Why I Troop

This question has come up a couple of times, and I’ve been thinking over the reasons for why I’ve been trooping for the past couple of years. To fully comprehend it, I’ve been trying to think about my entry to the 501st in context, which pulls into a larger arena, why I’m a geek in the first place, and how it’s largely affected me over the years.
Thinking quickly, it’s easy to remember when I first saw the Star Wars movies, back in 1997. I think that I was aware of Star Wars, although I didn’t know anything about it, but I do remember hearing the Imperial March on the radio when the announcer was talking about the release of the Special Editions. Shortly thereafter, my father took me out to see the first film. He’s recounted the story so many times that I remember how it goes:

Dad: Do you think Andy will want to see Star Wars?
Mom: Maybe. If he gets scared, you can always take him out.

I was excited to be going, I remember that much, and I remember walking into the theater and wanting to go see The Empire Strikes Back, but fortunately, we saw A New Hope. Scared, I was not. Dad later said that he didn’t think that I blinked once during the entire movie; that I was completely drawn in by what was happening on screen. Every now and then, I remember the feeling of seeing the movie for the first time. After the film was over, we returned home, and I’m pretty sure I babbled the rest of the way home about the movie. I do, also, remember the guys in white armor, and thought that they were really cool. As the other movies came out, Dad took me, and now my brother to see both the Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. I was hooked.

This was probably the most memorable event, but thinking back, I know that there were some precursors to this. I remember being read the Merlin stories as a child, and when Mom drove us to school, we had an audio book of one of those stories called Merlin and the Dragons, that we listened to every day. I had a game boy with Zelda on it, and a couple of the computer games that I played early on were fantasy ones, King’s Quest, and one that I cannot remember for the life of me (despite my best efforts to try and find out what it is). Because of these things, I think that I had a good foundation for which to become a geek. I read obsessively throughout most of Elementary School, mostly the Hardy Boys, but some other things, including Tom Swift.

The introduction of Star Wars gave me something of a purpose towards geekdom. They opened my imagination and helped steer me to Science Fiction and full geekdom. The Star Wars books that Del Rey and Bantam published helped – they provided an outlet for my allowance, but more importantly, steered me towards more mainstream science fiction, with such authors as Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, Frank Herbert and numerous others. I began posting on internet message forums relating to Star Wars, such as theforce.net and starwarz.com. One of the highlights was going with my friend Eric to Barnes and Noble to meet Michael A. Stackpole for a book signing. I brought along 9 books, and I don’t think that we stopped pestering Mike the entire time, which I’m somewhat ashamed of doing…

I’m a self proclaimed geek, and it’s funny when some people, generally those who don’t know me, say something like “No you’re not…”. I don’t see the negative connotations that seem to be typical of geeks. My high school wasn’t an oppressive one that seems to be commonplace. I was never beaten up, although some people did make fun of me for what I was reading. I was never good at confrontation or was really that social, so that caused problems on its own, but for all intents and purposes, I was never ashamed of being a geek.

Working at Camp Abnaki helped as well. Throughout high school and middle school, I was very shy and withdrawn, quick to take offense and not a very social person. Camp helped teach me to be me, and introduced me to several people whom I consider friends to this day. One of them, Sam, was like me, and very into Dungeons and Dragons, and introduced me to the game, which became a dominant feature of camp life for all of us. Over that summer, I also saw Titan AE, which helped keep conversations going about all sorts of geeky things. This would continue over the 7 years that I worked there.

The 501st comes in when I reached my senior year and we played Star Wars in band. This was most likely the culmination of about 5 years of pestering Mr. Rivers to play the music, and it played off very well, and I was excited, but I wanted to make it memorable. I knew about the 501st, although I didn’t know too much about them. Once we knew when the concert was happening, I contacted them through their website, and for the concert, we had a trooper come up.

I was over the moon about this. It was the first time that I had seen one of the legendary 501st members up close and in person, and I knew right then, that I wanted to get a set of the armor. The trooper, Scott Allen, TK-0413, was very helpful. For the concert, he marched down the aisle to Imperial March, bringing the crowd to an uproar. Scott told me that he would be able to get me armor, and was highly encouraging. The price was too steep at the time, but over the summer, when I got a raise of about $800 due to a clerical error (my initial contract was about $800 too low), I knew exactly where that money was going. Check was mailed off, and several weeks later, a couple days after camp was over, I received my armor.

