Short Story Submission

A short while ago, Jaquandor pointed to a short story contest in the Buffalo News, whose rules go something like this (or, exactly like this):
    In the end, Chris decided, it had all been about the snow.

    If Chris had not trusted the weatherman -- or had managed to pack up and leave before Lee showed up with that package -- everything would be different now.

    But there was the snow. ...

    Want to try your hand at writing a short story? This month, The Buffalo News is sponsoring a Short Story Writing Contest, and all you have to do is start with those sentences above and then create the rest of the story.

    Entries, which are due Jan. 20, can be fit into any category desired -- mystery/suspense, science fiction, historical fiction, romance, chick lit or even nonfiction.

    All entries should be a maximum of 1,500 words in length, must be original work and must begin with the sentences provided.

    The contest is open to writers of all ages, but only one entry per person is allowed.

    You also must title the story -- the more provocative title the better.
    The top two best stories, which will be chosen by a panel of Buffalo News editors, will be published in the Life & Arts section on Feb. 1.

    Stories will be judged on plot, use and development of characters, quality of writing and creativity.

    The grand prize winner gets a year's worth of Buffalo News Book Club .selections and a $20 Barnes and Noble gift card. Runner-up gets six months of Book Club selections and $10 gift card to Barnes & Noble.
Not a helluva exciting prize, but I hadn't written anything in a while, so I decided to give it a whirl. Though I hated the opening sentences, I figured I'm reasonably talented to overlook the Buffalo News' craptacular beginning and rattle something off. Well, rattle I did, and all told it took about an hour and a half to punch this baby out. For those of you who care, it's about an hour to put it all down and a half-hour to whittle it down to under 1500 words. No, there will be no DVD-release of the 'writer's cut'.

I don't anticipate getting any prize for this work. Really, how good can something be when I spent a grand total (including plotting) of about 2 hours creating it?
So, by popular request, here is, in its entirety, an original work by yours truly. Happy Friday. I encourage comments, but if you are writing to comment on grammar and such, you know where to stick it.
    "Expectations and Puppet Wisdom"

    In the end, Chris decided, it had all been about the snow.

    If Chris had not trusted the weatherman - or had managed to pack up and leave before Lee showed up with that package - everything would be different now.

    But there was the snow. He had always been a person who enjoyed the change of the seasons, a person who thought that Californians probably never really appreciated warm weather as much as someone who spent six months of the year in heavy coats and driving on salty roads.

    Unfortunately, the roads were not salted or even plowed, and they wouldn’t be for quite some time. The storm had caught the city unawares, a rarity as unusual as never hearing the phrase ‘lake-effect snow’ on the news in February. As such, the over thousand strong of dedicated climate control specialists (guys who drive the salt and plow trucks) had gotten a late start on the road-clearing task, a start which ensured that Chris, with his beloved Corvette, wouldn’t get the hell out of Dodge until much later than planned.

    He glanced out through his bay windows at his rear-wheel drive baby, and just knew that his neighbors were silently shaking their heads yet again for owning such a ridiculously poor snow vehicle. He knew this because one of those neighbors, his nemesis, Lee, was doing just that in his doorway.

    “Whew, where the hell did this storm come from?” the visitor asked, stomping his shoes on the worn welcome mat. Chris knew he didn’t have to answer, as Lee always preferred his own replies to that of anyone else in the room. “I swear on the local news last night they said nothing about this,” Lee continued. “Nothing. Just goes to show you that weather prediction still isn’t a science. How do they expect to predict global warming if they can’t tell me whether or not it’s gonna snow in the morning?”

    Lee couldn’t resist weaving in a political trap into his comments. Chris just shrugged his shoulders as if he too were baffled and exhaled.

    Lee seemed to notice and said, “Well, there’s nothing we can do now but wait it out. Damn side streets never get the first treatment. We’ll be a few hours before this stuff is cleaned off. And then we can break out the shovels and did out the driveway after the plows barricade us in.”


    “So anyway, I’ve got this package from Karen for you,” Lee said, almost apologetically. “She said that she didn’t want it anymore, that it was all your stuff…”

    “What’s in it?” Chris asked, already suspecting the contents, and knowing Lee’s insatiable (read: nosy) curiosity wouldn’t have allowed him to deliver ‘a package’ without first going through it.

