Farewell, Star Wars

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Dear Sirs,

I’m shaking. I’m sitting here, shaking.

I just returned home from seeing the latest Star Wars movie, and I am physically shaking due to a mixture of anger, resentment, disappointment, and a desperate feeling of opportunities lost. I’ve never had such a visceral negative reaction to a movie or any sort of entertainment. Undoubtedly the reaction I’m experiencing is proof positive of my level of commitment and love for the amazing story that took place a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.

Now, that commitment and love has been called into question, and it’s rocked me to my core.

Before I continue, allow me a moment to prove my credibility. I saw Star Wars in the theater 26 times back in 1977, three times in one day at one point. I had every toy Kenner released, including the Boba Fett mail-in action figure. I read every comic and novel, multiple times. I’ve even written a series of my own Star Wars stories, imagining what happens to our heroes as they branch out in their fight against the evil Empire.

I sent a couple of my best stories to Lucasfilm, and how I wish they would have incorporated my ideas into this movie rather than sending me a condescending “thanks but no thanks” letter. If they would have listened to me, then this could have been a much different review. As it is, I have to say goodbye to what was a wonderful entertainment experience for the past three years.

And it’s all because of the travesty that was The Empire Strikes Back.

I slept outside of the Hollywood Paramount with about five hundred other suckers for three nights to see this abomination. And it started out as such a positive experience! The atmosphere was festive, joyous, and full of life. People dressed as their favorite characters, showed off their homemade light sabers, and hypothesized about what we would see when the movie rolled. You could almost feel everyone bound together by the light side of the Force. But when it was over, it was as if the dark side had won, taking everything good in the world with it. At first I felt numb, but that numbness quickly gave way to anger.

That’s where I am now, thus the shaking.

[If you haven’t seen this movie yet, understand that I’m going to be talking about specific details. But even still, I encourage you to go ahead and read it and find out why you shouldn’t see The Empire Strikes Back. Save yourself three dollars. Trust me, you don’t want to contribute any more to the degradation of Star Wars.]

1. Darth Vader is Luke’s WHAT?

Has there been a movie villain that has provoked more fear and awe then Darth Vader? And what an incredible set up when Ben Kenobi tells Luke that Vader was responsible for the death of his father. It gave Luke such motivation to go after the Dark Lord and show him the power of the light side with the business end of a light saber.

But no, that’s not good enough for the hacks that made this movie. They completely screw it up by having Darth Vader claim to be Luke’s father.

Yes, you read that right. Darth Vader, the Dark Lord of the Sith, is apparently the father of the hero of the Rebellion, Luke Skywalker.

Image-0-Header-1536x864-863587051769Did the filmmakers even read Splinter of the Mind’s Eye? Vader is pure evil. Evil personified. He murders people without thought, including Luke’s father, and that’s not just conjecture… it’s what Luke was told by the only known Jedi Knight. Are you seriously telling me that Ben Kenobi would lie to an innocent kid like Luke? It calls into question everything that happened in the first movie, and that is an inexcusable betrayal. “For over a thousand generations, the Jedi Knights were the guardians of peace and justice in the Old Republic”, and now they are a bunch of liars?

“Maybe Darth Vader is the one who is lying!” Of course that is an option, but if that is what Lucas is getting at, it MAKES NO SENSE. What would be the point of Vader telling Luke such a lie? How does it help him to defeat the Rebellion? Unfortunately, we don’t know, and that’s because of my second criticism.

2. The Movie Doesn’t End

When the screen went black and the credits started showing, everyone in the Paramount sat stunned. What? They didn’t save Han? We don’t know if Darth Vader is lying? What kind of a movie doesn’t end?

What should have happened (if this were a good movie) is that Luke arrives at Cloud City in time to save Han, and then they all get away from the Empire, maybe injuring Darth Vader or killing Boba Fett in the process. It’s such an easy concept! But these morons decided to end without giving the audience a resolution. We DON’T learn what Darth Vader was really up to, and the good guys are just continuing to run from the bad guys like they did all movie. No victory, no climax, no ending.

I’m no screenwriter or movie director, but that is just bad filmmaking. The cynical side of me thinks that it’s just their way of making sure people come back to see what happens in their next movie, to make sure that we throw away even more of our hard-earned cash. Nice try, Mr. Lucas, but you can bet that I won’t be anywhere near your theaters when you come back to betray us once again in 1983.

