The Last Jedi and Me

Luke Skywalker in The Last Jedi photoI was there. Oh yes, I was there. I was one of the original “virgins” who walked into a movie theatre in 1977 – in my case, between to life-size cardboard cutouts of white-armored Stormtroopers, I remember them well – and heard for the first time that iconic music, watched the scroll unfold across the stars, gasped as that starship came and kept coming and coming and coming.

I was there when Carrie Fisher first put up those unforgettable hair buns to frame a face still round with youth – she was 19, only a handful of years older than me – and turned into the princess who would change my life.

I was there when Luke Skywalker, God help his sweet naïve wet-behind-the-ears whiny teenage “but I was just going to go get the power converters!” ass, tried to become the action hero, only to be totally eclipsed when Han Solo first strutted onto the silver screen (and shot first). I was there. I was there.

I was there when they destroyed the first Death Star. I was there when they destroyed the second. I was there to laugh at Yoda’s first grammar-bollixed sentences, to watch him lift a drowned X-wing out of the swamp and tell the young Luke when he said that he “didn’t believe it” that this was the reason that he failed, to hear him utter “No! Try not! Do, or do not. There is no try.”

I was there when Luke (bless Hamill’s soul, he still managed to sound young and naïve, even when he was the young Jedi hope saving the galaxy (and his father) in the darkest hour…) began to turn into the legend. I was there when the Ewoks yub-yubbed their way into everyone’s world, love them or hate them. I was there for it all.

I was also there when they flubbed the next three movies – with a story like “how does a man become Darth Vader” it might have been hard to imagine how they could mess that up, but they did it, and how. I was there. Let’s not talk about that.

When “The Force Awakens” burst onto our screens a couple of years ago, I was there for that, too, and I was now the ageing grey-haired elder in the audience. I went there to see what happened to the characters who had once so comprehensively built themselves into the foundations of the world I had built for myself to live in. Continue reading

Back to the magic

So then. Back to the future… back to the past… back to the original science fiction fairy tale which shaped so many lives.

For the record, this being one of those moments when people want to know “Do you remember where you were when…”, I do.

I remember the precise cinema where I first saw Star Wars.

The original Star Wars. The one where Princess Leia was a baby-faced teenager, Luke was “too short for a stormtrooper”, Han and Chewie stole the show and everyone’s hearts, R2D2 and C-3PO perfected electronic bickering, and Darth Vader first *breathed*. The one where Yoda was still in the future, and Obi-Wan Kenobi was the only hope.

Original Star Wars posterI remember walking in through an entrance flanked by two larger-than-life cardboard cutout figures of stormtroopers, I remember sitting back in my cinema chair, I remember… oh… the moment of that opening fanfare, and the screed of writing unfurling into the stars, and then the slow pan downwards, followed by that endless shot of the star destroyer just coming on and on and on and on and breathtakingly on seemingly forever.

I remember that movie very well. I must have gone back to see it five times. I knew it so well that when some time later, at a showing at my University in my freshman year, I was
basically sitting there and speaking the dialogue of the movie with the characters, complete with correct intonation – I was ALMOST able to quote Artoo. It’s how I got a boyfriend, because one of the guys in the group we had gone to see the movie with eventually ended up being far more fascinated by this eldritch girl sitting next to him and quoting the entire movie more or less verbatim from memory than he was by the movie he had gone there to watch.

Oh hell yeah I remember all of that.

I remember growing up a little more and going to see “Empire”, and then the resolution of it all in “Return of the Jedi” The revelations. The mythopoeic arc, the fairy tale. The happy ending (and yes, so shoot me, I LOVED that sitlly soppy Ewok celebration at the end of the original “Return of the Jedi. So there. Yub Nub to you too.)

And then I grew up a little more, and Lucas decided to tell the backstory of Darth Vader.

By THIS stage, understand, I was a writer. I had stories of my own swirling in my head. But nothing I ever twisted and embroidered in terms of the story of Darth Vader – the Anakin Skywalker that was – prepared me for the massive catastrophe that the “prequel” movies were.

I went to see the first one and I was practically speechless with outrage. My husband flatly refused to go and see the others. I went. Because I needed to see that opening screen in theaters. Because I needed the closure. And I walked away shot full of cynicism and disillusionment at what had been done to the story,at the story that had been so wasted. I knew one thing for certain – Lucas couldn’t write his way out of a paper bag and very specifically if he ever feels the urge to write a romantic scene again he should go and lie down in a dark room until the urge goes away.

Everything about those next three movies ended up being messed up, or weird, or ludicrous. There was a point beyond which the willing suspension of disbelief just cannot be taken, and those movies were it for me. I carefully try to forget even what little I can remember from those films. They. Do. Not. Exist.

