Tuesday, June 06, 2006

A bit of STAR WARS to start the week

Revenge Of The Sith On HBO HD
We posted a quick blurb about this earlier last month but wanted to let everyone know that HBO has started airing Star Wars Episode III : Revenge of the Sith On Demand as well as in HD ( High Definition ).

I highly suggest you watch the film in HD, here's just no other way to enjoy the last chapter of the Star Wars saga!

Check the HBO schedule right here to see what time would be best for you!



MTV Music Performance Has Star Wars Flair
June 4, 2006
This just in from Kid Hell :
Just got home from the 2006 MTV Movie Awards and the highlight of the show was a musical performance by the hot new band Gnarls Barkley of their hit song "Crazy".

Not sure if you know that Gnarls Barkley is the pairing of DJ Dangermouse and Hip-Hop vocalist Cee-Lo Green. EDITOR'S NOTE: NO. I DID NOT KNOW THAT. (AND IN A FEW MINUTES, I WON'T KNOW THAT AGAIN).

For all of the promotional pictures and appearances for their album, they have dressed in costumes from classic films like "The Wizard of Oz", "A Clockwork Orange", "The Big Lebowski", and others.

Well, for the Movie Awards they truly outdid themselves... "Star Wars"!

The costumes most certainly came directly from Lucasfilm. Cee-Lo as Darth Vader, Dangermouse as a brown robed Jedi, Jango on keyboards, 2 Stormtroopers (bass and guitar), 3 X-Wing Pilot backup singers, 4 Imperial Officers on violin, and Chewbacca on drums! It was awesome.

Throughout the performance, the song lyrics appeared on the large monitors surrounding the stage in the gold-yellow of the title scroll. And the song rocked! Just had to share.

The show airs this coming Thursday at 9 p.m. on MTV.

Did you hear that everyone? The show airs this coming Thursday at 9 p.m. on MTV. Time to set up the TIVO as this sounds like one you don't want to miss!

You can view a picture of the performance right here!



Hayden Wins MTV Movie Award
The MTV Movie Awards were held this past weekend and Hayden Christensen won the "Best Villain" award for Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith.

The complete "2006 MTV Movie Awards" ceremony can be seen Thursday, June 8th beginning at 8:30pm ET/PT with the official MTV News pre-show, followed by the main show at 9pm ET/PT on MTV.

You can find out who won the other awards right here! http://www.comingsoon.net/news/movienews.php?id=14832

Vader Bear In Canada
British Columbia has been having an art thing where many bear statues are placed throughout the province. Each is painted differently to reflect the different artists that created them. EDITOR'S NOTE: MUCH LIKE THE COW PARADE.


The bears will be auctioned off later this year.

Here's a link to all the info about the exhibit: http://www.spiritbearsinthecity.com/

John Williams to receive Henry Mancini Award

John Williams will receive the Hank Award handed out by the Henry Mancini Institute at its 10th Anniversary Concert and Gala Celebration on June 17.

The institute was founded in 1997 by composer Jack Elliott, dedicated to the legacy of Henry Mancini, the legendary film composer who penned such famous themes as THE PINK PANTHER, BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S and PETER GUNN and such notable genre works as LIFEFORCE, NIGHTWING, THE NIGHT VISITOR, and portions of TARANTULA and IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE.

The gala will feature the HMI Orchestra and stars Tony Bennett, Julie Andrews, Dave Koz, and Monica Mancini.

In addition to the presentation of the award to John Williams (who incidentally started out in the film music business as a session pianist playing on many of Henry Mancini’s recordings), the institute’s president, Ginny Mancini, will receive the HMI Legacy Award for visionary leadership in music education. EDITOR'S NOTE: GO, JOHNNY, GO!


Answers from Aaron Allston

Where does your new novel, Betrayal, fall in the Star Wars timeline?
It takes place several years after The New Jedi Order series. Ben Skywalker, born during the events of the NJO, is 13 at the start of the Legacy of the Force series. Chronologically, the last novel storyline before Legacy of the Force is Troy Denning's Dark Nest trilogy, and Troy does some foreshadowing of Legacy events in his books. EDITOR'S NOTE: I ACTUALLY HAVE SOMETHING TO LIVE FOR, SIMPLY BECAUSE I HAVE GOTTEN SEVERAL BOOKS BEHIND IN MY STAR WARS READING. SO THE "DARK NEST" TRILOGY IS NEXT ON-DECK. (LIFE MIGHT NOT BE GOOD, BUT THE BOOKS ARE).

Can you set things up a bit?

