91-Books – Episode IV: A New Hope

July 19th, 2010 — 11:52pm

From http://blogs.starwars.com/kaitco:

The Challenge! http://blogs.starwars.com/kaitco/2
The Review:

Scale:
😀 – The Force is strong with this one.
🙂 – I’d read it again.
😐 – Meh…
🙁 – I have a bad feeling about this.

Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope by George Lucas/Alan Dean Foster

My rating ~ 😀 – The Force is strong with this one.

I have to begin by explaining that I had my doubts going into this. From a young age, I had the idea of the science fiction novel as a genre as being full of poor writing styles and being likened closer to flash fiction than anything significant driven home in most, if not all of my English classes, so when I first began reading, it was with pursed lips and a skeptical brow. I came to find, however, that my initial assumptions were correct: Mrs. Whatever-her-name-was’s tenth grade Literature class was not the be all and end all of fiction and science fiction is not necessarily “bad.”

On the whole, I thoroughly enjoyed my first real foray into the Star Wars Expanded Universe and my first film novelization. Alan Dean Foster’s writing style took some time to grow accustomed, but once I got a feel for the rhythm of novel, I was able to fall into the fictional world easier each time I began reading. The beginning did start out a bit slow for me since I was not really sure what to expect or how to re-visualize what I reading.

The first few chapters went by nauseatingly slow, even with the first descriptions of Vader, as my mind tried to figure out what it was reading. The memories from watching the film began to fight with my own mental images as one side of the brain said, “I think Tatooine looks like this” while the other side said, “But this is how it really looks!” Once that hurdle passed, I still found myself just wanting the novel to get on with it to the point that I was halfway through it and wondering if I had really bit off more than I even wanted to chew. The only thing to really keep me going were the small details that were either changed from the films or left out entirely.

The novel started to pick up speed, however, once Han Solo hit the scene; there was just something about his character that was very “readable.” All of his quotes seemed all the more quotable in writing and he was the one character who seemed livelier on the page than in the film.

I really enjoyed how Luke’s movements were described during the lightsaber training aboard the Millennium Falcon and also how Kenobi described the elusive and magical nature of the Force. For a brief moment, you begin to fully fall into the fictive dream about how the Force works.

I did not, however, feel fully engaged with the novel until we (Luke, Han and Ben) saw what had become of Alderaan. The destruction of Alderaan was far more profound when described in writing. It was almost as if one could feel the magnitude of what happened far more when one is within the collective conscious of Han, Luke and Ben. I cannot count the number of times I have watched Episode IV, but it never really hit me until I read the novelization, that the entire planet, that is, an entire population, ecosystem and way of life was destroyed in an instant and, it was not until this point that Empire appeared as heinous as the film’s characters had been telling me.

“And while he would have preferred the company of equals, he had to admit reluctantly that at this point, he had no equals.”
What brought the novel from “Meh” into the realm of “I’d read it again.” and beyond were just a few lines of Vader’s thoughts. The one thing missing from the original film was little to no insight on Vader’s thoughts apart from dialogue, which I am unwilling to cite as a true flaw in the film since I am not sure how one is really supposed to convey subtle unspoken emotion through an opaque mask. I will concede they managed to get it done towards the very end of Return of the Jedi, but nothing in the vein of the above quote can be executed on screen without the help of a voice-over. It is not until one can “hear” Vader’s thoughts for some magical, grandiose scheme or the flat out notion that he knows he is the greatest of his kind that one fully realizes how sinister he is and, in hindsight, how far he has fallen.

“If he had miscalculated the degree of arc in their swing, they would miss the open hatch and slam into the metal wall to either side or below it. If that happened he doubted he could maintain his grip on the rope.”
The bridge scene with Luke and Leia was very gratifying and it was at this point in the novel that I could finally appreciate the purpose of a film novelization. For once, my imagination and my memory were not struggling for omnipresence. With a clear image of what had happened, my imagination filled in any gaps that may have been missed and the excitement increased as I got to focus on the moment instead of both re-creating the mental image from scratch and the focusing on the prose.

There were two points in the novel that simultaneously had me glad I could envision the scene purely as written and could also draw from what I had previously watched; the first being when Vader and Obi-Wan meet and the second when Luke is asked if wanted a new Artoo before the battle.

The exchanges between Obi-Wan and Vader were just splendid and, even if I did not have knowledge of all their past history together, I still got the sense that there was a far greater story between the pair than even the characters were letting on at that point.

When Luke is asked if he wanted another R2 unit in the novel, I could appreciate what I read, forgetting that I ever saw the prequels, but having the images of Artoo as a “friend” of Anakin Skywalker from the prequels and from Clone Wars made the question and answer pull a smile to my face.

Chapter Twelve held the entirety of the Battle of Yavin and it was INCREDIBLE! The action was intense and I loved every minute of it. I had to let out a sigh of exhaustion when I finished because I was so absorbed in what I was reading. The dialogue and prose were even perfectly paced to match the excitement I experienced from the film.

It was at this point in the novel that philosophical questions started to bounce in my head, particularly: What else in life have I been missing? If science fiction action could be this gratifying, what other completely awesome things have I disregarded? What greater things could I be experiencing at that very moment?!? Fortunately, the novel’s action kept me from pondering on any of this for too long and I was able to get through the remainder of the book. 🙂

“‘I met your father once when I was just a boy, Luke. He was a great pilot. You’ll do all right out there.'”
As I said earlier, I truly enjoyed reading the novel, but I did have a few disappointments with it that brought me out of the fictive dream, the first of which being the interlude with “Blue Leader” prior to the battle.

This character, described only as “older” and “war-worn,” and his dialogue with Luke left me with so many questions that I had to put down the book for a moment and tear through my memory in a wild attempt to place him somewhere. How did Blue Leader know Anakin was a great pilot? If he was “older” then how young could he have been to not only have been old to enough to be “war-worn,” but also young enough to meet Anakin as a boy and know he was a great pilot? Did he fight in the Clone Wars? If so, how did he not know, or at least see fit to mention, that Vader and Anakin were one in the same?

I feel that there is some explanation I have yet to uncover because I am just starting this journey and have barely perused the comics, but I know an answer must exist other than, “Whoops! Foster wrote this before anyone knew how far the expanded universe…expanded.” which leads me to another point…

In traversing about the Star Wars universe, I have heard theories and counter-theories regarding if Lucas had the entire story of Anakin Skywalker in mind at the time of ANH or not. Reading this now definitely makes me wonder. There were scenes that leaned towards the idea that Lucas did have a master plan in place, such as Han and Luke discussing Leia. It is not experienced to the same degree in the film since we do not have any insight to Han’s thoughts, but the novelization alludes to “something” between Han and Leia in that very scene.

Also, the dialogue between Obi-Wan and Vader sounded as if it had been written fresh from watching the last hour of Episode III. On the flip side, there is the above issue with Blue Leader which leaves many questions unanswered for me, at least for the meanwhile. I also wonder if maybe the edition I have has been “updated” to account for later changes in the EU, but if that is the case, why leave all the little kisses between Luke and Leia?!?

My only other slight disappointment with the novel had to be the description (or lack thereof) for Princess Leia. When I hear phrases like “indescribable beauty,” I cannot help but roll my eyes. How am I supposed to imagine something when the author tells me it cannot be described? It is like telling a long story and stopping every few minutes to say, “Well, man, you had to be there.”

Even in a novelization, things as basic as eye and hair colour are just plain necessary. While I understand the necessity of keeping a protagonist as blank as possible to fit every type of John Q. Everyman out there, the “damsel in distress” should give the reader some kind of imagery. I did, however, really like the prologue from Leia which gave a lot of insight on Jedi and the Republic, which could have benefited the films (but then there would have been little need for prequels and then where would we be?)

