Cornfield Meet

Things collide here.


Back in the late 1990s, when I was in the advertising department at the Sentinel, I discovered the Star Wars Collectors Archive, and was just enthralled. For years, I tried to find stuff I could submit for inclusion, and within the last year, I did get two pieces accepted. (It’s a geek thing, for sure, but in some ways, it felt good – a lot like successfully pitching a story or article.)

Flash forward to last week, when I was at work poking through the U.S. Patent Office web site, looking for information for a story. I found what I was looking for, then remembered this section of ToysRGus, where some of the old Star Wars designs were uncovered, and thought I’d see if I could add anything to it, or find anything new. The result is a short article for FieldsEdge (here), and finally makes me feel like I’ve contributed something original, seeing as how Jim has absolutely been kicking my butt content-wise, with his write-ups and photos from Star Wars weekends.

And while I’m talking Star Wars (shock!), this news about George Lucas selling off the physical effects shop (the model-building side of things) of Industrial Light and Magic  makes me a bit sad, only because that’s literally the place where a defining part of my childhood was shaped. At Celebration III last spring, I scheduled a five-minute interview with original ILM model maker Lorne Peterson that turned into a wonderful half-hour conversation. Since then, we had a follow-up chat that took up several hours of an autumn afternoon, and became the basis of an article that should be published later this year. He’s been with ILM since its inception, and I can’t imagine Lucasfilm jettisoning the department that basically served as the building blocks for the most influential special effects company of the age.

Regarding the comments on that article from animation magazine, though – the bit asserting that Peter Jackson’s Weta FX shop has somehow surpassed ILM because of its focus on story, I have to get defensive: First off, ILM has exactly zip to do with storytelling. If a special effect overshadows plot and character, as has been charged regarding the SW prequels, you can’t blame the creators of the effect. Secondly, I’d argue with the idea that Weta’s digital work has set a standard beyond ILM: I found King Kong’s scampering about as ridiculous as some people found Yoda’s hyperactive swordplay. In fact, I’d argue that it’s Weta’s model shop work, particularly in the LOTR trilogy, on things like the Black Gate and Cirith Ungol, that is the shop’s really strong point. (jumping off soapbox)

Anyway, at least the new ILM spinoff will be named after the nondescript "Kerner Optical" building which, for so many decades, was the closest thing most of us could compare to an honest-to-God wizard’s workshop.

June 24, 2006 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Toynbee, Jupiter, 2001

Since I started working in Cleveland last year, I’ve walked over this thing –

(Image from the listing at

– many times, but only last week got around to Googling “Toynbee”, “street” and “Cleveland” to see if there was any kind of story behind it. (Being a geek, I recognized the 2001: A Space Odyssey reference to Jupiter, but instead of knowing who the real Toynbee was, I figured it was some kind of nod toward “The Toynbee Convector,” one of my favorite Ray Bradbury stories.)
Turns out the thing is part of an odd pop culture mystery dating back to the mid-1980s and covering a bunch of U.S. cities and a few places in other countries. And there’s even a guy making a movie, “Resurrect Dead” about his quest to find out who’s behind these things and what they mean. (Two other stories about him here and here.) Part of me thinks that’s very cool, but part of me was also a little disheartened to read that the moviemaker claims to have a pretty good idea who was behind them. (Likewise to find out that some of the tiles seem to be copycat versions, and not authentic placements by the original Toynbee Tile-maker.) I kind of like the idea of these plaques having survived for so long without their origins being revealed.
To change the subject completely, I’m scheduled for my first non-friends-and-family promotion of “Crossing Decembers” next week. I pitched the idea to the local TV program “State of the Arts” and the woman who hosts it, Lois DiGiacomo, said she’d love to have me on.  (Hm. Perhaps to promote the book more effectively, I could get the POTUS to carelessly insult me and then apologize. It worked for Peter Wallsten, whose forthcoming book jumped from #513,432 on to no.  2,513 in the 24 hours after the incident.)

June 17, 2006 Posted by | Uncategorized | 3 Comments

You drive around aimlessly

No, it’s not laziness. It’s vacation. And a damned good one, much-anticipated and fully enjoyed with friends and family on the gulf coast of Florida. Got a lot of good journal writing done and relaxed my soul like nobody’s business. Walked the beach with my wife & daughter. Saw dolphins and crabs and stingrays and went to sleep every night feeling like I was still bobbing in the surf. It was like a weeklong sigh.

Now I’m back and feeling at once eager and energetic and slightly out of focus: I ordered Crossing Decembers an ISBN and a barcode a few weeks ago to help me promote it, and now I’ve got to figure out how to do it. At the same time, I’m trying to think of new projects to share at FieldsEdge; (Jim’s been doing write-ups from Star Wars Weekends at Disney which we’ve been posting) and I’m also feeling heady because sweet mother o’ The Maker, they’ve announced Star Wars Celebration IV while I was lounging on the beach, and Jim C. and I have less than a year to get ready for this one.

Oh, and I’ve gotta get back to ‘normal’ because it’s back to work tomorrow, up-and-at-’em at 5:30 a.m.

Things feel busy and chaotic and good and even a little intimidating.

June 4, 2006 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment


%d bloggers like this: