2001: A Space Odyssey

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Stanley Kubrick’s cinematic masterpiece 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY

On this episode of TRIO SIMPATICO David and Joshua are joined by returning guest DANIELLE RANDLES to discuss our recent viewing of this catalyst of science fiction film making.

During a limited re-release of the movie in select IMAX theaters we gathered a TRIO SIMPATICO contingent to take in the cosmic splendor of this Kubrick classic on the big screen!  During this episode we share our thoughts about seeing the movie in IMAX for the first time and how that experience differs from previous viewings.

But we don’t simply end our discussion there!  We also take this opportunity to talk about the little-known cinematic follow up to 2001, 1984’s 2010: THE YEAR WE MAKE CONTACT directed by Peter Hyams.  We discuss the tremendous burden of this sequel, the impossibility of matching its predecessor, and the genuinely great things about this completely different but worthy film.

Plus we touch upon the companion novels by Arthur C. Clarke, how to make the name Keir Dullea sexy, and so much MORE!  Listen HERE!


Finally! A Darth Plagueis Novel.

Yesterday I discovered that Lucas Books has finally decided to put out their long awaited Darth Plagueis novel! Check out the news and a brief outline of the novel at The Force.net.

The cover art for Star Wars: Darth Plagueis by James Luceno

This novel was originally announced shortly after the debut of Revenge of the Sith where we heard the first tantalizing mentions of this Sith lord who trained the Emperor and his brief biography. At the time I was incredibly excited by this news, I’m a sucker for the bad guys, they’re always so much more interesting then the good guys. Especially when it comes to the Jedi and the Sith. Don’t get me wrong I’m a big fan of the Jedi, Yoda, Mace Windu, Luke Skywalker, Obi-Wan, and all things Lightside are great! But we’ve seen it all before, you know? We all know how a Jedi should act. Selflessness, virtue, peace, knowledge, defense, one with nature, etc. etc. We get it. There are plenty of Jedi in the Star Wars universe and over the course of the 6 movies we get a good look at their structure, teachings, and individuals.

When it comes to the Sith however, they remain something of a mystery to us, at least in the movie universe. In the books there is quite an expanded knowledgebase about the Sith and their history, but even with that there are extensive gaps leading up to the time of the movies. The Sith are figures in Star Wars that leave something to the imagination, they are the element we don’t know enough about. When you think about it, most of the knowledge we do have about the Sith in the films is given to us by the Jedi, sworn enemies of the Sith who have spent a good portion of their history trying to erase the memory of them from the galaxy. We can assume their interpretation of the Sith is slightly skewed.

Darth Plagueis the Wise

To make a few comparisons, the Sith are the Apocrypha to the Jedi’s Bible. The heretics and Cathars to the Jedi catholic church. A feud that started as an ideological difference erupts into a full out war which results in the victor being known as “right” and the loser being known as “wrong.” From there the Jedi go on to establish themselves as philosophers and peacekeepers working with the Galactic Republic to maintain an order of light. While on the other hand the Sith, who are believed to be vanquished, must alter their strategy, work in secret and pass their teachings on in a more clandestine manner with a new motivation of total revenge against those who had tried to destroy them.

Of course I could go back and forth about this history of the Jedi and Sith but what I’m getting at is the allure of the Sith.

What draws more curiosity, an object sitting openly under a lamp, or an object hidden in shadow just out of sight? Clearly you can tell what there is with the object under the lamp, you can observe it and know something about it just by looking at it whether it interests you or not. But that hidden object has so much more appeal because you just can’t know exactly what it is until you investigate. It’s the whole idea of wrapping a present as opposed to just handing someone a gift. That element of the unknown, the mystery, it’s what gets our attention.

Long analogy, short I like the Sith because there’s just comparatively so little information about them in Star Wars lure.