All in all, I was quite pleased with A New Hope. It started out a little rocky as it battled through my own prejudices, but it pulled a beautiful story out of my initial experience and helped me enjoy what I had already loved to an even greater degree.

Next up: Splinter of the Mind’s Eye. 🙂

Comments Off on 91-Books – Episode IV: A New Hope | Article, On Me

My 91-Book Challenge

July 15th, 2010 — 12:11am

From http://blogs.starwars.com/kaitco:

In the past three months, in between working a little, mentoring a little, and editing Wookieepedia a little, I had been pondering on what, if any, Star Wars items I could see myself collecting.

At first, everything I saw looked completely overwhelming to the point that I could not see anywhere to dip my feet into the collecting pool or even where the best place to simply take a great plunge was. There were key chains and figurines and 10-inch R2’s just waiting to be chosen as well as beautiful prints, hats, busts, Obi-Wan Kenobi boots and those ever-covetous Anakin Skywalker lightsabers. Zounds! The options!

Simply put, I had no idea where to begin (though my ‘lil Vader hoodie is en route as I type).

Even my fail safe love of books left me at a loss when I took a good look at the lengthy list at Wookieepedia that shows all the different novels that made up the EU. I know I counted at least a hundred, without even including the youth novels and non-fiction works out there as well, and quite a few of these were out of print.

All this notwithstanding, I have loved literature since I was a kid and, if my own sense of self-satisfaction cannot be met through the unlikely goal of obtaining every single novel of the expanded universe, I can certainly satiate my pseudo-collecting desires by at least attempting to read as many of those said books as possible.

I now battle my long held stigmas of science fiction literature to learn about the Rule of Two and Yuuzhan Vong, about Naga Sadow and Admiral Thrawn, and to finally learn what happened just before the end of the Clone Wars and just after Anakin Skywalker redeemed himself.

The written word has always fascinated me and so I see the books of the EU a fitting method of cementing Star Wars into my life, (fanfiction will probably follow suit as I have started making notes on my very first one).

I had begun reading A New Hope about a month ago since it preceded even the first film and I will continue with the Splinter of the Mind’s Eye since it was the very first foray into the EU. From there, I will delve into the Lost Tribe of Sith series since those books are already itching to be read on my Kindle, but the remaining 85 will move in, more or less, this order:

Episode IV: A New Hope – Review!
Splinter of the Mind’s Eye – Review!
Lost Tribe of the Sith: Precipice – Review for all 4!
Lost Tribe of the Sith: Skyborn
Lost Tribe of the Sith: Paragon
Lost Tribe of the Sith: Savior

Darth Bane: Path of Destruction
Darth Bane: Rule of Two
Darth Bane: Dynasty of Evil
Darth Maul: Saboteur
Cloak of Deception
Darth Maul: Shadow Hunter
Episode I: The Phantom Menace
Rogue Planet
Outbound Flight
The Approaching Storm
Episode II: Attack of the Clones
Republic Commando: Hard Contact
Shatterpoint
The Cestus Deception
The Hive
Republic Commando: Triple Zero
Republic Commando: True Colors
MedStar I: Battle Surgeons
MedStar II: Jedi Healer
Jedi Trial
Yoda: Dark Rendezvous
Labyrinth of Evil
Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
– I am anticipating this one more than any other novel as I have heard amazing reviews of the book from both Star Wars fans and otherwise.

Dark Lord: The Rise of Darth Vader
The Paradise Snare
The Hutt Gambit
Rebel Dawn
Death Star
Allegiance
Star Wars Galaxies: The Ruins of Dantooine
Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
– Both anticipating and dreading this one. Novelizations can be almost tedious in comparison to their respective films and, with this being one of my favorite films of all time, I am not sure the novelization will live up to my standards.

Shadows of the Empire
Episode VI: Return of the Jedi
The Mandalorian Armor
Slave Ship
Hard Merchandise
The Truce at Bakura
The Courtship of Princess Leia
Tatooine Ghost
Heir to the Empire
– I am intrigued by the Thrawn Triology as these books began what started the river of EU books that followed in the past two decades. That said, a part of me thinks that there is no way these can live up to the hype I have placed on them.

Dark Force Rising
The Last Command
Jedi Search
Dark Apprentice
Champions of the Force
Children of the Jedi
Darksaber
Planet of Twilight
Before the Storm
Shield of Lies
Tyrant’s Test
Specter of the Past
Vision of the Future
Survivor’s Quest
Vector Prime
– I have been shaking with anticipation to start the New Jedi Order series since I first caught an article about the Vong on Wookieepedia. Out of the whole mix, I think I may enjoy these the most.

Dark Tide I: Onslaught
Dark Tide II: Ruin
Agents of Chaos I: Hero’s Trial
Agents of Chaos II: Jedi Eclipse
Balance Point
Edge of Victory I: Conquest
Edge of Victory II: Rebirth
Star by Star
Dark Journey
Enemy Lines I: Rebel Dream
Enemy Lines II: Rebel Stand
Traitor
Destiny’s Way
Force Heretic I: Remnant
Force Heretic II: Refugee
Force Heretic III: Reunion
The Final Prophecy
The Unifying Force
Dark Nest I: The Joiner King
Dark Nest II: The Unseen Queen
Dark Nest III: The Swarm War
Betrayal
Bloodlines
Tempest
Exile
Sacrifice
Inferno
Fury
Revelation
Invincible

Anyone who perused the list may notice that there were whole series I decided to skip and this was intentional. I spent hours skimming through summaries to choose what I thought would interest me the most. I am not sure if this master list is even doable, but that is why I called this a Challenge! instead of my Life-Long Reading List. That said, I am sure there are a few gems I might have missed based on summary since poor summaries can be made about fantastic books, but this is the challenge I have presented to myself and I am going to run through this list heartily.

The goal is also review each one I complete, but I will satisfied if I can just get through the list. I suppose delving into the comics will be the next step in my mental collection, but that is a topic for another day.

Wish me luck! 🙂

Comments Off on My 91-Book Challenge | Article, Favorite, On Me

iPhone vs. Android; Apples and Oranges

June 19th, 2010 — 2:58pm

 

(Pun fully intended)

I keep hearing all this fuss about Android and how it’s gaining ground on iPhone and how it has surpasses iPhone sales and how it’s the saviour of all things in smartphones and blah, blah, blah…The problem is that when pundits are comparing iPhone and Android, they are not comparing like things. It is the same as comparing ALL Apple computers with the Ubuntu operating system; it’s not the same thing.

What IS a fair comparison would be solely comparing the operating system, like comparing Mac OSX and Windows 7. There are pros and cons about both operating systems, but the point is that a comparison can only be made when like things are compared. The analogy between iPhone and specific phones that run Android operating systems would be more adequate, but you rarely hear about that. This is because there is no other phone that comes close to iPhone in sales or usability.