    A package. Chris snorted, still staring out at the Corvette. Lee’s overblown imagination had probably figured it was something private, personal, or hopefully sordid. Maybe some old letters between former lovers or pictures ripped up or maybe even a dead fish wrapped in Chris’ favorite t-shirt. Yes, her love for me now sleeps with the fishes.

    Lee didn’t answer right away. Given his penchant for speaking without thinking, it was a sure sign that he had indeed looked at the contents. “Well, Chris, you know, I don’t know. She just said that you were expecting it and I should give it to you today.”

    “When did you see her?”

    “Last night. She stopped by for two seconds. Left the package and vamoosed. So do you want it?” he asked, with a hint of eagerness, as a child might then follow up with a request to keep it.

    “Yeah,” Chris said. Karen had left a message on his machine saying that she was going to drop off something for him. She also rightly guessed that he was screening his calls.

    Lee’s shoulder’s seem to sag just an inch. He looked at “the package” and held it out to Chris.

    “Can you just leave it on the table?”

    “Sure,” Lee said, and turned to find an appropriate place on the coffee table. “You know, what was the issue with you two? From my perspective, she wasn’t all that bad, right?” he said, finding his rambling tongue again. “I mean, she was nice – is nice I mean – we all liked her. I guess just not your type, Chris.”

    Or maybe what you imagine your type to be, which would be anyone who can stand talking to you for more than ten minutes without searching for a trap door, Chris mused.

    “I mean, you’ve got this whole thing going with the flying and the trips out of town and the lifestyle. You know. Karen needed a little more domestication. She just needed someone a little more stable. Domestic.”

    Once Lee found a word he felt captured what he wanted to say, he wouldn’t let it go, as if finding the perfect phrase that should be repeated for all the world to hear his wisdom.

    “Yeah, I guess,” Chris replied, still gazing blankly out at the white flakes keeping him from leaving. “Maybe someone more like you.”

    “Me? No, no way. Not my type,” Lee said. “I mean, I don’t really know her. She was okay, well, she was real nice. I mean good figure and cute, sure. But yeah, you know, I don’t think so.”

    “I wasn’t really suggesting that you and her should get together, Lee.”

    “Right,” he said, rubbing his hands together that signaled his intent to leave. “Well, I better get going.”

    “To where?” Chris asked. “There’s a foot of snow on the ground.”

    “Uh. You know. Go down to the store and get some smokes or something.”

    “Or something.”

    “Yeah,” Lee said, stomping his feet on the welcome mat to shake off of any remaining snow he’d missed dumping on his way in. “Okay, see ya later,” he said, opening and closing the door behind him in a smooth motion.

    Lee. Karen no doubt gave the package – the “package”, he mused – to Lee knowing he’d dive through it first. Karen knew Chris was irritated by his harmless but steadfastly busybody neighbor, mostly because Chris held things close to his chest. He was a private man. Well, she was making sure he wouldn’t keep this to himself. She liked symbolic gifts, and this was meant to remind him that he blew it by keeping himself closed off.

    For the first time he turned away from the window and looked at the shoebox. “The package”, he thought, and wondered if the movie of the same name with Gene Hackman was any good. He tried to think of who else was in that film, but couldn’t place the actress’ name. A little disappointed in his trivia failure, he reluctantly plopped down on the couch before “the package”.

    Karen and Chris’ last conversation wasn’t pleasant. She wanted more from him, and he was too busy with work. He wanted to, or at least he thought he did and hoped he’d gotten that across, but wanting wasn’t the same as doing. Damn, she even turned Yoda on him when he said he’d try, and she came back with ‘Do or do not. There is no try.’ That was painful to have his favorite movie betray him.

    How could he fight that? In all his geekly wisdom, he couldn’t argue with the puppet – back in the day when it was a puppet, he wistfully thought. A small, green, furry Styrofoam Buddha. He couldn’t admit that he was making the same mistakes, so he just said he was sorry, and she matter-of-factly said she’d be returning his things.

    Not that he’d kept all that much at her place to get back. Except for his favorite t-shirt. Now, looking at “the package”, he braced himself to see what manner of destruction had befallen the old blue shirt. I deserve this, Chris told himself, loosening the top of the shoebox. I deserve this.

