It’s OK To Mourn People You Don’t Know

2016 was a year that teemed with memorable moments, from the Cubs winning a World Series for the first time in over a century to a grueling election season with results that–to put it mildly–proved divisive to American citizens. Perhaps the most surprising facet of the sixteenth year of the new millennium came not from the annals of sports or politics, but pop culture. Last year was deemed “The Year of Death,” as an unusual number of actors and musicians passed from this world. Many of these people were not of the character actor, “where have I seen this guy before” variety, but titanic icons whose names conjure immediate images: David Bowie, Prince, Alan Rickman, George Michael.

And, of course, Carrie Fisher, who passed away in the final week of 2016 after suffering a massive heart attack.

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It’s A Small Galaxy After All

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If you are a Star Wars fan (and there’s a pretty good chance you are if you’re reading this) then it’s likely that at some point in your life you have dreamed of venturing into that galaxy far, far away. Perhaps you’ve imagined yourself locking laser swords with Darth Vader or riding shotgun with Han Solo in the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon. Maybe you’ve even pretended you’re really tall and covered in thick brown hair–it’s OK, we don’t judge around here.

While we sadly cannot ever make these fantasies a reality, there are a couple of ways we can come pretty close. One is by attending a Star Wars Celebration. The other method is to visit a Disney park.

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The Search For Rey

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It was the text message I never expected to receive but the one I always wanted to read.
Shortly after Christmas and a little over a week since Star Wars: The Force Awakens charged into cinemas and began its campaign of dominance over the box office, my cell phone emitted a tiny chirp, alerting me that someone had sent me a message. I am not the type of person that gets hundreds of texts a day, but they happen with enough frequency that I have learned that nothing mind-blowing ever comes from one: Honey, can you take the chicken out of the fridge and let it thaw?; Hey son, do you remember the time we went to grandma’s house and the chickens chased you around the yard?; I’ve got some leftover pizza here if you want it. That sort of thing. I expected this one to be no different, but then I looked at my phone and read the words that would propel me into an adventure:

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Hello Mary Sue, Goodbye Heart

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This post contains SPOILERS, so if you haven’t seen The Force Awakens yet then you may want to run out and watch it first before reading this, or just do the sensible thing and skip reading this post altogether. Trust me; I’ve read my own writing and I’ll understand completely if you want nothing to do with it.

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It’s A Great Time To Be Alive

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We live in an interesting era.

In exactly one week a new Star Wars movie will be unleashed upon the world.  And this isn’t any ordinary Star Wars movie, this is a Star Wars movie with Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Han Solo and Chewbacca!  We haven’t seen these guys in action for over three decades (Okay we’ve seen Chewie, but I digress) so this is going to feel like the greatest class reunion of all time, complete with answers to all the annoying questions that get asked at such events: What have you been up to, Han old buddy?  How are the kids, Leia?  You do have kids, don’t you; I seem to remember a time when you did but now my memory seems a bit fuzzy on the matter, as if an entire timeline was just erased from existence.  Yo Chewie, how come Itchy never comes around anymore?  Hey Luke, you are in this picture, aren’t you?

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Bard Wars

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A long, long time ago, in a galaxy known as high school, my senior English Lit class studied Hamlet by William Shakespeare.  As I read the play, the Star Wars nerd in me could not help but correlate the tale, chock full of spirits and sword fighting and murderous relatives, with George Lucas’s beloved space opera.  I had the idea that one day I would put on a production of Hamlet with the roles replaced by the appropriate Star Wars character.  Luke Skywalker would play the titular character, Darth Vader would be his murderous, scheming uncle, and Obi-Wan would take a turn as the ghost/Force spirit that was once his father.  The other positions could be filled by the various supporting cast members.  It was an interesting idea but unfortunately I never had the means nor the talent to make it.

Flash forward eighteen years (has it really been that long since I graduated?) and it turns out that I am not the only one to notice the connection between the Bard’s writings and the galaxy far, far away.  With his debut novel, William Shakespeare’s Star Wars, author Ian Doescher gives a unique perspective on A New Hope by telling it through mimicry of the style of the most famous playwright in history.  He has since gone on to publish books for the entire movie saga, with the final tale Tragedy of the Sith’s Revenge released just days after the “Force Friday” extravaganza.  To celebrate the finale, Doescher went on a multi-city book tour, and one of his stops was near my home in Cincinnati, Ohio. Read more

The Gremlins Connection

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For my fifth birthday, my sister gave me a set of five books with a record (yes, a record — I’m old, let’s move on) to listen as I read along. She didn’t know it at the time, but she set into motion a love for a movie that I would have to wait two more years to see, but would forever shape the person I am today. That love would border on obsession, and more than once my mother would raise concern about the influence that they had on my life.

The books (and the movie) told the story of Gremlins.

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You Don’t Get To Choose the Genre

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There is an overwhelming sense of peace following the death of a loved one, once the body has been lain to rest and the final tears lay on the ground, soaking into the thirsty earth. There may be more tears in the future — maybe from a memory on the anniversary of a special holiday, or the radio played the loved one’s favorite song, or sometimes for no reason whatsoever — but for the moment an utter calm washes over your entire body.

Whether that peace is a result of the feeling of closure or is merely the product of chemicals released into your body after a good hard cry, it is difficult to know for certain. Some mysteries are better left unexplained.

I wonder if Luke Skywalker, standing at the pyre, watching as the metal casing that housed the body of the man who had once been Anakin Skywalker, his father, melt and burn away, felt that wave of release. Did Luke shed any tears for the father that had never been there for him, that had committed atrocities so heinous that he could not possibly be redeemed by a single act of selflessness?

My gut — and my own personal experiences — tell me he did.

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The Empire Reichs Back

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Note: The following blog contains graphic material concerning WWII.

The Nazi regime has earned its rightful place in history as one of the most evil, corrupt and terrifying sects of government. Just the whisper of their name conjures up more images of hatred, cruelty, fear and genocide than any other dynasty. Seventy years have passed since its downfall and the wounds it left on the world remain fresh, uncongealed.

Given its notoriety, there is little wonder why Hollywood often calls upon the third reich when it has need for cold, ruthless villains. Toth in Raiders of the Lost Ark was creepy and malicious. The antagonist in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds was the charismatic yet calculating Colonel Hans Landa. Recently Captain America stood up against the Red Skull, the leader of a Nazi subsect called Hydra.

Even the galaxy far, far away is not exempt from the influence of Hitler’s regime. Here is a listing of some of the ways that Nazi culture helped shape the Star Wars saga. Read more

YODA’S HOUSE OF PANCAKES: The Peter Pan Syndrome

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As a thirty-five year old man, there are certain social rules that I am expected to abide by. I am supposed to have a well-paying, respectable job. My mortgage is to be paid on time, as well as any other bills I have due. My hair should be well-groomed, my shirts clean and pressed. If I wish to play a game, it should involve a little pockmarked ball and a pristine field of green grass.

As an adult, I am not supposed to play with action figures, nor am I to collect them and display them on my wall. The world will mock me if I dress up as Darth Vader and spend a weekend in a convention center pretending to Force choke random strangers. I can’t watch cartoons. I can’t play video games and I sure-as-Hades can’t get super excited when I hear the tinkle of an ice cream truck.

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