What Star Wars Means To Me



I don’t know when I saw the original Star Wars movie. I don’t believe it was during the original release – I was only 3 years old at the time – but to be honest, I’ve never asked my parents.  My memories of seeing it mostly revolve around a VHS tape that I would watch over and over and over again when I was older, long after the movies came out. Apparently, my dad had recorded it, or I did (or asked him to), because we had a recording of it taken off of the TV…somewhere.  I’m not certain where.  May dad sacrificed a recording of Das Rheingold, Wagner’s first Ring opera, but the thing I remember most about it was that you had to put the tape in, rewind it and then fast forward through about 10-12 minutes of Das Rheingold, including the Rhein Maidens, which was always this weird little thing I would kind of watch…just waiting until…

A long time ago in a galaxy far far away…

I did see Empire in the theatre – we went to an old theatre in downtown Kansas City that had a giant (for the time) screen. I have literally no other memories of it.  Jedi I saw with my mom, brother and some friends of ours – my mother fell asleep during it, which we were all mortified by (of course).  The prequels – those I all saw at the Uptown in Washington, DC.

But for some reason, I keep thinking back to that tape.  A VCR tape labeled “Das Rheingold” that had the original Star Wars on it – long years before you could buy movies on videotape.  I would watch it endlessly – over and over and over. I’m relatively certain it drove my brother crazy. I was filled with so many questions: Who were these people?  What were they doing? What was going on? What was the Empire? What was underneath the stormtrooper armor – were they robots? How did a lightsaber work? Etcetera, etcetera.

What made Star Wars so fascinating to me were the questions – the questions left unanswered. The movie had the feeling of being a small part of a giant universe. A giant universe that felt lived in and with every possible corner. There was room in it to daydream of it’s past, future and myriad corners. Room for the imagination of a lonely little boy living in the middle of nowhere.

I haven’t made a great secret that I was a lonely kid. I didn’t have many friends. And what friends I did have, I never really understood. There was a part of me that always felt that anybody who was spending time with me…they were doing it because their parents made them, or out of pity, or under duress. I didn’t make friends easily, had trouble opening up to them and always felt like an outsider. I was afraid to call kids to do things on the phone (a fear of calling people would paralyze me for a long time – I’m still absolutely terrible on the phone, so much so that my fears almost cost me the great love of my life before it even started…when I failed to call the woman who’s now my wife for a second date because I was afraid of rejection), afraid to ask them to play…always prepared for the rejection I knew was coming.

I know now that a great deal of this was due to my being a classic introvert.  Listen, I feel most personality tests are interesting as conversation starters and little else. I know people who’ve taken them dozens of times and come out different every time. Not me. I’m always an INFP and usually pegged pretty hard on the scale. And there’s much in the traits ascribed to that personality that is familiar and some things that aren’t, but one of the big ones for INFPs is that they often have rich “inner worlds” that are very different from the outside. This is a place they keep private, not to share with other people.

Mine was Star Wars. I have spent my whole life daydreaming about Star Wars.

Star Wars was my escape. I had friends there. It was exciting there. It was a vast place without any of the problems in my own life. I could be a soldier or a diplomat or a mystic warrior or a pirate or a smuggler or anything I wanted. I could visit places I could only come up with in my imagination. I could fly spaceships and have sword and gun fights and there would be nobody to reject me. It was about the furthest thing I could possibly think of from my humdrum middle class friendless life in North America’s unwashed armpit (Topeka, KS).

And it was made possible by being vague. And old. And lived in. I could devise elaborate stories with my LEGOs involving the adventures of Renegade Flight (a rebel X-wing flight, detached from Red Squadron referred to in the opening minutes of the Empire Strikes Back radio dramatization on NPR that is cut to pieces trying to bring supplies to Echo Base – poor, poor Ketku…he was always dying) and their new force-sensitive pilot Dex Mallory. I could look at the Sears Christmas catalog and see all these awesome figures and imagine how I’d incorporate them into the war of Rebels/GI-Joe vs. Empire/Cobra (my love of Boba Fett would show up early here – he was always switching sides to whomever I was playing with – he and Storm Shadow). I could doodle planets and read RPG sourcebooks (I never ever had anyone to play the West End games with – and yet, I owned most of the materials).

