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Friday, February 27, 2015

Read The Big Freeze

You can find today's post, The Big Freeze, at Pocket Dalek & Friends. Just go ahead and click on it, and you'll instantly be like, oh, say, as happy as a Dalek at an Extermination Party. So go on, try it! Enjoy!

Thursday, February 26, 2015

A Ride Aboard the Hogwarts Express: Part 2

One moment my wife and I watched the quiet English countryside stream past. It looked like a storm might be brewing outside, but that was okay: we were comfortable in our six-person compartment aboard the Hogwarts Express. We could sit back, and watch the clouds disperse the rains that kept the fells, valleys, and pasturelands so green. With Nature bursting from so such pent-up energy, we were reminded how English artist Ashley Jackson captures all the color and drama of the moment before the storm in his landscape paintings. Then, in an instant, everything changed.

Spectral wraith-like beings swept into our compartment, filling our hearts with fear, and draining our minds of all hope, and joy. Someone whispered, "Dementors," I'm not sure who, or what they meant. Nor can I recollect how long that moment lasted, but it seemed an eternity. Eventually these terrible ghosts (or Dementors?) left, and a short while later, a village appeared on the horizon. An audible sigh, comparable to the exhalations of the locomotive's mighty engine, filled our compartment. Then we were pulled into another railway station.

We didn't know where we were, but at least we had survived our encounter with those hateful spirits. There's a positive side to every moment of life, don't you agree?

Dragon Dave

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

A Ride Aboard the Hogwarts Express: Part 1

Exiting Diagon Alley, we arrived by some inexplicable coincidence outside Kings Cross Station in London, England. Walking inside, we showed our identity documents, had our fingerprints scanned, and then traversed corridors that wandered in typical London Underground fashion--up and down, right and left, to and fro, this way and that, twisting and winding and turning--until we turned a final corner and slammed face-first into a brick pillar. Somehow, we passed through the bricks unharmed, and arrived at a loading platform: Number 9 3/4. There a steam locomotive, the Hogwarts Express, awaited us. We boarded, and were ushered into a comfortable, six-person compartment. Soon an alarm rang out, and the station attendants shouted in reply. We looked out to see the workers signaling the All Clear.

Inside our comfortable six-passenger compartment, we watched as the train steamed past London's narrow, crowded streets. Once we spotted a snowy white owl clutching a parcel in its beak as it flew by. 

After awhile, we left the grand metropolis behind, and traveled through the verdant English countryside. At one point, a large, bearded man flew past our window in his motorcycle and sidecar. 

Yes, you read that right: he flew by. 

Who knew motorcycles could fly? 

Through the frosted glass of our compartment, an old woman appeared, pushing a sweets trolley. Several students stopped in the hall in answer to her hails. I thought of surveying her offerings, but she never pulled our door aside to ask. She can easily be forgiven this oversight, however, given the dark events which then ensued.

Dragon Dave

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Torquay, Fawlty Towers & Agatha Christie

The first time I heard of Torquay, I was watching Fawlty Towers. Basil & Sybil Fawlty were trying something new in their boutique hotel. "Gourmet Night" was to set Torquay alight, giving cultured residents and visitors another opportunity to mix, mingle, and sample epicurean delights. Instead, like all Basil's plans, the first and only event collapsed in catastrophic fashion.

Still, as I watched "Gourmet Night," and the other eleven episodes of Fawlty Towers, I wondered what Torquay was like. While never making serious plans, I thought: "If I ever travel to England, that's a city I could visit."

Well, why not?

As I've since learned, no part of the famous sitcom was actually filmed in Torquay. According to recent reports, the hotel it was based on, Gleneagleas, has closed and may not reopen. But as my wife and I make this year's plans to visit England, Torquay is on our itinerary. This time, it has nothing to do with Fawlty Towers, and everything to do with Agatha Christie.

I can't say I fell in love with Agatha Christie's stories, although I did read her novel Ten Little Indians in my teens. But the TV series based on her works, particularly that of Hercule Poirot, have become favorite viewing in our household. The TV series led me to her stories, and I've recently enjoyed the first two Poirot novels. Both kept me awake hours after I laid down in bed at night, and made me want to read more of her page-turning prose. 

