star wars

for nerd eyes only

Back in 1977 my parents took me to The Cove Theatre on Halifax's seedy side of town to see Star Wars - or as I like to call it, In Space You Stand and Talk and Run and Shoot and BOOM and The End! In the days following the movie, my parents bought me the toys, the magazines, the trading cards and whatever passed for memorabilia in the late '70s. Some of the trading cards showed images that never appeared in the film - Luke wearing a daffy hat, Luke talking to his hotshot Academy friend Biggs - and if I recall correctly, the big comic and the novelisation also contained scenes with Luke whining to Biggs about his lousy life on the farm with the Sand People and the evaporators and his displeasure with a life of forced sodomy sand-based agriculture. Anyway, here's the scene. Note that the only closeup in the whole thing is on a droid's face.

YouTube - Star Wars Lost Intro

burnt anakin cakes

Normally I don't talk about the Google searches that land people on this page, since so many of them are so inappropriate that when I read them I feel slightly ashamed, as if I'd deliberately set out to mislead web surfers. People use the web for a million practical uses, to help them shop, to give them factual information, to provide guidance and help them get on with their day. Aside from my bracing Ask Palinode series, I provide precisely none of these things. Imagine wanting to find a home remedy for your son's fever, only to find one of my nonsensical rants about robot vaginas or how much I hate Rapid City. I really want people looking for Nan Goldin photos to find Nan Goldin photos. I also really want people to stop coming here looking for photos by 'Nan Golden'. That person does not exist, or if she does, she's no photographer. The lesson to be drawn: the kingdom of Google does not believe in puns.

Today I checked my referrers and found my favourite Google search yet: "burnt anakin about to become darth vader". The search will lead you to a leaked photo of a crispy Hayden Christensen that made the rounds in the months preceding Sithy Revenge, but my site comes in fourth. Out of all the thousands of sites that regularly churn out info, opinion and speculation on Star Wars, my snarky-ass blog gets fourth place in the Burnt Anakin sweepstakes. I don't want to disappoint further Surfers for Burnt Anakin, so here's my contribution to the noise.

Burnt Anakin Cakes

  • 2 cups flour from Naboo or some ridiculous made-up bullshit like that

  • 2 tsps galactic baking powder

  • 1/4 tsp salt from that hot red planet at the end of Revenge of the Sith

  • 1 1/2 tsps melange, the spice that grants awareness of other dippy sci-fi franchises

  • 1/4 tsp ground Jawa

  • 1/4 cup chopped Anakin arm leg damn, there's not much of him

  • 2 eggs from spacebeast like the one that swallowed the Millenium Falcon

  • 1 cup sugar from that planet where - oh, screw it, just use sugar

  • According to Lucas' notes for the intro crawl to the unfilmed Episode 7, sour cream is under embargo by the Trade Federation, so use 1 cup healthy plain yoghurt

  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda with midichlorians

Sift flour, galactic powder, hot red planet salt, melange, jawa. Lightly stir in the screaming, raging bits of Anakin, tossing to coat. In a trash compactor, beat those big eggs until light. Add delicious sugar.

Combine yoghurt and baking soda; stir into raging Anakin mixture. Avoid Force.

Preheat Sarlaac to 375 degrees. Placate Sarlaac with hapless troopers, aliens, whatever. They're disposable props in the funhouse of George Lucas' imagination. Bake cupcakes in greased baking tray for a thousand years of pain and suffering or until cupcake surface bounces back lightly to the touch (~25 to 35 minutes). Do not overburn. Cupcakes may destroy you.

The seven highly effective habits of darth vader

A long time ago in a galaxy far far away, people still had goods to trade and business to conduct. They had jobs to get to, moisture evaporators to fix and military robots that said "Roger roger" to build. Planetary federations and mercantile guilds aside, there was still a place for motivated businessmen and managers in the Galactic Empire.

