My Problems With Star Wars

Recently I got gifted the complete Star Wars on blu-ray. I’ve always had a strange relationship with Star Wars films. Empire Strikes Back is to blame for Scooby-Doo being ruined for me*. For example. But overall I think they can be a lot of silly fun. Except…

The first movie is kinda shit.

Now here’s the thing – I never saw it in the theater so watching it all fancy and high def like that was amazing. It looked wonderful – with a few exceptions. Most of those were the newer added scene, which still don’t visually fit and throw you off-kilter. Also the mattes… look I know this was done when they were inventing the technology being used and I forgive the special effects for looking like they were done, well, exactly when they were done. That’s no problem. But when they had painted backgrounds to extend a shot they looked, like never before to me, so very painted. Nothing close to real.

Anyway. The good. Star Wars feels lived in. The world is dirty and full of muck and broken down things. It’s a future that feels like it was always there. Truly fantastic. In fact, I’d argue there is so much there to like that the downfalls are even worse because of it. To wit:

Luke Skywalker is not a character you can root for. You can root for him to shut up. You can root for him to get shot. You can root for him to stop fucking whining for ten seconds. You can root for him to win. And yes he is on a big heroic journey. But at heart he is the whiny kid who sucks. All he wants to do is get off planet then he whines about that. All he wants is to join the rebellion, then he whines about that. And so on. There is no power in the universe greater than his whine. Do or do not – there is always more whining.

Which brings me to my single biggest problem with the film. It is a two hour example of telling not showing. Look, Luke is pretty much Kevin Bacon in Footloose. But when someone in Footloose would tell Bacon to not do something he would stalk off, he would express his anger and frustration physically. He would show you how he felt. Lucas’ script denies us that with Skywalker. Instead all he can do is tell us. Over and over again. He doesn’t show us once how he feels.

We’re told Storm troopers are great shots. And never once shown them hitting a target.

We’re told Vader is a great pilot but we only see him fly in a straight line.

We’re told the big end shot is impossible and a hard flight but we’re show ship after ship flying in a straight line just fine down there. I mean these things go three wide, with the two in the rear swearing “We’ve got your back,” each time.

And about that: Those ships didn’t have rear facing guns. They, in no way shape, or form, had anyone’s back. All you had to do was fly directly behind them and shoot a lot. Which they did. Not once, but many times. Team after team, it felt like, did the exact same thing. No one learned. There were no tactics. It was just go there, fly in a straight line and hope a lot.

Meanwhile the dialogue is trying to sell us on this tense battle. But they didn’t show us that. They didn’t have the two escort ships flying outside the canyon to provide cover fire. They didn’t show anything but ships flying in a straight fucking line. One of the most visually uninteresting fight scenes of all time. But they kept trying to tell us it wasn’t.

Again and again the film tells us this stuff but steadfastly refuses to show us any of it.

The future films (Empire and Jedi that is) do a much better job. Hell more happens in the first 30 minutes of Empire than in the two hours of Star Wars (And fuck you its name is Star Wars. Not Episode IV.)

A few other notes: Why does Chewbacca not get a medal at the end? Why do we snub the wookie? What’s up with that? Obi Wan gives Luke a light saber and lets him turn it on with no warning or instruction. That shit ain’t cool. You don’t hand a man a laser sword and just act like it’s a toy. Show some respect, Kenobi. I forgot there were really tall Jawa! When they take C3PO and R2 out to the farm we see some Jawa the size of C3PO! I forgot that, or never noticed it before! Look:
talljawa
Oddly, that blew my mind.

So basically, what I’m saying is… Star Wars is the Phantom Menace of the first trilogy.