Agatha Christie was born in Torquay. Although she left it numerous times, the seaside English town always drew her back. Eventually, she bought a home there, Greenway, which she visited each summer. While she existed in other places, Torquay was the place she felt she really came alive. We look forward to our visit to Torquay this year, and seeing the surroundings that formed and inspired her. 

I've dallied with the idea of making a second blog, one devoted solely to Agatha Christie, and linking it with Dragon Cache. There I could post my plans, my thoughts, my reflections on Agatha Christie as we prepare for this year's journey. Of course, I could also share that portion of our England journey on that site. It's an idea; I haven't made up my mind yet. If I do so, I'll post the link on the upper right hand corner of this blog, right below Pocket Dalek, so you can easily find it.

Still, I can't help but marvel. Decades after Fawlty Towers made me wonder about Torquay, I'm finally traveling there, and doing so because of Agatha Christie's Poirot. The TV series has lasted for far longer than two seasons and a mere twelve episodes, and I've come to love even more than Fawlty Towers. Doesn't that seem just a little amazing? 

Dragon Dave

Monday, February 23, 2015

Shopping at Weasley's Wizard Wheezes

While all the shops in Diagon Alley drew our attention, one shop that we had to explore was Weasley's Wizard Wheezes. It was founded by two brothers who attended a school called Hogwarts. While one brother apparently died defending his school against evil forces threatening his school, the other runs the shop in his brother's honor, and serves new generations of Hogwarts students.

The building was packed with parents, and children and teens wearing robes and carrying wands. Perhaps they were buying all the supplies they needed before returning to Hogwarts for the second half of the school year. With products like Fainting Fancies, Exploding Bon Bons, Fizzing Whizzbees, and Nosebleed Nougat, whether or not their teachers and school administrators would have approved of all the items is another question entirely.

I'm guessing teachers would have appreciated one item though, a set of large, extendable ears. After all, students regularly claim that teachers never told them about subjects that end up on their final exams.

A staff member demonstrated this cute little toy on the counter. Being able to ride a unicycle, while balancing various objects, suggests this woman is a talented individual. But for some reason, I got the feeling that the counter attendants didn't like her.

In the end, we simply had to buy something to commemorate our trip to this colorful, fanciful store. My wife chose something called a chocolate frog. I don't know about you, but this is one time I hope that what we find inside differs from what is written on the label.

Dragon Dave

Friday, February 20, 2015

In Defense of Mr Dursley

Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much. They were the last people you'd expect to be involved in anything strange or mysterious, because they just didn't hold with such nonsense.
--the introductory paragraph in J. K. Rowling's novel Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

I don't know what delights you might discover when reading a book by Gilderoy Lockhart, but delving into J. K. Rowling's first novel, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, offers delights for anyone who has only seen the movie adaptation. One of those is an enhanced understanding of Harry's uncle, Mr. Dursley. 

The Dursleys have everything in life they want, and this is largely because of Mr. Dursley's hard work. He not only works for a company that makes drills, but has made his way to the top office as the company director. He's made his reputation, and doesn't want anything to damage how others perceive him. The one thing that could do that is if his coworkers and neighbors learned that his wife's sister is a witch. And that's just what he and his wife come to fear, when a baby is left on their doorstep.

The baby's name? That of their infant nephew, Harry Potter.

Now we tend to think of witches as being fun and cool in Harry Potter's world, but society has a long history of demonizing things it doesn't understand. The history of witch trials and witch-burnings is hardly a tribute to ordinary people's ability to accept others who live a life different from theirs. Mr. Dursley and his wife thus shine a light on our own limitations to accept change. Whether you label yourself a conservative, a moderate, or a liberal, in any aspect of your life (your political outlook, your religious beliefs, your views on society at large), there are areas in which you are liable to be adaptable, and places where you simply cannot bend. 

Mr. Dursley is one of us. He's just like us. The problem is that he's too much like us. So he comes off as one dimensional. We laugh at him, we make fun of him, we deride him. The problem is that we are the hypocrites, not Mr. Dursley. We want to believe that we're better than him. And maybe we are in some ways. But when the owls start to appear, delivering invitations for Harry to join Hogwarts, he can no longer hide from the truth: Harry is destined to become a wizard.

