Posts tagged ‘Star Wars’

Photoshop Practice

I am working on a couple of euro-style strategy card games at the moment.  The first is a business start-up game, and the second is a space-themed game loosely based on my experiences playing the Traveler role-playing game years ago.   A good stock image account (I use Shutterstock) gets me everything in terms of card images I need for the first game, but royalty-free space images are harder.  However, it is actually possible to start with prosaic industrial and other images and hack them to look futuristic, but it takes some work.

So I have been working on Photoshop skills.  If I could digitally paint, I would paint beautiful concept art, but I cannot.  So my Photoshop training has focused not on painting per se but on hacking images together and overlaying effects.   A LOT of the work is learning to do selections well to mash up images and then overlaying a few effects.   I can make a really good laser beam now, for example.  Take a modern weapon, have a laser beam come out, wala a pretty functional sci fi gun  (Don't believe me?  Look at the Death Star Turrets in the original Star Wars movie and tell me those aren't essentially current-era battleship turrets with green and red light coming out).  I wrote earlier about the lessons I followed in making custom planets.

As an example, here is the lesson I did last night.  It is not production value because it started with a low-res iPhone photo my daughter sent me and as you can tell from the edges and especially the hair, I did not spend much effort getting the edge selection just right.  But my daughter liked being a cyborg:

Click to enlarge

 

She has dark brown hair and dark brown eyes, so she is not the ideal model for this because those are hard to colorize well.  Blondes may or may not have more fun, but they are much easier to colorize.  The downsize of the exercise is that she loved the hair and now wants to color it that way for real.

LineQuest, err Comic-Con Report

Having now been to my first Comic-con International conference in San Diego, I have come up with a new official T-shirt for the event.  It will say on the front, "What is this line for?"

That was the question on everyone's lips.  No matter where you went, either in the exhibit hall or in the meeting room area or outside, there were lines everywhere.  There were lines for giveaways.  There were lines to get in rooms.  There were lines for autographs.  There were even lines to get tickets to have a preferential place in a line later.   One line, for the largest theater that had the hottest programming, was over a mile and a quarter long, with people lined up overnight to get in.  There were so many lines it was often unclear what lines were for.  Five people could likely start a line randomly by simply standing in line at some random spot and people would start getting in behind them.

I have decided that the origin of the word Comic-Con is not actually from Comic-Convention but in fact is actually a corruption of COMECON.  It is an organization that has embraced the old Soviet economy with both arms.  It has bent over backwards to absolutely ensure that no allocation of scarce resources will be based on price -- thus the incredibly complicated process for even obtaining a ticket to the event in the first place.  So all goods are free (or in the case of a 4-day ticket, very inexpensive) and allocation of scarce resources is entirely by queue.

A one-day pass to see the exhibit hall and people-watch the Cosplay is well worth the price, both in money and more importantly in time.  My son and I had a great time.  But any attempt to enjoy any of the programming content will require at least 1 hour of line-standing for every 1 hour of program time.  And if the program has any recognizable person's name in it, or if the title includes the words "Star Wars, Star Trek, or Firefly", then you can count on at least 3 hours of waiting for every one hour of programming.

As an example, my son and I showed up 1-1/2 hours early for an afternoon program called something like "Star Wars vs. Firefly."   We were about 50th in a line that eventually ran to about 600 people.  We thought we were in good shape.  Foolish mortals.  It turns out people showed up at 7 and 8 in the morning for the first program of the day in that room, and then never left, solely to get to the 1:30 Star Wars/Firefly program.  None of us in line outside the door at 1:30 got in.

I am not going to argue resource allocation methodologies here -- this is a private event and they are welcome to do it any way they wish.  And since their target audience tends to be young and perhaps under-employed, then I can see how an allocation methodology based on investing one's time rather than money would be appealing to that audience.  Again, a day at the trade show and people watching the Cosplay is worth it.  As for the rest, if you are someone who will wait in line an hour to save 10 cents on gas, you will probably love it.  If you are someone who thought the FastPass system was the greatest thing ever implemented by Disney, they you should likely give the programming a miss.

