The Star Wars Enigma

So you may have heard rumors of all kinds of drama involving Star Wars and the fans of Star Wars…you think….who cares?  If you are not a fan of the Star Wars Universe, then that attitude is understandable.  You are not going to understand  or care about what is going on.  But I am a big fan of Star Wars, and I am not sure I understand what is going on.

I have been trying to piece it together and understand what exactly is happening.  Some of it seems fan driven while other aspects seem more like a marketing department’s tactics.  Much like our modern day politics in the US, I am suspicious of so called grass roots upswing of unrest.  The surge of almost violent hatred is curious since my past experience with Star Wars fans has been very positive.  No matter what costume you wear, even opposing forces, have been positive.  The fans are often like a big family.

So what is the problem?  It seemed to start with the Star Wars Solo movie, but in reality stripping away the marketing nonsense…it starts with The Last Jedi film.  What was wrong with The Last Jedi?  Okay, this topic could require me to write a book that a non Star Wars fan would not be interested in reading.  (I am assuming I have an audience of fans and non-fans.)  The first problem with The Last Jedi is probably no George Lucas involvement.  He was the guy that invented the whole Star Wars thing and worked with many creative minds and put together an amazing Universe of characters, settings, and concepts.  So this stuff was established.  People loved it.  The next problem is probably the set of films referred to as the Prequels.  The three Prequel films explain how we ended up with the most iconic bad guy in our current pop culture.  Darth Vader is known throughout the world, and probably parts of distant galaxies by now…  So what was wrong with the Prequels?  No much.  Some superficial problems with too much CGI, comic relief character Jar Jar Binks a bit too stupid, a child actor that seemed too young to play the role believably, and of course the Midichlorians.  I think I hate the Midichlorians the most because they alter they way the established story worked.  The other stuff did not affect the story line or the quality of the story telling.  The acting and artwork was great.  So what happened?  I suspect with the blossoming of social media popularity and everyone wanting to share their opinion whether it was worth listening to or not, came a great deal of complaining and whining about the Prequel movies.  I liked them.  Sure, those items above were what I thought was less than perfect, but the stories were still good.  I imagine that it must have been very difficult to play Anakin Skywalker as a young adult.  Hayden Christensen had to make someone be appealing to an intelligent love interest enough for marriage and children to happen while slowly being turned into something dark and sinister.  Not an easy task.  I have noticed that he tends to avoid media  contact and the child that played the young version of Anakin, Jake Lloyd, actually ended up in jail for a while.  The young actor left acting due to the fact that he was being bullied by classmates.  We live in dark times.  I think the complaining about the Prequels opened the door for more aggressive behavior.

Imagine now, being in George Lucas’s shoes and being harassed by these strange so called rabid fans of Star Wars.  I have my doubts as to whether one could actually call them fans.  The toxic nature of their behavior is curious.  What has happened to people?  In the old days when people didn’t like something, they just stopped watching and buying stuff.  The creators either fixed things or gave up.  The business people simply move on to something else that will make money, but it is a bit harder for artists to simply walk away.  Most art is created out of love and the desire to share.  So when the fans became toxic, it actually hurt the artists involved.  Some decided to move on to other projects while others needed to separate themselves from what was causing them pain.

So what does this stuff have anything to do with current Star Wars and what is happening now?  One needs to understand the history behind the fandom before understanding what is happening now, and that is what I am attempting to do.  I don’t understand why Disney and their writers decided to do what they did with the story line.  It feels more like marketing a product than creating something out of love and a desire to share.  What they have put together lacks soul and appeals to current dramas being played out in current events here in the US while still trying to make a quick buck off a very popular franchise.  This is not the mindset of a person who wants to create an amazing story wrought forth from the very depths of their soul and heart.  If you don’t understand what I am saying…then you are not a writer or an artist.  And that’s okay.  We are all different, but I am trying to explain what I think is going on.  It bothers me because I do love Star Wars, and I have written work that is based in the Star Wars Universe.   And mind you not simple fan fiction.  Lots of research involved in this process.  Lots of effort to be mindful of previous artists’ work.  One does not ignore the foundations established by earlier artists.  Respecting established character development and setting development is important and vital for a work to be truly part of an already established fictional Universe.  One does not simply make Captain Kirk into a black woman because they think she will appeal to people and make a lot of money.  One develops new characters if you need to.  One does not destroy the beloved heroes and villains that fans have been enjoying for most of their lifetime.  It pisses people off, and to be honest I think it is lazy.  If you see a need for a particular hero or villain from a portion of the population, you don’t rob Peter to pay Paul.  You make something wonderful and original.