This was also around the same time that I started working for a website, The Unofficial Clone Wars Site, which helped me get in touch with numerous authors and artists, as well as giving me an outlet to write about Star Wars and the Clone Wars. To some extent, it was a prominent place in the Star Wars fan community, which was interesting, and my interviews (without trying to sound arrogant about this) helped put the site on the map. I ‘met’ Karen Traviss, Aaron Allston, Troy Denning, Jan Duursema, John Ostrander, Matthew Stover, and numerous other authors and artists during this time.

For me, this was a kid in the candy store. Building the armor was a little daunting, but I don’t think that I slept at all that night, and by the morning, it was fully assembled. Looking back, I should have spend more time on this, actually gone out and bought new Velcro, sanded the seams, etc. But at that point, it didn’t matter, because I was a storm trooper – it was a dream that I’d had for years, and it had come to life. Right away, I signed up for the 501st, and was accepted in late 2003 or early 2004. I can’t remember exactly, but it was after Halloween.

Because of my location, I had a hard time getting to events, and my first troop was in may of 2005, where I attended Celebration 3. I was in armor each day for the long weekend, and met a lot of 501st members while I was there, as well as some other people whom I still keep in touch with. It made me excited about Star Wars, and the upcoming movie, and shortly thereafter, I trooped the Revenge of the Sith opening in armor, which was exciting, even though I was the only trooper there. I even made the front page.

After that, I took a break. College took up much of my time, and looking back, there were some tensions in my garrison, and it wasn’t anything I could do anything about, so I essentially went on inactive status, checking in every now and again. During college, I wore my armor a couple of times, at camp and on campus, but I’m sad to say that I almost lost interest in the 501st. I had some other things to occupy my time, and being in Vermont, it was hard to stay involved, especially without money and without a car. I read and breathed Science Fiction though, through books and movies.

I got back into the fold at the end of 2007 with the Woburn Parade, and that’s when everything really clicked. Up until that point, I didn’t really comprehend the 501st – to me, I was part of it, but isolated. Now, however, I could become involved. At C3, I picked up on some of this. Here, outside of a geeky environment, I could see how kids lit up when they saw a bunch of Storm Troopers and a Vader. And at Woburn, I rejoined the garrison, and was welcomed back, which was a really great thing, because I’d been away for so long.

Since then, I’ve remained involved and really gotten into trooping. This brings me full circle to why I troop, and why I am a geek. I do it because of the community of like minded people around me, and because it’s the perfect outlet to make a different. When I put my helmet on, I become a storm trooper, and to children, who need this sort of inspiration and entertainment, love being able to see something that they’ve seen on the screen in real life. I can’t begin to imagine the number of times I’ve seen a child’s face light up with wonder and excitement when I’ve come out and given them a high five or shook their hand. It’s those small things that really can lift my day and remind me why I keep doing this.

Beyond that, I like the group of people that I’ve found with the 501st. Generally, we’re an accepting, friendly bunch of people who share a number of common interests, and who I can rely on when I have problems or something along those lines. Among my travels to Utah, New York City and Connecticut, where I met up with other troopers from other garrisons, I’ve met some of the most incredible people. I’m regretting that I never looked up anyone while I was in London, because it would have been really helped at times. Next time, I guess.

The moment that I really remember was on the last day of Celebration 3. I was walking along a hallway, when I came across a young mother with a 3 or 4 year old daughter. The girl was sleeping, but the woman came up to me and asked: “Can my daughter shoot you?” Odd request, but I stopped, and the mother gave her daughter a hasboro E-11 that was almost as big as she was. He aimed it at me and had a huge smile on her face. I could tell that for a second, she was princess Leia in the movie, and I just know I made her day.

Review: The Clone Wars


[This review contains spoilers for The Clone Wars]


Earlier this year, the Star Wars Lit community was abuzz with the news of a couple of things – that there was an untitled Karen Traviss novel coming, and that there was a Clone Wars movie coming out. A couple of months ago, fans learned that they were both connected, as Karen turned out to have been writing the novelization.
The release of The Clone Wars brings about the first book released in the time frame since Traviss’s last Republic Commando novel, True Colors, which was released last year, and once again shows that Traviss is one of the better writers for the Clone Wars.

