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I'm back on the podcasting bandwagon!  I’ve started working with The Chronic Rift, a pop culture podcast based on a New York public access show of the ‘90s. Every week I’ll be recording The Weekly Podioplex, where I’ll cover the weekend box office results, the week’s upcoming films, the newest DVD and Blu-Ray releases, and a little news too.

The first episode is now live, so please give it a listen and let me know what you think.

See you at the theater.


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“The prequels have been made. They exist. There is literally nothing you can do or say to make them go away. They may not be your cup of tea, but let’s remember: YOU can choose not to watch them! You can pretend like they don’t even exist! But being angry about it forever is going to accomplish nothing. Neither is being disrespectful. My father has done absolutely nothing to earn disrespectful tirades and personal attacks. He is a good man. He is not an evil genius plotting to ruin your life. You are entitled to your own opinions–whatever they may be, but be respectful about it. He may have made three movies you personally didn’t care about, but he was also responsible for three movies that inspired you and millions of others. So, do him and I (sic) the courtesy of having a little goddamn respect.”

–Katie Lucas (via Twitter, 4 May 2011)


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Last week, podcaster and Chicago radio producer Jimmy Mac covered the topic of being called a nerd on The ForceCast. His position was that the term nerd is derogatory and shouldn’t be used to describe fans of Star Wars. I couldn’t disagree more. 

The crowd at Wikipedia have defined “nerd” as “a term that refers to a social perception of a person who avidly pursues intellectual activities, technical or scientific endeavors, esoteric knowledge, or other obscure interests, rather than engaging in more social or conventional activities.” That got me thinking. Based on that, why shouldn’t we embrace the term nerd?

My heroes have, for the most part, been largely from the scientific, engineering, and creative communities. Many of them come from the large group of scientists, engineers, and technicians who came together and put a man on the moon in the 1960s. Those same scientists and engineers saved three astronauts when Apollo 13 catastrophically failed en route to the second planned lunar landing.

Even today, the qualifications to be an astronaut include a bachelor's degree in engineering, biological science, physical science or mathematics, as well as at least three years of related professional experience (graduate work or studies) and an advanced degree.

Wikipedia continues to explore the etymology of nerdom by describing the term’s origins with Dr. Seuss, Philip K. Dick, and students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Dr. Seuss is legendary in his own right, Philip K. Dick developed the concept of Blade Runner and other science-fiction classics, and MIT is a hotbed of scientific and technological research that has produced at least 76 Nobel Laureates, 50 National Medal of Science recipients, and 35 MacArthur Fellows.

Albert Einstein singlehandedly expanded the understanding of our universe with his theories on relativity, progressing on centuries of scientific exploration from intellectual and esoteric thinkers before him. Science fiction as developed by Isaac Asimov (a scientist and writer), Gene Roddenberry (creator of Star Trek), and George Lucas (noted for his technical innovation) is derived from these advances and evolves with the technology explored by today’s science and engineering communities.  Without nerds, I doubt science fiction or Star Wars would exist in its current form.

In a world where some kids idolize movie stars and sports figures, I find great solace in celebrating great thinkers. Nerds – the intellectuals, the scientists, the engineers, those with obscure interests – aren’t considered cool because they don’t get the hot chicks, don’t slug baseballs over the wall 400 feet away, don’t score the winning touchdown, and don’t snort cocaine off a hooker’s butt like Charlie Sheen seems so fond to do. Despite those supposed shortcomings, nerds have very stable lives and help to save others every day. Nerds develop body armor to send to our soldiers, engineer seat belts and restraint systems to keep people safe in moving vehicles, and created pacemakers and artificial hearts to extend and improve quality of life.  Nerds may not be cool, but they're much more useful to society, and the current resurgence in exploring nerd and geek culture is a tribute to that.

Any scientific advance, including those that allow us to explore this very topic, are due greatly to nerds. Nerds may not earn millions of dollars –Bill Gates and Steve Jobs notwithstanding – but the world owes them a debt that can never be repaid.

Money can’t buy happiness, unlike my constantly expanding knowledge of the universe around me. Nerds understand what makes the world go ‘round, and I am proud to be among their ranks.


