Sunday, September 29, 2013

Family Movie Night: Cold Comfort Farm

Title: Cold Comfort Farm
Director: John Schlesinger
Original Release: 1995
Choice: My Wife's
My Overall Rating: 3 stars out of 5
via Wikipedia

Cold Comfort Farm, an adaptation of Stella Gibbons's 1932 novel of the same name, was originally produced for BBC television.  It was also briefly released in North American theaters.  Loads of well-known British actors are in the cast, though not all of them known so well in 1995.  Kate Beckinsale stars with Joanna Lumley, Ian McKellen and Rufus Sewell in support.

Flora Poste, a teenage girl suddenly orphaned, moves in with strange relatives on a dilapidated farm.  Flora sets about putting things as she feels they should be.  I will admit upfront that I fell asleep part way through (very tired, not a commentary on the film) but saw enough to follow the story.  For My Wife, it is close to the ideal movie: British period piece, witty dialogue and one of her favorite dreamies (Sewell).  I enjoyed it, though I do think of it as more her sort of movie than mine.

One funny bit worth mentioning, in light of my own movie theme for the year: the film's score (by Robert Lockhart) is, for the most part, fine if unremarkable.  However, as Seth, Sewell's character, is about to leave the farm to pursue his dream of Hollywood stardom, the theme music from Gone with the Wind plays.  We should be getting to that one in a few weeks.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

The Cephalopod Coffeehouse: October Blog List

Greetings to all!  I hope you'll join us for the next installment of the Cephalopod Coffeehouse, an online gathering of bloggers who love books.  The next meeting is set for Friday, October 25th.  If you're interested, please sign on to the link list at the end of this post.

The idea is simple: on the last Friday of each month, post about the best book you've finished over the past month while visiting other bloggers doing the same.  In this way, we'll all have the opportunity to share our thoughts with other enthusiastic readers.  Please join us:

Friday, September 27, 2013

The Cephalopod Coffeehouse: September 2013

Welcome one and all to the Cephalopod Coffeehouse, a cozy gathering of book lovers, meeting to discuss their thoughts regarding the tomes they enjoyed most over the previous month.  Pull up a chair, order your cappuccino and join in the fun.  If you wish to add your own review to the conversation, please sign on to the link list at the end of my post.

Title: Klezmer, Book One: Tales of the Wild East
Writer and Artist: Joann Sfar
via Sequart Research & Literary Organization

If we have a favorite comic book artist at our house, it is most certainly Frenchman Joann Sfar.  My Wife first discovered his Rabbi's Cat series (reviews here and here), which, like Klezmer, is definitely for adults.  Next, she found more kid-friendly titles for our daughter: Little Vampire (review here) and Sardine (which I have not read).  Sfar's playful irreverence holds great appeal for all three of us.

Sfar draws a great deal of his material from his own Jewish heritage.  As the title would suggest, Klezmer follows the adventures of Jewish musicians in Czarist Russia - Ukraine, to be specific.  The book begins with two separate story strands which merge by the end of Book One.  First, the Baron is the only survivor when his own klzezmer band is slaughtered by the members of another.  After exacting his revenge, he is unexpectedly followed in his escape by Chava, a young woman running away from the village and her own undesirable marriage options.  The Baron reluctantly accepts her companionship and indulges Chava by teaching her to sing.

Meanwhile, in the second strand, Yaacov is banned from his yeshiva for stealing the rabbi's coat.  He discovers the remains of the Baron's band-mates and, most important to future plot development, takes all of the still usable instruments.  He doesn't play himself but imagines they might come in handy.  In his travels, he encounters the sleepwalker Vincenzo and the gypsy Tshokola.  Fortunately for Yaacov, his new friends are much better musicians than he.  They teach him to play and a new band is formed.

There are three more Klezmer books which have yet to be translated to English.  Book Two is to be entitled Happy Birthday, Scylla (Bon anniversaire Scylla en Français).  I shall definitely keep an eye out for it.

