Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The Running Music Mix

After six months of running, I have amassed quite a playlist of songs to listen to. I had a lot to start with, but as the year progressed I just kept adding songs to it. I did have to delete a few when I realized they didn't do anything to keep up my energy.

There are some songs, however, that do an amazing job. When I hear them start to play, I always tend to start running faster. Some distract me from the pain because it takes me elsewhere in my mind.

I have three different groups of music, which I'll break down here. But if you're looking for some great upbeat music for your workouts, this is the place you want to be!

"Regular" Music

I say this because once you look at my other sections, you'll understand why I call this the regular stuff.

This is the music that, for the most part, you'll hear on the radio or elsewhere. Most people would be familiar with it in some way, shape, or form.

"I Wanna Get Better" by Bleachers

"Ways to Go" by Grouplove

"Mon Petite Chou-Chou" by Philmore

"The City" by Madeon

"Where the Streets Have No Name" by U2 (from the Isles of Wonder Olympics soundtrack)

"Waka Waka (This time for Africa)" by Shakira

Star Wars Music

If I'm going to be running in a Star Wars-themed half marathon, then I should probably put some Star Wars music on my playlist! It is pretty amazing how much great music there is in John Williams' repertoire that works great for a run. My favorite is definitely the first one I put here. It keeps cadence really well - plus it's from an exciting time in the movies!

"The Forest Battle"

"The Battle in the Snow"

"March of the Resistance"

Naruto Music

Remember a month or two ago when I referenced Japanese hip-hop as great running music? Well, I'll show you some examples here. It probably only works because I love the show and hearing the music reminds me of some of the best parts of the show. But if Japanese hip-hop and pop music is your thing, then you should include these songs in your playlist for sure!

Even if this doesn't float your boat, just listen to it anyway!

"Hero's Come Back!" by Junichi Sakamoto

"Closer" by Joe Inoue

"Shippuden" by Yasuharu Takanashi

"Rainbow's Sky" by FLOW

My half marathon is January 17, and I only have one more long training run to go! I am very excited about this fact. This music will keep me pumped during my cold winter runs, and hopefully will keep me going as I wander the streets of Anaheim!

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Star Wars Saturday: The Marathon

A few months ago, I decided that, if they were to offer a marathon movie viewing of Star Wars movies, I would be game to take the day off and watch. I kind of hoped they would only do the original trilogy, because that would allow me to do a bit of work and then head out for the movies in the afternoon.

Unfortunately, the only way to participate in the theater marathon was to do all seven movies and start at the ungodly hour of 2:30am. But I had vowed to do it, and I had gotten my boss' permission to take the day off, so there really wasn't anything holding me back.

My Wednesday ended up being really busy, and with dinner, church, and choir practice, I didn't get home until 8:30. It took me a bit longer than usual to get to sleep, but I didn't just lay in bed for the whole night like I was worried I would do. It still was not fun to have my alarm go off at 12:30. 

I ate "breakfast" and headed out at 1:00. With me was my survival bag, which included a banana, apple, carrots, donuts, 3 boxes of Buncha Crunch (my favorite theater snack), my Kindle Fire, my phone, earbuds, my water bottle, and a neck pillow. Some of the stuff I kept in the car for the first few movies, while other things I kept with me the whole time. I did wear my stormtrooper pajama pants and my Rebel Alliance t-shirt, along with Uggs that were extremely comfortable.

I made it to the theater in no time, blasting the Return of the Jedi soundtrack the whole way. My body was tired, but my mind was starting to realize that this thing I'd been looking forward to was finally happening. 

I'm unsure if there were any movies still playing from Wednesday in the theater, but when I made it inside it looked like any normal weeknight in the theater. People were at concessions, a few people were at Guest Services, and there was a ticket taker. I was anticipating a line of some sort, so I was kind of surprised to see everything look so normal. 

I went over to the kiosk and used my confirmation number to print out my ticket. The ticket taker told me to check Guest Services and receive my lanyard and concession vouchers. This didn't take me long at all, and I was through in no time. 

My number one priority was getting a good seat, so I made it into the theater and scoped it out. Like any other theater, there was a large back section and seven or eight rows in the front section. In the last row of the front section were small groups of seats - intended for people who are accompanying a handicapped person. I didn't realize it at the time, but after the first movie I found out my seat said "Reserved Until Showtime." I hadn't noticed any wheelchairs in the theater, and hadn't been asked to move, so I figured I was okay. 

My seat was on the far left of the back row - a group of three chairs. The chair on the left of the three had stuff placed in it, but the two on the right were empty. I took the one on the right and left the middle one in between us. Turns out, the chair on the left belonged to a Princess Leia cosplayer, complete with white dress and star puff buns. 

Relieved at my good fortune, I settled in. I read for a bit, sent some pictures and tweets, and listened around. There were some louder guys in the front rows of the back section, but it didn't seem like they were going to spoil anything. They were just saying stuff like, "If I hear Darth Jar Jar I'm leaving!" Everyone else seemed pretty calm - they were there to see Star Wars and have a good time.

One of the workers made a few announcements before the marathon began. He stated that we could leave the building and come back any time, as long as we had our lanyard and ticket on us. He did mention that we couldn't save seats, but it seemed like there were a couple of people who were holding places for people coming later in the day. I didn't hear anyone have issues with that, and I didn't really mind - especially since I had a good seat.