And everyone in the world will know that he raised the boy!

In time, this fear will give way to cruelty, and it's true: there's simply no excuse for the way Mr. Dursley treats Harry. He houses the growing boy in a cupboard under the stairs, he makes Harry into the family servant, he never celebrates Harry's birthday but lavishes untold gifts upon his biological son. But inside Mr. Dursley, there's a good person yearning to get out. He wants to treat Harry well. I believe he wants to lavish gifts upon Harry, and proudly show him off to everyone as his own son. The problem is that Harry keeps on exhibiting signs of a magical nature. I think Mr. Dursley honestly believes that if he keeps on repressing the boy's magical instincts, and plowing on with his own version of Tough Love, that Harry will choose to become a good, stable, conventional member of society. Just like he hopes his biological son Dudley will become. 

But then the owls start appearing, delivering invitations for Harry to join Hogwarts, and Mr. Dursley goes frantic. If only he could protect his nephew from the evil, insidious attraction of magic! Why can't the boy choose to be like everyone else? Why can't Harry embrace his ideals, and be the boy Mr. Dursley wants to love and admire?

Ultimately, Mr. Dursley reminds us of our own brittleness, of our inability to accept diversity. He reminds us how we fight against religious, political, societal, and familial change, even though we know it's inevitable. He reminds us why we argue vociferously and tirelessly how others ought to stop being different, and be more like us, the way we want them to be. And finally, he shows us how one-dimensional we appear when we refuse to accept that others are different from us, and refuse to accept their choices as just as rational (and righteous) as our own. 

But that's just me, one thing I got out of reading J. K. Rowling's novel. How do you see Mr. Dursley? Am I onto something, something real and true? Or am I merely a muddled muggle?

Dragon Dave

Thursday, February 19, 2015

A Brush with the Yeti in Flourish & Blotts

Pushing my way into the crowded store, I perused the display of books by Gilderoy Lockhart. In addition to the titles previously mentioned, Travels With Trolls sounded dangerous and exciting. (Trolls, after all, have a reputation for capturing dwarves and hobbits with the intention of eating them, in addition to attacking the students at Hogwarts in the girls' restrooms). But a sad fact of life is I can't buy, let alone hope to read, every book that intrigues me. Eventually I settled on one title in particular. It was titled Year With The Yeti.

I've long been interested in the Yeti, those hairy sentient relatives of mankind who populate the Himilayas, and may or may not be related to Bigfoot. The Second Doctor (in Doctor Who) even battled the Yeti in two adventures: "The Abominable Snowman" and "The Web of Fear." Well, I say Yeti: they were called Yeti in Doctor Who. But really, those Yeti were robots made to look like Yeti, and controlled by the Great Intelligence. Real Yeti, such as those portrayed in the semi-historical film "The Mummy: Curse of the Dragon Emperor," are more likely to help people than hurt them. Still, they like to keep to themselves. So I was curious as to how the author found the Yeti, and convinced them to let him spend a year with them. 

I picked up a copy of Year With the Yeti, and perused the travelogue. Author Gilderoy Lockhart certainly writes with style, and his adventures among those snowy mountain peaks soon captivated me. Clutching a copy to my chest, I waited in a long line to purchase it. But when I reached the counter, the sales staff claimed they didn't take credit cards. Furthermore, they refused to take my "muggle" money. 

Muggle-money? Whatever did they mean?

Eventually, they explained that this special region of Florida used its own form of money. They directed me to a currency exchange office, where a short man with sharp features exchanged what little cash we had with unfamiliar bills. But when we returned to Flourish & Botts, the staff had removed all of Mr. Lockhart's books from the shelves. Apparently, they had just learned that Mr. Lockhart's claims were false, and refused to sell us any of his books!

So it seemed I would not get to read Gilderoy Lockhart's book after all, or learn about his (supposed) adventures with the Yeti. Life sometimes thrusts a few hard knocks your way. Right then, this felt like one of them.