Speaking of being betrayed, my third criticism is about an unfulfilled promise.

3. Luke and Leia

One of the greatest things about Star Wars was the idea that an average boy could rescue a princess, fall in love, and maybe get married one day. [Once again, read Splinter of the Mind’s Eye to see the correct direction this story should have taken.] It’s what the audience wants! The boy and the princess! Not what The Empire Strikes Back gives us – the princess and the pirate.

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Ignoring what the audience obviously wants, Lucas tears the boy and the princess apart in the first twenty minutes, and then has the princess fall into the arms of the pirate while the boy flies across the galaxy to talk to a frog in a swamp. I’m sorry – I know Han Solo is cool, but he IS NOT SUPPOSED TO GET THE PRINCESS. It doesn’t make any sense!

At least we left the theater with a hope that Luke might get Leia back. I have to admit that one of the good things about the terrible cliffhanger idea was that Han is out of the picture, giving Luke the opportunity to properly woo his princess. However, even as I write that, I know that this is not what Lucas and company will do, because it’s WHAT HIS AUDIENCE WANTS HIM TO DO. It’s like he made this movie with the intention of angering the very people that made Star Wars the biggest box office hit ever (almost $300,000,000! Can you imagine?).

This brings me to my third criticism.

3. The Swamp Frog

To understand this next bit of criticism, you have to remember what happened in Star Wars. The only person who could teach Luke about The Force was Ben Kenobi (our “only hope”), but he dies at the end of that movie. Yes, Luke hears Ben’s voice in the Death Star trench, but he doesn’t offer to teach Luke as a disembodied voice. In The Empire Strikes Back, we find that he has NOT been teaching Luke, which seems odd since Ben can appear as a ghost. Why hasn’t he been ghost-teaching him for the past three years? We don’t know, but that sort of plot hole apparently doesn’t matter to Lucas.

00muppstarsWhat Ben does do is tell Luke to go find Yoda, supposedly a great jedi, on a faraway planet, and so as soon as Luke is able, he goes. So far, so good. Luke (and the audience) expects to find a powerful warrior on this faraway planet, but instead he finds a frog in a swamp. And not just a frog, but a Muppet frog with a speech impediment. Seriously – a Muppet frog! And to underline this ridiculous turn of events, Lucas even brought in the voice of Miss Piggy and Fozzie the Bear to provide the Muppet frog’s voice! I kept expecting him to put on a tie and fedora and do a stand-up routine, or sing “Easy It’s Not Being Green” while playing a space banjo.

Speaking of color, this brings me to final critique.

4. Politics in Space

Apparently, some people complained that Star Wars wasn’t diverse enough (did these people not see all of the aliens in the cantina? How is that not diverse?), and so of course, Lucas bowed to pressure and included a token black character in this movie. Was this really necessary?  What’s next? Women fighting stormtroopers? Asian or Hispanic generals running the Rebellion?

George Lucas, Star Wars shouldn’t be about politics, it shouldn’t have to worry about representing every different kind of person onscreen. No, Star Wars should be about light saber fights, space battles, and the boy getting the princess. Again, it’s what your audience WANTS.

mpvGpMgBut he won’t listen. He’ll just continue doing these kinds of things in his next movie. I’m certain Star Wars 3 will show us that the notorious gangster Jabba the Hutt is actually a cute little space puppy voiced by Mel Blanc. Boba Fett will take off his mask to reveal that he’s actually Farrah Fawcett, and then she and Han will fall in love. Princess Leia and Chewbacca will turn out to be brother and sister from different mothers, and Lando Calrissian will be their father.

One thing Lucas has proven with this trash heap of a movie is that anything is possible, that we should not try to guess what will happen, because whatever we think, it’ll be something we didn’t anticipate, want or need.

But I won’t be around to find out, and I beg you to join me! Let’s show Lucas that we are done with his manipulations and disappointments by refusing to support any of his work until he apologizes for The Empire Strikes Back and pledges to put Star Wars back on track! For example, word is that Lucas, Stephen Spielberg, and Harrison Ford are working on an action movie set in World War Two, but I say we sit this one out! Show Lucas and his friends that we aren’t going to have any more of it! DO NOT SEE THEIR NEW MOVIE, and that will show him that we mean business.