The argument between Android and iPhone would make more sense if it was between the Droid and iPhone. If people were buying more Droids than iPhones, that would be something worth argument. But in fact, no phone is currently outselling iPhone, so we can argue all we want about operating systems, but the average consumer doesn’t care. Most people just want a phone to work and look nice doing it. So, rather go on and on how about Android is so much better and gaining so much ground on iPhone, let’s compare the actual phones, iPhone 4 and Droid Incredible, to see how the phones compare to the base consumer and put to rest some of this unwarranted iPhone-bashing.

iPhone 4 and Droid Incredible
iPhone 4 Droid Incredible
Carrier: AT&T Carrier: Verizon
OS: iPhone OS4 OS: Android 2.1
Screen: 3.5in 960×640 resolution Screen: 3.7in 480×800 resolution
Storage: 32GB Storage: 8GB, up to 32GB microSD card
Front Camera: Yes Front Camera: No
Rear Camera: 5MP 1.75 micro, flash Rear Camera: 8MP with autofocus, dual flash
FM Radio: No FM Radio: Yes
Weight: 4.8 ounces Weight: 4.6 ounces
Removable battery: No Removable battery: Yes
Adobe Flash: Never Adobe Flash: Flash Lite
Apps: Over 215,000 apps Apps: Over 70,000

(Sources: Droid-Life.com and iphone-droid.com)

Before I get into any comparison, I must say this before anything else: I can’t stand Apple and I hate Macs. I say this lest anyone think that I am one of who I refer to as the Apple-loyal who will buy anything that comes from Apple. For me, a Mac is stifling in ways that make doing anything on a computer a chore not worth doing and, while something that is supposedly simple and easy to use has a market, the Mac reeks of asinine and mindless computing that allows people to become victims of their own mediocrity. As a company, Apple defy every part of capitalism that intrinsically allow them to hold one of the most desired stocks of the past decade…but they still make some great products.

I’ll say this also: I have no intentions in perusing the differences between Android and iPhone OS4. This is because an average user would have no idea which is which unless someone told them and the goal here is stress that one must compare specific phones and their abilities rather than an entire phone versus just an operating system.

AT&T vs. Verizon
Our family were long-time users of Verizon (I have had a cell since age 14 and at age 25, I’ve still got the same number), yet we are all now on AT&T. This is solely because of the iPhone; if there were no iPhone, we would still be with Verizon, but I imagine the world would be a sadder place. That said, we had only been with Verizon throughout its numerous name changes (anyone remember Cellular One?) and its rise to become the largest carrier in the US, so I cannot say that we tried AT&T’s service and then went with Verizon because we had had enough. We stayed with Verizon because we had always had Verizon and I imagine that many long-time Verizon users are in the same position; the service was so good, there did not seem a reason to switch. Those who had made the switch, many times, did so out of anger (because any company can make you angry enough to up and leave) or price (because Verizon is bloody expensive) and many of those went back to Verizon in the end because in basic cell phone service, they really are the best.

All this not withstanding, the service received with AT&T and iPhone has not been that different from my Samsung Whatever and Verizon. Very few, if any, calls are dropped and places where I am unable to pick up a signal on iPhone are the same places I was unable to pick up a signal on my Verizon phone. My point is simple: both AT&T and Verizon are large enough to provide similar coverage.

One major topic the media loves to touch upon is AT&T’s “failing” network in large metro areas (your New Yorks and San Franciscos), but I digress…there are far more iPhones floating around a single network than there are Droids, Evos, Blackberrys, etc., each on different carriers. iPhone users are also typical in using more data than their counterparts on Verizon or Sprint, so it makes me wonder if anyone has done any true analysis has been made to see if Verizon would have any more success handling the same level of traffic if they, and they alone, had iPhone. The problem is that unless Apple decide to move completely from AT&T, no one can tell if another carrier could do better than AT&T, which is why I imagine Apple are not keen on switching any time soon. It is simply unfair to say that AT&T’s service is garbage when no other carrier has had to handle the bandwidth that iPhone users gobble monthly and, let’s not forget that if AT&T were at the low the level the media is proclaiming, two years after the first iPhones debuted, AT&T would have seen a major drop in customers as people decided, “No phone is worth this service!” People haven’t, which is worth noting; the iPhone is worth putting up with any perceived or imagined tiers of service.

Lastly, I will throw in this often overlooked, but somewhat important piece of the pie. The Verizon network will not allow you to use voice and data simultaneously. This means, if you are lost in a thunderstorm, you run off the side of the road and need to call the police or just AAA to come help you, when it comes to answering the question, “Where are you?” it is going to take the presence of mind to look up where you are prior to making that call because there is no way the Droid will let you remain on that call and take a look at Google Maps. Bringing the situation a little closer to home, you and a friend across town are trying to meet up for a movie, but need to find movie times. Using a Droid, you will have to end the call, find the movie theatre and times and then call again. Using an iPhone, means you can put your friend on speaker as you peruse the different theatres, films and times and coordinate everything on the same call.

Before I am called far too Apple-biased by neglecting the fact that voice and data can be used simultaneously on the Droid with a WiFi connection, let’s examine the rationale of WiFi vs. 3G. WiFi is not new; the technology has been around at least for 10 years and for 7 years on a large scale. For some reasons, however, having a phone with access to the Internet solely via a WiFi connection was not enough to spark a smartphone industry. This is because, despite the cry that WiFi is everywhere, it isn’t. Yes, if I go to Panera, I can use their free WiFi as I eat my lunch, but I still have to switch to and log into it. Going back to the lost in a thunderstorm example, if one is out in the middle of nowhere, can you honestly rely on finding an accessible WiFi signal, and by accessible, I mean not just a signal, but signal that will not require a password? It took 3G, that is a data connection accessible from virtually anywhere, for the smartphone to take off and that is why iPhone owns the Droid in this aspect. This is not to say that this is a Droid limitation, but it is a Verizon limitation and it is also why I snicker any time I hear someone say the phrase, “Well, I hear iPhone is coming to Verizon soon.” I am certain that Verizon will correct/amend this issue in their network in the future, but it does leave me to wonder if Verizon, too, will feel the same snags as AT&T in the network.

Size, resolution and weight
Smartphones, by and large, are roughly the same size and shape, with small differences measuring in parts of an ounce or in millimeters. The thing is, most people are simply unable to look at two items and see a difference of .2 inches or feel the difference in .2 ounces, so differences that are so small become almost insignificant anywhere, except on paper. What the eye is likely to notice, however, is a difference in screen resolution. The problem is that the iPhone and the Droid have very similar resolutions, to the point, that one would really need to study the devices to see that the iPhone has the better resolution. I mention screen size and resolution and phone weight, simply because these are factoids thrown in almost all directions, but matter relatively little when it comes down to using a phone. The iPhone has a prettier display than any other smartphone on the market, but despite this people either don’t care or don’t care enough to let something like resolution define which phone will suit them. Is my bag somehow unbearable because I’ve got an extra .2 ounces of iPhone hanging in there? Will a Droid user’s eyes somehow deteriorate faster than an iPhone user’s because of 160 square pixels of resolution difference? Not likely.

Storage
One can purchase an iPhone with 32GB of storage and that’s all it will ever have. One can purchase a Droid, for $100 less, with 8GB of storage, but can increase the storage to the same 32GB. Now, I know that I cannot readily consider myself a casual consumer, but in many instances I see many techie devices in the same light. I have digital camera and I bought some random size storage card for it a few years ago, but I haven’t upgraded that card since I bought the camera and don’t see that happening any time soon. Obviously, a camera is far different from a iPhone, so let’s look at it from another view. I recently bough a laptop after researching and shopping for weeks on end. I chose one with a large memory, but not more than I knew I was going to need for the laptop and knew full well, that should I run out of room, I had a tera drive sitting nearby to transfer select files. Close to a year later, I have yet to transfer anything to the tera drive and have not worried about increasing my laptop storage.

I give both scenarios to help paint the picture for a smartphone consumer. For most people, a smartphone will be something to carry music, videos and pictures, something to send and receive e-mail, check Facebook, watch a couple YouTube videos, surf the web anywhere in the world and play mobile games. What will create the least hassle for this smartphone user: choosing only select albums to add to said phone, moving photos or videos to a computer or hard drive to make room for more apps or…having to go out and, not only purchase, but have someone install more storage in said phone, in addition to eventually need to choose between albums, move photos and videos to a hard drive? Most people (and I declare this legitimately) have no idea how to upgrade storage on a basic PC, so to go about doing the same seems an unnecessary chore and let’s not forget that the new storage cards are not going to be given away for free. If one is stuck between multiple choices, one will nearly always choose the option that is easiest; this is not laziness or inability to understand the complicated. The desire to do what is easiest is an evolutionary ideal for all sentient life and even force in the universe!