Please join us and share your own review of your best read from the past month.  This month's link list is below.  I'll keep it open until the end of the day.  I'll post October's tomorrow.  Meetings are the last Friday of each month.  Next gathering is October 25th.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Star Trek: Mudd's Women

Episode: "Mudd's Women"
Series: Star Trek: The Original Series
Season 1, Episode 6
Original Air Date: October 13, 1966
via Memory Alpha

I think it's fair to say that sexual politics were complicated in the mid-to-late 1960s.  Contemporary pop cultural efforts to address the matter can feel quite awkward in 2013.  In "Mudd's Women," the crew encounters Harry Mudd, a career criminal, and his three glamorous female companions.  In time, it becomes apparent that Mudd is marketing the women as wives for lonely men in deep space outposts.  Naturally, all of the men aboard the Enterprise are enchanted by the women.  Eventually, the crew discover that the women are taking a drug which enhances their feminine charms.

Here's where things get tricky from the broader, cross-generational perspective.  Without the drug, the women aren't so much ugly as ordinary looking and it would seem the men around them can imagine nothing more horrible.  In the end, one of the women, Eve, is given a placebo but is able to project the same beauty by virtue of her own self-assurance.  That's a little better, I suppose, but the whole concept left me feeling icky.  So, not a big fan of this particular episode.
via Ribbonrain

Nichelle Nichols (Lt. Uhura) was born Grace Dell Nichols on December 28, 1932 in Robbins, Illinois.  A triple threat - actor, singer and dancer, Nichols got her big break on Broadway, appearing in the 1961 musical Kicks and Co.  As a musician, she toured with both Duke Ellington and Lionel Hampton.  Her film debut came as an uncredited extra in a 1959 production of Porgy and Bess.  Her first television appearance was on Gene Roddenberry's first series, The Lieutenant.  In her autobiography, Nichols admitted to a long affair with Roddenberry during the 1960s.

Nichols was a genuine television pioneer, one of the first African American women cast in a major television series as someone other than a servant.  Apparently, she was tempted to leave Trek during the first season in order to get back to her stage career.  None other than Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., evidently a fan of the show, talked her into staying.  He convinced her of her importance as a role model.

One of my favorite Trek scenes from my current stroll was in "Charlie X," I believe.  In a high stress moment, Kirk snaps at Uhura and she snaps right back.  In the midst of the crisis, the two of them stare at each other for a beat, then both apologize, quite sincerely.  It is a wonderfully genuine, tender, human exchange - the sort of moment that provides yet another clue as to the enduring appeal of Star Trek.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Family Movie Night: The Wizard of Oz

Title: The Wizard of Oz
Director: Victor Fleming
Original Release: 1939
Choice: Mine
My Overall Rating: 5 stars out of 5
via Wikipedia

I envy the world of 1939.  That's not easily said.  With war looming (or already well underway in the Pacific Theater), 1939 was a very dark time for much of the world.  But 1939 was Hollywood's Golden Year, considered by many to be the single greatest year in the history of American film.  1939 was the year of Gone with the Wind, The Wizard of Oz, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Ninotchka, Wuthering Heights, Of Mice and Men, Stagecoach and many other classic movies.

Even with all of those great movies to choose from, my envy is specific.  I want to know what it was to see one particular scene from The Wizard of Oz for the very first time.   Nope, it's not the one you're thinking.  Yes, the moment when Dorothy opens the door to Oz and the world goes from drab to vibrant color is one of the greatest scenes in all of film.  But there is one I love even more. 

With one single word, with one octave leap, a teenage girl from Minnesota vaulted to international super-stardom.  Now, as with so many great things, Judy Garland's performance of "Over the Rainbow" seems almost cliche.  That's why I want to know what it was like to hear that voice sing that song for the very first time.  Garland was all of 16 during filming.  As has been well-documented, her personal life afterward was disastrous.  But for two minutes in 1939, she was perfect.

