Generation X-Wing: Memories of Star Wars

Webmaster’s note 10/14/2018: This is an older compilation of members’ memories of the original Star Wars trilogy, and their reactions and anticipation about Phantom Menace coming out in 1999. We’re including it here so it can appear under the Essays and Articles category of posts, and under the Star Wars and Movies tags.

compiled by Tracy Hite

Phantom Menace introduced a whole new generation to Jedi Knights and Darth Lords. For the first time, movie tickets went on sale a week or more before the premier – and the lines formed days before that. (Talk about your reunion concerts!) I remember when a farm boy from the middle of nowhere first took on the Empire. (People old enough to drink weren’t even born then!) Their ships twisted and dove through the far reaches of the galaxy, bringing unheard-of realism to the silver screen. (Look, Ma, no strings!) Some guy named Lucas risked a huge budget on a bunch of unknown actors. (Harrison who?) The good guys won, the doomsday machine was destroyed, but the villain managed to escape at the last minute. (Sequel? What’s that?)

I was ten or so, and it had been a pretty lousy summer. My grandmother died, and so did Elvis Presley. I needed a diversion in the worst way, and Star Wars was it. It took me away from Earth, and gave me hope again. If Obi-Wan lived on in the Force, then maybe Grandma could, too.

Before Phantom Menace appeared, I asked our members to share some of their anticipations for the new movie, and memories of the one that started it all. Below are their replies.


From Linda Wyatt

So you want a before and after. Well, I can’t tell you what I expect. It should be good, but may not have the impact of the first. Still, all in all, I am glad George is continuing the saga.

I will see it at 12:01 at the Showcase. I could have gone to Tinsel Town, but I wanted the biggest screen, and Showcase is where it all began. I will leave TT to the new fans.

I will be attending with Mike and Sue Baugh, Steve and Sue Francis, Leah Gadzakowski, Denise Spear and my male niece, Brian. (For some reason, he hates the word nephew. Not that he is fond of my replacement.)


From Susan Baugh

“I am expecting classic Star Wars, decent plot, lots of action and awsome special effects.”


From Leah Gadzakowski

“Based on the trailers, I am expecting a battle, young Obi Wan, and a setting up of Anakin’s turn to the dark side. Should be very exciting. Lots of battles. Lots of the old Republic setting and future falling apart. First should be a build up and the second may be a little more of a downer.”


From Denise Spear

She is breathless, but mostly from rushing around. Completely inarticulate with anticipation.


From Brian Wyatt

“I think it is going to be cool. Lots of air battles, flying around, light sabers, and robots. ”


From Steve Francis

“I have only been waiting 22 years for this. Before we said, That was so cool.’ Now we are saying, This is going to be so cool.'”


From Sue Francis

“I just hope the hype doesn’t disappoint us.”


From Mike Baugh

“Why is my wife dragging me out in the middle of the night…make that morning. Why can’t I go to work.”

Well, that is all for now. Time to go get in line. See you all on the flip side and…

MAY THE FORCE BE WITH YOU!!


From Kirby Sloan

And I want a report from all of you BEFORE you go to bed tomorrow morning! Spoilers or not.

I am envious of you all. We probably won’t see the movie for a couple of weeks, given the need to find a sitter and getting ready for out China trip.

I looked in my diary and found that I waited for the midnite show of Jedi when it came out from about noon. Saw it at Southpark (is that theatre even there anymore? I was lucky since my apartment was right there. I haven’t been to Lexington in over 10 years.) I was one of the first people in line. The people waiting in line that long were looked at as strange. This days and days in line thing is hard to imagine.


From Sylvia Wendell

All this remembering back to when you saw Star Wars (Episode IV) for the very first time …. First time I saw ST was in Boston, at a special showing that was organized as a preview for the theater managers in New England, a couple days before it opened in general release. They wanted to fill seats with viewers who would be enthusiastic, to give the managers the idea it was *really great*, so they handed out FREE tickets to the two big SF clubs in the Boston area, and we went en mass. Sigh (smack, smack), they sure don’t make’em like that anymore.

Until now.