The Darth Bane trilogy by Drew Karpyshyn was a good Sithy read, detailing the middle history of the Sith and how the order was reduced from an army similar to the Jedi, to the master and apprentice system we see in the movies. As interesting as that was I was still more excited about the talk of a Darth Plagueis book.  Unfortunately after Revenge of the Sith the Plagueis book was delayed in favor of several other books including a Darth Vader novel and a story about the construction of the first Death Star. Topics that had already seen several novelizations over the years. I read those books however and enjoyed them, but still anticipated the Plagueis read. Unfortunately it was eventually cancelled with no further word.

Finally yesterday, years later, I find out that it is back on! There is even a cover and a brief summary indicating that this time they mean it.

Why am I so excited for this book? Well as I said before I’m a fan of the bad guys in general and the Sith in particular. Perhaps my favorite Sith is Darth Sidious, Emperor Palpatine. And why shouldn’t he be? If you like the Sith than you’d have to love the Master who orchestrated the final destruction of the Jedi order, subverted the government that pandered to those same Jedi, and who put the Sith in sole control of the largest imperial rule the galaxy had ever seen. Sidious is the Sith Lord who brought about the endgame of a thousand years of Sith patience and planning. This is the man who worked openly among the Jedi undetected, who trained Darth Maul, and who bested Yoda in one of the most epic lightsaber duels of all time.

But who trained Darth Sidious?

Darth Plagueis the wise. If Sidious turned out to be such an evil badass, the guy who instructed him must have been fairly impressive himself. Finally we will get the chance to learn more about this mysterious penultimate Sith Master in James Luceno’s next book simply titled Darth Plagueis.

Darth Plagueis and a young Sidious

Actually James Luceno himself is another reason I’m really looking forward to this book. I love his Star Wars novels especially Cloak of Deception, Labyrinth of Evil, and Dark Lord: The Rise of Darth Vader. Luceno is a skilled and subtle author who writes the Sith and the Darkside well, not simply portraying them as evil villains who do bad purely for the sake of being evil, but actually portrays them with some depth as to why they do what they do, how they are different from the Jedi, and why they use the Force in the manner they do.  Aside from that, in my opinion Luceno is one of the few Star Wars authors who really captures the feel and scope of the Star Wars universe that we are used to in the films. He has a deep understanding of the characters, history, and setting of the Star Wars universe that really takes his books to the next level. He blends well the elements of action, politics, and philosophy that are found in Star Wars making his works more than simply “typical” sci-fi books in the guise of Star Wars novels.

James Luceno

I haven’t been keeping up with most of the new Star Wars novels, I believe the last one I read was 2009’s Death Troopers by Joe Schreiber, but with this book finally being released I again have a Star Wars novel that I’m really looking forward to.

That is all!

Masters of the Universe: Caverns of Fear

Have you ever spent hours working at something only to realize when you’re done that it was all just a waste of time?  Yeah well I just had that happen to me.  Whompers.

I was at my parent’s house the other night and I came across a cassette from a read along He-Man book entitled Masters of the Universe: Caverns of Fear.  A very compelling title to say the least.  Well anyway I had the brilliant idea of recording the tape to my computer and making a simple movie of it to post and share here on my blog, why not?  I didn’t have the book but I was able to find scans from the pages on He-Man.org and so I was set, all I needed to do was time the page images with the recorded audio and I’d be in business!  So I did that, I recorded the tracks with a little editing at the beginning and end to cut out the cassette play button noise then just added the pics and stretched them out to go in time with the narration.  Although this is all a pretty simple project it took an hour or two, I’m only working with Windows Movie Maker and it’s not the smoothest of tools.  Anyway I get it all done up, publish it, load it to YouTube no problem.  Then I decide to do a quick search to see where it would end up in the hierarchy of search terms only to find that, yep, you guessed it, there were already about three other versions of Caverns of Fear up on the site. 

Ah well just goes to show you that there are very few original thoughts.

