Facial Hair and I: on Movember

(Image: Friedrich Nietzsche, the patron saint of awesome moustaches)

Perhaps its the cool thing to have themes of the month. This month is National Novel Writing Month (nanowrimo). This month is also ‘Movember’, a month in which men raise awareness for male cancers by growing a moustache. This post is going to be about facial hair, my relationship with facial hair. I will also muse on how men have relationships.

Me and my hair
(Image, X men character: Bishop with trimmed moustache-beard)

I have lots of stories about hair. I grew up in the 1990s, when I had little glimpses of hair metal bands, scruffy haired Grunge bands and my older teenaged brother had a pretty nice mane once upon a time when I was an impressionable child (of course now we joke that I look like the oldest sibling). Many of these factors made me admire men and hair. This is perhaps one of the most frivolous aspects of my interests, but I must admit that all those early 90s dudes, plus guys like Conan the Barbarian had an impact on my follicular subconscious.

One particular story I remember was when I was an undergraduate (probably told this enough times already). I was mostly paying attention to studying and the like, and I didn’t look at the mirror that much, and then one day I realised that it had been several months since I looked into a mirror and I had a massive beard and my hair was unrecognisable. I couldn’t recognise my face and it was a very distressing moment to acknowledge that I needed to do other things than read.

My approach to hair hygiene changed over the years and as I am one for rituals I have a personal rule of growing a beard once a year (at least), so I can explore how I look. Last year I grew a beard that then turned into  a moustache, and it attracted quite a bit of humour from my friends. One of my friends said ‘it suits your face, but not who I know you to be’. I consider this the ultimate backhanded compliment.

How I got my moustache
(Image: Marvel Character: Mandarin, sporting nice but possible politically incorrect moustache)

Without even thinking about movember, over October I fulfilled my monthly quota, I was not too motivated about growing the beard but I thought I might as well do it and get it behind me. I tend to mark my accomplishments through quotas, and it makes it overly rational and not so fun. Literally after I shaved it, a friend of mine brought to my attention a movember android app and a mo-bros website, where he was actively raising funds. This friend told me that as the most hirsute guy he knows (backhanded compliment), I have the most potential to have the most awesome moustache, and all I need to do is be part of his ‘team’ for fundraising, he’ll do the rest. Reluctantly I agreed. I had been growing my beard for over a month before I shaved it off, and having to do something like that all over again was quite the chore. However after 17 days I had a full handlebar moustache. My friend was right, I am very hirsute.

The nod
(Image: Tony Stark from Season 2 of Iron Man TAS 1995, mullet + moustache)

In my experience, men have a distinctly gendered set of performance when it comes to communicating with each other. Between my male friends and female friends, I always talk about activities, jokes, and concrete things like historical events or gaming or something we are mutually involved with. Otherwise there would be very little to talk about except the typical British small talk topics (tea, the weather, football).

I’ve found though that sometimes obvious visual similarities can be enough to share an interest. In the TV Show ‘Curb your Enthusiasm’, Larry David refers at times to how bald men relate to each other in having a mutual life of discrimination from wider society. I thought this was hilarious because it makes baldness look like a subculture, or like a social class. But the discrimination is possibly measurable. How many US presidents or UK Prime Ministers have been bald during their term over the past 30 years?

I also thought it was amusing because when my hair was a lot longer, I would get nods of acknolwedgement from other long haired men, as if to say ‘alright mate’. Even if I didn’t know them, there was this odd sense of solidarity of keeping the faith. The same has been with my moustache this month.  

How people have responded to my moustache

It was only about after day 2 of turning my goatee into a handlebar that I realised people were responding to me differently in London. I saw several women looking at me on the tube, I thought it was because they were impressed by the book I was reading: then I realised I was reading an E-Book in a reader, that means they aren’t looking at me because of the book. I then noticed they were smiling. I’m not one for people to smile at me on the tube. It was only about 3 hours later when a colleague was laughing at my moustache (and subsequently said so) that I realised they were comically admiring my moustache.