Years after the defeat of the Yuuzhan Vong, the galaxy is still recovering from the beating it sustained during those dark times. Now war may erupt again -- this time between once-allied planets, as Corellia defiantly plays a game of brinksmanship with the Galactic Alliance.

The galaxy's greatest heroes -- Luke, Leia, Han, Jaina, Jacen, and many others -- will find themselves reluctantly standing on opposite sides of the conflict... and a danger from Luke's past will force Jacen Solo to make a horrible choice if he's to save the lives of those he loves.

Is this the beginning of a major new story arc, something along the lines of the New Jedi Order, in which many different writers will contribute, or is it a smaller arc to be written entirely by you?

It's sort of halfway between the two extremes. It's a major story arc, as consequential to the Star Wars universe as the NJO was, but it's a nine-book series being written by three writers: me, Karen Traviss, and Troy Denning. We're in constant rotation, so I'm doing the first one, Karen the second, Troy the third, me again for the fourth, and so on.

One of the reasons the Legacy of the Force series has been interesting is because we learned so much nuts-and-bolts stuff with The New Jedi Order -- about coordination of writers, handing off characters and subplots, that sort of thing. It's fun to be able to put into practice what we learned.

Jacen Solo is very much at the heart of this novel. Without giving any spoilers, can you talk a bit about how you see his character, and how he has been shaped, as a man and a Jedi, by the events of his past?
That "without giving any spoilers" restriction makes this one a little tricky to answer. In becoming a Jedi, Jacen has followed a path unlike anything any other Jedi has traveled. He's been exposed to more varieties of Force-related teaching than perhaps any other Force user.

This may be his greatest strength but also his greatest weakness. He can do things no one else can, but he has also become accustomed to thinking so much for himself that he's very, very quick to dismiss and disregard traditions. It's as though he has so many predecessors that he's quick to ignore the lessons learned by many of them. This combination of virtues and vices makes him very interesting to write.

How do you see the relationship between Jacen and Luke? There seems to be some rivalry and resentment there, at least on Jacen's part.
Jacen loves his uncle. But at this point I think he loves him more than he respects him. Yes, there's some resentment there. I don't think of it as rivalry -- Jacen doesn't want Luke's job, doesn't want Luke's specific role in history. He just wishes that Luke would see and understand what Jacen does and make decisions with a greater appreciation of Jacen's outlook. It's a combination of altruism and arrogance on Jacen's part. EDITOR'S NOTE: IT IS THE ARROGANCE OF YOUTH, TO BE SURE. BUT JACEN ISN'T ENTIRELY WRONG, EITHER. LUKE'S HEAD WAS FILLED WITH SO MUCH....AS MY MOTHER WOULD SAY...'MISHEGAS' BY OBI-WAN AND YODA. AND DESPITE TRAVELLING 30 YEARS PAST OBI-WAN'S AND YODA'S RULE-BENDING-FOR-THE-SAKE-OF-EXPEDIENCE-BOSSINESS, LUKE IS STILL SOMEWHAT STUCK IN AN OLD REPUBLIC HE NEVER EVEN KNEW. HE CAN'T QUITE SHAKE THE SHADOWS OF JEDI TEACHINGS HE NEVER EVEN GOT THE FULL COURSELOAD ON.

Ben Skywalker also plays an important role in the book. Can one assume it will grow as the series evolves?
Definitely. Ben is a teenager, with a teenager's normal curiosity, desire to make his way in the world, hormonal tides, resentments, paranoia, extraordinary potential, angst and drama... and he's heir to one of the strongest, well, legacies of the Force in the galaxy far, far away. This is sort of like giving a teenager his own dynamite shack. Just how responsibly is he going to use it?

An essential part of the novel's plot has to do with the ability of Jedi to use the Force to glimpse potential futures. What are the limitations of this power? It seems strange for Jedi, who are trained to be so attuned to the present moment, to seek foreknowledge of a more-or-less predetermined future.
There are great limitations on it, if only because the future is not fixed until it's the present. Assuming you can see "the future" reliably and with crystal clarity -- and no one in the Star Wars universe is that good, so far as I know -- there's the fact that the future is always in motion. Everything you do can change it. So peering into all the observable futures might give a Jedi some indication of patterns, of trends, but basing any decision on one of those futures is a very risky choice. It's Charlie Brown assuming, yet one more time, that Lucy is going to hold the football steady for him to kick. Only this time lives are at stake.

With that in mind, I suspect that the stereotyped Jedi advice to "be mindful of the present," in addition to "pay attention, stop daydreaming," also means, "don't base your decisions on what you see of the present -- if you do, you'll mess up."