The Phantom Menace

I think people made a point to sleep during the prequels, and I did hear some pretty loud snoring during The Phantom Menace at one point. I don't mind TPM too much, so I watched it. 

This was the only part of the entire marathon when they closed the concession stand. After the movie started, they closed it for about an hour while they set it up for the day. It was a pretty slow concession stand, but I'll give them credit for working crazy hours and most, if not all, of them were working the insane time around the opening of The Force Awakens. I just ate a banana and drank water, and that helped me get through the day. (It's exactly like how to survive a running marathon!)

I could hardly believe it, but I was watching TPM at the exact same time of the day when I saw it back in 1999 - 4:30am Eastern Time. Craziness.

In between movies they gave us 1/2 an hour to recover, use the bathroom, grab more food, and decompress. I found it was necessary to just stand up in my spot. 

I was a bit concerned that someone would try to steal my seat, so I kept my coat over it the entire time. I was relieved when no one did - all of us in the theater had come to a mutual understanding that we should respect each other's property and stuff and leave it alone. 

Attack of the Clones

This was where the neck pillow was so wonderful. I had said in my earlier marathon article that I would sleep during this movie, and there were many moments when I shut my eyes. I may have fallen asleep, but the audio was still playing in my head so I never truly achieved the REM cycle. However, when the movie was over I felt much more refreshed than when it started. 

There was quite a bit of snickers and sighs when Anakin made any sort of move on Padme, and I can't say I blame them for rolling their eyes a bit. Still really enjoy that coliseum scene, though. 

I went out to my car during the break and grabbed more of my food stash. I am so thankful they weren't strict on the food - especially for such a long movie. I saw people with sandwiches and brownies, so I wasn't the only one pulling a Han Solo and smuggling stuff.

I noticed two children under the age of 12 in the audience, but everybody else was adults. To their credit, I barely noticed the kids during the movies. (There was one time where a kid was rolling down the middle of the floor during one movie, but I think he was just being stealthy in his mission to get to the bathroom.)

Revenge of the Sith

While there was actually minimal applause at the end of TPM and AOTC, there was larger applause for the end of ROTS. This may have been because they liked ROTS more than the other two, or they were celebrating the fact that the prequels were over. 

I didn't notice any vehement prequel haters in the audience - there wasn't any annoying heckling during any of those movies. However, I did notice that a few more people showed up before the 11:00 showing of A New Hope

During one of the final scenes of ROTS I decided to stretch my legs and get some pop and popcorn. If you know me, you know that I never eat popcorn...ever. I had a bad experience with it when I was little and never liked it since. However, this kind of special day deserved something special, and since it was free, I had no problem eating it! (Though I only ate about half. I don't get how some people can demolish an entire bucket!)

One of these people, came over to my little section and asked if the middle seat was open. I said yes, and was happy to see it was another woman. She was super-friendly and immediately introduced herself to myself and the Leia cosplayer. She had been working till 3:30am and wasn't able to make it to the prequels. 

I didn't care too much - my fears about where I would sit and with whom I would sit were squashed. I could rest easy now - these ladies were great seatmates!

A New Hope

At the very beginning, when "A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away..." came up, someone yelled out, "Finally, the good ones!" That deserved a chuckle, but someone else immediately quipped, "Quiet! I'm reading!" That got a good laugh.

It was clear that this movie was different from the three previous movies we had seen. I mean, the droids got applause when they showed up on screen, as well as the more obvious Darth Vader. And even before that, the Star Destroyer that zooms onto the screen from above got applause! (That is a genius shot, and deserves all applause it receives.)

This was my second theater viewing of ANH. My first was back in 1997 when the Special Editions were released into theaters. There are some movies that don't require the theater experience, and some that do. This is definitely one that deserves to be on a big screen with amazing sound. That dogfight at the end is exceptional - even more so when seen in such a large format. 

The Empire Strikes Back

This was the point where I started watching the movie and realized, "Good grief - I have already seen four other movies today!" My brain was starting to comprehend this fact, even though my heart was swelling with increased joy at every single movie. 

When I did a bathroom break during ESB, I noticed that there was already a queue of about 10-20 people in the hallway for The Force Awakens! I smirked because I already had my seat picked and ready to go. However, these people didn't have to wait in the hallway for very long - they let them into the theater around 4:00.

ESB gets better every time I watch it - and this was my first time watching it on the big screen. That Hoth battle is intense when magnified to such a large scale! Of course, this was the point where there was a lot of laughter at any Leia-Luke interaction. It only increased during ROTJ, and by that point I was sick of it. Move on, people!

They kept it pretty cool in the theater, and my guess for that was to prevent a huge BO problem from taking over the room. I was keeping my coat as a seat holder, so at some points I was pretty chilly. The lady next to me said she was going back to her van to get some stuff and had some extra sweatshirts from her business - would I like one? 

She brought it back before ROTJ, and it is really soft! It's light blue and says "Grateful Bread" on it (she works at a bakery). I loved it and wore it the rest of the marathon.

I decided to get my dinner between the movies, and the concession line was super slow. This was my only splurge of the day, and I got popcorn chicken, which was adequate. The ranch dressing was what made it tasty. 

Return of the Jedi

My favorite of the original six! While I was really looking forward to the movie that followed this one, I had no problem enjoying every aspect of this movie. From the rescue at Jabba's Palace to the Ewoks to the three-pronged battle at the end, I could not get enough. 