Speaking of business, you’ve probably seen in your TV Guide that the stars of Star Wars are making the rounds of the talk shows right now, talking up the movie. I want to organize a mass effort to let the sponsors of those shows know that we will boycott their products if they let the movie be promoted on their programs. No Hamill on Carson! No Ford on Mike Douglas! No Fisher on Donahue! But if they persist, I’m currently compiling a list of the scheduled appearances, so I’m going to have like-minded die-hard Star Wars fans gather en masse to protest, holding up signs that say “Not Our Star Wars!”, “Keep Space White!”, and “Vader Would Be A Terrible Dad!”

Join me, and together we can make it so that Lucas can’t show his face in public without our reminding him of his failure! Join me, and we can be the spark that’ll light the fire that’ll burn Star Wars down!

Sincerely,
Jedi Master Marvin S. Lymphburg,
Keller Der Mutter, Minnesota

This fictional letter from a really disappointed fictional über-fan is fictionally from the real August 1980 issue of the very real Starlog magazine. But not really.

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Truth

I’d been waiting for that moment for years, dreamed about it, saw how it would happen from beginning to end. I’d waited, patiently, watching him from a distance when he didn’t know that I was there.

It was my only purpose in life, my penance, to watch him and wait. Wait for the right time to tell him his place in things. At least three times I was tempted to be the one to initiate contact, but something would always stop me. At the time, I found it incredibly frustrating, and I would lock myself in my hovel and try to find peace about my waylaid plans. Each time, I would come out understanding that what had happened had been right, because things would have undoubtedly gone wrong if I had overstepped my bounds yet again. That’s the way the universe operates.

Or at least so I was taught.

Then, the opportunity was given to me. I almost told him everything, but I didn’t. He came to me, understand. I didn’t go looking for him, he came looking for me. After years of watching and waiting, he came to me. And I would tell anyone that asked that if there were signs to be sought, they were all there: I had him alone – well, mostly alone. Undistracted. None of his loud friends or busybody relatives bustling about to stop me.

It was perfect. It was time.

He even asked me what had happened. He actually asked me. The conversation had been going exactly as I imagined it would up to that point, and yet when he asked me, the words I had been practicing since I first came to this godforsaken place froze on my lips. It came on me suddenly – a feeling that I still mustn’t tell him. It still wasn’t time, even though everything seemed to be pushing me towards following my original plan.

I saw what would happen if he knew the truth right now. He sat before me, a boy filled with a beautiful optimism and purity, and those qualities would serve him well in life, but they would be his undoing if he knew the truth now. His goodness would make him obsess over the truth, he would go mad thinking that he could somehow make things right. He would run to him – and he wouldn’t be ready. And then all of his admirable qualities would be twisted and manipulated and turned into a dark abomination.

I saw him turn, right in front of me, in my home.  And he whispered that if this happened to him, it would once again be because of my impatience. As I was responsible for his father, I would be responsible for him.

And then I heard words that I had never rehearsed spill from my mouth, and I felt a guiltless guilt as I saw my lie spill over him. I knew that it was the right thing to do, even as I knew how deep his goodness ran, and how deeply he would feel betrayed when he found out the truth.

But he will understand, and he will forgive. That’s the man this boy will grow to be.

And when he’s old enough, he will be ready.

But not today.

“A young Jedi named Darth Vader, who was a pupil of mine until he turned to evil, helped the Empire hunt down and destroy the Jedi Knights. He betrayed and murdered your father…”

Wandering Stars

Bats on an asteroid? Whose idea was that?

I have to think a bunch of idiot dwarves were sitting around in their mines back on the dwarf world, discussing the things they’d miss most when they set out into space on their mission to strip asteroids of firegems. For some reason, they all agreed on little leather-winged flying rats.

Probably to help with homesickness out here in the belt.

That’s great for them, but for the rest of us, the bats aren’t so nice to have around. They swoop out of nowhere, they bite, and will even try to carry away small animals. They especially like to dive bomb me when I sit at the top of the arch of D’nash, like I’m doing now. So I stay low.