* I was 5 when Empire came out. I was in kindergarten. My dad, an SF writer, really wanted to go see Empire, having seen Star Wars (and seeing it had potential to maybe be better with the next film) but he thought I should see it. The problem was that involved taking me out of kindergarten early one day. Which was fine, except he showed up while they were letting us watch Scooby-Doo. I loved Scooby-Doo. I loved it so damn much, you guys. And I didn’t wanna go to some dumb movie without finishing the episode. Because I wouldn’t know who did it! I had to know. And my father, in a fit of frustration, said to me: “Fred is going to have a plan soon, but they’ll go to commercial so you don’t hear it. Then it’ll turn out to be the guy you think maybe it could be, but couldn’t possibly be, simply because he wore a mask.” He went on a bit, finished up and said “So can we go?” I just nodded. I felt like crying. He ruined Scooby-Doo for me that day. I couldn’t watch it again (Well until Mystery, Inc. which was amazing). Years later I told him how that made me feel. He nodded at me, apologized, but added “But come on, Scooby-Doo sucks.” We never saw eye to eye about that. Ever. I found out tonight, watching Empire, that when I watch it I still get oddly mad at the movie, because it was why I couldn’t enjoy Scooby-Doo. So there’s that.

NY-PDX: The rest

Welcome back! No, really, I feel kinda bad. I wanted to update about the trip west every night but we’d get in after 12+ hours in the car and I just couldn’t face it, somehow. But now we’re here and all and I guess it is time to spin the magic time wheel back and look at what went on.

Tuesday we waited for the guys to come and haul the last stuff out of the apartment so we could get on the road. They were supposed to show between 8-10 and that normal means 9:30. We were gonna be on the road by maybe 11, since we had 12 hours to Chicago. They showed up at almost noon.

After they were done we loaded the car. Except the car didn’t want to hold as much as we thought it would. And so a buncha stuff got left behind. No choice. All replaceable. And we were off. And there was driving. And driving. And driving. And the cat was fine, just sleeping in his carrier, which was awesome.

Though – in Ohio.. well see we had to get a ticket to enter the Ohio turnpike. Laszlo grabs the ticket and tries to stick it into a slot in the dash. It’s dark at this point, keep in mind. And I hear “Oh, wait, no, hey!” and see it seem to go into the CD player. But I thought he pulled it back. No, it got sucked into the CD player. Just whoosh. Sucked right in. And we drove and considered what to do. Gamely I hit the eject button, because that wouldn’t work but might be fun to try.

The CD player happily ejected the ticket. Just spat it right out like nothing had been abnormal about it eating a slip of paper in the first place.

And we drove on. We hit Chicago that night and stayed in a perfectly fine little hotel. Of course the night manager came out to say hi while we were parking to unload and locked himself out of the hotel – but hey. That happens, right?

Wedsnesday we hit the road at around 9, having gotten in at like 2am the night before. Really Weds was just a day. A day of endless driving. Easily 15 hours in the car. It just sort of happened. We listened to a lot of the audio book version of John Dies at The End (Yeah I’ve bought two copies of the book over the years, and the movie and now this. We both may adore this book, just sayin’) to try and keep sane.

Keep in mind, I don’t drive so all this insanity was Laszlo heroically managing to not kill me for being useless. The cat has an excuse, at least. My, I got thumbs. But anyway…

We stopped in Cheyenne and landed in a hotel full of snarky people. People who told us the parking lot “A few blocks down” was secure. If they meant “Not at all secure and fuck you” they would have been right. That might be what they meant though, so I won’t call them liars.

Thursday we decided to hit Boise instead of pushing all the way through. Because that would have been dumb. Boise is fun to say. Boise Boise Boise. That there is Boise.

Going through Utah we found that part of i84 was on fire. Literally. A fuel tanker had overturned and set the road itself on fire. So we got diverted. Onto Rainbow Road. No other way to describe it. Like a goat path someone had paved it was this road that curved with hairpin turns up and up and up and then down down down all the while not bothering to have rails. Just speeding toward a turn and there’s open sky in front of you, oh god, here we go, off a cliff and into the… nope, there’s more road. Harrowing. Truly insane. People out there must keep that road around as a fucking prank.

Friday we set out for the final push. Lots of desolation and barren hills and such to drive through and then Portland.

