Ronnie and the Pursuit of the Elusive Bliss

This is the third and latest short film that I’ve either written or co-written with Juan Carlos Hernandez for his production company, Popcorn Sky Productions. It’s a comedy about a politically-divided family in New York City during the Trump era.

As Denise Longrie says in her review:

This amusing and enjoyable short depicts the fireworks that erupt when the Ronderos’ son Jerry (Anthony James Hernandez) comes home from college for a visit. Mom Veronica (“Ronnie”), played by Adria K. Woomer-Hernandez, lays down the law to her husband Guillermo (Juan Carlos Hernandez): no talking, not even whispering, about politics.

Although Juan was gracious enough to give me the sole writing credit for Ronnie, the truth is that much of the finished film was based on on-the-spot rewrites by the cast and crew in New York. I was asked to go to the Big Apple to be on hand, but I couldn’t afford the cost of an airline ticket plus a long extended stay at a hotel. So even though I was consulted, Juan, Adria, and Anthony had to rework the story and script to make Ronnie work well as a comedy with some serious commentary about the divisiveness in Trump-era America.

The film is 22 minutes long, but it’s a complete story with a beginning, middle, and end. I think it’s both hilarious and relevant.

If you have not watched it yet, here it is, in all its YouTube glory.

Musings & Thoughts for Monday, April 12, 2021: Seeking Inspiration from Rachmaninov’s Second Symphony

Morning in New Hometown, Florida. (Photo by the author)

Hi, there, Dear Reader. It’s late morning on Monday, April 12, 2021 here in New Hometown, Florida, and it is a nice spring day, at least by Florida standards. The current temperature is 72˚F (22˚C) under sunny skies. With humidity at 90% and the wind blowing from the north-northwest at 6 MPH (9 KM/H), the feels-like temperature is 71˚F (22˚C). The temperature will rise later, though; the forecast calls for a high of 81˚F (27˚C) and light rain throughout the day. Tonight, the skies will be partly cloudy and the low will be 56˚F (14˚C).

Yesterday my classical music CD collection grew by one album; I received my latest purchase – a 1988 recording of Sergei Rachmaninov’s Symphony No. 2 in E minor, Op. 27, performed by the world-famous London Symphony Orchestra under the baton of conductor Gennadi Rozhdestvensky.

My new CD. (Photo by the author)

I bought this album for two reasons. First, I like to work – whether it’s writing this blog or on other projects (like a screenplay) – while listening to music, especially classical music and/or film scores. Sometimes it’s just a way to break up the silence of my room; I like calm, not-too-noisy environments in which to write, and often my room – which until last summer was my study – is as silent as a room with a working computer can be.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

And most of the time, I am cool with that. When I’m writing, I tend to focus on the document I am currently working on – regardless of whether its Microsoft Word, Write Bros. Movie Magic Screenwriter 6.0, or Movie Outline 3.0 – and can tune out background chatter, the whir of my PC’s fan, and the tap-tap-tapping of my fingers on the keyboard.

But sometimes the silence – or, more accurately, near-silence does get to me, so to break it up a bit I have to put on some music. And since songs with lyrics are kind of what my college journalism prof used to call an “attractive nuisance,” that music has to be instrumental. Otherwise, I’ll end up giving more of my attention to John Denver, The Beatles, Frank Sinatra, Nat “King” Cole, or Billy Joel than to the work at hand.

The second reason is more of a creativity issue because I often get ideas for a story – either in prose or film – from a song  or musical composition I heard.

For instance, in 1998, when I originally wrote Reunion, the short story I self-published nearly three years ago, I was inspired by Billy Joel’s Scenes from An Italian Restaurant, at least (in part) thematically and (a lot) in its story-within-a-story structure. I did listen to some classical music while I was writing Reunion, but the initial spark came from Billy’s 1977 song (which, by the by, is his longest pop/rock track  recorded in a studio with a duration of 7 minutes and 37 seconds – there are other Billy Joel compositions that are longer, but they’re usually either recordings of live performances or selections from the album of classical piano compositions he composed, Fantasies and Delusions.)

Another instance of a project inspired by a song is the first script I wrote that was produced: A Simple Ad. My buddy and collaborator Juan Carlos Hernandez had asked me to write a two-minutes long film, and I had no idea what kind of a story I could tell in that brief amount of time. I floundered like a fish out of water; a film school grad could have come up with a two-page script easily; I have not set foot in a school where filmmaking is a major, so this proved to be a tough nut to crack. [1]

What saved me from emailing Juan and telling him, “Man, I can’t do this!” were three things:

  • My determination to write the screenplay even if I couldn’t keep it to two minutes
  • An apocryphal story about Ernest Hemingway
  • The Welsh lullabye Suo Gan, which I first heard in Steven Spielberg’s Empire of the Sun (1987)

So…this time around I have a good idea about the story I want to tell. In general terms, at least, which is far better than when I started working on A Simple Ad back in 2019. But I need a piece of music to help me conjure up some of the inner drama of the story at hand, and although I have other compositions for other bits of the movie, I do like the third movement, the Adagio, from Rachmaninov’s Symphony No. 2 in E minor, Op. 27 the most.

After I take a shower, change into “street clothes” (even though the weather precludes a walk) and eat lunch, I’ll pop the CD into a player and see what “the Rach” does for my inner Muse.

On that note, then, I’ll wrap up this first post of my work-week. Until next time, Dear Reader, stay safe, stay healthy, and I’ll catch you on the sunny side of things.

[1] And, to be honest, I didn’t quite manage to get the film down to two minutes’ running time. A Simple Ad clocks in at 3:41, not including the Google Ads commercial that YouTube tacks on at the start.

Star Wars Collectibles & Toys Review: Hasbro Star Wars The Black Series Anakin Skywalker (Padawan) 6-inch Scale Action Figure

Photo Credit; Hasbro, Inc. (C) 2020 Hasbro and Lucasfilm Ltd.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Figure: “I will be the most powerful Jedi ever!”

A hero of the Clone Wars, Anakin was caring and compassionate, but also had a fear of loss that would prove to be his downfall. – Hasbro packaging blurb,  Star Wars The Black Series: Anakin Skywalker (Padawan)

Photo Credit; Hasbro, Inc. (C) 2020 Hasbro and Lucasfilm Ltd.

On May 31, 2020, Hasbro released Star Wars The Black Series: Anakin Skywalker (Padawan), the 119th six-inch scale action figure in the Rhode Island-based company’s long-running Star Wars The Black Series line. Based on the talented-yet-troubled 19-year-old Jedi apprentice who is destined to shed his true name – Anakin Skywalker – and become the feared Sith Lord known throughout the galaxy as Darth Vader, the figure represents the character as he appears throughout much of George Lucas’s Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002).

Photo Credit; Hasbro, Inc. (C) 2020 Hasbro and Lucasfilm Ltd.

Star Wars The Black Series: Anakin Skywalker (Padawan) comes in a black-red box that contains a figure sculpted and painted to resemble Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) during his apprenticeship with Obi-Wan Kenobi, the young Jedi Knight who agreed to train the former slave from Tatooine a decade earlier following the death of Kenobi’s own Master, Qui-Gon Jinn.

Star Wars The Black Series: Anakin Skywalker (Padawan) is shown in his Jedi learner’s outfit, which the highly individualistic teen has customized extensively to show his independent streak. As in Star Wars: Attack of the Clones, Anakin wears:

  • A standard Jedi tunic with an unconventional dark brown color intended to show young Skywalker’s individualism in an Order that usually adheres to strict traditions
  • A synthetic leather surcoat that provides more protection than the traditional Jedi cloth garment
  • A utility belt with pouches for emergency rations, a comlink, mechanical tools, and a medical kit
  • Synthetic leather protective boots, which are weighted for training

Although the Jedi Order does not have a dress code and Knights, Masters, and even Padawans dress in whatever style of clothing they like, Anakin’s clothes are unusually darker than the average Jedi’s robes and/or tunics. This makes Anakin stand out in the staid environment of the Jedi Temple and raises some concerns among the Masters of the Jedi Council.

MOVIE-BASED CHARACTER-INSPIRED ACCESSORY: This Star Wars The Black Series action figure comes with an Anakin Skywalker (Padawan)-inspired accessory that makes a great addition to any Star Wars collection. – Hasbro packaging blurb,  Star Wars The Black Series: Anakin Skywalker (Padawan)

The figure also comes with the precursor to the famous “Skywalker Lightsaber,” the Jedi lightsaber that he will lose shortly before the Battle of Geonosis during an attempt to rescue his Master from the clutches of Count Dooku and his Separatists.

According to David West Reynolds in Star Wars: The Complete Visual Dictionary (2008 edition):

Most Jedi Padawans build their lightsabers to resemble those of their masters as a gesture of respect. Anakin constructed his own lightsaber while in a trance-like state, resulting in a design that favors maximum strength.[1]  

Anakin Skywalker doesn’t look like the sweet kid we saw in 1999’s The Phantom Menace. He’s nearly 20 years old here, and though he strives to be a good Jedi, he has serious anger issues. Photo Credit; Hasbro, Inc. (C) 2020 Hasbro and Lucasfilm Ltd.