Responses from men have been different. Most men admire the facial hair, some almost treat me like a war hero, how the act of not shaving above one’s lip merits ‘you are doing a good thing’ from people is the most eccentric thing I’ve ever heard. After all, it’s my friend doing the fundraising!

I have also conversed with people at work who I never normally talk to, since I’m not so big on football I have no expertise on commenting upon which manager got sacked or such and such getting transferred to City, so I normally have little to talk about except work with these men, except maybe a joke or two from time to time. However my moustache has given me social powers in which they talk to me about combing, waxing and other such sartorial graces. I have found facial hair to be a mask, it hides who I really am and makes me look like a sociable being. I like this and eventually I find I grow into the mask, in true Wilde fashion, the mask has become my face.

How men talk to each other

Over the past week I’ve also started playing Minecraft, why is this relevant? Well it seems to me that minecraft has been something I can talk about with my friends as we play and chat on skype, but it seems a general thing that when men have something to talk about as a shared interest, it is a very good window to start talking about other things. As such, while playing minecraft, we ended up talking not just about how to make a bed (three planks, three wool, by the way), but also about dating and relationships; jobs and careers; writing; philosophy and mathematics; how to create a 32 bit processor using redstone, which led to a philosophical discussion about turing machines and the limitations of computation.

When I wear the moustache, I’ve begun talking about prostate cancer and testicular cancer, with men and women, they’ve asked me about that kinds of signs one needs to check for, and that led to a wider discussion about personal heatlh, with many people sharing their own stories about their personal health, or those of others they know, and it became very intimate and candid. If I were using the terminology of Goffman I would say that something like mutual activity or even the moustache has become a form of social prop, from which the possibility of interaction becomes possible, not to say it is necessary condition, but perhaps sufficient condition.

I must ellipsis what I say with ‘in my experience’, as I acknowledge all men are different. However, through activities and shared experiences men I’ve known seem better at opening up. Movember is a really great thing in that it enables a conversation about health and wellness through something else and something almost irrelevant (moustaches). I’ve lost count at the number of times where a conversation about an activity leads to a more emotionally laden conversation. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard men in the changing room after a martial arts/football/weights session talking about their kids and their hopes, their loves and their passions, while finishing up their training/session.

Michael

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What I’ve learned through blogging (and why this would make a blogger useful to an organisation)

Firstly I just want to thank everyone who is a robot or who is not a robot who has ever visited my blog. The hits have passed 70k which is a pretty modest hit count in all honesty, if I were aiming to get more hits, I’d probably do more reviews, do more face-to-face and talk about my blog, or talk about issues which are relevant to many people, however I don’t do that and I realise that anyone who reads this fits into a certain kind of niche, or what I could call, potential employers and search engine results.

When I started the blog the parlance was much different. What we now call social media was once called ‘New Media’ and many blogs emerged towards codifying a form of epistle-like artform. Then you have other kinds of blogs, which serve as a diary; tittilating biography which highlights the fun stuff and less so the mundane stuff for example, talking about the amazing gig that @genericindieband did at #camden, rather than the 3 minutes of standing and staring into Nietzsche’s abyss as one waits for the kettle to boil at work. Other blogs work as part and parcel of modern organisational strategies to promote products. Copywriters, marketing and even fundraising types may include blogging in their arsenal of skills.

In an age where every aspect of a person is commodified, I have been forced to think about how my non-professional, extracurricular activity of blogging could possibly be useful to potential employers or other projects that I’m involved with. Here’s a list:

Learning from what works and what doesn’t

I use the analytics of WordPress to discover what pages are most read, and seeing what kinds of terms and search patterns most of my visitors had. If I were a company, say, a startup selling novelty t-shirts based on memes (just an example off the top of my head). I might find that more people are searching for ‘trollface t-shirt’ than say ‘forever alone t-shirt’, and I might use this information towards developing more products for people who like trollface t-shirts, perhaps I might make a trollface coffee mug, or a heat-sensitive trollface mug that turns into okayguy when it gets cold!