Dragon Dave

Related Dragon Cache entries
Mummies, Yetis, and Zombies, Oh My!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Discovering Magical Author Gilderoy Lockhart

I've always been fascinated by bookstores. So when I spotted Flourish & Blotts in Diagon Alley, I had to peer through the front window.

Inside, I saw books stacked impossibly high. The stacks swayed, like I've been told skyscrapers do, as if always on the cusp of falling to the floor. Behind them, the shelves of the bookcases were packed from floor to ceiling. I even saw a few books inside cages. These sprouted teeth from their covers, and were chained closed, as if to prevent the books from digging their gnashing teeth into a prospective reader's hands.

I found a display of books by an author named Gilderoy Lockhart especially intriguing. 

Voyages With Vampires. Holidays With Hags. Wanderings With Werewolves. Who could fail to be entranced by titles like those? Books are heavy and bulky, and with all my bookshelves at home filled to capacity, I know I've got more books than I can ever hope to read. Nor did I relish the prospect of stuffing more books (Yes, I brought some with me) into my suitcase, and worrying that it would exceed the weight limit for the plane journey home. Yet, I had to take a closer look at those books. After all, he was a popular and charismatic author, as an advertisement for his latest book attested.

Gripping the door handle, I pushed my way inside. I simply had to know more about Gilderoy Lockhart.

Dragon Dave

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Stumbling Upon Diagon Alley

The architecture along one Florida road reminded us of England. After passing several shops, we noticed people entering and leaving a break in the brick wall. Intrigued, we followed them through, and found more shops selling attractive wares. Upon questioning a passerby, we learned that this hidden marketplace was called Diagon Alley. Imagine finding such an English-looking place in Orlando! 

One structure, which seemed afflicted by Florida's famous sinkholes, was Greengotts Bank. Either that, or the weight of the dragon atop it had caused the building's support pillars to lean diagonally rather than perpendicular with the ground. 

As we wandered the cobblestone streets, pleasant aromas led us to a pub called the Leaky Cauldron. Peering inside, we saw long wooden tables, over which hung flags denoting four different Magical Houses. Their names, if I'm remembering them rightly, were Griffendoor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, and Slytherin. It was well before noon, and even if we had been ravenous, the staff had not started serving lunch yet. Still, it was hard not to linger there a few minutes, and smell all that food cooking.

Diagon Alley hosted lots of shops for local craftsmen. One that was advertised as a Farriers, yet seemed more inclined to forge weaponry and armor than shod horses, was surrounded by a crowd of people. Some of them must have been competent wizards, or at least promising students. How else could I explain how the displays shook and moved when they cast their spells?

Lingering too close to a water fountain, a stone mermaid suddenly arose, and spit a long stream of water at me! It was a cool morning in Florida, and I found the wet clothes irksome. Disinclined to linger, I wandered off, ready either to explore more of Diagon Alley, or escape it somehow, if this was the manner in which its residents chose to welcome me.

Dragon Dave

Monday, February 16, 2015

12 Grimmauld Place, Florida

One morning, during our recent vacation in Florida, my wife and I decided to take a walk. We passed the many restaurants, hotels, and shops, for which Orlando is so famous. Then we turned a corner and found ourselves on an entirely different street. Suddenly, the architecture looked completely different. The sign on the building read Grimmauld Place. I stopped outside Number 12, where I saw a curtain twitch in the second-floor window.

A strange face peered out. I waved at him and smiled. If he saw me, he returned neither gesture. 

Then a double-decker bus pulled up, and a driver waved me over. He offered to give us a lift to someplace called Diagon Alley. It sounded like an interesting place to visit.

His friend inside the vehicle was likewise warm and welcoming, and kept up the wise cracks. But then we noticed that we could only see his head, not his body. This made us anxious, so we quietly slipped off the bus, and stole away. 

It was such an attractive place, and reminded us so much of London. I would never have expected to find a street like that in Florida. But then Orlando, like London, is a magical place.