As the only child of a single mother, Anakin Skywalker rose from obscurity on a desert planet to become the second most powerful man in the galaxy, a black-clad behemoth known to the worlds as Darth Vader. What leadership lessons can the smart manager of today take from Darth Vader's example?

1. Never Let Them See You Smile
Poker players often attribute their success in the game to their 'poker faces'. Often it's described as a state of mind, a 'zone' in which the subtle muscular telltales of excitement and frustration are dampened by the player's concentration on the cards. Well, screw all that. Darth Vader wore a mask and he never, ever took it off. Nobody knew what he was thinking or feeling. He had to tell them, which he did, often. For being so tactiturn when it came to tactics, Vader was pretty voluble about his feelings. I wonder why that was?

2. Don't Let the Past Hold You Back
Do you think the Republic would have feared someone with a namby-pamby name like Anakin Skywalker? Please. He knew from the outset that no matter how many Paduans he cut down, he'd never get to the top of the imperial heap with his pretty-boy looks, deadpan line delivery and a name that cries out for a schoolyard pounding. So he strapped on some black and had himself renamed Darth Vader. You want to argue the fine points of diplomatic immunity with a guy named Darth Vader? Didn't think so.

3. Get A Cape
You may think that Darth Vader's imposing presence comes from his shiny black boots or his full-face helmet, but it's the cape that does the heavy lifting on the menace front. Without the cape, he's a big guy in a clumsy helmet and a suit with a panel of buttons stuck to the chest. The cape lends majesty to his presence and punctuates his exits with the sweep of fabric. People respect a man with a cape and treat him as a leader. And they'll respect you too, as long as you don't get a red velvet number with a gold cord. Then you're Little Red Riding Hood.

4. Use Star Power
If there's one thing that Anakin Skywalker did not have, it was an impressive or sonorous voice. In fact, he sort of sounded like a whiny teenager who'd had his PlayStation privileges revoked. "But me and my friends were gonna go versing!" he'd plead. But no. Naughty Sith Lords don't get to play Halo 2 with their buddies. They have to sit in their rooms and feel the Force. So good on him for being aware of his limitations. Skywalker promptly went and hired James Earl Jones to voice all his lines for him. It's possible that he may have actually grafted Jones' head to his body, which necessitated the helmet. That's just a theory. Apparently Dustin Hoffman auditioned for the part but later dropped the project in order to star in Tootsie.

5. Choke People At A Distance
I cannot stress enough how effective this can be as a tool in your leadership kit. If a colleague or employee is giving you altogether more guff than you think is productive, shouldn't it be a good thing to crush their windpipe from across the room? And shouldn't it be legal? Why isn't upper management exempt from the law? Don't they know the pressure you're under as a Vice President? Stupid big government and their labour laws.

6. Don't Pay Attention to Mumbo-Jumbo
During the climactic but leisurely lightsaber duel between Vader and his nemesis Obi-Wan Kenobi, Kenobi tells Darth that if he is struck down, he will become more powerful than Vader can possibly imagine. This sort of talk is typical of the ageing liberal-left hippie who just can't cut it in today's world of high-speed commerce. And Vader, a leader for the future, knows what to do with his kind. He cuts him neatly in half, leaving the top of his body spewing blood and fluid while Kenobi's legs topple over and twitch uselessly on the floor. For a good thirty seconds, Kenobi is trying to scream out in pain before shock and blood loss finally overwhelm his flagging consciousness. It's the look in his eyes that really stays with you. That and the stink of burnt human flesh mixed with intestines spilling out onto the cold metal floor.