And then the world turned some more, and the rumors started… and then the rumours became true… and then it was a matter of waiting. And three days before Christmas of 2015, the waiting came to an end.

Han Solo jacket artHan Solo’s Cockpit Jacket, Glyn Dillon – Star Wars concept art from io9

In a packed movie theater, I sat down to watch Episode Vii. It was called “The Force Awakens”… but would it? Would this wake up the beautiful thing that had been rendered so utterly comatose by what had gone on in the interim…?

And the music exploded from the speakers. And the golden words began to spin tinto the stars. And then we were off.

It started, perhaps, a little iffily – yes this was Star WARS and it had always been big bloody mayhem – but OK I could sit through the opening mayhem scenes – they set up some of the characters. I sat there with a grin plastered all over my face because what I was watching was an old friend.

All the things that had made that first Star Wars experience such a seminal one.

Droidtalk (oh, BB-8 is a sweethart. I want one.). Snappy dialogue. Good versus evil. Light sabers. Han and Chewie. Han and Leia (oh GOD, Han and Leia. That reunion.That inimitable quick back-and-forth banter) Jedi mind tricks. The Falcon. As Han put it, “It is true. All of it.” It was all true after all, and it was all I could do not to dance in the aisle.

The new things.

Rey. Finn. The aforementioned BB-8. Maz, the new Yoda. Kylo Ren.

The grand things that reached out and tore at you.

Leia… *knowing*. Han’s caress of his son’s face. The moment when Luke turned back from the sea to face yet another destiny (my but that callow lad from the original Star Wars has grown up into something…bigger, nobler, more tragic. And at least they got rid of that catastrophic haircut.)

All the promise of things to come. Because I want to see this movie again. And I want the next one, now.

Oh, sure, there are plot holes here – some of them you could ram a stardestroyer through if you really wanted to pick at the nits and at the fabric. Some day I might even pick at them. Not tonight, Not now.

I don’t think I will be saying anything that people don’t already know when I say that Han Solo is – always was – the heart of this story. I know half the world has seen the movie already and it isn’t really much of a spoiler any more – and in any event I knew this storyline before I went in and all I can say is thank GOD I did  because if I hadn’t it would have gone hard – but the legacy of being that heart always would have been a hard thing to carry.

Let me just say that I am convinced that Harrison Ford understands this – and for him – for that character – it IS all true. His story goes where it has to go, and he offers it all up, and with him in the middle of it all the story of “The Force Awakens” flies like that indestructible and improbably agile ship that he has made synonymous with his name.

Rey may be the bright new star of the franchise, Finn may be a brilliant addition to the “family”, Kylo Ren might well grow up out of that slender black clad frame into a true inheritor of Vader’s mantle… but …

But Han, Han and Leia, they are the beating heart of it all. They are a huge part of why we loved it all in the first place. And for the gift they bring to this movie – for being allowed to have lived, and loved, and lost, and aged, just like the rest of us, the young ones who were young when they were young and lived our own lives for all these intervening years, for being permitted to be… well… as Han said, “true” … for all of that,

I want to send out into the universe a deep and heartfelt thanks. They at once brought back to me the bright memory of the starry-eyed  child I once was, and at the same moment they looked into my eyes – adult to adult – with understanding and with empathy and their presence, the things they had endured in their own story-lives, validated the lives we had all been living while we waited for them to return.

I need to see this movie again. I need to memorize it, love it, like I once did to another, a long long time ago in a galaxy far far away.

Thank you, to all who had a hand in this  You gave me back something precious, something whose loss I was barely able to acknowledge, something that I could hardly even mourn – but it’s back. You took me back to the wonder.

Thank you.

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Alma Alexander       My books       Email me

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Global warming = more girls

BabiesGlaciers are melting, oceans are rising, and the male population is dwindling as temperatures continue to increase—at least in Japan, a new study shows.

Japanese researchers found that in the hottest recorded summer, 2010, there was a dramatic increase in female births, whereas the coldest winter, 2011, produced more baby boys, Soli Salgado reports in Utne.

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50 Best Films About Writers, Ranked

In Hollywood films, writers are the low man on the totem pole, the person banned from the set, the guy who wrote the Great American novel drinking himself to death in Los Angeles, rewriting dumb scripts.

There are a lot of bad movies about writers out there, Elisabeth Donnelly tells us, so Flavorwire came up with “the definitive list of the 50 Best Films About Writers of all time.”

One of my favorites, Finding Forrester, made the list, albeit as number 49 out of 50 with some silly disparaging remarks and a dumb suggestion that a scene I scarcely remember has become a meme. I’d pick any of a dozen other scenes myself.