This novelization isn’t the best work that Karen has released. The book is a very short one, and plotwise, has a bit to be desired. In a nutshell, the Seperatists have kidnapped the son of Jabba the Hutt, hoping to anger the Hutts enough to ensure that the Republic can’t utilize their space lanes.

The book is rife with action, which is Karen’s strong point, especially when it comes to Clones. the main characters are introduced with a battle, where Karen puts her expertise gained from the Republic Commando books. What I really enjoyed was seeing an author put a level of military realism to this – the Clones talk and act like soldiers.

Karen leaves a lot of nods to the 501st, helping to further explain the role of Vader’s fist, the battalion seen in Revenge of the Sith, named for the 501st Legion. One of the more interesting characters in the book is Captain Rex, whom a number of Legion members are building in anticipation of the film’s release. Karen pushed these guys to a particular prominence in the book, which is a great nod to the group, of which, she’s an honorary member. There weren’t any mentions of Republic Commandos, which surprised me a little.

The plot of the book leaves more to be desired beyond the military sections. There are some interesting political ideas here, but the idea that the Republic would send two of their most highly regarded Jedi after a Huttling is somewhat ridiculous. While this is addressed somewhat at points, I found it hard to believe.

More so, I found the notion that the Hutts, or more particularly, Jabba, would completely base foreign policy on a kidnapped child a ridiculous notion. Granted, this is a novelization based off of an animated movie, so expecting something on the level of Karen’s other books or other Clone Wars novels such as Shatterpoint is somewhat expected.

Unfortunately, the book is short, clocking in at around 250 pages, taking me a total of five or so hours to read. Fortunately, Del Rey seems to have realized this, and as a result, I only paid $12 for the book (yay for a 40% discount at Borders).

Overall, this is a decent enough read, despite the fact that it is short and not as good as her other books. However, with four more books to go in the series, there’s plenty of room for more improvement and Clone action.

7/10

Sigh, More Fanboys Drama

Sometimes, I think that the internet is a wonderful tool. Other times, it seems to really bring people out of the woodwork. Not since the release of the new Battlestar Galactica have I seen so much pent-up drama and somewhat misguided angst over a film.

For those of you who don’t know, the upcoming movie Fanboys is about a small group of fans who go out to Skywalker Ranch to steal a print of the upcoming Phantom Menace. In version A, they steal the movie to show a dying friend, aka the Cancer Subplot. Version B, no mention of cancer, the guys just steal the movie because they want to see it first. There’s been a bit of teetering about which version would be released, and it’s seeming like Version B will be released to theaters.

Okay. Take a breath. I was looking forwards to the Version A, because it does have that heart and moral point that would set this film apart from other comedies that are out there. Granted, there’s nothing in the trailer that shows the Version A, and the trailer alone is pretty funny, so I think that regardless, we’re going to get a pretty funny, if somewhat more mindless movie, which is fine – I go to a comedy to laugh, not necessarily for a profoundly interesting story.

Now, where the 501st comes in. They were in the movie – The Dunes Sea Garrison was part of the film, and they supplied some props for the film. This is pretty cool, to get some troopers on the big screen. We also got reined into this when someone started bandying our name around when they started a web-based protest against the film, the Stop Darth Weinstein movement. Or myspace.

We sent them off an e-mail about their use of our name and logo, because as a legion, we don’t have a stance on the film yet. And while members have a range of opinions, using our name in that way paints our whole group in a bad light, something that we really don’t want.

To me, the SDW group is really overreacting and injecting a whole lot more drama into a situation that really doesn’t warrant it. While it’s a little redundant to say “It’s just a movie”, we are all movie fans here, and Star Wars is something that a lot of us have gotten emotionally attached to. Fanboys, a film that hasn’t even been released yet, isn’t something to get attached to.

I’m going to address some points from their blog;

The thing that people have to remember is that this is a movie – it’s a product that’s designed to bring in more money than it cost to make. End of story. Weinstein’s is in the business to make money, and then continue to make more movies. It’s senseless to boycott a movie that they’re going to try and open up to a larger audience, which seems to be the case there. The original film was a Star Wars fan film, and the current director was a Star Wars fan, but this film wasn’t made simply because a couple of Star Wars fans got together and into the same room.

