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Cross-Section

Posted on May 4th, 2016

Dave!It's Star Wars Day! May The Fourth Be With You!

Interestingly enough, Star Wars has been on my mind a lot lately because I'm finally getting around to looking at all the cool books I bought when The Force Awakens was unleashed. By far my favorite has been Star Wars: The Force Awakens... Incredible Cross-Sections.

I've long been a huge fan of cross-section illustrations. It all started when I bought a cross-section poster of the USS Enterprise when the movie franchise was started. It was glorious, and made the ship (thus the show) seem more real to me...

USS Enterprise Cross-Section Poster

It was around that time that I discovered the incredible books by Stephen Biesty. He did many amazing illustrations of both fantasy, history, and contemporary places and things. I spent hours looking through as many as I could find...

Stephen Biesty Cross-Section Illustration

Stephen Biesty Cross-Section Illustration

Biesty led me to a love of all things David Macaulay, who isn't so much a cross-section artist, but an illustrator who excels at explaining things. He even had his own TV show which supplemented documentary-style looks at cool stuff like the pyramids with his illustrations...

But I digress...

Star Wars: The Force Awakens... Incredible Cross-Sections is a book filled with exactly what you'd think it would be filled with... amazing illustrations of all things Star Wars cut away to show inside and how they work...

Star Wars Cross-Section

Star Wars Cross-Section

And yes, this is the infamous book that showed how Han Solo installed a kitchen for Princess Leia that had the internet up in arms a while back. Though, to be honest, I never saw this as sexist... I just saw it as Leia refusing to live like savages...

Star Wars Cross-Section

   
Anyway... even if you're not a massive cross-sections fan like myself, if you're a Star Wars fan, this book is still definitely worth a look...

Star Wars Cross-Section

You can get your own copy of Star Wars: The Force Awakens... Incredible Cross-Sections for pretty cheap... it's just $14 at Amazon.

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Rogue

Posted on April 7th, 2016

Dave!And. Scene.

If you haven't been inundated by the teaser trailer for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, you haven't been paying attention. Or you're dead. Better get that looked at...

On Facebook I saw where there are people complaining that the lead character will be a woman for two Star Wars movies in a row. This is a little unbelievable to me, as there didn't seem to be complaints when the first six films had male-centric leads. I mean, sure there was Princess Leia (Star Wars: damsel in distress. Empire: love interest. Jedi: sex slave.) and Queen Amidala (Menace: damsel in distress. Clones: love interest. Revenge: lovestruck idiot baby-maker.) but does that really count? Not really. I say it's about damn time.

And the cool thing here is that we don't have long to wait. Rogue One is being released this December!

And the exciting this here is that we're going back into The Original Trilogy! Whether or not they actually exploit the awesomeness that could result from that remains to be seen (VADER, BITCHES!).

But I am hopeful.

And cautious.

The pain of betrayal from The Phantom Menace still hurts.

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Awakens

Posted on April 5th, 2016

Dave!

I'm on my fifth run-through of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and I love the movie more with each viewing. Not because it's the greatest film I've seen... it definitely has its problems... but because after thirty-five years of waiting for a Star Wars film that didn't suck balls, here it is. Sure it's a complete re-tread of Star Wars, didn't break any new sci-fi ground whatsoever, and lacked the imagination and risk that a truly great Star Wars film should have... but maybe re-telling the Star Wars story over again in a new way is what we needed to reset everything? A re-starting point that reminds everyone why the Star Wars universe is so amazing?

I dunno.

So let's talk about the film shall we? But first... a warning...

Spoiler Zone!

Yeah, spoilers follow. So if you're one of the three people on earth who hasn't yet seen The Force Awakens, you might not want to proceed.

Okay?

Okay!

Since everybody has seen the film, it's pointless for me to recap the story, so let's skip that part.