A few other notes:

  • One of the shorter lines was for autographs from Stan Lee, which goes to show how far Comic-Con has evolved from its roots
  • Building on the previous observation, I saw only one or two booths on the entire (huge) exhibit floor actually selling vintage comic books
  • The Cosplay is everywhere but the best place to see it is just outside the hall where the photographers are taking pictures of folks coming in.  This is one area Comic-Con is really missing an opportunity.  If I were them I would create a red carpet ala the Oscars for Cosplayers to come in and everyone else to watch.   Put in some grandstands and big screens, maybe even with live commentary or voting
  • The masquerade is very miss-able.  A costume competition but it is run in a tedious manner and the Cosplay on the exhibit floor is better.
  • Fortunately I have a lot of nerds in my clan so I came away with good gifts.  My son got an autographed Summer Glau photo, my daughter an autographed Benedict Cumberbatch photo, and my niece an autograph of the most current Doctor Who (sorry, my first Doctor was Tom Baker and I can't keep track of the new ones).  My son also scored a Disney Princess calendar drawn in that, ahem, fantasy style made famous in publications like Heavy Metal.  It is sure to horrify my wife and daughter, which I assume was half the point.

Two DVD Reviews of Poorly Rated Movies That Had Some Redeeming Characteristics

I had pretty good experiences this week with not one but two movies rated 6 and under (which is pretty low) on IMDB

Atlas Shrugged, Part II:  A mixed bag, but generally better than the first.  The first episode had incredibly lush, beautiful settings, particularly for a low budget indie movie.  But the acting was stilted and sub-par.  Or perhaps the directing was sub par, with poor timing in the editing and dialog.  Whatever.  It was not always easy to watch.

The second movie is not as visually interesting, but it tossed out most of the actors from the first movie (a nearly unprecedented step for a sequel) and started over.  As a result, the actors were much better.  Though I perhaps could wish Dagny was younger and a bit hotter, she and the actor who played Rearden really did a much better job (though there is very little romantic spark between them).  And, as a first in any Ayn Rand movie I have ever seen, there were actually protagonists I might hang out with in a bar.

The one failure of both movies is that, perhaps in my own unique interpretation of Atlas Shrugged, I have always viewed the world at large, and its pain and downfall, as the real protagonist of the book.  We won't get into the well-discussed flatness of Rand's characters, but what she does really well -- in fact the whole point of the book to me -- is tracing socialism to its logical ends.  For me, the climactic moment of the book is Jeff Allen's story of the fate of 20th Century Motors.  Little of this world-wilting-under-creeping-socialism really comes out well in the movie -- its more about Hank and Dagny being harassed personally.  Also, the movie makes the mistake of trying to touch many bases in the book but ends up giving them short shrift - e.g. Jeff Allen's story, D'Anconia's great money speech, Reardon's trial, etc.

I would rate this as worth seeing for the Ayn Rand fan - it falls short but certainly does not induce any cringes  (if only one could say that about the Star Wars prequels).

Lockout:  This is a remake of "Escape from New York", with a space prison substituting for Manhattan and the President's daughter standing in for the President.  The movie lacks the basic awesomeness of converting Manhattan to a prison.  In fact, only one thing in the whole movie works, and that is the protagonist played by Guy Pierce (who also starred in two of my favorite movies, LA Confidential and Memento).

The movie is a total loss when he is not on screen.  The basic plot is stupid, the supporting characters are predictable and irritating, the physics are absurd, and the special effects are weak.  The movie is full of action movie cliche's -- the hero throwing out humorous quips (ala Die Hard or any Governator movie), the unlikely buddy angle, the reluctant romantic plot.  But Pierce is very funny, and is thoroughly entertaining when onscreen.  I think he does the best  job at playing the wisecracking, cynical hero that I have seen in years.

Just in Time for Star Wars 7....