    Inside, neatly folded, was the shirt. He picked it up and inspected it. Smelled it. It didn’t appear to be damaged in any way. She had returned it in pristine condition, maybe even ‘Downy’ fresh. Chris felt a little let down. Wasn’t he worth some measure of revenge?

    Aha, he thought. There was a card inside. He withdrew the handwritten note from the standard white envelope (“To Chris”). When he unfolded it, two airline tickets were tucked in the center. He was surprised to see they were from Buffalo to Jamaica.

    He read: “Chris – I’m sorry, too. I won’t just try if you don’t. Let’s do. Starting with getting the hell out of this icebox for the weekend. I’ll pick you up in my Blazer at 4. I know you won’t be going anywhere in the ‘Vette ;). Love, Karen. PS. Lee, if you don’t deliver this I will hunt you down and destroy you. For pleasure.”

    Chris sat back and chuckled to himself. She was his type.


Episode III Roll-UP
    It is a very tempting time for Star Wars fans.
    An entertainment and movie reporting website,
    Cinescape, has scored a victory of titillation.

    They linked to the Star Wars official site, where
    mysterious forces have posted an opening
    rollup library
    from all the films, including

    Whether fans will be tempted to view the opening
    for the next film in advance, is unclear. Only a
    single Jedi, operating under his own ethical code,
    so far has dared...


Ignore my opinions at your own peril
Oh, the joys and travails of DirecTv. Yes, our household (i.e., the roommates and myself) succumbed to the temptation of multiple movie channels and swapped out our overpriced Comcast cable for the satellite service. The primary motivation wasn't the extra channels; it was that we can get more channels why paying less that for basic cable service. So, for a few extra dollars of installation and minor hassle, we now have access to a lot more channels (I haven't done the count yet), including about 15 movie channels.

Frankly, I think that if you can't find something to watch on your 60 basic cable stations, that is a sign to do something else. I come from a generation that remembers TV before MTV, before ESPN, before remotes. Now I have access to more programs than ever, and it sucks you in. There's always SOMETHING on. While this has led to a couple nights (only a couple) of aimless remote fondling, it has produced at least one good result.

The other night, while flicking, I happened opon Shattered Glass, the story of New Republic writer Stephen Glass' rise and fall (it was found out that he manufactured most of his stories). Though critically lauded, I had little interest in renting the 2003 film, so it was thanks to a slow thumb on the channel changer that got me sucked into the movie. The first time, I only watched the last 20 minutes, but that was enough to impress the hell out of me.

It's not an understatement to say the Hayden Christianson (he also plays this guy 'Anakin') owns the role of Stephen Glass. He plays the consummate liar with a slippery empathy and believable deniability -- even when caught in the most obvious of lies, Hayden switches from outrageous excuses to plaintive self-judgement ("I didn't do anything wrong!") that has you wondering if Stephen really believes any of his own bullshit. However, despite Christianson's tour-de-force, I was equally blown away by Peter Sarsgaard's role as his editor who slowly comes to realize that Glass has been feeding them manufactured tales all along. I really can't put my finger on it, but like his role in the overrated Garden State (don't get me started), he has a cinematic presence that is at once understated and riveting. For your four bucks worth, you aren't going to find many other movies with two more exciting performances (and keep in mind they are playing journalists -- not exactly action figure status).

So, what did we learn today? DirecTv bad. Hayden and Peter good. But, if I hadn't gotten DirecTv, it's very likely I wouldn't have ever seen the film. The only rational conclusion is that one of our many meddling gods have been interfering with my life yet again.
More Attack of the Clones required reading
I know I've given enough fodder recently, but I'd be remiss if I didn't cite Jaquandor for pointing me towards this excellent treatise on that movie. The most illuminating insight is the following exposition (including footnotes) regarding aggression, which addresses one of the most commonly hated changes of the new special edition of A New Hope:
    The most obvious way Lucas condemns violence continues to be by showing on the narrative level that aggression is the surest road to defeat. Obi Wan's assault on Jango Fett leaves him hanging below the city in a clear parallel to Luke's defeat in Empire. Attacking Count Dooku at the climax, Obi Wan and Anakin also assure themselves of a terrible loss at his hands. The tide of this battle does not turn until the arrival of Yoda, whose appearance significantly marks Dooku's shift from a defensive to an offensive strategy and in turn triggers his own loss. The pursuit of would-be assassin Zam Wessel provides a more subtle case in point: it succeeds only when the hunters allow themselves to become the hunted. It is a testament to Lucas' creativity that this pattern plays out in even the smallest of subplots without (five films and ten hours into the saga) becoming stale or self-evident.