“Last summer, the director, Kyle Newman, screened his rough cut of Fanboys for the fans at the Star Wars Celebrations in both Los Angeles and London. It received several standing ovations at both screenings. The creators of this website are fans just like you, and were at those screenings. We witnessed the audience reaction ourselves! Everyone in attendance absolutely loved the movie! Fanboys is like Stand By Me for Star Wars fans. It is the ultimate Star Wars fan film!”

Of course is recieved a standing ovation, you idiot. You’re at a Star Wars convention – you’re going to have an audience there that’s going to absolutely love anything that has any remote connection to Star Wars. I’m sure people there loved it, and there would have been a wonderful vibe in the room – however – that’s just one part of the target audience that the film’s intended to go to.

“The head of the Weinstein Company, Harvey Weinstein, seems to think he’ll make more money if he rips the heart out of the movie and turns it into another mindless comedy. And he thinks fans like us won’t mind if he recuts FANBOYS so that it portrays Star Wars fans as idiotic criminals who would break into George Lucas’s offices just because they’re hopeless dorks.”

I’m sure that they will make more money this way. The sad reality of American entertainment is that it’s incredibly watered down. Go watch something from the UK when it comes to comedy and just see how weak some of our things are. The thing is, people here buy it. It doesn’t really matter what Star Wars fans think , really. As a group, we’re subject to all sorts of stereotypes, and this sort of protest, written out the way that it is, doesn’t help things at all. Yes, I mind that a bunch of Star Wars fans are going to be portrayed in a humorous situation because they’re geeks, but it’s nothing new, and a movie isn’t going to change that at all.

“Now that the film is finished, the Weinstein Company, the studio who controls the film, is trying to change the plot of the entire movie SO THAT IT RIDICULES STAR WARS FANS!

For some reason, Harvey “Darth” Weinstein thinks FANBOYS it will make more money of it mocks its target audience.”

I think that was sort of going to come across in the first place – you can’t have comedy without people to laugh at, and it’s going to be the guys on the screen. And, as I said before, we’re not the target audience. The broad 18-24 through late 30s crowd is probably the main target demographic, and they sure ain’t all star wars fans. And if it’s a bigger audience, it’ll make more money.

Group’s been sending out e-mails to people involved with the film, and received this one back allegedly from the director:

” I can hook you up with the facts on this one.
My only advice is don’t judge something til you have seen it. Have you seen the cancer version of this movie? I have. It is unreleaseable. It would be irresponsible to release it. The cancer is used as a convenient subplot and is actually offensive to anybody who knows anything about or has gone through cancer. Trust me. You are fighting for something that you would not be proud of. Cancer is trivialized, marginalized and reduced to the worst kind of contrivance. That is what you are fighting to see. And you will see it. At least on the dvd. And you will cringe at the bad, manipulative melodrama that goes against the true spirit of the piece.The non cancer version is true, joyful and and in no way
condescending to star wars fans. But again. You should see it. And perhaps you will. If you stop ranting about things you have not seen. You honestly remind me of the religious right condemning movies and books they haven’t seen or read, and have only been fed inflammatory facts about….usually from people with an agenda. Your precious Star Wars homage movie has been made, and has been preserved……you will see. And then you should apologize to Darth Weinstein……”

I somewhat doubt that this is actually from the director. However, it does have a couple of good points – The new version hasn’t really been seen by anyone. The Cancer one was, and it got good reviews all around. If they can eliminate the cancer plot with just a couple of re-shoots, I highly doubt that the quality of the film will be impacted that much.

Now, I’m not thrilled that Steven Brill was handed the film – from what little I’ve seen of Without A Paddle, it’s certainly lower common denominator comedy, but keep in mind that he was only brought in for the re-shoots – this isn’t something that’s likely to change the entire film from it’s original screenplay – remember, they did some re shoots, but they didn’t reshoot the entire film. This leads me to believe that we’ve got much of the original still intact.

The group’s also getting a lot of press, which is just fueling them up a bit more. Weinsteins has countered:

“We are thrilled to see all this great interest and excitement for ‘Fanboys.’ While a potential conflict like this has not occurred since Luke last walked into that bar in Tatoonie, everyone can be assured that there has been no stir in the force and the film stays on target.”

Okay, a bit mindless there, but this is generating a lot of press for the movie. The group’s claiming that 500 websites list their story. That’s going to bring more people out to the film to see what all the fuss is about. Any news is good news.