...awesome Star Wars apparel.

PS1:  For some reason they STILL are not talking about doing the movie I think would be a layup to make awesome - Han and Chewie, the early years.  Meeting each other, smuggling, adventures, winning a starship from the only black man in the universe.

PS2:  The Star Wars prequel trilogy are really beautiful to watch, but horrendous as movies in large part because the dialog is so freaking awful.  I think someone should try to dub them with better dialog.

Easily the Most Awesome Thing I Have Seen For A While

Star Wars crowd-sourced in 15-second intervals, each by a different person, often in completely different styles.

The garbage chute scene at 1:18 is pretty representative of what this is about. We get live action (both high and low quality props), animation, sock puppets and even ferrets.

The opening 20th Century Fox credit change is great - how they missed this idea in the real movie, I will never know.

A Difference Between Republicans and Me

Both I and most Congressional Republicans want to defund NPR.  Republicans want to do it because they perceive it as a government-funded liberal partisan voice;  I want to do it because broadcasting is simply not a role for government.

But note -- Republicans who want to count coup on NPR out of spite and frustration should recognize that defunding it could very likely make NPR a more, rather than less, potent leftish voice  (insert Star Wars quote "if you strike me down.... yada yada).  NPR's government funding is all that is really keeping it in sight of the political center.  Pull that funding and it will be free to tack left - in fact, this likely will be an imperative given its likely sources of additional private funding it will need.

All of which is fine by me, but I think the Republicans are expecting an Air America-type crash and burn, and I think they are mistaken.  There is a lot about PBS and NPR that are vital and unique -- their supporters are not wrong about that -- which I think will make them viable private (though still non-profit) entities.

Huh

Found by my son Nic on Wikipedia:

The Wilhelm scream is a frequently-used film and television stock sound effect first used in 1951 for the film Distant Drums.[1] The effect gained new popularity (its use often becoming an in-joke) after it was used in Star Wars and many other blockbuster films as well as television programs and video games.[2] The scream is often used when someone is pierced with an arrow, falls to his death from a great height, or is thrown from an explosion.

The Wilhelm scream has become a well-known cinematic sound cliché, and is claimed to have been used in over 216 films

This is the sound.

By the way, Nic thanks everyone for their help on his blog and his writing project.  He is writing a novel over the next year, dealing mixing his interest in sports with dystopian themes.  This entry into the Hayek poster contest actually comes really close to the themes in his book.  I thought he was getting on a wrong track by trying to use Atlas Shrugged too much as a model.  While I love the book and it has had a profound effect on me, as a work of fiction it is pretty limited, with black and white characters and no character movement/development at all.  I am making him read the Fountainhead right now as a better example of having more intriguing characters.

Random Entertainment Notes

I feel I need to clarify one thing.  I am a huge fan of the old Bond movies.  Goldfinger, Thunderball, Diamonds are Forever, Goldeneye -- all great.  Despite my comments above, I even like most of the Roger Moore films, though you have to take a different approach to them.  But the formula was tired.  The Survivor formula was hugely popular at first, but in season 9 or 10 or whatever, it's just done.  You either are repeating the same tired cliches, because you feel locked into a formula by your fans who will get pissed (as they did with Casino Royale) when you violate any minute detail the Formula, or you fall into the trap of trying to top yourself with goofier and goofier plots.  I actually thought the series was dead around about View to a Kill, but Pierce Brosnan really brought new life to the series for a while.

Oh, and I wanted to really make fun of the plot in the new movie, because it really is a great WTF moment, but I didn't want to include a spoiler, since there is some mis-direction in the movie.  However, the spoilers have already come out in the comments, so if you are interested, I reveal the incredible world-shaking evil plot around comment #6 here.

