Thursday, September 30, 2010

Discovering the Star Wars Expanded Universe

Alright, I don't know if I've actually mentioned this yet, but I absolutely LOVE Star Wars.  I hear the sizzle of a light saber and my imagination just bolts off to a galaxy far far away.  I can't help it.  It is second only to Stargate in the realm of things Cori is a huge fangirl about.

Yes, Stargate still comes first.  In fact, just so there's no question, let's go ahead and get Cori's space opera hierarchy on the record, shall we?  First to last, it goes:  Stargate, Star Wars, Firefly, Battlestar Galactica (the 21st century version), and Farscape.  Okay, have we got that out of the way?  Good.  Now, back to Star Wars. 

For the sake of clarity, when I say the Expanded Universe (or EU), I mean things that are considered officially Star Wars but not part of the main cannon, which for my purposes includes the original trilogy, the new trilogy, and Clone Wars (the movie and cartoon).  So EU would be the official novels and comic books (of which there are a LOT), and video games.  I think technically Lucas is only counting novels and comics as EU, but there is a ton of story in the video games (and many of them are getting novelization tie-ins anyway), so I consider those part of the Star Wars EU.

Now, I think it would be fair to say that I have always enjoyed Star Wars.  It was always in the background when I was a kid, I was all about Ewoks, and USA used to always show the trilogy during holidays so I caught bits and pieces of it here and there.  It wasn't until the summer before my sophomore year of high school though that I actually actively watched the entire original trilogy (which I actually did at a sleepover at a friends house--back to back--staying up to finish long after she had fallen asleep).  When I was a senior in high school the theatrical re-release of the trilogy happened, and I got to go with my friends to see all of the movies on the big screen.  Yes, they were the special editions, but I didn't know any better, so I'll have to admit that the changes Lucas made have never really annoyed me as much as they have  all of the fans who came before me.  (Though I will admit that once I was older and wiser I was very irritated that he tried to take back Han shooting first.  That is truly just an insult to the character.)

The summer after my freshman year of college, The Phantom Menace came out.  My sister (a year younger than me) had fallen in with a crowd of ultra geeky Star Wars fans (one of whom was the assistant manager at the local theater), and so they had camped out for opening day tickets (ah the days before online movie ticket sales) and they got me one too.  And you know what, I really liked Phantom Menace.  I went to see it at least five times that summer.  (Admittedly, this was partly because I often got into movies for free that summer, and I saw a lot of things multiple times, but still.)  Was it as good as any of the original films?  Hell no.  Does it hold up well under scrutiny eleven years later?  Not really.  Was it a lot of fun for a casual Star Wars fan who just wanted more of the story?  Oh heck yeah.  I also liked Attack of the Clones, which I went to see at opening with my best friend (and now husband) and our ultra-hard core Star Wars fan roommate.  Sadly, I didn't get to see Revenge of the Sith when it opened (I liked Attack of the Clones but it was a bit of a let down and some of the fervor had died), but I did get to see it in theaters and am so glad I did.  It is arguably the best of the new trilogy and damn it if isn't just a good movie.  Still not quite up to par with the original trilogy, but I don't think anything ever can be because we've all placed it on a pedestal that is too high for mere mortal filmmakers to reach anymore.

Revenge of the Sith got my excitement for the franchise back up a bit, actually.  It is what got me to start thinking about the EU.  I thought maybe I might like to give some of the novels a try.  But oh my goodness, where to start?  Seriously, next time you're in a bookstore or goofing around on Amazon, check out the Star Wars books.  There are a very very lot.  My husband suggested the logical place to start would be with the three books by Timothy Zahn that essentially stand in for episodes seven, eight, and nine (The Thrawn Trilogy).  Those would be, in order, Heir to the Empire, Dark Force Rising, and The Last Command.  So I read those books, and they were okay.  I have to admit some of the writing really took me out of the universe.  Zahn didn't quite have the world in his grasp--some things were just too close to Earth, and it felt a little like laziness on his part, given how rich this universe is, that he couldn't come up with something more Star Warsy than hot chocolate (if you've read them you probably know what I mean, if not, yes, Luke discovers that he loves hot chocolate in this series).  But the story itself was pretty compelling and it was a nice continuation of the original trilogy.  We got some closure and paths to whole new stories and adventures were opened up.  We also got some perspective on the events of the original trilogy from characters that weren't in the spotlight in the movies.  But still, I was sated.  I thought I might like to read more but didn't have enough motivation to find out which series should be my next to pick up.  At this point, I was still just a casual fan. 