7. Don't Forget Family
In your climb to the top, it can be all too easy to forget that you have a loving family at home. Sometimes it can be all too easy to forget that you have children who were separated at birth and sent to different planets so as to keep them away from your crazy homicidal ass. Sometimes you find yourself so bogged down with small stuff that you never even learn about your twin children growing up somewhere out there in the galaxy. That's when you need to stop what you're doing and use the Force to sniff one out. And then you try and kill him. Except in the middle of the killing, right after you chop off his hand, you offer him a job. Then kill him. No wait, kill the CEO when he tries to kill your son (how's that for actioning your expertise?). Then let him take your mask off and... whoah. Dude. Put your mask back on. That's not pretty.

coulda been shorter maybe but here ya go

Tourism

For those of you about to rock - sure, I salute you, but first, I want you to ease down on the pre-rock exercises and consider touring all the museums and sites dedicated to the atomic bomb in the United States. Invariably these places sit in the sun-scorched centre of Nowhere At All (so many places are described as being in the middle of nowhere that the middle of nowhere must be pretty damn crowded. In fact, it's probably a bustling metropolis of podunk towns and coworkers' acreages, entire suburbs of nothing but your in-law's retarded cousins and their stupid canola farm), so it's probably best to buy a gigantic old station wagon circa 1974 and load up the back seat with water, Scotch, mushrooms, guns and anti-evolution pamphlets of some kind. The pamphlets will come in handy when the state troopers pull you over; either they'll judge you to be harmlessly crazy or an upstanding example of the values that make America great, never mind your bloodshot eyes, booze-soured sweat and that clenched tooth grin that signals the first prickle of psilocybin along the nerves. Just don't titter at the trooper and you'll do fine.

Filmgoing

Derrida, back in his productive non-dead phase, said in The Other Heading of nations that "it is proper that a society not be identical to itself". This is one of those spongy Derridean statements that keeps on leaking meaning with each squeeze. I'm paraphrasing from seminar courses of the late 1990s, so perhaps I've bent the phrase until it suits my own imaginings, but I've taken it to mean that the State should never assume a unified face, a single monolithic identity that permits itself one interpretation of the world. I would guess that Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy and the Soviet Union were a bit too identical to themselves for comfort. Perhaps Derrida worried about the prospect of an overidentifying European Union? Gee whillikers, Jacques. You're dead.

Anyway, I think that A Scanner Darkly sheds further light on that spongy tissue statement of Derrida's. As most of you probably know by now, Linklater's film, based on a Philip K. Dick novel, is a near-future sci-fi tale of a narc whose addiction to a drug called Substance D splits his personality to the point that he no longer understands that he's narcing on himself. In my favourite scene in the book, the cop is watching footage of himself and his friends as they tell a particularly pointless, stoned joke. He begins to fast forward through the joke, thirty minutes, forty-five minutes, an hour and a half, but every time he plays the recording, they've only progressed to the next line. The cop is disgusted, at the stoners he's watching, at himself for watching them, at the pointlessness of the whole enterprise.

He's not in the real joke - that he is watching himself but no longer understands who he is, that once he removes his uniform he becomes a criminal. In Dick's novel, the State has looped in on itself, closed the circle of governance on its citizens. The State is both victim and victimized, criminal and enforcer, pusher and junkie, like a person who doesn't recognize his own subconscious and is therefore truly unconscious. Anyway, it hasn't come to any theatres in my city yet, so until then I've got all the Superman Returns and Click I can handle.

Working

I work on the ninth floor of an office/hotel tower. A dirty grey Walmart bag just sailed up past my window, flew over the casino and flopped down in the Canada Post parking lot a few blocks away. It wasn't begging me to come and play with it. It more looked like it was getting punched around brutally, like it had lost an argument with the wind. Man, I love my job.

Later: a huge ugly black cloud, riding in the underside of some high white cirrus clouds, has pushed its way over the city. Tails and tentacles of rain sweep down. The cloud has blocked the sun so completely that streetlights have lit up, the great band of green that covers the suburbs has turned ash-grey, no colours left but a few bright yellow signs and the dark red Hyundai shipping crates in the rail yards.

A little later: Big-ass forky lightning.

Sing it to the tune of "Big Rock Candy Mountain".

Thermos

On the weekend I stopped at a Starbucks to pick up lattes for the family. Only the frothiest of lattes would do, I reasoned, and so Starbuck's it was, for the exceptional froth. In keeping with my abjuration of froth, though, I bought a plain coffee for myself. I don't know what I'm talking about.