From Maria Bellamy

Which movie came out in 1983? I was overseas that summer and I was the first one in line to see it in London, England. I got there about an hour before showtime and about 30 mins. before, all of a sudden hundreds of people showed up. A man with 2 small children came up and asked me to buy their tickets out of consideration for the kids standing in July heat & that he would buy my ticket if I would. I half-jokingly asked for popcorn and he was quite offended, but softened when I got his tickets. I gave up seeing Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof for that. Not the movie, the play.


From Terri Barger

I saw the first one in 1978 (I was 2 years old), someone was dressed up like Darth Vader in the lobby of the theatre in Ashland, KY-where we lived, and dad asked him to leave because Vader scared me. I can honestly say my daddy took on Darth Vader for me! 🙂 I’m not sure whether I actually remember this or just heard the story so many times from my family…hard to say.

Convention report: MarCon 99

Webmaster’s note 10/14/2018: This is an old convention report from the previous version of the site, which we’re bringing in as a post so that it’ll be searchable in the reviews categories with newer content. We’re pretty sure this actually refers to the Marcon in 1999.

by Rod Smith

A fair con, but the usual problems with the elevators and escalators were worse this year. You know there’s something wrong when on Sunday Harry Stubbs carries his luggage down the stairs from the 9th floor to the third, then takes the (now repaired) escalators the rest of the way to the parking garage. (I mentioned this to a concom member, and she was aghast. “We told him we have people standing by to help him move out of his room when he’s ready!”)

Air quality in Columbus was unusually bad this year, with a number of people – myself included – having bronchitis or even asthma symptoms. (While waiting in the photo area for the Masquerade to start I reached into my camera bag for my inhaler and pulled out a can of pressurized lens cleaner. Fortunately I knew even from the feel that this was the wrong can. :-{) Not the convention’s fault, of course. It was also unusually cold in many of the public areas and rooms much of the time.

I didn’t attend many panels, and one of the few I did go to wound up with an audience and no panel. Argh. I didn’t do any gaming, either. However, I did negotiate for a commissioned painting of one of my characters from a very good artist. And I did some fair drawing myself, in quiet moments.

I also attended the farewell ceremony for Buck Coulson; or rather, the first half hour or so. It ran for about 4 hours. A heartfelt celebration of a fine man’s life.

This year the Masquerade was held in the main ballroom, out in the convention center. This provided much more room than the small ballroom used for several previous years. While waiting for the Masquerade to start I entertained a couple of the other photographers (including Dr. Stubbs) with stories from Liftoff!, which neither of them had heard of. The Masquerade itself was pretty good, with several WorldCon-class costumes.

All-in-all not the best con I ever attended (not even the best MarCon) but enjoyable.

Convention report: MarCon 99 Retrospective

Webmaster’s note 10/14/2018: This is an old convention report from the previous version of the site, which we’re bringing in as a post so that it’ll be searchable in the reviews categories with newer content. We’re pretty sure this actually refers to the Marcon in 1999.

by Robert Holland

As many of you may know, Marcon was last weekend [May 7 – 9]. Wow. What an experience. Here’s a quick run-down of what I did at Marcon: I shook hands with Dr. Demento, danced the Macarena with Steve Jackson, and was ignored by Tom Savini. David Drake, grand master of military science fiction, personally played with my Transformers. I acquired a beautiful silver icedrake named Lorelei. God Herself introduced me to the wonders of the Flaming Dragon (Rule Number One: Blow out the flame BEFORE you drink). I headbanged to Weird Al songs and did the Y.O.D.A. I basked in the glory of Caffeine, the One True Stimulant of which all others are but shadows. I danced in the Scorpion’s Den, a joint Scottish/Klingon party bash. I received the divine blessing of J.R. “Bob” Dobbs, Space Prophet and Short-Duration Personal Saviour of the Church of the SubGenius. I frightened mundanes and played ambassador to normals (there is a difference). I sang filthy Scottish drinking songs in the consuite. I blew $250 cash on books, art, robots, and dice, and every penny was well spent. I rejoined old friends and met new ones. I had the time of my life.

And it’s a four-day con next year…

Movie review: The Matrix

Webmaster’s note 1/17/2016: This is an old review from the previous version of the site, which we’re bringing in as a post so that it’ll be searchable in the reviews categories with newer content.

