Fan Days III Wrap-Up

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Fan Days III 10-24-2009 6-10-25 PM

Last Friday, I left for a whirlwind trip to Plano, Texas, for a Star Wars convention called Fan Days III.  I returned Sunday night with unforgettable memories.  I talked with celebrities, met lots of friends new and old, and watched two live episodes of The ForceCast.  Feel free to check out my photos and videos.  I also wrote a recap piece for the Star Wars website TheForce.Net about the convention as a whole.  You can read it here.

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Idiotic Assertions of Ideological Impartiality: The FOX News Story

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I was watching CNN's Reliable Sources this morning, and they were discussing the battle between FOX News and the White House.  As I was watching the clips they played of Bill O'Reilly and Glenn Beck, I couldn't help but wonder, Are these guys serious?

How can FOX News honestly say that the White House has crossed the line?  How can Bill O'Reilly say that this is a witch hunt?  How can Glenn Beck compare the accusations against FOX News to the Holocaust?  The only criticism I'd level against the White House is that they only just got around to saying what they said.

FOX News was quick to respond to the White House’s claims that the network was actually just the TV news wing of the Republican Party.  But they did so in an unsurprisingly pathetic way: they whined and cried.  Okay, so actually they just whined.  Glenn Beck only cries for his country.  But I digress.  Bill O’Reilly acted as if everyone was picking on FOX News, ganging up on them and leveling unfair, unfounded, and un-researched criticism at them.  Let me repeat part of that last sentence: ganging up on them and leveling unfair, unfounded, and un-researched criticism at them.  Stop and think for a moment: who does that sound like?

The biggest problem with FOX News is not that they are conservative-leaning.  That would only be an issue if flagship FOX News programs like Glenn Beck's were considered journalism.  They're not.  Beck himself has said numerous times that he is more of an entertainment personality than a journalist.  His job is to rile up the conservative masses, not to provide balanced news coverage.

No, the biggest problem with FOX News is their attitude.  I don’t even mind that they only cover things from a conservative point of view.  My problem with them is that they pretend to be balanced.  They don’t admit that their hosts, their talking heads, their story lineup, and their word choice all point to a rightward slant.  If you were an Independent and you watched FOX News and CNN covering the same politically-charged story, you’d see a clear difference in their methodology.  CNN would toe the line and abstain from making a judgment, but FOX News would insinuate certain things about how the story pertained to “the radical left-leaning Obama administration.”

The sheer amount of suggestive language that FOX News personalities use – all while pretending to be impartial – is appalling.  FOX News anchors ask loaded questions of their analysts.  They can make even the most innocuous stories into political fodder that will delight their more rabid viewers.  But there is no admission of this at FOX News.  Everyone at FOX News seems to believe that they are the watchdogs of the administration, rather than the schoolyard bully waiting behind the corner to knock you down every time you walk by. (Hint: they’re actually the latter.)

When Glenn Beck does his program, he pretends to be a humble, concerned, and patriotic citizen, but in reality he is just a self-assured, egotistical airhead.  Again, I see no problem with him hosting a conservative program.  It’s one thing for him to cover only conservative stories and address things from a conservative point of view only.  But it’s another thing entirely for him to deny that he does it.  Now folks, Glenn Beck is a liar in many ways, but he does not lie about his opinions.  He honestly believes that FOX News is fair to all sides.  Yet so many stories slip by the FOX News assignment desk that it makes me question Beck’s assertion.  FOX News gives significant airtime to people who believe that homosexuals are the spawn of the devil, but god forbid they talk about something pro-liberal without turning it into a referendum on fascism.

Even more troublesome is the way that FOX News covers conservative mishaps.  When the Mark Sanford scandal came to light, FOX News wrote “(D) South Carolina” under his name in the on-screen graphic.  It’s hard to believe this was an accident.  The FOX News control room probably thought that their viewers were too brainwashed to notice the discrepancy.

To play devil’s advocate to myself here, I will suggest that FOX News might be trapped in this kind of “distort-tainment” by its viewers.  They have the largest cable audience of any network, and while that’s obviously due to the number of wounded conservatives seeking refuge in one-sided shout-fests, it doesn’t change the ratings.  If FOX News stopped sensationalizing news and started covering it fairly, they would definitely lose a large portion of that audience.

It all boils down to one thing for FOX News.  What do you care about more, Nielsen numbers or actually being fair and balanced?

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In Defense of Star Wars

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I never thought I’d be defending the best movie series of all time from the website BigShinyRobot.  The co-editor of the site, Bryan Young, writes the Star Wars Examiner section of Examiner.com.  My good friend Mandy considers Mr. Young a friend.  So it surprised me that Mr. Young’s website would feature a post entitled, “Top Ten Reasons Why Star Wars Sucks!