You get into some intriguing aspects of Sith philosophy in this novel. How did you go about expanding or deepening the Sith philosophy? What restrictions or guidance did you have? And do you think a Jedi could embrace aspects of Sith beliefs and Force techniques without becoming evil or going over to the dark side as Anakin Skywalker did?
As a writer, I have to do a lot of thinking about the personal ethics of the so-called bad guys in my novels. I'm not fond of cackling madmenEDITOR'S NOTE: BUT THEY DO MAKE LOVELY DANCE PARTNERS. or antagonists who willingly embrace the notion of evil. They are, in a word, lame. So the variations I've made to Sith philosophy emerge from that -- from what I see as a need many of the Sith would have to create a philosophy that makes their actions acceptable, even heroic... from a certain point of view.

So with the Sith, we see a "career path" that makes them capable of ever-greater crimes and atrocities as they progress.

Typically, the human method of inuring one's self to atrocities is to become numb to them, to dehumanize the victims of the atrocities, and so on. That's normal, but it's also old hat, so I wanted to sort of chart a different course for the Sith -- to suggest that
those who try to deal with the issue ethically do so by forcing themselves to suffer when they cause suffering, to love what they are destroying, as a means to keep their own excesses in check.

I also wanted to suggest some points in common between Jedi and Sith philosophy, to better express their comparisons and contrasts. For example, if the extreme version of Sith philosophy involves destructive rage, destructive surrender to passion, then the extreme version of Jedi philosophy would be aloofness, emotionlessness, a tendency to become vested in law above compassion, that sort of thing... all with the notion that this was one of the errors made by the Jedi Council during the era of the prequels. EDITOR'S NOTE: AMEN! EXACTLY! I wanted to suggest that any philosophy taken to extremes is destructive, even a philosophy that is theoretically heroic and altruistic, like the Jedi code. EDITOR'S NOTE: THE SITH SERVE A FUNCTION LIKE PREDATORS DO IN THE ANIMAL KINGDOM. THE OLD REPUBLIC JEDI HAD TO FALL, AND THE SITH WERE THE MEANS TO THAT END. I MAINTAIN THAT THE 'BALANCE OF THE FORCE' THAT ANAKIN AND LUKE BROUGHT ABOUT, WAS ALSO HELPED ALONG BY MAUL, AND DOOKU, AND SIDIOUS.

I didn't have much in the way of restrictions. In part, that's probably because we floated a bit of this concept at a November 2004 story conference with Lucasfilm at Big Rock Ranch, so everyone knew what was going to be explored and what everyone else's concerns were about it.

As for the question of whether a Jedi could embrace some aspects of the Sith philosophy and
remain good -- well, I suspect that the answer is yes, as long as it's "aspects" and not the whole package. I also wonder sometimes whether a nonhuman could be a full-bore Sith and not be evil -- I don't think that's possible with a human, owing to the weaknesses in human nature, but perhaps it would be possible with an alien. EDITOR'S NOTE: HEY...ODDBOB! PARTANEOUS IS NON-HUMAN, SO MAYBE YOU CAN GET GAMEMASTER DAVE TO LET YOU GO FURTHER INTO YOUR DARKSIDE POINTS....TO AID OUR TEAM, NATCH....WITHOUT BEING LOST TO EVIL. (I MEAN, UNLESS YOU WANT TO BE LOST TO EVIL? OR IS THAT JUST IN THIS GALAXY?)

Balance and the Force

Wasn't Vader supposed to unite the two sides of the Force? It would seem that prophecy of the future, at least, didn't come true.
Unite them... or bring them into balance? Much of the philosophy of the Force is based on real-world eastern philosophy, which posits the opposed but complementary positions of yin and yang. Bringing balance would seem to involve keeping yin and yang roughly equivalent in influence, rather than blending them together into some sort of New Age protein shake. EDITOR'S NOTE: DOES A FORCE-SHAKE HAVE A LOT OF CALORIES? (JUST ASKIN.....)

Your writing is exceptionally detailed in its descriptions of military hardware, weaponry, and so on. Is the accumulation of detail the secret to convincingly describing objects that don't really exist?
My natural tendency as a writer has always been to under-describe surroundings, so much so that I have to do a separate editing pass on each manuscript to make sure that I've included an adequate amount of sensory detail.

But, yes, I try to put myself into the reader's head and analyze each passage of a book, asking, "Does this offer enough detail that the reader can visualize what's going on?" Add to that the tricky task of describing equipment that's already familiar to fans of the Star Wars universe -- for example, X-wings -- but still must be visualized by those who aren't. What's the magical halfway point between those two positions? I'm constantly trying to find it.