But it was the ending that struck me this time. Normally, this would be the end of the cinematic adventure. Everyone lives happily ever after. But not anymore. This ending suddenly became bittersweet, because there was this impending doom over our heroes instead of the enjoyment of a happy ending. 

This one got the loudest applause, but I'm pretty sure it was elation that we'd survived the six movies and could now see the one none of us had ever seen before. During those six movies - and the interludes in between - people had gotten to know each other better. We were all united with a knowledge that we all love Star Wars, and we were all crazy enough to sit in a chair for almost an entire day and watch our favorite pastime on the screen. 

So when we got to the interlude between ROTJ and The Force Awakens, the energy that had been increasing ever since the start of the day was suddenly at its peak. I could barely sit or stand in one place - I was pacing! I couldn't focus on a book, or on the music on my phone. 

I did overhear a conversation in the theater of someone offering anybody their second popcorn voucher. Someone claimed it, but another person said, "I'm sure there's somebody in the concession line outside who would love free popcorn."

That inspired me to take my final popcorn voucher into the insane concession line. I'd been observing the concession line all day - from nonexistent to growing to a couple of giant lines. Now, everyone who was only watching The Force Awakens was in the theater, and every single cashier was open with a huge line. 

It didn't take me long to find someone - a dad with two boys. I asked them if they had done the marathon, to which they replied no. I gave one of the boys my voucher and told them I hope they could use it. They were very appreciative, but did inquire how long I had been there. I mentioned 1:30am, and they were very surprised. 

People in our theater were incredibly excited. I was thankful that no one let loose any spoilers - everyone was respectful to each other about that. Someone kept yelling out how much time was left to the audience, and the closer we got, the louder we cheered. 

Finally, the lights went down, we screamed with joy...and they showed previews.

Ugh. There hadn't been any previews for the other movies, so this was kind of a buzzkill. Every time that green preview screen came up, there were chants of "Star Wars! Star Wars!"

The Force Awakens

Finally, it was time for the movie. Instead of the 20th Century Fox music, there was silence as the Lucasfilm logo came up. Well, kind of silence. We were cheering. We also cheered for the blue type. And then for the "STAR WARS" logo. And, finally, a huge cheer when the words "EPISODE VII THE FORCE AWAKENS" appeared in the crawl. Who would have ever thought that we would ever see those words? Five years ago I wouldn't have believed you!

There was a ton of audience participation for this one, and in a good way. We cheered for the first shot of the Millenium Falcon. We cheered for Han and Chewie. We cheered for Leia. And when Luke finally appeared, we cheered for him, too. We laughed at all the funny parts (I don't think anyone expected it to be so funny, but it was!) and sat in awe at the amazing effects and various beautiful shots. 

I left the theater 20 hours after I entered it, at 9:30pm. Those seven movies - as well as the lack of sleep - had really drained any emotions out of me. While there was a lot of conversations when the credits of TFA rolled, my seatmates and I just sat there until the end. Both of them were sad that Han had died (he was their favorite character) and one of them was convinced that he wasn't really gone for good! 

With that, I took my leave. I returned home and decompressed through phone conversations with my father and brother, and finally, blissfully, went to sleep.


Did I enjoy my experience? You bet I did! I doubt I will ever get another chance to do anything so monumental in a movie theater ever again. I don't think I'll have the time to do anything like that again. It is quite a difficult experience to watch movies back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back. I think anyone who did the marathon would say the same thing.

However, it was a lot of fun. It was great uniting with a group of people who enjoy the Star Wars saga as much as I do, making a few new friends, and just having a good time!

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to do some running to train for the half marathon that is helping me lose all the weight I gained from this movie marathon!

I am Claire Nat! I am a teacher and write for TouringPlans.com. I write about anything that interests me - mostly music, Olympics, and fandoms! Follow me @CeePipes or facebook.com/blurbmusings. 
Thought-Provoking Star Wars Articles
The Force Awakens Movie Review

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Star Wars Saturday: The Force Awakens Review

I have determined that, in order to adequately review a movie, you need to see it twice.

The first time is to surprise you. If you've managed to keep away from spoilers (like I did) it allows you to push out all your presuppositions and see the actual story.

This is a hard step. We've had three years to wonder what happens in this movie, which means a lot of theories are floating around our heads. We might have to deal with some shock, disappointment, and maybe even anger.

I spent 20 hours in a movie theater on Thursday watching every single Star Wars movie that exists at this moment. If I had done a review of the movie after that Star Wars Marathon, it would have been so agitated and all over the place. My emotions had been completely drained, and I was going on fumes. I felt like crying as I left the theater - not because the experience was bad (it was awesome - I'll tell you about it next week) or because the movie was bad (see below) but because I was so tired and all the feels were hitting me at the same time and I couldn't defend myself from them.

That's why you see a movie for the second time. I decompressed by talking to both my father and my older brother on the phone after I got home last night about the movie. Then I got seven hours of sleep. Then I had a light teaching day and saw The Force Awakens for a second time in the afternoon.

The second time allowed me to confirm the awesome things that I had noticed in the first viewing, but because, at the time, all this new stuff was hitting me at once, I couldn't process it. And it made me realize that, regardless of how I ended the movie last night (slightly pissed off; see below), I really, really enjoyed this movie.

I feel much more comfortable presenting this article to you than the one I cobbled together last night. But before we get to it, this has spoilers! Why would you even click on this link if you haven't seen the movie yet?! Go! Do it now!