Dragon Dave

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Happy Birthday Mary Robinette Kowal

At the World Fantasy Convention held in Brighton, England in November 2013, I had the opportunity to attend a reading by Mary Robinette Kowal. She imbued her reading from her upcoming novel with personality and flair, giving each character his or her own unique voice. This novel was from a series written in the style of Jane Austen, and set in a Regency era England in which women can manipulate glamour to enhance their lives. 

As an unexpected bonus, she revealed that she was not only a fan of the TV show Doctor Who, but she inserted a cameo of the Doctor in each novel. While she didn't identify the character as such, she would typically have a scene involving a medical doctor in each book, and she would mold his speech and mannerisms around one of the incarnations of the famous Time Lord. She read us these sections of each novel, and awarded a copy of the book to the first listener to correctly identify the Doctor she was portraying. 

When she's not writing, she's making costumes, or hanging out with her friends who love dressing up in old English attire. Or she's using her old typewriters, of which she has a substantial collections. Or there's her day job, which is building puppets or holding performances. She gave us an example of her puppeteering skills with a short selection from a famous play, using a stage and figures she fashioned from the most inexpensive of materials. She held the audience in stitches, and left us wanting to read her books. (Or reread them, especially the sections that included a cameo of the Doctor).

Last Sunday was her birthday, so Happy Belated Birthday, Mary Robinette Kowal! May you continue writing, puppeteering, and entertaining us for a long time to come!

Dragon Dave

Related Dragon Cache entries
Pride and Prejudice and Magic
Pride and Prejudice and Puppets
Pride and Prejudice and Propriety
Pride and Prejudice and Plays
Pride and Prejudice and Passion

Monday, February 9, 2015

Happy Birthday Jules Verne

Eleven years ago, I watched the movie "Around the World in 80 Days" in the cinema. This comedic version featured Steve Coogan and Jackie Chan as Phileas Fogg and his valet Passepartout. In addition, it featured Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jim Broadbent, Owen and Luke Wilson, and former Python John Cleese in smaller roles. Although it performed poorly at the box office, I enjoyed it, and have watched it several times since on DVD. So when I found the novel included in this treasury of Jules Verne novels at Barnes and Noble, I wanted to see how the modern film deviated from the original story.

Surprisingly (or perhaps unsurprisingly), the modern film bares little resemblance to the novel. As I enjoyed the movie, I welcomed a chance to experience a completely different story. Gone were all the steampunk elements, as well as the slapstick comedy. All new to me were Phileas Fogg as a man of the most exacting habits, who fired his last butler for delivering his shaving water two degrees too cool. As a rich gentleman, Fogg leads an insular, scholarly life. His only contact with the outside world is his daily walk between his house and his club in London. Yet he exhibits an extraordinary knowledge of all aspects of human existence. So strong is his faith in his own deductions that, when challenged, he bets his friends that he can circumnavigate the globe in a seemingly inadequate length of time. Oh, and the amount of his wager? Only the entirety of his earthly fortune.

This volume contains a plethora of black-and-white illustrations that evoke the imagery of the late Nineteenth century. In addition to Verne's exciting prose, the artwork keeps me turning the pages. Yet I can't read the novel fast enough. Weighing in at nearly three pounds, this hardback quickly grows too heavy to hold up while laying in bed at night. So reading it is reluctantly relegated to the daytime hours, when I can carve out a little time to sit down and read a chapter or two. Still, for the price, and with the sumptuous artwork, this collection from Barnes and Noble was a real bargain. 

Only one-third of my way into the novel, it's easy to see why readers flocked to Verne's stories. Around the World in Eighty Days is just one of fifty-four novels Verne wrote in his Voyages Extraordinaires series. I'd love to think that I might be able to read them all, but life is too short to allow me to read more than a fraction of all the books that catch my interest. So for now, I'll reluctantly content myself with finishing this novel during the daytime hours, and count the minutes between each reading session.

Really, Verne's adventure story is just too much fun!!!

Yesterday was Jules Verne's 187th birthday, so Happy Birthday Jules Verne! When I join you up above the clouds, I look forward to an eternity in which I can sing majestic operas, master the harp, and read all the great books ever written. Including yours.

