StarWars-ing: Teachers in Star Wars

This month, StarWars.com has been running a quiz called WHICH STAR WARS CHARACTER SHOULD BE YOUR TEACHER?  The quiz paired me with Tobias Beckett, a character from Solo.  I have no idea if this is correct because we didn’t get to see Solo in theaters because we could never match up the time we had with a babysitter. The quiz asks better questions than most quizzes of this kind ask.

It did get me thinking about teachers in Star Wars.  This is a subject we are something we of an expert on since it is our day job. Actually, no.  This is just us having fun.

Yoda:  Yoda never really tells you the objective of the lesson.  He is more of discovery learning type of teacher.  He has a well planned lesson but the pupil is responsible for figuring it out. This is great for the motivated, patient student, but the learner who needs lots of redirection could have a problem.

Obi-Wan: Obi is an involved teacher.  He will do the lesson with the student but not do it for the student.  He trusts the student has a team member. This is great, but sometimes students need more discipline.

Palpatine:  He is that professor that doesn’t care about his students at all, only his career.  They do the research and he takes the credit. He forgets who you are as soon as the semester is over, unless other academics start to notice you.  Then he destroys you and your career.

Ashoka: From what we have seen, she is the motivated new teacher.  She technically didn’t have a padawan yet, but she has led a group on a field trip.  She’s resourceful and knows how to think on her feet, which makes up for her lack of planning.

Luke:  His pupils turned on him. Was it a really bad class, or did he lack management skills?

Qui-Gon Jin: He is the rebel teacher that plays fast and loose with the rules.  He doesn’t do anything to get fired, but if he agrees with the administration he will do it his own way. The students love him so they don’t snitch.

Fandom-ing: KISS Army, Sort Of…

The first thing I ever remember purchasing with my own money was Kiss’s album Destroyer at a garage sale. It was a nickel, I bought it.  I’m pretty sure I bought it for two reasons.  The cover was cool, and it contained my favorite song, Beth.

Unfortunately my original copy didn’t make it through the years. I picked this one up at a local record shop and got Mr Kelly to sign it.

I couldn’t wait to get home to listen to it.  It blew my mind. It was dark and mysterious and all the things I knew I shouldn’t be listening to if my parents would have been like other parents.  And this was at four -two years after the album was released. Then I got to Beth.  The song was scratched so bad it was unplayable. 

When I got older, I kept playing it. I would read on the cover about the Kiss Army and wonder what it was like to be in that sort of group.  Like did everyone that show up to meetings had their own face paint set up. I didn’t really understand what a fan club was at the time. I never actually joined the Kiss Army.

Years, later I got to tell the story to Peter Criss, Kiss’s drummer and the singer for Beth.  It was at a small horror con at the Canal Street Sheraton in New Orleans. It was a great one room con.  It had Ron Pearlman, Tommy Flannagan, and Bruce Campbell.  Peter Criss was in a small room signing autographs.  He loved the story especially how I waited in anticipation to hear Beth and I couldn’t.  Mr. Criss is also a breast cancer survivor. He caught it really early and told us to make sure we both check.  He then hugged us. I know I had tears at this point and so did Mrs. Nola Nerd even though she wasn’t a fan.  She loved the fact this man could turn me back into that 4 year old version of me.

We also got to meet Ken Kelly, the man who designed the album cover.  We got the album signed.  When the Nola Nerd Baby is three and a half years old, I’ll take her record shopping and she what she gets.  Then 

Doctor Who-ing: Name Me a Bad Martha Episode. I’ll Wait.

Martha is the most underrated companion in the new Doctor Who.  Everyone loves Rose.  Donna helped the Doctor remember who he was. Amy and Rory are everyone’s favorite couple.  Bill made us understand the 12th Doctor.  Clara is problematic but her first season was great.

Martha’s greatest sin is that she wasn’t Rose.

However, let’s look at her season.

Smith and Jones: This is where we realize she isn’t Rose. Her falling for the Doctor was a betrayal to many fans, but come on David Tennant is dreamy.  His Doctor is everything: manly, sensitive, and smart. The episode is strong and has a great premise.  Moreover, she does have great chemistry with Tennant.

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The Shakespeare Code:  The big bad in this episode is a great premise even if I find it falls short. I like the idea of the villains, but the only thing I remember about this episode is the Harry Potter joke.  This episode was done better with Matt Smith with the Van Gogh episode.

Gridlock: I loved this episode.  The idea of people living their lives in gridlock is inspired.  Plus, this episode is filled with great single serving characters.