One word can describe this movie: fun! The first half of the movie is just pure enjoyment. From the witty banter of Finn and Poe (more of this in future movies, please) to BB-8's flame threat to Finn when he confesses to the droid that he's not from the Resistance to Han and Chewie's old-married-couple arguments, there's just a lot of fun to be had.

It was a great movie to unite the diehard Star Wars lovers and the normal folk, too. Thursday's showing, for me, was a private screening for the fans who are nuts. (Yup - I'm declaring myself a nut.) But Friday's showing was a much healthier mix of regular moviegoers who like (but don't love) Star Wars and the Star Wars aficionados. You didn't have to say, "Have you seen the first six movies in the last month? Only then will you know what's going on." You just have to say, "Have you heard of 'Star Wars'? Then you should go see this movie."

All Star Wars movies have their flaws. But if the story, characters, and feeling of the movie can make you forget those flaws (or even accept them) then you'll appreciate the movie as a good time. And The Force Awakens clearly had great characters and conveyed the feeling of fun.


I have never strove to be someone I've seen in a movie. I've appreciated characters, had crushes on characters, or selected one particular strength of a character that I could relate to, but never have I seen or envisioned myself in any character before. Not even in Star Wars - Padme and Leia weren't the kind of characters I could ever be.

However, if I could create a heroine and put myself in her shoes, she would pretty much be Rey: awesome fighting skills, untapped potential, cool outfit, and a mysterious backstory. The more I watched her, the more I wanted to be her.

Going back to that mysterious backstory for a moment: we find out very quickly that Han and Leia are Kylo Ren's parents (they named him Ben!). However, the parentage of Rey is kept shrouded. Han and Rey relate to each other immediately because of their connection with machines and the Millenium Falcon. Leia and Rey share a few moments at the end. However, when Rey touches Luke's lightsaber, she suddenly receives a vision which contains the demise of the new Jedi order Luke had tried to create.

After two viewings, I am hoping that Rey ends up being Luke's daughter. Han and Leia's interactions never reveal that this is their long-lost daughter. The way that they talk about Ren with each other and don't mention Rey at all makes me think this can't be their child. They should be rejoicing with each other over the arrival of their daughter! (Jedi mind trick? That would be cruel of Luke to do so.)

Luke could have had a daughter he never actually met. Her mother could have dropped her off on Jakku and Han, Leia, (and maybe even Luke) wouldn't have to know her whereabouts. Heck - her parents could be completely unrelated to the Skywalkers, though that scenario is the least likely, seeing that Rey is the central figure to this new trilogy.

Maz Kanata knows, though. Before Rey sees the lightsaber for the first time, Maz asks Han, "Who's the girl?" The film cuts away to Rey and Finn before we can hear Han's explanation, but it's pretty clear that he knows and does explain it to Maz, because the next time we see Maz she's exclaiming to Rey how the lightsaber was meant for her.

Maybe that's just me going back to my first feeling - that I wish I was Rey. Then Luke Skywalker would be my dad! (Sorry, Real Dad.)

Kylo Ren

He knows something about Rey from the getgo (he chokes that guard immediately when he mentions "a girl") and realizes her untapped potential in the Force. He even offers to train her, even though his training is far from complete. Think about it - she beat him twice in this film: one in mind, and once in body.

It is interesting listening to him (or watching him, when he removes his helmet). He can be so eerily calm, yet break out in fits of rage. (This guy has anger issues.) I loved when he took off his helmet to reveal just a normal person underneath.

Then there's his relationship with Han. I loved his throwaway line with Rey about how she might feel like Han was "the father you never had." The confrontation between Han and Ren on the bridge is so tragic. Ren asks Han to help him, and Han says he'll do anything, and so Ren kills him! He wasn't asking for a way out of the dark side - he was asking for help staying in. When Han put his hand on Ren's face before he fell, that hit me in the feels.


I think Chewie had more to do in this film than he did in any of the others, and I loved that. He used his bowcaster, he planted and set off bombs, he rescues Rey and Finn from Starkiller Base, he helps Rey find Luke, and he has great lines that only Han and Rey understand.

But what got me most was when he was greatly affected by something. The first one was when he got shot. His exclamation of pain was so awful to hear! It's like when someone you love gets injured, and that first scream shakes you to your core. Luckily, he was okay.

The second time he showed great emotion, however, was the saddest. He watched his "master," the person he was indebted to for life, the man he'd hung out with almost nonstop for probably 40-50 years, die in such a brutal way. Yes, Rey and Finn reacted appropriately, too, but hearing Chewbacca, and seeing him not hesitate to shoot Ren (whom he'd probably known since he was born and with whom he likely had established a friendship before he turned bad) could not have been more awful.


We didn't see any space battles, unless you include Finn and Poe's TIE fighter escape. Everything was close to the ground. This wasn't a bad thing, but noticeable since we've never had any air battles like that before.

Those dogfights, however, were loads of fun.  I liked each X-Wing pilot we saw, and enjoyed hearing their banter with each other, even in the face of death. (Were there only X-Wings? I don't recall seeing any Y-, B-, or A-Wings in the movie.) The different camera angles were great, too. I loved the first-person POV shot during the Starkiller Base battle.

How great of a pilot is Poe Dameron? Well, in one continuous shot, I believe I saw him take down eight TIEs and also blast a few stormtroopers along the way. I'm impressed, and I want more! (Can we have a novel tie-in series with these pilots? I can imagine them seeking advice from an older Wedge Antilles.)

