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As Random as a game of Pazzak

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

The Force Awakens
By Joseph Tavano

It’s time to wake up.

The Force has been sleeping, and you didn’t even know it. This entire time, all that’s happened has been under the guise of a dream. The energy field that binds the universe together is about to rise from its slumber, and what happens next is the contents of a new era in Star Wars.

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Wait—how can the Force sleep?

Star Wars: The Force Awakens has the makings of the most evocative title this movie franchise has ever presented. There’s a tonal departure here that can’t be ignored. The early sci-fi, pulp-styled titles seen in the original trilogy and the prequel trilogy have shifted to something quite different. Where in the first six films, the titles have described actual characters or groups of characters, the seventh movie is decidedly taking its name from the present state of the universe and a natural phenomenon that will affect everyone. Continue reading

Star Wars: R2-D2’s Droid Workshop Review

Review: Star Wars: R2-D2’s Droid Workshop (or, Pinocchio Wishes He Were This Cool)

This happens to be my first review of a children’s book. I must also admit to feeling a tad of trepidation; I skipped that whole ‘reading children’s books’ (or indeed reading any books) as a kid, so I wasn’t sure if I would be up to it. However, my sister happens to have some small humans that she’s rearing free range: a brace of nieces and a nephew. So I thought it a brilliant idea to try this book (entitled Star Wars: R2-D2’s Droid Workshop by Egmont Publishing) on them. I know, right? Who ever had the thought of it? It’ll be the next big thing, I’m sure of it. I had in mind to sit them down to play over the weekend, only for an hour or so – it’s not that I don’t like them it’s just, well, they’re kind of annoying sometimes. We’d sit down, do all the activities, make our wee Artoo, have fun, laugh, then kindly tuck them away in a cupboard at the end of it and I’d play with Artoo on my own. However, with children (and with errant padawans if certain TV shows have taught us anything), nothing ever quite goes according to plan. If you’re reading this and have kids, or have kids in the family, I’m sure you know this feeling. If you don’t happen to have kids: you few, you happy few, you lucky sods.

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Star Wars Scrapbook: The Star Wars Holiday Special

Star Wars Scrapbook:
The Star Wars Holiday Special

When you’re a kid, people tend to believe you make exaggerated statements or confuse reality loswookieeswith imagination.  After a while, you even start believing what you thought you saw may never really have happened at all.  Maybe it was a dream.  Maybe it was wishful thinking.  Maybe it was a combination of memories cobbled together.  For years, I had been convinced that my memories of seeing Chewbacca’s family, a holographic circus, more zany aliens in the cantina, and a stormtrooper tearing the head off stuffed toy bantha were “something out of a dream.”  But they were real.  And now, they’re in my Star Wars Scrapbook.

Being the youngest of three children, I rarely had the opportunity to choose TV channels or what we were watching, but on Friday, November 17, 1978, I was the only kid at home.  My brother and sister must have been staying over at friends’ houses, or maybe they were at the movies, but as Dad was flipping through the channels, he saw Wookiees on the screen and called me to see if I wanted to watch Star Wars on TV.  For nearly two hours, I was glued to the television, amazed that my favorite characters were in a new movie.  Undoubtedly, I watched the whole thing, because when I finally got a copy of The Star Wars Holiday Special more than twenty years later, I remembered every scene (though some of them had become funny for entirely different reasons).  Since my first Life Day in 1978, I have had an odd affinity for the campy combination of ‘70s comedy shows and the space opera that some would like to imagine never happened.  A good portion of my love for the show probably has to do with my history of hunting down the elusive television program no one seemed to have seen.

In first grade, lunchroom and playground conversation often centered around Star Wars.  Whether we were reenacting scenes from the movie, playing with our Kenner toys, or just wondering if they would really make another Star Wars movie, one of the most popular subjects in school was Star Wars.  That being the case, it was rather strange that no one in my class seemed to have known about the Holiday Special.  After talking to a few of my friends, I discovered that none of them could relate to my story about the Wookiee boy’s little lost bantha cub and the evil Stormtrooper who tore up his toy.  Over the next few years, I gave up trying to remind people of the Star Wars Wookiees movie they never saw.  Having had no luck finding anyone who had seen or even heard of the Holiday Special, I began to think I had retroactively mixed up The Wookiee Storybook from our school library with cut scenes from the Making of Star Wars special I had seen on TV.  I left elementary school with no expectation of finding another soul who remembered the elusive Holiday Special along with all our doubts that we would ever see another Star Wars movie.