A nice thing is that a good chunk of people in the Star Wars community is concerned with the film’s status. According to a Starwars.com poll, 75% of respondents said that they knew about the drama and were concerned. A further 2 % said that they knew about the drama, but weren’t concerned. The remaining 23% didn’t know and didn’t care.

Okay:


“What do these poll results tell us (and Darth Weinstein)? Several things.

77% of the fans have been following the production of FANBOYS. The majority of the fans are interested enough in the movie to follow what’s going on with it. Star Wars fans CARE about this movie and about how they will be portrayed in it, Darth Weinstein!

And 75% of them are “pretty concerned” with the current state of the film. A whopping 2% are “not too worried.”

Someone with enough intelligence to wrap their head around these confusing numbers might get the distinct feeling that…

THE WEINSTEIN COMPANY IS ALIENATING ITS TARGET AUDIENCE!”

1 – Internet polls aren’t really that reliable. This star wars one targets only people who vist the main page, and doesn’t list the number of people who responded. Again, it’s not targeting the entire target audience, just the built-in audience. They’re annoying their built-in audience, but not alienating them. If they hired Paris Hilton, they’re be alienating their built-in audience.


“Fine, Darth Weinstein. You have officially incurred the wrath of the Rebel Alliance. Our new goal is to make sure your next release (SUPERHERO MOVIE) grosses exactly $0 on its opening weekend. On the day it opens, there will be a crowd of Star Wars fans outside every theater, urging people to go see “Run Fatboy Run” instead. That movie stars Simon Pegg – and he’s an actual Star Wars fan. Like all of us.”

This is after the Weinstein Page changed text to reflect the new version. Please, I’m sure they’re quaking in their boots. There’s no way that these guys are going to have any substantial impact on the film (although I am hoping that nobody will see it – it’s going to get slammed critically, and will probably earn a good spot on the top 10 for a week), because it’s a known formulaic comedy. It might be crap, but two protests in the US are hardly going to slow anything down.


“The Weinstein Company has ignored the vocal outcry from Star Wars fans around the globe, all demanding that they release the original version of Fanboys.


They have ignored the results of the Official Star Wars website poll which shows that 78% of the fans are following the production of Fanboys, and that an overwhelming 94% of those fans disapprove of the changes they’re making to the film!

They have ignored our pledge to boycott all Weinstein Company/Dimension films, even though our intentions have been reported in the New York Post, the Daily Telegraph, Vanity Fair, and on thousands of websites.”


Um, it was 76%, and it’s a 97% margin of respondants who are concerned. Let’s learn to use a calculator and read the polls correctly, shall we? Again, a poll like that pulls in a small number of people out of the target demographic – it can’t be construed as reliable by any stretch of the imagination. And they might have ignored the poll, so what? Honestly, this movement and your pledge aren’t really that worrisome – if anything, they’ll generate more interest in the film, which in turn means more people going to see it. You have just under 500 friends on myspace, which, at let’s say $7 a ticket = $3500 in lost revenue. Let’s count the 115 people on the facebook group as different people, and that brings up to a lost $4305. Maybe a couple hundred more in lost ticket sales to people who join on with protests. A drop in the ocean when it comes to what films take in nowadays.

Honestly, I’m just annoyed that these guys were trying to use the good name of the 501st to galvanize things. It just annoys me to no end. It seems to me that there’s a lot more productive ways to go about this.


I’m looking forwards to this film, a bit less so than before the news of the recuts, but I’m still going to see it. It’s not good to see what was a very promising and interesting cut of the film taken out, but for a film like this, it’s not really worth getting all worked up about.

The Original 6

Earlier this year, I picked up a wonderful book on the making of the first Star Wars movie – The Making Of Star Wars, by JW Rinzler. I was paging through and started looking for where they started doing things with the Storm Troopers in the film.