It is also worth mentioning that even if one were to increase the Droid’s storage to the same 32GB of the iPhone, that extra 24GB can only be used for music, videos, photos, etc. No apps or app data can be stored on that extra 24GB you have available. While, at first, I am unable to imagine myself filling more than 8GB on apps, it is slightly disillusioning to know that I would not be able to have an app on my phone, not because I no longer have a page to place it, but because the phone will simply not hold anything more. Let’s not forget that filling 8GB is not outside of the realm of possibility for someone using their iPhone in the same vein of Nintendo DS or PSP. A page of 16 large games can dig very far into 8GB and, with OS4’s folder system, the 176 app limit balloons to over 2000. Suddenly, that 8GB limit becomes a stifling limit that keeps one from using their phone the way one would like, especially if someone asks the question, “What will I use more often? Going through my 5GB of pictures or playing Final Fantasy? Watching a movie I’ve seen twice before or using that giant Matthew Henry commentary each week?”

I have a 32GB iPhone 3GS and have just under 10GB left. I have had to be very specific with my music, ensuring that every song is on at least one playlist to ensure nothing is sitting around just taking up space and I have added videos sparingly. That said, I still have 1278 songs (out of a 3800 strong library), 203 photos, 124 apps (taking up a little more than 2GB), 5 movies, 45 TV shows and 273 iTunes U movies on my phone with room to spare, and I consider myself an iPhone power user. An average user may not come close to any of this, so 8GB may be just fine, but…in the guise of doing what is easiest, why buy a Droid Incredible for $299 with 8GB when one could get an iPhone 3G with the same storage for $99?

Camera
Having used iPhone 3GS for months, I can honestly say the camera is garbage. The iPhone 4, however, will bring a 5 megapixel camera with a flash and better focus, not to mention video capture tools right on the phone. Droid Incredible, however, will bring an 8 megapixel camera with dual flash and will undoubtedly be the better of the pair. Several months ago, the camera barely mattered as I could take (and can still take) great photos of me and my friends and move on with my life. Recently, however, I have started a Project 365 and taking photos is a daily task, during which the iPhone’s camera inefficiencies become glaringly obvious. That said, most camera phones have garbage cameras because it is meant to be a phone/Internet browser/mini gaming device first, and a camera in a secondary or tertiary sense.

The camera on a phone is meant to capture all of life’s little moments on the go and the average user may weigh the great camera that comes with the Droid Incredible an iPhone deal breaker if image-snapping encompasses the largest portion of his or her life. To make things a little more convoluted, iPhone has what Droid Incredible does not: a front-facing camera. Why is this necessary? Because trying to take a picture that includes the person holding the camera with the iPhone is unbearably difficult and they usually come out looking like this. A front-facing camera, and it’s potential to bring a Jetsons-style video phone to the average user, is equally a game changer back in iPhone’s direction. If taking pictures is the focus of your life, however, I would still go out and spend money on a nice Canon or Minolta and stop trying to take Pulitzer images with a phone.

FM Radio
I include this under the same guise that I included the resolution and weight, because if I were to miss this, I am sure I would appear even more Apple-biased than is acceptable. In a generation where MP3 players are the norm and XM Sirius is a household name, where does this leave general FM radio? Many radio stations that haven’t been gobbled up by Clear Channel have gone under as a sign of the times. It is fair to say that anyone thirty years old and younger listens to very little radio, if at all, and as the MP3 player and XM Sirius gain further penetration into older generations, the time spent with the radio will reduce further in the US.

I cannot remember the last time I turned on the radio in my car and I don’t think I even have a basic radio anywhere in my home. This is not because many listeners don’t want to listen to the same six songs over and over again or that listeners have no desire to listen to inane chatter from radio personalities or that no one wants to listen to three songs and ten minutes of commercials. Or…perhaps it is and that is why many people are flocking to Internet radio like, Pandora, or cheap subscription radio like Sirius or foregoing radio at all to making full use of MP3 players. The problem is that the radio is no longer the only method of discovering new music. Between MTV and innovations like buying songs heard through a Tap Tap Revenge game, music can be discovered in any one of a million ways and, on top of everything else, if one wants to hear baseball, football, basketball, hockey, whatever games, there are dozens of apps in the app stores of any smartphone to satiate any need.

I present all of this to say one thing: Does it really matter if a phone has a FM radio?

Battery
The iPhone has 7 hours of talk time and the Droid has 5.2 hours of talk time. Honestly, I could end the discussion there. Simply put, the iPhone battery is larger, stronger and does more things for a longer amount of time.

What is most often cried by Droid users is that iPhone fails due to its lack of a removable battery, but when one is discussing a phone with a general consumer, the subject of removable battery just makes the matter far more convoluted than necessary. Yes, one could purchase an additional battery, but then the convenience is lost. I, and many others like me, will simply refuse to carry something extra just for the sake of it, especially during those college years, when leaving the house for a night out means taking the phone, the keys and a credit card. An extra battery just defeats the purpose of simplicity that a smartphone is supposed to bring. One must also consider the real purpose of even needing a removable battery.

My last phone had a removable battery and the only time I noticed it was when I dropped the phone and I had to spend an extra five minutes finding the back case and the battery on top of putting the darn thing back in the correct way and hoping the phone was damaged beyond repair. To anyone who uses the subject of removable battery as a deal breaker for iPhone, I suggest one consider the subject of an iPhone battery pack, like the Mophie Juice Pack, like the one I’ve got. Instead of having something else to carry and lose, the juice pack adds that little extra boost for power users while encasing the phone. Even better, when one gets low enough on power, the juice pack will switch on automatically taking an iPhone with a blank screen to 75% power on its own charge and, if that was beautiful enough, the juice pack charges simultaneously with the iPhone, meaning you never need to take off your case or juice pack. Going back to the example of being lost in the thunderstorm and awaiting help, imagine the difference between flicking on greater battery life with an iPhone juice pack, versus rummaging through the car in hopes that you remembered to bring along that extra battery for the Droid.

Adobe Flash and Apps
This has been discussed to the point that I am not sure it even warrants further discussion at this point…but that won’t stop me from going there nonetheless.

Flash Lite will be available on the Incredible which is great, to some extent, but let’s not forget that this latest line of phones is the first to truly encompass Flash. The iPhone created a smartphone market in 2007, but it is not until 2010 that mobile devices see a working version of Flash. A part of me wonders why there was all this screaming about a lack of Flash for all these years when no phone had Flash until now. It was not like one could access a Flash-only site on Blackberry and not on an iPhone previously. All mobiles lacked Flash; the only difference between iPhone and the rest was that Steve Jobs has declared, rather defiantly I may add, that Flash was antiquated and unnecessary, and thus, the need for discussion.

As a designer and a coder, I find a Flash-less world absolutely deplorable; as an iPhone power user, it really is not that big a deal. As a designer, the idea that the Apple-loyal are proclaiming HTML5 as the saviour of the Internet is more than just far-reaching. HTML5 is not even final yet and we are still fighting with IE6. Until we can be rid of IE6, no one can solely embrace HTML5 and all its possibilities, so why is there all the talk about the end of Flash?

That said, the lack of Flash on iPhone is, indeed, garbage because I cannot watch Hulu or stream via Netflix or visit Flash-based sites, but for the most part I rarely notice a lack of Flash to the point that I wonder if those crying the loudest about Flash actually use it on a Droid on a scale large enough to even warrant the complaint.