As I entered middle school, rumors about a prequel trilogy or a far, future sequel trilogy continued to come up in conversations.  All Star Wars discussions centered around what might happen in those movies.  I had all but forgotten that quirky special all those years ago.  That is, until the new Droids cartoon featured Boba Fett in the style of his original appearance in the Holiday Special.  Seeing the bounty hunter in action again led me to ask all my new friends if they had seen or heard about a Christmas special with Wookiees and the Boba Fett cartoon.  No one had seen it, but at least one guy had heard about it.  He had heard his older brother’s friend talking about The Star Wars Holiday Special.  He had no idea who the friend was, however.  This minor setback was nothing compared to the excitement of finding news of someone else remembering this obscure show.  At last my memories would be proven true!

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It wasn’t until my senior year that I found out who the mysterious friend was.  He was my brother’s age and was working at Camelot Music in the mall.  One evening, as I was talking to him about the possibility of prequels (which he said would never happen), he mentioned the Holiday Special.  Once I clarified that he was talking about the one with the Wookiees, I asked if he had a copy.  Not only did he say he didn’t have one, but he said it wasn’t even worth watching.  After my brief defense of the show (based on my eleven year-old memories), he promised to get me a copy from some friends in England.  I’m still waiting on that copy.

Years later, when the World Wide Web was being spun by grid spiders in cyberspace, I started starwarsholidayspecial-harveykormanfinding more evidence and information about The Star Wars Holiday Special.  Harvey Korman was one of the guest stars.  Since my family watched The Carol Burnett Show regularly with Harvey Korman and Tim Conway, I was looking forward to seeing what role he had played in the Holiday Special.  I found some people on the Bulletin Boards complaining about the lack of subtitles for the Wookiee segments of the show, but I couldn’t recallr that being a problem.  As the Internet grew, I sought out pictures, sounds, and video clips of the Holiday Special periodically, eventually leading me to discover The Star Wars Holiday Special website by SKot Kirkwood.  It contained all kinds of information that pushed me to locate my own video copy through eBay.  When it arrived, it wasn’t in very good condition, but I was committed to watching the whole thing through.  Elation gave way to frustration when the DVD malfunctioned about forty minutes into the show.

Unfazed, I got back online, found another seller, and got a better copy of the Holiday Special.

Was it worth watching?  Of course.  It was almost exactly as I remembered it — yet without the commercial breaks.  The comedy was classic ‘70s.  The music was retro synth pop.  The Boba Fett cartoon was amazing.  The tragic case of the toy bantha brought a tear to my eye.  In fact, the only disappointment in the whole show was Itchy’s excitement about the mind evaporator he received from Trader Dann.

For me, The Star Wars Holiday Special is not simply a TV special or Star Wars collectible.  It is a cherished evening of my youth, a vindication of my memories, a completed quest, and has now become an annual celebration with my family each November.  The Star Wars Holiday Special is something I’ll always keep in my Star Wars Scrapbook.

(You can hear the TechnoRetro Dads’ 2014 tribute to the Holiday Special with a special Life Day wish from The Star Wars Report here!)

- shazbazzar

Rhode Island Comic Con

2014 Rhode Island Comic Con
by Joseph Tavano

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The last time I attended a comic book convention was 1993. It was in the large conference room of a Marriott on the outskirts of town, and there were roughly 20 vendors from all over New England selling hard-to-find action figures, bootleg concert cassettes, VHS tapes of first generation Star Trek episodes, and long-boxes of comics as far as the eye could see. This monthly slice of heaven was free to all who could find it and pretty much the greatest thing my 13 year-old eyes ever gazed upon. My Dad would drive my friend and me to the “comic con” and set me loose among the stacks and tables to burn through the $20 I earned washing refrigerated trucks from his friend’s Italian sausage business.

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