The Matrix

“The Matrix”
Virtual Reality & You

review by Laura Begley

I knew from the first preview that I wanted to see this movie. It had Keanu Reeves, cool special effects, lots of sleek black leather, and an intriguing premise, any one of which was enough of a reason to go see this movie. Needless to say, I was thrilled with the results.

“The Matrix” is a wonderful, action-packed, Sci-Fi/Fantasy movie written and directed by Andy and Larry Wachowski (“Bound”) which stars Keanu Reeves as Thomas Anderson, aka “Neo,” as a late 20th-century computer programmer by day, hacker by night. As “Neo,” Reeves begins to suspect that there is something he doesn’t quite understand about his world, something that he is destined to take part in. As the movie progresses, Neo finally meets the elusive Morpheus (played by Laurence Fishburne) and the almost androgynous yet oddly gorgeous Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss, who is probably better known for her part in F/X: The Series), whose job it is to clue Neo in to The Matrix and his role as “The One.”

According to the dictionary, one definition for a matrix is “a material in which something is enclosed or embedded (as for protection or study),” while another meaning is “an array of circuit elements (as diodes and transistors) for performing a specific function as interconnected.” Both of these definitions are right on the money for this movie, which is as deeply philosophical as it is widely appealing.

I was most impressed after seeing the movie to learn that the four main actors (Reeves, Fishburne, Moss, and Hugo Weaving) trained together for four months before filming to learn martial arts, which has a rather large part in the movie’s fight scenes. Yes, the actors really *are* doing their own fighting, although some movie “magic” (aka harnesses) are required to help them drive each other up the walls and leap from rooftop to rooftop in a single bound. (‘It’s a bird, it’s a plane…it’s….Keanu Reeves?”)

This is, in my opinion, a wonderfully entertaining, visually stunning motion picture, marred only by a few minor slow spots and “well, duh!” moments. My rating (on a scale of 0 to 4 stars): 3.75

Album review: The Masterharper of Pern, by Tania Opland and Mike Freeman

Webmaster’s note 1/17/2016: This is an old review from the previous version of the site, which we’re bringing in as a post so that it’ll be searchable in the reviews categories with newer content.

The Masterharper of Pern

The Masterharper of Pern CD

reviewed by Scott Lammers

I heard a story once that I thought of as little more than a wishful-thinking type of urban legend. It stated that Anne McCaffrey’s latest Pern novel, The Masterharper of Pern, was supposed to be released with a few recorded songs in the bargain. As is well known, this did not happen, so it became the standard stuff of urban legend.

WRONG

Anne McCaffrey had made a dedicated effort in this direction, but was apparently thwarted by a printer too eager to sell. The plus side – this freed her and the other artists to put together a *full* lp. I am listening now to an incredibly delightful (and in most cases, exquisitely beautiful) CD bearing the name, The Masterharper of Pern. The lyrics are almost exclusively Anne McCaffrey’s (from her books, of course). The rest was done primarily by two folk artists; Tania Opland and Mike Freeman. Four others added their voices and one her harp.

It includes eighteen tracks, from the teaching ballads (Duty Song, Golden Egg of Faranth I, II, and III, and Fighting Thread, to name a few) to Petiron’s most beautiful work, to both versions of Robinton’s first composition (Whistle Tune – the first was written as a young child, and the second was a version he simplified so other harpers could keep up with it during gathers). Every song has a story, and the insert addresses them all.

I highly recommend it. You won’t find it through standard publishers though – the artists published under the name, Dragonhold (Tinmore Lane, Newcastle, Co. Wicklow, Ireland). To find out more about this wonderful CD and how to aquire it, you can have a look-see at either of the following addresses:

http://www.annemccaffrey.org for info about Anne McCaffrey
http://www.opland-freeman.com for info about Tania Opland and Mike Freeman

If memory serves me correctly, it was at the second site I located the
order form.

Book review: Longitude, by Dava Sobel

Webmaster’s note 1/17/2016: This is an old review from the previous version of the site, which we’re bringing in as a post so that it’ll be searchable in the reviews categories with newer content.