What keeps you excited about working in the Star Wars universe after so many books and so many years?
Well, it's such a vast universe that there's always a new pocket to develop. And the series now spans so much time that we can look in on the familiar characters at each new stage of their lives and find something interesting.

I mean, just look at Luke. There's Luke as a teenager just experiencing the Force for the first time. Luke as a twenty-something, at the top of his craft as a fighter pilot, founding Rogue Squadron and acting as an important
Rebellion leader. Luke as a Jedi Master, the only one in existence, taking on the burden of re-creating the Jedi order. Luke apparently doomed, by a series of romantic interests who appear in one novel each, to be a perpetual bachelor. Luke finding the right woman. Luke as a married man. Luke as the Master of a reviving Jedi order that includes other Masters in conflict with him. Luke fighting to keep his family alive in the face of an alien invasion that might destroy civilization as he knows it. Luke as a father. And so on, and so on. Every one of those Lukes can be the protagonist of one or more novels exploring those circumstances, and he's only one character.

In other words, there's always neat new stuff for every writer to jump into.

Are you working on any other projects, Star Wars--related or not?
Oh, yes. My plate is pretty full these days. I have two more novels in this series to do, and other, non--Star Wars, novels on the burners as well. I scripted, produced, and directed an ultra-low-budget horror movie, Deadbacks, that is now in post-production. I used to write roleplaying game supplements for my living, and have another couple of projects to do in that field. I've also done some preliminary work on a couple of nonfiction books, one about writing fiction and one about low-budget film-making.

My website, AaronAllston.com, has all the details on these projects and more.

Exploring Real Life Dagobah

When Jedi Master Yoda fled to Dagobah aboard an escape pod and went into hiding (in a deleted scene from Revenge of the Sith), it may have been an ideal spot to disappear from the eyes of the growing Empire, but it's not the easiest place to set up a cozy home. Covered in jungles of gnarled trees with misty swamps, bizarre creatures, and never-ending rain, Dagobah is one of the more unusual planets in a galaxy far, far away. Its large lagoons are home to enormous snakes and other creatures that swim in the murky waters.

Years later, Anakin Skywalker's son Luke would find the hidden planet by using the Force (as instructed by his mentor Obi-Wan Kenobi) and would seek out Jedi training from a much older, but still wiser Yoda. The unrelenting rainfall and unpredictable bog creatures made Skywalker's training all the more difficult, but he continued his tasks at hand, and eventually became a great Jedi like his father before him. EDITOR'S NOTE: GOT ALL THAT? CAUSE THERE WILL BE A QUIZ.

Here on Earth, Yoda might have made a similar home in wetlands around the world including the lush Everglades. When it came time to bring Dagobah to the big screen for The Empire Strikes Back, Associate Producer Robert Watts went to real-world swamps in Florida, South America, the Caribbean and East Africa to explore possible filming locations. The movie makers decided that shooting in a real swamp would be too difficult, dangerous and time-consuming, so they decided to build their own indoors in a movie studio. This allowed them to mix and match features from different swamps around the world. Production Designer Norman Reynolds built Dagobah's trees based on artist Ralph McQuarrie's designs, as well as real-world examples from the swamps of Nigeria.

Similar to Dagobah, much of the wetlands here on this planet are often described as having a temperate and humid atmosphere with a large amount of vegetation like trees, tall shrubs, and large plants surrounded in slow-moving or still water. And even though the wetlands cover less than 10 percent of the planet's surface, the wetlands are the source of almost one-quarter of the world's productivity. Here are a few facts about the wetlands here on Earth.

What exactly is a wetland?There are many official definitions of what constitutes a wetland.
Generally speaking it is land that is saturated in shallow water making the soil soggy and difficult, if not impossible at times, to walk on. Because it's somewhere in between terrestrial and aquatic, a wetland has a special ecosystem that unique plants and animals thrive on.

What's the difference between a swamp and a marsh?
While a swamp can be described as a freshwater wetland with plenty of woody vegetation like trees and shrubs, a marsh mostly has tall grasses, reeds and other plants growing in very shallow water that can be fresh or salt, and is almost always flooded. Both swamps and marshes can be found alongside rivers, creeks and lakes.

What is a bog?