Dragon Dave

Friday, February 6, 2015

Sir Robert Peel & the Tamworth Manifesto

While visiting Tamworth, my wife saw this statue beside the town hall. It must have inspired her, as she photographed it. Last month, I was going through the photos stored on my computer, and in deciding whether or not to delete it, took a closer look at the inscription on the base.

The inscription reads:
Right Honorable
Sir Robert Peel, Bar.
Born Feb. 5th, 1788.
Elected in the year 1830.
Member of Parliament for
Which town he continued
To represent until his death
July 2, 1850.

Given my focus this year on celebrating authors' birthdays, you now know why I shared those photographs of Tamworth with you yesterday. Of course, Robert Peel wasn't an author, at least not an author of fiction, but while standing for election in late 1834 and early 1835, he wrote the Tamworth Manifesto. He presented it to his constituency in Tamworth, but the document garnered a momentum all its own, and was reproduced widely throughout Britain. It may not have proved as historically important as England's Magna Carta, or the United States' Declaration of Independence, but today, one hundred-and-eighty years later, the document is regarded as the foundation for the United Kingdom's present Conservative party. 

Talk about the power of the pen!

Dragon Dave

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Beautiful & Historic Tamworth

The first thing my wife and I saw when we arrived in Tamworth was its beautiful gardens. They crowned the park with their carefully manicured beauty, and brightened our spirits on an otherwise cold and rainy day.

More flowers spread out throughout the town, in raised beds, window boxes, and hanging baskets. It appeared we had arrived during the Tamworth in Bloom festival. Either that, or the banner hanging over this street merely speaks to the pride the locals take in their town. 

We had come here to visit the town's castle, and in touring that ancient building, our purpose was more than adequately served. But in walking the streets, visiting its small shops, and letting the atmosphere seep into our souls, we emerged with a love of this town in the English Midlands.

Oh yes, and a desire to someday return.

More than this historic tower, and the beautiful gardens, preserve Tamworth as a place worth remembering and protecting. There's a reason why I'm writing this blog post today, as opposed to any other. It's about a discovery I made since we visited three-and-a-half years ago, and I'll tell you all about it in tomorrow's post.

See you then.

Dragon Dave

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Jeremiah & George Lucas: Part 2

According to The Making of Star Wars by J. W. Rinzler, in earlier scripts George Lucas had introduced an elderly man, a "wizard on the side of the road, whom the hero meets on his journey. In exchange for his teachings, the old man requests payment in the form of food, which recalls [asian filmmaker Akira] Kurosawa's seven samurai who are paid with rice by farmers to protect their village." That character would go on to become Obi-Wan Kenobi, or Old Ben, as Luke Skywalker initially knows him. Might Obi-Wan, the desert hermit, who claims to have once been a Jedi Knight, share important qualities with Jewish prophet Jeremiah? 

Filmmaker George Lucas stands with actor Mark Hamill,
who portrayed the character of Luke Skywalker in "Star Wars."

In "Star Wars," the droids R2-D2 and C-3PO escape capture by Imperial forces, and flee to the desert planet Tatooine. There they meet Luke Skywalker, a young moisture farmer who dreams of being a space pilot and doing something really important and exciting with his life. Unbeknownst to him, R2-D2 is carrying plans for the Death Star, a moon-sized space station, with enough firepower to destroy an entire planet. R2-D2 want to get these plans to the Rebellion, in the hopes that a flaw or weakness can be found, and the Rebellion can use that to destroy the Death Star. And he knows just who can help him: Obi-Wan Kenobi, a former Jedi Knight, who now resides on Tatooine. So after Luke's uncle Owen buys the droids, R2-D2 suggests that he is really the property of Obi-Wan Kenobi, and he's carrying a private message just for him.

The thing is, Luke doesn't know any Obi-Wan Kenobi. He does know someone he calls Old Ben, a strange hermit who lives out by the Dune Sea. Luke refers the matter to his uncle, who dismisses the matter: Ben Kenobi isn't important, he's just a crazy old man. In any case, the message R2-D2 is carrying can't be that important: what really matters is that Luke gets those droids ready to work on the farm, so the family can reap a good harvest this season.

