"The Childe...More restless than the swallow in the skies..." -Lord Byron, Childe Harold's Pilgrimage

Thursday, November 12, 2015

The Tune Maker of Star Wars

I know the story that goes something like this:

The early cuts of the original Star Wars film did not look good and did not play well. The movie seemed bad until they added in John Williams's original score. The music made all the difference in the film's success.

I also know the story John Williams told where George Lucas had planned to use existing symphonic music like Holst's The Planets to score the film. In this story, John Williams had to persuade Lucas to use an original score. Frightening to imagine we almost never got to hear Williams's original--now classic--themes. But there is another story...

John Williams at the Hollywood Bowl, Credit Alec McNayr
Creative Commons License (CC BY-SA 2.0)

In a different version of history, Lucas says he always intended for there to be an original score. The only persuasion came in the form of Steven Spielberg recommending Lucas hire John Williams. Just so long as we got the original score, I care less which version is most accurate.

However, not until viewing a short video published on the official Star Wars YouTube channel did I learn a new fascinating detail. Williams prefers not to read the script before seeing the film. He wants to experience it as much as possible the way the audience will. This enables him to score a movie with a first-time audience in mind.

Here is his explanation. YouTube does not allow embedding of this video, so please follow the below link. What a delight to listen to the composer share his deep connection to Star Wars!

Thomas Gray Mingles with Jedi Lore

For those of you who haven't yet read it, I recently posted a new elegy which adapts a classic British poem into new verse for Star Wars. Accompanied by original artwork, this poem is my way of celebrating this wonderful franchise, and all the memories and daydreams it has made possible. 

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Images from a Big Two-Hearted Road Trip

I took an overdue road trip for Halloween weekend, with several stops Up North in Michigan. From early Saturday morning until Sunday evening I managed about 1,000 miles. If Monday had stayed away, I would have kept going. 

There is much I am trying to write about this trip. Hopefully some of my journey will end up in stories. I lucked out and scored the following image before crossing back over the Mackinac Bridge on Sunday afternoon. Would you believe I did not even notice the cloud formation until I had already pulled over?

I also finally saw Tahquamenon Falls up close. The Upper Peninsula is incredibly photogenic, even for smart phones negotiating so-so lighting. 

Like most of my road trips in adulthood, I took this one solo. I was not entirely alone though. It has become a personal tradition of mine to borrow the library's copy of Ernest Hemingway's Nick Adams Stories as read by actor Stacy Keach. This is easily my favorite audio book. Listened to while driving the same ground as Hemingway and his protagonist trod makes the experience hypnotic. I highly recommend it!

The below early evening image of the Straits of Mackinac as seen from Mackinaw City may not be the most exciting shot. Nevertheless, it best sums up the mood and rewards of my Big Two-Hearted Road Trip: solitary, drizzly, ponderous, a bit lonely, but blessed with beautiful scenery. I am fortunate to have wound up in this state. Michigan has truly become my Michigan.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Two Pieces for Star Wars Gone By

I. May Nostalgia Be With You

"I had this image of a middle aged guy
reenacting Luke captured by the Wampa...
lamenting his lost youth." 

II. Elegy Written for a Country Space Opera

Twin sunsets fade like knells of parting day,
As whistling droids whir--steadfast--o'er a dune,
The fanboy starward dreams his leery way,
But leaves that world to Disney all too soon.

Now silence cloaks a landscape raised for mirth,
He treads its gravel waves, rock mem’ry spice,
Like one who shirked the moisture farmer’s worth,
Then nearly perished, sown within Hoth’s ice.

For such, the glimm'ring landscape of the night
Fades out, marked by the telling Mynock shrieks,
Save where a vast white screen now waits for light,
To cast again the Falcon fandom seeks.

Can any reprise hope to freshen lore,
Which strikes back with new lessons harder learned?
Son's eyes reflected matching suns before,
Tear-glazed, their father's pyre light returned.

Let not awakened icons wear out joy,
First witnessed as wide grins in Yavin's nave;
Though medaled hero stood then as a boy,
The paths of sequels lead but to the grave.

So too, the fanboy grays into a man,
No more to pilot drive-in playground swings.
His mind a hermitage, this would-be Han
Now smuggles fondness for his old musings.

Full many a boy of Jedi’s worth now lives,
The dark nonfiction caves of this world bear;
Full many a Leia to drubbed Luke now gives
A savior’s kiss in grounded city air.

Far from the cineplex, this rustic youth,
Who read dire word crawls from a pickup bed,
Was led by Ben Kenobi’s tailored truth;
Delusions grand--Yodaic in his head-- 

Forbade by life’s rude lot prequels to pen,
This almost-George, no Empire’s rod did sway;
He left the greatest tale of Anakin
Unwritten long ago and far away.

“Oh, be wan,” gibes Salacious ‘neath the sand. 
“Would all could rest their heads on Disney’s hearth, 
Who’ve lived within, like each new rebel band, 
The bosom of their Father and their Darth.”

--Jake Christensen, September 2015


This elegy is patterned after Thomas Gray’s “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard." http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/173564

Special thanks to cartoonist Jay Fosgitt for giving my Elegy an advanced read and adapting the themes in a clever and wonderfully poignant way.

Thanks also to Wookieepedia, for several needed vocabulary refreshers.