Other than the risk of bat-bite, the top of the arch is perfect for me. The dwarves refuse to look at it, which has something to do with their religion, so it lowers the odds that I’ll be spotted. My sister Meg told me that we should try to understand the dwarves to help us get along better with them, but I just don’t get it. Why bother having a religion if that religion doesn’t allow you to look at the monuments you build because of that religion?

Yeah, they brought their bats to the asteroid, they brought their religion, and they brought me and Meg and a whole bunch of other human slaves. They’re wonderful creatures, dwarves.

But as little as they pay attention to their religion, I figure that following their beliefs is still more important than a scrawny twelve year old human girl, so they don’t know or don’t care that I sit up here. Which is fine by me. If they did care, then I couldn’t get away with what I’m doing now.

I sit up as I see a flash of pink in the crowd below. What I’ve been waiting for – an orc administrator, wearing his standard pink jacket, pushing his self-important way through the crowded square below, totally unaware that he’d just been pegged to donate to the Human World Orphan’s Fund.

I just love orcs. Their skin has a delightful greenish color that reminds me of my vomit after I’ve eaten too much of Meg’s langua bean soup. Their eyes are as mesmerizingly black as the deepest, darkest, coldest mine, a color which – incidentally – matches the color of their black souls, if they have souls, which I don’t think that they do.

I mean, what’s not to love? They invaded my homeworld, destroying everything in the process, killed my parents, and then dumped Meg and me off as slaves for their stubby longbearded allies to take to the stars. I love them so much that it’s my pleasure to do what I can to inconvenience them whenever I get the chance. It’s just the kind of girl that I am.

Meg says I have a real problem with sarcasm.

If she only knew.

Looking back at the orc, this one is moving fast. Probably late for an important orc meeting, or maybe just late for dinner. Either way, it means I’ll have to move faster.

First, though, I scan the crowd until I see Turi, sitting obediently by a garbage receptacle, looking up at me, waiting for my signal.

He’s such a good dog. Slaves aren’t supposed to have pets, but I dare anyone to try and separate us. Three years ago I was walking past this goblin café on an errand for my owner when I heard this panicked yelping from around back. Meg says I’ve always been more curious than is healthy, but in this case, it saved Turi’s life, because I ran around back and found a horde of bats trying to carry this little brown fur ball off for dinner. He was only a puppy, but that day he became my puppy, and we’ve been inseparable ever since. We have a special connection, which makes what I’m trying to do here today that much easier.

I flick my hand and whisper, “go, boy!” and he immediately bursts into the crowd as if powered by dragonfire.

And that means I have to get down quick.

Fortunately, I’ve done this dozens of times. It’s just a matter of sliding down the arch while avoiding the razor sharp blades that stick out at random spots. They apparently symbolize the way dwarves are supposed to cut themselves in obedience to their gods or something.

What a weird religion.

But, as I’ve said, I’ve done this before, and so sliding down while avoiding the blades is not as hard as it sounds.

But avoiding the gaggle of dwarf nuns at the bottom, that’s another issue.

Of course it would be the only members of the bizarre religion who are permitted to look at the arch as they pray. Only now, they’re not looking at the arch. They’re looking at this scrawny human girl sliding down the arch towards them.

Crap.

When I hit the ground, I expect the nuns to start doing the same to me, and I’m prepared to take the beating long enough to satisfy their anger and then scurry away. But hit with a flash of inspiration, I grab my left ear, bow, and say, “V’rak D’nash!” (which means “Praise D’nash” in dwarvish). I hold my breath and tense, prepared to feel their little rock-hard fists pounding me from all sides. But when that doesn’t happen, I risk a glance. To my shock, the nuns are smiling at me! In unison, they grab their own right ears, bow, and say “P’nash D’nash!” (“May D’nash be praised”), then turn and walk away, giggling.

Maybe Meg was right after all?

Not wasting any more time on my near beat-down, I dive into the crowd, pushing my way through the crowds of dwarf miners, orc pilots, and some multi-limbed creatures that I don’t recognize until I see the puke green head and bright pink administrator jacket just ahead.

