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The debate over the Star Wars Expanded Universe is a tale of us versus them that’s been raging for some time, but only recently has it exploded within fandom. The Expanded Universe (EU) matters greatly to me for reasons I’ve previously discussed, but in particular because the novels were my major gateway into Star Wars fandom. Unfortunately, that segment of my fandom has fallen under attack from people I trusted.

The ForceCast has become the podcast where there is no fan left behind unless they disagree with your particular version of fandom, in which case they will publicly mock and shame you on their program.

That’s why I have no choice but to stop listening.

 

 

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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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In case you missed it, the official site announced that the six live-action Star Wars films will be returning to your local theater, this time in 3-D starting in 2012.

My immediate response was one of apathy.  However, after a few hours of thought and sleep, I’ve slightly adjusted my position.

First, in the world of 3-D films, I’ve only been able to see the effect once or twice.  The first one that came to mind was during the stellar Space Station 3D IMAX film, which I caught last year.  In that documentary, there is a long shot along the axis of the International Space Station that looks out into the depths of space, and that shot stood out very well behind the 3-D glasses.  I remember taking off the glasses to look at the screen and get the full effect of what technology was doing.  Unfortunately, the only other time the effect returned was when the astronauts were demonstrating weightlessness with a ball, and that was intermittent for me.

The second time I saw a 3-D effect work was at the fun but intellectually vacuous 4-D “ride” based on A Bug’s Life at Disneyworld, and that was during the typical “coming right at you” moments.  I tried watching Up in 3-D, mostly because that was the only way our local theater presented it, but nothing ever looked three dimensional.  I know there were moments, because the audience was “ooh”-ing and “ahh”-ing at those points.

My second big concern is in the technology side.  If a movie is made in 3-D from the ground up, the effects tend to work better than if the movie is 2-D initially and rendered to 3-D later.  Unfortunately, the Star Wars saga was born in 2-D, which makes me apprehensive at the quality of the end 3-D result.

I think my problem with 3-D is because I know that it’s a visual trick.  In the sparse moments when I’ve forgotten where I am with a 3-D movie, the effects work, but if I’m thinking about the movie and the experience, all I see is a flat screen.  So, the next response is, “don’t think about it.”  Space Station 3D was a documentary about something I know quite a bit about, and honestly, was a significant chunk of eye candy.  Like I’ve already said, A Bug’s Life 4-D was low on substance, lasted about five minutes, and was broken up with the “fourth dimensional” effects of rumbling chairs and blowing air to represent things that happen to the viewer in the show.  Both instances involved distraction from thinking too much about the material presented on screen.  The problem is that I can’t switch off the analysis during Star Wars movies.  They’ve been a big part of my life since I was kid, and it’s hard to separate that.

Now, I don’t want to seem like I complete “Debby Downer” on this.  I am excited for the saga to get another big screen release for another generation of children, but if Lucasfilm uses the current 3-D technology, I won’t play.  I would love to see the films again with the theater experience, but I don’t want to sully that experience by filtering the imagery with 3-D glasses that don’t work for me.  Like any other visual filter, the glasses tend to remove a portion of the vibrancy that I expect on the silver screen.  Watching the 3-D films without the glasses is completely out of the question for obvious, headache inducing, reasons.

My opinion is tempered with the fact that George Lucas is an innovator.  If anyone can create a method for three-dimensional filmmaking that is revolutionary, it is Lucas, and to paraphrase Supreme Chancellor Palpatine, I’ll be watching the developments on this project with great interest.  If it looks like something I can enjoy, my butt will be in the seat for all six films.  Until then, I have no choice but to remain cautiously optimistic.

Either way, we all know what the end result will be:  A metric Bantha load of money deposited in the Lucasfilm coffers as fans either re-live or discover Star Wars again.

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