Daleks in NYC Arc:  These might be the weakest Martha episodes, but it isn’t awful.  The idea of a Dalek evolving is something that could have been better handled, but it was good.

The Lazarus Experiment:  This episode gets the lowest ranking on IMDb of Martha’s, but I think it is better than that.  The special effects are often not very special, but we do start to understand Martha’s motivations more, and it provides an excellent setup for the finale.

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42:  42 might be my favorite Doctor ship in a bottle episode.  He and Martha are stuck in a ship, and they only have 42 minutes to save the day.  It is a taut 42 minutes.

Human Nature and Family of Blood:  If you take this as one episode, and you should, it should be ranked number one or two or David Tennant’s turn as the Doctor.  Martha, stuck with the knowledge that Doctor may be the happiest he has ever been by not being the doctor and having to remind him of who he is, maybe the hardest thing any companion has had to do.  The end when he struggles with the decision is always devastating to watch, and I genuinely believe this arc could only work with Martha.  With Rose, it would have been easy to become the Doctor again.  Donna would have slapped him till he remembered who he was.  Martha and his relationship with her made this such a great arc.  She wasn’t his rebound relationship, being human was.  Plus, the big bad in this arc is still one of the best yet in the series.  The action was fantastic, and it reminded us how alone the doctor indeed is.

Blink:  If the above arc was number two, then this is number one.  Martha and the Doctor are not in the episode a lot, but this is the classic David Tennant episode, and it came while Martha was the companion.

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The Master Returns Arc:  These episodes have everything: Jack Harkness, vampires, a fugitive doctor and his companions, and two great actors playing the role of the Master.  Plus, Martha saves the day.  She is the companion that walked the earth for the Doctor and the world.

Plus, all the episodes she was in the next season were strong particularly The Doctor’s Daughter.

If you haven’t watched these episodes in a while, revisit them. Freema Agyeman doesn’t hit a wrong note with her acting choices.  The writers made her into NotRose, not her.  I know when ranking the companions she might still fall to the bottom of the list, but seriously ranking is silly and being on the bottom of this list doesn’t mean she’s terrible.

I’ll say it.  The Tenth Doctor is my Doctor, and Martha Jones is my companion.

Star Wars-ing: A Look at Luke’s Faith

A lot of people, after watching the Last Jedi, remarked: “that was not their Luke Skywalker.” It made wonder, who exactly do they think Luke is?

A lot of people, a majority of which is smarter than me, see Luke’s journey as a hero’s journey. I don’t. He is a hero; this is true. However, I’ve viewed his mission as more of a spiritual one. It’s his relationship with the force that helps define Luke, not being a Jedi. This is why I feel Luke is one of the most significant characters in film history. And that’s an essential point for this essay. It’s based on the films only.

Let’s start at the beginning. He is a farm boy with dreams of getting far away from home. He doesn’t care where; he wants to go. In fact, he is talking about going to the academy which is an Imperial academy. If believing in the Force is a religious/spiritual activity, Luke has been raised atheist. We can’t blame his aunt and uncle. They are doing the best they can. It’s not till he meets Obi-Wan Kenobi that he learns about the force. Of course, this makes Luke the most identifiable character in the story, because we learn about everything as he does. Through the rest of A New Hope, Kenobi serves as spiritual sponsor. Sure he teaches him a few things about being a warrior, but most of their time together is spent discussing the force. Having not believed in anything his whole life to this point, he now has something to believe.

Moreover, his belief is rewarded. He has to destroy the Death Star, and everyone aboard or everyone and everything on Yavin IV will be killed. But he does it by believing in the force. He even has a guardian angel in Kenobi in this scene.

In Empire, things change for Luke. It doesn’t come easy for him. Dagobah is his forty days and nights in the desert. Except, Luke is not Christlike. He doesn’t succeed in the way Jesus does. He doubts everything. He can’t accept that Yoda is who he is there to see (granted he crash lands on a planet and this is the first sentient being he runs into). He fails test after test. He fails because he does not believe.

Luke: I don’t, I don’t believe it.
Yoda: That is why you fail.

Before he leaves for Bespin, he is told by Yoda what will happen if he leaves, and he goes anyway. He has not put his trust in the Force, and he and his friends suffer for it. Granted, his friends would have suffered regardless.

When we see Luke in Return, he has transformed himself into a Jedi. This change has always troubled me a little bit. When did this happen? Who makes that decision? We assume it was Yoda, but there is no evidence that his return to Dagobah is not the first time he has been there since the events of Empire.