  • I saw a trailer for the upcoming Star Trek movie, which could essentially be called "young Spock and Kirk."  It could be good.  Talk about a franchise, though, that has been milked to death.  A new take would be refreshing.  We'll see.  Never forget Battlestar Galactica - from the ultimate in goofiness came one of the better science fiction series to hit television.
  • The note above reminds me of an idea I have for a movie that I think would be a no-brainer.  The Star Wars clone wars stuff has pretty much lost me  (actually the dialog in episodes 1-3 pretty much lost me).  But I always thought a young Han and Chewie movie - how they met, various pirate adventures, young Lando, etc.  would be almost a layup to make succesful.  I am increasingly convinced that that the Star Wars movies were good almost in direct proportion to how much Han Solo was on the screen  (well, maybe pre-dryfreeze Han Solo -- after he was unfrozen, he was a little goody-two-shoes for my taste.)

New Indiana Jones Movie Just OK

I saw the new Indiana Jones movie with my kids this morning.  It was OK.  The chase / fight scenes were great, and the effects were terrific.  But the plot was so-so  (George Lucas has a writing credit, so I could just refer you back to the Padme** dialog in the last 2 Star Wars movie).  There is sometimes a fine line between good fantasy and silliness, and the movie crosses back and forth several times.  Also, you just can't beat Nazis for over-the-top bad guys.  The Boris-and-Natasha style Soviets just don't serve as well.  Overall, worth seeing if you liked the others, and certainly better than Temple of Doom.  But I wouldn't stand in line to see it.

** Interesting fact that maybe I am the last person in the world to know:  Do you know who the actress was that played the fake Queen / Padme double in Star Wars Episode 1?  I always thought it was Natalie Portman, but that is actually not correct.  It was an uncredited role, and the actress was always in elaborate makeup.  Who was it?  It was Keira Knightly, of Pirates and Beckham fame.

May the Farce be With You

Here is something I really, really did not know, or probably even want to know, before a friend emailed me a link today:

In the 2001 United Kingdom census, 390,000 people - 0.7 per cent of the population - listed Jedi as their religion.

They are not alone - 20,000 Canadians also listed their religion as Jedi in 2001...

Some may list such a choice only as a joke, but there are apparently real churches set up in the model of the Jedi religion as detailed in the Star Wars franchise:

The two cousins and Barney Jones' brother, Daniel, set up the Church of
Jediism, Anglesey order, last year. Jedi is the faith followed by some
of the central characters in the "Star Wars" films.

The group, which claims about 30 members, says on its website that
it uses "insight and knowledge" from the films as "a guide to living a
better and more worthwhile life."

Oh, but it gets even better:

A man who dressed up as Darth Vader has been spared jail time for assaulting the founders of the Jedi Church in Britain.

Twenty-seven-year-old Arwel Wynne Hughes was given a suspended sentence for the crime by a judge in Wales on Tuesday.

Prosecutors told Magistrates' Court in Holyhead that Hughes attacked
Jedi church founder Barney Jones - a.k.a. Master Jonba Hehol - with a
metal crutch, hitting him on the head.

He also whacked Jones' 18-year-old cousin, Michael Jones - known as
Master Mormi Hehol - bruising his thigh in the March 25 incident.

 

Happy Birthday Star Wars

Brink Lindsey reminds me it is the anniversary of the release of the original Star Wars.  I happened to be staying in Century Plaza in LA with my family on the day the movie was release, though I had never heard of it.  It was actually a pretty low-budget movie, and was only released on a few screens.  I got dumped off by my family, who was going shopping, in some theater near UCLA and Century City I can't even remember the name of.  Anyway, I and about 20 other people were in the theater that first day, partly I guess because it was daytime and mid-week.   It is the first and only movie I stayed and watched a second time.  I know this makes me a geek, but it really was a transcendent experience for me, though sadly an experienced unmatched in any of the follow-on movies.

Being one of an extremely small cadre to have seen the first one on opening day (really by accident) I felt compelled to see all the others on opening day, a cycle I completed successfully.