The first reference I came across was on page 138:

“One item that stood out, however, was the cost associated with the stormtroopers, who ran up a tab of £ 40,000 ($93,000) – and whose final outfits were still not ready a week before location shooting was to begin. ‘Stormtroopers were the nightmare costume’ Mollo explains. ‘We got a model in of suitable size, did a plaster body cast, and Liz Moore modeled the armor onto this figure. Then everybody used to go in and say, “Arm off here, arm off there,” and George changed all the kneecaps. This went on for several weeks. Finally that was all taken away and produced in vacuum-form plastic – but the next question was: how foes it all go together? And I think we had something like four days before shooting, but we just played around until we managed to string it all togetgher in such a way that you could get it on or off the block in about five minutes.’
‘On top of all this, George announced that he was going to take some Stormtroopers on location, and he wanted them in Combat Order. I said “Oh yes George, what’s combat order for Stormtroopers?” and he said “Lots of stuff on the back”. So I went into this Boy Scout shop in London and bought on of these metal backpack racks; then we took plastic seed boxes, stuck two of those together, and put four of those on the rack. Then we put a plastic drainpipe on the top, with a laboratory pipe on the side and everything was sprayed black. [laughs] This was the most amazing kind of film! George asked, “Can we get something that shows their rank?” So we took a motorcycle chest protector and put one of them on their shoulders. George said “That’s great!” We painted one orange and one black and that was it!’ Mollo concludes, happily.” (Rinzler, 138)

Reading over that, it seems that the storm trooper armor creation was very typical of the creation of the movie – very quickly done, with a lot of improvisation, all on a fairly tight budget. The price really surprised me – $93,000 for six suits is a lot of money, especially for a film that is on such a low budget.

It appears that the troopers were created by much the same way as we make them today – vacuum-formed plastic, although there also seems to have been a lot of working out how exactly the suits would be put together, and after the fact, the sand trooper variant was created almost as an afterthought, with fairly commonly found items.


The Original Six

Further on in the book, on page 147, there’s a picture of seven people – the six original storm/sandtroopers, and an unidentified person. None of the men are named. One points his gun at the camera, while the rest hold their helmets at their sides, looking at the camera. One of them is sitting on the Dewback used for the shot, looking over his shoulder at the camera. A side panel explains a little of the costuming here:

“‘We had a black all-in-one leotard for the stormtrooper costumes’ Mollo says, ‘over which the front and back of the body went together; the shoulders fit onto the body, the arms were slid on-the top arm and the bottom arm were attached with black elastic – a belt around the waist had suspender things that the legs were attached to. They wore ordinary domestic rubber gloves, with a bit of latex shoved on the front; the boots were ordinary spring-sided black boots painted white with shoe-dye. Strange to say, it worked’” (Rinzler, 147)

Indeed it did. All components that are still used today, although in some cases with the 501st, we probably use higher quality stuff – boots that are specially made, gloves, etc.

The stormtroopers aren’t really mentioned any more in the book after that point, although there are several behind the scenes images of the actors in costume, and a mention of Mark Hamil’s experiences in armor (wasn’t pleasant).

By and large, the original storm troopers were very expensive prop pieces, played by local Tunisians. It’s a pity that their names aren’t listed – it would be absolutely amazing to try and track the six men down and have them inducted into the 501st as honorary members – after all, we have them to thank for our group.

Another person who should probably be inducted into the legion would be John Mollo, the costuming designer, who took the concept images and created our suits. Mollo entered production on the movie as the department head in January of 1976 – he had been recommended to Lucas, who was looking for someone who was familiar with armor and military costuming. According to Lucas: “I wanted designs that wouldn’t stand out, which would blend in and look like they belonged there.” (111). Very true, and it worked – looking at the storm troopers in the film, and how people interact with them, it’s very clear that these are commonplace soldiers in the Empire, and that they are wearing a very functional protective suit (although naysayers will often cite how often troopers will go down with one shot. Argument for another time…) While Ralph MqQuarrie was the original designer of the look and appearance of the storm troopers, Mollo seems to be the one who brought them to life.

(Rinzler, JW. The Making of Star Wars: The Definitive Story Behind the Original Film. Ballentine Books, New York, 2007. 138)

Geek Weekend

It seems like it’s a really appropriate way to end the week – a convention. This weekend, I’m not only attending Arisia Con, a big SciFi/Fantasy convention down in Cambridge, Mass, but I’m also going to a show of Spamalot in Boston with Sam and Miranda, two good friends of mine, who, like me are very geeky.

The con and show seem like the perfect way to cap off the week, which in and of itself has had a good share of geek-related things. First up, there was the Texas UFO sightings. Extraterrestrial or not, it’s a fun news story that the media has picked up and run with.