So when I watched The Last Jedi wanting those amazing moments with Han, Leia, Luke, Chewy, C-3PO, and R2D2….I did not get them.  They killed Han Solo off  in The Force Awakens and painfully ignored a major cinematic moment when Chewy and Princess Leia should have embraced each other in tearful grief over the loss of their beloved Han Solo.  Instead, Chewbacca and Princess Leia walked past each other and Leia embraces Rey, a girl she barely knows.  It didn’t make sense.  Strangely enough, I was actually hoping that Han had been rescued miraculously somehow by Mara Jade or Lando Calrissian and would show up in The Last Jedi.  That didn’t happen.  Why would I think that?  Well, you see there are books that have been written about the years after The Return of Jedi movie that have been very popular with fans.  The Mara Jade character was one of the new characters added along with Grand Admiral Thrawn.  People love these characters and wanted to see them.  So understandably they were disappointed.   I think Star Wars fans were hoping that something awesome would occur with their favorite characters.  I think they still had open minds to the possibilities even with the obvious changes made in The Force Awakens.  Curiously, in the new movies most of the original characters are kept separate of each other or having been given such minimal parts that they are barely noticed.  So the super hero trio was basically kept apart.  Weird considering their on screen chemistry was part of what made the films so enjoyable.

So what am I getting at with all this stuff about character development?  Well, Luke Skywalker is an iconic hero, or at least he was.  The boy next door who has a heart of gold and tries to do the right thing.  I think Finn is supposed to be one of these characters as well, but he keeps wanting to run away all the time, which is weird.  The dark nature that the Disney writers placed upon Luke was as if they were trying to take advantage of Mark Hamill’s successful depiction of the Joker, the Trickster, and Fire Lord Ozai.  Luke Skywalker is a pure hero, not a fallen one like Anakin Skywalker, aka Darth Vader.  To change a character so drastically was disrespectful to all the artists who had worked on the 40 years of Star Wars Universe films, books, and comics.  And like I said, we live in dark times.  We don’t have many heroes.   For example Bill Cosby being a sexual predator, Matt Lauer being accused of inappropriate behavior in the work place, and the too numerous antics of sports icons behaving in less than admirably such as the Olympic star -Ryan Lochte.    And these people at Disney decided that it was okay to rob people during dark social times of a hero that people looked upon as a role model.  I wish we had more people like the original Luke Skywalker.  We need them.  People from all walks of life loved Luke.  Contrary to marketing people’s thoughts, you don’t have to be a straight white male to love, look up to, or aspire to be like Luke Skywalker.  This is fiction and we can escape and be whomever we want while watching these movies or reading these books.

I was actually depressed for two months after seeing The Last Jedi.  I didn’t say anything because I thought people would laugh at me or say I was being silly about finding joy in fictional stories.  But in dark times, we need inspiration that lifts our hearts so that we can continue on.  We need those heroes whether they are Captain America, Captain Sisko, Wonder Woman, the Airbender Aang, or Doctor Who….we need our heroes and the inspiration they inspire within us.

I think this is just one of the reasons why there is so much angst going on within the Star Wars fan community.  We need our role models even though they may not be real people that look exactly like us.  It is their actions and journey of transformation that inspires us.