Longitude

book by Dava Sobel

Reviewed by Rodford Edmiston

The image of the lone genius, prevailing against the odds to make a better world, is an attractive one. It has also been criticized as a romantic fantasy. The story of John (Longitude) Harrison disproves this. It also disproves the conventional wisdom that creativity is an activity solely of the young. For John Harrison’s greatest invention – something quite unlike anything he had built to that point – was made when he was in his seventies, and required him to take two long steps to one side… and move a century forward. In the process he had to abandon much of what he had already accomplished in order to succeed. But he did so, and he did succeed, where all others had failed.

Being a student of the history of technological development I was already vaguely familiar with the problems of developing accurate timepieces, as well as the difficulty of producing a clock which was accurate and rugged enough to be used at sea to find longitude. This book – and the A & E miniseries it inspired bearing the same name – made me realize just how important the problem of finding longitude was, and the difficulty of its solution.

You can find latitude pretty simply; it’s based on the height of the sun (or another celestial reference) above the horizon, which changes in regular fashion with the time of year and the distance from the equator. A fairly accurate estimate can even be made based on the length of the day (that is, the daylight period) versus the time of year. Finding longitude, however, requires comparing local time to the time at a standard meridian. Accuracy and precision are both important. Being a minute off produces an error of one-fourth of a degree in longitude, which at the equator equals 17 miles.

Yet early in the Eighteenth Century no clock existed which was accurate enough for this purpose, let alone capable of being rolled, tossed and exposed to extreme changes in temperature and humidity while remaining accurate. Even the master clock at the Royal Observatory at Greenwich had to be adjusted almost every day, using solar and stellar observations.

Actually, the first sentence in the previous paragraph isn’t quite accurate. Such clocks did exist, but were unknown to the world outside the small Yorkshire village where John Harrison lived.

Harrison is one of those geniuses who inexplicably appear from time to time among mere humans. Though from humble circumstances, he was a voluminous reader, and taught himself about navigation, celestial observation and clockmaking by reading books on the subjects. Even if he hadn’t made his clocks he would rate a footnote in history for his work on music and its mathematical relationships. Aside from that, he was a master carpenter, whose craftsmanship with wood had earned him prime business from important local people. But he did build his clocks, and in comparison to those his other accomplishments pale.

Harrison found simple, elegant, workable solutions to problems others declared impossible. His largest clock is in a manner tower in his home town. Since that is near the seacoast, and since salt air corrodes metal, Harrison made this clock almost entirely of wood. He used an inherently frictionless design, so it doesn’t wear out and never needs lubricating. Except for a brief period in 1884, when it was stopped for refurbishing, this clock has run continuously since completion in 1722. On gears and pintles and pivots and cogs of wood. And when it was finished – and for several years after – it kept better time than any observatory or laboratory clock in the world. By the time anyone else had caught up to it, Harrison was already well into building his seafaring longitude clocks. (Note: Large mechanical clocks are easier to make accurate than small ones. Which is one reason Harrison’s seagoing chronometers are so remarkable. Even the largest was far smaller than (though about as heavy as) the typical observatory floor clock of the time, while being more accurate in conditions where the floor clock wouldn’t function at all. And his fourth timepiece was a revolution in miniaturized accuracy.)

Small wonder learned men of the day disbelieved his claims, stating flatly that such accuracy was impossible in *any* timepiece. Small wonder that when he proved them wrong, passing tests they devised, they defended their positions in any way they could. Even if that meant changing the rules. As often happens, the cheaters accused their victim of cheating. Vindication took several decades of hard, soul-withering effort, most of it not associated with building clocks, but fighting the ill will of people with a vested interest in seeing him fail. In the end, Harrison triumphed as much through sheer stubbornness as genius.

Longitude, the book, is less a biography or a history than it is an examination of one of the greatest technological innovations in human history, and its effect on people and events. Longitude, the miniseries, goes into far more biographical and historical detail, of both Harrison and the man who repaired his clocks some two centuries later, Rupert T. Gould. (Who has much less mention in the book.) The volume is a slim one, and still in print. It is well worth reading, even if you have to buy it. The miniseries runs 4 hours, and if you missed it buying the tapes or DVDs are expensive. However, that, too, is worth the price for someone interested in navigation, invention, history, or simply seeing the little guy triumph over the big guys.

Some associated URLs:

END

This document is Copyright 2000 Rodford Edmiston Smith. Anyone wishing to reprint or repost this material must have permission from the author, who can be reached at stickmaker@usa.net.

