2016: It Wasn’t All Bad

calendarbackdrop2016 has been blamed for a lot of pain and heartache.  It has, quite literally, felt like some force was actively trying to destroy any piece of hope and joy in the world.  While it’s easy to get bogged down in all the horrible things that have happened in these last 12 months I wanted to take a look at some of the good things that happened for me this year.

Of course, the calendar is a human construct for us to measure our time and the actual day, month, or year has little bearing on what happens day to day.  But, it’s basic psychology to view the end of the year and the beginning of the new year as a fresh start to make amends and changes.

With so much negativity in the last few months, I wanted to look back and take stock of the good things.  I went through my calendar of events this year and found quite a bit of positivity and even some things that had slipped my mind.

For me, 2016 began on a high note.  We were still riding the good feelings of the release of Star Wars: Episode VII The Force Awakens in the last weeks of 2015.  There was a lot of excitement and anxiety going into the film, and I feel that the film delivered admirably.  This would carry forward into the spring when we got the home video release.  I have since watched the film countless times, and it always makes me happy.

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In February, we had new windows installed in our home.  Our house is older with poor insulation and very drafty windows.  For years, we would freeze in the winter and melt in the summer.  Basically, whatever it was outside, it was the same inside.  Adding new windows to our home has made a huge improvement to how the house has felt.  We haven’t needed to run our a/c or heat nearly as much, and the house looks so much better.

In April, we traveled to the west coast to visit my family in Seattle.  Since moving to Virginia in 2000, I haven’t gotten to visit my family as often as I would like.  So, I treasure any chance to visit and we try to go at least once a year.  This year was a shorter trip, but it was fun.  We got to take my nephews to various art exhibits and a Mariners game.  Seeing their joy and enthusiasm was infectious and just what was needed.

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This was a big year for us in the 501st Legion.  Countless new members joined.  Garrison Tyranus in Virginia is now up to nearly 200 members and the Legion as a whole is over 10,000 members worldwide.  We did countless troops, conventions, and events throughout the year.  The endless smiles work like magic at lightening even the darkest day.  We have definitely felt a shift with the release of the new Star Wars movies, everyone is excited for Star Wars these days.

I was able to complete a costuming goal I have had for many years now.  Well, when I say completed, I mean Jenn worked extremely hard to complete it for me.  We were finally able to complete my Revenge of the Sith Obi-wan costume.  In the few chances I’ve had to wear it this year, it’s been a huge hit.  I also completed my TIE Pilot costume.  I managed to start work on a new costume as well, Kylo Ren from The Force Awakens, but it will be a while before that one is completed.

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This year saw the release (finally!) of the newest Metallica album “Hardwired to Self Destruct” after 8 years in the making.  I don’t know if it’s worth 8 years of waiting, but it’s a thrashing good listen.

The year ended as it began with the high of a new Star Wars film.  Rogue One is simply the exact film we needed for this year.  It is an exciting message of hope and fighting for what is right.  Important lessons to take with us into 2017.

2016 is coming to a close on a series of highs and lows, but for this, I am only focusing on the highs.  This year has been a lot of things, but I recommend taking a look back as I’ve done through your own personal year and look at the good and exciting things that have happened throughout this year, no matter how big or small.

2 D’s are enough for me, Thank you.

Tonight, Jenn and I finally made it out to the rerelease of Star Wars Episode 1 in 3D.  This is the first 3D movie I’ve ever seen in theaters. My brief experiences with 3D in the past have not been good, most of them have ended up with me getting eye strain and headaches.  I do believe that the 3D technology has improved since Captain Eo first premiered in Disneyland.

3D or not I’m happy to see Star Wars back on the big screen.  There is just something special about seeing a movie like this on the big screen with a crowd, people cheer, laugh, applause at the opening logos.  It’s a communal experience.  So any time that Star Wars returns to the big screen, is a good thing for me.

Now, I’m not a big fan of 3D.  However, I do understand the appeal of 3D in theaters.  Beyond the extra money that theaters and film studios get to take in, 3D is a reason to go to the theater.  3D makes sense in the theater, but I do not want 3D in my home.  But that’s a different rant for another time.