Adventure over, right? Nope. Because we got to a freezing house. Two facts for you: in NY Con Ed does electric and gas. In CA PG&E is Pacific Gas and Electric. In Portland PGE is Portland General Electric. So I set up service with PGE but didn’t bother to call NW Natural, you know, the gas company.

So no heat or hot water since we’ve been here. That will be fixed tomorrow. Also no real internet, just this hotspot I need to extra stingy with because it is how I do my dayjob, until the 29th. So that makes life interesting. Keep in mind the TV and all don’t show up till possibly Nov 6th. So it’s been quiet.

Anyway I think that catches everything up but there could be future “Oh, I forgot XYZ” type things eventually. Who knows. Not me.

NYC to PDX – start

The movers were supposed to show up at 9am. At 8am, when they arrived, I was still asleep. So, putting on pants at speed, we went over all the paperwork.

That’s when I saw they tried to give me a total insurance coverage of 3500. That’s it. For my entire move. Seems the full (very much more) coverage got forgotten. So there were calls and a bit of stressed yelling.

They started to work. Now a bunch of stuff isn’t going in the move, I’ll get back to that, but since there hadn’t been time before they got there to finish moving some stuff around flat surfaces not going were quickly receptacles for stray bits that were also not going. Which meant there were no flat surfaces left to sit on.

Anyway, the movers themselves were champs. They didn’t slow down for six hours. Each bookcase was lovingly wrapped in blankets and tape and then cling wrapped like a cocoon. Boxes were filled (we’d packed, but you know the hat rack, etc. all had to be boxed.) and wrapped and hauled down.

They also packed the kitchen for us, which was awesome. Now, the kitchen is the last remnant of a fun game I like to play in places I live. I hide little toys in cabinets and, well, the freezer even, just all over. For fun. If you find them, feel free to move them! It’s a fun little game.

The guy packing the kitchen never even blinked. Just put each toy into a box with everything else. Making sure to get each last one. Of course he looked at my bright orange, perfectly cubed microwave and called me over.

“Sir? Is this full of water maybe? Do I…”

“That’s a microwave.”

“It is? Oh… no, really?” And I opened it and showed him proof. He laughed. That microwave was his little highlight for the day.

I had also carefully, because I had a roll of mover’s cling wrap myself (don’t ask) wrapped my baseball bat, mic stand, guitar stand and canes in a bit cocoon bundle. Thought it’d be helpful for later. Well the foreman stops. Looks at it. Looks at me. Pokes the cocoon with a finger, tenderly.

“What… what is that?”

“You know, canes, mic stand, just… sticklike stuff. I thought that way…” He didn’t let me finish, just grabbed it up and put it in a box, shaking his head. Of course we also used a bunch of 20 gallon water tight plastic bins. I can not recommend this idea enough. They’re way more money than boxes but hold more, and can be used later for storage and stuff. They’re also tougher. So, anyway, around 90% of non-media stuff was in bins like that. Now, the bins have holes in the corner of the lids and bin itself so you can cable tie them shut. Prevents accidents.

I, of course, cable tied my bins shut. Because though it would be annoying on the other side I didn’t want to have one fall… op… what’s that? You’re going to cocoon each bin so thick it couldn’t open if God Himself tried without a sturdy knife, some acid and a lot of luck? Oh. Well. Glad I did that extra work and made this stupider for myself then.

Anyway, sometime that afternoon they finished, we grabbed food and came back to deal with everything else.

See, we don’t leave till tomorrow. there is a lot of stuff that isn’t going – the couch and beds and desks for example, that we had to hire a company to haul the crap away. They come tomorrow morning. But in the meantime everything coming with us in the car (computers, laptops, coffee maker, whiskey, cat – THE ESSENSIALS) has to be packed and gathered and stuff needs to be thrown out and…

So that was the rest of the day.

Soon I try and sleep (I’ve been sleeping worse than ever of course, because of course) and get up in the morning to try and organize the hauling and the last organization of the car stuff at the same time (not me alone, none of this has been me alone and I probably haven’t even done the lion’s share of the work, to be fair) so we can get on the road and hit Chicago in the first push.