As in the Star Wars films in which it appears – the “Skywalker Lightsaber” seen in other Episodes is identical to the one in Attack of the Clones – the Star Wars The Black Series: Anakin Skywalker (Padawan)’s “laser sword” has a blue blade (depicted here in translucent plastic) and a silver hilt with black detailing.

My Take

ANAKIN SKYWALKER: With the potential to become one of the most powerful Jedi ever, some believed Anakin Skywalker to be the prophesied Chosen One who would bring balance to the Force. – Hasbro product description on its official website

I recently acquired my figure of Star Wars The Black Series: Anakin Skywalker (Padawan) when I realized that my collection is dominated by characters from the Original Trilogy (Star Wars: A New Hope, Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, and Star Wars: Return of the Jedi and the more recent films, with only two representatives from the Prequels – Jar Jar Binks and General Grievous – among the ranks of Star Wars The Black Series 6-inch scale figures.

I like Star Wars: Attack of the Clones, the second installment of the Prequel Trilogy, even though (like most Star Wars films) it has a few narrative issues I don’t particularly like. And since I already had at least one character from the two other Prequels (The Phantom Menace and Revenge of the Sith), I chose to buy two figures from Attack of the Clones: Anakin Skywalker (Padawan) and Padmé Amidala. (Hey, if one owns figures of the Skywalker Twins, Luke and Leia, one should have figures of their parents, right?)

PREMIUM ARTICULATION AND DETAILING: Star Wars fans and collectors can display this highly poseable (4 fully articulated limbs) figure, featuring premium deco, in their action figure and vehicle collection. – Hasbro product description on its official website

Anakin Skywalker (Padawan), like most of the figures in Hasbro’s eight-year-old Star Wars The Black Series reflects the company’s efforts to make action figures that are fun for kids to play with but also have authentic-looking detailing and movie-accurate “deco” that appeals to older collectors.

Following trends that began in the early 2000s with Hasbro’s various Star Wars lines of 3.75-inch scale figures (including ones for the original iteration of Star Wars The Black Series), this figure has more points of articulation – or POAs –  (12) than Kenner’s original Star Wars figures (except, of course, for Kenner’s 12-inch action figures, which had more POAs than the more numerous 3.75-inch figures, which only had, at most, five points of articulation).  

This is another reason why many adult collectors – such as this reviewer – like Star Wars The Black Series action figures, especially the larger six-inch scale ones. POAs are analogous to the human body’s ball-and-socket and swivel joints and allow fans – young and old – to pose their figures in more life-like stances than you could ever do with their Kenner counterparts from the early days of the Star Wars saga. (You can see this in the promo photos from the official Hasbro website in this review.)

STAR WARS: ATTACK OF THE CLONES: Fans and collectors can imagine scenes from the Star Wars Galaxy with this premium Anakin Skywalker (Padawan) toy, inspired by the Star Wars: Attack of the Clones movie. – Hasbro product description on its official website

Furthermore, Hasbro’s modern design and manufacturing techniques have evolved in the 43 years since Kenner introduced the smaller action figures that are the older cousins of the 6-inch scale Star Wars The Black Series line. Like all of Hasbro’s Star Wars The Black Series action figures in this scale, Anakin Skywalker (Padawan) is a well-made replica of one of the most popular characters in the Star Wars franchise. Benefitting from computer aided design/computer aided-manufacturing, precise scans of images from the films, and improved sculpt-and-paint jobs –Anakin Skywalker (Padawan) looks like the impatient, impulsive, well-meaning but perpetually angry Jedi hero played by Hayden Christensen.

The figure is remarkably well-done and gets the details as right as possible for a mass-produced action figure. Anakin’s dirty-blond hair is close-cropped in the style worn by Padawan learners and even has the learner’s braid that will be cut off at the Ceremony in which he will be granted the rank of Jedi Knight. His expression is grim and even haughty, visual “tells” that the little kid we met in The Phantom Menace has become a brooding, arrogant, and rebellious Padawan.  

All in all, Anakin Skywalker (Padawan) is a well-made action figure that will make a fine addition to any Star Wars fan’s collection.

Well, this brings us to the end of my review of a new Star Wars The Black Series collectible. I had fun writing it, and I hope you will find it both enjoyable and informative.

Until next time, Dear Reader, stay safe, stay healthy, and find joy in even the small things in life. And remember, the Force will be with you…always. 

[1] Star Wars: The Complete Visual Dictionary (2008 Edition), page 82.

Past Time: The Curious Case of the Blu-ray Player and the Irate Sibling

Photo by Dapo Abideen on Pexels.com

Hi there, Dear Reader. It’s early afternoon on Saturday, April 10, 2021 here in New Hometown, Florida. Currently, the temperature is 83˚F (29˚C) under sunny skies. With humidity at 64% and the wind blowing from the south-southwest at 15 MPH (21 KM/H), the heat index is 84˚F (29˚C). Today, we can expect partly sunny skies and a high of 89˚F (31˚C). Tonight’s forecast: Thunderstorms are expected to pass through our area; the low will be 70˚F (21˚C).

Last night I had a flashback to one of the most inexplicable arguments I ever had with my older half-sister during my mother’s five-year-long slide into depression, dementia, and – eventually – her death. It was one of the worst fights we had before Mom’s passing, and it still bothers me because it was so ridiculous and – ironically – caused by a good deed I did for my mom a little over a decade ago.

As you can see, I bought this item twice; I had bought a new TV for my upstairs bedroom and needed a player for it, so I bought another one like the one I bought for Mom.

On February 9, 2011 – per my Orders page on Amazon – I bought a Samsung BD-C5500 1080p Blu-ray Disc Player as a gift for my mom, who was basically confined to a small bedroom on the ground floor of what was then our townhouse in East Wind Lake Village after an operation to repair her lower spine a year earlier.

At the time, her mental condition was still good – she was beginning to show some signs of decline, but they were subtle and easy to dismiss if you were inclined to do so[1] – and we had moved her Samsung HDTV and a Sony DVD player down from the master bedroom to her new digs in what had been the guest room so she could watch the few movies she had in her collection. We also had called Comcast to have a new cable connection set up in that room so Mom wouldn’t miss her favorite shows.

Not a good photo, I admit, but this is part of my Blu-ray/DVD collection as it appeared in my former home in Miami.

By this time, I had moved into the master bedroom and I had bought a Samsung 26-inch HDTV and a Blu-ray player on which I could watch my then modest collection of movies in the still newish HD format. The titles I had on Blu-ray at the time were a mix of “upgrades” – films I already owned on DVD – and Blu-ray discs (BDs) only; when I started buying Blu-rays in late 2008 I decided to try and not replace every single DVD I owned with its BD counterpart,[2] so I had Blu-ray titles that I could watch by myself in the upstairs room but not with my mom in her room.

At first, this fact did not register in my brain. I was under considerable amounts of stress at the time because I was my mother’s primary caregiver. Part of this was because my mother willed it so; she knew how disorganized my half-sister is about finances and paying bills, and since Mom wasn’t in any condition to keep her checkbook balanced or keep track of the many bills we received each month, she tossed that hot potato to me.

I also knew, deep down, that my mother was not going to recover from her many illnesses. Not only was her mobility hampered by the slow recovery at home from the surgery she had undergone in late Spring of 2010, but she had issues with her kidneys, high blood pressure, glaucoma, and the early symptoms of dementia. Depression, too, although at the time of this story (February 2011) that ailment wasn’t as obvious as it later became.

In 2013, Mom was still hanging in there. She still insisted on having her copies of The Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald taken to her every day, but they went unread.

I don’t recall the circumstances that led to my purchase of a Blu-ray player for my mother. I must have been watching a movie – Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World more than likely – that I thought Mom might enjoy watching…then realized that she couldn’t watch it unless I bought her the DVD version or, better yet, her own Blu-ray player.

At the time, I was getting ready to leave Miami to visit my friend Leigh and her family in Atlanta for a few days in March. I had known Leigh as an online friend for seven years, but we had never met in person. So in November of 2010, knowing that I was running myself ragged taking care of my mother and learning how to manage a household under highly stressful circumstances, Leigh and her husband Mike invited me to go to Atlanta to celebrate my 48th birthday with them and their child, Skye.

Less than a month before my trip to Georgia was set to begin, I ordered the aforementioned  Samsung BD-C5500 1080p Blu-ray Disc Player and a HDMI cable so Mom could watch any of my Blu-ray films and even have a few of her own in her small collection of home media releases. I also bought her a DVD/Blu-ray rack to store her discs on. It arrived about a week later – Amazon had not debuted its own Amazon Prime delivery service and relied on UPS, the mail, or a crappy company called Lasership to deliver orders to customers, and because I knew how to set the Blu-ray player up, I happily surprised Mom with her new “toy” and connected the Samsung BD-C5500 1080p Blu-ray Disc Player to her TV.

Mom’s old Samsung LCD TV set is now in the garage in New Hometown, FL

Mom was happy.

I was happy.

Naively, I assumed that my half-sister would also be happy.

How wrong I was!

The hooking up of the Blu-ray player to Mom’s TV took only a few minutes, and I did it hours before Vicky arrived at the house, as was her custom when she worked the day shift (7 AM to 7 PM) at the now-shuttered Metropolitan Hospital in Miami.