I’ve learned from my blog about the kinds of visitors who come to the blog. I’ve learned for instance that many readers are probably reading as non-British English readers and speakers. This means that if I were so inclined, I would adapt my standard of written English to fit an audience who may not be fluent, or may not understand little quirks of British English expressions such as ‘topped up’ or ‘BOGOF’ (Buy One Get One Free). I have learned these lessons but for the intention of my blog I rarely observe it in the sense that I am not presently writing to attract views. As it happens one of my most famous posts concerns Sexual Surrogacy, which was largely written as an afterthought without real distinctive conclusions but open questions. I daren’t imagine how many people have read it and considered it as a serious piece of writing. Another popular post involves a very antiquated swear word in the title, which was the swear word used in the film ‘Avengers Assemble’ (or The Avengers if you are out of the UK), I suppose that this post recieved a great amount of views firstly because it was written within close proximity of the premiere of the film, as well as the large amount of popularity associated with the Marvel franchise of comics, films and other such products. Of course, we still choose to write about topics like Goffman’s interactionism, which hardly attracts too much attention. We blog for love, but there are fruitful lessons from purposely being unpopular in terms of the hits!

Understanding how blogging fits into wider SEO phenomena

I’ve learned a little bit about Search Engine Optimisation from my experience blogging. There are certain kinds of techniques which can improve a blog’s listing on a Google result, such as the nature of how you link to other URLs, Some techniques, such as linking to the same page or gratuitous references to other pages in your website are considered unfair and more advanced search engine algorithms penalise such websites, but there are other methods that can improve a search engine’s ranking, sometimes its nice to link to other websites, if you are kind enough to refer to some websites they might notice and share their traffic with yours. Also using certain kinds of buzzwords that attract your audience would be important.

Over the past year for example I have been developing ways to raise awareness of a project that I’ve been involved with. At a meeting last year one of the points made from looking at the analytics of the wider Transition Town group was that many of the people who came to the blog shared interests which formed part of the overall aegis of the group: this included things such as the local community, environment related terminology (peak oil, sustainability, transition) or other kinds of words which have attracted positive attention (such as wellbeing). I’ve not had much success with the blog as I would have liked, mostly my fault, but I have had a good amount of attention from dealing with the twitter account for the project, and that largely came from the effective use of hashtagging and the keywords one uses.

Developing brand presence

Nowadays successful blogs, or products have facebook ‘like’ pages, or an associated youtube page for extra content (or even in some cases the other way around, successful youtube channels have blogs to celebrate the channel! These days its important to recognise that a multi channel approach can be helpful in promoting a product, or yourself! However I’ve learned that depending on your audience some channels are better than others, and this is largely an issue of demography: namely, are you addressing an audience who is concerned with an issue, or perhaps are you targeting an audience who is particularly tech familiar or not?

If you are running a community project for example, even a website is a difficult for some people to access, where their familiarity with the world wide web is limited. In that case a mailing list might be more helpful. Or if you are marketing to a particularly tech-savvy audience, you could advertise space on Reddit, perhaps even making a meme-friendly reference or joke paired with your advertising. Brand presence in terms of individuals can work well through speaking out on Twitter. This may involve re-tweeting (RT) other people’s tweets, making your own hashtag campaign to follow on a larger event or some group related phenomenon. One of my favourite hashtags is from the Comedian Carly Smallman of #reasonsimsingle, which fits into promoting herself as a comedian, also its very funny and relatable. My personal hashtag slogan is #whynotschoenberg, which points out how a certain co-blogger notes that I over-mention a certain composer, also its a riff on an established meme: why not zoidberg?

Taking iniative/being a trendsetter

Blogging, and to a much greater extent, microblogging services such as Tumblr and Twitter, are very much a game of trend-setting and trend following. The Philosopher Voltaire once said: ‘a witty saying proves nothing’ in the 18th Century. However the rules of the game in the 21st century involve re-tweeting, re-tumbling, repinning, stumbleuponing, facebook ‘sharing’ and stumbleupon-liking anything from a picture of Batman on a treadmill to a cute cat, an inspirational quote or raising awareness of a staged political protest. As much as I dislike tweeting, I find its important a tool to keep on the button about certain issues and finding out about breaking news stories before they are confirmed by official news sources.