While the baristas - three girls who were presumably not related, but who shared some quality of skin and hair that made them very difficult to tell apart - made the froth-related drinks, I poked around the merchandise. Most of it was mildly stylish and extravagantly overpriced, unless you think it's fine to pay twenty five bucks for an ugly ceramic mug with a rubber lid and a stainless steel bottom. That was an "urban stripe coffee mug," and the word urban in a marketing context makes me think of Billy Dee Williams, which then makes me think of Billy Dee Williams working in some office somewhere drinking Colt 45 from his urban stripe mug and frantically chewing breath mints before he stumbles into a board meeting, and then I picture him trying to hook up the digital projector to his powerful new notebook computer for the Powerpoint presentation that he and his assistant have worked on all night, but his nerves are sheathed in a mitten of liquor and he just can't do it. He drops the laptop, kicks it across the room, trips over a chair and upsets the flip chart. He hits the carpet and crawls under the boardroom table, all the while saying "It's alright folks. I'm alright!" And that's how I picture Billy Dee Williams losing his high-powered office job.

On the clearance table sat the few last sad novelty items that people buy for holiday occasions. One of them was a little fake golf bag with a stainless steel dildo-bullet of a thermos inside. The item, once priced an appalling thirty six dollars, had been reduced to thirteen ninety nine, since the item was such a transparent grab at the Father's Day market. Once the spell of the Official Buying Event had worn off, the nifty golf bag-shaped carrying case revealed a tackiness rare for the usual reserve of Starbuck's. Therefore it had been exiled to the clearance table, tainted by deep discount. Operating on the same impulse that compels me to adopt the sickest and ugliest cat at the pound, I took it home with me and the frothy drinks.

I can't understand why the staff hadn't tossed the novelty case and simply sold the thermos, which retailed on its own for about thirty dollars. Price it at twenty-five and it would have moved off the shelf in no time flat. Was the manager so slavishly attached to procedure that she refused to alter the product? Or was she simply invested in the notion of the item as a single object, existing independently of its component parts? If that was the case, then I had actually bought three items instead of just two: the little fake golf bag, the thermos, and the novelty gift item of a thermos in a little fake golf bag. What a deal. And it also gave rise to the following brief conversation:

Palinode: So, did you like my thermos?
Schmutzie: Sure. I guess. Is there anything special about your thermos to like?
Palinode: No, it's just a nice thermos. What's the matter, you don't like a thermos?
Schmutzie: I don't like a thermos?
Palinode: That's the message I'm getting here.
Schmutzie: You don't say a thermos. You say 'I like thermoses' or 'I like that thermos'.
Palinode: Well, you don't seem to like any thermoses, so I don't think you'd be using either of those phrases. In fact, I'm starting to think that you hate a thermos.
Schmutzie: I don't 'hate a thermos'.
Palinode: Oh you do. You hate a thermos. This talk of a thermos, it gets you all het up.
Schmutzie: What does that even mean?
Palinode: I'm employing the vernacular.
Schmutzie: [silence]
Palinode: It lends authenticity to a conversation.

The best part of that conversation was that we were sitting next to each other on a bus and she couldn't get up and leave.

star wars redux

INTERIOR: TATTOINE -- MOS EISELY -- CANTINA -- DAY

Luke and the two droids follow Ben into the smoke-filled cantina. The murky, moldy den is filled with a startling array of weird and exotic alien creatures and monsters at the long metallic bar. A huge, rough-looking host stops Luke and Ben and the droids.

HOST: Welcome to the Mos Eisely Cantina. Two for dinner?

BEN: Two.

LUKE: And we've got these two droids with us.

HOST: Yeaaah. Yeah. You know, they look like really great droids? But we can't really have them in the dining area? We've got a Droid Funtime Room here. Just stick these numbered tags on your droids and you can pick them up once you're all done.

Droids are led away by busboy.

R2-D2: Bleep bloop-bloop squaawk.

BUSBOY: Sure, whatever.

HOST: Okay, I'll set you up with some menus and drinks and then I'll be by to take your order.

The host ushers Luke and Ben to a table. They sit.

LUKE: What are we doing in this place, Ben? I thought we were looking for a starship.

BEN: There'll be a pilot here, don't worry.

WAITER: Comes up to table. Hey, everybody having a good time here at Mos Eisely Cantina?

BEN: Yes, thanks.

WAITER: Aaaalright then! Claps hands. Can I get you folks something to drink?

BEN: I'll have a Strawberry Surprise Shake.

LUKE: Set me up with Vanilla Blast Cola.

WAITER: Hey, you want to Eisely Size those drinks? Only twenty cents more for nearly twice the size, and still with the non-stop refills if you order a meal to go with your beverage!

LUKE: Sure, sounds good.

WAITER: You?

BEN: Thanks, no. Counting my calories.

WAITER: Hey, buddy, I hear you. Yes I do.

Silence. Ben studies menu.

WAITER: Okay, be right back with a Vanilla Blast and a Strawberry Surprise!

Waiter leaves.

LUKE: Holy crap.

BEN: I know. How thick do you have to ladle it on there, buddy?

LUKE: It's like, we're already sitting down -

BEN: Yeah, deal's closed, no need to keep selling us on it. Flips through glossy menu pages. Hey, do you want to split an appetizer? You should really try the calamari.

LUKE: I don't know. I'm not a big seafood guy.

BEN: It's just that I won't be able to eat an entire appetizer to myself.

LUKE: How about the crab and artichoke dip?

BEN: Yeah, we could do that. I guess.

LUKE: So we'll go with that?

BEN: I suppose.

LUKE: It comes with oven-warmed slices of pita.

BEN: It's just that I had that last time I was here.

LUKE: Hmmm... maybe we could skip the appetizer.

BEN: No, no. You feel like the dip, we'll have the dip. I'm treating you, remember?

Waiter reappears with a drinks tray.

WAITER: Okay, folks, one Strawberry Surprise for the distinguished gentleman... and one Vanilla Blast Cola for the handsome young man.

BEN: Good job describing us. One compliment for the overeager waiter.

WAITER: Ah-ha-ha. Yeah. So, have we had a chance to look over the menu and come to a decision?

BEN: We'll have the calamari to start -

LUKE: I thought we were having the dip.

BEN: Indeed. I thought about that? And I realized that I just couldn't have the dip twice in a row. But you go right ahead and order it, that's fine with me.

LUKE: Okay, I'll have the crab and artichoke dip to start. And I'll have the Womprat Burger on a Ciabatta loaf to follow, with a green salad, ranch dressing on the side.

BEN: Wow, Womprat Burger.

WAITER: And what will you be having for a main course?

BEN: I was going to order the thin-crust pesto pizza, but I think I'll stick with the calamari.

WAITER: You know, we have a lunch-size pizza, it's not much smaller but it's half the price -

BEN: Just bring me the calamari, thanks.

The waiter nods And heads off to the kitchen.

LUKE: You don't want the pizza?

BEN: Well, I was going to order it, but you know, I'm a retired Jedi, money's a little tight -

LUKE: Oh geez, Ben! I'll throw in for the extra appetizer!

BEN: What? What are you talking about? I'm treating you. It means a lot to me to take you out and spend some time hanging out with you.

LUKE: It means a lot to me too.

Silence. Luke sips at his cola, Ben drums his fingers on the table and stares at the salt shaker.

LUKE: Are you alright Ben?

BEN: Oh yeah, I'm great! Pause. It's just that - ah, never mind.

LUKE: Okay. I just don't like to see you in a bad mood.

BEN: Bad mood? I don't think I'm in any kind of mood.

LUKE: Really?

BEN: It seems to me that you're the one in a mood. What with that production over the crab dip.