There will be updates as best I can, probably at night, after a full day, before I pass out. Because I can.

I’M LEAVING NEW YORK

On Monday, I’ll be 38. It was a while back that I realized shit needed to change. Part of that was me living in NY. I grew up here. I’ve lived here most of my life with tiny stints in other locations. I’ll always be a NY’er. But trying to make a living freelance writing and editing while living in NY is one of those things, that… well it’s doable, but rarely happily doable.

You have to take a lot of gigs you despise, and even the cost of living here is sort of fucked up. So it comes down to that most important of things:

Quality of life issues.

With that in mind, I started to seek out a plan that would let me improve my quality of life, overall. I found I was starting to, just at the edges, be done with New York in a sense.

This isn’t to dump on NY, but I have a rule: New York rebirths itself so often that you need to fall in love with the current version every 5 to 7 years. When you find yourself not falling back in love with it – consider leaving before you grow to hate it. I don’t ever want to hate it in NY. But let’s face it – NY actively doesn’t want you here. You have to fight and push for every inch and that can be wonderful – it is an accomplishment and a matter of pride to make it here. But it is also exhausting. I have nothing left to prove, I’m just not interested in it. I’m good, ya know?

Everything there adds up to: Time to move. But this is me. I’m a NY’er. I’ll always be one, of course, but… I’m the guy people say they expect to live here forever. Hell, I’m the guy who expected to live here forever. Life, however, takes its own turns, and fighting them for the sake of fighting them isn’t often useful. My life turned toward leaving and instead of fighting it, I realized it felt right and leaned into the idea.

But to where? Somewhere I had a bunch of friends. Somewhere I had a bunch of professional contacts. Somewhere cheaper to live, that felt like a good place to set down a few roots, and someplace I could see myself long term.

So, like everyone that has ever worked on a comic book, I decided to move to Portland.

But, me being me, I had to make this complex. I didn’t want to just rent out there, because renting is expensive long term and I was in a position I could actually afford to buy a home. So I did. I now own this house:


And yes, it is in Amelia Cole colors (and if you buy ISSUES or the PRINT TRADE you are now helping me pay off a house. So do that.) That was a happy accident. The buying of the house is a whole long story in itself. Another time.

The major thing is: come mid-October I will not be in New York. I’m sure I’ll come back once or twice a year, or whatever it is – but past that I’ll be on the other coast.

Some tiny other facts:

  • Laszo is moving as well. We get along nicely as roommates and he can drive so until I learn that is also a huge help. And company is good.
  • Yes I will be learning to drive. Fear it.
  • To start I will still have a day job, it will just be working from home part time.
  • If you want to hire me as a writer or editor I now have many more hours to fit you into my schedule. So, hey, let’s talk.
  • This also means if you thought I wrote a lot before… watch out.
  • The cat is in denial. I tell him to pack and get ready for a move and he looks at me like “I don’t understand English, Thumb-boy.”

So. Any questions?

The Wrongest Number

So while having lunch today my phone went off. A text message from a number not in my contact list. Fine, happens, not strange. And I look. And it is directions and times for a funeral for someone whose name I do not know.

And I look. And I think. I mean I’ve known a lot of people. This could be someone I forgot. Maybe this was a friend. But search my brain as I might I couldn’t place it. And so as I sat there, staring at this message, I realized this was the worst case of wrong number in a long time.

So I had to reply. I asked who it was, just in case. A last ditch. And got a reply the sender was Lisa and wasn’t I Dina? Woops, no. Oh man. How horrible must that be? To be mid-grief over someone and then shoot out info like that to a stranger?

So I offered my condolences and explained that the number was wrong.

Because what else could I do?

But somehow I still feel bad for being a wrong number, you know?

Bible readin’

Mentioned this to D.J. Kirkbride earlier but I tend to, every few years, spend a few days reading the Bible. Now there are a few things to keep in mind here:

1 – I went to a Catholic school from grades 1-8.

2 – I am in no way Catholic / Christian / etc. It just ain’t my bag. At all.