I have watched The Wizard of Oz so many times over the years.  I'm in good company, of course.  It is the most viewed film in the history of television syndication.  I remember the last scene I was allowed to see before I was sent to bed the first time I watched as a kid: the Cowardly Lion jumping out the window.  We've watched it several times as a family, too, and there aren't many surprises anymore.  However, in this most recent viewing, I was struck by the elegance of the pre-cyclone scenes.  Obviously, most of the fun happens after Dorothy steps out the door into Munchkinland but Kansas is just as vivid.  We meet Aunt Em and Uncle Henry as they are hurrying to rescue chicks from a broken incubator.  Dorothy's whining about her dog as they're struggling to preserve their livelihood.  They don't know or care about her impending adventures.  They're farmers.  They're real.  The fantasy that follows doesn't work without them.

"Over the Rainbow" has taken on a life of its own over the decades since, firmly entrenched in the mythical great American songbook.  In recent years, Israel Kamakawiwo'ole picked up a ukelele and breathed new life into the classic tune.  I leave you with IZ:

Friday, September 20, 2013

Write...Edit...Publish: Moving on

Denise Covey is hosting Write...Edit...Publish, a monthly bloghop (details here). September's theme is "moving on" and my humble submission is offered below.  My 582-word story is not copyrighted.  Please respond with comments only.  Be sure to visit the other participants as well.  The link list is at the end of my post.

The Brass Doorknob
She stared at the doorknob from her seat on the couch, willing it to turn on its own so she wouldn’t have to do it herself.  The door seemed miles away. 

She looked at the clock on the wall.  5:37. It was one of those with the numbers all jumbled – 10 on the bottom, 9 where the 4 should be and so forth.  She’d found it at a yard sale.  She loved that clock.  The clock would have to stay.

Packing had been surprisingly easy.  Choosing one outfit to wear to work each morning was a nightmare but deciding what she could live without was a snap.  If it didn’t fit, it didn’t go. Toothbrush?  Check.  Pictures on the bureau – she didn’t need pictures of herself.  Of her mom?  Yes.  Of his?  Um, no.   Books?  She’d read them all.  CDs?  Most were his.  She could buy more.  Or she could come back for things, right?

No!  One-way ticket.  Don’t come back.

He slept through it all.  No surprise.  It was Saturday.  He’d be out until at least 10, normal function to resume… Monday?

Probably no sex for a while, she thought.  His t-shirt rode up over his gut.  He scratched, snored almost loud enough to wake, then rolled over.  Back to snoring – right in her ear if she’d still been lying next to him.  No sex.  Definitely a mixed blessing.

Bags were packed.  The next challenge was getting up off the couch.  The doorknob would have to wait.  Her ass was like lead on the edge of the cushion, her legs not quite strong enough to lift it.  The longer she sat, the more she could feel the tension spreading over her neck and shoulders – early rigor mortis setting in.  A deep breath.  Another one.  More snores from the bedroom.  The clock: 5:41, or 3:11 depending on how you read it.

Should she leave a note?  How long before he’d even read it?  He’d stumble into the kitchen, annoyed she hadn’t made coffee.  Back to the couch groaning over the aches, probably another 15 minutes before he realized she wasn’t there.  How long before he noticed one folded piece of paper amid all the bottles and other crap on the table?

Should she make the coffee?

With one more heavy sigh, she found the strength to stand.  The door was only about five strides in front of her – really only one direction to go.  With each step forward, a chance to step back was gone. 

For the first time, she glanced out the window to gauge the weather.  Even a day like today still has weather, she thought.  Sunrise, wisps of cloud streaking pink – beautiful, really.  No rain.  A day like this should have rain, shrouding mist, something.  But no, it was gorgeous.  Go figure.

Should she grab an umbrella?

Now, the doorknob was in reach.  Without lifting her eyes, she unlocked the top bolt.  Efforts to keep quiet seemed a bit silly now.  Even if he did wake up, he’d just assume she was out grabbing the newspaper.  She could make two trips to the car so she could grab a few more things - the clock and an umbrella, maybe.  A few CDs?

No!  One time through the door.  That’s it.

Finally, her hand was on the knob.  Only questions ahead.  Nothing but the wrong answers behind.  All she had to do was walk out the door. 

One last deep breath.  Squeeze.  Twist.