I would argue that for its time, against expectations of its day, the opening 30 seconds after the words stop scrolling may be the most amazing and powerful opening of a film ever (starts at about 2:00 into the clip below).  And don't miss that fine exhibition of Stormtrooper shooting at about 4:31.  Enjoy it again:

And don't miss how Star Wars should have ended.  Priceless:

And if you are not Star Wars'd out, try the Stormtrooper Training Video:

I need 24 Help

I have no tolerance for watching TV series on the network's schedule.  If a series gets good reviews, I will watch it on DVD (e.g. Serenity, Deadwood, Rome, Sopranos, Alias, Wonderfalls, etc).  In this same vain, I watched the first season of 24 straight through and really enjoyed it.  The second season was OK but weaker and less believable (even a hard-core libertarian paranoiac like myself had trouble buying the cabinet coup).  Plus I got about the same feeling when the Kim Bauer character was on-screen as I did when there was Anakin-Padme dialog in the last Star Wars movie.

So I am a third of the way through season 3 and I am having trouble really getting into it -- maybe the threat is not immediate enough at the mid-point.  Should I stick it out?  Is there anything out there left worth seeing?  Is there anything interesting in seasons 4 or 5 that bring back what made the first season great?

Pirates Review

I loved the original Pirates of the Caribbean, and so I was excited to go see the sequel.  I won't write a long review, except to say that this movie is to the original what Star Wars Episode 3 was to the original Star Wars.  It seems to have forgotten what made the original a success, and focused instead on elaborate special effects and a confused plot.  The effects are amazing, and may be alone worth the price of one viewing, but the movie itself was only so-so. 

The plot wandered around aimlessly at times, and key elements, such as exactly how Jack got crosswise with Davy Jones in the first place, get a very very short exposition, which seem odd in a 2-1/2 hour movie.  This is the same mistake many action movie sequels make - the Indiana Jones movies come to mind in particular.  The sequels go for action action action continuously on the screen, forgetting that the original had long stretches of quiet periods that actually moved the plot and characters along.

Of all the plot elements, the sudden introduction of the ex-commodore Norrington seems the most forced.  There feels like there are one two many characters in the movie, with Sparrow, Will, the governor, the east India guys, Norrington, Davy Jones, etc. all having independent agendas.  This is fine for a taught character drama, but for a light action movie it is overly complex, and feels like Mission Impossible 2 where the writers tried to outdo the original in twists and turns and betrayals.  The introduction of Norrington does set up an interesting 3-way fight (kind of reminiscent of the awesome final scene in God, Bad, and the Ugly).  Like much of the film, the fight is kindof fun but falls short somehow.  And looking back on the movie, I can't figure out why the whole first part of the movie with the cannibals was even in there.  Basically, it did nothing to advance the plot.

The worst offense of the movie in my mind is that it underutilized Johny Depp.  Depp, whose performance really made the first movie, is OK but is not really allowed to be great.  The writers have him reprising his best bits from the first movie, rather than doing anything new.  It all feels a bit stale.

Oh, and by the way, does every single Hollywood movie have to find a way to make a large corporation the villain?  I mean, is it a writers guild requirement or something?  Even this movie set in the 18th century has to seek out the one and only large corporation in the world and use it as a villain.

My Harry Potter Review

I just finished Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.

The first question my wife asked me was "how did it rank with the other books?"  This is very hard to answer, because it is very different from the first five.  Each of the first five was fairly self-contained.  There was a dominant story cycle that came to closure at the end.  Yes, there was still Valdemort running around out there, but that was kind of just like knowing that Blofeld and SPECTRE would still be a villain in the next Bond movie.  The best comparison I can make, for people of my generation who saw the original Star Wars movies as they came out, was that the first 5 Potter books were like the New Hope, while this book is Empire Strikes Back.  The only problem was that Empire Strikes Back stands out as perhaps the best Star Wars movie, and this definitely is not the best Harry Potter book.  In a real sense, book six is really part 1 of a two-part finale that presumably ends with book 7.  I was left with the same thought as at the end of the LOTR Two Towers movie:  OK, so when does the last one come out?