Nevertheless, he does seem to be at ease, the kind of ease one gets when they believe in something (or nothing as with most true atheists). He is confident throughout the movie, even to the point that he nearly fails. Also when he knows the Vader senses him, he says it as a true believer in the force would say it. Now, a lot of people say that Luke would never think about murdering Kylo Ren because he believes all people can be redeemed as he redeemed Vader. I don’t understand this. He tries to turn Vader back to the light because he senses the light in Vader. I don’t honestly think he would try if there were nothing but darkness there. And that’s what he detects in Kylo, darkness.

When is with Emperor in the throne room on Death Star II, Luke’s faith is put to the ultimate test. He has two people that are his superiors in their use and understanding of the force even if they represent the dark side. There is one Force. And he fails again. However, he quickly realizes his mistake. He suddenly remembers that he senses the good in his father. He chooses to believe. It is the only weapon that can destroy the emperor. He believes not only in the Force but in the goodness of the light side of the force. He is willing to martyr himself for this. He has surrendered entirely to it. It’s this act that saves and redeems his father. It is this act that destroys the emperor. Fight Vader was not the brave act; it was the refusal to fight him.

Now, this is not an original thought of mine. Also, I know a counterargument is the “science” of the force explanation in the prequels. I’m not rejecting that. Science is just another way of discovering how the universe works which is also the purpose of religion. They do not need to be at odds with each other in fiction or real life. It is there plain as day, and many people have written about it. This makes the backlash against his character in The Last Jedi so weird.

Now, before I dive in further, I am only lukewarm to the film. I have some issues with the plot, but none with Luke’s story.

Yes, Luke was a hero at the end of Return. But if these characters have life, then life has to happen to them. The idea that he rode off into the sunset and alls well that ends well is childish. Characters will have things happen to them, and not all of them will be good. Again, it comes all down to faith. Sensing the lack of good in Kylo, Luke has an extreme crisis of faith. He, in fact, has the “if you had the chance to kill Hitler” moment. He has to make an impossible choice. He chooses not to kill him, but that choice bears a toll on him. The crisis stays. This makes sense. No one knows what Kylo is capable of more than Luke. Luke has to carry the guilt of every evil action that Kylo takes. The choice still haunts him. Some people say a hero finds the next quest. Luke never finished this one. He doesn’t know what to believe. This makes Luke such a human figure. He is not some space wizard; he is a man with an impossible choice ahead of him. Not every trope has the hero go on the journey. Some have surrogates. In John Boorman’s Excalibur, it is Perceval who finds the holy grail. In Lord of the Rings, Sam carries Frodo. In The Last Jedi, Rey’s task is to remind Luke to believe in the Force. She comes close, but it is Yoda, his old master, that reminds him of his faith, and that faith doesn’t mean you have to be perfect.

Yoda: Heeded my words not, did you? Pass on what you have learned. Strength. Mastery. But weakness, folly, failure also. Yes, failure most of all. The greatest teacher, failure is. Luke, we are what they grow beyond. That is the true burden of all masters.

 

Luke now faces his destiny. He again shows his faith in the force. He has made up his mind about Kylo and Kylo is not Vader. The good is gone. Lost he is. Yet, again Luke does something he does in return. He is willing to be a martyr for the cause. He has found his faith, and this is what makes him a hero again. He literally gives himself over to the Force.

ComicCon-ing: A Look at Cons From Around the Country

Potterverse: This con focuses on the world of Harry Potter. This con takes place in Rockville Maryland. Guest include: Dan Folger, Miriam Margolyes, Simon Fisher-Becker, Jon Campling, Tolga Safer, and Trevor Butterfield

The Official Outlander Convention: This con focuses on the TV show Outlander and takes place in Secaucus, New Jersey.  Guests include Caitriona Balfe, Graham McTavish, Stephen Walters, David Berry, Cesar Domboy, Gary Lewis, Lotte Verbeek, Lauren Lyle, Andrew Gower, Richard Rankin, Scott Kyle, and Gillebride MacMillan.

Michigan Comic-Con: Detriot will be hosting the Michigan Comic-Con. Guests include John Rhys-Davies, Cary Elwes, Nichelle Nicholls, Ray Park, Jewel Staite, Lea Thompson, Michael Biehn, Renee O’Connor, Kevin Conroy, and Billy West.

 

Teaching: How Buffy Made Me a Better Teacher

We are taking the week to prepare for the start of the school year (Thursday!), so we are reposting some of our older blogs.  

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With the announcement that Sarah Michelle Gellar will be attending Star Wars Celebration, I’ve been thinking more about the show lately.  It also helps that it’s been in entertainment news lately because it has reached its 20th anniversary.