I’ve also read bit of a translated Koran (not like reading a bible in English ain’t a translation, of course), bunches of Buddhist stuff, most of Dianetics… I like reading religious texts, I guess. It’s funny when I was a kid I went to my father and said I wasn’t sure this religion stuff worked for me. I just wasn’t feeling it but wasn’t sure at all. And he took me to a shelf (more shelves of books than you can imagine where I grew up) and said “Well, read these and find one that does if you want.”

So I did. All sorts of mythologies and stuff just crammed into my brain. And I still do.

But somehow the Bible thing strikes me as almost odd. And I don’t know why. I have nothing against Catholics in general (the Church itself I have issues with but that’s a different thing), and yet it always makes me feel like… I’m cheating, maybe.

Also Bibles are fantastic bits of work. They’re often just pretty. The two I have (a study Bible and a non) aren’t really pretty at all, but they can be. I like pretty books.

I guess I’m also fascinated by religions, in general and mythologies in a larger scale. But yeah. Bible time. Still strikes my brain as odd. Just one of those things, I guess.

Peas in a pod

Talking to Laura and just made a peas in pod joke (about moving PODs, but anyway) and it made me flash to something I had to stop and write about.

When I was a kid, I got these stuffed peas.

And I remember once, being in school and being sick. I went to a Catholic school and the nuns were a wee bit strict. They assumed if you ever said you were sick that you had to be telling lies. Had to be. So they called my dad. Now, you need to understand my father wrote for a living, and did his writing in the middle of the night. His bedtime was while I was at school.

He would wake up, supposedly, in time to get my from school. Some days that worked with a margin or error less than two hours. But anyway! They called him. Which woke him up. And they told him I was supposedly sick and they weren’t sure if they believed me, but they had to call him to let him know.

He grumbled something at them and said he’d come get me.

I had bronchitis, I used to get it a bunch, so it’s a pretty sure bet that’s what it was. But I remember I felt so bad, so so bad. And as we walked home, I felt worse. We only lived a few blocks, like a 1/4 mile from the school, so we walked and I thought I would die.

So my father stopped because there was a new (doomed to be short-lived) toy store on the way home. He thought he could distract my death with a present. In reality he just thought it would shut me the hell up, of course, but hey.

The store had a bunch of things, stuffed toys and robots and space ships and I just wanted to curl up and die and then I saw these peas. I had to have them. I don’t know why but my love for them was simply immense. Truly immense. My father looked at me like I had a fever… oh wait I did have a fever, but he got me the peas:

peas

And I loved them. So much. For years I kept them around because, hey, stuffed peas! There have been stuffed peas since but they aren’t as cool so to hell with them. Of course the stuffed peas I had go for hundreds of dollars or some shit on eBay now so… I guess I should’ve held onto my peas. But no, I lost them at some point I think. Or someone threw them out. What ever. Doesn’t matter.

What matters is, for a while there, I deeply loved a set of 5 stuffed peas in a tiny zipped pod.

Digital isn’t the only answer.

When you have a ton of deadlines that cross each other you learn to adapt. That adaptation can take funny forms.

I use Google Calendar for all my schedules. I have Google calendars I make to schedule every project that I share with any collaborators. I keep my personal schedule updated with everything I do that can at all be scheduled. It’s glorious. It’s very busy, lots of colors, and it keeps me n track. I have a widget to show me my upcoming events on my phone, every time I look at it, and I keep it open in windows at my desk. My calendar is my life, these days.

Except it isn’t enough. You see, outside of just events I also have deadlines that can’t be put into a calendar the same. I can’t put a deadline into a calendar for three months from now and feel the weight of it every day. I can make a To-do but Google’s sucks mostly and, frankly, pretty much all of them suck. They don’t tell me enough, in the way I need.

I need to know what I need to work on every day, when stuff has been half done and needs to be pulled forward or put on the back burner or will intersect with something else. I needed… something. A pad of paper!

Except then everything gets lost. I jot down stuff for Weds, and then Thurs and then Weds again and where’d it go? No. So I thought about a paper planner. And I looked and there were a host. All of them these nice 8 1/2 x 5 1/2 jobs.