Regardless I had a good time putting this together, looking over the pages and nostalgically reminiscing about my homemade Masters of the Universe adventures and the memories of reading this book as a kid.  At the time when He-Man and the Masters of the Universe was hitting it big (1983 or so) I was still rather young and wasn’t playing with those types of toys, but just a few years later when I was about 5, I was lucky enough to be the recipient of an entire MOTU collection including Castle Greyskull!  Some older kids who were friends of the family were getting rid of a bunch of their toys and somehow I was lucky enough to be next in line for the hand-me-downs.  I still don’t know how or why this happened, but I was of course extremely appreciative, and this encouraged me to add to the collection afterward asking for He-Man toys for all major gift giving holidays.

In my mind this was my basement playroom as a kid.


Toys have always been my thing, as a kid I loved setting up complex play landscapes in my basement with opposing bases set up across from each other composed of officially licensed toy accessories and my own homemade additions.  Filling the expanse between such fortresses were epic battlegrounds populated by vehicles, cardboard ramps, innocent bystanders (usually some other random toys who somehow became part of the storyline) and the discarded weapons, unattached arms, and other carnage one would expect to find in such an environment.  This was the case not only with my Masters of the Universe toys, but my Ninja Turtles, Transformers, Star Wars, Crash Dummies, and whatever other toys I dealt with.  However I believe I can trace it all back to He-Man and his pals and their unexpected arrival on my doorstep, it was like a real life Toy Story moment.

Ah childhood memories.  I guess it’s not really just a childhood memory, seeing as how I still collect Marvel Legends and Star Wars toys to this day, some habits die hard.  I don’t know what it is about cool action figures, but I’m a fan and they only keep getting better and cooler as time goes on!

Maybe in an upcoming blog I’ll talk about how I’ve recently discovered that I had the worst Transformers as a kid, really.  But that is a topic for another day, in the mean time take a look at my redundant video compilation of the Masters of the Universe: Caverns of Fear!  Enjoy!

A favorite Transformer of mine as a kid, though now I realize he is pretty lame as far as Transformers go.

That is all!

Star Wars Episode VII: Cry of the Fanboys

     Everyone knows I am a huge Star Wars fan.  I live and breathe Star Wars.  I know the movies by heart, I can name just about any background character in every scene, I know the comics, and I read the books.  I own the ewoks movies and have both the ewoks and droids cartoons on DVD.  I even have a bootleg of the Star Wars Holiday Special (gasp!).  It is fair to say that I have an extensive knowledge of Star Wars that goes far beyond the depth of the films alone.  I however don’t know everything.  I wouldn’t say that I am an unparalleled expert in the Star Wars mythos; doubtlessly there are many others out there who know more about the ever expanding galaxy far, far away than I do.  For instance I have not read every single book in the now extensive Star Wars library.  There are just some that don’t interest me, and it’s tough to keep up on the ones that do.

The Thrawn trilogy are some books almost all fans praise

     One of the biggest things going in Star Wars today is the Clone Wars series on Cartoon Network.  I have loved what they are doing with this show and I have really grown to enjoy the creative team that is involved in bringing this aspect of Star Wars to the small screen.  Lead by director Dave Filoni the show has only grown stronger as far as I’m concerned, in both look and story.  After a shaky start with the release of the less then stellar Clone Wars movie they have continued to surprise me with the quality and depth of the developing tone of the show. 

     The Clone Wars has really brought to light a tremendous new niche in the hefty Star Wars EU.  For those who might not know “the EU” is a term used by Star Wars fans, and others, to refer to the Expanded Universe of the franchise, i.e.; the aspects of Star Wars that are not explicitly detailed in, or are altogether separate from but remaining tied to the universe of, the Star Wars movies.  To call the movies canon and everything else EU is not exactly correct though, because every officially published Star Wars work is considered canon, though subordinate to the six movies, and the whims of George Lucas himself.  The EU started small with a few spin off movies, a run of comics, and several book trilogies and has exploded into cartoons, video games, several ongoing comic books, and hundreds of novels and reference books.  It is safe to say that today the material of the EU far outweighs that of its parent films.

