ought to know. In 1977, we all knew who owned the Death Star (the Empire) and who owned the Millennium Falcon (Han Solo).

But when I ask my question about the new film, everyone reacts in the same way: with a sudden intake of breath and a sideways dart of the eyes, followed by lengthy cogitation. Some confess that they have no idea. Others think out loud for a while, developing and rejecting various theories. Only a few have come up with the right answer.

One hyperverbal friend was able to spit it out because he had read and memorized the opening crawl. Another, a hard-core science fiction fan, had been boning up on supplemental materials: "Clone Wars," an animated TV series consisting of "epic adventures that bridge the story arc between 'Episode II: Attack of the Clones' and 'Episode III: Revenge of the Sith.' "

If you have watched these cartoons - or if you've enjoyed some of the half-dozen "Clone Wars" novels, flipped through the graphic novels, read the short stories or played the video game - you will know that the battle cruiser in question is owned by the New Droid Army of the Confederacy of Independent Systems, which is backed by the Trade Federation, a commercial guild that is peeved about taxation of trade routes. EDITOR'S NOTE: AHA! (AND I DIDN'T READ AHEAD AND CHEAT. THE QOTD DOES NOT CHEAT!)

And that is not the only aspect of "Episode III" that you will see in a different light. If you watch the movie without doing the prep work, General Grievous - who is supposed to be one of the most formidable bad guys in the entire "Star Wars" cycle - will seem like something that just fell out of a Happy Meal. EDITOR’S NOTE: ALBEIT A HAPPY MEAL WITH SOME SORT OF INFECTIOUS DISEASE.

Likewise, many have been underwhelmed by the performance of Hayden Christensen, who plays Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader. Only if you've seen the "Clone Wars" cartoons will you understand that Anakin is a seriously damaged veteran, a poster child for post-traumatic stress disorder. But since none of that background is actually supplied by the Episode III script, Mr. Christensen has been given an impossible acting task. He's trying to swim in air.

In sum, very little of the new film makes sense, taken as a freestanding narrative. What's interesting about this is how little it matters. Millions of people are happily spending their money to watch a movie they don't understand. What gives? EDITOR’S NOTE: THE FILMS MAKE PERFECT SENSE TO ME. BUT THEN, I’VE DONE MY HOMEWORK! (OCD FINALLY PAYS OFF!)

Modern English has given us two terms we need to explain this phenomenon: "geeking out" and "vegging out."

To geek out on something means to immerse yourself in its details to an extent that is distinctly abnormal - and to have a good time doing it. EDITOR’S NOTE: OK, I DEFINITELY FIT THIS DEFINITION. EXCEPT, WHY IS IT ABNORMAL? (I GUESS IF I HAVE TO ASK, I’M TOO FAR GONE TO UNDERSTAND THE CONCEPT?)

To veg out, by contrast, means to enter a passive state and allow sounds and images to wash over you without troubling yourself too much about what it all means. EDITOR’S NOTE: OK, THIS EXPLAINS THE STATE OF POLITICS AND REASON AND COMPREHENSION IN AMERICA RIGHT NOW. (SO….GEEKING…OR RATHER DWEEBING………..-OUT AIN’T SO BAD IN COMPARISON. HUH HUH HUH???!!!!)

In corporate-speak, there is a related term used when someone has committed the faux pas of geeking out during a meeting. "Let's take this offline,"EDITOR’S NOTE: SHUDDER. JUST HAD AN EVIL CORPORATE FLASH-BACK. someone will suggest, when the PowerPoint slides grow dark with words. Literally, it means, "I look forward to geeking out on this topic - later." But really it's a polite synonym for "shut up already!" EDITOR’S NOTE: IT’S ACTUALLY A NOT-SO-POLITE WAY TO SAY YOU’RE STEPPING ON TOES OR BEING IMPOLITIC, OR IN SOME WAY BOTHERING SOMEONE WHO IS A DECORUM GATE-KEEPER.

The first "Star Wars" movie 28 years ago was distinguished by healthy interplay between veg and geek scenes. In the climactic sequence, where rebel fighters attacked the Death Star, we repeatedly cut away from the dogfights and strafing runs - the purest kind of vegging-out material - to hushed command bunkers where people stood around pondering computer displays, geeking out on the strategic progress of the battle.

