From a recent exercise in storytelling. Assignment: In roughly 100 words, describe a time when your life changed.
At the last minute, I threw out my first, more serious draft, switched topics entirely, and wrote on the fly -
When we got home, I couldn’t get to my crayons fast enough.
I couldn’t find the black one, so I skipped Darth Vader and drew my stormtroopers in blue-green.
That’s how I remember the first time I saw Star Wars. I was six.
Since then, I have seen better movies. I have read better stories.
But this was more than spaceships and lasers and robots:
Star Wars is what got me interested in science and writing and history and mythology; in authors, characters, symbols, and archetypes; in storytelling and classically-inspired music and film-making.
This was a Big Bang. This was my world blowing up.
Also: spaceships and lasers and robots.
I liked the way it turned out, and it got a good reception. I saved it because I enjoyed looking deeper than nostalgia and remembering the first time someone else’s art really inspired me.
Spent about five hours gaming on Saturday, in celebration of International TableTop Day.
Started off with a three-person game of Love Letter -
- which we followed with Tsuro.
After that, another friend showed up, and the four of us took on Forbidden Island -
Alas, victory eluded us.
On to Pandemic - another first for me.
Another cooperative game – really enjoyed this. (And we were so freaking close to winning this one!)
Another gamer arrived, and we played a five-person game of Tsuro, and then something none of us had tried before: We Didn’t Playtest This at All.
I think we played three complete games in about 12 minutes. So bizarre and odd and chaotic and fun.
A few non-work-related photos from my trip last week to the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville.
I love amusement park skylines. This is part of Kentucky Kingdom, re-opening in May.
Next: Nerdworld and truckland collide:
Western Star Trucks’ Optimus Prime, from the next Transformers movie.
Back on March 20, our department at work got together for a good chunk of the day to talk about storytelling. We had lunch, saw one of the short film programs at the Cleveland International Film Festival, and then hung out for awhile with the director of one of the movies we’d seen.
Here’s what we watched:
I enjoyed the program. All the movies were entertaining, and it was a nice mix of subjects and tones and length. Thoughts on a few:
Real Change - a nine-minute documentary about four homeless men who sell the Real Change newspaper Seattle - led off the program, and its director, Adam Michael Becker, shared his time with us after the screening. As a former journalist, I was incredibly impressed with the stories and personalities he put on screen in such a short amount of time without the movie feeling rushed.
I’m a fan of rock photography, so it figured that I enjoyed Who Shot Rock & Roll, although compared to the rest of the pieces, it felt a little long at 37 minutes. Some parts dragged or seemed repetitive while others were too short.
The Pledge for Mr. Bunny: This is such a bizarre and offbeat little movie, and I loved it, even if I can’t quite explain why. I can see where it wouldn’t be for everybody, but if you want to give it a try, it’s available in its entirety on YouTube:
About five years ago, I started measuring our heavier snowfalls using the galactically-recognized Giant Vintage Kenner Chewbacca scale.
It’s been a particularly wintry winter here in Northeast Ohio, and I was asked recently how Chewie was faring this season.
Truth is…he quit. Just up and disappeared. Then, this weekend, a friend emails me a link to these pictures on Facebook:
Ah. Looks like Chewie headed for warmer climes.
… and maybe wanted to play tourist.
Oh. Well then. I hope he’s partyyying responsiblyyy.
(Chewie’s confession in the caption: “I don’t remember this.”)
Huge thanks for these pictures to über-talented photo geek extraordinaire Jim Carchidi, who once again goes above and beyond in responding to a nerdy request. He’s put this whole Chewie gallery in a public Facebook gallery, and you should go check out his portfolio, especially if you’re a fan of portraits, concert photography, Bike Week in Daytona, or Star Wars stuff.
I’ve scanned another couple pages’ worth of my dad’s pictures from Korea. (Click here for some background on this project and the first batch of photos.) Clicking on any of the images will take you to the full photoset and much larger versions of the pictures.