The lightsaber fights were like nothing we've seen in any Star Wars movie. While the prequels were expertly choreographed like a dance, and the originals were filled with mind games and tension between blows, the lightsaber fight in this sequel was all about aggression and releasing energy. It was pretty much as if two people picked up swords and started whaling on each other - and that's not a bad thing! If anything, it makes the fight more brutal and realistic, and also makes it easier for us fans to mimic.

(It also makes the final lightsaber skirmish between Luke and Vader in Return of the Jedi more realistic as well. Instead of rolling our eyes because it's not as good as the prequel fights, we can point to the Rey-Ren fight and see how the two are very similar.)

And did we see any body parts being lopped off? No - instead, we see much more realistic injuries. Finn gets a giant slice down the back, and Ren gets the end of a lightsaber to his face and neck. We don't need dismemberment every single time.

And hey - that crossguard came in handy for Ren, at the expense of Finn. So much discussion and complaining about it, but it did do its job.

  • The "garbage" ship is the Millenium Falcon. If she's Luke's daughter, Rey is just repeating her father's initial reaction to the same ship: "a piece of junk!"
  • Director J.J. Abrams did a great job on so many aspects of this movie. I really appreciated how he made sure we saw Ren get into Poe's mind very quickly and get the information needed that no other person could get out of him. But later, we see him struggle - and fail - to get any information out of Rey, providing us with more proof as to how strong with the Force she is.
  • Still can't figure out how Rey knows how to fly so well. All that scavenging, maybe?
  • Goodbye Coruscant. I really liked you, ever since the Thrawn Trilogy introduced you.
  • Everybody has the same two favorite new pieces of music as I do: "Rey's Theme" and the "March of the Resistance."
  • How about when Ren stopped Poe's blue blaster bolt and held it in midair? He may have been weakened at the end of the movie, but at the beginning we saw how powerful he could be. That was a great effect. (Side note: whenever Ren holds someone in place, I think of bloodbending from the world of Avatar - the Nickelodeon shows, not the movie. End side note.)
  • Did Rey's doll in that busted AT-AT look like an X-Wing pilot to anyone else?
  • Finn totally grabs the lightsaber training ball Luke used in A New Hope when he was on the Falcon.
  • I loved BB-8. No marketing ploy this time - and I could understand all of his head movements really well and he was important to the movie. I also loved his relationship with Poe. (Tie-in story, please!) Now I really want to buy a Sphero BB-8.
  • I still can't believe I just saw a Star Wars movie that said "EPISODE VII" in yellow letters.
  • Max von Sydow's Lor San Tekka character is interesting. What is his relationship to Han, Luke and Leia? He wasn't in the original trilogy, but seems to know them very well. As a matter of fact, he says about Leia when she's called the General, "To me, she's royalty." 
  • Loved that opening shot of the Star Destroyer as a silhouette. So different. This is not prequel Star Wars or original Star Wars. This is sequel Star Wars, and it's going to be great.
Luke Skywalker

My biggest fear - the one I didn't want to tell anyone - was that Luke wasn't going to be played very well in this movie. No offense to Mark Hamill, but I was worried. I didn't have doubts about Harrison Ford or Carrie Fisher, but I did have doubts about the man that portrayed my favorite character of all time, but 30 years ago. 

Initially, I was pissed that I only got 60 seconds of Luke in this movie. Just ask my father and brother about me shouting into the phone. I know that it was set up that way from the very beginning, and that his role is going to be far greater in the next movie (or two?), but still. I wanted more!

However, when he turned around and took off his hood (dramatically, I might add), I just looked at his eyes. And I didn't see Mark Hamill playing Luke Skywalker. I saw Luke Skywalker. A very sad, older man who is letting his failures take hold as he puts himself in exile. He sees Rey and realizes that everything changes from this point forward. 

Luke gets a lot of long-shot moments in the four films he's in, and for good reason. (I know, because I noticed them all on Thursday.) Hamill can do a lot with his face and his eyes, and Abrams made sure to have a long-shot moment on Luke at the end, too. 

Yes, I was disappointed in the brevity of his appearance. But the fact that I got to see Luke at all made me thrilled. 

Yes This Is Long, But One Last Thing

After The Phantom Menace was released, I honestly didn't have much interest in seeing Attack of the Clones. It was the one prequel I didn't see on Opening Day...I think I ended up seeing a Sunday matinee with my mother and brothers. My interest had waned, but probably not just because I was in high school. 

This time around, I am already thinking about May of 2017. (My father said that it's 523 days away.) I'm thinking an eight-movie marathon is not in the cards, but if they were to show Episodes VII and VIII back-to-back I would be game. I am glad it's only 1 1/2 years away instead of the normal three. But I am irritated that it's 1 1/2 years away instead of, say, tomorrow! 

This movie made me want more Star Wars. And that was after seeing Star Wars films back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back! 

I hope that you enjoyed the film. I know there were faults, but what Star Wars movie doesn't have faults? If you can remember the fun and not the faults, then you've got a good Star Wars movie on your hands. 

My last Star Wars Saturday article (for the time being, until my Disneyland trip in January) will be next week, as I tell all about my Marathon experience! Go see The Force Awakens again in the meantime, okay? 