I hope you will consider joining the Cephalopod Coffeehouse, my bloggers' book club.  Please sign on to the link list at the top right of my blog, where there is also a link to more details.

Once again, comments only please.

As promised, following is the list of September's participants.  Be sure to visit them all:

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Star Trek: The Enemy Within

Episode: "The Enemy Within"
Series: Star Trek: The Original Series
Season 1, Episode 5
Original Air Date: October 6, 1966
via Memory Alpha

"Chewing the scenery" is an expression often used to describe acting performances on the original series of Star Trek, particularly the work of leading man William Shatner.  His jerky movements, halting speech and exaggerated emotions have provided ample fuel for parody over the decades since.  Shatner's tendency towards overacting is on full display in "The Enemy Within."

Due to a transporter malfunction, Captain Kirk is split into two, separate selves: a good Kirk and a bad Kirk.  As the crew attempt to rectify the problem, working simultaneously to rescue an away team stranded on the planet below, Evil Kirk causes no end of trouble aboard the Enterprise.  He drinks.  He attacks women.  He attacks men.  (Alcoholic allegory?)  Meanwhile, Good Kirk has lost the nerve and resolve which he needs to effectively command the ship.

Shatner's performance as Evil Kirk is way over the top, exactly the sort of performance which has earned him much derision in pop culture.  However, his performance as Good Kirk is subtle and understated - in reality, a much taller order for an actor.  In these early episodes Shatner already wears the role of Kirk like an old shoe, a testament to greater skill than many have been willing to concede.

A couple of Trek culture notes:
  • The transporter, as cool as it is, was also a convenient cost-saving device in early episodes.  Transporter effects were cheaper than those required for a shuttle craft, which could easily have rescued Sulu and the rest of the away team much sooner.  However, one of many things I admire about the Star Trek franchise is how the transporter - which still seems like pure magic - was always presented as imperfect technology.  Over the course of the series, things do occasionally go disastrously wrong.  Limits are essential for the plausibility of an imaginary world.
via Memory Alpha
  • For the first time, an alien animal is featured.  In Trek lore, the creature is known simply as an Alfa 177 canine, named for its planet of origin.  The real dog inside the costume is uncredited.
James Doohan (Scotty) was born on March 3, 1920 in Vancouver, British Columbia.  A lieutenant in the Royal Canadian Artillery, Doohan was part of the force that stormed the beach at Normandy on D-Day.  He got his start in acting in radio dramas for the CBC.  A master of accents, he auditioned for Star Trek with several different nationality possibilities, ultimately settling on Scottish.  He named his own character after his grandfather: Montgomery Scott.
via Bonanza Boomers

Monday, September 16, 2013

Field Trip: Montreal ComicCon

We drove up to Montreal for ComicCon on Saturday, the first time for any of us to visit a comic book convention.  Ever since jumping into the comics hobby a few years back, my curiosity about the geek culture surrounding the industry has steadily increased.  One catches glimpses at comic book stores, of course, and I got more meaningful exposure when I went to the midnight showing of The Avengers with Mock.  But the ComicCons are the ultimate gatherings.  San Diego (home to the biggest convention) is three time zones away but Montreal's only a couple of hours drive from our house - seemed worth a try.

Originally, we were going to go with Mock and his family but other developments for him (becoming an uncle, for instance) took precedence.  So, it was just the three of us.  Our Girl was none too happy about getting up early on a Saturday but she soldiered on and we arrived just before the doors opened at 10.

Not wanting to spend the entire visit standing in line, we decided to forego the celebrity autographs - George Takei, Edward James Olmos and Gillian Anderson were all on hand among others - and panels.  Instead, we devoted our time to the vendors.  Obviously, there were loads of comic books on sale but also toys, t-shirts and so forth.  My own best find of the day:

We also really enjoyed the Doctor Who display, taking pictures with Daleks and the TARDIS.

Of course, ComicCon's most amusing attraction is the geeks themselves.  Costumed enthusiasts abound: superheroes, Star Wars, Star Trek, Harry Potter, Men in Black, you name it.  My favorite was a woman in a gas mask with an "Are you my mummy?" sign (Doctor fans will understand).  Our daughter was most impressed by the Dalek who scolded a passing Stormtrooper for failing to find the droids he'd been looking for!