Developing a literary art form

Blogs, or other content can be part of a corporate viral campaign. There have been many interesting attempts at viral campaigns to promote a product which is not immediately recognisable as a form of advertisement. The ‘I love Bees’ website was an advertising campaign for the game Halo 2, or the TED talk pastiche set in the future set up the promotions for the Ridley Scott film Prometheus. You might see the promotion of fake content as a form of trolling, but in good hands, it can not only create good advertising, it can also create a hyper-reality.

Blogs are also a stylstic form of expression. How many times have books been made from blog posts. In a sense, the blog is the most obvious manuscript for a monograph: using systematic topics and approaching issues through a post-by-post breakdown that addresses subtopics, fits well into the monograph form of the chapter. Blogs allow for creativity. Whether a dialogue, a monologue, an epistle, a Spinoza style geometric proof or pseudo/hyper reality. So long as the genre of blogging stays written, it is literary. Although tumblr pictures would seemingly fail in that regard.

More technical things

There are more technical things that I’ve become interested in and am beginning to pursue. I’m learning to write more in HTML, the language underlying websites. This has led me to think more about SEO and linking with other platforms. I use Evernote for example in part of my blogging as a way of gathering intelligence and monitoring. Blogging can be simple, just by using a smartphone and a blogger app, for instance, you can make a post quite easily, By contrast, one can scrap the templates and write a blog from your bare hands and make something beautiful.

I’d like to think as a hobby, blogging would make me more attractive in terms of my corporate skills. However failing that, here’s a picture of Batman:

Michael

Reading Goffman (2): Props and Teams

One of the primary drivers of our social interactions are the things that signify or confer some form of identity. In some cases these signifiers may denote a particular role we seek to perform, or see others performing. This defines our expectations and parameters with them. These props are useful tools to govern interaction.

Following the dramaturgical analogy of Goffman, the props that constitute social interaction are much like the props in a stage play, these are the costumes of the actor, or perhaps the scenery of the set. Carrying a defective table set with a missing leg in the returns queue of Ikea is the primary motivation of an angry customer to the customer service person at the till, and forms the basis of their interaction.

This is not to say that props are necessary or criterial of interactions, however they are such important drivers of interaction that interactions without props may involve creating new forms of props with significance internal to the agents who confer meaning to such a prop. An example of this was an energy driink that I bought for the sole purpose of making an in-joke with a certain friend, following a conversation about a certain brand of energy drink that we had a month previously.

Props are signifiers of roles, but are not necessarily conferring of roles. A related aspect of Goffman’s social ontology is the role of teams in interactions. People working with a shared goal, or under the auspices of a shared identity, be it of an organisation or grouping by creed (or something else) work in collusion with each other, when interacting with outsiders. There is a distinct world that the colluding team try to portray towards those outside of this group, and a certain set of behaviours or rituals of activity are performed in before the outsider.

Teams can be placed under a strict form of behaviour. Disagreement between members of a group can be downplayed or even unacknowledged towards outsiders. Some organisations have their own official and unofficial codes of conduct to give guidance towards the proper image and impression that is given by the organisation. Team behaviour can be highly regimented and controlled, either overtly by one of the members, or tacitly and among several agents at the same time.

When reading Goffman the worry does emerge about how strictly controlled social interactions can be. I see this regimentation in two opposing senses. In one respect it can be affirming towards uncertainty and a loss of face, in that rule-following behaviour, whether tacit or not, provides the pool of options an agent has in a given social situation. On the other hand, one could see the regimentation of such team behaviour and the application of props to be an almost tyrannical form of control over the individual. This is a tyranny not of the political persuasion, but the kind we all agree and consent to, which in a way is even worse. People often speak of the political tyranny of policing behaviour and thought, when the state is percieved in some way to intervene. However, what if collective humanity may be responsible for uniformity of interactions viz the regimentation of behaviour through props and teams? This is a tyranny of another sort, one which paints Goffman as a social cynic, and anyone who would agree with his viewpoint.