In those days, I was rarely cheerful about anything, but on that day in February 2011 I was feeling pretty good. I loved my mother, and my primary concern was to make her happy; I suspected that even if she somehow recovered her mobility and regained some of her mobility, she didn’t have many years left to live. So my main goal in those dark and sad days was to brighten up her existence, even in small and maybe insignificant ways.

Mom, Vicky (standing), and I at one of the few IHOP locations in Miami-Dade County, circa 2013. This was the last time we went out to a restaurant as a family. Mom looked tired. I looked sad and tired. Vicky looked like she was pretending to be happy there.

Now, my half-sister is smart in many areas, but she is a Luddite when it comes to home electronics – and deliberately so. When Mom and I transitioned from VHS to DVD in the early 2000s, Vicky said she wasn’t giving up her videocassette recorder and VHS tapes. (I didn’t visit her apartment frequently even in the best of times, so I had no idea how extensive her VHS library was. Probably smaller than mine, which at its apogee consisted of 100-115 titles.) She often sneered at my “early adapter” philosophy and bragged that she would hold on to her videotapes until she died.

“What will you do when your VCR finally dies and there aren’t any new ones because they have been phased out?” I asked her during one of our many discussions-turned-arguments on the topic of her hate for new electronics.

“Alex,” she said with a tone of utter conviction, “there are too many people with VCRs. They will never discontinue them.”

(In 2008, newly manufactured VCRs virtually ceased to be sold in the U.S. due to the popularity of DVDs and the emergence of HD BDs; Hollywood studios had stopped releasing movies on VHS in 2006, and even though the VCR was still manufactured in Japan after that by one holdout – Funai, which kept making VCR/DVD combos – production ceased in 2016 due to the non-existence of new content on VHS.)

“VHS players will go the way of the eight-track tape players, Vicky. And videotape doesn’t last forever. It wears out, and the audio-video quality diminishes every time you play a tape. Optical discs have their issues, but they don’t have those problems.”

“Well, I’m never buying a Dee-Vee-Dee,” she said in that annoying, supercilious way of hers that always got under my skin.

Oddly enough, she seemed to like “Dee-Vee-Dees” just fine whenever she watched them at the townhouse with Mom and me, and she learned how to use Mom’s player (a Sony model that I bought for her after Vicky arrogantly took Mom’s VHS player to replace her own broken-down one not long after we had that argument about which format was better) so she could watch movies with our parent without having to ask me to put the disc in the “Dee-Vee-Dee” player for her.

 But back to the day in question…..

I don’t know if Vicky had had a bad day at work, or if she was just stressed out over the whole situation with Mom. And, honestly, I don’t care now. All I know is that when I showed her – in a friendly, brotherly fashion, at that – the newly connected – if still unused – Blu-ray player, her reaction was unexpectedly hostile.

“Why did you buy this new…thing for Mom?” Vicky demanded angrily.

I flinched. “Well…I….”

“Mom didn’t need a newfangled player!” she continued to rant. “Her Dee-Vee-Dee player works well. I know how to use it. This thing is not the same!”

If you know me well, you know that I’m not usually a person who gets angry easily, but Vicky has a special talent in that she can get me riled up. Especially if I am already stressed out, and especially if someone is being unreasonable and particularly dense. And on that evening, Vicky had hit the trifecta to get me upset.

“Look, Victoria Eugenia,” I said in that exasperated, acid tone I adopt when I’m mad as hell at her. “This is a Blu-ray player, not a thing. It works exactly the same way as her old DVD player, only it plays the new Blu-ray discs that work only on a high definition TV like Mom’s.”

Vicky was furious beyond reason. She kept saying such inane comments as “I can’t learn how to use a Blu-ray player!” and “Now I can’t play DVDs on this thing.”

I tried explaining the concept of “downward compatibility” to her, but no matter what I said, Vicky was stubbornly clinging to the notion that she was never going to learn how to operate that “thing” and that I had denied her a way to watch “Dee-Vee-Dees”[3] with our mother.

Fed up, I said, “Vicky, you’re acting like a child. Grow up, okay? I bought this for Mom. Not for you. For Mom. She likes it. She’s happy with it. And like it or not, you will learn how to use it. I’m leaving for Atlanta in a few weeks, and you will learn how to put discs in the tray and use the remote control. Blu-ray discs and – here I imitated her – Dee-Vee-Dees are almost identical, and the controls are not as different as you think they are.”

It took Vicky some time – I want to write an hour, but in all fairness it might have been less time than that – to calm down enough to let me show her that using the thing (“esa cosa,” in Spanish) was just as easy to use as Mom’s Sony DVD player. And, after all her ranting and “I can’t do this” complaints, she did learn how to use a Blu-ray player. But she was angry about it for a while, for reasons that I’ve never understood.

[1] My half-sister, unfortunately, was in denial, which was surprising and somewhat shocking, considering that she was a nurse whose specialty was in geriatric care.

[2] A policy that has long since gone the way of the dodo, although financial limitations and lack of space will probably prevent me from going “100% Blu-ray” unless I give away much of my DVD collection.

[3] By this time, the VHS player Vicky had grabbed from Mom’s room and claimed as hers had, as I knew it would, died, so Mom and I gave her a DVD player with a 5-disc changer similar to the one I had in the dining room/kitchen area. So she, too, had a few “Dee-Vee-Dees” of her own.

Book Review: ‘Skywalker: A Family at War’

Cover art by Matthew Ferguson. (C) 2021 DK Publishing and Lucasfilm

Skywalker: A Family at War

Author: Kristin Baver

Publisher: DK Publishing

Date of Publication: April 6, 2021

No. of Pages: 320 (Hardcover Edition)

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

The Book

On Tuesday, April 6, Dorling Kindersley – aka DK Publishing or DK Books) released Skywalker: A Family at War, a canon biography of the Skywalker family, the core group of characters around which the nine films of the Star Wars saga revolve. Written by Kristin Bayer, a journalist and editor for Lucasfilm’s StarWars.com website, this 320-page book covers the triumphs and tragedies of three generations of a family whose strong connections to the Force had, for both good and ill, consequences that shaped the course of history for an entire galaxy.

This is the first Star Wars book that I have seen without the iconic 1970s-era logo! The cover art, though, tells you that yes, Virginia, this is a Star Wars book. (C) 2021 DK Books and Lucasfilm

Written as an “in-universe” reference book, Skywalker: A Family at War tells the story of Anakin Skywalker, his twin offspring – Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia Organa – and his grandson Ben Solo in the style of a biography written by a historian with access to numerous sources of information.

As the book’s dust jacket flap blurb explains:

Many are familiar with the legend of Luke Skywalker or the whispered stories of Kylo Ren and Darth Vader, but by piecing together all the available sources, including R2-D2’s memory files, personal diaries and correspondence, holorecordings and news dispatches, as well as other documentations of galactic events, this account chronicles the deeper story of the Skywalker dynasty.

The narrative meticulously explores the family members’ complex motivations and psychological states as they confront and ultimately triumph over personal and galactic turmoil. Through it all, readers will gain a more profound understanding of the flawed but noble family that played such a central role in the Republic’s fall to the Empire and the Rebel Alliance’s ultimate victory over tyranny.

The 320-page hardcover is divided into three parts – which, of course, correspond to each of the trilogies of the Skywalker Saga[1]  ̶  and  and follow the narrative of the nine films in chronological order. The three parts are:

  • Part One: The Father – 15 chapters
  • Part Two: The Twins – 11 chapters
  • Part Three: The Dyad – 7 chapters

Skywalker: A Family at War also has, like many reference works, a prologue to set up the author’s thesis and an epilogue that places the main narrative into some perspective for the in-universe denizen of that galaxy far, far away to whom the book is supposed to address.  

These are just a few of the photos you’ll find in Skywalker: A Family at War. (C) 2021 DK Books and Lucasfilm

It also has, like many history books in our universe do, photo inserts that depict the Skywalkers and some of the other historical figures they crossed paths with in the half-century or so of galactic events covered in Skywalker: A Family at War, including Watto, Anakin Skywalker’s owner when he was a nine-year-old slave, like his mother Shmi, on Tatooine, Senator/Supreme Chancellor/Emperor Sheev Palpatine, Mace Windu, Ahsoka Tano (Anakin Skywalker’s Padawan), Bail Organa, Mon Mothma, Lando Calrissian, and Supreme Leader Snoke, just to name a few.  

From the Publisher

The Skywalker story has everything: passion, intrigue, heroism, and dark deeds.

This revelatory biography explores every twist and turn of the Skywalker dynasty: the slow seduction to the dark side of Anakin; his doomed marriage to Padmé Amidala; the heroics of Luke and Leia; the fall and redemption of Han Solo and Princess Leia’s son, Ben; and the struggles of his dyad in the Force, Rey.