    This is presumably the explanation for the controversial "Greedo edit" in the special edition of the first film. By altering the confrontation between Greedo and Han Solo in A New Hope to show Greedo firing first, Lucas eliminated the inconsistency between this particular conflict and the overarching theme of the film as a whole.
I feel somewhat satisfied and wholly placated by the change now, but still I long for Han Solo to be a badass iconoclast who is at the same time above the whole saga and a clueless yet, in his own way, sage witness to the entire struggle. Alas.


Lucas speaks... about more Star Wars movies
Via reader Simian Farmer, is a posting from website Super Shadow that contains quite a few arrestingly frank and revealing Q&A's between fans and George Lucas himself. No spoilers were really discussed, but there were some very interesting details I had not heard before.

For instance, under the category of 'as if I need another reason to go see Revenge of the Sith multiple times':
    Fan Question: If it's not about the money, why are the box-office earnings from Revenge of the Sith going to control whether there's going to be a Star Wars TV series?

    George Lucas: You’re mistaken. The box-office performance has nothing to do with the TV series. It’s Episode 7 that will be affected if Revenge of the Sith underperforms at the box office. This has nothing to do with profits. I’m using the box-office gross to determine if there is enough interest in making more films.
I had always been under the impression that Lucas has said repeatedly, time and again, that there will be no 7th movie, that the story is over, etc., etc. This makes sense, as the Star Wars saga is essentially the story of Anakin Skywalker, who dies at the end of Episode VI. Anything that would come after that would be in the Star Wars universe, but not with the same characters (unless they get a move on, Harrison won't be making a cameo). In any event, it looks as if Lucas is considering more, and that's what's important.

Under the category 'as if you need another reason to read Timothy Zahn's Star Wars novels':
    Fan Question: Is the Knights of The Old Republic video game the only EU material that you accept as official Star Wars history? I heard about what you accept in the Timothy Zahn novels and Shadows of the Empire are only sources of it. Is it true?...

    George Lucas: I accept Knights of the Old Republic, Tim’s novels and Shadows of the Empire as official Star Wars history. They’re just not my vision of Star Wars...
I've harped on Tim Zahn's Thrawn trilogy before (no, I'm not going to find a link to the blog) as required reading for any fan, but I'll have to check out Shadows myself.

Under the category 'you knew there was going to be a SPECIAL special edition':
    Fan Question: George, thank you so much for finally changing the Emperor in The Empire Strikes Back. I've greatly enjoyed each new edition of the classic trilogy - the Special Editions, then the DVD Editions. My question is: "Are there still plans to produce an Ultimate Edition set with new scenes like Palpatine dissolving the Senate and Bail Organa on Alderaan before it is destroyed, etc...?"

    George Lucas: It’s too early to speculate about what specific scenes I would like to add to the old films. It would be interesting to see Sidious in A New Hope along with Bail Organa.
I can see his point to make the films a cohesive saga, but another part of me is going 'Aieeeeeee!'

Under the category, 'not sure how I feel about that':
    Fan Question: One of the ideas for Episodes 7 - 9 is a black hole that destroys the dark side of the Force. Isn't that impossible as the Force is neither good or evil only how it is used?

    George Lucas: The reason the dark side is destroyed at the end of Episode 9 is so that I can bring a final end to the Star Wars saga. As long as the dark side exists, new evil Force user villains will crop up. The story would never end. There are essentially two sides to the Force. One light, one dark. It is essential that the light side of the Force be able to defeat the dark side.
Seems to pat for me. This seems disturbingly close to the concept of destroying evil once and for all. Without evil, what is good? It's a philosophy question, and I'm just not sure what kind of intrigue there would be to the force without some kind of restraint. That's just me.