Movie review: The Legend of Bagger Vance

Webmaster’s note 1/17/2016: This is an old review from the previous version of the site, which we’re bringing in as a post so that it’ll be searchable in the reviews categories with newer content.

The Legend of Bagger Vance

review by Duryea Edwards

Will Smith’s Bagger Vance has that special gift. He doesn’t just look at you, he looks into you. As he flashes that “Aw shucks, I’m just a good ole negro boy” polite smile he looks directly through you, and he knows where the pain is and what it is hiding behind.

Then comes the hard part. Bagger has to be patient. He has to hover on the periphery of your life while he waits for you to come to him for advice. As much as he knows what needs to be done, he can’t force you to do it. He can’t make you do what is best for you. You have to realize on your own that you need his help.

Matt Damon’s Rannulph Junuh is a decidedly difficult task for Bagger. He is a man adrift after the emotional trauma he encountered during the First World War. He drinks too much. He gambles too much. He exists and he takes up space, but he does not really live.

Having been given the chance to pick up his old career as a golfer, Junuh is somewhat grateful for the opportunity but is also uncomfortable because of the pressure to do well. There are those who expect him to just pick up a set of clubs and walk out to the course and act as though the war never happened.

The Legend of Bagger Vance is a solid example of the fact that fantasy does not have to involve swords, dragons, monsters or other such things … That it can unwind quite well in a world of regular people with regular lives. It is also a solid example of the fact that motion pictures do not necessarily need large budget special effects to present fantasy … That a strong script and good acting can help the audience to suspend disbelief and follow the flow of things.

Damon does a masterful job of being the man who finally comes to the conclusion that he needs to find himself, but then has no idea of where to look. It pains him greatly to admit that Bagger Vance might have answers that could help his life.

Smith’s acting is wonderfully understated as he breaks away from the types of characters he had played in movies such as Men in Black and Wild Wild West. The intensity that had previously been played out in a strutting walk and a sharp voice is now held inside. As it barely peeks out in the flash of a smile or the emphasis of a word, it takes on a truly impressive quality.

I strongly recommend this movie.

Movie review: Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back

Webmaster’s note 1/17/2016: This is an old review from the previous version of the site, which we’re bringing in as a post so that it’ll be searchable in the reviews categories with newer content.

Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back

reviewed by Terri Barger

I went to the sneak preview this weekend. It’s hilarious if you’ve seen (and liked) Clerks, Mall Rats, Chasing Amy, and Dogma because it’s one big inside joke. If you haven’t seen the others, this is not the place to start. There are plenty of send-ups of movies (especially Star Wars and Planet of the Apes) and lots of Hollywood insider jokes that are really good. (Several stars play themselves.)

Some of it is raunchy. There are some subtle jokes, but most of the gags are the in-your-face type. Jay, as anyone who’s seen the other flicks knows, is an intolerant little bastard, so he says some pretty offensive things. I really can’t say much more without giving away some of the better one-liners, and there are a lot of them.

I’d recommend going with a group of Kevin Smith fans—it’s not a date movie.

Movie review: Highlander: Endgame

Webmaster’s note 1/17/2016: This is an old review from the previous version of the site, which we’re bringing in as a post so that it’ll be searchable in the reviews categories with newer content.

Highlander: Endgame

review by Duryea Edwards

In The End, There Can Be Only One …

Timeline, that is.

Producers Peter S. Davis and William Panzer have wisely jettisoned the cumbersome and conflicting mythologies that had been caused by contradictions between the original motion picture and its two sequels. Highlander II: The Quickening completely rewrote almost every maxim that had been set up in the original movie. Highlander: The Final Dimension (which totally ignored the existence of H II) tried to remain faithful to the end of the first movie, but still find a way to explain the existence of at least one more immortal on this planet after Connor MacLeod had supposedly defeated his last challenger ten years earlier to claim the prize of mortality and infinite knowledge of the universe.

Highlander: Endgame exists totally within the parallel time stream that had been created for the syndicated television series. We are handed a somewhat different Connor MacLeod, a man who experienced his first violent death at a point where he was about ten to fifteen years older than the character in the first movie. This has caused him to begin his journey through the centuries as a wiser but more jaded character.