So with that I would ask: what goes against this vision of the world?

The next post will be on the ‘front and back regions’.

Destre

Antisophie’s Words: ‘Black American’ vs. ‘African-American’ as descriptors

Advisory: This post contains racialised terminology in context of an historical period of distinct racial prejudice.

As someone who reads a bit of pre-20thC literature, terms to refer to ethnic and cultural groupings (I refuse to use the term ‘racial’) that I’ve encountered have been antiquated and quaint at best, or horridly antagonistic, demeaning and outright wrong in others. When Immanuel Kant describes an anecdote denoting the lack of reliability for an African slave on the sole basis of the colour of his skin, or when Kant goes into a ‘hierarchy’ of the races which sounds like a Borat skit, except without any of the parody that the latter represented.

One of Michael’s favourite composers is Samuel Coleridge-Taylor. Michael also is a fan of Ragtime (and does not half remind us of this fact whenever he’s near a piano). Coleridge-Taylor, is described by contemporaries, and even in some of the manuscript copies that Michael owns, as a ‘Negroe’ (sic), or the African Mahler (or black Mahler). These terms, I take to be neutral at best, to describe a man that is by his peers considered a composer of merit. These terms do make us feel uncomfortable because it reflects the historical prejudice of many blacks in Europe and the Americas in the post-slavery generations, which in many ways continues today. I consider it preferable to call Coleridge-Taylor the black Mahler rather than the African Mahler, for, while it is the case that the composer’s father originated from Sierra Leone, his cultural origin is more British than anything. Although my conception of Britishness surely differs from the late 19thC. Likening his composition to Mahler is a very favourable comparison.

When it comes to the United States, the emerging styles coming from the post-slavery black culture became a source of caricature and distinctly racialised and racist connotations. One of the very popular song forms of the time was the ‘Coon Song’ genre. The genre is argued to contribute to sterotypes of blacks in the United States that continue to this day. Just look at a Ray-William Johnson video where he makes a joke about watermelon consumption, or most hack stand-up comedians who rely such tropes.

It’s one thing to say ‘oh look how quaint and eccentric it is to use those words in the 19thC’ where a certain kind of historical context did not provide a vocabulary that was fully independent from discrimination or caricature. In recent parlance I’ve been reminded of this issue, through a slightly different trajectory. In the news of Obama’s second electoral victory, many UK commentators refer to ‘Black Americans’ as opposed to the US preferred terminology of ‘African-American’. This then made me think of the construction of these terms.

In terms of UK commentators and outsiders to the USA, the description of ‘Black Americans’ refers to an ethnic category which has social implications, in the same way that say, Black British would in the UK. In official census categorisation, Black British has further subcategories such as Afro-Caribbean etc. As far as I understand, the notion of the African American has a cultural baggage to it that tends to obfusicate in some ways buy clarify in others. The African American is a cultural category, that has a distinct history and cultural identity. In this way it can also be a political grouping because of the historical circumstances that affected such a group. In another way the African American seems to me unclear: what about first generation migrants as opposed to those Americans who have traceable links to the 19th and 18th Centuries? What about non-black Africans who are also American? By some definitions for instance, I have an African cultural heritage, but I’m uncomfortable with being grouped with the ‘African Asians’ of the 1960s and 1970s. What about Caribbean Americans who happen to be black?

I appreciate that black as an identity is a very complicated diaspora of cultural and ethnic boundaries, in many cases it refers to different degrees of skin colour that we putatively refer to as ‘black’. Sometimes I wonder whether UK commentators are not so attentive to the cultural history of the category of ‘African American’ favouring a more anodyne description, sure there’s an history to it that we don’t appreciate as outsiders to the country, but I favour the anodyne term because of its lack of inaccuracy and its robustness to capture more in a grouping than a more generic term.

Antisophie

Highlights and lowlights of the Star Wars universe

Some of you may have heard the news earlier this week that Disney bought the rights to Lucas Films and effectively the Star Wars franchise. When I saw this announcement it came to me as no surprise, as Disney already own Marvel and owning another franchise is good business sense, especially one with a continual income. However what came to a surprise to me was that they may create a new set of films, which are not based on the Expanded Universe (EU) plotlines but something entirely new.