When I first watched the show, during the original run, I just watched it for the drama and humor.  Both were top notch, even if the special effects sometimes were not up to their level.  It wasn’t until the second time I watched it, that I realized the brilliance of Joss Whedon.  It amazes me that he wasn’t a high school teacher  (his mother was, though).  He captures high school perfectly.

By this, I mean he captures all the horrors of high school.  “Out of Mind, Out of Sight” showcased a girl (Clea DuVall) that just wasn’t noticed in high school.  When I watched around 2010 it reminded me of what that feeling felt like.  It reminded me that I need to reach every student, not just the attentive and the troublemakers. “I, Robot…You, Jane” was well ahead of its time with it’s stories of making friends on the Internet. At the time of the writing, only real nerds did this kind of stuff, but it still resonates today. “The Pack” might be a little too on the nose with it’s group bullying storyline.  I mean that as a compliment. “Earshot” looks at a student who reaches the point where he wants to commit suicide.

The brilliance of Buffy the Vampire Slayer is that you can watch it from both sides.  When you are younger, you see it through the eyes of the Scooby Gang.  When you are older, Giles, Joyce, and Angel are you window into this world.  When we met Anthony Head, I thanked him for making me a better teacher.  The show not only gives you a viewpoint to the life of teenagers, but it is written in a way that builds empathy for them.  This is the mistake most shows about that age group make…they divide us from the people.  Most teenage shows have the older people be obstacles or people that don’t have a clue.  Not here.  Giles and Joyce are responsible adults who truly care about those in their charge.  They don’t always understand everything, but they always try. Through them, we become protective of the Scooby Gang.  Because of them, I have become more empathetic to my students’ issues.

Angel even furthers this.  He is perpetually young, but he is the oldest soul on the show.  And because he has a soul, he sees the tragedy in almost every situation mainly because he has seen every situation many times. As a teacher, you often just repeat years.  The students change, but the problems don’t.  Too often, you see students make mistakes before they make them.  This can be as simple as putting off homework or as complicated as choosing the right college/vocation.  We treat high school students as kids because they are, but at the same time, we ask them to decide their future.  The future is always the biggest and baddest big bad.

I know I won’t have time to tell Ms. Gellar all of this.  I am fully expecting to be so star struck that I’ll be surprised if I can utter actual words.  But I had to thank her, and the cast, and Mr. Whedon in some form.  So I choose this one.

 

Parenting: Thankful for a Happy Baby

We had told our parents about the pregnancy by July 4 of last year.  Mrs. Nola Nerd Couple’s mom lives in Florida.  The day we got home was the last day she felt well until the baby was delivered.

In Florida telling Mrs. Nola Nerd Couple's family.

In Florida telling Mrs. Nola Nerd Couple’s family.

Apparently there is an old wives’ tale, with some scientific backing, that the sicker the mom during pregnancy the healthier the baby.

Well, so far, it’s been true for us.

Besides a few colds and a few tummy issues, the Nola Nerd Baby has been perfect. Not only that, she is a happy baby.

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Happy to go on an adventure.

I’m not saying this to gloat (even though I”m not offended if you think so since this is pretty awesome for us), but because the awfulness of the pregnancy and the postpartum it gave my wife a break.  It allowed her to do something that she didn’t really have a chance to do during the pregnancy – bond with the baby.

It, more importantly, allowed her to heal.

It allowed us to be able to see family when we wanted and when we needed to.  In fact, we had a sick relative in the hospital. She let him hold her and she smiled at him and talked to him.  She knew what was needed of her.

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Greeting me when I came home from practice. 

It allowed us to travel and work around the house.

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On our way to Disney for the first time. 

Now, she’s not perfect.  She has a bad dose of the witching hour going on right now.  She just moved up from the premie nipple for her bottle.  Any time we tried in the previous four months she would choke. However, because she was growing she required more ounces during each feeding.  This would lead to her taking 45 minutes to take a bottle. She is doing better with it, but again the last bottle of the night is a struggle.  It takes both of us to be able to calm her down long enough to eat.  She’s also had some constipation issues, though not long enough to have to call the doctor.

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Her first time putting her toes in the sand with her BFF

But besides that, she is mostly a happy baby.  She smiles when we put her in the car seat.  We calling it “going on an adventure” because we are nerd parents after all. She smiles at random people she meets. She can self-soothe most of the time and is content with her own company for long periods of time.

Her happiness allowed my wife to heal and be the wonderful mom she was always meant to be.