I found a couple of things about the book unsatisfying.  The mystery of who is the half-blood prince does not really drive the story as well as other mysteries, like say how the Sirius Black mystery or Chamber of Secrets mystery or the Tri-Wizard tournament drove other books.  This book is driven more by revelations about Harry and Valdemort, and by the time these play out the identity of the Half Blood Prince is kind of a letdown, or more precisely, irrelevant.  More unsatisfying to me was that this book is mostly about Harry.  While stuff is happening to all the traditional suspects, the mysteries are being solved by Harry alone, not by the traditional Harry-Ron-Hermione team.  Harry has always had to stand alone at the end of each book, but Ron and Hermione contributed to his getting there in the middle, and there is less of that here (Ron and Hermione, as well as everyone in the book seem distracted by their hormones). 

I guess I would say that a number of the traditional Harry Potter story elements were kind of half-hearted, even the Quiddich.  Rowling is obviously trapped by the need to get a lot of exposition done to bring the 7 book series to a close, and as a result the book never really gets moving until the final few chapters, and then all-too-much occurs in a few pages. 

This will never be considered the best book of the series, but the best spin I can put on it is that it was probably essential to start driving the series to a conclusion.

Update: Several folks have argued that I am missing the point, that quiddich and friends and school stuff are fading in the background as part of the wizarding world going to war and Harry coming of age to face his destiny.  This hypothesis about the ending is very interesting but only if you have read the book, it is FULL of spoilers.  If he is right, then it may be possible to look back and find this book more interesting in light of what we learn in book 7.  We'll see.  I still stand by my statement that the first 3/4 of the book is much less satisfying than the previous books.

2nd Update:  I guess predictably, various groups on opposite sides of the political spectrum and the Iraq war are claiming that Rowling is supporting them with this book.  Jeez, can we politicize everything?  Here is what are two clear tenants of the book:

  1. There are times you have to actually fight evil, rather than just hope it goes away or is not really there
  2. Governments can't really be trusted to do #1 responsibly

If my reading is correct, you can see why there is a bit in it for everyone.

Han and Chewie: The Early Years

If George Lucas needs any more money, here is my movie idea for him:  Make a movie about Han Solo and Chewbacca in their early years.  How did a Wookie prince become a smuggler?  How did he meet Han?  How did Han win the Millennium Falcon from Lando?  In my imagination, the movie would be more in the spirit of Raiders of the Lost Ark rather than the most recent star wars movie, putting the emphasis on adventure and action over special effects, Republic politics, and endless light-saber fights.  The only real challenge would be casting the young Han Solo part -- who would be willing to try to replace Harrison Ford?

Does anyone doubt that this would make a fortune, particularly if you teamed Lucas with someone to do the writing?  The series would easily lend itself to a serial format, with multiple episodes, though in that format it might make a better TV show than movie.

Han_chewie

PS-  I got started thinking about this because I saw Star Wars III again this weekend.  As an update to my review:  it did not wear very well.  The back third from the (attempted) arrest of Palpatine forward was still engaging, but the front half actually had me squirming in my seat. The dialog still sucks, the initial mission sequence still makes no sense, and the battle with General Grievous is still just one more gratuitous light saber battle and chase scene.

My Star Wars III Review

OK, it seems the everyone is a movie critic this week.  If you ever doubt that most bloggers are geeks at heart, just look at all the Star Wars III coverage in blogs this week.  Anyway, not to be outdone, here is my review.  I will give a general review up front, with more thoughts that include spoilers in the extended post.

Overall, the movie was visually stunning, with lots of eye candy.  The last third of the movie was emotionally engaging, though many of the actors' performances were sub-par.  The movie was better than the last two (duh) and tied the story arc together fairly well.