Under the category, 'what? who? where?':
    Fan Question: Mr. Lucas, is the reason why you don't want SuperShadow to release the Episode 10 - 12 Plot Formulas is because you want the Sequel Trilogy to be under production before you release them to the public? Just like with waiting until the prequels came out to release the Sequel plot lines? If not, then why? Anyways, SuperShadow here tells me that even though the dark side has been destroyed for eternity, the plot lines of Episodes X - XII are simply amazing. Can you at least reveal who the main characters are and the villains and what gives the Republic and Jedi such a hard time? Thank you Mr. Lucas. May the Force be with you.

    George Lucas: I’m really hesitant to reveal any details about events after Episode 9. Ideally I would like for the films to end with Episode 9. Even though the dark side is destroyed, a new evil not based in the dark side emerges in Episode 10. I can’t get more specific than that right now.
This is the first I've heard about anything rumored past Episode IX (which until now I believed to be fictitious). Damn, if that ain't titilating.

And finally, under the category, 'how do you pronouce that?':
    Fan Question: Hi Mr Lucas greeting's from the U.K. From the beginning I have watched the Star Wars trilogy I always wanted to know the history of the Emperor. The prequels have done great with the rise of Palpatine in the senate, but what about his past? Can you comment on who was his Sith master? His discovery to the Sith? And how he got the kyber crystal? Thank you.

    George Lucas: The background of Sidious will be explored in the various novels and comic books that will be published after Revenge of the Sith comes out. I can say that Sidious was trained by Darth Plagueis. Sidious discusses the Sith a little bit in the movie. I’m not going to get more specific than that.
There's a lot more out there for those interested. For those disinterested, it's unlikely you are reading this sentence, anyway.


The signal is sent
I looked up at the sky and saw that Cinescape noticed that the Fantastic Four trailer is now online. And now I have viewed it and it was good, so sayeth the Lord. Okay, what can you guarantee from a trailer these days -- not too much (I got really excited over the Daredevil trailer, mind you).

With all the comic movies coming out these days there isn't a year that goes by now that my geekdom (of which I "Lord" over) of my youth isn't justified on the big screen. For those of you whom are stunningly unfamiliar with the FF, theirs is a different story than most, for (ha) they are public heroes with no secret identity. The interaction between the 4, at least on the comic level, is akin to a normal family, with sibling rivalries (ironically, not between the brother and sister - Johnny and Sue Storm - but between Johnny and Ben Grimm, the best friend of the fourth member, Reed Richards), romances (Reed and Sue, the original married couple superheroes), and life-and-death battles.

For my two cents (adjusted European value - zero Euro), Reed Richards (an amazing talent, brilliant intellect, and subtly stealing the crown of ego-hound by calling himself "Mr. Fantastic", although perhaps Sue named him thanks to his elongation ability) was always my favorite because he wasn't the coolest or the most powerful, but he was the smartest. Geek. The Invisible Girl (Sue) was always a hot blonde in the comics (and no dummy either); they tapped Jessica Alba for the part so at least they got the hot part right. What will make this movie, as with Spider-Man or X-Men, is character, and to do that, they've got to nail the interaction between the Human Torch and The Thing (Grimm), which provided most of the fire (no pun intended) and laughs in the comics.

All in all, shaping up to be a good summer after the doldrums of winter. And the Lord rested.


I could walk home faster
As if DC traffic isn't going to be enough of a mess, some asshole has decided to clog up the evening rush hour some more by driving up to the White House in a van with a bunch of gasoline:
    Police and federal officials said the driver was upset because his son was in federal custody and his threats did not appear to be politically motivated.

    "It's domestic, not terrorism," an FBI spokeswoman told the Associated Press. "The man apparently is claiming he has 15 gallons of gasoline in his van and he'll blow it up if he doesn't get his child back. Law enforcement is trying to address it."
Well, now that we've addressed the issue of whether this is a homegrown asshole or a foreign asshole, I suggest lighting the match and let us go home. I'm one of those people when I'm stuck in traffic, and see it's because of an accident up ahead, mutter, "Somebody better be dead for this..."