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Whenever you hear people start talking about Star Wars, there are varying general degrees to which people enjoy the saga. Some people only recognize the original trilogy (A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi), while some add in the prequel trilogy (The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, and Revenge of the Sith). Some fans add in the new animated series The Clone Wars, which takes place in the years between episodes two and three. Finally, there are those that include what is known as the Expanded Universe (also known as the EU).

Not to get too deep into the nitty-gritty details, there has been so much material published regarding Star Wars, from the films to novels, comics, and games, that there are varying levels of what is considered canon or official story. There are five levels of canon that establish the continuity. In order of precedence, continuity is established by films and their novels, then television series, then the combination of novels, comics, and games. The second to last in precedence is material that “may not fit quite right” and can used or discarded as seen fit. Finally, there is a category called “Infinities,” which is essentially made of “what if” stories, such as Luke freezing to death on Hoth.

Why does the Expanded Universe matters to me? Well, I never saw the original versions of the classic trilogy in theaters. In fact, my first experience with Star Wars was sometime around 1986 when my parents went out and the babysitter who was watching my sister and I asked if I had ever seen it. When I told her no, she put the pan and scan VHS tape on, which I fell asleep to after watching R2-D2 and C-3PO bicker in the desert. In fact, I never seriously watched the entire trilogy until after Easter 1993, when my parents gave me a copy of the trilogy novelizations and the paperback of Heir to the Empire by Timothy Zahn, which was the novel that revived the Star Wars franchise after nearly a decade of silence.

Before that point, Star Wars was just an action movie trilogy with cheesy dialogue – let’s face it, the fans are responsible for elevating those classic stilted lines to pop culture status over the years – and great special effects. After reading Heir to the Empire and the novelizations of the films, I found a hunger I didn’t know existed, and I became a frequent patron of bookstores and public libraries in a search over the next decade for all of the Star Wars novels I could read. I also sought out the games and comics and even the extra cheesy Ewok TV-movies because the depth and detail that those sources could provide in addition to the films was, quite frankly, inspirational to me. I saw how the myth arc grew beyond what I experienced on a seventeen-inch television screen to the unlimited expanse of my imagination. More than that, reading Tim Zahn, Michael Stackpole, Aaron Allston, Kevin J. Anderson, and other various authors as they took on the heroes and villains of the galaxy far, far away was what gave me the writing bug. I cut my teeth by writing Star Wars fanfiction, which of course no one will ever see due to how truly, truly horrendous it is.

In 1997, I finally got to see the classic trilogy on the big screen with the release of the Special Editions. Yeah, Greedo shooting first is a terrible thing, but to me, those movies were magical. I relished the changes George Lucas made and just had fun. After all, that’s what those movies were to me in the first place. I even saw each of the prequels on opening night, with their computer-enhanced effects and corny dialogue. For me, it was the same magic, although I grant you at a lower quality.

So why do I care about this now? Recent events in the new cartoon series, The Clone Wars, have been in conflict with the novels, comics, and games that have come before. Of course, the animated series takes precedence on the continuity scale, since George Lucas is directly involved. He’s even mentioned that doesn’t pay attention to the Expanded Universe, which has led some people to the conclusion that the EU doesn’t really matter anymore. Some people have taken to publicly celebrating every time The Clone Wars supersedes previous works. In fact, certain podcasters in the Star Wars fan community have gone as far as to describe the authors of EU works as “hacks”.

That’s the most painful part. I mean, if New York Times #1 bestselling authors are now considered hacks – someone who writes low quality work for pay – then what must my fellow fans think of struggling wannabe fiction writers like me or other fans? It’s insulting and only serves to drive unnecessary wedges into the fandom. Fighting amongst ourselves within the community serves nothing more than to divide us. We would be better served to acknowledge that some people accept the entirety of Star Wars as it stands, where others build their own canon based on what they enjoy within the franchise.

The EU is important to me because it represents a source of inspiration and motivation, but more than that, it represents a time of drought from 1983 to 1999 when we didn’t have anything but the original trilogy to enjoy. Just because we live a time of great prosperity in the franchise doesn’t mean that the classics don’t have a place. Furthermore, it doesn’t mean that those who enjoy it are any less of fans than those who watch the films.

We are all fans, and Star Wars is forever, no matter how we enjoy it. Our responsibility is to respect our fellow fans and pass the magic on to future generations. Only then will it live on in our hearts and minds.


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