Leaving no stone unturned in tracing the dynasty’s trials and tribulations, this definitive biography of Star Wars’ first family explores and explains the deeper, more personal story of the Skywalkers, their characters, motivations, and, against seemingly impossible odds, their ultimate triumph. – back cover blurb, Skywalker: A Family at War


As the Jedi Council gazed upon Anakin for the first time, wise, diminutive Master Yoda sensed that Anakin was gripped by fear. And fear was a dangerous ally. For the Jedi, fear was a path to the dark side of the Force, an entry point to misgivings that could be nursed into anger and hate. Nevertheless, Anakin’s emotional response to his situation, including his fears, was a very human reaction to the sudden upheaval he had experienced in his life; Qui-Gon believed that, with the proper guidance, Anakin’s natural anxieties would subside and be replaced by a Jedi’s clarity of vision. If Jinn was correct, the boy would bring balance to the Force, defeating the creeping darkness that was already beginning to cloud both the Force itself and the Jedi Order’s abilities to perceive the threat to it.

However, where Qui-Gon saw promise, Obi-Wan Kenobi and many on the Jedi Council sensed trouble. Obi-Wan did not hide his concern, even from Anakin himself. The boy’s raw power in the Force was something to be wary of. He was malleable, and in the wrong hands, such explosive potential could be turned to evil.

Few were surprised that Qui-Gon defied the Council’s initial adverse reaction to his request to make good on his promise and train the child. With Obi-Wan almost ready to become a Jedi Knight himself, Qui-Gon was free to take on a new Padawan, and he was determined that Padawan should be Anakin—once the Council came around to the idea, at least.

Qui-Gon began to gently coax Anakin toward a greater understanding in the ways of the Force. If questioned, Qui-Gon would have argued that he was not training the boy, merely providing guidance as a mentor and guardian in his absent mother’s stead. Just as he had done while helping Anakin into his podracer before the Boonta Eve Classic, Qui-Gon offered the boy the benefit of his wisdom: “Always remember, your focus determines your reality,” he told him. “Stay close to me and you’ll be safe.” Those words would resound in Anakin’s subconscious for years to come, an echo of wisdom—and false hope—forming the basis of his doubts that anyone could truly protect him. And if no one could, his young mind reasoned, he would have to become the strongest Jedi who had ever lived in order to protect those around him instead. If he focused hard enough, he could make it come true.

At this time, the unscrupulous Trade Federation was implementing a blockade on the planet of Naboo, stopping all shipments to the peaceful planet in protest over the taxation of trade routes. However, this boycott was merely a clever cover for a plot to invade. While the Galactic Senate sat idly by, Qui-Gon, Anakin, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and the faithful astromech droid R2-D2 embarked upon a mission to protect Queen Amidala and disrupt the Trade Federation’s invasion of her planet. Once on Naboo, Padmé revealed herself to be Queen Amidala and forged an alliance with the Gungan army to mount a counterattack against the Trade Federation invaders. In the midst of their success, Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan once more encountered the beastly Darth Maul.

This warrior was strong in the Force and carried a double-bladed lightsaber that burned blood red, betraying his allegiance to the dark side. With his appearance, came irrefutable proof: the Sith, an ancient order of Force-wielders devoted to the dark side, deception, and greed, long thought defeated and destroyed, had returned. Beneath a cloak of secrecy, a new Sith Lord, Darth Sidious, and his apprentice Darth Maul, had risen up, secretly orchestrating the Trade Federation’s invasion of Naboo as their first act in a scheme that would ultimately lead to the last days of the Republic and give rise to the Galactic Empire. In a duel that pitted the light against the darkness, Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan fought Darth Maul, unaware of the true malignant deceit of the Sith at work inside the Galactic Senate. As the Jedi would learn too late, Darth Sidious was really Sheev Palpatine, a placid-looking senator from Naboo who was willing to sacrifice his homeworld to push the peaceful Republic to the brink of war.

As the battle raged, Qui-Gon was pierced by Darth Maul’s blade. Determined to avenge his master, Obi-Wan attacked Maul, but in his anger and despair lost his own lightsaber and nearly his life. Summoning the last of his strength, and empowered by the Force, Obi-Wan called Qui-Gon’s lightsaber to his hand to cleave Maul in two. Thus the apprentice and the sacred weapon came together to avenge the fallen Jinn.

It was too late for medical intervention; no amount of bacta could heal Qui-Gon’s mortal wound. All Obi-Wan could do was cradle his master’s head and heed the Jedi’s dying wish: To train Anakin Skywalker, despite his own deep misgivings. – ©2021 Kristin Baver and Lucasfilm

My Take

I have been a Star Wars fan for nearly 44 years. Ever since I saw the original version of George Lucas’s Star Wars in a Miami-area theater in the fall of 1977, I have been fascinated – some might even say obsessed with that space-fantasy tale of high adventure, rebellion, and romance set “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.” I’ve watched every film – even the underrated Star Wars: The Clone Wars animated movie of 2008 – in theaters and watched most of the television fare produced from 1978 (the infamously bad Star Wars Holiday Special) to the present, including fan favorite The Mandalorian.

Author Kristin Baver. Photo Credit: Twitter

I also have a sizeable collection of books, including all of the movie novelizations, six of the nine screenplays (none of which, sadly, are presented in true screenplay format) of the Skywalker Saga films, most of the Marvel and Dark Horse comics adaptations of the films, and a smattering of novels from both the official canon and Legends. I even have some of those Collector’s Edition books published simultaneously with the release of the Original Trilogy movies or shortly afterward – The Star Wars Album from 1977 is one of those – that publishers rushed to bookstores to cash in on the saga’s popularity, especially among young die-hard fans (including 15-year-old me in 1978).

In my Star Wars book collection I also own some of DK Publishing reference books, including the 2016 edition of Star Wars: Year by Year, several editions of Star Wars: The Visual Dictionary, and Star Wars: The Visual Encyclopedia. I like them because even though many of the titles are geared toward younger readers (heavy on illustrations and other graphics), Dorling-Kindersley makes sure that the authors write the text in a way that adult fans of the Star Wars saga can enjoy the books without feeling sheepish about reading a “kids’ book.”

To my surprise, Skywalker: A Family at War is a different offering from DK Publishing in that it is less reliant on pictures and looks and “reads” more like a real biography of the Skywalker family written by a researcher living in that “galaxy far, far away.”  Even the title omits the familiar Star Wars logo, although the art on the cover, which is beautifully done by Matthew Ferguson, makes it quite clear that this is, indeed, a Star Wars book.

Author Kristin Baver is a journalist and a Lucasfilm employee; she is the Associate Editor of StarWars.com and has written news stories about George “the Maker” Lucas and other important people who create Star Wars content. And along with the Lucasfilm Story Group’s Pablo Hidalgo, she is the coauthor of the upcoming revised edition of Star Wars: Year by Year.

Skywalker: A Family at War is Baver’s first published book, but you wouldn’t know it by reading its account of Anakin Skywalker’s rise from slavery to Jedi Knight, his subsequent fall to the Dark Side as a result of his own inner struggles and the clever machinations of the evil Sheev Palpatine, and the roles played by Anakin’s offspring, Luke and Leia, to defeat the tyranny of the Empire that their father, as Darth Vader, helped to bring about as a result of his very human and tragic character flaws.

Baver does a good job of “filling in the blanks” of all three trilogies in the Skywalker saga, with an emphasis on the most complex story arc – the Tragedy of Darth Vader. Part One: The Father, has the most chapters – 15 in all – and includes more details about Shmi and Anakin’s life before the events of The Phantom Menace, Anakin’s training as a Jedi Padawan and his struggles to fit in with the other apprentices in the Jedi Temple, his relationships with his two mentors – Palpatine and a young Obi-Wan Kenobi – and the inner struggle within young Skywalker as to which path in the Force to follow.

The artwork on the cover is reminiscent of classic 1977-era poster art by Tom Jung, Tom Chantrell, and John Berkey.

Some of this narrative, of course, is taken straight from the films, but much of it, especially the insights about Anakin’s tutelage by Palpatine and Obi-Wan, is not. In one of the chapters in Part One, Baver describes how a 12-year-old Anakin, fed up with some of the taunts from older, more experienced Padawans, angrily uses the Force to whisk two of his tormentors’ lightsabers and ignites them in mid-air.

He doesn’t hurt them, of course – Anakin is still too close to his good, “wannabe Jedi” side at this stage – but the biographer shows that even at the age of 12, Obi-Wan’s comment to Qui-Gon Jinn that “the boy is dangerous” in The Phantom Menace was not totally without merit.[2]  

As I said earlier, this is a rare Dorling-Kindersley book that relies more on the written word than on illustrations and feels (and reads) like a real reference work written for older readers. As I mentioned earlier, Skywalker: A Family at War has two photo inserts, done in the same style as the ones you’d find in a true-life history book, arranged in chronological order and without letting on that these are either stills from the films and Star Wars: The Clone Wars or publicity stills from the Original Trilogy.

 I ordered my copy of Skywalker: A Family at War a few days before its April 6 publication, and I received it on the day it was on shelves in bookstores and online seller warehouses. I have not finished it, of course; I do have a “day job” as a screenwriter, and even though that gig has flexible hours, I can’t devote too much time to reading as a leisure activity.

However, I have enjoyed what I have read so far, and I’m so impressed by Baver’s writing style and ability to tell a story that I have pre-ordered the upcoming Star Wars: Year by Year update, which is due for publication by DK Books in September.