I could walk home faster, if only it was 9 degrees outside.
One More Game
In yet another case of averting my eyes, we come to the playoff championship games this week. Okay, you've got your Steelers-Patriots matchup which is billed as the Superbowl (or was that last week's Colts spanking that was the Superbowl? I forget my hype notes...), and in the other corner, you've got the Eagles-Falcons. My Eagles, in jeopardy, as I've said all year, of being the Junior Varsity Bills.

I'm going to be plain and say I really really don't want my team to lose four straight Championship games, just as I didn't want my then-team Bills to lose four straight Superbowls (to the Cowboys for two, when I had a roommate who was a Dallas fan, no less). It's tough enough living in DC, being surrounded by obnoxious Redskins fans who are forced to live in the past and whose only glee is reminding everyone that they were once great. Naturally, so such bores, their only joy in this millenium has been the eventual loss for the Eagles.

[For those of you confused as to how I could switch teams -- I have family in both areas, grew up NY and moved to Philly. It was a slow process over time, not a bandwagon kind of thing. Now, I root for Philly #1 and Bills #2, but if I were ever (ha) confronted with the scenario, I'd have to pull for the Bills in a Superbowl matchup. Sentimental value.]

So, I don't know what it is going to take this Sunday. I'm nervous, and the Falcons did a lot to make me more nervous last weekend, albeit against a weak Rams team, in a dome. At home. Yeah, I've heard it all before, so we'll just play the games. (At least, Steelers fans, we are favored at home.) The X-Factor will be Brian Westbrook, who has been the key to the offense (not T.O., although we could use a little more swagger). He's our Marshall Faulk (back when that meant something), and if we can get those screen passes going, we'll be okay. As for Vick, I'll just be sportsmanlike and say I hope he dies. And then we go after his family, his friends, people who owe them money... you get the idea Keyser.
Avert the eyes
Well, it's officially the season again, and I don't mean the surprisingly biting cold or the flu. I am mean it's time to start avoiding Star Wars websites for spoilers. I think the term 'spoiler' itself first officially joined the geek-net lexicon in the spring before The Phantom Menace came out (in 1999) -- I'm hard pressed to think of another film before it that was so highly anticipated and whose fan-base is so rabid. Now, websites routinely have 'spoiler warnings' preceeding insider information, but I found that passive resistance to the probe isn't going to get the job done. You have to actively just say no and look away.

In the weeks leading up to Sith's release, there'll be all kinds of toys and merchandise, books and posters, collectables and CD's stocking the shelves and filling online reports. Despite your fervent need to see the next (and final) Star Wars film, you must resist temptation. You must look away. Even the most innocent glance can cause years of painful regret.

I'll set the way-back machine to that fateful spring of 1999. I was browsing a music store when I happened upon the soundtrack to Phantom Menace in the weeks prior to the release of the film. [For reasons beyond reason, both the soundtrack and novelization are released before the film comes out; this is the devil's work.] I picked it up, and figuring it wouldn't hurt to check out the back of the CD, read down the song title list. A lifelong fan of John Williams', I should have remembered his penchant for detail before I read "Qui-Gon's Noble End" in the song credits. Shit, I thought. Shit.

[Aside, if you think I am violating my own code by 'spoiling' the death of Qui-Gon in Phantom Menace, you are wrong wrong wrong. Anyone who is old enough to have seen it and hasn't by now isn't a fan of Star Wars anyway.]

Would you have wanted to know in advance that Vader was Luke's father, back in 1980? The memory of Empire, and the hope of being shocked and surprised one last time by Lucas, has added pressure to the resistance. You want to recapture the magic, but how long does one have to wait to get a glimpse of the newest planet or villain or evil Anakin glare? Three years, like clockwork. But now the countdown has begun and it's 2005 and let's just get it on (FYI, May 19, just four months from tomorrow).

I'm putting on the advisory today because photos of the book covers for the films have been released. This marks the beginning of the end of harmless web browsing on fan sites. Reading speculation and rumors and little tidbits can now get you into trouble, or tempt you to do things you don't want to do, like read the novelization summary, which is preceeded by this disclaimer:
    Please note: the summary contains spoilers, plot points and info on scenes from 'Revenge of the Sith'. If you're avoiding spoilers, we advise you not to read on.
I'm salivating. Here is clearly information I'm dying to know, but I have to avoid. I'm such a geek that I've read that line and imagined what it would be like to scroll down. Just a little. I'll let my eyes dart for a half-second, then again. Teasing, tempting. Just one little look. What can it hurt? Finally, I come to my senses (read: reluctantly close the window) and do what's best for me. For all of us, really.