Star Wars in 3D is mostly “depth-based.”  I may have just made up a new phrase there, but it’s the only way to describe it.  There is almost none of the “coming out of the screen” type of effects.  That is the effect that really hurts my eyes, and it was nice to not have to deal with that.  The best 3D moments were the action scenes, especially the space battle at the end, there was a good immersive effect.  You really felt like you were zigging and zagging along with the fighters.  That made me very excited to see what the opening battle of Revenge of the Sith or the Trench Run in the original Star Wars would be like.

On the flip side of that, the 3D seemed mostly pointless throughout the majority of the film.  Most of the matte paintings felt more like paintings in 3D, very flat with cut-out characters floating on top of them.  This was the most distracting part of the 3D conversion, and it was especially noticeable in the beginning of the film.  The scenes on Tatooine and Naboo were not quite as flat.  Maybe it’s the difference between a CGI matte painting and an actual set.

In the end, my thoughts on 3D are pretty much the same as they were before I saw the movie.  I’m not a fan.  My eye-strain was not bad, but it was there.  After a 2 hour movie it was comparable to a really stressful day at work.  I really have no urge to put myself through this again, especially if I have to pay extra to experience it.  I will go see Star Wars as it continues in theaters, but nothing else beyond that.

2 D’s are enough for me, I don’t need a 3rd.

Star Wars on blu-ray, thoughts and first-impressions…

The day has finally arrived, Star Wars the complete saga has finally arrived on blu-ray.  With much fanfare and much fan complaining about the inevitable changes, improvements and other tweaks.

While I am far from a hardcore audio and visual phile, I am a hardcore Star Wars fan and I have been anxiously awaiting this boxset.  Also, there are better reviews out there and tons of information on this set, so I probably wont be digging too deeply into this, just giving my overview.

The boxset itself is 9 discs, 1 disc for each of the 6 films, 1 disc with Original Trilogy specific bonus features, 1 disc with Prequel Trilogy specific bonus features and 1 last disc with documentaries.

The two most talked about parts of this set are the Original Trilogy deleted scenes and bonus features and the changes to the films.

First, we have the Original Trilogy (and Prequel Trilogy) related bonus features.  This was the selling point for me, I’ve waited years to see these things and was incredibly pleased with what was there.  The Original Trilogy deleted scenes are by far more interesting than the Prequel deleted scenes.  The Prequel scenes are a lot of animatics with some green screen footage interspersed.  These are interesting to see from a film making stand point, but they don’t hold a candle to the Original Trilogy deleted scenes.

Also on the Trilogy specific discs are 360 degree and hi-res detail views of many costumes, props, matte paintings, maquettes, etc.  For someone like me who is really into the costuming and props this was an amazing inclusion and will greatly help people working on recreating these.

Next, we have the films themselves.  Like every variation of these films that have been released over the years, there are changes and 90% of the changes are improvements and wont be noticed by most people.  Greedo still shoots first, Jabba still looks lousy in A New Hope, etc.  New to the films now are changes such as Wicket now has improved eyes and blinks, Vader says “Noooo!” in Return of the Jedi, Obi-wan has a new Krayt Dragon call, and others.  These were the most discussed changes though.

With the films, the Prequel Trilogy being newer and better prepared for the HD formats, they have never looked better, especially The Phantom Menace which had the most dated and problematic transfer to DVD.

The Original Trilogy is a bit more of a mixed bag.  We have scenes of incredible detail and richness that it’s hard to believe these are 30 year old movies, but a lot of the effects simply do not stand up to the added detail and enhancement of HD.  There are A LOT of garbage mattes, blue/green screen lines and some uneven quality.  In the same scene you will have certain angles of great quality and clarity, but the next cut will show grain and uneven coloring, possibly even lower than standard DVD definition.  A lot of this is to be expected of a 30 year old movie and I think most people will not notice, but hardcore people like me will notice.

On a positive note, a lot of the artifacting and poor transfer on the previous DVD have been corrected, although some coloration issues exist.