R2-D2 takes matters into his own proverbial hands, and sneaks out of the farm in search of this disparaged old man, in the hopes that he is the retired Jedi Knight. Luke and C-3PO find R2-D2, but are attacked by a local tribe called Sand People, and who should rescue them but old Ben Kenobi. When Luke tells the hermit about the message, Ben admits that he is Obi-Wan, and that he was once a Jedi Knight, an elite group of warrior-priests who selflessly fought for others, and always strived to retain order in the galaxy. Yet when Obi-Wan tells Luke that his father was also a Jedi Knight, Luke disregards the old man's claim. When they listen to the message, and learn the necessity of getting the Death Star plans to the Rebellion, Luke, who dreams of doing something important and exciting, refuses to get involved. Only after he realizes that Imperial soldiers are after the droids, and then rushes home--too late--to find that his aunt and uncle have been killed, does Luke acknowledge the veracity of Obi-Wan's advice, and vow to accompany him on his journey. 

When Chancelor Palpatine destroyed the Jedi Knights, and transformed the Galactic Republic into an Empire, Obi-Wan fled to the remote planet Tatooine, where he was forced to live as a hermit and change his name. Now, when events warrant his return, and the Emperor's new space station threatens to destroy any planet whose citizens show the slightest disloyalty, he realizes the time has come for his return. But he needs help, a companion to help him get R2-D2's plans to the Rebellion. He also needs a disciple, whom he can teach to become the first of a new group of Jedi Knights. So Obi-Wan sheds the mantle of secrecy that has protected him for decades, takes Luke into his confidence, and asks Luke to accompany him on this journey. Perhaps Luke might also consider becoming his disciple, and help him restart the Jedi order. And how does Luke--this young man who dreams of adventure, and doing something important with his life--respond to the truths Obi-Wan reveals, and this great offer to perform the ultimate good for the citizens of the galaxy? 

Does Obi-Wan's situation remind you of Jeremiah, or for that matter, the plight of any of the Jewish prophets? Or do I need to remind you how Han Solo, the independent space trader whom Obi-Wan and Luke meet later in their journey, continually disparages Obi-Wan, and tries to get Luke to see how crazy and unrealistic the old man is?

Dragon Dave

Monday, February 2, 2015

Jeremiah & George Lucas: Part 1

Joseph Campbell had a great dream. He yearned to study all the great literature of the ancients, those stories that had been passed down throughout the centuries, both in oral and written forms, and not lost to history. He compared all these great stories that he read, and created the philosophy of the Monomyth, or The Hero's Journey. He not only preached this philosophy to others, but he wrote about it in books such as The Hero with a Thousand Faces.

Filmmaker George Lucas & actor Mark Hamill,
who played his character Luke Skywalker,
on the cover of J. W. Rinzler's authoritative book,
The Making of Star Wars.

In the 1970s, a young filmmaker named George Lucas was writing a screenplay. He wanted to make a science fantasy to honor the epic sagas he grew up with, like Alex Raymond's Flash Gordon comic strip, and Edgar Rice Burroughs' John Carter of Mars novels. Plot wasn't that important to Lucas; what mattered was that he got the characters right. In The Making of Star Wars, author J. W. Rinzler provides an insight into Lucas' approach to writing his screenplay. 

"I spent about a year reading lots of fairy tales--and that's when it starts to move away from [asian filmmaker Akira] Kurosawa and toward Joe Campbell," Lucas says. "About the time I was doing the third draft I read The Hero with a Thousand Faces, and I started to realize I was following those rules unconsciously. So I said, "I'll make [my story] fit more into that classic mold."

A photo of Lucas' character
Luke Skywalker adorns the bottom of
Joseph Campbell's book.

Lucas went on to do just that, refining his characters and story to best embody the archetypes and structure Campbell felt crucial to his Monomyth. Needless to say, his film became one of the most successful and influential films in history. "Star Wars" has seeped into our culture, and characters like Luke Skywalker are household words around the world. So, assuming you're familiar with the film, the question becomes, if Jeremiah represents some crucial aspect of The Hero's Journey, which character in "Star Wars" might best embody the prophet Jeremiah?

Who do you think might best fulfill that role?

Dragon Dave