As noted previously, I’d love any feedback, input or insight into the locations and situations captured in Dad’s pictures, so if you know someone who served in this area around this time – or even if you can translate some of the Korean signs in the photos – feel free to get in touch with me through the comments or by emailing booth(at)fieldsedge.com.
My earliest memories trace an elliptical orbit around two places: Lima and Upper Sandusky, Ohio.
If you ask me where the first place is that I remember living, my mind goes to this house on North Main Street in Lima:
That picture’s from sometime in 1972-73. (Here’s what the house looked like in summer 2012.)
But I also have many memories of the farm and house in Upper Sandusky where my mom grew up, since we lived there while my dad was serving in Korea in 1971 and ’72. While I can remember several things about being there, I can’t say that I recall having a sense of home in those memories, the way I do about the house in Lima.
That’s me and my maternal grandfather, Reuben Schoenberger. Here’s another one:
The pieces I remember from the farm and the farmhouse are mostly sensory snapshots: The smell of dirt and wood and oil in the barn, and the pile of gravel behind it where I played; sitting on the metal cover to something in the yard (a well, maybe, or a cistern?); the place under the front porch where I crawled with the family dog, Alfie; the pattern on the kitchen floor; the yard and the long driveway tucked into the cornfields.
That’s me and my grandma Joan and Alfie. I can remember that tricycle seeming huge – it had a double-decker step on the back! and needing those block-and-band accessories to reach the pedals. (Those things had a long life: after I outgrew needing them on the tricycle, they went into the box of toy blocks that lasted through me and my brothers.)
Now let’s go back to Lima.
I seem to think this area was just off the kitchen, at the back of the house. I still remember exactly how that rug felt under my hands and knees, and beneath the wheels of my toys. The wooden toy box in the background? My grandpa made it, and I still have it. And I remember taking everything out of it and making a complete mess of the room so that I could sit in it.
This was my parents’ second car (according to the back of the picture). Again, I can remember the texture of the seats. At some point, the Bug developed a hole in the backseat floor, and I wasn’t allowed to ride there. I loved two things in particular about the car: riding with the top down, and pushing the button that made the windshield washers squirt. This latter activity was most fun when carried out unsupervised with my best friend, Alberto – he’s in the middle of the photo below:
Alberto and his family lived next door, and it seems like every interaction I remember between our families involved laughing. Also, I could eat his mom’s homemade tortillas by the dozen. Man, they were good.
Finally, a trio of seasonal pictures, starting with me and mom in winter:
Summer. (I don’t know who that guy is, but I loved that swinging pole thing, and I love the ’70s feel of this picture.)
And fall. Me and my trike and our dog, Punkin.
Punkin got lost for a couple days once. I think I remember dad saying he found her out in a field by some railroad tracks.
Larger versions of these pictures – and a couple others – are in this Flickr photoset.
I’ve said before how excited I am to have played a small part in this project, so when the finished DVD of Plastic Galaxy: The Story of Star Wars Toys landed in my mailbox last week, it was a little like the day I got my Bossk.
Here’s the elevator pitch from the DVD web site:
Like no toys before them, Star Wars toys were a phenomenon that swept the nation, transforming both the toy and movie industries, and ultimately creating a hobby that, 30 years later, still holds sway over its fans.
Plastic Galaxy is a documentary that explores the groundbreaking and breathtaking world of Star Wars toys. Through interviews with former Kenner employees, experts, authors, and collectors, it looks at the toys’ history, their influence, and the fond and fervent feelings they elicit today.
I may not be the most impartial reviewer, of course, but think the movie turned out well. It’s a nice balance of nostalgia trip, toy merchandising history lesson, eye-popping show-and-tell, and behind-the-scenes storytelling. There’s some fun animation work throughout, too.
Several nifty people I’ve met and/or know from fan circles are also in the movie, like Jim Swearingen, and a couple OSWCC and KennerCollector.com friends, and Steve Sansweet, who wrote what’s still one of my all-time favorite Star Wars books, “From Concept to Screen to Collectible.” (A book, which, it should be noted, also inspired Plastic Galaxy. It’s still a good read 20+ years after its publication. Most of what has become common knowledge about the Kenner/Star Wars backstory was unearthed by Sansweet first.)