LUKE: What?

BEN: I can't help feeling that you took advantage here.

LUKE: Advantage?

BEN: When people take you out to eat, it's considered good manners not to order every item on the goddamn menu.

LUKE: I'm sorry Ben. I thought you wanted - you know -

BEN: Yeah, well maybe you should ask next time.

LUKE: Look, let's just finish up here and go hire a starship.

BEN: That would be nice. If I have enough cash left over after your Womprat burger, maybe we can strap a rocket to a bathtub and hope for a strong breeze.

LUKE: Ah shut up, you pretentious old cave-dwelling queen.

jedinomics!

Hey! You remember that scene in Star Wars '77 (I'll be fucked before I call it Episode IV. It was the first one.) when Vader and Kenobi are having that kind of lazy lightsaber duel, and Vader deals Kenobi a killin' blow, which gives Kenobi an opportunity to vanish and leave his cloak behind? You've got that in your head, all firm? Okay, because after Vader gives Kenobi a slaughtering and Kenobi vamooses into the Force and Luke goes "Argh no Ben," Vader pokes around at Kenobi's clothes all in a heap on the floor. At the time I thought Vader was thinking What just happened here?, being unfamiliar with some of the finer aspects of the Force, but after watching Star Wars '05 I realize that he was probably thinking Hot damn, people, I got me one those brown Jedi cloaks that are so hard to come by.

It is a rule in the Star Wars universe that all good Jedi fights start with a time-consuming shucking of cloaks. They talk a bit in their hooded cloaks, then the talking's done and the cloaks come off. Sometimes they leave their cloaks in a convenient location for post-fight retrieval, but usually they leave them on top of a volcano or in some hallway in a sub-basement of a disintegrating mining complex. Even if the cloaks are left somewhere convenient - a ship's bridge or a landing platform - it is part of the Jedi fighting code that each fight must end at least ten miles from its start point. If you start at one end of an impossibly long and narrow bridge, it is written somewhere in those heavy Bantha-bound Jedi manuals that you must fight the entire length of that bridge. And once you reach the end of the bridge, go fight on a pipe or something. Whatever happens, you have to finish exhausted, drained of spirit but victorious, in a place that's so far from your cloak that there's barely a point in going to pick it up. No, best to head back to Coruscant and pick up a new cloak from the Jedi Tuck Shop.

It is my belief that the one tragedy unexplored by Lucas is the obvious collapse in the Jedi cloak industry that the fall of the Council must have sparked. I mean, the original SW flicks showed a broken-down, hardscrabble galaxy in which local strongmen flourished under the oppressive rule of the Empire. People lived a hand-to-mouth existence. Robots appeared to made of old stereos and spray-painted trash cans. Compare that with the elegant palaces and cities of the pre-Imperium. Endless lines of aerial traffic spinning webs of commerce between cities and planets. Pomp and plenty for all. Certainly the harsh and greedy economic policies of the Empire must have funnelled a good deal of wealth away from many planets, but I think a more fundamental explanation is at hand: The pre-Imperial galactic economy was supported by a heavily subsidized trade in Jedi cloaks. After the Jedis got all massacred up, right down to the Paduan younglings and that one seriously hot Jedi lady, the cloak industry suddenly lost all reason to exist. Absurdly long supply chains crashed, local manufacturers everywhere went broke, the secondary and tertiary industries built around catering to the cloak industry's needs evaporated. Masses of people found themselves unemployed and forced into a life of slavery or crime. Into that void stepped thugs like that slimy slug guy from Return of the Jedi, and everything went to hell from there.

I'm aware that some of you out there haven't stopped by your megalo-viewo-plex to see the new SW, so I probably shouldn't tell you that Anakin turns to the dark side when Palpatine explains that Sith Lords aren't obliged to leave their cloaka everywhere. Then he gets his first paycheque and finds out that Jedis get paid in company scrip and spend most of their lives in debt to the Jedi Shop.