The legitimacy of the canon from the Droids cartoon is on shaky ground.

     Well the Clone Wars cartoon has proven to be something of a unique outing for the EU in that the canon of this particular show seems to have a greater weight to it due to the direct involvement of George Lucas.  This cartoon is a strong collaboration between Dave Filoni and his team and George Lucas and his extensive resources.  I would go so far as to compare this project to Lucas’ days during the Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi where Uncle George stepped out from the role of director and instead focused his attention on story and overall look and feel of his universe as executive producer.

George Lucas and Dave Filoni

     This “word of Lucas” canon vibe of the Clone Wars has rekindled a fierce EU vs. Canon debate that has been brewing amongst Star Wars fanboys for decades.  Strictly from my personal take on the whole thing it seems like some people are Star Wars fans, enjoying the high adventure and sci-fi/fantasy blend of the movies while others are fans of sci-fi, who happen to enjoy Star Wars more or less because of the sci-fi elements of the movies.  I could go on and on about this debate but my feelings are George Lucas runs the show, he created Star Wars and allows the EU to even exist, Lucas giveth and Lucas can taketh away.

     For the most part Star Wars fans have eagerly embraced the Clone Wars, but there are a few things that have ruffled the feathers of the EU purists.  The first major issue that I became aware of was a three episode story arc in season two that featured the planet Mandalore and the Mandalorian warriors which are fan favorites.  Of course the Mandalorian lineage provided Boba Fett with his training and distinctive armor.  As we all know, any time Boba Fett is involved Star Wars fans go ape shit and express their very adamant opinions about the character.  In fact allow me to take a second to talk directly to the Boba fans out there.

     Hi gang, personally I like Boba Fett, he’s a cool character, and he’s got some nice armor but enough already!  Put an ice pack on those Boba boners and get over it!  There is nothing in those Clone Wars episodes that ruin Boba Fett or his history!  The information that deals with Boba Fett is given by the episodes villain who does nothing but lie and deceive about his activities!  Clearly he wasn’t a fountain of truth, and because he was trying to hide his criminal activities he of course is not going to link himself with a known criminal such as Jango Fett.  So what if Jango’s blue color scheme is part of a group called Death Watch?  They’re still Mandalorians, and Mandalorians who have taken up the battle armor of their people in an effort to reclaim their warrior past!

"Ugh! Now my cross stitched Fett family tree will have to be completely redone!"


Sorry, just had to take a moment and share a few thoughts with those fans. 

     Another more recent tid bit that has people all worked up is the death of Jedi Master Even Piell in one of the latest episodes.  Master Piell is not one of my favorite Jedi.  He appears in Episode I and did not return for Episode II and to be honest I didn’t give him much thought, I never liked his character design and his backstory was “blah.”  But apparently his death in the show went against an EU depiction of his death (although there is some vagueness in these claims) and fans are up in arms about this.  Some fans are waiting to see how Dave Filoni will try to explain it and wondering why they would so blatantly go against the EU.  For more on this development check out this discussion thread on wookieepedia.com HERE.  A little ridiculous.

This guy = controversy

     Once again I state that George Lucas can and will do whatever the hell he wants to do and he should be allowed to.  This is his playground; just because he let someone else build a sand castle doesn’t mean he has to let it stand forever if it gets in the way of him building an even cooler sandcastle that a greater number of people can enjoy.  Frankly the EU lost me after one of the earlier books tried to tell me Boba Fett’s real name was Jaster Mereel.  First off why would Boba Fett need a secret identity?  He’s not a super hero.  And second that’s a terrible name.  All of that has been retconned nicely these days, even fitting in with the whole Death Watch fiasco.