Okay, I needed a little reward for being so good, so I allowed myself to see the ultracool model for Anakin's new starfighter. Wicked cool, that is. It will be mine.


Inside the helmet
I've got my issue of Vanity Fair featuring the Star Wars photoshoot. Those who don't want to bother with the $5 can get a taste of the pictures contained on VF's portfolio online. I, however, intend to get the full size of the cover framed. It's just the way that I do things.

Annie Leibowitz's interesting photographs surround a short article by Jim Windolf regarding Episode III. I didn't figure to get some amazing insight into the fate of Anakin, but Lucas expounded in a couple of fascinating paragraphs. For starters, he directly addresses the much speculated reason why Anakin goes over to the dark side:
    "When you get down to where we are right now in the story," Lucas says, "you basically get somebody who's going to make a pact with the Devil, and it's going to be a pact with the Devil that says, 'I want the power to save somebody from death. I want to be able to stop them from going to the river Styx, and I need to go to a god for that, but the gods won't do it, so I'm going to go down to Hades and get the Dark Lord to allow me to have this power that will allow me to save the very person I want to hang on to.' You know, it's Faust. So Anakin wants that power, and that is basically a bad thing. If you're going to sell your soul to save somebody you love, that's not a good thing. That's, as we say in the film, unnatural. You have to accept the natural course of life. Of all things. Death is obviously the biggest of them all. Not only death for yourself but death for the things you care about."
This is some amazing detail on how a Jedi is turned, something we have still never seen in the films. Lucas doesn't stop talking until he's addressed another of fandom's 'holy grails' of speculation: the impact losing much of his body had on Vader's power:
    "Anakin, as Skywalker, as a human being, was going to be extremely powerful," [Lucas] says. "But he ended up losing his arms and a leg and became partly a robot. So a lot of his ability to use the Force, a lot of his powers, are curbed at this point, because, as a living form, there's not that much of him left. So his ability to be twice as good as the Emperor disappeared, and now he's maybe 20 percent less than the Emperor."
Even more telling is this last part where he fills in the holes and, incidentally, once Episode III is over will have changed how we view the original trilogy forever.
    "So that isn't what the Emperor had in mind. He wanted this really super guy, but that got derailed by Obi-Wan. So he finds that, with Luke, he can get a more primo version if he can turn Luke to the Dark Side. You'll see, as this goes on, Luke is faced with the same issues and practically the same scenes that Anakin is faced with. Anakin says yes and Luke says no.

    "You learn that Darth Vader isn't this monster," Lucas says. "He's a pathetic individual who made a pact with the Devil and lost. And he's trapped. He's a sad, pathetic character, not an evil big monster. I mean, he's a monster in that he's turned to the Dark Side and he's serving a bad master and he's into power and he's lost lot of his humanity. In that way, he's a monster, but beneath that, as Luke says in Return of the Jedi, early on, 'I know there's still good in you. There's good in you, I can sense it.' Only through the love of his children and the compassion of his children, who believe in him, even though he's a monster, does he redeem himself."

That's quite the turn from my first memory of Darth Vader, as a child watching him enter the Tantive IV on the big screen, scaring the bejeezus out of me. But that was a time when I view things as simple black and white, but now I'm much more interested in this expanded, detailed vision of the series as a complex, timeless masterpiece. Now go out and do my bidding.


The Power of Education
A little girl who goes to school saves lives. The story touched me and reminded me why we learn. I think this is one of those kinds of stories that should be told as an example of why kids should stay in school, pay attention, and revel in the information that is being brought to them.

In other terms, when God closes a door, he opens a window. In real terms, shit happens, but it help to enlighten what it important, and what needs be done.

On a personal note, I feel some empathy for these poor souls who got taken by this earthquake. But, it has been many years since I have considered this planet to be anything other than a force of nature and we are just tiny inhabitants who can get struck down at any given time, regardless of reason or fairness or deservedness. I'm in awe of the good fortune I've been given over the years.