But before I can make my move, my way is blocked. I’m about to use some of the dwarf words that Meg never lets me use when I realize that it’s not a dwarf blocking me. It’s a man. A slave, heading for the mines. He’s wearing the simple brown work bibs that mine slaves are provided, a rough fabricated material that is just enough to provide protection, but nothing you would ever choose to wear. He’s linked to six or seven other men with energy beams that prevents them from running away (although there’s nowhere to run on a mining colony). And he looks at me with blank eyes, the result of spending most of his time in the darkness of the mines. For a moment, his eyes seem to clear.

“Anna?”

Then he and the others are pushed on by their dwarf minders, who don’t bother with me. After all, I’m wearing the crest of my owner Jazrah on my tunic. I’m obviously on important business. I breathe a prayer of thanks to D’nash that my owner works in shipping and not mining, or else Meg and I might be a part of that chain gang. But I can’t afford to be distracted, and so I hop past the last dwarf and run up ahead.

I’m about to give Turi the signal when I remember the cams. Dammit, I forgot the cams, and the cams capture everything in public places like this. Stupid bats distracted me. I now have a choice to make: either call the whole thing off and try again later, or try one of Meg’s spells. I’m not supposed to use them in public, but I do it all the time and nobody’s ever been any wiser for it. What Meg doesn’t know won’t hurt her.

I do it quickly, reciting the magic words my sister taught me and making a circular gesture with my left hand. If the spell works (and it usually does), the cams should be on a loop for the next few minutes. It’s not the best way to deal with them, but it’s the only choice I have now.

Knowing that Turi is ready (he’s such a good dog), I take a deep breath and whisper “Go boy”, and the dog is off like a flash, jumping in front of the administrator so quickly that the only thing he can do is go down in a flurry of arms and legs, the stack of sims he’s carrying for his work exploding from him like a wall cracker during the Remembrance Day celebrations.

It’s a perfect move.

I leap out to play my part, grabbing Turi by the back of his neck. “Bad dog!” I scold, sticking my finger in his face. Turi’s ears go back and he lowers his head, whining. Good boy, I think as I turn to the orc. “I’m so sorry,” I say, lowering my head like a good slave.

It’s all I can do not to laugh at the sight of the orc trying to stand and pick up the slips he’d dropped at the same time.

“Let me help you,” I start, scooping up handfuls of slips and shoving them at the orc in what appears to be a random and chaotic movement, but is in fact a move that I’ve practiced hundreds of times.

The administrator, as I expected, is not very interested in my help. The blue veins stand out in his green head, a sign of intense anger in an orc. It occurs to me that if this was one of the larger and angrier orcs – a pilot or a warrior – he would have twisted my head off by now. That’s why I picked an administrator. They get angry, but the nature of their work requires more restraint.

“Just leave it alone!” he shrieks. “Leave me alone!”

This one is surprisingly loud. Loud enough to attract unwanted attention, meaning that the Red Caps – the dwarf constables with their distinctive red caps – would likely be along soon to investigate the fracas. This means that it’s time to make my exit, especially now that the orc’s money bag is now tucked safely in the back of my tunic. So, I raise my hands, dropping the slips I’m still holding, I bow my head, and I back off.

And then, when I’m the required three paces away, I give a short whistle and Turi and I do our best vanishing act into the crowd.

Leaving behind a small victory for enslaved humans everywhere: a much angrier and much poorer orc administrator.

Yay for us.

Lies

 

The sound of her keys jangling sets off an eruption on the other side of the door. It always does, and so she always jangles them a bit louder than necessary to help prime the eruption. Today is no different, and they’re all there when she opens the door, bursting to welcome her home. The twins, who only learned to walk a few months ago, lead the charge. The toddler is close behind, and the corgie is in the midst of it all, adding his barks to the delighted cries of the children.

Behind the young, noisy crowd, he sits on the floor, the big bulky Legos spilled all around him, with a multi-colored house featuring Mickey Mouse’s head the main architectural feat of the day. He looks tired, as he usually does, as anyone would when taking care of three small children all day long. But still, he stands and approaches her, wading through the pool of youth to offer his own particular greeting.

“How was the trip?” he asks, kissing her. He tastes like brownies.

“Same as usual,” she says, kissing him back. The kids are wrapped around her legs, giggling, asking for presents, but she still takes the time to let her embrace communicate that she’d missed him. “Let me get changed, and then you can take a break. Should I start a bath?”

His smile is tinged with relief. “Join me?”