I am Claire Nat! I am a teacher and write for TouringPlans.com. I write about anything that interests me - mostly music, Olympics, and fandoms! Follow me @CeePipes or facebook.com/blurbmusings. 
Thought-Provoking Star Wars Articles

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Star Wars Saturday: Thought-Provoking Articles

For my final Star Wars Saturday post before the release of The Force Awakens (!!!), I'm going to give you a little assignment.

Honestly, this article topic was one of the ones that I brainstormed way back in August and thought, "If there's ever a week where I don't have time to make a complete article, I'll just slap this one together really quickly."

And then it never happened!

But it turned out fine, because if this gets your head ready for Star Wars, then I've done my job.

So, my friends, here are some articles you should read that will make you think a little deeper about my favorite movie franchise of all time:

Don't forget to take a look back at my previous Star Wars Saturday articles as well, which are listed at the end of the article!

"Sorry": The Wedge Antilles Problem

This is perhaps one of my favorite articles of all time. It takes a character that I love - Wedge - and fleshes him out into someone more than just that-guy-in-the-cockpit-for-three-movies. It actually injects some character development that works when you watch the original trilogy!

Padme Didn't Die of a Broken Heart

I like this one, too, but in a different way than the previous article. This one tries to clear up the confusion of the final minutes of Revenge of the Sith. And out of all the theories that are floating out there - even the ones that might be declared canon - I like this scenario the best.

What if Anakin Skywalker Never Turned to the Dark Side

I love my scenario articles, simply because it allows my mind to shovel a path of my choosing based on the obstacles that have been given to me. I did it for my Chewbacca article. I did it for my Obi-Wan article. I just like doing it. So seeing someone else's ideas jotted down is always a treat.

This is Why Obi-Wan Lied to Luke About His Father

Another thought-provoking explanation of Obi-Wan's actions in the original trilogy. Yes, things had to be adjusted when The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi threw some more wrenches in the gears, but count on fans to be able to explain it all in some way, shape, or form.

9 Things You Didn't Know About Star Wars Music

I made reference to the Star Wars Oxygen: The Music of John Williams podcast way back in my "Favorite Star Wars Podcasts" article, but this gives some evidence as to why the podcast is so great.

Star Wars: Aftermath's Most Interesting Characters

I'll be honest: I never connected very well with the core group of characters in Aftermath. If anything, I connected more with the Imperial side of things. And this article explains well why that is the case for most people.

Why Luke Skywalker's Legacy Still Matters

Of course, I'll end with a Luke Skywalker post. (Hopefully in one week he will still be my favorite character in the series. Cross your fingers!) This post highlights the importance of Luke in the story, and why we relate to him more than any other Star Wars character.

So we did it! I've been posting these articles since August, hoping that it would make the wait more bearable, and in a way it did. I hope you are excited to see new Star Wars! Be a positive influence to the people around you at the theaters, and May the Force be with you!

...Over/Under on how many times we'll hear that in the movie? 4? 5? 

I am Claire Nat! I am a teacher and write for TouringPlans.com. I write about anything that interests me - mostly music, Olympics, and fandoms! Follow me @CeePipes or facebook.com/blurbmusings. 

More Star Wars articles by Claire Nat:
Fears and Star Wars
Why Star Wars is the Best Trilogy Ever
Star Wars in the Classroom

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Leave the Hate at the Door

Sometimes it's tough to be a fan of...well...anything.

Why? Because there's always someone around to ruin your joy.

Declare your love of a television show? Someone is there to declare how there are so many plotholes and it's so unrealistic and why would you love that show?

Enjoying a trip to one of your favorite destinations? Someone is there having a cruddy time and rubbing in how horrible this trip has been and raining on your vacation parade.

Celebrating a holiday? Someone is there ready to be politically correct or incorrect and say how wrong the other side is on this whole non-story that they are making a story.

It can get frustrating.

In a world of social media and eight thousand different ways to communicate with people, we have taken those gems of dislike that used to be reserved for a few close friends and blown it up to affect pretty much the entire earth.

Sometimes that kind of communication is incredibly effective. And other times? It just results in negativity streaming all over the world. Negativity that, as a result, breeds more negativity. It just spawns and spreads and makes everyone hate each other.

Is that what we want?

I'm not getting deep here. There are some things that are very much wrong, and for people to think they are okay is...well...not okay.

I'm just thinking about the little things. Should I use my power as a blogger to write about how much I dislike a certain movie franchise? What good will that do? It just results in me finding more people that share in my negativity. Yay. That makes me feel so good.

Should I declare on Twitter that some musician is horrid? Will the musician notice my tweet and immediately think, "Man, I need to step it up to make this one person like me"? That won't do anything. If anything, my refusal to purchase that person's music (and not declaring it on social media) will do the work.

And don't get me started on politics. In the world of Facebook Politics, there are four words that sum up every single political post I've ever seen, regardless of affiliation:

"I'm right; you're wrong."

Why do we need to post this kind of stuff? In Math, two negatives make a positive. IT DOESN'T WORK IN LIFE. Two negatives make more negatives because they think that's the cool thing to do.

I love people that take their loves and spread that around. You love that television show? Good for you! I don't, but I'm not going to be a troll and throw sand on your fandom fire.

Obsessed with a song? Feel free to post eight different cover versions of it. I'll just smile and scroll past it. I don't need to force you to quit it.