If you are a Star Wars fan who has seen all of the films and TV shows about the Skywalker clan but are frustrated by some of the “blank pages” in their 50-year-long history, Skywalker: A Family at War is, as Obi-Wan Kenobi might say, is the book you’re looking for. It draws from canon sources and behind-the-scenes stuff that can be found in titles such as Star Wars: The Visual Dictionaries and other Lucasfilm materials, and, presumably, stuff that George Lucas has said or written about the films he personally made or oversaw as producer before he retired in 2012.

This is a highly enjoyable book, and I heartily recommend it to any Star Wars fan.

[1] The Prequel Trilogy (1999-2005), which consists of The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, and Revenge of the Sith; the Classic (or Original) Trilogy (1977-1983), which consists of A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi; and the Sequel Trilogy (2015-2019), which consists of The Force Awakens, The Last Jedi, and The Rise of Skywalker.  

[2] Of course, since The Phantom Menace is a prequel and fans from the 1977 Generation already knew that Anakin grows up to become Darth Vader, Obi-Wan’s “premonition” was already a foregone conclusion. However, for a first-time viewer who had by some miracle never seen Star Wars and somehow avoided obtaining any knowledge about who Darth Vader is or what his relationship is with the other characters, the notion that the kid played by Jake Lloyd was dangerous would seem rather unlikely.  

Star Wars Collectibles & Toys Review: Hasbro Star Wars The Black Series – Han Solo (Endor) Action Figure

Photo Credit: Hasbro, Inc. (C) 2020 Hasbro and Lucasfilm Ltd.

“I have a really bad feeling about this.” – The Figure

Han Solo volunteered to lead the mission to destroy the new Death Star’s shield generator on the forest moon of Endor, where he and his strike team encountered Scout Troopers and Ewoks. – Character description blurb, Han Solo (Endor)

On April 20, 2020, Rhode Island-based Hasbro released Star Wars The Black Series Han Solo (Endor), a six-inch scale action figure based on the iconic Corellian smuggler-turned-Rebel Hero played by Harrison Ford in five of the nine Skywalker Saga Star Wars films. Packaged in a forest green and black box and equipped with two authentic-looking accessories: Han’s trusty DL-44 blaster pistol and the trench coat he wears in the Endor moon sequence of Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi.

Photo Credit: Hasbro, Inc. (C) 2020 Hasbro and Lucasfilm Ltd.

The 6-inch-scale Black Series figure is detailed to look like the Han Solo (Endor) character from Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, featuring premium detail and multiple points of articulation. – Hasbro product description blurb on its Hasbro Pulse online store

Han Solo (Endor) is six inches tall – bigger than its 1984 Kenner forerunner, the 3.75-inch Han Solo (in Trench Coat) figure from the Star Wars: Return of the Jedi collection (and two later reissues before Kenner closed its original Star Wars toys and games line in 1985) – and wears a variant of his “spacer’s outfit” (white shirt, black vest with four pockets, gun belt and holster, brown pilot’s uniform pants with yellow piping, and knee-high spacer’s boots) and a removable “camo trench coat.”

The trench coat is made out of fabric and has a subtle mottled camouflage pattern that allows the still recklessly-brave Solo to blend in to the forest environment of the Forest Moon of Endor, site of the Imperial shield generator that protects the still-under-construction Death Star II.

Han also comes with a black-and-silver BlasTech DL-44 blaster pistol, presumably the same one he was given by his late mentor in the smuggling business, Tobias Beckett, shortly before Solo’s first misadventure as a space pirate and hotshot smuggler-for-hire on Vandor-1 14 years before the Battle of Endor.[1]

Fans and collectors can imagine scenes from the Star Wars Galaxy with this premium Han Solo (Endor) toy, inspired by the Star Wars: Return of the Jedi movie.

This Star Wars The Black Series action figure comes with a Han Solo (Endor)-inspired blaster accessory that makes a great addition to any Star Wars collection. – Hasbro product description blurb on its Hasbro Pulse online store

 Like all of Hasbro’s Star Wars The Black Series action figures in this scale, Han Solo (Endor) is a well-made replica of one of the most popular characters in the Star Wars franchise. Benefitting from modern techniques – such as computer aided design/computer aided-manufacturing, precise scans of images from the films, and improved sculpt-and-paint jobs – Han Solo (Endor) bears a striking resemblance to the then 40-year-old Harrison Ford.[2]

Star Wars fans and collectors can display this highly poseable (4 fully articulated limbs) figure, featuring premium deco[3], in their action figure and vehicle collection. – Hasbro product description blurb on its Hasbro Pulse online store

Han Solo (Endor) also has more points of articulation (POAs) than its 1984 forerunner from Kenner. This is another reason why many adult collectors – such as this reviewer – like Star Wars The Black Series action figures, especially the larger six-inch scale ones. POAs are analogous to the human body’s ball-and-socket and swivel joints and allow fans – young and old – to pose their figures in more life-like stances than you could ever do with their Kenner counterparts from the early days of the Star Wars saga. (You can see this in the promo photos from the official Hasbro Pulse page in this review.)

My Take

Back in the long-gone 1980s, I was an avid collector of the Kenner “micro-action figures” released between 1978 and 1985. I can’t be sure since most of my vintage collection is stored where I can’t get to it easily, but if memory serves, Kenner’s Han Solo (in Trench Coat) was one of the last figures I bought (along with an expensive Imperial Shuttle vehicle) before I focused on getting admitted into college and and pursuing a career as a journalist and writer.

That figure was cool for its time, and it, too, came with a blaster (which was solid black with no silver detailing) and a cloth – not vinyl – trench coat. The costume details were somewhat off (although at the time I wasn’t aware of it): Han Solo (in Trench Coat) wears gray pants rather than brown, his molded-and-painted-into the-figure gun belt is also gray and blends into the monochromatic lower body of the 1984 figure.

As I mentioned earlier, older figures only bear a superficial resemblance to the movie characters they are plastic avatars of; Han Solo (in Trench Coat) does not look anything like Harrison Ford; the figure’s head and face are crudely sculpted and painted (by 21st Century standards) and – to me, anyway – are barely a step above the bland, perpetually smiling look of Play-Skool toy figures. (Characters such as Darth Vader, the Imperial Royal Guards, and most of the humanoid aliens and droids fared better than strictly human characters. Of course, I still would not part with any of my vintage figures; I’m just pointing out the vast differences between “old-school” and “modern” Star Wars toys.)

Star Wars The Black Series – Han Solo (Endor) is the flip side of the coin as far as “cinematic authenticity” is concerned. I’ve already described the figure in the previous section so I will avoid redundancy; I’ll just say that when I saw this figure while browsing in the ShopDisney online store (not a good thing to do when your birthday is a minor footnote in your new “family’s” calendar of events), I couldn’t resist getting it.

I’m still getting used to the new oddly-shaped boxes that Hasbro ships its figures in now. The one for Han Solo (Endor) comes in a black-and-forest green box with a transparent “window” on the obverse side so you can see the figure without opening the packaging. It bears the white-on-black Star Wars The Black Series logo on the upper panel above the “window,” then below it has the forest green strip with Star Wars: Return of the Jedi printed below the plastic front panel and the figure’s name in green letters on a black background.

Photo Credit: Hasbro, Inc. (C) 2020 Hasbro and Lucasfilm Ltd.

On the back, there’s a lifelike illustration of Harrison Ford as Han Solo that’s so well-done that I’d love to get the art – on its own – as a framed poster – that covers two thirds of the right-hand side. To the left of the illustration, we see the Star Wars The Black Series logo – again in white-against-black – at the top, followed by the figure’s name and a short description of the character (Han Solo volunteered to lead the mission to destroy the new Death Star’s shield generator on the forest moon of Endor, where he and his strike team encountered Scout Troopers and Ewoks.) in English, French, German, Spanish, and Portuguese.  

I love the artwork on the back panel! Photo Credit: Hasbro, Inc. (C) 2020 Hasbro and Lucasfilm Ltd.

Below that, there’s a strip of forest green, the figure’s number in the 2020 “wave” (O5) and the film or TV show that its character is from (Star Wars: Return of the Jedi). That’s followed by the usual legalese and copyright text that is printed in toy packaging, including safety cautions such as ⚠️ WARNING: CHOKING HAZARD – Small parts. Not for children under 3 years.

The only complaint I have is that the ShopDisney employee who was in charge of shipping the figure to me slapped a label on the front panel “window” with a handwritten scribble (“Han Solo ROTJ) or something along those lines that marred the look of the packaging and forced me to remove it. I succeeded, but it was an unnecessary annoyance, and the pressed paperboard or whatever material Hasbro uses looks bit less than perfect now.

Other than that, Han Solo (Endor) is a welcome addition to my modest collection of Star Wars The Black Series collectibles.

Well, that about wraps it up for this review of a new Star Wars The Black Series collectible. I had fun writing it, and I hope you will find it both enjoyable and informative.

Until next time, Dear Reader, stay safe, stay healthy, and find joy in even the small things in life. And remember, the Force will be with you…always. 

[1] See Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018), a vastly entertaining – if badly underappreciated – film written by Lawrence and Jonathan Kasdan and directed by Ron Howard.