My first thought was: how are you going to get the old actors together? Mark Hamill would make a very old Luke Skywalker and Harrison Ford would probably demand a ridiculous salary, how hard would it be to get Carrie Fisher back into acting after her effective retirement from health concerns? At an educated guess, the next films could be made as full CGI, or about a different set of characters entirely. There has been some success at both of these within the Star Wars Franchise.

Many people feel that this decision on the part of Disney is a threat to the precious memories of what Star Wars represented to them, or that this is a move that goes into obvious exploitation for consumers. Well, if you have seen the game Star Wars Kinect, or the Mr. Potato Head or Transformer crossover toys, or even the Lego Star Wars games (which themselves form a trilogy), you might think the Star Wars Franchise has already jumped the shark when it comes to naked profit motivation.

So for this post instead of taking you down that argument of ‘is the Disney deal a bad or good thing?’ I thought I would talk about five highlights and five low-lights of the Star Wars Franchise. I will not include the Trilogies, their special Editions or the 1999-2005 Trilogy in these lists.

Highlights

  1. Heir to the Empire – This book by Timothy Zahn began a lore and an opportunity to create new stories within the Star Wars Universe. It is certainly true that this wasn’t the first attempt of a story outside of the films (see Splinter of the Minds Eye, Droids tv series), but this was notable in that it had a degree of original development from an already established story to create characters who stood on their own beyond the films, such as Grand Admiral Thrawn and corrupted clone Jedi Joorus C’Boath.  Also from a personal perspective, this book among other star wars novels, such as the Truce at Bakura inspired my love of reading when I was a child and teenager.
  2. Shadows of the Empire – This was a novel by Steve Perry, which became a video game, the game even had a soundtrack, a couple of comics, and created characters (Xizor, Dash Rendar) that were very notable and totally different to the already established Star Wars film characters. Back in 1996, Shadows was described as a multi-media (such a dated phrase!) experience, which in terms of consumption presented lots of ways that people could spend money to enjoy Star Wars. The story was essentially a side-ways look at the events going on in between Episode V and VI, with an original story which involved underground crime lords, genuine sexual tension (to think I read it at 10 years old!) and exciting moments of action. I still have fond memories of playing the game.
  3. Dark Empire I and II – My favourite Star Wars Character is Palpatine, and when I heard about the 2nd trilogy during the mid 1990s I always imagined there would be some scene where I would finally get to see how truly powerful and skilled with a lightsaber he would be. I was quite satisfied by Iain McDiarmid’s performance in Revenge of the Sith, however it couldn’t really compare with the depiction of Palpatine as a youthful clone who defeated Luke Skywalker in the comic series Dark Empire I and II (with a third part Empire’s End). In this story, Palpatine inexplicably comes back to life after his demise in the Death Star II, and not only does he come back with a bang, he seduces Skywalker to the Dark Side of the force, starts a massive planetary conflict with the ‘World Devastators’ and it looked very bad for the good guys! Dark Horse did an amazing job in the 1990s with the stories that they made within the folklore of the Star Wars films. An honourable mention goes to the comic series Crimson Empire I and II, which I heard has a recent third part.
  4. Star Wars: Clone Wars (not to be confused with: Star Wars: The Clone Wars). This 2003-2005 animated series consisted of episodes which lasted from about 3 minutes to 20 minutes in length, they were little vignette pieces that introduced the period of time between Episode II and III, depicting the Clone Wars. What I really loved about this series was the artwork by Gendy Tartakovsky, who also worked on Dexter’s Lab (another 1990s staple of my youth [ahh, nostalgia! I’m so sad to be a grown up]). Tartakovsky’s series explored the war from different perspectives, and for the first time we really take the view of the faceless Clone Troopers (who eventually become the Stormtroopers of the original trilogy). Some of the episodes I remember with much fondness, such as the introduction of the elite ARC troopers, the introduction of Durge the invincible bounty hunter and the kidnap of Chancellor Palpatine in the second season, which truly shows both the duplicity of Palpatine’s character as well as the genuine fright that the Jedi had of General Greivous. The second series of Tartakovsky’s series truly captured the darkness of the Clone Wars, in terms of the inevitable betrayal of the clones against the Jedi, and Anakin Skywalker’s flirtation with the dark side.
  5. Holonet News. Back in 2001 or so there was an alternate reality narrative depicting what was essentially the news channels that existed in the Star Wars universe, presented as if it were a website presenting news. This had a lot of parallels to the media of the time, where online news was but an emerging thing: the Star Wars universe pointed out the ways in which we consume media through their alternate reality, there were big political stories; cover-ups that were obvious; weather reports and bizarre news, as we have bizarre news stories that get popularity. Eventually the news network was shut down because of the Clone Wars (coinciding with the release of Episode 2) and showed one of those blanket ‘we are experiencing technical difficulties’-type placards instead of regular holonet news. The most notable thing about it was the insignia of the ‘Grand Republic’ that was brandished on the ‘technical difficulties’ page: It was the Imperial insignia! In a way this was a political statement of its time, and not just this, but it showed the ways in which viral campaigns (before that was even a term) can be used to garner attention and be artistic as well.

