Listen. It's different.

Star Warz III : Revenge of the Sith

This movie starts in the middle of a sentence, and ends in the middle of a sentence. It is not a story. It's the middle of a story. How do you "end" the Star Warz saga by filling in the 3rd 1/9th of the epic? Answer: you walk away.


How you can produce a movie that has no beginning or end also leaves me incredulous, even though I know the answer -- which is -- that people so love this story, and it is so much a part of American colloquial living, that watching it becomes more of an ecstatic religious experience than entertainment.

So, I was bored and didn't like this movie EXCEPT for the fact I saw it in Dolby Digital video. That means the movie you see comes from about a terabyte of data streaming off a hard drive and projected through a super hi-rez DLP projector -- not light passing through film. The result is crispness I have never seen on a big screen, and psychologically, the effect is one of making everything look like what it is -- a movie prop or a special effect. I hadn't realized till now, that the minute blurring effect of projecting through film hides so many imperfections that even very "fake" looking sets and props can be convincing. Not so with Dolby Digital. The Storm Trooper's armor looked like Tupperware. The scar on Annikin Skywalker's eye looks like it was painted on with a magic marker. To hide the effects of blazing reality, very few of the scenes are filmed in direct light. The daylight scenes are CGI and/or swooping panoramas with no close ups. It's always night or twilight, and with one exception, none of the interiors are white, because it must be nearly impossible to hide the imperfections.

The picture is so clear, you would be able to see the reflection of the camera in an actor's spoon during a dinner scene.

All of which makes the CGI amazing. There are no flaws in the CGI characters, which lead me to believe that sooner, rather than later, directors may be able to dispense with human actors for anything other than voice.

Anyway, I was bored with Star Warz III, to go along with my being bored with Star Wars I, II, and V.

Black Elk Speaks : The Sacred Ways of the Lakota

I'm finally putting a dent in my reading pile. I'm now reading books people gave me as gifts 2 years ago.

When someone gives you a book about a Lakota sorcerer you should question their motives. Are they trying to help you? What are they suggesting?

Perhaps they aren't prepared for my reaction. I think if I ever had a past life, it was probably as some middle-ranked, undistinguished Native American brave. I was probably massacred by the calvary, or maybe I was clumsy and fell off my horse and was trampled by a buffalo. In any case, my death would not have been punctuated by any form of bravery or selflessness. My name would have been: Falling off Feet, or Held Under by Ducks, or Runs from Rabbits.

I believe my passion for understanding Native American religions comes from an incompleteness in my past life. Perhaps I tried to take part in the Sun Dance and chickened out of the hooks-through-pectorals part. Or maybe I got scared out of a sweat lodge by a mysteriously shaking baby rattle. It's a huge blank spot in my life that only makes me feel better when I think of the earth as the creation of a supreme loving being who talks to me in the cawing of crows, the smiles of strangers, and light breezes on springtime mornings.

When I was a kid I used to sleepwalk. I once woke up from a night's sleep on the front lawn, covered in dew.

That night I had a vivid dream about tiny robotic people and bright lights, one would associate with the now overdone X-Files-ish phenomenon, which didn't exist in those days. In my dream I heard an incredible song. The most gorgeous thing I'd ever heard created. And the message I got was that when I next heard that song it would be the day of my death. The song was there to remind me this life was over, and it was time to move on. Apparently, I'd picked it myself, so I'd be calm when it happened.

To this day I think I hear songs like that one, and I worry that "this is it" when I do.

What I remember most about that time in my life was that my nightmares were so vivid I tried my damnedst not to fall asleep. Sleep always came, and in my sleep deprivation came lights in my dreamsky and gray-skinned creatures who needed to teach me things that hurt like hell. I'd wake up with nosebleeds my parents got used to. Cuts and bruises I didn't remember having the day before.

All of it stopped by the time I went into college, save for one particular evening about 20 years ago when the nightmare promised me it wouldn't return until I asked it to. The nightmare talked to me in the form of a familiar religious icon, completely encircled in golden light. It asked me what I wanted most in the world -- that I would be granted anything I wanted -- and I told it I'd like to be a great author someday.

It laughed as if I'd told the best joke in the universe to a drunken business man at a corner bar in Newark.

That morning I was in the bathroom shaving, and my wife came in and asked me what had happened to my back. When she touched it, the pain made me wince. There was a thin, razor like paper cut running from the base of my neck to my tail bone. It bled in places.

I didn't bother saying anything about the dream because, after all, it promised not to come back, and as far as I could tell it didn't bother anyone around me.

And hell, they're just dreams, right?

The reason I'm telling you this is because books like Black Elk come into my life and I read them and the disjointed imagery makes perfect sense to me in the context of my own experience. After years of pawltry attempts at my own brand of sorcery, I think I may finally have reached the status of becoming a worthy kindergarten student. I have reached the stage where it would be worth someone's while to laugh at me while I stumbled.

In your own life, things will make sense to you in the context of your own saga.

Now, if this is sounding familiar, it's because the thing about Star Warz is that it is a perfect rendition of Joseph Campbell's Hero With a Thousand Faces. No surprise there. George Lucas was a disciple of Joseph Campbell. The famous Bill Moyers' interviews with Joseph Campbell happened at Skywalker Ranch. Every Hollywood screenwriting course has Hero With a Thousand Faces as prereq reading. Etc.

Joseph Campbell said that there were only two stories in the world. They are:

1) A hero goes on a journey

2) A stranger walks into a bar

The story of your life follows the same path. I don't know why. It's just the way it's been forever.

In Star Warz we see children indoctrinated into their culture. At some point, "The Master Appears" and they are taken under the wing of the great teacher who attempts to turn the student into a master who can teach others. In the process, evil is fought and vanquished. Legends are born.

When the student is ready, the master appears. When the student is ready, the master disappears.

We are each on a path of our own story

The Star Warz series and Black Elk are the same ideal. They have the same moral for all of us: It is worth looking closely into your life. Find your own center, and then do your best to merge the meager power you've gained with the core forces of all living kind. Stay true to your quest. Don't sell yourself out. The life in your chest is a mystery to you, so do not presume its strengths or weaknesses based on what you have been told. Have a quest and live for it. Be brave. There are worse things than death.

Have adventures.

We are each the hero of the legend of our life.

That is why I like the Black Elk book more than Star Warz.