And then Clone Wars came out and everything changed. I knew I had to see the movie because it came out just a few days before my birthday, a birthday which my husband and I were celebrating with a trip to my hometown, hanging out with those same friends I saw the original trilogy in theaters with.  So, on my birthday, my husband, my best friend from high school, and his daughter all went to see Clone Wars.  I think I liked it best out of anyone in the group.  It got my imagination going again.  There was a lot of negative feedback for Ahsoka Tano--but even at her whiniest moment (and remember, she's a teenage girl and a padawan being tossed at a new master who isn't really a master himself yet, just a knight) she was nowhere, and I mean NOWHERE, near as whiny as Luke Skywalker in A New Hope.  And she stepped up pretty darn quick.  Plus, I thought the baby hutt was cute.  Sue me. 

But the point is, I was quickly falling more in love with the Star Wars universe than I ever had been before.  I had dithered on getting the new trilogy on DVD but suddenly, I had to.  My husband, who had been trying to get me to see the awesomeness of PC gaming (at this point I was strictly Gamecube, Wii, and PS2 games, and really only casually), was finally able to talk me into playing Knights of The Old Republic (which was totally my gateway drug into PC gaming and I really haven't looked back).  In between KOTOR and the Clone Wars series, I was gone.  Total fangirl.  I wanted, no I needed, more.  The joy I get from dipping my toes into the Star Wars universe takes me to a happy place surpassed only by Atlantis.  And thus, I have begun my foray into the EU.  On the video game front, I have played KOTOR and its slightly less entertaining sequel, as well as, of course the Lego Star Wars games  for each of the trilogies.  My copy of the Clone Wars Lego Star Wars game, coming out next month I think, is already on preorder.  I've got quite a few console games (like The Force Unleashed) sitting in my Amazon wishlist waiting patiently for me to bring them home and give them a whirl.  I just picked up Republic Commando and will be playing it as soon as I finish my current game.  As far as comics go, I have been reading the online tie-ins to the upcoming MMO The Old Republic (set after the events of KOTOR), which I am eagerly awaiting.  For my birthday I picked up the first volume of the Legacy series, set a few generations after The Return of the Jedi.  I enjoyed that quite a bit, and will be picking up the rest of the series as my budget allows.  There's also a new series of comics called Knight Errant about to come out that I've subscribed to.

And what about the insanely massive amount of EU books I mentioned earlier?  Well, I've jumped back into those waters as well, with the Republic Commando series by Karen Traviss.  I just finished the first book, Hard Contact, a few days ago and am currently working on book two, Triple Zero.  In all honesty, everything that I've said so far was supposed to be a quick intro into my review of Hard Contact.  But it is clear that I have more than a little to say about Star Wars and the EU.  So we'll save my book review for tomorrow, and I'll wrap this up. 

You may have heard that George Lucas has recently announced his plans to re-release both trilogies (in chronological order, which I think is just a terrible idea) in 3D (which is an even worse idea) over the coming years.  This is getting him a lot of (well-deserved) flak.  But the fallout is landing on Star Wars itself as well, and that makes me more than a little sad.  Flick Filosopher, who I adore, asks in her question of the day why we keep letting Lucas make us his bitch.  And instead of focusing on why we, the fans, time and time again give Lucas money in exchange for disappointment, the comments have mostly been just remarks on how the new trilogy sucked and no one will be seeing them in 3D, and they refuse to give any more money to Lucas.  While I respect their right to these opinions, and the fact that they don't want to pay for what they perceive as crap, they are clearly in the minority--because Lucas doesn't keep messing with the original trilogy (and didn't get to make the new trilogy) because nobody went to see what he came up with.  So I suppose my point in all of this is just to say that yeah, somebody needs to love Lucas enough to tell him "no" once in a while (and actually enforce that no), but just because he's gone off the deep end, we shouldn't forget that without him, we wouldn't have this wonderful sandbox that is the Star Wars Universe to play in at all.  Right now, with the movies and the television show, along with all of the EU, Star Wars has something to offer pretty much any fan.  I, for one, will remember to thank him for that at least, while hoping he eventually realizes he's a bit too big for the sandbox and maybe he should just let the other kids play in it now. 

A few fun quick links for you folks:

Darths & Droids (A webcomic that retells the new trilogy as if it were a RPG campaign, using stills from the movies.  It is hilarious.)

The Old Republic MMO (I seriously cannot wait for this game to come out--at which point my family and friends are probably going to need to just say goodbye to me for a while.)

