Communion Of Dreams


Sometimes, people impress the hell out of me.
January 21, 2012, 3:01 pm
Filed under: Art, Augmented Reality, George Lucas, Humor, movies, Science Fiction, Society, Star Wars, YouTube

I can be a bit of a curmudgeon. A grump. A misanthrope. Anyone who’s read my blog for a while knows this.

But sometimes, people impress the hell out of me. Oh, I’m not talking about the sorts of things that cause a lump in your throat. You know, self-sacrifice . . . being kind to strangers . . . saving a defenseless animal . . . that kind of thing. No, I’m talking about how people can be remarkably creative and intelligent. Like this:

Yeah, it’s two hours long. You don’t have to watch it all at once. Just look at it in bits and pieces. It’s OK, because you know the story, and the thing was *designed* to be sampled:

In 2009, thousands of Internet users were asked to remake “Star Wars: A New Hope” into a fan film, 15 seconds at a time. Contributors were allowed to recreate scenes from Star Wars however they wanted. Within just a few months SWU grew into a wild success. The creativity that poured into the project was unimaginable.

Just watching the amazing approaches that different people took to telling each slice of the story is pretty mind-blowing. Everything from bad acting with pretty good mock-ups of the scenes, to sock puppets, to incredible animation, to re-interpretations using animals, and on and on. It’s really damned impressive.

And of course, so is the brilliance behind the idea, and seeing it to completion.

Yeah, sometimes people impress the hell out of me. I’ve been laughing my ass off watching this thing.

Jim Downey



To get your Monday started off right.

You may recall the 2001 effort to get people to register their religion as “Jedi”. Like some of the other silliness at the turn of the century, it was mostly harmless.

Well, it seems that earlier this year a couple of brothers in Wales decided to take it a step further:

Force strong for new Jedi church

Two Star Wars-loving brothers planning a Jedi church hope it will be much nearer than a galaxy far, far away.

Barney and Daniel Jones want fellow devotees to be able to join them close to their home on Anglesey.

Barney, 26 – or Master Jonba Hehol – and Daniel, 21 – Master Morda Hehol – head the UK Church of the Jedi, in honour of the film’s good knights.

And you gotta give the guys credit – they know how to keep their name in the news:

Anglesey Jedi Church announces plans for Moon colony

AN ORDER of Holyhead Jedis has begun steps to colonise the moon.

The UK Church of the Jedi, run by brothers Daniel and Barney Jones, of Holyhead, are setting up a micro nation on the moon.

They have bought a plot of land on the moon and the order plan to have a capital city and appoint worthy Jedi to positions such as Head of Galactic Affairs and Country Ambassador.

Alas, with notoriety also comes occasional tragedy:

Star Wars comes to Holyhead as Darth Vader strikes back in Jedi’s back garden

A Star Wars fan got closer to his idols than he would perhaps have liked when he was attacked in his garden by Darth Vader.

Jedi Master Jonba Hehol – known to family and friends as Barney Jones, 36, of Holyhead – was giving a TV interview in his back garden for a documentary when a man, dressed in a black bin-bag and wearing Darth Vader’s trademark shiny black helmet, leapt over his garden fence.

Wielding a metal crutch – his lightsaber presumably being in for repairs – the Sith Lord proceeded to lay about his opponent, whose Jedi powers proved inadequate for the task of defending himself.

After besting Master Hehol in single combat, Vader, who The Sun reports was under the influence of alcohol, went on to assault the camera crew and a hairdresser.

It’s always something.

Jim Downey

(Via MeFi.  Cross posted to UTI.)



Weirdly . . .
November 20, 2007, 7:12 am
Filed under: Comics, Darths & Droids, George Lucas, Humor, movies, Music, Science Fiction, Star Wars, YouTube

In response to my last post on Friday before skipping town for a few days, a friend reminded me of this Weird Al Yankovic version of American Pie:

What adds a bit to the weirdness is that one of the people I was visiting with this past weekend was from Clear Lake, Iowa and hence is more than a little sick of American Pie, and the song was the topic of considerable conversation and humor. Having this version pop into my inbox this morning was more than a little serendipitous.

Anyway, while I usually only enjoy Weird Al in somewhat small doses, I do respect his particular variety of genius, and this is a good example of just what he is capable of. Enjoy!

Jim Downey



The Phantasmal Malevolence

As Shamus Young, of “DM of the Ringssaid:

Also, for those people who suggested that I should take on the Star Wars movies next, I’m happy to report that someone has stepped up to the challenge. David Morgan-Mar, the guy behind Irregular Webcomic is now working on Darths & Droids, a send-up of Phantom Menace. According to the site, it’s going to be a collaboration between six or seven people? Wow. I was barely able to get along with myself during the run of DMotR, so I don’t know how that’s going to work. Still, I wish them luck. They’re off to a good start.

