Sunday, November 20, 2005

Star Wars

We're on a Star Wars kick in our house.

In a sense, it started a year ago when Baldwin sent me the awesome four disc DVD of the original trilogy. Then Julie asked me what I wanted to do for my birthday and I saw an article in the Boston Globe about One Man Star Wars Trilogy. We got tickets.

Here's the deal: Charles Ross grew up in British Columbia, too far from television signals. So he watched Star Wars videotapes over and over again. And again. And again. After becoming an actor on the Fringe circuit, he developed a skit in which he performed the entire first Star Wars film by himself in 20 minutes. The skit then became a one hour show that includes Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi.

Okay, I realize I'm a geek, but this guy is worth seeing (he's still doing the show in New York until the end of the year). He uses no props, and just uses his hands to suggest costumes (Princess Leia's "danishes" of hair, or flapping his forearms together for Jabba's mouth), or special effects (the double sunset on Tatooine [and the hair ruffling through Luke's long-time ago 70's hairstyle]). The plot is stripped to its essentials but the film is not. He sings the score and it makes you realize how essential Darth Vader's theme is to character and scene. He also spins and runs around the stage to suggest camera movements. And he is a gifted vocal mimic. He admits that "practically everyone on Earth does a better Yoda than I do" but his Luke, Han and especially C3PO, Obi-Wan and other British accents are really good. Plus his R2D2 whistling and his Chewbacca roars are terrific.

Basically, he does a great job and manages to include a few metacomments in the show as well (pointing out the one character who calls Carrie Fisher's character "Lee-ya" rather than "Lay-ya", bumbling through Obi-Wan's tortured explanation of why he wasn't lying when he told Luke that Darth Vader had killed his father ["After I cut off his arms. And both his legs. And left him to die in a lava pit"]).

What was nice, too, was that after the show in which he entertained hundreds of people who obviously watch too much t.v., he came out and gave a little talk about the show and about perseverence in doing something you love ("despite all the restraining orders"). Basically a "follow your dream" speech. It was very sweet and, I pointed out, somewhat Canadian. To which Julie replied, "Do you mean Canadian, like how nice he was, or are you implying that he's a homosexual?"

Then, this week, I took the kids to the Museum of Science in Boston for their Star Wars: Where Science Meets Imagination exhibit. It was really good.

We went twice.
The show consists of props from the movies, and video interviews of special effects and sound effects guys who explain how the various technologies in the movies were conceived. But then there were exhibits that expanded on particular ideas.

For example, there was a video about Luke's landspeeder. Then, there was an area where you could make a vehicle with Legos with embedded magnets. If you did it right, the vehicle would float above a magnetic track (and a text panel explained about actual mag-lev trains). Another exhibit showed how an air-powered hovercraft would work and let you sit on something akin to the puck on an air hockey table.

Other exhibits discussed robots...
...(Austin, prepped for the museum with selective viewings of the movies [if you skip the talking and the scary parts and stick with spaceflight, each film takes about 20 minutes to watch], is a big fan of Chewbacca, R2D2 and Darth Vader, whom, because he was the first Star Wars character encountered [on a Corn Flakes box] Austin assumes is a good guy [whenever he comes on screen, Austin turns and whispers to me, "We had his cereal. Yeah. Remember, Dad?"])...
... Wookies (not sure what the educational benefit of this was)...
...and prosthetics and medical technology.

I have to say, it was remarkably well done. I was expecting a few props and some tangentially related science exhibits, but the learning was well integrated and compellingly interactive. Plus there were celebrities like Kismet, the social robot. Other real world marvels included a robot eye that did a great job of recognizing where my face was (sounds strange, but it was cool), a neat demonstration of walking robots, and a state of the art prosthetic arm.

The exhibit runs to April 30, 2006 and I recommend it. Of course, I'm the sort of guy who gets a kick out of seeing how small Mari is compared to a full grown Wookie so take my recommendation in context.

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