 

G. Winkler © 2018

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Posted in Culture, Mental Health, Star Wars

Jango Fett on Safari

I have been doing digital photography of action figures for many years now.  I do it for fun.  It’s a nice creative outlet that tends to cheer me up when I am feeling down.  I actually did an online comic series with action figures called Landsknechts Gone Wild!  It was a story about office frustration and what would happen if 1500’s mercenaries showed up and how they were not like the modern world.  It was silly, but I had fun doing it.  My husband helped me with some of the set creation.  http://www.observationpost42.com/html/year_2008.php  I did this for five years until we moved and had no space for the massive setup process.

So I have a love for Star Wars and my husband likes to collect action figures, so we started collecting the 6 inch Hasbro Black Series.  These figures are nicely made.  Some have better posing powers than others, and I think that is natural considering all the different types of clothing and gear that the characters wear.  Some figures I tend to use more often than others.

So the other day I took Jango Fett with me on a hike.  I will do this once and awhile for fun to encourage me to think….there is a problem solving process that happens when one stages these figures for photos.  The goal is to make them look realistic like these fit in with the natural setting.  I think this is a process that every movie director must go through to create an illusion of certain events.  So, one needs to be mindful of objects that will break the illusion.  This may require proper placement and angle or sometimes simply cropping out the offending object, but sometimes that’s impossible.  Planning ahead is better.  It’s part of the composition process that all artists have to do to make good artwork.

So I thought I would share some of the photos that I got of Jango Fett.

Jango looks pretty good on this rock, the background is blurred so that helps to take the attention away from recognizable plants such as sagebrush, which could ruin the illusion. His shadow looks nice and in this photo his pose makes you wonder what he is focusing upon.

 

Different angles are useful for creating that illusion and feeling of telling a story.  The photo turned out nice and clear.  Even for pictures of real people the lessons I have learned while working with the toys has been helpful.  But I can seldom get my “human models” to behave so perfectly for me. 🙂

 

Don’t be afraid of closeup shots.   So often we take family photos that are too far away.

 

I like this shot, but…. the helmet seems a bit blurry and the angle and lighting of his gun hand completely hides the weapon.  These strange things happen that are not always noticeable out in the field.  It made a great picture into an okay picture.  At least in my opinion.

 

I really like this shot and I did it on purpose….but can you see that Jango has a little visitor?  I had to be really quick.  And I am not the best photographer with my cell phone.

 

Everything looks pretty believable in this photo, and he has a fun action ready posture.  You can see all his gear clearly and the small blades of growing grass seem plausible.

 

Still trying to get that facing forward shot but the gun and helmet seem blurry or perhaps washed out.  Maybe some work in Photoshop would help….tried lowering the brightness level and increasing the contrast….it did not make it any better.  Professional photographers will take many multiple shoots of the same view to try and get that perfect moment right.  Also action figures can act like tiny drunks and fall over a lot!

 

One more try…and the laser pistol is still blurry.  Oh well.  I can’t let this get me down.  I can always try again some other time.  This is part of the journey of learning how to take good images of objects or people.

Now I have been doing this a long time and I started because my husband some years ago showed me an online comic that did digital photography, and I was inspired.  There is another group of people who do amazing photos with this series of toys.  They are known as the Chip Monsters on Twitter as well as facebook and Instragram.  I discovered them on Twitter.  Their work makes my photos look ridiculous.  I think they are some of the best out there.  Here is a link to their Twitter page, so you can check them out. https://twitter.com/thechipmonsters?lang=en

Well, I hope you have enjoyed my photos of my hobby.  And yes, I took all these pictures with a cell phone camera.  Perhaps you will find something that inspires you to take fun little photos to share with friends.

G. Winkler  ©2018

 

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Posted in Art, Digital Photography, Inspiration, Star Wars, Toys

Back to Arrowcreek trail

It’s been a while since I lasted did a post.  I have been busy working on several novels.  I am in one of those break periods when an author should spend some time away from the manuscript, so that later, one can edit the project with keener vision.