Low-lights

  1. Star Wars Holiday Special – if you don’t know what this is, please don’t look it up. It is an example of how not to do expanded universe.
  2. Star Wars product placements. Recently Lucasfilm has allowed advertisers such as Comet, Vodafone and maybe some others, to use Star Wars characters and intellectual property as a prop for advertising their products, and to me that really undermines the kind of value I would attribute to someone like Yoda, the wise sage who appears world weary in Empire Strikes Back; to be advertising about 3G Tariffs and free texts is the meaning of ‘sell-out’ to me.
  3. Star Wars ‘crossover’ moments: Call me a purist, but I can’t take Darth Vader as Mr. Potato head very seriously. Darth Vader is a character who was once a good man consumed by his own hatred and desire to find immortality, and his suit is a metaphorical and literal symbol of his own imprisonment by his rage. I don’t think a baked potato really captures those aspects too well. Also, its a bit of a morbid thing to advertise to children, however it does make me realise that Darth Vader not as a potato is a bit of a morbid thing to market to children anyway.  There are other instances of crossover: Star Wars characters dancing to disco classics and 2010s pop hits. Can you imagine Lando Calrissian dancing to songs in the carbon freezing chamber where he betrayed his friends and compromised his personal values to save his commercial ventures to find ultimately that the deal he made had been altered? When you put these SW characters in different situations it takes away from what they represented. There’s sort of a parallel here with how so many Christians when I was on pilgrimage at Fatima, purchased anything that had images of Jesus or Mary on it, and it bordered on the Obscene.
  4. Star Wars: Rebel Assault  (Series). I have mixed feelings about this one. There are aspects of the gameplay which in a technical sense I very much enjoyed. Rebel Assault had great graphics for its time, and Rebel Assault II was a very playable game, even though it was a rail shooter. I have fond memories of playing it as a game. As a story? It was damned awful! Awful Awful Awful. It didn’t keep to the canon, basically erasing the presence of Luke Skywalker (and Star Wars is nothing without him, even Darth Vader is defined by his relation to Luke Skywalker). In a way the story makes no sense within the canon so should just be ignored.
  5. Star Wars: The Force Unleashed (Mainly the sequel). I liked some of this game, but it went on for too long. There was a lot that was good about the game and I accept this is a contraversial ‘low-light’. It had a really interesting story, a great gaming interface and a lot of potential, but that was the problem. This game had a lot of potential and hype that it didn’t live up to. The sequel also tried too hard. The first game was too long for me, and ironically the second game was too short. Okay, so maybe I picked this as a fifth choice because Super Bombad racing was too obvious. I loved the DLC but it didnt give enough for a modern game.

Post written by Michael, but the list came from conversations with Antisophie, Sinistre and Sinistre*