Most of the sites I visit that rely heavily on Flash are designer or artist showcases. Yes, it would be absolutely grand if I could follow this webcomic while away from home, but considering that iPhone is not meant to be a full PC, or Mac, away from home, I have found ways to do without Flash while I am sans computer and most of that comes through the App Store.

I will say this since the emphatically anti-Apple side of my psyche cannot keep quiet, the lack of Flash on iPhone has nothing to do with the phone’s capabilities, but simply Apple’s resistance to customization and, God forbid, competition to the App Store. If iPhone has access to Flash, developers no longer need to develop specifically for iPhone as well as other phones or platforms. A developer only needs to adjust an app for better accessibility on iPhone and Voila! most of the work is done with no need to prostrate oneself before Apple, Inc. Apple has created the cash cow to defeat all cash cows and, like any other monopolistic company, it wants nothing to do with anything that may interrupt that flow. The only reason Micro$oft allows Windows to play nice with other browsers like Firefox is because of anti-trust laws and with Apple’s recent SDK changes and now its decision to have all ads through iAds, it running down the same road as Gates/Ballmer.

In all honesty, though, most websites are designed to viewed on a computer monitor, so the mobile experience has always been a bit lacking in one vein or another. I hate to admit it, but there are always going to be things that cannot be done on a phone, no matter how smart it is until we halve the size of a nanochip and increase its power tenfold. I do not aim to be one of those iPhone supporters who make the claim that “you don’t need” Flash to browse the web, but I have no qualms in mentioning that anyone expecting to have a complete computer away from home is really in need of a Skype + netbook combination rather than an iPhone or a time machine to teleport eight years into the future to obtain such a wonderful device.

The lack of Flash does touch every power user of an iPhone (a family member even got mad at me after I apparently “neglected” to mention the lack of Flash prior to his iPhone purchase), but Apple have done their job so perfectly that, “There’s an app for that.” is ingrained in the minds of all smartphone users, iPhone or otherwise, to the point that the term “app” no longer refers to an application (i.e.: Micro$oft Word, Mozilla Firefox), but specifically something that is added to a smartphone. When something is not specifically available through Safari, the next instinct is to find what one wants through the App Store (that same family member found an app for the same Flash site he was trying to access a week later) and, so, Flash on iPhone becomes an almost non-issue.

The wide plethora of apps in the App Store make the iPhone ideal when compared to any other smartphone on the market and this is the only time where comparing the iPhone with the Android operating system comes into play. I will admit that there are tons of apps in the App Store that are simply worthless, but there are just as many worthless for Android as well. What is so special about iPhone and the App Store is that both are owned directly by Apple. While this would normally would stifle the market, the closed system of the App Store makes what is so infuriating about a Mac, absolutely ideal for a phone.

The apps in the App Store are made for one specific phone, whereas Android apps are made for the operating system. It is akin to buying a custom made suit versus buying off the rack. Anyone can create anything that is meant to be purchased off the rack which gives a wide flavour of options, but when something is made specifically for you, nothing else can compare to it. There are no apps that are meant to take specific advantage of the Incredible’s hardware over the Evo’s hardware, but every App Store app must be specifically catered for the iPhone. It is worth mentioning, however, that with the inclusion of Flash Lite on the Droid will open all of the Flash, web-based applications to the device, making up for the more than 100,000+ app difference between the App Store and Android’s app.

No, iPhone does not have Flash, which does make doing some favorite things, such as watching streaming videos, a bit problematic, but with so many workarounds, it is not so noticeable that it bricks the iPhone. The masses are not going to flock from iPhone to the Incredible or the Evo because they can now see all those dancing Flash ads in their phone web browser; there is virtually an App Store app for every major Flash application, so one can legitimately stand with the Apple-loyal when they cry, “You don’t need Flash on iPhone!” Now, the iPad…is a subject for another article.

If I’ve seemed overly biased towards iPhone, you are right, I have. The reason behind this is not that I am part of the delusional Apple-loyal who would buy elephant dung if it had an Apple logo on it, but because many techie pundits make the unfair comparisons to iPhone without looking at the phone as a complete unit. The iPhone 4 is cosmetically beautiful and is the kind of thing that one could give to someone from a generation that used rotary phones without needing to send them to special class to teach them how to use it. Usability of the iPhone is what makes it a brilliant piece of technology and, so all of this discussion about how the Android OS surpasses iPhone is all for naught. Let’s also not forget that if Apple were to allow iPhone on Verizon as well as AT&T, there would be little to no competition left for iPhone.

I could go on for the rest of my life about the usability of iPhone or the experience of playing music or videos on iPhone or how developers for Nintendo and Sony are now considering the iPhone and iPod Touch as competition to the Nintendo DS and the PSP, but I won’t. All I can really say is that I have yet to have someone with a Droid or a Blackberry to Wow! me out of my shoes with what their phone can do, yet I daily Wow! strangers on the street with my iPhone…that was even before iPhone OS4.

1 comment » | Article

What is happening in China??

May 24th, 2010 — 2:21am

I mean, besides the obvious…

I’ve long since had “issues” with China, from their deplorable human rights record, to the way they devalue their currency and to the way they pretend to be on par with the Western leaders of the world, yet refuse to take the responsibilities that come with that when it comes to giving aid and correcting environmental problems. I have no issues with the Chinese as a people or their long, immeasurable history; I just cannot stand their government.

Recently, scores of young children have been murdered in their classrooms by random men who, for one reason or another, wish to take out their grievances against the world on innocent children.

What fascinates me about these reports of children being murdered in their classrooms, is that it was not much more than a year earlier that China claimed that US should not point fingers when it came to human rights records, since we were apparently being murdered in the streets at daylight.

In case you forgot:

The 9,000-word Chinese report depicts a bleak picture of the US, saying violent crime is a widespread threat to people’s lives, property and personal security.
The American people’s economic, social and cultural rights are not properly protected, say the Chinese, and many young Americans “have personality disorders”. (Source)

While I am sure Harlem at night may not be the best place to take an evening stroll while unarmed, but last I checked our five-year-olds could attend school without fear that random intruders would break into the building and stab their teachers and classmates to death. That’s why we have got all those metal detectors and cops in our schools!

What has also got me even more troubled than usual about China is its massive GDP and undervalued currency that live beside its astounding poverty rate. There are close to 500 million Chinese living on less than $2.00 USD a day. China’s bootleg industry alone should allow the communist state to have one of the highest standards of living in the world. Instead, an emerging “middle class” is receiving some of the benefits of global success and the corrupt government officials continue to reap the majority of all that comes into China. I simply cannot imagine that a country that rules global exports could have close to have of its population living at or below the poverty line. Even worse, China takes little regard for the environment and allows more than 200 million of its own people to drink polluted water. Eventually, a nation that is intent upon building multiple New York-sized cities within its borders, must take a serious action on human rights and the very same things it claims Americans worry needlessly.

I will give China some props, however, as they have seemingly been far more forthcoming with internal news than they have been in the past. So, I congratulate the government for making some headway, but some of us Americans who are apparently cowering daily in fear of everything have long, long memories.

Comments Off on What is happening in China?? | Politics

The iPad…still unimpressed

May 12th, 2010 — 2:53am

With my iPhone’s glass cracked, I ventured on a trip to the Apple store. I had been avoiding this for a while to keep my adoration for iPhone from pushing me into purchasing a MacBook or something worse. Lately, the major cause for stay had been because of the “magical” iPad.