In my inner universe, the Clone Wars were against clones. The Empire was thousands of years old. The Rebels under-equipped (largely due to the fact that so many of my toys were second-hand, and missing parts – save my glorious Snowspeeder…still the greatest toy I ever got). There were frequent mashups with the Joes/Cobra or with TRON or Battlestar Galactica…never Trek, oddly enough…and endless combat across the backyard. Han Solo memorably died once – I buried him in the dirt near where we’d buried a dog I loved in the back yard…he got better (I dug him up the next day – turns out he’d faked his death).

I listened to the audiobooks until the cassettes wore out (only when I would aquire them on CD did I ever get to hear the Jedi adaptation, or the missing first two episodes of Star Wars, which my dad and I failed to record properly). I read most of the books, which ranged wildly in quality, and a good portion of the comics (far more uneven). I bought RPG books. I held onto the toys I had left in any kind of reasonable condition. And I daydreamed.

Star Wars allowed me to dream. Of being something other than I was. Of being somewhere else. Someone else. Somewhere and someone bigger and better than the lonely shy kid I was.

As the years would pass by, I kept up my love of Star Wars when so many other things fell to the wayside. Star Wars and the Kansas City Royals – the first two things I loved unquestioningly that weren’t my parents (the unquestioning part would die around the same time…1999). They would get me through my parents terrible divorce. Through being picked on and bullied in the nightmare that was my 11/12/13 years. They’d make me friends…eventually.  And in the back of my mind, I was still writing adventures for Renegade Flight and Dex Mallory – I still think of them all the time.

I’ve been asked many times what my favorite Star Wars moment is. There are so many. But there is a moment in EVERY Star Wars movie that is my favorite. It’s the moment I’d get so excited while watching that old videotape.

The crawl has ended – it is fading off into the distance. The music is bridging to the first music of the movie itself and the camera is getting ready to pan to whatever will happen next. In Star Wars, it is right before it pans down to the Tantive IV and the Devastator battling over Tattooine. In Empire, right before the Star Destroyer Avenger launches it’s probe droids. In Jedi, right before it pans to the new Death Star under construction.


It is a moment of purity for me. Pure possibility and expectation.

In that moment, Lieutenant Commander Dex Mallory…force sensitive pilot…call sign Renegade 12…and the brave heroes of Renegade Flight….they fly again.

In that moment, they’re as real as anything on the screen.

In that moment, a shy and terribly lonely Kansas kid…he’s flying with them.








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All Quiet

We’re about two weeks away from informing the ‘rents and then the general public of friends/acquaintances/etc.  I think we’re both ready for it.  TheWife almost told her brother the other night and I’m ready to be open about what’s happening with us.  I understand all the reasons for our delay, mind.  It was the smart call then and it’s the smart call now.  I’m just ready for it to be over.

We’re finally nearing the end of the First Tri.  TheWife is doing much better with the fatigue and is (slowly) adjusting to the reality of needing maternity clothing.  That’s not to say she’s happy about it.

All that as a way of prefacing that we’re headed out of town for the next two weekends.  This weekend is a previous (to Batman) scheduled trip to North Georgia’s wine country.  It’ll kill TheWife to not be able to drink our way through the three days, but it is a long anticipated trip for our anniversary, with festivals to attend and all kinds of other things.  And next weekend we’re back to Tally for Duke v. FSU.  These two weekends are the last with our little secret…so we’re going to quietly enjoy ourselves.

But there’s really so little to report.  I have some ideas for other posts to write, but they’ll be somewhat dependent on other events finishing up so I’m going to leave it at that.  But I want to try and write something at least once a week.  So…here you are.  Boring, perhaps.

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The Sports Vacation

Anatomy of a sports breakdown.

Step One: End of another abysmal Royals season

This was supposed to be the year Kansas City finally began to put things together.  They had young talent and plenty of it.  Yes, the starting pitching was bad and yes, there were two questionable players on the team (Frenchy and Yuni).  But they’d traded for what fans all hoped was a better starter in the offseason and there were young starters who were almost ready.  Instead…injuries, terrible starting pitching, a season of regression for Eric Hosmer, and Frenchy/Yuni were even worse than advertised (Frenchy being doubly worse since he is actually blocking Wil Meyers from being called up).  Another season below .500.  Another year without making the playoffs (if we don’t make the playoffs by 2015, it’ll be 30 years of ineptitude – they’re already the active leader in American sports of seasons without the playoffs).  The worst part is that I just don’t have any faith it’ll ever turn around.  Oh, I spout off platitudes about how it eventually will…that it has to.  But I’m no longer sure if I believe it.  The Orioles and A’s making the playoffs did not help.