And their gushing love of Woody Allen movies? Well … never mind…

What do you think of their choices?
Finding ForresterFinding Forrester...This film is pure cheese, one of the infrequent films to feature a black protagonist as a writer, and its most memorable moment is a writing scene — a writing scene! — that’s become a meme, with Sean Connery cheering the young writer on as he types on a typewriter in his inimitable burr, “Punch the keys for God’s sake! Yes, yeeeessss! You’re the man now, dog!”

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The secret emotional lives of 5 punctuation marks

From the angry period to the dramatic asterisk…
doing-okay-budDoing okay, bud? (iStock)

Punctuation is the homely, workaday cousin to the glamorous word, Arika Okrent writes at The Week. It works quietly in the background, sweeping up and trying to keep the information flow tidy, while words prance around spilling thought, meaning, and feeling all over the place. Punctuation marks accept their utilitarian roles, but they too carry feelings.

The Week takes a look at the secret emotional lives of five punctuation marks, especially in social media.

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THIS ‘n THAT

‘YOU’ Poem Goes Viral

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The Force wasn’t with them

Every On-Screen Death In The Original ‘Star Wars’ Trilogy, In Under 3 Minutes

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Telepathy is here, well sort of

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San Antonio Airport offers Digital Library Kiosks which allow patrons to checkout ebooks. In addition, the kiosks serve as rapid recharging stations for mobile devices.

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Quote of the Day
Joss Whedon~~~~~
Alma Alexander
My books

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Feminist SF, really?

Feminist SFMainstream science fiction has been pretty terrible at populating its worlds with anyone other than straight white dudes, Devon Maloney writes at The Cut.Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, and others wrote almost exclusively about their demographic. Onscreen science fiction, from Star Wars and Back to the Future to War of the Worlds and Blade Runner, is little different.But sci-fi history actually has featured ahead-of-its-time, female-identifying authors and creators who have challenged conventional notions of race, gender, and sexuality head-on for centuries. Here is a rundown of 25 of the most feminist moments in sci-fi history:
Lt StarbuckStarbuck Gets Gender-Swapped (2004): The original 1978 Battlestar Galactica series portrayed Lieutenant Starbuck as a womanizing, cigar-smoking rogue, but the 2004 reimagining of Starbuck as an incredibly flawed, adaptive, and brilliant woman made the character unforgettable.Read the article

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Women Who Conquered the Comics World

As both a comics creator and historian, Trina Robbins is particularly interested in the unknown history of female cartoonists, Lisa Hix writes for Collectors Weekly. Robbins has published a Fantagraphics book called Pretty in Ink: North American Women Cartoonists, 1896-2013.

The subject is particularly relevant right now, given that new comic-book-based movies are hitting the big screen every few months, yet not a single one has revolved around a female hero. But Marvel has taken bold steps by making a Pakistani American teen the new Ms. Marvel, in a comic-book series written by a woman, and turning Thor into a woman in its upcoming revamp of the series.
msmarvelIn the new “Ms. Marvel” series—created by two women, editor Sana Amanat and writer G. Willow Wilson, and one man, artist Adrian Alphona—the heroine is Kamala Khan, a Pakistani American teenager living in New Jersey. (Via Marvel.wikia.com)

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10 Great Books Based on Other Great Books

Literature is a never-ending, overlapping, sometimes circular conversation — between writers, between readers, between books themselves, Emily Temple writes in Flavorwire.

There are some novels that are better if you have a little bit of background going in — and sometimes that background is nothing more or less than another great novel.

Here are a few books you should pair the way you would a fine wine with an excellent cheese — each enhancing the other and making for a very satisfying evening.
Madame BovaryBefore reading: Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert
You should read: Don Quixote, Miguel de Cervantes
Flaubert first read Don Quixote when he was 11 years old. He wrote a letter to a friend that he had decided to become a novelist: “I’ve already got some ideas for my first books. I’ll write about Cardenio, about Dorotea, and one about Ill-Advised Curiosity.” Of course, anyone who has read Cervantes knows just what little Gus is talking about. There are many parallels in the two books — one of the most interesting is Emma Bovary herself.“Emma embodies, in one person, the conflict between idealism and pragmatism that Cervantes divides between Don Quixote and Sancho Panza.”

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35 Things To Do With All Those Books

Many of these ideas are utterly bizarre, but I do like this staircase library.
Staircase libarybuddingbibliophiles.com

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THIS ‘n THAT

12 Awesome Things at the Library, e.g.:

You can stream stuff for free. Using your library card, you can check out a service called Hoopla. Using Hoopla, you can stream movies and TV shows without spending a dime. It’s not as stable as Netflix or Hulu but if you can stand the bugs you can watch some pretty good stuff for free.

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Quote of the Day

There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written. That is all.” ~ Oscar Wilde

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Alma Alexander
My books

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