However, my impressions of the movie really differed front to back, so for review purposes I divide the movie into three parts:

  1. Initial action / rescue sequence  C+:  The effects are nice, but the mission itself doesn't make a lot of sense, at least from Palpatine's eyes, who clearly must have orchestrated it.  Movie-wise, it has two purposes.  First, it is supposed to be the last gasp of the Obi-Wan and Anakin ongoing buddy movie, but the dialog for this sucks.  They should have hired someone from the Lethal Weapon movies to do this right.  Second, and perhaps the most effective part, it really sets up a scene in Return of the Jedi, making more meaningful a contrast between Luke and Anakin.  Without this one sub-scene, this section of the movie would have just been an overly long action intro into the movie, kind of like the warm-up band to get everyone excited or the first 5 minutes before the credits in a James Bond movie.
  2. Dialog / exposition / Anakin turns  D:  Some people seem to like this section.  I found it PAINFUL.  The Anakin/Padme romance is never, ever very realistic.  I don't know if it is the acting or the script or just lack of spark between the actors, but I thought there was more sexual tension between Luke and his sister, for god sakes, than Anakin and Padme.  I will say the fear that drives Anakin to the dark side is a fairly good one.  It was set up well in the previous movies.  However, the execution sucked.  Under the right direction, this could have been really powerful, given the dark irony at the end of the movie of what was really behind this fear.  The final conversion seems to happen way too fast - he goes from "wait this is wrong" to "You are my master" in like 30 seconds. 
  3. Destruction of the Jedi / Putting everyone in place for Episode IV  B+:  There is nothing wrong with Lucas's ability to direct epic action and special effects and to use music and editing to build tension and emotion.  I thought it was well done.  The final fight scene takes place in amazing environment.  They do a good, but not perfect job, of establishing continuity with Episode IV.  Once everyone shuts up, the movie gets good.  Hayden Christianson really looks the part of dark Jedi at the end

Overall, I will give it a B but non-Star Wars fans would probably grade it lower.  My episode ranking now is V - IV - [III or VI] - II - I.  I will have to see it again and give it a bit of time to put it ahead or behind VI, but right now I have it ahead because its emotional impact walking out of it the first time was much higher than that of VI.

Continue reading ‘My Star Wars III Review’ »

Store Wars

The Organic Foods Trade Association has this terrific spoof on Star Wars, aimed at warning consumers about the "dark side of the farm", which for them of course are non-organic foods.  Meet Obi Wan Cannoli and Chew-broccoli. 

I am kindof neutral on the whole organic foods thing - while happy about the range of new choices available to consumers, organic proponents tend to have statist tendencies and seem all too quick to welcome government intervention to aid their cause and regulate away consumer choices they don't agree with.  I have never really been terrified by genetic manipulation of foods and I tend to group those who oppose irradiation of foods to reduce diseases as roughly equivalent to Luddites who oppose vaccinations.

Storewars

UPDATE:  You can tell that many bloggers are geeks like me, by the number of Star Wars previews I have read.  There is a good one here at the Knowlege Problem, and predictably from Will Collier at Vodka Pundit.  A Small Victory is hosting the Carnival of the Force, a roundup of Star Wars posts.

REVIEW: I say the movie last night, and my review is here.

Review for Star Wars III

First, I must confess that I have been to opening day of every Star Wars movie, and I have tickets for opening day of this last one.  Yes, I am kindof a geek, but no, I am not a total geek:  I did not sit up all night in line or anything for these movies. 

This is actually a bit of an accomplishment, because I don't think many people saw the original Star Wars movie on the first day.  One thing that I think a lot of people don't remember, given all the Star Wars hype and success, is that the original movie opened without much hype or expectations.  I was with my family visiting LA, where we were staying in some hotel in Century City  (maybe the Century Plaza - I remember it seemed pretty nice).  Anyway, my dad was on business and my mom and sisters were shopping so I walked over that morning to see what was playing at the Century City movie theater.  It was in that way I accidently saw the first showing on the first day of the original Star Wars.  It was me and about 7 other people in that huge theater.   I was so blown away that I stayed for a second showing.