Are you going to listen to me if I say that you are a horrible person for appreciating something that I don't? (I've seen way too many posts that imply this very idea.) Heck no! You're just going to take that comment and create negativity in yourself, and spread that to the people who agree with your negativity, and I'll do the same with my negativity, and before you know it, we've created the Infinite Negativity Loop.

I learned some important lessons when I did some work in China a few years back. The most important thing was that, in order for someone to open themselves up to you and be interested in what you have to say, you have to form a relationship with them. Find something in common. Create something in common. Leave your hate at the door and show your love. When they see your optimism and friendliness, they'll start to ask you questions about the things you believe. They won't be shut off from it - they'll listen because you've established a positive, friendly foundation.

We as a society don't spend enough time establishing that foundation. As a result, our negative actions cause the relationships to crumble.

As we enter this season where most of us think about love and friendships and peace, think about how you can spread that love and friendliness and peace. Make that positive foundation a priority instead of shooting shaky relationships full of negative holes.

Because if the foundation of positivity is laid, then the true, honest, positive conversations can begin.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Star Wars Saturday: The Classroom

I teach in a multi-grade classroom. I've been teaching in that classroom for four years now, and I've had a few of those students all four years. Teaching requires variety, and my situation is no different. In fact, I need more variety because I have students multiple years.

For example, my second year teaching in this classroom happened to coincide with the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who. I introduced the series to my kids by talking about who the Doctor was, the main villains, and the TARDIS. By the time November 23 rolled around, the desks were covered in Doctor Who posters and I'd created "Wibbly-Wobbly, Timey-Wimey Day" where I put every class (plus a few extra fun things) in a box and the kids pick the order of classes for the day. We still do that to this day! (We just did it yesterday!)

Adding these pieces of variety really help the classroom grow together under one united fangroup. Last year one of my parents purchased me a David Tennant t-shirt that I could wear on Wibbly-Wobbly, Timey-Wimey Day, and also provided coloring and activity sheets for the kids just a few months ago. 

Naturally, I decided to bring in some Star Wars fun for my kids this year, and while Doctor Who was a brand-new experience for all of them, I have quite a few kids in my room who know a lot about Star Wars. 

This made the experience even more fun for me. As the weeks progressed in the classroom, the excitement for Star Wars increased - and not just for those who had previous knowledge of the legacy. In fact, I just got an e-mail from a student a few weeks ago (someone who didn't know much about Star Wars before this school year) exclaiming how she'd found a Yoda doll in a magazine and told her parents that she wanted it!

I didn't want to make the classroom All Star Wars, All The Time. So I just took a few small steps here and there to bring something fresh to the classroom. 

Bulletin Board

I have a nice square bulletin board in my room, and usually I change it every few months depending on the season or what we're learning about. But not this semester. Instead, I traced a large Millenium Falcon on a sheet of white tagboard, colored it, and cut it out. I also found a template for that classic Star Wars font, and once I had the details in place, I put it together. I was so excited with the result that I chose to keep it up until Christmas! 


In September, new novelizations of the original Star Wars trilogy were released for young readers. I purchased them and decided to read them to my students. (Side note: I love that the marketing team has realized the importance of the original trilogy and is increasing its visibility on all sorts of platforms. For a while there it seemed like all kids were seeing was stuff from the prequel trilogy and The Clone Wars. Some of them probably didn't even know who Han Solo was! End side note.)

The first one, The Princess, The Scoundrel, and The Farmboy, is based on A New Hope and adapted by Alexandra Bracken. It was a nice read, because it broke the story into three sections, and told each through the three main characters. However, it was a little long-winded at times and made it difficult to keep the kids' attention.
The second book, So You Want to Be A Jedi? is based on The Empire Strikes Back and adapted by Adam Gidwitz. It told the story from Luke's perspective, but also had interludes that had some great training procedures for kids who want to learn the Jedi way. The kids enjoyed the interludes, and had a great reaction for the reveal of Luke's father. 

We are racing through the third book, Beware the Power of the Dark Side! based on Return of the Jedi and written by Tom Angleberger. The chapters are short and sweet, which means the kids don't get bored because the story is always changing. His conversational style also is helping keep their interest. 

After I'm done reading the books, I always leave them out so the kids can read it for themselves. I do have to provide a little censorship here and there, but not enough to make me give up on the books. I've also realized that doing C-3PO's accent is incredibly difficult, while Yoda wasn't that hard to master. I quickly gave up on trying to roar like Chewbacca, and it took me a while to realize why the kids were giggling as I read Admiral Piett's name. (Just think about it - it will come in time.)

The funniest thing for me is that when I get to a familiar piece of dialogue that comes straight out of the movie (which happens a lot), I repeat the dialogue in the exact same way as it is spoken in the movie. It's not like I even try to do so - it just naturally happens since I've seen them so much. 

Row Names

We change our seating arrangement every couple of weeks, and once they are in their rows, I let them choose the row names. Usually I narrow it down so that they have an easier time finding something they all like in common. I've used things from sports to holidays to kids' television shows. This time, they were Star Wars names. 

The Star Wars galaxy is so big that it's impossible to pick the same thing twice. Thanks to my read-aloud, the kids are all familiar with the basics, and can usually come up with something very quickly. After they've come up with a name, they design a poster for the front desk. Some of these have been works of art, and I've been very impressed! 

I had a row of two girls that weren't really into Star Wars very much at the beginning. I suggested that they be the "Queens" and showed them pictures of Queen Amidala. They liked it, and they found more pictures of Amidala in her very first outfit in The Phantom Menace and drew her
face for the poster. It was beautiful! I was blown away. (I'm keeping the posters and will be putting them up in the school hallway the week of the movie release.)

