Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Those of you who recall the days when Twilight and I would quiz each other on the model numbers of Star Wars starship components may find this hard to believe, but there was a time when I was not a Star Wars fan. Those of you who recall the great TIE Fighter narrative may find it even harder to believe. But it is true. In fact I became a Star Wars fan not as a result of the movies but as a result of X-Wing. That's what sold me on the universe: somebody taking the military aspect of Star Wars seriously. Once I had that to latch onto I could buy into the rest of it.

Now of course X-Wing doesn't take the military aspect of Star Wars as seriously as it could, which is a gripe that I've harped on at length in various contexts and shall not repeat here. The point is that what made Star Wars cool to me was the military treatment. Which is why I have such high hopes for Republic Commando.

I've played the demo backwards and forwards, and I like what I've seen so far. It's not the most serious infantry sim that I know of but as a sim it's about as serious as X-Wing and it seems like it has some really engaging characters. I'm really hoping it will sell me on the late Republic setting just as X-Wing sold me on the Galactic Civil War setting. 'Cause the movies sure haven't done so, and I really doubt that they ever will. I can expound on them at length of course, and I enjoy doing so (best memory I have of Episode I was explaining it to Princess) but at the end of the day they're telling the wrong story and they're telling it badly. And that doesn't sell me on Star Wars.

And, for better or worse, I have to be sold on Star Wars. Because somewhere in that great field of Star Wars dreck there's something magical. Han and Leia. A guy with a lightsaber. Good men stuck between an evil empire and a violent terrorist movement. Good men accepting a losing proposition because it's the right thing to do. Love conquering all obstacles. The courage to believe.

There's something thrilling, something magical, about Star Wars at its best. Only certain Star Wars products have it. Empire Strikes Back had it. TIE Fighter had it. Knights of the Old Republic had it. Hopefully, Republic Commando will too.

Monday, February 14, 2005

It's late and I must sleep so that I can wake and visit the Fallen Caryatid tomorrow to pray before class. But while it's still Valentine's Day I wanted to say a few quick words on the holiday.

I've never really understood why people think this holiday is about romance. I mean I do intellectually, but for me Valentine's has been one of two things. The first was about giving out cards to my classmates, which I never quite got at the time. But it ties into the second thing. As I was saying to Duchess, I think the point of a holiday is that it commemorates a social value. It's society's way of saying, "This is something we consider important." So what is it in this case? Romance? I don't think so, really. I think it's more generally about courtesy, and chivalry (and yes, I know that "chivalry" in the Natalian sense bears little to no resemblance to "chivalry" as a fifteenth century man-of-arms would have understood the term). Romance is a part of that, but romance is powered by chivalry and courtesy (teaching our kids these values is, I think, where the classroom Valentine cards come in).

At any rate that's what the day means to me: Valentine's Day is a declaration that it is a social value to learn chivalry and courtesy, and consequently romance. So let me take a moment to commemorate Thea, Princess, Blue Rose, my Sweatshirt Girl, and Esther Selene, without whom I would know very little about any of that. Happy Valentine's Day, dearest friends.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

So tonight was the last class of the Dance Master's Thursday night Viennese Ball dances class, and something rather fun happened. Apparently at the last Jammix he saw Anachoron and I (I finally came up with a blogname for him that I'm happy with) polking together. As you know, he's one of my favorite polka partners ... probably my favorite male polka partner, at any rate, and we were playing around with this thing we'd been working on since the Jammix before that, which was a Viennese step in polka time followed by a redowa. It's step (man's right), heel click, redowa: step, click, redowa, or one-and-click, re-do-wa. Anyway I think it's awfully fun and since the Viennese step is actually pretty easy to lead I think it's a nifty way of getting into redowa.

Well anyway, apparently the Dance Master caught us doing this and decided to show it to the class tonight (though he credited only Anachoron and not me, but oh well). And he said he needed a name for it. I'm sure I'm not the first person to have thought of that combination of steps, but since it is sort of mine I feel like I should get to name it. My personal vote is for air redowa, since Viennese redowa got rejected (and since in polka time, at least, I prefer to get into it with either a single pivot or, even better, a single air pivot). If you see the Dance Master, I think you should so inform him. I think it's a shame that there's no polka contest at the Viennese Ball. It'd be a blast to enter something like that with Blue Rose, or Anachoron, or Alanna, or ... well, with lots of people. If I'm ever filthy rich I am so buying a house with a dance floor large enough to technopolk upon.

As long as we're on the subject (and as long as "Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy)" is playing ... mmmmmm for good redowing polkas) I suppose now is as good a time as any to talk about performing. Especially since tonight I also had my Iolanthe callbacks (which went much more satisfactorily than the audition, though sadly I will not get to play opposite Phoebe). I think that for me, performing comes down to two things. One is the sense that God did give me certain performing gifts which deserve to be nurtured. I don't mean to say that I'm all that on stage, because I'm certainly not, but I think it's still a part of the me that God had in mind when he first conceived me.

Two is that I'm shy. This itself has two dimensions (you can tell we're Speaking Natalie now because my list has sub-lists). The first I think is that even shy people need a legitimate extroversion outlet. Being outgoing and extrinsic in regular old social situations is not always comfortable. But just because I'm shy (and this goes for a lot of performers I've known) doesn't mean there isn't another side of me inside me waiting to get out. And when you're on stage, behind the fourth wall, it feels a lot safer to let that out. And the second dimension is related to that: the something inside me. I want it to get out for its own sake, I suppose, but more importantly I want it to get out so that people can see it. So that they can know me. This is, of course, a recurring theme in my life: getting the story out, being known. Performing is a way of putting a part of me on display, of saying, "You may not see this in me all the time, but it's part of me all the same." On stage it's frequently the authoritarian or villainous me (I would love love love to play Javert or the Phantom of the Opera one day). Perhaps this time it will be the comical me. On the dance floor it's frequently the flirtatious me.

I think this is also why I am simultaneously flattered and embarrassed when people watch (spectate, I should say) me dancing. On the one hand it seems ridiculous that my mere dancing should entertain anybody so much that they should just watch, as is beginning to happen with alarming frequency at weddings. I mean, I don't want to dance just to show off. But on the other hand I do want people to see how much I love social dance, and I want this piece of performance art (the dance) to communicate that in a visceral way. Getting the story out, being known. I wonder if that's a general model for thinking about shyness.