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Stargate Wednesday: Intervention (2.1)

Hello!  The season premiere of Stargate Universe aired last night, so today I'd like to kick off what I plan to be one of the regular "features" on this blog--my episode reaction.  I'm not a critic, and I clearly love the show, so I hesitate to call it a review, and I'd like it to be a little more than a recap--so we're going with reaction, I think.

Please note, spoilers are likely to abound.  So if that's not your bag, or if you haven't watched yet and don't want to know what happened, run away now!  (But please, bookmark this page and come back later when you've watched.)  Alright, ready?  Onward!

So, when last we left our intrepid space explorers, there was a whole lotta craziness going down on the Destiny.  The Lucian Alliance thugs had separated the civilians from the military and were about to execute said military.  Kiva, Telford, and T. J. had all been shot and were in dire straits.  Rush and Brody had sequestered themselves in an out of the way control room and were trying to regain control of the ship.  Chloe and Eli were stranded somewhere in an unexplored sector of the ship with Chloe bleeding out--and Eli had to leave her to try to open a door for Scott and Greer who are stuck on the outside of the ship.  Oh, yeah, and you know, deadly radiation from solar flares causing all kinds of interruptions in the systems, and, well, death.

So....we start with T. J.  waking up in a cabin (definitely not on Destiny) and not pregnant and panicking about that a little until she sees her baby in a crib next to her bed.  Then, in walks Caine, who we last saw left behind on the planet in the mysterious solar system in the episode Faith.  Okay, weird stuff.  Let's get back to that later though.

We find out that one of the leaders of the Lucian thugs, Varro, doesn't want to just kill off all of the crew from Earth.  He talks Generic Bad Guy into using the communication stones to swap out some of the civilians for doctors to patch up their people, and T. J., who he totally has the hots for.  The LA still thinks that Telford is on their side, so they go ahead and have him patched up too.  Commander Kiva dies and Generic Bad Guy gets all pissy and starts threatening to kill off all of the Earth crew again.  Varro convinces him to chill out and instead of killing everyone, to gate them to a planet that adorable LA Science Girl (who kind of wants to be Amy Adams), I think her name is Ginny, has found.  So the plan is, they offload all of the Earth crew, except for the doctors and Rush (who they are now searching for) and just leave them there so they can have control of the ship.

Meanwhile, on the other end of the Destiny, Scott and Greer realize they aren't going to make it to the airlock before the radiation hits again, so instead they beeline for the other side of the ship, putting it between themselves and the radiation, and once it passes, meet up with Eli back inside.  Then Chloe magically appears looking much more hale and hearty than when last we saw her.  Turns out her wound stopped bleeding all on its own (ooh, foreshadowing) and she is feeling much better now, really.  Hmm.  But, okay, let's go with that.  So Scott, Greer, Chloe, and Eli go meet up with Rush and Brody and they try to figure out what to do next.  Scott and Greer do some recon, with much use of Kinos (and hey, now the good guys can hear exactly what the LA is up to).  Oh, and at some point in this mess, Generic Bad Guy kicks Varro and his buddies off the ship as well because they are trying to find a compromise rather than just kill everyone from Earth. 

While Rush hasn't been able to regain full control of the ship, he has been able to siphon energy away from the shields--which makes everyone look at him like the crazy man he is, until he explains that this will keep them from jumping and allow them time to take care of the LA.  With the bulk of the crew off-ship, Scott and Greer decide to have Chloe and the scientists lock themselves up in hydroponics while they go and try to get the rest of their people of out the infirmary.  Then, when the next solar flare hits, bam, all of the LA is dead, and they can gate their people back in and be back on their merry way.  Sounds like a simple enough plan, right?  So of course, it all goes to hell about five minutes in.  Well, actually fifteen, I think.  But you get the picture.  Scott and Greer can't get their people back to the hydroponics lab in time, and Eli is fighting Rush on sealing them out of the lab.  Rush decides to contact Generic Bad Guy and explain that the shield isn't going to protect them from the next flare, and he can fix it, but they have to surrender first.  Generic Bad Guy doesn't want to do this, and there is much bickering, but then Ginny steps up and shoots him and says, "hey, let's be reasonable and not die, okay?" and the LA surrenders. 