The thing that strikes me most about Episode VII is the spaceship battles... in that so few of them take place in space. Much like The Empire Strikes Back melted my brain with Snow Speeders bringing a space battle down to "earth" (so to speak), The Force Awakens has all kinds of amazing shots which make the battles considerably more grounded. And they do it so beautifully. Shot after shot of stunning interactions between ship and environment provide a thrill much more personal than the cold emptiness of space. I mean, sure it makes no sense that Rey can fly the Millenium Falcon at expert level when she's never flown it before, but look how beautiful that shot is! And... MILLENNIUM FUCKING FALCON, BITCH...

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Even when there's no battle, you can't help but be impressed. I could watch the Millennium Falcon fly across the water to Maz Kanata's palace over and over again without getting tired of it. It's just so gorgeous...

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

As are all the special effects, which are about as flawless as it gets.

Granted, Abrams has the benefit of better technology than Lucas did for the shit-fest that was Episodes I-III, but it was Abrams choice to do practical effects whenever possible that truly made Episode VII a vastly superior movie. The actors were able to inhabit their environments in a way that elevated their performances. And it shows. Instead of being stuck in a big green room trying to use half their brain to figure out what the hell is going on while the other half tries to make their character's lines convincing, Episode VII actors could focus on their performance. Natalie Portman and Ewan McGregor are exceptionally gifted actors... but just look at the half-baked performances they turned in for Episodes I-III. The fault isn't really theirs, and I can't help but wonder how much better they would have been with a director who understands how acting works.

And then we get to the cast. Daisy Ridley and John Boyega are superb in The Force Awakens. There's not a moment where they falter, and to see them light up the screen is what makes the movie so compelling. Hell, even fully-CGI characters like Maz feel authentic, and it's all thanks to unparalelled special effects coupled with the perfect casting of talented people like Lupita Nyong'o...

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

I hate to keep trouncing all over Lucas, but he anchored his entire pre-saga around horrendous performances from Jake Lloyd and Hayden Christensen. No amount of acting talent surrounding such horrors can make up for that. Abrams made sure the people anchoring his movie could deliver the goods. And boy did they. Having original cast members show up was just the icing on the cake. Especially Harrison Ford, who gave us the funniest scene in the film...

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Of course, it wouldn't be a Star Wars film without lightsabers... and The Force Awakens gave us some memorable saber action. But in a good way. Not in the comical, farcical, over-the-top way that the prequels stunk up the screen. I still laugh my ass off at "The Battle of Genosis" (Episode II: Attack of the Clones) where we finally get the chance to see an entire batallion of Jedi in battle... only to have Lucas shit the bed by conveniently forgetting that the Jedi are capable of stunning acrobatics. No no... let's not have the battle be cool as fuck... let's just have the Jedi sleepily, randomly swing lightsabers around and occasionally "force push" a robot away so he falls down and goes boom...

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

And that's about as exciting as the "battle" got. Holy shit was that movie lame.

But Force Awakens takes a different tact. Even if it doesn't make sense that Rey could take on Kylo Ren when she's probably never even touched a lightsaber before. I don't care how hurt Kylo Ren was... or how "in-tune" with The Force that Rey was, it was a bit ridiculous. I mean, Kylo Ren can stop a fucking laser blast in mid-air, but he can't kick the shit out of an untrained saber newbie because he has an owchie on his side? Please. But, ooh... look how beautiful it looks!

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

A big nod to Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill here. His battle at The House of Blue Leaves between Uma Thurman and Lucy Liu made for great pre-viz...

Kill Bill The House of Blue Leaves

Though putting a lightsaber fight in the snow is genius. I love how Kylo Ren and Ren are accidentally chopping trees in half and boiling snow when their sabers touch it...

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

And, speaking of lightsabers, about that twist everybody saw coming...

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Harrison Ford has been asking for Han Solo to be killed off for years. At least Abrams found a way to make his death mean something. The pity being that the heart and humor of Star Wars is gone. Forget Luke Skywalker, it's Han Solo that encapsulated the awesomeness of the franchise. At least all my best Star Wars memories are of Han Solo. Maybe Darth Vader. But he's already gone. I will miss Han Solo in future installments.