Step Two: Braves Playoff Loss

Let’s all agree on the following:

1.) The Braves played like absolute garbage.  As usual when they struggled this season, it was because they were terrible with runners in scoring position.  Whenever that happened, the team would lose…often in close games b/c the pitching was good.  Compounding the problem was that the Braves fielding, one of the best in MLB, had an off night (including Chipper with an error in his last ever game).  AND…Kris Medlen had an off night, which the law of averages should have indicated was bound to happen.  They had plenty of opportunities to win that game, but didn’t take them.  They deserved to lose.

2.) That said…the infield fly call was absolutely terrible.  It was a bad call that absolutely hurt the Braves chances to win (instead of bases loaded and 1 out, you had runners on 2nd and 3rd with two outs – run expectation stat drops by something like half a run in that situation).  It was not the reason they lost the game.  But it didn’t help.  And one could argue that after that, a losing energy filled the place and the loss became inevitable.  Let’s all agree that this was a bad call – there’s really no way you can justify it.

3.) The new playoff format is dumb.  One game and you’re out hardly seems fair to a team that won 6 more games than St. Louis during the regular season.  Plus, that’s where the call hurts most.  Anybody can have one bad game.  Anybody can get a bad call.  What that shouldn’t do is cost a team their entire postseason.  I’m probably in the minority on this, but there you go.

Step Three: The Saturday Afternoon/Night Massacre

Kansas plays K-State tough in the first half (only trailing by 7 at the half), then gets blown out by 40 pts.  Florida and Clemson both win games they could conceivably lost – even tough that was “good” for FSU, it’s hard to root for those two teams.  Georgia gets destroyed by Spurrier and South Carolina.  To boost positive karma, I actually root for Missouri over Vanderbilt b/c a friend is pulling for them.  They lose.

Then the FSU game.

FSU played terribly.  It was not the playcalling (mostly) but rather extremely poor execution.  Plus, NC State’s offensive line basically holding on every possession and it not getting called by the officials.  FSU deserved to lose this game.  And once again, the Seminoles have gone and lost a game they were a double-digit favorite in – it’s like 7 straight years they’ve done that.  More of the same.  Heck…I’ve watched that game before – it was the Virginia game last year…almost identical.

And at that point…I was miserable.  Really miserable.  I mean really miserable.  And I haven’t even discussed how awful the Kansas City Chiefs are!

And I started to think about it.  And the more I thought, I felt that there was a problem.  Watching sports is supposed to be fun, right?  I mean…if you like that (I recognize and respect that plenty of people hate sports in general – and that’s fine.  To each their own.).  But the more I thought about it, the less fun I seemed to be having.  I didn’t “blame myself” for all my teams losing – that’s really ridiculous.  I’m not the kiss of death.  My teams don’t all stink (Arsenal hasn’t been terrible to start the year, the Falcons are undefeated, etc.).

But I listen to all these podcasts and follow all these twitter feeds and read all these articles and I don’t enjoy any of it.  It only makes me more miserable.  Plus, how healthy is it really to watch 12+ hours of football over the course of a weekend?  To watch even when I could care less?  I often would watch and feel bored and yet not stop watching.  I often would feel miserable during a FSU game even though FSU was winning.  How in the world is that right?

The conclusion I came to is that I needed a vacation.  I needed to care a little bit less and live life a bit more.  There are only so many minutes in a day – why spend them doing something that only made me feel miserable?  So…I decided upon the idea of the “sports vacation.”

  • decided not to watch any NFL football on Sunday, day one of the vacation – no RedZone, no Sunday Night Football, no nothing
  • decided to not watch any football all week, or any other sport (baseball playoffs included) on TV
  • no podcasts, radio, websites – I can check the scores of something once or twice in a day, but not constantly
  • I’m going to setup some new limits on what I watch and how much I partake of the internet, etc.