Regarding the changes, I’m fine with most of them.  The most controversial is the Darth Vader dialogue added in Return of the Jedi.  I actually don’t mind the added dialogue, it’s very noticeable though because the audio is a very strange mix.  The added dialogue seems much louder than all the other dialogue in the scene.  So, that really helps it to stand out and not feel like it was part of the scene.  It’s 5 seconds of audio and not enough for me to run around crying foul and claiming my childhood was raped.  The positives far outweigh the negatives here.

In the end, this is a quality set.  It’s obvious that a lot of time and care was put into assembling it.  For all fans of Star Wars, this is a must buy with more than any fan could have asked for.

This post is not for you…

I’m a big fanboy.  So much so, that I am the kind of person that could be accused of being an apologist.  It could be a type of Obsessive, Compulsive or such, I don’t know.

Take something like Star Wars, for example, I’d rather have bad Star Wars than a lot of other good stuff.  But, it seems some people just insist on shitting on other things.  This sucks, that sucks, they are just in it for the money, etc.  It’s this kind of thought that got me thinking, maybe some pieces just aren’t meant for you.

Why does everything have to be for everyone?

People have drastically different tastes.  What I love, may not be what you love.  Does that make my tastes wrong, or are your tastes inferior to mine? Or is it just a matter of different strokes for different folks?

I think that this is the biggest problem facing many “creative” types out there, especially in the land of TV and Film.  The marketing and other such executives are simply worried about how wide of a net they can cast.  Quality doesn’t matter, artistic expression doesn’t matter, it’s simply down to butts in seats and eyeballs on the screen.

This is leading to the neutering of the horror and action genres, everything is PG-13 now.  Nobody wants to take chances on something edgy, because somebody somewhere might get offended.  “Wont someone think of the children!?”

Frankly, my response is “Who gives a fuck if they are offended? This isn’t for them. They shouldn’t be there, they are not the intended audience.”

I think I may have found the reason why my career in Hollywood hasn’t yet taken off.  Haha.

Do I have a point to all this?  Not really, this is just a thought that has been rolling around in my head and I felt the need to vent it on here.

Am I a bad geek?

I’m a geek.  Plain and simple.  But, recently it seems that everything geeky that has come up has seemed like complete crap to me.

For example, I hate all things Joss Whedon.  Buffy, Firefly, big ole meh.  Hard to get excited about any of it.  Don’t give a crap about How I met your Mother.  Saw one episode of Big Bang Theory and was thoroughly unimpressed.  Lost might as well be Gilligan’s Island.  I could keep going.

Now, this got me thinking “Am I a bad geek? Am I less geeky than I think I am?”

Of course, I’m a huge Star Wars geek, a member of the 501st Legion, Trekkie, comic book fan, gamer, and more.  So, am I missing something that others know or am I just a bad geek?

Is there an oversaturation now that geek is chic?

2009 – A look back

It’s that time of year.  The time when everyone looks back on the year that was.  The good, the bad and all the rest.

I’ve started this post a few times and never been very happy with how it turned out.  Looking back on 2009, I’ve come to the conclusion that 2009 mostly blew.

Personally, for me, the year was pretty good, more highs than lows, and overall better than 2008.  However, when I’ve looked back at the big news stories, movies, music, etc. of 2009, I’ve realized how much this year just stank to high heaven.  We had some miserable lows, and a few dizzying highs.  But, the lows greatly outnumbered the highs.

I looked long and hard for good music in 2009, and came up mostly empty-handed.  A handful of decent releases, but nothing earth-shattering or anything that was anything more than a blip on my radar.

Movies fared slightly better, but still nowhere near what 2008 was, movie wise.  Star Trek and Harry Potter ruled, Transformers found a way to ruin a movie about giant robots beating the crap out of each other, Watchmen left many people scratching there heads, New Moon was enjoyable.  All in all, mostly just a so-so year, nowhere near the epicness of The Dark Knight, Iron Man, Indiana Jones (fuck you, it’s good and a worthy part of the saga, but that’s another rant) and everything else from 2008.