If I were to go again, I'd want to devote more time to Artist's Alley, where the comics creators themselves hawk their wares.  Practically on our way out the door, I was drawn to the table of Conor McCreery, co-creator of the Kill Shakespeare series.  I was on the look out for a t-shirt for Drama Guy, my teaching partner.  DG is a serious Shakespeare nut and McCreery's t-shirt with Shakespearean characters posed as the Justice League was nearly irresistible (see link here).  Alas, I had no cash (stupid ATMs weren't working) and he was not set up for plastic.  I felt bad.  "I don't even have anything for you to sign," I said sheepishly, "but I'd like to shake your hand."

He looked up and smiled at that, a wonderfully human moment in the midst of a zany day, probably for both of us.  We shook.  I met the girls in the hallway so we could go home.  DG will just have to be satisfied with a Firefly shirt.

I'm glad we went - an experience to cross off the life list.  I don't know if I'd go again, though I must admit that it would be great fun to watch Mock in this environment.  DG asked when I got to work this morning if I'd go to the one in San Diego but I don't think bigger would make it better.  As I told My Wife, I'd much rather go to a good book store.

However, in preparing for and attending ComicCon, I've made what I believe is an important self-discovery regarding my own geek identity: I am a science fiction fan first, a comic book fan second.  I think I already knew that but hadn't previously articulated it.  My native language is Star Wars but I'm reasonably conversant in Star Trek, Doctor Who, Firefly and others - currently learning Battlestar Galactica.  There you have it, folks: my statement of geek self.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Star Trek: The Naked Time

Episode: "The Naked Time"
Series: Star Trek: The Original Series
Season 1, Episode 4
Original Air Date: September 29, 1966
via Victory Tastes Yellow

The last 10 minutes.  I am always impressed by the seemingly impossible problems the Star Trek crew manages to resolve in the last 10 minutes of an episode.  With each passing moment of the opening acts, the rope tightens and hope of survival grows more remote.  You know they're going to make it because there are still 700+ episodes to go but even the most devoted fan is pushed to the edge of doubt.  Finally, after the last commercial break, someone - and it's not always the same person - saves the day.  It's as good a formula for building a cult following as any.

"The Naked Time" finds our heroes orbiting the dying planet Psi 2000.  A landing team discovers the researchers on the surface have all suddenly and mysteriously died.  Upon returning to the ship, an intoxicating affliction claims one member of the crew at a time.  With each new infection, the Enterprise falls into greater peril.  All comes to a head when Lt. Riley locks himself in engineering and takes control of the ship.  Meanwhile, the ship is being pulled into the collapsing planet.  Just in time, Riley is subdued and Spock concocts an escape plan based on an untested theory.  Of course, the day is saved.

via The Internet Killed the Television Star

There are moments of levity along the way.  Lt. Sulu spends much of the episode running around shirtless, challenging everyone he meets to a fencing duel.  Surely not coincidentally, George Takei has always claimed "The Naked Time" as his favorite episode.
via Star Trek Daily Pic

DeForest Kelley (Dr. McCoy) was born January 20, 1920 in Toccoa, Georgia.  The son of a Baptist minister, he was named for Lee de Forest, an American inventor.  During the Second World War, Kelley served in the army's First Motion Picture Unit.  His first feature film appearance was in 1947's Fear in the Night.  His television debut was on You Are There.  He first worked with Leonard Nimoy in a 1963 episode of The Virginian.  Kelley was actually Gene Rodenberry's original choice to play the role of Spock but he turned it down.
via Shatner's Toupee

Monday, September 9, 2013

US Open 2013: The Rich Get Richer

Congratulations to both Serena Williams and Rafael Nadal, 2013 US Open singles champions.  For Serena, it's Major #17.  For Rafa, #13.  For both, a place in the all-time pantheon is quite secure.  Both of my initial picks, Victoria Azarenka and Novak Djokovic, lost in the finals.
via Wikipedia
Serena has the inside track for the year-end #1 ranking on the women's side.  On the men's, Rafa still has some work to do.  While he has 2 Slam titles on the year to Novak's 1, Djokovic was at least a semifinalist at all 4 Majors.  Rafa's never been one to finish the year strongly, either.  We shall see...