Destiny calls back their people who are off-world, and now they have several LA prisoners, including Varro and Ginny, who seem to feel it would be better to work with the Earth crew because technically they are all there for the same reasons.  We get the ending montage with music.  Young finds out that T. J. survived but the baby didn't (I'm getting to that in a second, I swear) and has an appropriate scene of reflection/grief.  Chloe's wound seems to be almost completely healed and she looks a bit freaked out by that but not as surprised as you might think she would be.  And Destiny jumps to FTL and exits a short while later at the destination it was aiming for when the LA so rudely interrupted by boarding. 

So, T. J.  Okay--she wakes up in that cabin, and Caine shows up.  He tells her she is on the planet from Faith and that the aliens who made the planet brought her there because they knew that she and her baby had been shot.  We see a few of the other scientists that stayed behind on the planet as well.  Caine says that the aliens had been watching them from the moment they set foot on the planet and know everything about them (and apparently even what is happening on the ship).  Yeah, that's not creepy.  While this is all going on, we have a few shots on Destiny showing T.J.  unconscious in the infirmary.  We see Varro checking up on her and a doctor telling him that she will be fine, but they have to get the baby out now if they are to have any chance of saving it.  Later, when Scott and Greer arrive in the infirmary, Wray tells them that the baby couldn't be saved.  Meanwhile, T. J.  hangs out for a while, and then Caine drops the bomb on her.  Her daughter will be staying on the planet with Caine and the others, but she has to go back to Destiny, and she really has no choice in the matter.  She gets understandably frustrated and says she is not leaving her daughter behind.  Caine explains that because she chose to leave--even though she did it so that the others could stay--the aliens won't let her stay on the planet.  Her baby can stay because it's the only way for the child to survive, but she has to go.  He shows her a glowy light show in the sky that looks like the planet is very close to a nebula or something (and wasn't there the last time she was on the planet).  Caine tells her it showed up in the sky the same time she showed up on the planet.  When she wakes up on Destiny, she asks Wray how long she was off the ship and is told she never left.  Later, she is up and walking around and sees that the new solar system they have arrived in has the same glowy light show that the planet in her dream/vision/whatever had.   

Okay, so that was a lot of stuff to happen in one episode--though to wrap up all of the stories left hanging in the season finale, it is not really surprising.  Overall, I really really really liked this episode.  It set up nicely that some of the LA at least are willing to work with the Earth crew, while showing that Young is going to take a while before he even thinks about trusting any of them.  That should make for some interesting stories this season.  I would have been more annoyed about Chloe's miraculous healing if all of the previews for this season hadn't already shown us that she's going to be undergoing some changes in the coming weeks.  And the call back to it at the end of the episode helped set it up as a new mystery to be examined rather than a random unexplained happenstance.  As far as the T. J.  thing, I am not sure what I think about that.  I get that they couldn't keep the baby on the ship.  The vast majority of television writers are not equipped to properly handle that kind of story, and the fanbase of Stargate would not deal well with the baby just kind of being pushed to the side without any explanation of how T. J. was raising her on board the ship.  So, the obvious answer is to have her lose the baby in the invasion.  Which sucks, royally, but gives her a chance for some interesting character growth, certainly.  But the whole, well, maybe the baby is alive on that planet because of those mysterious alien things scenario is just weird.  At best, they are setting it up for T. J. to go absolutely batshit this season, or at least make the crew think she has.  I reserve judgment about this whole thing until I see how it unfolds a little more, I think.  But overall, great episode.  I can't wait for next week.

And that's all I've really got.  This far into the season I don't have any real predictions for what was set up in this episode.  All I can really say is that I can't wait until next Tuesday!  So, what did you guys think?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Huzzah For New Stargate!

If you haven't figured out already, I am a HUGE Stargate fan.  While Stargate Atlantis will always be nearest and dearest to my heart, I truly do enjoy the entire franchise.  I have particularly been enjoying Stargate Universe, which kicks off its second season tonight, picking up right where the crazy season one cliffhanger (of course) finale left off.  Though the survival of most of the characters seems more or less guaranteed, I am still eager to see exactly how that survival is achieved, and what will transpire next.

Gateworld posted a great article last week to help get people pumped up for the new season.  It is a very good read.  Check it out here.

In other news, Tuesday truly is my favorite day of the week.  Largely because it is new DVD day (and new CD and video game and book day), but also because of television related things as well.  While I didn't get any new DVDs today (I have had to cut back substantially since Baby Girl's arrival, but thank goodness for Netflix), I did get my paperback copy of Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book.  I am very excited about this one.  Should be a fun read, I hope, and one that Baby Girl will enjoy down the road--it's a Newberry winner so definitely one that will get read to her.  I also got four boxes of tea (2 of Chai, 1 of Earl Grey, and 1 of Ancient Cherry Green Tea) along with a super spiffy made for tea travel mug.  Good times.