A bog is a very acidic wetland that has no flow of water, and is a happy growing area for many kinds of mosses such as sphagnum. Dead plants also pile up and decay in the bog which in turn forms peat moss. EDITOR'S NOTE: THEY MAKE IT SOUND SO LOVELY AND ECOLOGICAL. BUT YOU KNOW THAT WHEN THEY SAY 'NO FLOW OF WATER' THAT MEANS 'STAGNANT BREEDING GROUND FOR MOSQUITOS THE SIZE OF COWS', RIGHT?!

Where are some of the more famous swamps? EDITOR'S NOTE: MY YARD, AFTER A COUPLE OF DAYS OF RAIN?
In the United States some of the most well-known wetlands are the Everglades (in Florida), Okefenokee Swamp (in Georgia and Florida) and the Great Dismal Swamp (in Virginia and North Carolina). Other swamps outside of the U.S. include the Bangweulu Swamp in Zambia, Niger Delta in Nigeria, Asmat Swamp in Indonesia, and the Vasyugan Swamp in Russia.

What kinds of plants can be found in these wetlands?
Everything from tasty edibles like cranberries and wild rice, as well as exotic-looking cattails and willows can be spotted growing in the wetlands. Three types of plants generally thrive in this environment. Plants that grow out from the water are called emergents, while submergents grow completely underwater. Floating plants like the lotus also grow in the wetlands.

Unusual-looking trees like the Bald (Swamp) Cypress (Taxodium distichum) grow mainly along riverside (also known as riparian) wetlands which are flooded regularly. The tall trees can grow up to 45 meters tall and with a trunk diameter of up to three meters! The Bald Cypress is official state tree of Louisiana and is often revered as the symbol of the southern swamps also known as the bayou. EDITOR'S NOTE: AND IT'S ENTWINED BRANCHES ARE ALSO THE SYMBOL FOR SIBLING MARRIAGES. (SNORT)

What non-swamp trees look like those found on Dagobah?
When Star Wars artist Ralph McQuarrie brought to idea of Dagobah to life in his paintings, he may have been inspired huge banyan trees, which are native to swamps in India, but can also be spotted in an island paradise like Hawaii. EDITOR'S NOTE: AND THERE ARE SOME BEAUTIFUL BANYANS IN SARASOTA, FLORIDA, TOO. (FYI....)The massive, exposed root systems of these trees indeed resemble the enormous Dagobah trees as seen in The Empire Strikes Back. Often referred to as "The Tree with a Thousand Trunks," the banyan tree (Ficus benghalensis) will grow to a certain size then its huge branches will send down rope-like roots which then anchor themselves in the soil and eventually thicken which make it look like additional trunks. Often times the canopy (top) of the tree will grow so large that it covers several acres! One of the largest living banyan trees can be found in the Calcutta Botanic Gardens. It has over 1,700 trunks and is over 200 years old!

What animals call the wetlands home?
Lots of creatures and insects live in the wetlands including mosquitoesEDITOR'S NOTE: LOTS AND LOTS AND LOTS OF 'EM! , dragonflies, leechesEDITOR'S NOTE: AND YOU THOUGHT YOU WOULDN'T LIKE IT THERE?! , many aquatic insects, snails, toads, bass, crocodile, alligators, snakes, turtles, frogs, salamanders, crayfish, beavers, and muskrats.

Many animals also periodically migrate to the wetlands depending on the season such as whooping cranes, geese, sparrows, swans, bitterns, ducks, stilts, deer, elk, black and brown bear, bald eagles, trout, and salmon.

Why are the wetlands in danger? Why do we need to protect them?
Almost half of the endangered species in the United States such as the American crocodile and the wood stork live on or indirectly rely on the wetlands to live. But because of growing agriculture and urban expansion, the wetlands are dwindling at an alarming rate. Do your part by reading more about the wetlands, joining a wetlands protection group and asking your teacher to help educate fellow classmates on what can be done to help.

If you would like to learn more about swamps and the creatures that live in them, please visit your local or school library for more detailed books.

Also feel free to print out this fun wetlands coloring book from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. http://training.fws.gov/library/Pubs/Wetlands_colbk.pdf EDITOR'S NOTE: END OF THE EDUCATIONAL PART OF OUR POSTING. PRINT THIS OUT AND CRAYON TO YOUR HEART'S CONTENT, LITTLE PADAWANS!


Another sneak peak of that big 2007 mystery project

Norman Reynolds illustrates a possible design for the Emperor's throne room, final confrontation site between Jedi and Sith.

Doug Chiang illustrates an environment that would go unseen in the finished film of Episode I: a Sith landing platform.

Commander Cody's clone troopers wage war with battle droid infantry in the heart of the Separatist stronghold on Utapau.


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