Eh, felt too small. I like to write notes to myself too about whatever I’m working on. So I found a nice one that took 8 1/2 x 11 pages and ordered some Two-Page-Per-Day calendar sheets and there we go.

And now I have a big brown leather briefcase looking thing. And it tells me what I’ll be working on tonight when I get home, and what I need to work on after dinner and notes for each. And if I don’t finish one of them, I will write it down for the next day. I will also, tonight, write down what I need to work on tomorrow.

See it isn’t a book that needs to come with me to the day job, or needs to move around much at all. I might take it to some meetings but most of those are on the phone these days anyway. So I just need a big book that becomes a temp, ever-shifting, out-board brain for me.

All of this is a long way of saying:

“Sometimes the best solution is not to throw technology at a problem but to throw it away from a problem.”

Like all the best technology the trick is knowing when to use it and when not to. For my use, in this case, the best solution happens to be paper and a pen and a binder for some types of events and Google Calendar for other types.

Graze!

I got my first Graze box. I’d heard about Graze and kinda whatever and then a friend mentioned it again and I checked it out more and needed an invitation. Which I was lucky enough to get. And so I got my first box.

Let me back up and explain what Graze is. Graze is a service that sends you a box of healthy snacks once every two weeks (by default, though it can do every week or every month) for the complete price of five bucks a box. That’s it. Five bucks gets you a box of healthy snacks. And there is variety. They have something over 90 snacks and you rate them and they send you different boxes each time. Their site, of course, is Graze.com and oddly they are a UK company. Why oddly? Because I’m in NY and my box came via Royal Mail.

It’s true I not only got a box of snacks, I got me a box of snacks that went over an ocean. Somehow I feel that makes it better. Anyway this is what my box looked like when opened:

Pretty, no? I mean this is part fo it for me. It’s just pretty. Also seems like it will be tasty. No I haven’t tried anything yet. It’s early. I’m still working on coffee. But here is what this box has:


blueberries, green raisins, goji berries and cranberries


rolled oat flapjack with apple and cinnamon


toffeesauce and granny smith apple slices


BBQ relish with tomato breadsticks

Why is being honest so confusingly rare?

The other day I ordered some cat food from Amazon. It never showed up. So I called FedEx (the carrier used) and Amazon and back and forth and no one knew where it had been lost.

So Amazon offered to refund me. They couldn’t ship a replacement, they didn’t have any in stock just then. All right, fine, thanks. I’ll get the cat food at a different place (cat needs some diet food stuff and it can be annoying to find, but also isn’t 100% critical so whatever) and the world keeps spinning.

Except then FedEx calls me. They found the package. It would seem that Amazon slapped the label on in such a way as to block part of my address and so FedEx misplaced it. Still, they were sorry and rushing it out and insisted they would get it to me that same day.

Look – free cat food.

I thought about it a little bit and called Amazon back. I told them FedEx found the package so they should, you know, go ahead and charge me for that thing I bought.

And the service guy seemed confused. Seriously and honestly confused. He didn’t quite understand, I mean he got the words and general meaning but in a larger sense- no. Because I was not just taking something that I could get away with.

Amazon, mind, is good to me. They recently, when I ordered the wrong speakers for the new living room set-up, refunded my money and told me to just keep the wrong ones. Yeah, that was partly due to their odd shipping rules, but they did not have to give me my money back. At all. This was 100% user error and nothing more and I admitted to it, they knew it – but they went ahead and ate the cost anyway because it keeps people happy and in the long run it’s a drop in the bucket to them. But if we all take advantage as much as possible it won’t be a drop in the bucket.

So as much as doing the right thing, this helps, in a tiny way, ensure they get that I dig the way they do some of this stuff and it is worth it to me to see it continue.

If we all just take and take and take they without being honest and giving back and making sure that the whole system works both ways not just always in our favor – the system will break down and we end up far worse off.

And if that ain’t a ham handed metaphor for society…