I’ll say this first: I read every article and blog regarding iPad right up to and immediately following its announcement. I was enamoured with the possibilities that could be concocted in the, as yet, unnamed Apple tablet-type device and I was expecting to be among the throngs who would purchase the device within its first month. I mention this now to reassure anyone that I am not simply Apple-bashing; I am speaking from the heart.

I’ll say this as well just to reiterate the point: I’ve owned some kind of “iProduct” since 2003. From my 20GB iPod, to my 160GB iPod Classic, to my 32GB iPhone, I feel like iProducts are a part of my iLife and I’ve loved every single one of them. Again, when I read every article that held an inkling of what was to come from Apple, I knew I was going to love it. When I held it in my hand, however, I found nothing akin to love.

My trip to the Apple store brought me face-to-face with the iPad, upon which I have shown nothing, but disdain from the day it was announced. I was unimpressed by the interface, the lack of anything truly new for the world and then, there was the name. From looking at the specs, looking at images and reading article upon article about the iPad, I, one who had been so enamoured with iProducts, could not see its purpose and viewed it as anything, but magical.

Time has allowed some changes to come to light for the iPad, but again, I am still unimpressed. The iPhone OS4 will bring multi-tasking to both iPhone and iPad (which is a major step forward for the device), but that which made the iPhone a work of beauty does not work on the iPad.

With the iPhone, for the first time, everyday people had access to a PDA-like instrument that looked cool, did not attempt to replicate a full computer, was easy to use and fit right in the pocket or purse. To coin their own phrase, “It just works.” The iPad does not bring anything new to the game. “We” have already grown accustomed to the iPhone and “our” expectations are much higher when it comes to “magical” products. For the price of an average, full laptop or even a low-grade desktop, users are given an iPhone-like product, without the benefits of iPhone’s size, iPhone’s 3G, iPhone’s camera and iPhone’s phone, without the readability of the Kindle it attempts to replace and without the usability of a simple laptop. To be honest, if Apple had just come out with a MacBook with a touch interface, I would have been camped out in front of the Apple store the night before release. The iPad is just not what it should be.

The iPad attempts to fill the proposed void between smartphone and laptop, but that’s why there are netbooks which play movies, play music, create documents and, if the right developers took the initiative to bring it to another level, can be used as e-book readers, all for the same cost of the iPad which is bigger, in some cases heavier, and does not employ all the features of the current state of the Internet (the Apple vs. Flash “thing” has been done a million times already). In truth, the iPad is something that fills the “gap” between smartphone and netbook, but who can really justify that for $500?

All of what I’ve said so far, I said (or screamed, whatever) before holding the iPad and seeing what it could do. Tonight, I’ve had the opportunity to hold the iPad in my little brown hands and I still stand by everything I said prior to ever seeing it face to face.

The first thing I noticed was that the iPad is very pretty, but lots of things are pretty and pretty does not equal useful. My first thought was that it was no different from what I already had on my iPhone. Games are little prettier on a bigger, shinier screen, but not having something that fit in the palm of my hand dampened the experience and I found myself trying to figure out a way to hold the darn thing comfortably before finally giving up and just resting it on the table. And, if you don’t think close to two pounds is heavy, go to a bookstore and hold a copy of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. The US version weighs about two pounds…now, it’s like you’re holding an iPad.

Speaking of books, after viewing a few sites on the iPad, I meandered to iBooks and was, again, unimpressed. I had been told that iBooks was the ultimate Kindle-killer for months, but there was a definite difference in the experience from when I first held a Kindle and when I first held the iPad. The Kindle disappears into your hands and, because there is no backlight shining directly into your eyes to the point that it could be used as a separate lamp, your eyes do not tire after a few minutes of staring at the screen. The iBooks app will not “disappear” in front of you and I can’t see any serious reader (and by serious reader, I’m talking about people who read, at the very least, a book a month, but really closer to a book every week) choosing an iPad over a Kindle or Nook or anything else with e-ink as a e-book reader. I’m, literally, just not buying it. The page turning “effect,” while cute at first, actually takes second place behind the Stanza app which was already free on the iPhone and I found myself marveling more at the image of a book in front of me than the words on the “page.” A Kindle shows a reader words and with a click, new words appear on a new “page,” and this comes without any bells and whistles to distract from the reading experience. As I had been saying since January, the iPad is a crappy e-book reader.

So, here I sit, smiling triumphantly that I was not blown away by being in the presence of the iPad, but also deeply disheartened by my lack of love for the device. I had honestly hoped that by holding it and playing with it for a bit, that I could catch the Apple fever and re-live what it felt like to see an 4th generation iPod for the first time, or an iPod with colour or the iPod touch or that very first iPhone commercial that literally (and I do mean literally) made me drool. Alas, I was as unimpressed as I was the day I first learned of the name. At least this way, I suppose, I can sleep a little better knowing that my skepticisms were not unfounded.

3 comments » | Article

Cracked

May 11th, 2010 — 3:09am

My iPhone slipped on some haphazardly laying items on my kitchen table and crashed upon the kitchen tiles.

I can replay the moment over and over in my head and, each time it plays in slow motion as the single most important object in my life hit the floor and cracked. It is still very usable and I’ve a trip to the Apple store planned for tomorrow/this morning, but carrying my broken phone today got me really thinking about how society places such high regard on these items.

I’ve only had my iPhone since October 2009 and yet it is rarely out of reach, replacing my planner, my heavy bibles, my notepaper and pens, my alarm clock, my camera and, for a short time, my books (that is, until Kindle came and saved the day on Christmas!). This small device quickly became everything and the crack in it’s face has placed a major crack in my life, but there’s really no reason for it.

During the milliseconds of panic, when I thought my phone and it’s data had been lost forever, I imagined trying to go through life without my iPhone; never knowing what time it is, never able to update my Facebook status at a moment’s notice, never able to text and receive texts throughout the day…never able to get to the next level on Stick Wars. The problem is that, not so long ago, there wasn’t even an iPhone in existence and not so long before that, it was plausible that not everyone and (literally) their grandmother had a cellphone at all.

I remember a time when I was not afraid to leave my house without my phone, and could even go for a whole afternoon, or even a whole day without needing it. Today, however, I wondered vaguely if I could even risk going outside with my phone simply cracked.

I’ll concede that times today are slightly different than ten years ago. Ten years ago, things such as land-lines existed in every house and it was not expected that everyone have their cells ready at a moment notice for any trouble or mildly amusing event in their lives. Nowadays, I find myself staring at a wall jack, unsure of its purpose or wondering, “why is that ethernet outlet so small?” and my thoughts tend turn towards the flow of a witty or eloquent Facebook update.

All of this leads me wondering…when did become so dependent on something so small? Just the other night, I was driving around lost in a thunderstorm and my iPhone saved me; a few taps in Google Maps and I just had to follow the blinking dot on home. But, surely, I’ve been lost in thunderstorms previously and still found my way? Surely, before the advent of iPhones and smartphones in general, there were methodologies in place that allowed mankind to think things through to completion and operate without depending on something other than their wit and their wiles to get them through the day?

I love my iPhone. I’ve said multiple times and in multiple ways, but all this dependence…all of this lackadaisical living…all of this wandering without wondering…

Well, it feels a little cracked.

Comments Off on Cracked | Deep Thought

An update

May 9th, 2010 — 2:56am

…because it was time.

I’ve not written on this blog in almost a year. Not for lack of love, I might say. I’ve got at least seven drafted posts just sitting and waiting; most are completely outdated by now.

No, the absence of writing was mostly due to simply too darn much happening at the same time. In 2009, I buried four relatives, stopped watching any and all television and completed a very rough draft to what I hope to be my first novel. I’ve also become an “every so often” church member; I’m not proud of this by any means.