Now, I’m not sure if Mr. Young himself wrote this post.  He is not the only person who posts on BigShinyRobot; someone named Lucas Ackley also posts there.  So until I learn otherwise, I’ll assume that this was Ackley’s doing. (UPDATE: Mandy informs me that the writer is actually a guy named Jason.)

So, on to the post.  Let’s put aside the fact that it’s a top ten list with the words “Star Wars” in the title, and therefore was only written to get clicks.  It’s important to refute the content, rather than the possible reason for this sorry collection of words hitting the web in the first place.  The article starts at #10 and makes its way up the ladder of perceived Star Wars failings.  I’ll address each point individually.  All emphasis (bolded words) in quoted statements is my doing.

 

#10: The Phantom Menace

As far as the movies go, this is a low. Not just because of annoying characters introduced (not excluding them either) but simply because it was boring. Most people forget how boring it was. The reason for this, I think, is because of how boring it actually was.

So a three-person lightsaber fight in a cavernous Naboo power generator station was boring?  Or maybe you fell asleep during that space battle where Anakin destroyed the droid control ship and escaped the explosion with Millennium Falcon-like timing?  No, I’ll bet you just couldn’t stay awake as Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan fought their way to safety aboard the Trade Federation flagship.  The fact is, The Phantom Menace was the first Star Wars movie in 16 years.  The hype surrounding this film was absolutely unprecedented.  I do not think any film since has engendered such anticipation.  The wide-spread criticism of The Phantom Menace by older fans is troublesome, because it displays a lack of understanding on their part.  George Lucas is no longer making Star Wars for you 30-and-above’s.  He is focusing on the future, and you are not it.

#9: Anakin Skywalker Through The Ages

Starting with how annoying he was in Phantom Menace, and god was he annoying in Phantom Menace. “It’s working, It’s working!” Geez. It’s hard to imagine how it could get any worse. But it does. Hayden Christensen. It makes me think that ‘Bad Acting’ was a listed requirement to get an audition. If the prequels weren’t a mistake he sure made them feel like one. Not to mention the cartoon voice actors that now have to imitate his stiff line reading (as opposed to acting.)

I guess you haven’t been watching The Clone Wars.  Because if you had, you would realize how dynamic, complex, and intense the character of Anakin Skywalker has become.  I’ll grant you that Jake Lloyd as Anakin was not what we were expecting.  But perhaps that’s a good thing; after all, we needed to see how the man who would become Darth Vader behaved as a young boy.  Put simply, we needed perspective.  If you watch all six movies chronologically, you will see that Anakin grows darker and darker with every film.  As for Hayden Christensen, all I can say is pressure.  Imagine having the responsibility of portraying the most despicable movie villain of all time before his turn.  Imagine having to bridge the gap between a happy-go-lucky boy and a black-suited terror.  That’s a lot of responsibility if you ask me, and I doubt you could do any better.  Christensen was a bit wooden at times, but that was more a factor of the scripted dialog than his own abilities.

#8: C-3PO

It’s truly amazing how much of your time George was aloud to waste depicting how much trouble C-3PO could get into when his head was placed onto the body of a battle droid. This wasn’t funny. This was stupid.

Really?  You take issue with C-3PO because George had him provide a few minutes of comic relief?  I found his antics pretty funny.  They provided a nice contrast to the Battle of Geonosis, especially given how many Jedi died that day.  I’d say George wanted to defuse some of the darkness and provide younger fans with something they could connect with.  You aren’t going to get many eight-year-olds to enjoy your film if there’s nothing comically redeeming about it.

#7: Jar Jar Binks

Ah, yes, I wondered when you would get to him.  I’m not even going to debate your words in this section, because, quite frankly, you don’t offer much of an argument.  You say:

I don’t think I need to say much about Jar-Jar, but I do wonder if it’s a coincidence that this character was introduced to the Star Wars universe only a short year after Ferngully 2: The Magical Rescue?

Oh, but I do think you need to say much about Jar Jar.  In fact, I would humbly suggest that if you want to make an argument, you should make it yourself, instead of relying on what you assume is general sentiment to make it for you.  I find some of Jar Jar’s behavior – alright, most of it – to be slapstick and cheesy.  But if we examine George’s motives for the Prequel Trilogy – essentially, “Bring Star Wars to the next generation of movie fans” – then Jar Jar makes a lot of sense.  Jar Jar was never intended to fit in with the rest of The Phantom Menace’s cast.  He was there to draw in young kids, to bridge the gap between serious conflict and giggling children.  If you don’t like him … well, that’s fine.  But don’t assume that he was a mistake by further assuming that The Phantom Menace was meant for you.  Because if you were older than eighteen in 1999, it wasn’t.

#6: The Special Editions

I could get behind the whole special edition thing if it was going to bring something better to the universe.

