Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Spoilers? Sorta.

I just wanted to jot down a couple of thoughts I had upon seeing Star Wars.  I saw it yesterday; yes, I know I’m late. But I wanted to say a couple of things about it.

I liked it. I didn’t necessarily expect to; it was, after all, made by the same man who redid Star Trek, and I wanted to burn my eyes out and bleach my brain after seeing that thing. But while J.J. Abrams did a lot of the same things for Star Wars (scenes full of fan service, for example), this one went down better with me. Why that might be is the subject for a different sort of argument, and I’m not sure I’ll ever have the energy for it.

Overall I greatly enjoyed the film. It took me back to when I first saw A New Hope on our twenty year-old television, sitting on my dad’s knee. Fun, excitement, eminently quotable lines. And the cast of The Force Awakens does an amazing job. I came to see Luke, Leia and Han again. I’ll come back to see Fin and Rey again.

One thing I will say about The Force Awakens is that, even as it was playing, my family and I noticed one or two or five thousand similarities to A New Hope. Yeah, it’s essentially the same film. The plot beats, even some of the scenes and scenery. So if you know the original films, nothing in there is going to blow your mind. Though this was apparent throughout, it didn’t bother me so much. Maybe because I was having a good time anyway, maybe because everything else about the film was stellar (no pun intended), maybe because I was just glad we didn’t get a repeat of the prequels.

I enjoyed the film to the extent that I want to get back into the Star Wars universe. And now that we’ve got a reboot, I’ve decided to read the new canon books. I never got into the old ones, because there was simply so much. But it’ll be a fun project for the blog – read, review, comment.

So I’ll be starting with The Dark Disciple, which Wookieepedia claims is the first (chronologically) of the new canon books. I’ll be listening to it on audio, then I’ll post my review.


Writing Advice from the Wall Street Journal

Well, it’s not exactly from the Wall Street Journal. Thanks to Chuck Wendig’s blog post on the subject, I was able to read a lovely article about the way teachers are trying to get kids to use words differently.

Yes, I do think it’s lovely. And yes, I understand what teachers are trying to teach kids to do. And yes, I think they’re going about it the wrong way.

First, the article. It was brilliant. Props to James R. Hagerty, who follows the advice he writes about and eschews the so-called ‘bad’ or ‘boring words.’ Take a look, I’ll still be here when you get back.

You can also consider the objective quality of the article, separate from its satirical element, via these words.

I think it’s cool that teachers are actively trying to teach kids to be better writers, and to use more of the English language. One of the greatest aspects of English is the vocabulary at our fingertips. But the important thing about writing is to use the correct word, not the most interesting one. And that is something that the teachers of the article are failing to teach their students.

I went through a phase where ‘said’ was a banned word for me. I thought there were so many other great dialogue tags out there, why not let them shine? But much better writers than me have come up with the answer. ‘Said’ is an invisible tag. The eye skips over it. It’s only there for reference, when we need to remember who, exactly, said (proclaimed, sniveled, ejaculated) what. It doesn’t need to jump up and down, waving its arms in the air. And that’s what 5-dollar words do.

Despite the fact that I don’t think they’re dispensing great advice, I’d say – let’s NOT tell these teachers what horrible people they are. Most of the kids they teach won’t pursue writing even as a hobby, and even fewer will pursue it as a career. And those that do will soon learn that ‘banned words’ are a bogus entity in the English language, thanks to that great pit of advice called the Internet. We’re not talking about a BA or MFA course here. I can appreciate a class which focuses on making my child think in different ways, even if I don’t completely agree with the method.

I’d like to finish with my favorite quote from Hagerty’s article:

Second-guessing famous authors was tricky, Josh cautioned: “It’s almost as though they’re given a free pass” to flout the rules. Josie submitted that she wasn’t sure they should get that pass.

Her brother winced: “You’ve got to remember,” he lectured, “most of these guys are dead.”

And my favorite quote from Wendig’s post:

Context is more meaningful than painting up your words to be pretty.