Indeed they are. The humor has a different flavor, and there’s a bit more rationalization about what they’re doing, but this has promise. Since they’re only 23 strips into the project (at this point), you can start now and follow along. Working within the limitations of what Lucas created with the Star Wars franchise, there is still a lot of material which will lend itself to this kind of interpretation. So we’ll see.

Jim Downey



The Future Ain’t What it Used to Be.

I should pay more attention to the latest trends in SF.

Via MetaFilter, I came across something which I hadn’t heard about previously: Mundane Science Fiction. It’s a movement which can basically be summed up as “keep it real, kid.” There’s a long talk by Geoff Ryman here, which outlines his thoughts on this sub-genre and why it is superior to the more fantastic or escapist Science Fiction as seen in Star Trek, Star Wars, et cetera. It’s a thought-provoking piece, and there is a long discussion of it at the MeFi link that has a lot of interesting perspective, in and amongst the usual randomness and repetition you’ll find on any open forum.

Now, there’s a long tradition of SF writers who did more or less “hard science,” using the best scientific knowledge available and extrapolating out. Some of them were dark and moody, painting dystopian futures which nonetheless carried moral messages and interesting characters. Philip K. Dick did a lot of this, brilliantly. But even such stalwarts as Robert Heinlein and Arthur C. Clarke dealt with these limitations and futures upon occasion, though they are perhaps better known for works which might well not be included in a “Mundane” canon.

Recently, there was a review of Communion of Dreams in which I was taken somewhat to task over an unrealistic time-frame for the book. My response:

…but it isn’t what I was doing with CoD. I specify early on that the novel is set in an alternate future for us, which branches off starting in 2000. And I wanted to write about what we could really accomplish if things went . . . differently. Somewhat how I see this is by looking back 50 years, to the hopes and dreams at the very start of the space age, and how things have actually turned out to be both more amazing and yet more pedestrian than the people of that time expected. We’ve got tech that those people never dreamed of . . . and yet we don’t have flying cars, or real space colonies, et cetera.

So, yeah, CoD isn’t realistic in the sense you say – but it was meant to be a glimpse into what might be possible, just maybe, if things were to be tweaked just so.

I’ve mentioned previously that I am a fan of the Paleo-Future blog, because I think that it is insightful to look at how people see the future before them. As with almost any other kind of literature or art, it reflects current expectations and values of the culture which produced it (to a greater or lesser degree – there will always be some variation due to the individual author or artist who created that piece). With Communion, I wanted to capture something of the early optimism of the 1950’s . . . balanced with something of the grim futurism I grew up with in the 70’s (think Soylent Green or Blade Runner).

I will be the first to admit that it is an odd mix. Why? Because I think that eventually, we will triumph over the adversity we face, that we will progress and evolve though that will come at a price. This isn’t just the basis for the setting of the book, it is also the narrative structure.

And to that end, I tried with Communion to keep the science solid, insofar as possible, while sticking with the SF trope of “how does a new invention change or challenge the characters in the story?” [mild spoiler alert] The operative element in Communion isn’t the alien artifact – the operative element is the new understanding of physics attributed to Stephen Hawking, which makes it *possible* for the discovery of the artifact as well as the revelations of what it means. That’s why I named the experimental ship after Hawking – it is a point back to the real prime mover of the whole plot: knowledge. It may not be obvious to the reader at first, but I think that if you consider it, you will see that the whole book revolves around this simple idea: knowledge changes our understanding of who we are.

Curiously, someone might well place Communion within the Mundane SF school, if the definitions were allowed to be a bit expansive. For me, I see it both literally and figuratively as a bridge between that school and the more ‘escapist’ or ‘outlandish’ or ‘unrealistic’ Science Fiction of Star Trek, Star Wars, and so on. I start with about as grim and mundane a future as you might imagine, then open up the possibilities once again to include aliens and psychic abilities, starships and ansibles, and leaving the reader (hopefully) hopeful.

Jim Downey



Seth would certainly do better.

In George Lucas’ first full-length movie, THX-1138, there is a religion-substitute which is actually a simple ‘expert system’/artificial intelligence. It isn’t very bright, but then the role that it plays in the movie is meant to reflect that the doped-up people aren’t very quick on the uptake, either. Not knowing Lucas’ views on religion, I just assume that it was a comment about the role that ‘God’ plays in society.

Anyway, via MeFi today comes a link to iGod. And I swear, the thing is straight out of THX-1138, without the little ‘confessional’. You can have some pretty funny conversations with it, but it isn’t going to fool anyone over the age of about five that it is a real person, let alone “God”.

Seth would certainly do better. But then, at the end of Communion of Dreams, he has actually achieved something akin to godhood…

Jim Downey