I don’t think George made the Special Editions to add to Star Wars, I think he made them to fix Star Wars.  Taking into account the technology George had at his disposal in the late 1970s and early 1980s, I’d say he did pretty well with the Original Trilogy.  However, as the decades passed, it became increasingly clear to him that he could improve his three films.  He could fix certain inconsistencies, refine certain effects, and improve on minor issues with the new technology that was available.  So he did.

#5: Because it has no balls

When you pit R2-D2 against a super battle droid it’s literally painful to watch them not blow the shit out of him. Wiping the Gungans off of the face of Naboo wouldn’t have hurt either.

If you knew anything about either R2-D2 or super battle droids, you would know that the latter weren’t well programmed and the former was nimble and resourceful.  It’s not just that R2-D2 can’t be killed in Revenge of the Sith because he needs to appear in subsequent stories.  It’s the skill sets of the two droids.  And for the record, if the battle droid had “blown the shit out of him,” the battle droid would have been consumed by the explosion, as they were in close quarters at the time.  There is a lot of gutsy stuff in Star Wars – tell me with a straight face that Obi-Wan bisecting Darth Maul or Anakin slaying a whole camp of Tusken Raiders doesn’t impress you.

#4: The Star Wars Holiday Special

Some might think it’s low of me to bring this up as a reason Star Wars sucks.
“Oh come on, everyone makes a mistake now and again.” They might say.

No, actually, I agree with you.  But in my opinion, The Holiday Special is basically the only mistake Star Wars has made.  I believe that all other contentious Star Wars products or shows were made for a specific reason, with a specific goal in mind.  But yes, The Holiday Special was just embarrassing.

#3: The Ewok Adventures

While watching this I want everyone to take note of the fact that George Lucas has a writing credit. He did this to you.

This is one of the “contentious Star Wars products” to which I was referring.  If you recall, George wanted to open Star Wars to younger people.  This show hit the airwaves in 1984, a year after the final OT film and therefore 12 months after Star Wars screen buzz had died off.  George was aiming this series directly at kids who were growing up with little Star Wars media to grasp.

#2: The Clone Wars: Theatre Release

Jabba the Hutt’s kidnapped son? They wanted people to pay to see this?…Really?….Really?

The Clone Wars film spawned a series that shattered viewership records in the youth demographics.  So if your question about payment is serious, then yes, they did expect people to see it.  And if Cartoon Network’s numbers are any indication, people enjoyed it enough to start watching the show.

#1: Star Wars is Forever

The thing that sucks the most about the series is that it doesn’t know when to stop, and will never stop. No matter how much torture it puts us through, no matter how horrible the live action show ends up being, no matter if scientist prove that watching Star Wars deforms children, it will never stop. There’s a very good chance that in thirty years your childrens, childrens, children will be asking you to buy them the new Star Wars dream house, complete with Darth Vader’s motorcycle, and it makes me sick.

I’m not sure how you managed to turn the Star Wars fan community’s rallying cry into an insult, especially given the fact that some of your examples are unfounded (what suggests that scientists will decry Star Wars for adverse effects on children?).  If Star Wars is popular enough to generate spin-off shows, zillions of action figures, and untold numbers of props, costumes, and playthings, that’s just an indicator how beloved the franchise is.  Why do you think licensees keep putting out Star Wars merchandise? Because it sells.  People don’t buy Star Wars products out of some hollow brand loyalty.  They buy them because they want them.  No one is Forcing them (pun very much intended) to spend their hard-earned money on toys for their kids.

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Well, now that that’s out of my system, I welcome any comments or feedback you have.  If I’ve made factual errors, let me know, and I’ll correct them.  If you want to debate this in more detail, you can contact me on Twitter or shoot me an email.

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College and Clone Wars

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Well that’s an odd mix.  For the record, they’re separate topics.

In the past few months, I have been ramping up my college work as the application deadline draws nearer.  We finished visiting colleges, and now we’re just returning to some of them for interviews.  I have a list of about twelve colleges where I’m applying.  Most recently, I’ve been addressing envelopes for teacher recommendations and school forms.  Can you believe you need four stamps per school envelope?  That’s like … a lot of stamps!  Also part of the process is writing a “brag sheet” for my school’s college counselor to use in writing my recommendation.  It was interesting to create that document, as it essentially summarized all my non-academic activities from the past few years onto a single sheet of paper.

Now on to the fun stuff.  Recently I was offered the incredible opportunity to write The Clone Wars reviews for the popular Star Wars website TheForce.Net.  I, of course, jumped at the chance.  The two-episode premiere was last Friday, and I was prepared.  I took copious notes, wrote up lengthy posts, and published them on Saturday.  I have already received numerous emails with positive feedback – and even one correction.  I am very proud to be part of the best team in Star Wars news.  Look for my reviews here every Saturday.

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