[2] Even older, smaller figures in Hasbro’s pre-Star Wars The Black Series collection tend to look more like the characters in the films than the Kenner mini-figures from 1978-85. I love my vintage figures and would not willingly part with them, but if truth be told, they don’t have the same movie-accurate “look” that post-1997 figures by Hasbro do.

[3] Shorthand for “decoration.”

Musings & Thoughts for Wednesday, April 7, 2021, or: A Day in the Life of a Mad Screenwriter

Photo by Kampus Production on Pexels.com (I wish my writing room was that nice – and that it wasn’t my bedroom as well.)

Hi there, Dear Reader. It’s late morning here in New Hometown, Florida on Wednesday, April 7, 2021. As I write this, the temperature outside is 74˚F (24˚C) under sunny skies. With humidity at 69% and the wind blowing from the south-southeast at 7 MPH (12 KM/H), the feels-like temperature is 72˚F (22˚C). Today we can expect a warm spring day – the skies should be sunny and the high will be 85˚F (29˚C). Tonight, the forecast calls for partly cloudy skies and the low is expected to be 55˚F (13˚C).

Photo by Gary Barnes on Pexels.com

Today’s post will be brief. Partly because I woke up too early again and haven’t had (a) a substantial breakfast and (b) enough coffee in my system to super-energize me. As a result, I’m sleepy, hungry, and even a bit woozy. This is not a good way for anyone to be feeling, especially during a work-day, and even more especially when one is trying to write a halfway-decent screenplay for a feature-length film.

Second, I need to change my routine a little bit and not chain myself to this desk all day. I haven’t gone for a walk outside in months – literally. The last time I went to the park near here it was just after Christmas to try out the Han Solo jacket that my friends Juan and Adria gave me for the holidays. As of late, I’ve taken to staying in my room for most of my waking hours, only venturing out to eat in the kitchenette, take a shower/use the facilities, and – when the Caregiver and her new beau aren’t hogging the only cable-connected TV in the house – watch something on the big television out in the Florida room.

I used to go for walks around this lake when I lived in East Wind Lake Village from 1978 to 2016. (Photo by the author)

So, yeah, I need to go out and get some fresh air and sunshine while the weather is still relatively mild (by Florida standards). I am not, by nature, an outdoorsy-kind of fellow, but I’m beginning to feel like a prisoner here in someone else’s house rather than part of a family unit. I felt that way often in Miami from March 2010 till July 2015, too, except then I was in my house (de facto if not, in fact, de jure) and I was part of a family unit, albeit a dysfunctional, fractious one.

“I didn’t want to wake up. I was having a much better time asleep. And that’s really sad. It was almost like a reverse nightmare, like when you wake up from a nightmare you’re so relieved. I woke up into a nightmare.”― Ned Vizzini, It’s Kind of a Funny Story

The last time that I felt this low and frustrated was when my mom was in her last weeks and everyone was coming to terms with the fact that, yes, this was definitely the end for her and that she wasn’t going to get better if she lived longer. Six years ago, I was only 52 and had not yet gone through the traumas of losing my mom, my house, and a cross-state move that I now regret making. But I was physically, emotionally, and mentally tired and feeling lost and defeated.

If memory serves, I had a habit of jokingly telling Margarita, our first home health aide from Nursing South, that I was going to “break out of prison” before going out for a 20-30 minute walk around East Wind Lake Village after Margarita arrived (usually at 4 PM) to watch over my mother so I could take some time out for myself. As I made my exit through the front door, I’d jokingly shout, “The prisoner is now leaving the premises!” and gleefully leave my townhouse behind to venture out into the neighborhood and out of the gloomy and confining bubble, at least temporarily.

At least back in East Wind Lake Village I had a core group of neighbors that I called “friends.” Some of them I’d known ever since Mom, my older half-sister, and I moved into our townhouse in February of 1978[1] or shortly after; others were folks I met in the 1990s and early 2000s when I took my Labrador retriever, Mary Joe Cacao, out for her walks around the condo. So when I went on my “freedom walks” during the five years that my mom lingered with her declining health, I had folks that I could at least talk to about the situation with my half-sister and my many challenges with my mother’s deteriorating condition.

Here, though, I haven’t made any friends beyond the family group that I am currently attached to here. None. And ever since I broke up with the Caregiver late last summer, that friendship is strained to the point that we barely speak to each other. So when I go out for walks in this neighborhood, it’s not like I can say, “Maybe I should drop in on Elena and Baldo and shoot the shit for a while.” Or now that I’m reluctantly single, I don’t even dare think “Hey, that woman walking with her dogs looks cute. I wonder if she’s single…’  When I go out to stretch my legs or read a book out on my favorite park bench, I limit my social interactions to a friendly wave and eye contact, then I move on.

Anyway, yeah. My worldview is horribly skewed right now. It doesn’t help matters that we are still in a global pandemic and that I’m homesick, missing my mom and my friends (both living and dead) and that I’m trying to write a screenplay in this environment.

On the whole, I’d rather be in Philadelphia!

[1] My older half-sister Victoria (or Vicky) had moved out of our house in Westchester in 1974 for reasons that are too complicated to discuss in this footnote. Suffice it to say that it was not voluntary on her part, and when she heard that Mom was buying the new townhouse back in the summer of 1977, she begged and pleaded with Mom to let her come back into the family fold from which, in her mind, she had been banished. My mother was a bright and strong-willed woman, but she also felt a lot of pressure – mostly from my older half-sibling – to be an equanimous parent and live up to what I call Vicky’s “Walt Disney” ideals of what a family should look and act like. Forgetting, momentarily, the circumstances in which Vicky had left several years earlier, Mom agreed, even giving her the master bedroom upstairs (not far away from my bedroom) and resigning herself to take the small bedroom downstairs – the same room in which, 37 years later, she would die in at the age of 86.

This arrangement did not work out well. At all. I’ll write an entire blog post about this someday. For now, all you need to know is that one year after we moved in, Vicky was moving out. This time it was permanent.

Musings & Thoughts for Tuesday, April 6, 2021, or: ‘A Certain Point of View, Too’ Celebrates Its One-Year Anniversary

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

Hello, there, Dear Reader. It’s Tuesday, April 6, 2021, and as I write this it is late morning in New Hometown, Florida. Currently, it is a bit chilly (by Florida standards, at least); the temperature is 56˚F (13˚C) under sunny skies. With a gentle breeze blowing at 1 MPH (2 KM/H) from the east-northeast and humidity at 94%, the wind-chill factor is 53˚F (12˚C). Today’s forecast: Partly sunny skies and a high of 83˚F (28˚C). Tonight, we can expect partly cloudy skies and a low of 53˚F (12˚C).

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

This week marks the first anniversary of A Certain Point of View, Too, the blog that you, Dear Reader, are currently perusing. The actual anniversary day was on March 30; on that day last year, I was informed that my original Blogger version of A Certain Point of View had been banned by Facebook because I had been accused by Trump supporters (and specifically one Trump supporter of my acquaintance, although Facebook didn’t tell me this) of posting spam and “hateful content.”[1]

I tried to appeal, but my accuser (or accusers; I think it might have been just a few Trump supporters who did this in concert) flagged every post I had shared from late January to late March of 2020 as “hate speech” or “spam” until “Community Standards,” which by then was largely automated due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, had at least 79 (!) complaints regarding my blog. As a result, trying to resolve the dispute amicably with “the Social Network” was a lost crusade, and I (reluctantly) decided to get around the ban by creating this blog, even though this entailed the investment of $104 per annum for:

  • WordPress Premium ($96 a year)
  • Domain name ($8 a year)

I, of course, was not (and I’m still not) pleased with this. I was doing what I have always done since I stepped into my high school’s Newspaper Reporting & Editing class in 10th grade and, after that, my college journalism courses: I wrote fact-based opinion pieces about political issues, especially the disastrous Presidency of Donald J. Trump and his failure to deal effectively with the COVID-19 pandemic.

I also wrote the usual mix of reviews of books, movies, TV series, and Star Wars collectibles and toys that is now the basic fare of A Certain Point of View, Too. And until that Trump supporter and a few of his like-minded “conservative” buddies reported me on Facebook, my Blogger blog was doing just fine, thank you very much, as far as page views and ad-generated revenue were concerned.

As you can see, A Certain Point of View (which I started shortly before my mother got sick in early 2010) had a long, slow gestation period and didn’t really “take off” until 2016. That’s because when I began the blog, I was still writing at Epinions, a review site that I had been a contributor for since December 2003 and, sadly, closed in February of 2014 because its presence on Google was affected by changes in that search engine’s algorithms and also because eBay – its corporate owner – just didn’t find it profitable to pay its contributors anymore. (I also used to write for the now-vanished Associated Content/Yahoo Voices, Bubblews, and the closest equivalent to being a reporter in the entertainment beat that I ever became, writing for Examiner.com as its Miami reporter [or Examiner] in the Books, Blu-ray & DVD, and Star Wars beats.)

I was also up to my eyebrows trying to be my mother’s primary caregiver, learn the ropes of being a de facto (if not de jure) homeowner, and deal with a toxic half-sister all at the same time.

Who has time for a new blog with that kind of shitstorm whirling around?

Certainly not me.

This is why I find conservative whining about “cancel culture” to be the epitome of hypocrisy.