And then, if that wasn't enough, Tuesday also means new episodes of The Guild!!  Are you watching this?  You totally should be!  These people are so socially awkward they make me feel like a social butterfly, and that is seriously saying something.  Here's this week's episode, enjoy. 

Well, it's Jeopardy! time, so I need to skedaddle.  I will leave you with this final piece of joy.

More LOLcats can be found here. 

 Where is this kitty when you need him, huh?  Happy Tuesday folks.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Romeo and Juliet, Tristan and Isolde, Anakin and Padme...

Can I just say how happy I am that Chuck is back?  Back and nerdier than ever, from the looks of things.  I am loving it.

Anyhoo, I will close out this Monday with links to a few awesome things I stumbled across today.  Enjoy.
The U.N.  doesn't seem to think alien contact is likely any time soon.  (Which is a shame, I'd have to say.)

Irrefutable proof that Wil Wheaton is awesome.   (As if we needed any more.)

And that is all folks.  Onward toward Tuesday!

Three Out of Four

The Rush concert last night was amazing.  They did play The Spirit of Radio, Tom Sawyer, and Workin' Them Angels, but not Roll the Bones.  Still, not too shabby.  Although, it is not a surprise, I was kind of sad that they have updated their little intro skits and background videos for the new Time Machine tour.  What they've got now is pretty amusing and in some places downright cool, but I miss the dragon from the Rio tour and the South Park intro to Tom Sawyer.  Oh well, change is a fact of life, I suppose I had better get used to it, eh?

Baby Girl keeps herself entertained.

The best part about the show, however, was how amazingly well behaved my daughter was.  She truly is a very mild-mannered and pleasant child to be around most of the time, but last night she just went above and beyond.  She danced and played all during the first set and, though she was clearly starting to get sleepy, just sat and observed during the second.  The people sitting to the left of us commented on her good behavior and mentioned that they have an 11 month old at home (Baby Girl is 13 months).  When other parents are impressed, I definitely take that as a compliment to my child.  While Hubby and I couldn't make ourselves shell out $80 for the truly awesome hoodie, I will consider the $5 for two glow sticks an incredibly sound investment considering how much fun Baby Girl had with them.  We also got many approving comments for "starting her out young." 

And yes, for anyone curious, they did open up the second set by playing the entire Moving Pictures album.  I love this band. 

The only downside of the adventure?  Traffic, of course.  It wasn't terribly bad getting in, despite the fact that we were sharing parking with the State Fair patrons as well as fellow concertgoers.  But getting out, hoo boy.  We got to our car in the very back of the parking lot relatively quickly and then pulled out and got in line to exit our lane...and sat there...for forty-five minutes.  Craziness.  I was trying very hard not to be too grumpy about being out/up until one a.m., especially since, had I been at home, I would probably have been up that late playing my game, but still, it was irksome.  Totally worth it though.  All in all, I give the evening a solid A+. 

And now, it's Monday, which means Laundry Day (last load is in the wash, yay!), and I am totally zoned out, not because I'm tired (which I am), but because the change in the weather (it is quite lovely out) has resulted in a very unpleasant sinus headache.  Sigh.  Ah Fall, you have arrived.  I caved and turned the AC off this morning, so that means it will probably be 100 degrees again next week.  Better enjoy it while it lasts, then.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Getting Started

Well, I've finally decided to jump back into the world of blogging.  Instead of compartmentalizing my life (one blog just about television and movies, one blog just about crochet), I've decided to talk about it all in one central blog.  So this blog will (hopefully) be a little bit of everything--my thoughts on what I'm watching or what's coming up, my frustration at whatever video game I am currently playing, links to cool articles or webcomics I stumble across, stories about things that happen to me, and so on.

My husband and I are taking our daughter (who is just over 13 months old) to her first official "rock concert" tonight.  We're going to go see Rush at Center in Dallas.  It should be an interesting adventure, not to mention a fun show.  They are an amazing group to see live.  This will be my fourth or fifth time to see them, and I am pretty excited about it.  I am hoping that they play Tom Sawyer (which is probably definitely going to happen), The Spirit of Radio (also pretty likely), Roll the Bones (good possibility, I think), and Workin' Them Angels.  Other than that, I just plan to kick back, keep my daughter from wandering off, and have a good time. 

Thanks for stopping by, and please come back soon.  There's much more geekitude on the horizon!