So I took a hike back to a spot that I photographed some years ago.  It was back on May 13, 2014 and was called Lower Thomas Creek Trail.  I tend to call it Arrowcreek because of the housing development that is in that area.  Looking back to the photos that I took then….not much has changed.  I think it is a little greener due to the better water conditions.  Some of the vegetation is denser, but there were less flowers.  I also think the old car had aged more and it had more vegetation growing up close to it.  If I wait another four years to see it again, I may not be able to find it.

I hope you enjoy some of the images I took on this little hike.

There were more of these back in 2014…

Mt Rose looks pretty in the distance

The water was running more aggressively this time, which is good for the area in general.

Here is the old car. My Mom thinks this got lodged here during a flash flood that happened during the mid sixties. There were no houses in this area during that time.

Trail comes back to a nice little park good for kids.

Hope you enjoyed the pictures.

G.Winkler ©2018

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Posted in Digital Photography, Flowers, Nevada, Photography, Travel

Thistles

These are probably some of the most unapproachable plants in the area.  They kinda remind me of a Sarlacc pit with all those pointy things poking out towards the sky.  But they do have a lovely color and an interesting yet prickly construction.  So this morning when I saw a bunch of the dreadful things while taking a walk, I thought…..Oh hey, I should take pictures of these.  And here are my results.  These thistles do lend themselves as being great for photographic subjects.   I left the images large you you can enjoy the detail that I was able to capture.  I hope you enjoy my little collection here.

G. Winkler  ©2017

This one especially made me think of the Sarlacc Pit on Tatooine because of all the center point inside.

 

 

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Posted in Art, Flowers, Nevada, Photography

Fake Calls for Help

This morning my elderly Mom just got a call for help from a young female that sounded like one of my nieces.  The sobbing female said she was in jail after being in a car accident.  This woman skillfully got my Mom to ask if she was one of my niece’s and say the name.  My Mom said that she didn’t sound  like herself and the sobbing female instantly said that she had broken her nose and could not talk correctly.  There was a great deal of “I’m so sorry to ask you this,” “I need money for bail,” “I only have one phone call,” and she wasn’t very clear about where she was calling from only that it was a jail in California.  She said a man would call back who had been assigned as her public defender.  Now mind you, her crime is being in a car accident without a driver’s license….hmm.

Needless to say is that this is a fraudulent call for help.  This type of scammer wants to victimize people who want to do good for their family and friends.  After getting off the phone, my first inclination was to call my niece’s mother and truly determine if she was indeed missing.  It was discovered that my niece was at her work and perfectly fine.  The message here is double check everything.  Depending upon your family or your friend, there are a number of avenues that you should take before believing such a call.  What gets me is that this upset my elderly mother and these people direct these type of scams at seniors.

So if you have elderly people in your life, sit down with them and discuss these types of phone calls and make them aware.  Make plans to have a secret password or series of questions that should be answered to prove you are indeed their loved one.  This could also affect younger people as well wishing to help friends in emergencies.  This person on the phone was a good actor and highly skilled at keeping the situation at a heightened level of distress.  When I got on the phone I attempted to calm her down and re-assure her, which strangely enough didn’t work.  I also tried to get a location of where she was supposed to be and she skillfully started crying and changed the subject to not wanting to tell her father.  She could not concentrate enough to tell me where she was, but was able to give me a case number using very clear language to make sure that I didn’t get confused on that number.

We later checked the phone ID number and it was a series of zeros.  I don’t answer blocked phone numbers or numbers that don’t give a proper ID.  This is something else that should be discussed with family members as well.    There have been scams like this before on facebook with someone trapped in a foreign country needing help.  These are not new, but when they happen to you personally, they take you by surprise, and that is why I am blogging about this so others will be able to recognize this as a scam more readily.

Remember double check these kind of stories or else you may be taken in by a good actor, who someday will find that karma has a way of finding them.