If you look at the screenshot from my All-Time Statistics page at A Certain Point of View, you’ll notice that the pageviews were almost “flatlined” for the first five years of the blog’s life. It sort-of starts picking up views in late 2015, but I was dealing with my mother’s death, the continuing drama with my half-sister, trying to get my old townhouse repaired and renovated, writing for Examiner, and starting the failed relationship with the woman I refer to here as the Caregiver, so I wasn’t exactly creating new content for A Certain Point of View.

After I was invited to move to my current digs here in New Hometown, Examiner’s corporate owner, AXA, decided to close that site down, too. And since I wasn’t keen on looking for more pay-to-create content sites, I contented myself with by focusing on A Certain Point of View and being Cerebral Palsy Guidance’s guest disabled blogger[2].

If you are a veteran blogger, you know that the more content you create, the more pageviews you get, especially if you share your blog posts on social media. Especially if you use Facebook and Twitter; those two platforms are essential if you’re going to create a blog that will survive and thrive in a world where everybody and his (or her) cousin has a blog on the Internet.

So I created content. On a daily basis.

And I shared content. On Facebook. On a daily basis. (Or at least a regular basis.)

As a result, my pageviews soared.

So much did they soar, in fact, that on one day in September of 2019, I received 74,627 pageviews.

That, Dear Reader, changed when my blog was reported to Facebook Community Standards at a time when the company was relying on automation rather than on human employees. As a result, my pageviews have sunk as surely as the Titanic did when it had that run-in with the iceberg nearly 109 years ago.[3]

So now, I’m here on WordPress, trying to get this version of A Certain Point of View to reach the same lofty heights of Pageviews Heaven as its older sibling on Blogger.

Because I post almost every day – I missed a few days early on because I was trying and failing to write for both blogs on the same day – my start here on WordPress wasn’t as slow-and-painful as it was on Blogger. Of course, having a modicum of privacy, stability, and plenty of time in which to write helps, but I also find that a strong work ethic and a dedication to creating quality content are also essential.

As you can see from the screenshots of my WordPress Statistics page, in many ways A Certain Point of View, Too is doing better than its counterpart on Blogger.  For instance, here I have 329 followers (325 on WordPress itself; four subscribe to my posts by email); there I have only 24 followers.

I also have more interactions on WordPress than on Blogger. Over the course of 11 years, 67 comments have been exchanged between readers of my blog posts and me. Here, in one-eleventh of the time, there have been 718 comments posted in back-n-forth exchanges between readers and the author.

The only advantage – if you can call it that – that the Blogger A Certain Point of View enjoys at the moment is its longevity and sheer size of content. It has been around since 2010, and I’ve published 1,372 blog posts there. And as of this writing, it has received 700,849 pageviews and a little over $65 in ad revenue.

Here, I have published 445 posts (446 with this one) and earned less than 23,000 pageviews, so I still have a long way to go until I can replicate my original blog’s success.

But I will keep trying to give you thought-provoking, entertaining, informative, and amusing articles as long as WordPress sticks around. And I will keep on speaking my mind about politics and other things that are important in our society.

I thank you, Dear Reader, for your continued support. Like all writers, I do write for my own amusement and the need to write and express myself. But I do like knowing that other folks read my blog, whether they come for the reviews, the political commentary, or the occasional slice of life piece about one person’s life in 2021 Florida.

Thank you!


[1] The ban is so total that if I were to link a post, any post, from A Certain Point of View here, this post would not be allowed on Facebook, either.

[2] That gig was a good one for me, at least for a while. I got paid for creating blog posts about my disability (at a respectable rate of 4 cents a word) and telling the site’s visitors what life with CP is like for me. (I emphasize this because my experiences don’t necessarily reflect that of others with the same condition. My half-sister also has CP, yet [admirably] she was able to become independent, learned how to drive a car, and was a nurse for over 40 years until she retired in early 2015. I never got that far, and if you read my CPG blog, you’ll see why.) My posts were so well-received that my client started getting requests for me to write guest blog posts.

However, since I had – previously to that online gig – never written much about my disability, I started getting depressed and angry whenever I had to look back at my life and how my childhood and adolescence were – unavoidably – affected by cerebral palsy and the way society, especially in the “greatest nation on Earth,” treats its more vulnerable members: the young, the poor, the elderly, minorities, and the disabled. So I just stopped writing the blog. Not very professional on my part, I have to admit, but I was just not thrilled with having to delve into that aspect of my life, you know?

[3] My Blogger A Certain Point of View still gets pageviews and ad revenue, and I do have days when I get 300+ visitors. But those days are few and far between, especially since I can’t share that blog (or links to it) on Facebook.

Adventures in Filmmaking: Progress Report on Our Movie’s GoFundMe Campaign & Other Related Topics

One of these days, I’ll write a script without having to refer to Syd Field’s Screenplay; The Foundations of Screenwriting. Not today, though!

Hi, everyone!

I’m taking a break from working on “The Big Screenplay” – I officially started the first draft today after I posted my Star Wars Collectibles & Toy Review sometime before noon today – just to do a quick update on our GoFundMe Campaign.

Since my friends Juan Carlos and Adria Hernandez set up the campaign on March 9, we’ve received 13 donations for a total of $775 (out of a target of $50,000).

As I wrote in our campaign update this morning:

Today was our best day yet for donations: two kind souls contributed a total of $250. Way to go, friends! We really are humbled and grateful for your kindness and generosity.

Both donations come from long-time friends of ours. The biggest contribution we received today was $200 from one of my friends from the now-defunct review site Epinions. (Indeed, several of my Epibuddies have donated to the campaign!) The other donation, the $50 one, was from Juan’s high school drama teacher in South Florida.

Of course, we still have a long way to go, both in reaching the $50,000 goal and in completing the film, but, as they say, every journey begins with a single step, and every movie begins as words on a page – or, in the 21st Century, a computer monitor.

As I mentioned earlier, I started the process of writing the screenplay. I didn’t reach my target of five pages of script (which basically translates to five minutes of screen time), but I did get some stuff written. Knowing me, I’ll probably read it tomorrow – hopefully with several cups of coffee coursing through my veins – and rewrite most of what I wrote today.

But that’s how writing often goes, don’tcha know?

Photo by Engin Akyurt on Pexels.com

As with the budget, I have a target to reach, too. Whereas the producer side has to worry about raising $50,000, I have to worry about writing a 90 minute script in three acts.

That’s not an unrealistic target to shoot for, especially if I break it down to “bite size” segments. Something like, three to five pages a day.

A screenshot from an early draft of Ronnie and the Pursuit of the Elusive Bliss in its original Happy Days Are Here Again version. Much of this scene was changed during filming. That’s normal in any film project; we writers tend to overwrite.

In my younger days, I might have attempted to plow through the screenplay in as brief a time span as possible. I probably wouldn’t have done a good job then, but I’d have tried to get it done ASAP.

I’m older now, though, and I can’t imagine pulling a college-type all-nighter to try and finish the screenplay like, oh, yesterday. I mean, I could, but then I’d email Juan and Adria a sloppily-written script that no one in their right minds would want to read, much less produce.

So, this is not going to be a quick dash to the finish line. It’s going to be more like doing a marathon. Both on the financial side and on the creative side.

And that, folks, is where we are on this Monday, April 5, 2021. As always, if you’re interested in contributing to our campaign, you can do so here. If you’ve already donated, all of us thank you from the bottom of our hearts. And if you know someone who might be interested in helping us out, let them know about our film and its GoFundMe campaign.

Well, I’m gonna close for now, so until next time, stay safe, stay healthy, and I’ll catch you on the sunny side of things!

Star Wars Collectibles & Toys Review: Hasbro Star Wars The Black Series – The Mandalorian Action Figure (Kenner Cardback)

Promotional photo of The Mandatorian. Image Credit: (C) 2020 Hasbro and Lucasfilm Ltd. (LFL)

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

This distinctive collection features premium deco applications inspired by the end credit images from The Mandalorian, plus a collectible Imperial Credit accessory. After the fall of the Galactic Empire, usage of their money, Imperial Credits, became less common, with many planets refusing payments in the currency on principle.

On December 1, 2020, Rhode Island-based Hasbro, Inc. released The Mandalorian, a six-inch scale Star Wars The Black Series action figure based on the titular character from the Lucasfilm live-action series Star Wars: The Mandalorian.  Featuring the mysterious bounty hunter clad in Mandalorian armor, an Amban phase-pulse blaster rifle, a DL-21 blaster pistol, and a collectible replica of an Imperial Credit bar, The Mandalorian action figure – an Amazon exclusive – also features “retro” packaging in the style of Kenner Toys’ bubble pack with illustrated cardback.

Image Credit: (C) 2020 Hasbro and Lucasfilm Ltd. (LFL)


The Mandalorian is battle-worn and tight-lipped, a formidable bounty hunter in an increasingly dangerous galaxy. – Manufacturer’s promotional blurb

The Mandalorian is, like its Star Wars The Black Series stablemates, a beautifully-rendered action figure in the 6-inch scale. It represents the bounty hunter Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal), a lone warrior for hire who takes on dangerous assignments in exchange for bounties in a galaxy that is still recovering from the Galactic Civil War.