This past week, I’ve also begun a major project with the 501st, tracking each major event and troop that will be held world-wide. It’s a small project that’s been growing each month, now to the point where I’ve put myself in contact with the heads of each garrison, as well as the PR officers. Hopefully, I’ll be e-mailed regularly with events, which I’ve started plotting on a google calendar, and from there, I’ve been reporting the events to the legion in a weekly list that covers events for the rest of the month. It’s fascinating to see what’s going on. This weekend, there’s six different events world-wide. And I’m sure that this list is going to grow as more people get back to me. Already, events are plotted all the way to December.

Back to this weekend, it’ll be great to get the armor back on with the NEG. I’ve been looking forwards to it for a while since I attended the Woburn Parade back in October. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to go to the convention in November, but I’m hoping to go to the Science Meets Imagination Opening in Penn. in February and the Boston St Patrick’s Day Parade in April. March is the scheduled release for the film Fanboys, which there’s been some talk about going to the opening in armor. Of course, there’s also been some talk about boycotts because of some recent changes that might be made to the film.

Recently, I’ve been looking at the phenomenon of fandom more and more closely. Not just Star Wars fandom, which I’m most familiar with, but with the interactions of fans and material in the Science Fiction and Fantasy realm since the mid-1920s. When I was in London, I wrote a paper on the history of fandom in the UK, and came across some really interesting things, mainly with the history of fan clubs, real grass roots stuff. And I realize, looking at my education and overall goals in life, this is the types of things that I’d love to study, research, write and teach. It’s a huge part of American, and even Western culture. Maybe someday…

My Top 10 Moments in Star Wars 2007

This has been popping up on various blogs…

10- – Clone Wars Teaser Trailer
This looks to be leaps and bounds better than the cartoons that were released earlier. I’ll reserve judgment until I hear more, but there’s potential here…

9 – Blue Harvest – The Family Guy Special
I saw the early trailer for this and almost died – Family Guy as Star Wars? Stewie as Dark Vader? Absolutely fantastic.



8- Robot Chicken Star Wars Special
Even better than the Family Guy version, this threw me on my ass laughing so hard.

7 – R2 D2 Mail Boxes & Postage Stamps
None of these made it to Vermont that I could tell, but these were really cool to see pictures of all over the place.

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6 – Death of Mara Jade
While this year was pretty lackluster for books, the Legacy series has been interesting, and this seems to have been one of the major milestones with the characters – rarely is such a well known character killed off.

5 – 501st Podcast
The 501st started with a podcast updating on events and happenings in the Legion. I’m addicted.

4 – Fanboys Trailer
A movie about fans of a movie. This one looks just amazingly funny, especially around when the guys come across a Star Trek convention and oh yeah, Kristen Bell in Slave Leia garb.

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3 – Republic Commando: True Colors
Easily the best Star Wars book of the year. Karen Traviss is back, and with an even deeper view of the Clones. And, there’s one more to go.

2 – Tournament of Roses Parade 2007
200 Canon-accurate storm troopers and officers all marching in step. Oh dear god, I wish I had been there to see that.

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1 – 30th Anniversary
Stars Wars has turned 30. And still going strong.

The Fighting 501st

Now that I am out of college and have the spare time and a full time job that pays, I’ve been able to return to an organization that I’ve really been proud to be a part of. in 2004, I joined the 501st Storm Trooper Legion and trooped with the group in 2005, for Celebration 3. But then, I was inactivated because I wasn’t able to really participate.
Last weekend, I got back into the fold with the 2007 Woburn Parade. It was a lot bigger than I expected with something like 40 people from the garrison going. I got in a lot earlier than I thought I would, around 8 am (having gotten up and left at 5:15 am). When I got there, I got an extremely warm welcome from the people who were there even earlier than I was there. For the rest of the day, it was mingling with other 501st people, as well as kids that we walked around and saw.
While down there, I realised why this is so much fun – the looks on the children’s faces when they see someone in Storm Trooper armor, or any costume from Star Wars. That makes my day every time.
The 501st is a fun organization to be a part of, mainly because it’s a chance to be a complete geek for a while, but also because of the work that we can accomplish in armor – the group does a number of charity events, usually with children’s organizations – much of this comes from our founder’s daughter, Katie Albin, who recently died last year from cancer. The group doesn’t charge for appearances, but suggests donations to such charities. Hopefully, I’ll be able to do some of the visits in the near future.