Anyway, time passes.  Empire Strikes Back was great.  I thought at the time that Return of the Jedi was pretty mediocre, but that was before I saw Clone Wars which I thought was visibly stunning but really bad.  I cringed every time there was any substantial dialogue, particularly  when Padme was on the screen.

Anyway, I take this review pretty seriously, because they seem to have had the same reactions I had to the previous movies.  The Good news:  visually even more stunning, cool fight scenes, and a better all around movie than the other prequels.  The Bad news:  the Padme dialog still sucks, maybe even worse.

I really enjoyed watching Revenge of the Sith. And yes, it is quite a good film.
However, the scenes with Padmé alone are enough to give you flashbacks of the
worst parts of the first 2 sequels, and thus lower your overall enjoyment ofthe
movie.

Still... it is a strong film with a strong story, great effects and much
improved dialog (with the exception of anything with Padmé in it). Star Wars
fans should be quite happy... and non-Star Wars fans will enjoy as well.

Overall... I give Revenge of the Sith a solid 7 out of
10
(would have been a 9 if they just totally took out Padmé or
re-wrote all her pathetic dialog).

It gets much worse treatment in other venues, but for roughly the same reasons.

UPDATE:  Here is my review

By the way, Darth Vader has a blog now.  We learn a lot from it about the daily trial and tribulations of being a dark jedi master (thanks to VodkaPundit for the link):

Due to the haste with which we are proceding through the
latter phases of this battle-station's construction we have been forced to
employ scores of civilian contractors from across the galaxy in addition to our
own Imperial Corps of Engineers. This had led to a certain clash of working
cultures.

For instance, this morning I critiqued a tragically sub-par
piece of workmanship on a tractor-beam repulsolift inversion assembly by
snapping the neck of the site supervisor and throwing his limp corpse down a
disused elevator shaft.

Imperial engineers would have snapped to crisp
attention, of course, but all these civilian contractors did was give me was
grief. "Oy, you do that again and I'll have the union on you!" barked one
red-faced buffoon.

"It is vital that you enhance the inter-departmental
syngergies of your operation," I said. And then I killed him.

I can relate.

Doctored Han Solo Memos, errr, Evidence

This (Link courtesy Professor Bainbridge) is a pretty funny parody based on a scene from the original Star Wars movie that has famously been changed a couple of times by George Lucas in reissuing the movie.  It is especially funny in light of today's CBS memogate report.  If you don't know the story behind the changes to the movie, they are summarized in the intro page, or you can just dive into the comic by pressing "1".

Spending Christmas Day Doing Tech Support

Merry Christmas, and I hope everyone is having a happy version of whatever holiday they celebrate. 

Around our house, I am always the tech support guy, fixing issues ranging from computers to hitting all the right buttons on the home theater.  Because my wife has a Mac and I and my kids use a PC, just trying to keep everyone playing nice over the home network is hard enough (god, this is starting to sound like a Chaos Manner column).  Usually, this duty is spread pretty evenly through the year, but on Christmas day, our household has an influx of technology that often needs support.

Yesterday was no exception.  First, with the arrival of yet another new mini iPod, this one for my son, a new user partition had to be created on my wife's Mac.  Later in the day I was back on the Mac, helping my son when iTunes inevitable Christmas Day server overload caused him to have a few songs disappear on him during download.  In between, I was on the PC helping my daughter with Zoo Tycoon 2, given to her because Santa knows that she loved the first version. 

Finally, towards the end of the day, I was helping my son with his Star Wars Battlefront game install.  Unfortunately, the install code on the back of the CD box did not work, so with my son panicking when I told him he would have to wait 2 WHOLE DAYS for the the tech support people to come into the office, I swallowed my scruples and went to one of the pirate sites that publish registration codes for games and successfully used one of those to get the game started.  Unfortunately, those sites slam you with pirate-ware, so first I had to fire up my backup computer I use for such grossly unsafe surfing.

Whew.  I can relax now, everything is up and running.  Imagine my relief this morning when my kids wanted to play something low tech - Yahtzee.