Ultimately, this next iteration of the Star Wars saga will live or die on the second act: Star Wars Episode VII: Echoes of the Dark Side or Star Wars Episode VII: Space Bear or Star Wars Episode VII: Return of the Return of The Jedi... or whatever. Will it be a retread of the best Star Wars film, The Empire Strikes Back? Or will they strike out in a more inventive direction?

Who knows.

But so long as there are spaceships and lightsabers and George Lucas is nowhere near it, I'll be there.

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Stuff I Bought Week: Lightsaber Room Light

Posted on March 29th, 2016

Dave!My new home has an utterly bizarre design choices. It's a nice place but, logically, rooms are positioned strangely, walls don't align as they should, and absolutely nothing is centered. Some of this I was able to address in the remodel, but other things ended up sticking around because there's just not enough remodel money to deal with all my ADD issues.

One of the areas that my new home's quirks made especially challenging was decorating. Since nothing is lined up and nothing is centered, placing pictures on the walls is a maddening struggle.

Take, for instance, my upstairs hall.

I decided I wanted to decorate it with movie posters. One wall has two small windows above a stairwell (off-center, of course), another wall has bizarre angles cut into it, another wall ends in a desk nook that's off-center from two bedroom doors. And, as if that wasn't bizarre enough space to try and align some wall hangings, the far wall comes out of a stairwell and has the HVAC vent return! It's enough to drive you crazy.

For this wall I decided to put a couple Star Wars posters (A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back... the only two that matter) and have them line up with both the stairwell and the upstairs hall. This left a big gap in the middle that needed filling.

I decided a light saber might be cool.

Only to find out that replicas are insanely expensive.

And then I happened across a "science kit" from "Uncle Milton" that featured a "Build Your Own Lightsaber" style room -light... for just $25! SOLD! I liked the design of Darth Vader's lightsaber best, so that's what I went with.

Opening the box had me bust out laughing, because it's not actual-size. It's a mini-saber that's tiny, tiny, tiny...

Light Saber

As if that wasn't funny enough, the "Darth Vader" lightsabers come in a box with a picture of Kylo Ren!

Light Saber

Even though it's billed as a "room light" it sure doesn't glow bright enough to light up a room... even in total darkness. But it does make a lightsaber sound when you turn it on, so I guess that's something. It comes with a remote control, but the remote doesn't turn the thing on, so I have no clue what the hell it's for (you have to push the button on the hilt to get it to "activate"). The description at Amazon said that the blade changes to eight colors with the remote, but the Darth Vader blade only glows red.

Ultimately, a big disappointment, as this is not the lightsaber you're looking for... move along.

Eventually maybe I can find a decent FULL-SIZE replica with a glowing blade that's affordable. Until then, a mini-saber it shall be.

May The Force be with you.

Always.

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Freemaker

Posted on February 12th, 2016

Dave!It is no secret that I love LEGO Star Wars.

The video games, the TV shows, the building sets, the books... all of it. Given how the absolutely heinous prequel trilogy nearly destroyed all things Star Wars for me, it was the coming of LEGO Star Wars stuff that brought me back from the brink. What LEGO was doing was smart, fun, beautiful, imaginative, and highly entertaining... basically everything that the three shitty prequels were not.

And yesterday I learned that a new cartoon series is coming set in the LEGO Star Wars universe...

LEGO Star Wars Freemaker Adventures

The Freemaker Adventures sounds fantastic...

Told in the whimsically-charged style that audiences have come to expect from LEGO Star Wars entertainment, the series stars the Freemakers, a family of scavengers who build and sell starships from the scoured debris of space battles strewn throughout the galaxy. When their youngest discovers a natural connection with the Force through an ancient artifact – the Kyber Saber – his world is turned upside down, and he and his family are thrown into an epic struggle against the Empire to restore peace and freedom to the galaxy. Throughout their adventures, the Freemakers explore new worlds, meet new and familiar characters, and learn the true value of what it means to be a family.

Needless to say, I hope and pray that we'll be getting a video game out of the franchise.