All such content - as well as the long, beautiful, uncluttered shots of desert, sky, jungle and mountain that filled the early episodes - was banished in the first of the prequels ("Episode I: The Phantom Menace," 1999).

In the 16 years that separated it from the initial trilogy, a new universe of ancillary media had come into existence. These had made it possible to take the geek material offline so that the movies could consist of pure, uncut veg-out content, steeped in day-care-center ambience. These newer films don't even pretend to tell the whole story; they are akin to PowerPoint presentations that summarize the main bullet points from a much more comprehensive body of work developed by and for a geek subculture.

"Concentrate on the moment. Feel, don't think. Trust your instincts," says a Jedi to the young Anakin in Episode I, immediately before a pod race in which Anakin is likely to get killed. EDITOR’S NOTE: HUSH, FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO WERE ROOTING FOR THAT. It is distinctly odd counsel coming from a member of the Jedi order, the geekiest people in the universe: they have beards and ponytails, they dress in army blankets, they are expert fighter pilots, they build their own laser swords from scratch. EDITOR’S NOTE: AND SOME OF THEM ARE HOTTIES! (HIPPY HOTTIES?)

And (as is made clear in the "Clone Wars" novels) the masses and the elites both claim to admire them, but actually fear and loathe them because they hate being dependent upon their powers. EDITOR’S NOTE: SOMEONE WHO HAS READ THE EU. WHO GETS IT. HAPPY SIGH…..

Anakin wins that race by repairing his crippled racer in an ecstasy of switch-flipping that looks about as intuitive as starting up a nuclear submarine. Clearly the boy is destined to be adopted into the Jedi order, where he will develop his geek talents - not by studying calculus but by meditating a lot and learning to trust his feelings.

I lap this stuff up along with millions, maybe billions, of others. Why? Because every single one of us is as dependent on science and technology - and, by extension, on the geeks who make it work - as a patient in intensive care. Yet we much prefer to think otherwise.

Scientists and technologists have the same uneasy status in our society as the Jedi in the Galactic Republic. They are scorned by the cultural left and the cultural right, and young people avoid science and math classes in hordes. The tedious particulars of keeping ourselves alive, comfortable and free are being taken offline to countries where people are happy to sweat the details, as long as we have some foreign exchange left to send their way. Nothing is more seductive than to think that we, like the Jedi, could be masters of the most advanced technologies while living simple lives: to have a geek standard of living and spend our copious leisure time vegging out.

If the "Star Wars" movies are remembered a century from now, it'll be because they are such exact parables for this state of affairs. Young people in other countries will watch them in classrooms as an answer to the question: Whatever became of that big rich country that used to buy the stuff we make? The answer: It went the way of the old Republic. EDITOR’S NOTE: PLEASE WAIT TILL I’M DEAD? AND BURY ME IN MY HAPPY, STAR WARS, DWEEBIE PLACE.

A Look Inside Star Wars: The Ultimate Visual Guide

Star Wars fans already know DK Books are authoritative, in-depth, compelling and visually rich thanks to the Incredible Cross-Section, Inside the Worlds of... and Visual Dictionary series that have explored the Star Wars saga.

They may have noticed the absence of an "ultimate guide" -- DK's hardcover top-to-bottom illustrated exploration of a fantastic subject, such as the guides they've published for Spider-Man, Batman, Hulk and The Transformers in the past.

This Fall, the time is right for Star Wars: The Ultimate Visual Guide, written by saga expert Ryder Windham.

The entire Star Wars experience is explored -- from the films, expanded universe, behind-the-scenes, collecting, Star Wars fandom, and more.

It's the perfect introduction for new fans and an invaluable addition to every fan's collection.

Here's a preview of some of the spreads in the book, which is due out in October.




THE CHOSEN ONE: Was it his destiny or was it his choice? Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) stands at a crossroads.

BEARER OF BAD NEWS: Director George Lucas described the scene where Obi-Wan (Ewan McGregor) tells Padmé(Natalie Portman) what he knows about Anakin as the "scene that explains it all." EDITOR'S NOTE: OOOOOOO!


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