Like most Mandalorian characters seen in Star Wars canon, including the feature films Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, and Star Wars: Attack of the Clones, Djarin’s armor is based on the look of infamous bounty hunter Boba Fett, who was introduced in 1978’s non-canonical The Star Wars Holiday Special. Clad from head to toe in his original durasteel (but enhanced with beskar pieces), and a Fett-like sarape, The Mandalorian is an intimidating yet intriguing individual who gets the job done.

Image Credit: (C) 2020 Hasbro and Lucasfilm Ltd. (LFL)

Star Wars The Black Series Credit Collection The Mandalorian

The 6-inch-scale The Mandalorian figure is detailed to look like the character from The Mandalorian, featuring premium detail and multiple points of articulation. Features vintage-designed The Black Series packaging that has been treated with a weathered look, inspired by the stylized images seen during the end credits of the live-action Disney Plus series. – Manufacturer’s promotional blurb

The Mandalorian action figure comes with:

  • A DL-21 blaster pistol
  • An Amban phase-pulse blaster rifle
  • A collectible replica (not to scale with the figure) of an Imperial Credit ingot, featuring Aurobesh (the Star Wars alphabet) script on the left margin and the spoked Seal of the Galactic Empire in the center
  • Cardback packaging done in the style of the 1978-85 Star Wars action figure line, including the Kenner logo[1]

My Take


Star Wars fans and collectors can display this highly poseable, fully articulated, figure, featuring premium deco, in their action figure and vehicle collection. – Manufacturer’s promotional blurb

I started collecting Star Wars action figures a little over 43 years ago.[2] Since March of 1978, I’ve acquired – either as gifts or through my own efforts – quite a few Star Wars toys and collectibles, including 30 or so figures from Hasbro’s ongoing Star Wars The Black Series collection.

Over this span of time, toy manufacturing has evolved as Hasbro and other companies have adopted new tools and toymaking techniques. Computer-aided design (CAD) and computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) equipment have radically – and literally – changed the way Star Wars action figures are made, as well as how they look.

The Mandalorian action figure from 2020 is a fine example of this trend of authenticity and collectability. Hasbro gave it a “used world” look that matches not only the Ralph McQuarrie-inspired end credits art from the Disney Plus live action series, but also the gritty, realistic design ethos of George Lucas’s original Star Wars trilogy.

Sure, if Lucas himself had produced The Mandalorian immediately after 1983’s Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, Kenner would have made a decent 3.75-inch action figure of The Mandalorian. Din Djarin, after all, is a masked/armored character, and Kenner’s more “authentic-looking” figures tended to be those of Darth Vader, stormtroopers and their various Imperial armored colleagues, droids, and, of course, Boba Fett.

The big difference between then and now, though, is that Kenner action figures from the original 1978-1985 run didn’t have the weathered, used, even “beat-up” look from the films. Every action figure, even Luke Skywalker’s Tatooine moisture farmer’s outfitted one, looked as though the character had gotten his or her outfit at that galaxy far, far away’s equivalents of Sears, Macy’s or – in the case of Leia Organa’s Bespin gown – Sak’s Fifth Avenue or Neiman Marcus.  

The Mandalorian, like all of his Star Wars The Black Series stablemates, doesn’t look like he just got his armor from his clan on Mandalore. His badass outfit, complete with the T-visored helmet, scuffed heartplate, and pitted shin guards, looks like Din Djarin has been from one side of the galaxy to the other, encountering trouble – and dispatching it with his menacing Amban phase-pulse rifle.

Another difference – other than the 6-inch scale’s larger size – from Kenner’s 3.75-inch figures is the number of points of articulation (which are analogous to the human body’s joints, especially those in the upper body and limbs).

See, most of the 1978-1985 action figures – especially those that were either human, humanoid, or based on costumed characters that were supposed to be mechanical but were played by actors – only have five points of articulation.[3]

Image Credit: (C) 2020 Hasbro and Lucasfilm Ltd. (LFL)

The Mandalorian has multiple points of articulation, including at the wrists, elbows, neck, shoulders, waist, hips, knees, and ankles. This has the benefit of allowing kids or adult collectors to pose the imposing Din Djarin in many dynamic action poses that are more life-like than possible with, say, the original 1979 Boba Fett action figure from Kenner.

Well, that about wraps it up for this review of a new Star Wars The Black Series collectible. I had fun writing it, and I hope you will find it both enjoyable and informative.

Until next time, Dear Reader, stay safe, stay healthy, and find joy in even the small things in life. And remember, the Force will be with you…always. 

[1] Kenner Products was a subsidiary of General Mills (yes, the cereal company) at the time that it got the license to make Star Wars toys, games, and other products in 1977. By the time production of the original Star Wars toy line ended in 1985, General Mills spun it off into  Kenner Parker Toys, Inc.  In 1987, Tonka bought Kenner Parker Toys, which then became a division rather than a semi-independent subsidiary of its corporate parent. Four years later, Hasbro bought Tonka and all of its assets. For most of the 1990s, the Pawtucket, RI-based Hasbro kept the Kenner brand alive, but by 2000 it closed Kenner’s offices in Cincinatti and absorbed all of its toy lines, including – of course – the Star Wars brand.

[2] My first collectibles from the Kenner era were the Landspeeder vehicle (which was compatible with the 3.75-inch figures) and the 3.75-inch Artoo-Detoo (R2-D2) and See-Threepio (C-3PO) figures.  I got them as presents from my former neighbors, the Blanchards, for my 15th birthday, which was the first birthday I celebrated in our brand-new townhouse in East Wind Lake Village. I no longer have the Landspeeder; it broke when the shelf it was displayed on collapsed and fell on top of it. I still have my first two Star Wars figures, though.

[3] Some had less! Chewbacca the Wookiee, for instance, was one of the more detailed action figures in Kenner’s original 12-character Wave 1 from 1978. He even had blue eyes, in sharp contrast to every other human character’s generic black-on-flesh tone “eye outline” look. But he only had four points of articulation – two at the shoulders and two at the hips. He – and the Stormtrooper – were not given a swivel point at the neck.

Musings & Thoughts for Sunday, April 4, 2021, or: Status Update on Our New Popcorn Sky Project

We reached the $500-mark yesterday.

Hey, Dear Reader! It’s early afternoon on Easter Sunday, April 4, 2021, and it’s a crisp cool day here in New Hometown, Florida. Currently, the temperature is 75˚F (24˚C) under mostly cloudy skies. With humidity at 45% and the wind blowing from the east-southeast at 2 MPH (4 KM/H), the feels-like temperature is 74˚F (23˚C). Today’s forecast calls for a high of 77˚F (25˚C) and mostly sunny skies. Tonight, skies will be mostly clear. The low will be 50˚F (10˚C).

This is, more or less, how the neighborhood looks today. (Photo by the author)

It’s been a quiet day here in my nook of Florida. I woke up after 8 AM – a rare event for me, since I’m usually up at the crack of dawn – and had breakfast by 10:30 AM. I’m not sure at what time I went to bed, though[1]. I watched some of the extra features on my new 4K UHD Blu-ray set of Black Hawk Down (a three-disc set that includes the 4K and 1080p Blu-ray discs with two cuts of Ridley Scott’s 2001 war film Black Hawk Down – the R-rated theatrical version and the slightly longer Extended Edition – along with a bonus features Blu-ray disc), but I don’t remember when I called it a night and collapsed on my futon.

This is what the campaign looks like as of this writing.

So, what’s new on this Easter Sunday? Well, we are slightly over the $500-mark in the Popcorn Sky GoFundMe campaign for what my friends Juan and Adria call my next movie. Actually, it’s our next movie; I’m the screenwriter and associate producer, true, but I’m not the director. And since the public usually thinks that the director is the auteur of any given film, it’s going to be A Film by Juan Carlos Hernandez in the credits (and in the viewer’s mind).  I’m realistic; this is going to be a group effort. If we were building a skyscraper or a house, I’m the architect who does the blueprints; Adria supervises and coordinates the actual work, and Juan is the guy who directs the actual construction.

As of this afternoon, Popcorn Sky’s next film by Alex Diaz-Granados has received 11 donations, for a grand total of $525 (out of the estimated $50,000 projected budget). And although we still have a way to go before we can start filming, the funds that we have on hand now are just enough for the writing of the script to begin.

My first draft’s Establishing Shot.

So, Dear Reader, I see that we’re making progress with the project, although we are still going to need more contributions before we can hire a cast, see about buying some music for the soundtrack, and figure out where we can plan on filming the movie.

Other than that, there’s not much going on in my life on this cool spring Sunday. I’m going to take it easy for the rest of the day and save my energies for tomorrow. My plan is to work on my script during the workweek, then rest on weekends (unless, of course, I have a hankering to add an idea or two that might cross my mind on a Saturday or a Sunday).

Anyway, that’s all the news that’s fit to print today, so I’ll humbly take my leave of you, Dear Reader. Until next time, stay safe, stay healthy, and I’ll catch you on the sunny side of things!

P.S. If you want to donate to our GoFundMe, you can do so here: https://gofund.me/86634e1b.

[1] The headache that I am nursing right now tells me I must have gone to bed late.