It’s probably not too much of a stretch to say that if you remember the Kenner brand or coveted the neighbor kid’s Landspeeder or grew up in the twin-sun shadow of the original Star Wars, then Plastic Galaxy is probably in your wheelhouse. You can order it from Brian and Karl’s Futurious Industries.
In addition to diving into my own memories of the early-to-mid 1970s, another project I’ve undertaken for this year is collecting my dad’s photos of his year in Korea, when he was serving in the U.S. Air Force, just a little more than four decades back.
There are several pages’ worth of these black-and-white pictures, unlabeled, collected in one of my mom’s earliest photo albums. I also seem to recall a box of color slides from Korea that used to be in our attic. I’ll have to ask about those and maybe look into getting them digitized. I figure I’ll post them a few pages at a time, publishing smaller images here, and linking to the collected Flickr set of larger versions. (Clicking on any of the photos will also take you to that set and the original 600 dpi scans.)
They’re a regular, everyday mix of scenic photos, posed pictures, and context-free slices of whatever life was going on at the moment.
All of these pictures were taken between July 1971 and August 1972, but not during February 1972, since Dad was home on leave then. Possible locations are near the USAF Osan Air Base and a radar site at Kojin, which seems to have been just south of the DMZ on the east coast, near a body of water named “Hwajinpo.” (I have a baseball-style cap of Dad’s embroidered with “Kamp Kojin Korea” on the front, “Doc” along one side and “Commander USAF Hospital” on the back. Another cap I have says “USAF HOSP Osan ’71-’72″ on it.)
I welcome any feedback, input or insight into the locations and situations captured in Dad’s pictures, so if you know someone who served in this area around this time, feel free to get in touch with me through the comments or by emailing me at booth(at)fieldsedge.com.
From time to time, I’ve written about the 1980s. They mattered to me. As I wrote in 2008:
In practically every sense of the word, I grew up in the 1980s: I turned 10 the year they began, when the Empire struck back and Tom Hanks cross-dressed on television. In 1989 I saw Robin Williams make studying poetry rock, graduated from high school, started college, listened to the Cure disintegrate and turned 19. The popular culture of that decade is as addicting to me as a two-pound bag of Cool Ranch Doritos and a two-liter of Coke Classic.
In my memories, the late 1970s – say, 1977-79 – mesh easily with the eighties, for the most part. Maybe because that’s when I started elementary school, and you begin having those shared experiences with your friends that eventually shape and define you collectively.
But over the past few years, I’ve found myself drawn repeatedly to pieces from the earlier part of that decade, which I recall with little specificity, large swaths of sensory impressions, and vague memories attached to large, blurry-edged chunks of time and place.
The early 1970s were the years when my mom and I lived in her childhood farmhouse in Upper Sandusky, while my dad was serving in the Air Force; when mom & dad & I lived in Lima, Ohio, and I made my first best friend, Albert.
Movies like Snoopy Come Home, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, The Towering Inferno and Earthquake take me back there in powerful, intangible ways. (Yes, I saw those last two in the theatre with my parents, and re-watched them within the last couple years for the first time in decades: Inferno totally holds up. Earthquake does not.) So do songs like Billy Don’t Be a Hero, Song Sung Blue, Bad, Bad Leroy Brown, and Band on the Run (oh God, BAND ON THE RUN).
For a long time, my love for the ’80s made it easy for me to kind of file the early 1970s away in a lumped-together preschool haze of funky stripes and plaids, wavy hairstyles, and peanut butter sandwiches, without giving much thought to the lasting impressions and the things that mattered.
My parents, I realize now, were at an age I’d now grin at and shake my head, saying, “Ah, they’re still just kids.” And my grandparents still had many years ahead of them – they were only about 10 years older than I am now.
I’m going to try to regularly revisit those years through pictures and memories for awhile. Adam and I have talked about it occasionally, and recent conversations with my friend Mo about Walt Disney World got me looking for pieces from an early ’70s trip there with my parents.
The ’80s will still be there for me. But I’m looking forward to spending some time going further back.