     I don’t want it to seem like I am not a fan of the EU stuff, I really am, but I am also comfortable with the fact that the EU does not have the final word on Star Wars, George Lucas does.  There is a lot of good EU works out there, I especially enjoy the comics.  There is also a great deal of bad EU stuff out there, and I’m sure fans of the EU would argue that there are a few bad Star Wars movies out there as well.  My personal problem with the EU comes down to the writers trying to write Star Wars as a strictly sci-fi genre by detailing the aspects of hyperspace travel, or trying to discern the illogical ranking system of the Empire.  For me Star Wars EU is at its best when it takes something familiar and interprets it through a Star Wars filter, taking into account the equal parts sci-fi and fantasy.  Dave Filoni and his Clone Wars team understand this.  The Clone Wars has allowed Star Wars to put its spin on the horror genre, giant monster movies, westerns, and much more.   Essentially that’s what Star Wars is all about, the movies were not wholly original in their concepts, they are full of old school high adventure fantasy, gritty noir gangster and war films, and serialized hits like Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers.  Lucas took all those elements and transformed them into this new imaginative universe.  It was his execution and the interpretation of his ideas that was important.  If you try to later breakdown that universe through EU works it just gets tiring and stops being exciting, especially when it loses that fantasy sense of the unknown.

Anyway enough ranting for now, I’ve gone on far too long!

That is all!

Writing it is Easier Than Getting it Read. Nothing New About That.

So I’ve written a novel. That sounds pretty good. Sure. That’s a great deal of time and effort put into 230,000 some words of story telling. I’ve read, and re-read the pages several times, changing, editing, adding as I need to. Now however I am on the brink of the truly difficult part, figuring out what to do with it next. I have done some research online about a few different literary agents, but of course there is also a great deal of spotlight these days on self publishing and e-books and all that. There are other resources available as well such as creating an audio book on a pod cast and circulating the work that way. Here is an example of that: PodioBooks.com


Frankly I’m leaning toward the agent route. It’s the traditionally best approach to take, most agents are also editors, which I think should go over the work with a fine toothed comb, and it just seems to make sense for me. I don’t have the resources, or connections to promote myself enough to do a self-published e-book and I don’t really have the time to create an audio book that might never be heard. I’d like to be able to get started on my next project while this one is in the hands of some professionals somewhere.

Now my biggest problem is that my current story has only been read completely by one other person, a friend, who had great things to say about it and a few helpful suggestions. I have another friend about half way through reading it, she’s actually doing some illustrations for me so she is taking her time and sketching and taking notes as she reads so it will be a little longer until she is through it all. My wife is a middle school teacher who is always under various time constraints. Although she is the best editor and literary critic I know, the last thing she wants to do with her free time during the school year is edit my work, essentially an extension of her work life, and I can’t blame her. I want her above all others to take a look at the writing, because I know she will tell it to me like it is, and let me know what’s good and what isn’t. She will get to it when she can, she is currently swamped with educating America’s future. I however am anxious to put things in motion! I have everything in place for submitting my work to an agent, cover letter, summary, chapter outline, finely tuned writing example, author bio, the works! All ready to print out and send in.

Oh and don’t get me started on printing things out, I thought it would be so much easier to just print it from home, I’d buy a brand new ink cartridge, a ream of paper, and I would be good to go. To make a long story short just go to kinkos or wherever and print your work out there. Cough up the $40 and make it easy on yourself. Trust me something will go wrong at home, and it will infuriate you AND it will all wind up costing more money in the long run.

The devil's tool

Anywho printing concerns aside, I feel stuck. I eagerly want to send this thing out there and get the whole process in motion, I want to do something more with this work I have done. While on the other hand, I am self-conscious and desperately seek some more test audiences for this thing, a bit more validation that it might actually be worth publishing, which I of course believe it is. Everyone is too busy, or unwilling to read it off a computer screen (which I don’t blame them) and I don’t have enough printed copies to go around. I’m very paranoid about handing it over to random people I don’t know and I really just want it into the hands of some pros who know more about the publishing industry then I do! Oh well, I’m sure I’ll figure something out.

As for now, that is all!