Of course, I'm still waiting for a game adaptation of Star Wars: The Force Awakens (which is supposed to be coming in June?), so patient we must be...

In the meanwhile... I finally had a chance to sit down and play LEGO Marvel's Avengers for a while. It's pretty great in all the right ways, despite being another mediocre port to the Wii U (why in the hell Traveler's Tales have been unable to work with the technical limitations of the Wii U when they did such an amazing job with LEGO City Undercover, I have no idea. LEGO Marvel's Avengers certainly has more laugh-out-loud moments than usual, which is great.

And... speaking of LEGO Marvel's Avengers... I should have time to get through another level before bedtime!

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Bullet Sunday 466

Posted on January 4th, 2016

Dave!A new year, 52 new opportunities for bullets, because Bullet Sunday on Monday starts... now...

   
• STRANGE! As a huge, huge, massively huge devotee of the Marvel Studios films, I'm ecstatic that The Powers The Be are finally getting around to exploring the mystical, magical side of the Marvel Universe. I've long been a fan of Doctor Strange, and everything we've been teased with shows that they're doing it right. Starting with the casting of Benedict Cumberbatch...

Doctor Strange Movie

Will be very interested to see how they integrate magic into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. That's going to be a delicate line to walk.

   
• ARETHA! Watching Carole King's reaction is almost as entertaining as watching Aretha Franklin flawlessly belt out her song at age 73. Almost.

Talent like that don't come along every day.

   
• WEESA GONNA DIIIIE! I loathe the Star Wars prequels with the burning hatred of a thousand suns. And then there's this...

Not that it would make me hate Jar Jar Binks any less, but it would certainly make me feel better about his presence in those shitty films.

   
• Grapes! "I sold Star Wars to white slavers?" Really? Sour grapes are sour. Geroge Lucas is just pissed that people loathe his shitty prequel movies with a passion reserved for explosive diarrhea while JJ Abrams unleashed the Star Wars film everybody wanted. The Force Awakens is on target to becoming the most successful movie in the history of the universe, and that's gotta hurt. Though I'm sure the billions of dollars Lucas got for selling off Lucasfilm to the "White Slavers" at Disney is some small consolation. Time to go count your money and shut the fuck up, George.

   
• ZONE! I'm the mayor of The Friend Zone...

It's funny because it's true.

   
Thanks, internet, I needed that.

   

Bullet Sunday 464

Posted on December 21st, 2015

Dave!Thanks to Home Automation Week, Bullet Sunday is on Monday and starts... now...

   
• The 1975! Definitely a highlight of my week... if not a highlight of my entire year... was flying to San Francisco so I could see The 1975 in concert with Jester. This has quickly become one of my very favorite bands, and their live show did not disappoint. Not only did they play tracks from their flawless debut album, there was plenty of amazing new stuff off their forthcoming one. Like my favorite song of the night, Change of Heart...

I was very surprised by how fantastic their stage set was. It's dead simple... consisting of a large video screen and four video columns... but it's what they DO with it that made the show so spectacular. If you have a chance to see them in concert (which might be tough... they're selling out everywhere) by all means give them a shot.

   
• Elephant Walk! When I was on vacation in Africa last year, my first stop on safari was at Ruckomechi camp in Zimbabwe. It's a beautiful reserve in a region known as "Mana Pools" and is billed as "The Elephant's Favourite Camp" because elephants are roaming around everywhere. They were always around, and you are constantly running across them throughout your time at camp... I even found an elephant in my shower once. For the most part, if you leave the elephants alone, they leave you alone. Just don't approach them. And absolutely do NOT get near a baby elephant unless you want a momma elephant getting annoyed with you. I loved having the elephants around, and never once had any problems with them. Which is why I was surprised to see this viral video going around of an elephant attack that was most definitely shot at Ruckomechi camp. I ate at that very table...

While this incident is alarming, it also has to be exceedingly rare, because thousands of guests (including me) have been through Ruckomechi Camp without incident. Hopefully this won't dissuade people from visiting, because it is easily one of the most amazing experiences of my entire life.

