Reimagining Star Wars

When we last saw Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Princess Leia, they were on a forest moon, celebrating the death of the Emperor and the downfall of the Empire, surrounded by happy Ewoks and the ghosts of Yoda, Darth Vader, and Obi Wan Kenobi.

Next year, they’ll be back.  The new installment of Star Wars begins filming in a few weeks, and all of the original cast members, including Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill, as well as the actors who played Chewbacca, R2D2 and C3PO, will be back.  They’ll be joined by some new folks as well as the actor who plays the distasteful boyfriend character on Girls, who apparently will be a villain.  Obviously, the story will take place years after the end of Return of the Jedi.

When George Lucas decided to make The Phantom Menace, he was taking a risk in reinvigorating a beloved and colossally popular movie franchise — but the risk involved in reintroducing the familiar characters from the original Star Wars movies in this latest feature is even greater.  What has happened to Han and Leia?  Did they get married and have kids, or did something happen to keep them apart?  Do any of the characters die?  Whatever happens, people will be second-guessing the story, and the fact that this new film won’t be directed by George Lucas is just going to increase the scrutiny.

I loved the original Star Wars films and fondly remember watching the first movie at the old University Flick theatre next to the Ohio State campus and then going back to see it again and again.  I’m looking forward to being reintroduced to some of the most iconic movie characters of all time, but I’m warning new director J.J. Abrams — handle with care.

Advertisements

The Trilateral Commission, Once More

Diplomats are expected to be careful and judicious in their speech — which is why the word “diplomatic” found its way into everyday speech — but U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is the exception to the rule.  He seemingly has a knack for ill-advised comments.

In recent remarks, Kerry said that Israel risks becoming an “apartheid state” if it doesn’t reach a peace agreement with Palestinians.  Of course, “apartheid” is a highly loaded word, evoking images of the repressive and racist South African regime that imprisoned Nelson Mandela.  Kerry’s statement was promptly and roundly criticized by supporters of Israel from both sides of the aisle, and Kerry then apologized, saying he wished he could rewind the tape and use a different word — although he blamed the chorus of criticism in part on “partisan, political purposes.”

What’s interesting about the story is not Kerry’s blunder — we should all be used to that by now — but that it happened at a super-secret, closed-door meeting of the Trilateral Commission.  For decades, the Trilateral Commission has been a favorite target of conspiracy theorists, who have depicted is as a kind of shadow world government that puts people into positions of power and then pulls the strings.

So, how did someone get a recording of a powerful figure speaking to the Commission?  It turns out that a journalist just walked into the meeting — he “slipped past both Commission staff and Diplomatic Security,” according to a letter of apology the North American chair of the Commission wrote to Kerry — and recorded Kerry’s remarks.  The incident therefore doesn’t reflect the kind of approach to security you’d expect from the  hyper-competent, brooding omnipresence depicted by the conspiracy-minded.

So, perhaps John Kerry’s latest bit of thoughtless floundering may have a positive impact after all:  it may finally strike the Trilateral Commission from the list of organizations that are the focus of international intrigue and the latest conspiracy theories.

The Blue Jackets Go Down Swinging

The Columbus Blue Jackets lost last night, 4-3, and we knocked out of the playoffs by the Pittsburgh Penguins.

It’s not an unexpected result — the Penguins were the higher seed and swept the CBJ during the regular season — but it’s an unfortunate one, because there was all kinds of happy buzz in Columbus about the Blue Jackets during the last few weeks.  The happy buzz grew as the Blue Jackets won their first playoff game ever, then won a second game on a last-second thriller.  Even during the losses the Blue Jackets fought hard and scrapped and made the going tough for the talented Penguins.  In last night’s game the CBJ trailed, 4-0, after two periods but they battled back to bring the game to 4-3.  They couldn’t quite get the tying goal that would have raised the roof — but the team’s lack of quit is impressive.

I’m not a believer is moral victories, but I am hoping that this season and the exciting playoff series galvanize Columbus hockey fans and motivate this very young Blue Jackets team to greater achievements next year.  With a few playoff wins under their belt this year, CBJ fans believe the future is bright and are hoping that the team contends for the Stanley Cup next year.  It would be a great thing for Columbus.

Global Nerd

IMG_1920I’ve always liked maps and globes.  I like the look of them, and I like the way that they can change.  I remember discovering an old atlas in my grandparents’ attic, leafing through it, and wondering about exotic places like the Ottoman Empire that could only be found on an outdated geography book.

I think maps are cool, so I was grinning ear to ear when Kish and I stumbled upon Metsker Maps in Seattle.  What a fantastic store!  It’s crammed stem to stern with standup globes, miniature globes, inflatable globes, wall maps, fold-out maps, ancient framed maps, hiking maps, and books about maps — as well as incidentals like a good pocket compass.

After wandering around for a while with a  kid-like look on my face, I went up to the guy behind the counter and said:  “This is the coolest store I’ve been in in years!”  He nodded knowingly, recognizing that I was just another globe geek who was letting my nerd flag fly.

Giving Up Golf

Golf has a problem:  it’s hard to be good at it.  Golf has another problem:  it’s expensive.  And, golf takes time to play.  In short, it’s not exactly a game calculated to appeal to a younger generation that grew up playing video games and getting participation trophies and positive feedback for every endeavor.

So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that golf participation is declining.  Five million people have given up the game in the last decade, and more golfers are expected to quit in the next few years.  People under 35, especially, aren’t into the game.  (That’s true in the Webner family, too, where Richard and Russell have shown no interest whatsoever in golf.)

IMG_0511If you own a golf course, this trend is a serious concern.  In many communities, like Columbus, there was a golf course building boom in the ’80s and ’90s, and now many of those courses are struggling — with some private clubs becoming public or semi-public or folding entirely.  Golf courses are economically viable only if there are players willing to pay to play.

The response to the decline in players has been interesting.  Rather than figuring out how to encourage people to see the beauty of the game in its current form, some want to change the game radically to try to make it “fun.”  Among the ideas include a much bigger hole on greens, giving players a mulligan every hole, allowing people to throw the ball out of sand traps — what my grandmother called using her “hand mashie” — and letting people tee up the ball on every shot.

I’m no golf purist, but these kinds of ideas seem like a panicky reaction that would ruin the game rather than popularize it.  The golf establishment should simply accept that golf is not going to appeal to everyone, and if a few golf courses fail, so be it.  Golf is supposed to be a struggle, and it inevitably will have its frustrations.  It’s not a sport for someone looking for immediate gratification.  The attraction of the game is not easily shooting low scores, but rather legitimately improving with practice so that when you do play a good round it really means something.

I haven’t been able to swing a club for months because of my foot, but I’m looking forward to the day when my doctor gives me the go-ahead to get back on the links.  I’m sure I’ll curse my ineptitude, but at least it will be golf I’m playing — not some bastardized effort to appeal to impatient people with short attention spans who need constant reinforcement.

Under The Needle

IMG_0401

Seattle’s Space Needle was built as part of the 1962 World’s Fair and was supposed to reflect the architecture of the future.  Fifty years later, it still looks so much like a backdrop from a Jetsons episode you expect to see a Spacely Sprockets sign on top.  Sure, it’s kitschy, but it’s also kind of cool, and it’s fun to check it out from different vantage points.