Christmas Names

I do Secret Santa a bit differently, thanks to my student teaching supervisor. Every year I have the kids select character names - one year it was book characters, one year it was Disney characters, and one year it was sports athletes. This year? Well, you know.

All they know about their Secret Santa is if it's a boy or a girl. Otherwise, they are in the dark about who exactly it is. This prevents people from spilling the beans, or telling others who spill the beans (this is common in my age group), because even the gift giver doesn't know who he or she is purchasing the gift for! 

On the day of our party, I reveal who each character was, and they get to open their present. I need to make sure I don't make it too obvious. The tall, blonde-haired boy can't be Luke, because that's what everyone will assume and will spoil the surprise. 

It's fun hearing all of the speculation in the room after names are picked, and it's even more fun to have the big reveal on party day. I'm sure this time that reveal will be even more fun! (One already showed up, and it's just neat to see a Christmas present for Darth Vader under our tree!)

The Fun On Their Own

What I love the most is seeing Star Wars creep into everyday things that the kids do. For example, when the kids were supposed to write a story problem in Math based on a number sentence, I got this story:

Pretty cool, right? Now I could have written that Han would never have 11 lightsabers, but why should I mess with this child's imagination and love of Star Wars?

This group of kids loves to color pictures (more than any group I have had before). I have a lot of Star Wars sheets, but have also brought in a lot of Christmas pictures. Normally at this time of year they start decorating their desks with the coloring pictures. But they are stepping it up by using the Star Wars pictures too...with a Christmas touch!

I have to make sure not to overdo this type of thing, because kids who have no interest can sour on it quickly and not make it fun for others. I don't have major units on it in Science or Math, nor do I play the John Williams' score every single day. I bring in Star Wars when I think the time is appropriate, and let the kids do the rest. I've had kids show me that they've purchased our read-aloud books for themselves. I've had kids bring in drawings of R2-D2 that they drew on their own at home. And I had that aforementioned girl proclaiming to her mom that she wanted the giant Yoda for Christmas. 

I hope that The Force Awakens is something that some of them will watch and enjoy. And if they go out and see it during the Christmas break, I hope that I have prepared them enough so that they can get the most out of it as they can!

I am Claire Nat! I am a teacher and write for TouringPlans.com. I write about anything that interests me - mostly music, Olympics, and fandoms! Follow me @CeePipes or facebook.com/blurbmusings. 

More Star Wars articles by Claire Nat:
Fears and Star Wars
Why Star Wars is the Best Trilogy Ever

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

ROCK Running

Back at the old high school alma mater, runners had fun all year long. They had cross country in the fall and track in the spring. And in the winter? They got together in a group called ROCK Runners. "ROCK" stood for "Running Out in the Crazy Kold," and in Michigan, it got cold.

I had some friends who did ROCK Runners to train for spring sports, but I just laughed at the thought. Who in their right mind would want to get out in sub-freezing temperatures to run?

Well, it turns out I do. *Ignore incredulous stare from my high school self.*

We've had a pretty cold few days here in Colorado, and the sun has decided to take a vacation. This means that the snow that fell earlier in the week is staying on the sidewalks and making for not-very-fun running.

Unfortunately, my apartment complex decided that this was the perfect time to remodel the Fitness Center, and it's closed until further notice.

What's a girl to do when she needs to run 3-4 times a week in order to maintain her training for this big half marathon which she is suddenly realizing is mere WEEKS away? Well, run out in the crazy kold, that's what.

The first thing I had to do was figure out what to wear. It's easy to find clothes for warm weather running, since you find the most lightweight clothing that moves sweat away from the body. In cold weather running, you still need to move the sweat away from the body, but also keep the cold air away, too.

My solution was pretty easy: use my ski gear. When I'd go skiing in the Rocky Mountains, my outfit consisted of long underwear, a base top, a light sweatshirt, snowpants, and my ski jacket. To complete the ensemble, I would add mittens, ski socks, and my ski hat/mask.

The essentials can carry over to running. I still wear the long underwear, but put my yoga pants or shorts (depending on the temperature) on over them. I use the base top with a short-sleeved top sometimes, and I also have a few long-sleeved shirts that have a very nice lining to them. I wear a zip-up top on cold days, or I wear a lined wind jacket to prevent the cold from seeping it. That jacket is ancient - I believe it belonged to my sister once upon a time - but now I have it and it's perfect!

cold weather = ninja weather
I still use my ski hat/mask, but I don't wear the mask part because it makes me too warm. Ditto for gloves - I usually start out with them, and then take them off because my hands get super warm and sweaty.

That's the thing about running in the cold weather - you start out cold, but once you start running your body warms up. You can't wear too much or else you overheat, oddly enough! I once saw a good suggestion that one should wear clothing for running like it's 20 degrees warmer than it actually is. On days like last Friday, I was bundled up. But on a day like today, I ended up going with the shorts and no gloves and did just fine.

While it might not seem like I would need to drink lots of water, I still do on the long runs. My body is still producing sweat, which means water is leaving my body. I need to replenish! However, shorter runs mean I can keep the waterbottle at home.

So laugh all you want, High School Me, but I run out in the crazy kold. It figures Colorado would have some sloppy weather this time around, but if I wait long enough, the crazy kold will eventually heat up again!