All of this in an effort to make my sports viewing more enjoyable when I do come back to it.  And I will.  But there will be some new limits and that’s okay.  Already I feel much better about things.  I’m sure the entire FSU fan community has been in full meltdown mode for the last couple of days – I’ve avoided it entirely.  This does make me happy.

And what has been done in the meantime?  We went to a children’s consignment sale and bought a bouncy chair, a stroller/carseat/etc. combo, and a whole bunch of other stuff.  We tried and failed to do a few other things, but we also did some cleaning in the house and painted the dresser (after months of it just sitting in the garage).  We watched all of the unwatched Burn Notice and White Collar episodes and last night, listened to music while we read.  Not bad.  Not bad at all.

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Mandolin Family Team Power Rankings – Week 40

An arbitrary ranking of the various sports teams supported by members of the Mandolin family – remember: power rankings are meaningless

  1. Atlanta Falcons (4-0) – undefeated is undefeated – big effort to win on a day when they didn’t play well and help cement a huge lead in the division at the 1/4 mark of the season (previously: 3)
  2. Atlanta Braves (93-66) – wildcard bound, probably…but still a shot at glory (previously: 2)
  3. Florida State Seminoles (5-0) – maybe it’s b/c I’ve spent my 5 years as a FSU fan getting used to disappointment, but I tend to watch these FSU games waiting for the shoe to drop – not a great game on Saturday, but a win is a win (previously: 1)
  4. Florida State Girl’s Soccer – no idea what their record is – but they’re undefeated and #1 in the country…deserve mention (previously: unranked)
  5. Kansas Jayhawks Men’s Basketball (0-0) – haven’t played a game…already better than the other teams on this list (previously: 4)
  6. Kansas City Royals (71-88) – please, Lord…let that be the last Hochevar start in a Royals uniform (previously: 6)
  7. Detroit Lions (1-3) – yuck…Bono is disappointed (previously: 5)

Unranked: Kansas City Chiefs (awful…just awful), Kansas Jayhawks football (also awful), Washington Capitals (you can’t be ranked if there’s no end in sight for the lockout)



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Nine Weeks

We’re at nine weeks now.  Nine weeks.  Here is an non-exhaustive list of things I am freaking out about this morning, serious and trivial:

  • my cruddy job that I’m not crazy about but which is absolutely essential
  • TheWife’s safety
  • Batman’s safety
  • miscarriage – apparently, there’s a whole history of this in TheWife’s family I didn’t really know about or remember
  • genetic issues with Batman – not that we know of any, mind you…I’m worried about statistical chances
  • FSU losing to NC State next weekend
  • that TheWife and I have become “boring” to outsiders
  • that I don’t have enough local friends
  • that I need to get to the gym but hate exercising but have to do it before something terrible happens to me
  • that I’ll be a terrible father
  • that I’m never going to find something to do as a career that I’m actually great at – oh, there are plenty of things I’m decent/good/better-than-average at…but I wonder if I’m actually great at anything
  • that I’m not reading enough – there are so many books I want to read and so little time
  • that I am bringing Batman into a world that is getting worse and worse
  • that I don’t have enough outlets to express myself

And that, in a nutshell, is a major reason why I decided to resurrect OverEntertained, my attempt at a blog from many years ago.  TheWife and I are having a baby (who shall be known as Batman Fett for the time being).  Having a baby when I’m 39 and she’ll be 37 (when Batman is born).  A baby that was hoped and planned for, but took more effort than we thought it would.  I worry about everything, mostly without any real reason to.  I tend to present an optimistic picture to TheWife and to the world at large, but the confidence inside isn’t always there.

More importantly, I’ve needed an outlet.  To write about things regarding this and about everything else that goes on in my life.  To write about random cr*p I see in the world or on TV or whatever.  Write book reviews.  Talk about Batman (the crusader, not the fetus) and Star Wars nonsense.  And I’ve seen my friend write a blog that’s helped her deal with some health issues with her son and it seems to have helped…so..the blog is resurrected.

This won’t be public for a month at least.  I’m going to write posts that are more or less just for me.  Plus, since parents and friends (for the most part) don’t yet know about the arrival of Batman Fett…it has to stay private.  But…away we go.  I don’t care if nobody reads this.  This is for me.  But…if you come across this after I make it public…welcome!

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