For me, 2009 was a year of continuing what started good in the later part of 2008.  I still work at the same job, which is better than the 4 jobs I had in 2008.  Finances have improved over the clusterfuck that was 2008.  I got addicted to Facebook, Twitter, ignored MySpace, started a blog, car blew up, bought a new car, buried 1 cat who was a member of our family, adopted 2 new kittens who have fast become a part of our family, traveled, saw much, experienced much more, loved, laughed, lost, gained, spent, saved, lost friends, gained friends, rediscovered old friends, moved into a full fledged staff position with Shevacon, then nearly fucked it all up with my big mouth and short temper, and Star Wars continued to rule every facet of my life.

Star Wars continues to be everywhere for me.  I trooped 8 different events with the 501st, got to meet Seth Green and Matt Senriech, be interviewed by Fangoria online (even though they didn’t use it), have dinner with Jeremy Bulloch (aka Boba Fett) twice, got my picture in the Star Wars Insider, may or may not have been on TV, marched in freezing rain, sweated my ass off in 100 plus heat, finally finished the Hell Bucket, raised money for charity, made thousands of kids smile (and only a few cry), saw the inner child of many adults come out and shine for a few moments.  Clone Wars continues to amaze with each episode.  Celebration 5 was announced after months of rumours and speculation and plans are already in the works for Jenn and I to attend the biggest Star wars party of the year.

It’s hard to believe that we are on the cusp of 2010.  For so long, 2010 was the FUTURE!! Like it was an episode of the Jetsons or something.  We still don’t have flying cars or food in pill form, but so much has changed in our daily lives since 1999, which was surprisingly only 10 years ago.  It’s hard to believe that 10 years ago, we were all worried about Y2K and all that nonsense.  Add in the fact that I turned 30 this year and it just boggles my mind, it’s so hard to believe.  I still mostly feel the same that I did in my teens.  I don’t feel 30 on the verge of entering 2010.  It just seems very surreal.  I have high hopes for 2010, and I see many good things on the horizon.

Here’s to the future.

blogging can be hard work…

So, I’ve realized that it’s a bit hard for me to keep up with.  I guess I’m just not that narcissistic.  Naw, that can’t be it, I am pretty full of myself.  Haha.

My biggest problem is I’m incredibly forgetful.  I get a cool idea and I think “that would be great to post up” and then I go to work or get caught up in games, movies, TV, whatever and *poof* the idea is gone.

Not much has been going on recently, just working and plugging away at the daily routines we all get caught up in.  Work is as unexciting and uneventful as always, which is just the way I like it.  I prefer my work to be drama free, let me show up, do my work and go home.  The least amount of people I have to interact with, especially customers, the better.

For those curious, my job consists of me sitting at a computer for 8 hours a day moving numbers from one column to another.  Pretty boring, but it’s a paycheck, I can wear what I want and I get to listen to my ipod all day long.  Not a bad setup if you ask me.  Especially now that it’s entering the holiday season, I’m so happy I don’t have to work in retail.  This really is the worst time of year to work in retail.  People are evil, vile and horrible this time of year.  People are rude, extra snotty and seem to forget all the nice human decencies that Christmas (or whatever you choose to celebrate) is all about.  You’d think it was a feast to celebrate St. Bastard the way some people act.  But, I’m out of it this year, and hopefully forever, so I’m happy.

Thanksgiving was uneventful.  Family, food, fun and we all watched Fanboys.  A great movie, definitely worth picking up.  And I’m not just saying that because the director, Kyle Newman, is one of the coolest and nicest people around.

Yesterday, Jenn and I marched in the Ukrops/Supervalu Richmond Christmas Parade, now more commonly known as The Deathmarch.  This was my first parade I’ve been in since I was a kid.  The route is about 3 miles long, it was raining, and it was about 39 degrees.  Jenn was drenched by the end and I was frozen to the core.  My hands were so cold, it actually hurt to take my gloves off.  But, we the 501st and the Rebel Legion are made of tough stuff, and we don’t give up easily.  We marched it to the end, spreading the love and fun to all those in attendance.  Shaking hands and waving to the people all the way to the end.  It was the most fun I’ve had in the most horrific of circumstances.  I can’t wait to do it again, I just hope it’s not freezing cold and raining next time.

So, that’s about all.  I’m sitting here typing and watching the seemingly never ending Harry Potter marathon on ABC Family.  I do need to buckle down and post more often.  I’ll try to do better.