A part of me feels this blog has run its course, but on the other hand, I know I’ve got plenty more to say.

I suppose I sound a bit unsophisticated and rough since I’ve just finished a rather lengthy blog post about Star Wars (yeah, it’s insane how big a geek I am now), so I’ll make this short. About four years ago, I started something on Mother’s Day and it worked out pretty well for me (the whole making an effort and finding Jesus, thing), so this Mother’s Day, I’ll make a new commitment, a commitment to write.

I’ve got much to say and, if I keep my creative juices flowing…well, I’m not entirely sure what will happen, but either way, I’d just like to keep writing.

I’ll see what happens from there…

Comments Off on An update | On Me

Not so long ago, in a rather near galaxy…

May 9th, 2010 — 12:33am

From http://blogs.starwars.com/kaitco:

A small, but morbid Star Wars geek has been a part of my psyche since I was ten years old. This is my story:

I remember quite clearly, how the Easter basket that lay on our dining room table picked up the light from the nearby window as its topmost gift shined across the room. I cannot remember what else my mother had got for me that year as an Easter gift and, likewise, I cannot remember much of 1996, but I can remember watching A New Hope on VHS for the very first time.

My mother had thought it incredulous that her only child had not viewed one of the most classic films of all time and had bought it for me “just because.” Her single gift began the flame that flickered and kindled until it roared to life in the early 2000s.

The music was what first caught my attention. Looking back, it seemed that I had already known the music, but was finally able to put it in context. I was then annoyed at the film because I was not able to read all of the beginning story (VHS = no wide screen), but afterward, my mouth hung open for two hours.

Threepio’s movements and accent, R2’s likability and near-human qualities, Darth Vader’s echoed breathing, Princess Leia’s crescent rolls,
the way Luke looked as he stared at the triple sunset…I could go on forever. I was completely enamored with everything I saw.

After my first viewing of ANH, I began to watch it once a week. I adored Princess Leia, was in love with Luke Skywalker and was scheming to get my own R2-D2 as my weekly viewings turned into daily viewings. By my eleventh birthday, I obtained Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi and with the “full story” before me, I was poised to make a full leap into the Star Wars universe. Unfortunately, there was need for hesitation.

Star Wars was (and, really, still is) for the nerdy kids and, if that was not bad enough, The X-Files was taking up all the obsessive love I had to give. With adolescence’s cliques and challenges standing before me, there was no way I could hide both X-Files and Star Wars fandom from that table. So, as much as I loved my beautiful VHS trilogy, my love of Star Wars was put on hold.

The year 1999 brought high school and The Phantom Menace simultaneously. While I was indubitably excited about having the chance to see a Star Wars film on the big screen and there was some noise being made about the new film amongst my peers, my desire to remain a part of my clique won over my desire to see TPM and I let the opening weekend pass without a flutter.

Poor critiques of the film, most regarding “that kid” and some apparently annoying character called “Jar-Jar” kept me from seeing TPM on my own and, as the film went out of the theatres, my desires for Star Wars seemed to fade as well.

By chance, however, my neighbors, always keen to be the first to have every new technology and every new film, obtained TPM on DVD and, one night while babysitting their kid, I enticed the youngster to watch the film with me. To be honest, there were moments I forgot my temporary ward was there.

I loved everything I saw. From the opening, to the new worlds, to Amidala’s wardrobe and especially to Liam Neeson. With dozens of people and all the media “telling” me Jar-Jar was irritating, I was truly expecting Carrot Top on speed, but was pleasantly surprised that Jar-Jar did not live up to my worst expectations; young anakin also was not that bad (at least, for the first viewing). The podrace, the music, the species and the battles all enthralled me and re-kindled that old Star Wars fire that had lain dormant, unloved and unwanted, for years and…I wanted more.

Thankfully, Attack of the Clones was just around the corner and I had grown old enough to know how I wanted to be viewed as a person. The bore of high school was nearly complete and I had left its cliques and nonsense when I started half-days, opting to begin collegiate work sooner rather than later. Overall, I was a completely different person than I was when TPM was shown and, when AotC came to theatres, I made certain that I saw it that opening weekend.

As expected, I was floored. Watching Star Wars on the big screen was everything I thought it could be and much, much more. And, I admit it…I fell for Anakin, hard. I went back to see it on my own the next week and the week after that as well. In all, I saw AotC seven times in the theatres, the most for any film (runners up are Harry Potter and Chambers of Secrets and Revenge of the Sith, both at 6 times). The best part was that I did not care whether anyone knew I was going to see Star Wars, again, and that, more than anything made watching the film even better.

After AotC, I began my first dips into the Star Wars community and entered the realm of fan fiction. I just needed more. I wanted more of the story, more Anakin, more Padme, more Obi-Wan. More, more, more! I bought posters and read stories and bought music and read the stories while I listened to the music with posters in the background. At one point, I even began making notes to my own fic. The more I read, the more I learned and the more I learned the more I loved, but like years earlier, another obsession moved Star Wars out of favor: the aforementioned Harry Potter.

Potter took hold and, once again, there was no room for Star Wars, but Potter unfettered the deep nerd within me. For once, I was no longer afraid of what others would think if I were found reading fantasy or visiting science fiction forums and, for the first time, I felt like myself.

By the time Revenge of the Sith was released, however, my Potter love had faded and I was primed for Star Wars. Wearing my very own cloak, I dragged my best friend to a midnight showing of RotS where I was ashamedly underdressed as far fans went and was again, floored by what I saw.

To this day, I still do not care what others may say: RotS is one of the best of the films. In fact my “order” goes Episodes 5, 3, 4, 6, 2, 1; 4 and 6 sometimes trade places, but that is almost always the order. Needless to say, I loved Episode 3. I went on to see it five other times, bringing friends some times and going alone to sit in the second row where I always loved to sit, other times; I bought the soundtrack immediately after Viewing #3.

To say that RotS revamped my Star Wars love is a bit of an understatement. All that went on with AotC was just a drop in the bucket in comparison. I spent so much time reveling in the Star Wars universe, watching the films, visiting forums, reading fan fiction, etc., that others began to take notice and tried to drag me away from it. My friends even threatened intervention if they found me with a Star Wars book and so I lessened the time I spent with the universe, allowing the love to fade…slightly.

Since RotS, I took steps into the working world, walked across a baccalaureate stage and found Jesus, all the while, my adoration of Star Wars was at the back of my mind, pulling me towards “old” websites and occasionally reading things I had told my friends I had given up for the time being.

In the past year, I found Wookieepedia and with it, the desire to finally know everything there is to know about Star Wars. I find myself wanting to read the novels, not just because a film of similar name is in theatres, but because I honestly want to know what happens between and beyond the films. Editing Wookieepedia here and there, entails hours of reading and learning about the expanded universe and makes me want to learn even more through reading the books and comics that make up the entirety of the expanded universe.

I have a very long way to go (I just started reading Episode 1 and, as of this writing, Luke and Obi-Wan had just met Han Solo), but this time around, I doubt my adoration will be fading much.

I know many fans believe that the prequel films were the worst thing that has ever happened to any series, at any point in time, but I beg to differ. The prequels brought an entirely new generation to Star Wars in a manner that could never have happened without new faces and new stories. I know that had I not seen a young Obi-Wan, the “real” Anakin Skywalker and Yoda battle with a lightsaber, I would never have bothered to learn more about Star Wars and the expanded universe.

In all, I love the story. I love the idea of the Jedi, the Sith and the Force, and I love the rise and fall of Anakin Skywalker.

My goals here are simple. I am not a rabid, super-fan of Star Wars and I doubt I will ever be. I am not a toy collector (except for Darth Tater because it was just so cute!) and I am just not that into comics. I just want to let loose a little and take hold of that which has had such a hold on me, since I was a child.

Cheers!

Comments Off on Not so long ago, in a rather near galaxy… | Favorite, On Me

Well played, Old Man

July 19th, 2009 — 7:38pm

I didn’t make it to church today.

This time last year, such a statement would have initiated a barrage of texts, e-mails and phone calls regarding my whereabouts that I would have felt it necessary to release a public statement to let my family know that I was okay. Nowadays, however, things are different. No one calls because it’s not such a rare occurrence any longer.

I’ve been telling myself for months, “I’m not losing my faith. I’m just going through some things right now.” What these “things” are, I don’t know and, as much as I pray about it, these “things” aren’t revealing themselves to me. All I do know is that has been getting easier and easier to skip that which held such an importance to me less than eight months ago and, when I woke up this morning, I had wondered if it was even “necessary” to go to church again. We’ve had another death in our family and, today especially, I just didn’t see the point in going to church.

Some time in 2008, I’d made a “deal” of sorts with God after losing Edrith and also MawMaw in such quick succession; I just didn’t want to go to anymore funerals until I turned 25. This entire time, I’ve known that I can’t actually deal with God, since I’ve got nothing of any real value to offer except my submission, which I should be giving anyway, but I’d made my deal last year, praying that I could just live life for two years without going to yet another funeral; saying goodbye to yet another person. I’ve experienced loss in the past two years, but I hadn’t needed to attend any homegoings. My birthday is not until the end of September and yet, here I am.

When I’d heard what had happened, I immediately thought of my deal and prayed for a very long time about what I’d done so wrong that I couldn’t have until at least my 25th birthday without having to deal with another loss. It wasn’t until this morning, however, that it occurred to me (really occurred to me) that there never was any “deal.” People come and people go as He sees fit and He had seen to it that I had the time I needed to grow up a little more before having to deal with it once again. But, what truly got to me this morning was the growing depression and thoughts that “none of this mattered,” that eventually I’d lose everyone I loved and no amount of church was going to change the inevitable. And, that’s when I started to cry.

I’ve always classified tears into three categories: “small tears” that occur when I shed a few over the birth of a child or when friends marry, “pain tears” that occur when I’m in such physical pain that there doesn’t seem to be anything else I can do, and then there are “real tears” that follow overwhelming depression and sadness. My tears this morning fell into that latter group and it angered me because I hate when I cry “real tears.” Joy or pain can be expressed, but mourning depression is something that I try to hold in as much as possible out of sheer frustration that I can be reduced to tears over something that simply encompasses my own thoughts bouncing against one another until I hit a low and I cannot pull myself out of it.

So, this morning, I lay in my bed, crying these real tears and thinking aloud that there really wasn’t a point to any of “it” anymore and I had no reason to even give “it” anymore thought because God hadn’t cared about my deal and He wasn’t answering me in the time that I wanted Him to answer and, even if He did speak to me, I knew I wasn’t going to like the answer. I must say, looking back hours later, it was very dark moment for me; one I used to experience all the time before I had first come to the church and had hoped I would never see again.

As complete frustration over these nonsensical real tears willed me to stop crying altogether, I lay there half-listening to a CD I’d made a couple weeks ago and wondered if I’d ever feel like myself ever again after recognizing that God doesn’t make “deals” with people. And, that was when the sappiest of songs started to echo through my boombox…

Now, I’ve been listening to Michael Jackson songs non-stop for the past three weeks and I know that’s a subject worth prayer in itself, but for this song to come on when it did… I felt a smile pull at my lips and I had to shake my head at the simultaneous “on-timeness” of God and simple coincidence. MJ’s “Keep the Faith” had come up on the CD.

Again, I’d been listening to MJ songs for close to a month straight and I’d probably played that song twenty times since I’d dug out my Dangerous album, but…when I lay wondering what the point of all of “it” was, when I lay thinking that no path I could take was ever going to bring me fully into Christ’s light, when I lay crying about God not answering my questions, the title of the song spoke to me: Keep the Faith. It sounds almost laughable when I write it because it’s not even a Christian song, but simply hearing the beginning of it and remembering the title right when I did felt like something only He could do for me in a moment so dire.

And so, in hearing this song that had both saccharine sappiness and inspiration weaved within it, I let out a laugh and rose from my bed thinking, “Well played, Old Man.”

I didn’t make it to church today, but I have this renewed vigor in my approach towards it, nevertheless. I began studying my Sunday School lesson for next week tonight, a feat I hadn’t accomplished since I started teaching again and, regardless of the fact that I know I’ve got greater and more painful losses coming my way in the upcoming years, I feel strong. The logical side of my mind is saying, “Dorienne, it was just a coincidence. The song comes on after ‘Give Into Me’ on your ‘MJ-Sleep’ CD. It’s just a coincidence.” but whenever I think of coincidences in relation to religious matters, I consider my favorite The X-Files quote coming from Mulder: “If coincidences are just coincidences, why do they feel so contrived?”

I was in a very, very low place this morning and God spoke to me in a manner, in a way that only He could and He told me, quite clearly, that even though the road ahead looks rough, I need to keep the faith. I can only chuckle to myself when I think about it. Well played, Old Man…

2 comments » | Deep Thought, Jesus

Oh, the irony!

July 9th, 2009 — 11:44pm

First, the article: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/8141867.stm
Now, my previous post: http://blog.doriennesmith.com/?p=386

I had originally planned this gushing, love-filled post about Michael Jackson (and, surely that will follow in the days to come), but this is current and reeks of a hypocrisy so blatant, that I could not allow it to pass without mention.

Not six months ago, China went on a rampage in their accusations over America’s abilities to curtail violence and racial discrimination and yet, here we are. A part of me wants to laugh at the irony, but my stomach is so turned by anger that I cannot manage it.

The US may (and does) have its problems, but as a testament to being who we are, Americans, we do not sweep under the rug that which we do not want the rest of the world to see. As a world leader, we do not have that luxury. Yet, even through our various problems with racism and violence, the US still values diversity and freedom. We recognize that our citizens come in all shapes sizes and colours and we are united in the states, not under a single racial identity, but by our love of freedom and of the republic that affords us said freedom.

I will admit that uniting one billion people under a single identity is most likely a daunting exercise (which makes one wonder what why it is even necessary), but to deny citizens their right to love and explore their respective cultures and histories speaks on every way China fails as it attempts to usurp the United States’ place as a leader in the world.

Again, I find it laughable that six months ago, China was boldly pointing the finger at the US over racial hatred and violence and yet, China’s in-house problems stem far deeper than they currently in the States. I do not presume to say that the US does not suffer from the sporadic racially-motivated span of protests, but here in the US, it is at least politically incorrect to presume that one “race” of people is the model and all “lesser” ethnicities represent everything undesirable. In China, Han Chinese are encouraged (via promises of success and wealth) to move into regions that are populated mostly by minority ethnic groups and, essentially, supplant them. These minorities, who are holding onto their culture, their language, their religion and their way of life, are already kept in near government-sanctioned poverty for simply being who they are and yet, the Chinese government wishes to take away even the small lifestyles that they have.

I do not harbor the delusion that the US had not done the same in the past (e.g. ousting of Native Americans from their lands, annexation of Mexican lands), but we have not committed the same atrocities while appearing on a global stage and trying to pretend that everything is sunshine and roses on the home front.

With its own people killing one another over something as simplistic as “racial” harmony and China cracking down on any forms of protest and (God-forbid) expressions of religion, now would be a splendid time for those UN reports about the continued deterioration of China’s human rights’ record to come around again.

Comments Off on Oh, the irony! | Politics, Rant

Back to top