   
• Star Wars! I have no intention of seeing Star Wars: The Force Awakens while the hype is still running high. While I love Star Wars, that's greatly overshadowed by my hatred of people at the movies now-a-days. Used to be you only had to worry about people talking during the film. Now you've got mobile phones, which has made things even worse. I'm doing my best to avoid spoilers for The Force Awakens, but am still getting excited by the build-up to the movie. And this video by Jimmy Fallon with The Roots and stars of Star Wars is pretty awesome...

   
• Feeding! Probably one of the funniest things I've seen all year...

Ghost Mom

   
• Kitten! And now, before I go, the most heartwarming thing I've seen all week...

Amazing. I love happy endings like this. Best of luck, Lazarus!

   
Enjoy the rest of your Monday, everybody!

   

Awakens

Posted on October 19th, 2015

Dave!And so the new trailer for Star Wars VII, The Force Awakens has dropped. Is there really anything else that matters today? Probably not.

Meh, I think I'll give it a shot come December...


   
This movie is going to make a gazillion dollars.

   

Dorling-Kindersley

Posted on June 4th, 2015

Dave!This post has been a long time coming.

When it comes to book publishers, far and away my favorite is the house of Dorling-Kindersley.

I first became aware of them through their amazing Eyewitness Travel Guides. With the motto "We show you what others only tell you," they raised the bar so impossibly high that once I discovered them, I never purchased another brand of travel guide. And, indeed, once I stopped buying travel guides in favor of web research, I threw out over a hundred books... save for my impressive collection of DK guides, which I still have. They were simply too beautiful to trash...

A portion of my DK Eyewitness Travel Guides Collection

Back in the day I was so addicted to Eyewitness Guides that I would even buy them after I visited places because they were the best possible souvenir of the region. Many times I ended up buying them for locations I had no intention of visiting because they were the next best thing to actually having been there. The sheer depth of visual information paired with clear, well-written text proved irresistible to my travel-nerd tendencies, and I ended up with close to fifty of them...

DK Eyewitness Travel Guide Sample

DK Eyewitness Travel Guide Sample

DK Eyewitness Travel Guide Sample

DK Eyewitness Travel Guide Sample

Even today if I ever find a DK guide on sale and it's one I don't have yet, I buy it. They are still one of the best resources for travel you can get... even though I rarely look at them to plan my travels.

As you can imagine, once I learned that DK was broadening their focus outside the travel arena, I was thrilled. They've created visual guides for all kinds of topics, and they're every bit as good as their travel books.

Cartography...

DK Visual Books Sample

History...

DK Visual Books Sample

DK Visual Books Sample

Sewing...

DK Visual Books Sample

Photography...

DK Visual Books Sample

Religion...

DK Visual Books Sample

Astronomy...

DK Visual Books Sample

Even Batman...

DK Visual Books Sample

   
Most any topic you can think of, DK has a visual guide for it!

But far and away my very favorite of the DK visual guides? Star Wars. Especially Star Wars LEGO Universe books...

DK Visual Books Sample

DK Visual Books Sample

   
But they have an amazing selection of "regular" Star Wars books as well. I think I own just about all of them, but there are a few standouts. Like the Star Wars: Incredible Cross-sections books...

DK Visual Books Sample

DK Visual Books Sample

   
DK's latest Star Wars book has just been released, and it's pretty great.

The title is ULTIMATE STAR WARS! And they mean it. This book has an extensive guide to the characters & creatures, locations, technology, and vehicles of both the Original Trilogy and the crappy Prequel Trilogy. As if that wasn't enough, it seamlessly blends in the various canon animated series as well...

DK Visual Books Sample

DK Visual Books Sample

DK Visual Books Sample

Most of the information has already been released in previous books, but this "Ultimate" guide attempts (and succeeds!) in blending a variety of updated sources into a kind of narrative you can follow. This is bad news for those wanting a more encyclopedic take on the information... but you get a full index for that, so I wasn't too bothered.