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Family Movie Night: After the Revolution

Title: After the Revolution
Director: András Szirtes
Original Release: 1990
Choice: My Wife's
My Overall Rating: 2 stars out of 5
via The Callum's Wood Notebooks

My Wife gave this one a good sell over the course of the week, always with the impish laugh I love so dearly.  After the Revolution is an experimental Hungarian film produced immediately after the fall of communism.  The basic idea is highly amusing: a struggling writer labors to finish his novel and complains constantly to his cat.  The story is told from the cat's point of view.  Sounds quirky and charming, right?  My Wife thought it would be a great way to introduce Our Girl to experimental film.

Grainy.  Lots of extreme closeups.  Random clips from old Soviet propaganda films.  Footage from interviews of...  friends?  Many of the interviews are actually in English.  One woman gives herself a mud bath - full frontal for that one, though not exactly sexy.  Loads of sketchy language.  I suppose if we'd watched the whole thing, we'd all have been experts at swearing in Hungarian.  Alas, we did not.  Even My Wife decided she'd had enough after a while.  We switched over to Battlestar Galactica and were all much happier.

So, why a 2 and not a 1?  I didn't care for it but I'm still not willing to say it's a terrible film.  Experimenting is good, even if all goes kablooey.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Star Trek: Where No Man Has Gone Before

Episode: "Where No Man Has Gone Before"
Series: Star Trek: The Original Series
Season 1, Episode 3
Original Air Date: September 22, 1966
via Fez talks Star Trek and Phase 2

It would seem that Trekkies owe an enormous debt of gratitude to Lucille Ball, of all people.  It was Ms. Ball who convinced NBC management to consider a second pilot for Star Trek, entitled "Where No Man Has Gone Before."  Apparently, she really liked creator Gene Roddenberry and believed in the project.  Luckily for all of us, the idea took the second time and the successful pilot was the third episode to air.  "Where No Man Has Gone Before" is the first-filmed episode to feature Captain Kirk (William Shatner), Lt. Sulu (George Takei) and Chief Engineer Montgomery Scott (James Doohan).  In this second pilot, Sulu is the ship's physicist, not the helmsman he would become in the regular series run.

A magnetic space storm ignites intensified ESP abilities in helmsman Gary Mitchell, also revealed as a former student and long-time friend of Kirk's.  As Mitchell's powers increase and he shows signs of hostility, Spock recommends killing Mitchell before it's too late.  Kirk resists the idea, of course, and contrives an alternate plan to maroon Mitchell on an isolated planet.

So, why did the second pilot work better?  Some of the answers are easy.  Shatner is a better and more charismatic actor than Jeffrey Hunter who played Captain Christopher Pike in the first pilot (my reflections here).  Also, the character of Spock is better developed - a crucial element in the long-term appeal of the show.  But most importantly, at least in my opinion, "Where No Man Has Gone Before" is a stronger story.

Taking in the grand sweep of Star Trek history, I believe there are some narrative templates the franchise handles better than others.  Basic mystery/puzzle solving stories are the default and usually work out well.  Tales involving children, on the other hand, tend to fall flat.  I feel that the very best Trek stories usually revolve around an ethical dilemma.  The question of what to do with Mitchell is an excellent example.