G. Winkler ©2017

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Posted in Consumer alert, fraud

Star Wars X-Wing Game Pieces

Last December my husband bought me the Star Wars X-Wing TIE Advanced ship as a gift.  I love the Darth Vader character from Star Wars and have a fondness for the cool TIE fighter that he flew.  So needless to say these cool little ships are eye catching items.  I recently bought my husband the Slave I ship that was flown by the Boba Fett Star Wars character.  So now we have two of these ships from this game set, so the next natural question is…..what is the game like and would it be fun to play?

So we decided to do an “unboxing” of the Slave I ship for a podcast.  We thought this would be fun since the box listed all sorts of pieces.  The packaging itself showed a great deal of care into making sure that these somewhat expensive little ships were not damaged along with the other pieces that were included.  Tiny zip bags held the plastic stand and its pieces along with the cards that were included.  As you can see the artwork is pretty nice and the printing is well done as well.

The only real problem I encountered while doing the podcast was trying to get the tiny plastic stand pieces together.  I actually broke both of the tiny plastic stand pieces, which upset me.  I am pretty careful with things and this was an unpleasant  surprise.  After some careful examination later while setting up the parts for photos, I discovered that the tiny posts were not the standard round peg going into a round hole.  They appeared to be a triangular shape, so one has to be very careful when trying to put them together.  I had no idea since we were filming an “unboxing” and wanted our reactions to be genuine.  You can see how the parts broke in the picture to the right.  I felt bad.  I broke my husband’s birthday present.

Another thing we learned is that we need an additional part to the game.  There is a starter’s package that has all the rules and instructions on how the game is played, so we shall have to obtain one of these before we can actually figure out how to play.  And you may be wondering why we didn’t just offer to show you the podcast?  Well, one of our crew members who was acting as the cameraman did an “Amy Farrah Fowler” and forgot to turn the camera on.  So, hopefully when we get the actual instruction box to the game, we will get that on film.

That will be for the User Friendly Podcast that you can catch on the User Friendly website.   Please feel free to check out what we currently have.

G. Winkler  ©2017

 

 

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Posted in Culture, Games, Star Wars

Darth Nihilus is here to stay

darth_nihilus-500wI just realized I never posted the results of the Darth Nihilus gear.  I did my best to be true to what the video game character looked like.  So very often video game characters as well as cartoon characters are difficult to reproduce.  Why?  Because the artist doesn’t have to worry about the actor being uncomfortable or being able to move in what is designed.  I am still in the process of getting the Kage Warrior from The Clone Wars series completed.  That is a much more complicated build.

So here is my Darth Nihilus – my first and only Sith character.  And I have no construction photos to share, which is really odd.  I previously posted photos of the progress on the mask, which was the only piece I ordered from a vendor.  I did the sanding, painting, engineering for how to make the mask work.  I also purchased a black faceless Halloween mask since I decided that I would not be able to wear the all black contact lenses and paint my face and neck black.  The black hood was a better solution and provided better coverage to retain that mysterious presence that Darth Nihilus has.  Then there was the choice of which design of clothing do I create for my Nihilus.  There appears to be two.  I opted for the one that looks like it came straight out of the video game, Knights of the Old Republic (KOTOR), which is shown below.

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I constructed a foam framework to create the correct shape for the hood to drape from and a breast plate.  The most difficult part was attaching the cloak, which is very heavy and has a curious style of attachment, which I did my best to emulate.  I also had to do some engineering to make sure that the whole thing stayed together and allowed me to walk about and actually use the lightsaber.  The lightsaber was the most expensive part since I had to order one that was all silver in color and had a shape that was closest to the style of Nihilus’s blade.  The pictures below were taken by Jay Hayden, a professional photographer.  My next plan is to get some kind of film footage of me in this gear – it already has people unnerved when they see me and they have no idea that I am female.  🙂

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Gretchen Winkler ©2017

 

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Posted in Costume, Star Wars