As expected, the quality of the book is amazing. All 320 pages are artfully constructed for both visual appeal and clarity. Major characters and locations get a beautiful double-page spread, while minor characters get space appropriate to their place in the grand scheme of things... Wedge Antilles, for example, gets a half-page... Biggs Darklighter gets a quarter... Jek Prokins gets an eighth. Even the lady shaver "Comlink" is given an eighth, which should tell you just how complete the material in this book is.

Now that new LucasFilm owner Disney has completely jettisoned the "Star Wars Expanded Universe" and redefined what's "canon" when it comes to all things Star Wars. this book presents a streamlined and surprisingly complete look at what's "official" when it comes to a universe far, far away. So if you're looking for a Star Wars companion to prepare you for the new Star Wars: The Force Awakens film coming this December, this is the book to get.

A warning, however... the information provided for all the characters, creatures, locations, technology, and vehicles is limited to only official canon sources... which, apparently, is what we know from the movies, novelizations, and animated series. Anything that was elaborated on in the "Expanded Universe" sources is gone, gone, gone as if it never happened. This is a bit sad for fans of the stories that have now gone missing, but I suppose it's for the best in the grand scheme of things now that Disney is revitalizing the franchise.

The retail price of the book is $40. Amazon is selling it for $25, which is a heck of a bargain. The problem being that Amazon doesn't give a shit about getting books to you in good condition anymore. They used to shrink-wrap them to cardboard so the cover wrap would stay pristine and the corners don't get banged up. Now they just toss the thing in a box and put a tiny air pillow on top. Your cover-wrap WILL get fucked up. Your corners WILL get dinged. Which is unfortunate, but that's what a $25 price tag gets you now-a-days.

In any event, as a massive Star Wars whore, I really can't help but give the book a coveted Dave Approved seal...

DK Visual Books Sample

If you're even a passive Star Wars fan, this is $25 well-spent. Go get a copy.

   

Digitally

Posted on April 18th, 2015

Dave!My relationship with Star Wars is a complicated one.

The original film revolutionized cinematic sci-fi and cemented my love for the genre that originated with the original Star Trek series. After The Empire Strikes Back came along, I became obsessed with the Star Wars Universe and it felt as though my entire life was leading up to the premiere of Return of the Jedi.

At which time my faith in Star Wars was completely shattered. Jedi was more burp and fart jokes than sci-fi. More silly than serious. More an effort to sell toys than to close out the Holy Trilogy with the respect it deserved. If not for the lightsaber duel at the end (and one amazing space battle), the film would have been a complete loss.

Then, as if fucking up the final installment wasn't bad enough, George Lucas decided to go back and take a huge shit all over the two original films with his "Special Edition" insanity. Adding stupid shit that had no business being there and generally changing stuff for the worse.

So I moved on to bigger and better things.

Eventually the Star Wars prequels were unleashed.

After the travesty that was Return of the Jedi and the "Special Editions," I held out zero hope that any new Star Wars movies would be worth a crap, but secretly I hoped. Hoped in vain, as it turned out. The prequels were utter shit, and Star Wars became nothing more than a fond memory.

And now Star Wards: The Force Awakens is coming and I find myself excited about Star Wars again. Perhaps with George Lucas exiting the franchise there's reason to hope. JJ Abrams did okay with his take on Mission Impossible and Star Trek, after all.

But that's not until Christmas.

In the meanwhile, Disney/Lucasfilm has decided to finally release all six Star Wars films on digital.

Which would be reason to celebrate if not for a few things...

  1. They're the shitty "Special Edition" films.
  2. There's no option to watch the original cuts with updated special effects, which is the only way I want to see them.
  3. The only bundled savings available are when you buy all six movies together... there's no way to get a savings on the original trilogy only.
  4. It's a massive cash grab to purchase the films individually... $20 each.
  5. You just know they're going to do another release of the original films in HD that everybody is waiting for, so if you buy the movies now, you'll end up buying them again down the road.

So... nope.

Nope. Nope. Nope.

There's only so much suffering a Star Wars fan can put up with.

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