George Takei (rhymes with okay) was born on April 20, 1937 in Los Angeles, California.  The story of his early life is, unfortunately, typical of the Japanese Americans of his generation.  His family spent three years in internment camps during World War II.  
via Travel Arkansas

Takei originally went to UC-Berkeley to study architecture but ultimately graduated from UCLA in theater.  Roles for Asians were hard to come by in the 1950s and '60s but Takei found work.  His first television appearance came in the third season of Perry Mason in 1959.  His first film role was in 1960's Hell to Eternity.
via All hail the glow cloud

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Family Movie Night: Star Wars

Title: Star Wars
Director: George Lucas
Original Release: 1977
Choice: Mine
My Overall Rating: 5 stars out of 5
via Wookieepedia

Star Wars has been the center of my pop culture universe from the first time I saw the original film on the big screen.   I was four years old in 1977.  I am willing to admit, 36 years on, that certain elements of the movie do not hold up so well now.  The visual effects have all since been eclipsed, of course, though I think the explosions are still pretty impressive.  The acting is generally underwhelming and the editing at times comically poor.  However, there is one area in which the original Star Wars trilogy stands alone in the history of cinema.  No other movie uses music and sound so effectively.  As far as I'm concerned, it's not even close.  R2's bleeps and bloops, Vader's breath and Chewbacca's roar are every bit as iconic as images of the Millenium Falcon or Imperial Stormtroopers.  The most crucial sound effect of all was John Williams's incomparable musical score.

It's nearly impossible to avoid superlatives when discussing the music of Star Wars.  The horn blast that opens the film is, in my humble opinion, one of the two greatest musical moments in all of film (I'll share the other one in a few weeks).  The dead silence of the "long time ago" screen explodes into blaring fanfare as the title comes into view.  I have watched Star Wars movies dozens of times and that moment, shared by all of them, never gets old. 

Star Wars is the perfect movie for demonstrating leit motif, a musical theme used to represent a character, setting or idea.  Luke has his theme.  Leia has hers.  Even the droids get one.  Any fan worth his or her salt can hum a few bars of the Cantina band's tune.  Interestingly, Han Solo does not have a theme.  Oh well.  He nearly managed to steal the show without one.

Only Walt Disney has been nominated for more Academy Awards than John Williams.  For the world's most decorated composer, the first Star Wars film score was the greatest triumph.  Williams won his third Best Score Oscar for the movie in addition to a Golden Globe, three Grammys, a BAFTA and a Saturn.  In total, Williams has won five Best Score Oscars.  At age 81, he shows few signs of slowing down, either, with three Academy Award nominations in just the past two years.

Multi-generational considerations:
  • In one DVD release, Lucas included the original theatrical versions of the first three Star Wars movies along with the ones with all of his later, completely unnecessary edits.  I'm very glad I snatched them up when I had the chance as the originals are the only versions of the films my daughter has ever watched.
  • Our Girl was impressed by how many of the lines I knew by heart and at one point while we were watching, I looked over and saw that she was working on memorizing them herself!  Rolling her eyes, My Wife said, "You must be so proud."  Like you wouldn't believe, dear.
If you're dying to know more about my Star Wars obsession, please visit the following posts:
I'm hoping to tackle the novels soon, too.  They're on the to-read stack, just waiting for me.

US Open 2013: Middle Sunday

via bethubb
Philipp Kohlschreiber (22nd seed, Germany) is what is known in tennis circles as a dangerous floater.  Never one to challenge for Major titles, he's still the guy nobody wants to have to play.  He's a scrappy right-handed grinder who fears no one.  The giant killer resume is quite respectable.  In recent years, he took out Andy Roddick in the third round of the 2008 Australian Open and Novak Djokovic in the third of the 2009 French.  In fact, he's the last player to beat Djokovic before the quarterfinals of a Slam.  He certainly has John Isner's number - at least on the big stage - having taken the towering American out of the US Open both this year and last.

Kohlschreiber is now 29 years young and still going strong, having reached the finals of three tournaments this year.  He won the doubles title in Doha with countryman Christopher Kas.  Next up, he faces the hottest player in tennis: Rafael Nadal (2nd, Spain).  He actually has one victory over Nadal (Halle 2012) but has lost to the Spaniard nine times.  I would say Kohlschreiber has a better chance of derailing the dream Federer/Nadal quarterfinal than Tommy Robredo (19th, Spain) does but that's not saying much.  Robredo has never beaten Fed (7th, Switzerland) in 10 tries.  The best weapon Kohlschreiber has is force of will and no one's ever going to beat Rafa at that game.