“Is this a group offer?” She asks, gesturing to the giggling children.

She sets her bag down in the closet and takes off her blouse. She’s about to take off her pants when she feels the familiar buzz of her cell phone in the pocket. She pulls it out and reads the message. She smiles, and then freezes. Did she hear someone in the bedroom?

“Honey?” She calls.

No answer.

She turns her attention back to the phone and feels a stirring as she taps out her reply. Then, swiping the screen to close the app, she decides to turn off notifications for incoming messages, just in case.

She finishes changing into her sweats, and pockets her phone as she rejoins her family.

She’s home.

Mostly.

 

Thimblerig’s Ark blog celebrates 300,000 Hits!

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It’s hard to believe, but today the blog had it’s 300,000th hit! I wish I could figure out who the person was who took us over the 300K mark so that I could give them a prize, but since I can’t, I’ve decided to give everyone a prize! Also, I’m going to be counting down the top five posts of all time on the Thimblerig’s Ark blog.

But before we get to the top five, to celebrate this milestone, I’m giving away copies of my novel, Thimblerig’s Ark, for anyone who would like to read it!

To get your free copy for Kindle, just click on the picture below and don’t forget to tell your friends! Share it on social media! Paint it on your roof for passing planes to see!

And let them all know that Thimblerig’s Ark will be free until Sunday, February 25.

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And it would be really, really super cool if you actually gave the novel a try, and then took a couple of minutes to write a review on Amazon. I appreciate my 29 reviews, but want to get many, many more!

Top 5 posts

And just for fun, I thought I would show the five most popular articles to come from this blog since we began in 2014.

Drumroll, please!


5. Nine Things I Learned from 40 Days (and Nights) of Christian Media. Yes, it’s over. (5,295 hits, published April 27, 2015)

In 2015, I decided to spend 40 days (and nights) consuming nothing but Christian media. It was a long 40 days, but in the end I think I learned some valuable lessons.

This article got a good bump when it was featured and discussed by Phil Vischer (the creator of Veggietales) on The Phil Vischer Podcast, episode 151.

4. A Memorial to the Family of Tambii Jee, lost on MH17 (11,673 hits, July 14, 2014)

How often do we hear about tragic events of the world, shake our head at the tragedy, and then go on with our lives?

family2On July 17, 2014, a tragic event far away struck very close to home for me. On that day, Malaysia Airlines flight 17 was shot down over Ukraine, and one of the heartbreaking stories was a family of six, three of whom were my former students from Atyrau, Kazakhstan. The family of Tambii Jee was returning home to Malaysia after many years in Kazakhstan, and this blog post was my response to this tragic situation, sharing some memories of this sweet family, especially the youngest son Afruz, who was in my homeroom.

3. My Review of Ken Ham’s Ark Encounter Theme Park (12,403 hits, published July 19, 2016)

When Ken Ham’s Ark Park opened on July 7, 2016, my family was there. The ark was an impressive feat of building, but entertainment-wise, it was a letdown. “But it’s a ministry!” some would say. “Why should it be entertaining?” Considering that Ken Ham compared the place with the Disney and Universal parks, I would have expected the entertainment factor to be higher.

When The Friendly Atheist, an atheist blogger, linked to my review, the article blew up and was seen by thousands.

You can read his thoughts here. 

2. Unpacking that God’s Not Dead 3 Teaser (21,916 hits, published April 12, 2016)

If you would have asked me when I was writing this blog post if I thought it would be the second most popular post I would write, I would have laughed. But, the God’s Not Dead franchise is unarguably popular for a Christian film franchise, and so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that my dissection of the claims made at the end of God’s Not Dead 2 would get so many visitors.

1. What’s Wrong With Christian Filmmaking? (107,234 hits, published March 25, 2014)

The post that started it all. God’s Not Dead had just been released, and reading a critical review sparked me to scribble down on my blog what I had been learning and thinking about since taking the Act One screenwriting course a few years earlier: the importance of Christians artists doing everything with excellence, including filmmaking.

And the bigger importance of the Big Christian Audience allowing Christian artists to do it.


And so, that’s it! Thank you, loyal readers, for being a part of this journey!

Enjoy reading Thimblerig’s Ark…

…and here’s to the next 300,000!