Duncan MacLeod is about seventy-five years younger than Connor. His official date and place of birth are 1592 in the Highlands of Scotland. After being accidentally killed in a battle against the English, and totally recovering from his injuries, Duncan was banished from the MacLeod Clan and went off to join whatever battle he could find against the forces of England. As he was recovering from his most recent death, Duncan was found by Connor, who began to teach him what it was to be an immortal and how the game between them is played.

The legend has been handed down among the immortals that they are meant to battle each other to the death. In the end only one will be left, and he or she will inherit a prize that consists of incredible knowledge and the power to rule the world. There have been those who have tried to avoid the battle, but from time to time some mystical force has caused what is called a “Gathering”. At these points in time, bunches of them are drawn together and even the dearest of friends find themselves compelled to take arms against each other.

Director Douglas Aarniokoski has done a very good job of delicately balancing action and character development so that neither overshadows the other. The story begins with a flurry of confusing and seemingly contradictory story lines which finally begin to fall into place after about forty-five minutes. Once this has happened and the motives of Duncan, Connor, and the evil Kell are brought clearly into view, the action and intensity steadily builds into a reasonably satisfying climax.

I want to seriously praise Aarniokoski for not falling into the trap of having the “Ending That Would Not Die”. During the last thirty minutes of The Man In The Iron Mask, I found that I had begun to mentally scream at the director, “Will you just end the damn thing?” I had been afraid that Highlander: Endgame might be headed in the same direction because it is the type of motion picture that is ripe for that sort of mistake. Thankfully, my fears were did not pan out.

At the same time, I must seriously fault the director and the producers for not properly developing a background relationship between Kell and Faith. It is quickly made clear that the two have joined forces to bring down Connor and Duncan — and Faith even tells Duncan why she is working with the man — but the viewer is never given even the slightest glimpse of how he wooed her and brought her into his fold. The fact that all of Kell’s associates are simply there, having no real background to show why they are under his control, eventually causes this entire “Unholy Alliance” to come off as nothing more than a necessary plot contrivance. The master villain never really reaches his full potential, and this eventually causes the story to become something slightly less than what it could have been.

My major gripe is the serious underuse of the characters of Dawson and Methos. The company should have edited out five minutes of redundant action, and then added in about fifteen additional minutes which featured these two filling out their proper roles of supporting / advising / chastising Duncan MacLeod. Dawson and Methos tend to be the Doctor McCoy and Mister Spock of Duncan MacLeod’s life. Dawson helps to bring to light Duncan’s emotional reasons for what is going on, and Methos gives a solid focus to the cold and calculating manner that Immortals must often employ in order to survive. Bringing in the two as little more than window dressing somewhat crippled the serious character development that would have made this a truly excellent motion picture.

Taken as a whole, the story is exciting and mostly satisfying. There are a few too many little loose ends for my taste. Some are obviously there by necessity, to give the production company a good set up for the next installment of the series, but others appear to be a serious lack of good storytelling.

I’ll give Highlander: Endgame three stars for being good action and adventure and only two for character and plot development. This balances out to a respectable 2.5 and puts it way ahead of the two sequels to the original Highlander.

One final note … Music. The producers really should have bitten the bullet and put out the time, effort and money to secure the rights to use “Princes Of The Universe” and “Who Wants To Live Forever”. There are certain places in the film that are literally screaming for the inclusion of one or the other. The Celtic background score is basically good, but something just comes up missing without the gut-wrenching, soul-searching qualities of the original music.

Movie review: Galaxy Quest, by DreamWorks

Webmaster’s note 1/17/2016: This is an old review from the previous version of the site, which we’re bringing in as a post so that it’ll be searchable in the reviews categories with newer content.

Galaxy Quest

Galaxy Quest

review by R’ykandar Korra’ti

I cannot believe I just spent the last two hours laughing at a Tim Allen film. I hate Tim Allen. But Galaxy Quest is hysterical.

YOU HAVE TO SEE IT.

Everybody in it is just funny, and boy howdy, do the writers know their Star Trek. It’s clever, it’s quick, it’s leaving theatres pretty quickly unless the overwhemingly good word-of-mouth saves it.

I’m not going to say anything in detail about it. Just funny, funny, funny. Go see it.