Category: writing

The Call to Adventure: A 52 Week Project which photographs authenticiy

It was strange recently getting yet another notification from the Ohio courts of Butler County that I’ve been selected for jury duty because my name ends up in the hat so often due to my voting patterns.  I noticed while filling out the form which included my wife and kids that none of them have what you might call—“traditional” jobs.  My wife is a happy housewife, my oldest daughter a professional photographer who is very highly sought after and my youngest is an illustrator.  As I write this she, (my youngest) is doing a commission piece on the Batman villain The Joker shown below.  But none of the ladies in my family have a “traditional” job where they go to work, punch in and sell away their day for cash.  I know that’s the typical way that we measure economic success, but I’ve always been a big supporter of that type of freedom—especially for women because they tend to invest more into children, households and the emotional nurturing of a family as a whole.  When people are free of that primary concern of having to sell away their time for money, it allows them to invest in less tangible aspects of family building, so it makes me proud to see that among the women closest to me, they are all on that type of path.  They don’t have a “boss” out there they must yield to, and that is something I think is very important to family development, because it makes them the authority figures of their own lives which is why that question is asked on a jury selection form.  Attorneys obviously want to know that the people in their pool are “normal” people miserable like everyone else—so the way I answered that question likely will knock me out of the selection process.

My photographer daughter has really impressed me; she is taking her business to a new level as seen in these included videos.  She’s doing something called the 52 Weeks Project where each week she is picking a subject to photograph then she shows how she comes up with the shots and how the editing process goes on arriving at the final product.  She’s a full-time mom, but on both of these efforts she was up at dawn before her little boy woke up wanting breakfast and conducted these pictures for her project squeezing in a lot of creativity into an already packed day.  She’s been busy with booked appearances for several weeks now and coming up shortly after this publication she has a photo shoot in Chicago.  So what you see here is a very developed photographer who is expecting herself to be one of the great ones.  What she does is out of pure passion which I liken back to having the ability to be free of having a “boss” in her life who governs her away from home while on a time clock. That freedom has allowed her to expand her personal life in ways that I think are quite extraordinary—and necessary to achieve the level of art that she is shooting for.

Even her subjects are unique in the scheme of the photographic community.  Her first entry into the 52 weeks project was “A Call to Adventure” which I thought she managed to squeeze a lot out of while working in a very limited area within Cincinnati.   For those who don’t understand why a “Call to Adventure” is important it’s a classic motif most appropriately defined by Joseph Campbell in the telling of mythologies.  Usually after the first act of a movie or the introductory phase of a novel the main character is faced with a jumping off point from the static patterns of their normal life and into the promise of adventure provoked by some dynamic force. For some people the “Call to Adventure” might be as simple as a stranger approaching you from the back of a cab at a stop light while you’re walking to work in New York and asks you to help them get to the airport.  You must then decide to help or not because if you do, the static patterns of your day will be disrupted and that could have unpleasant consequences.  Then for others it might be an opportunity to fly to Cambodia to do sex traffic rescue work in some steamy jungle nightmare, but while there you make a new archaeological discovery that changes the world perspective on our knowledge of history.  The “Call to Adventure” is often how you can dramatically enrich your life for the better with vast experience, but to do so you must step away from your static patterns and allow dynamic forces into your life.

For instance, a friend of mine who worked on the Trump campaign in 2016 called me on a very busy day last week and asked me if I could appear on CNN the next day.  I had scheduled a lot of events and I really didn’t have the time.  After all I had an oversea meeting planned at the very same moment I was supposed to be on with Anderson Cooper.  So did I answer the call and go on CNN which was likely just going to do a hit piece.  As it turned out the CNN people were very gracious and were not the kind of gotcha people who Rush Limbaugh surmised when he talked about the event on his show.  I did the CNN segment along with some other peers and it got people talking and was fun to do.  I still managed to get all my work done—although it was different from my usual day and I could point to many times in my life where answering the “Call to Adventure” directly led to some very unusual experiences which ultimately enhanced my life.

I have learned over time to never get too rigid about things.  The “Call of Adventure” is something I consider so important that I often go out of my way to find it with a very laissez-faire approach to living and personal management.  I may start the day with all kinds of planned activities but by the end of it, I end up doing things I never thought I would at the start and that comes from saying yes to the “Call of Adventure.”  So it made me particularly proud to see my photographer daughter out there capturing not only dramatic photos but articulating that difficult concept artistically.  She, standing at the entrance of a forest goes back to some of the great Arthurian legends of the Middle Ages where the knights would all enter the forest of their various adventures at different points basically to establish that no two paths of adventure were the same for other people.  People must pick their own paths in life to be living truly authentic lives so here was my kid showing this rather difficult concept to explain with a simple photograph.  But as you can see from the editing process, it’s not so simple.IMG_4644

This brings me back to the importance of my girls not being encumbered with a traditional job—especially while raising their children.  If they put their children in daycare, there would be many fewer opportunities for the kids to experience the wonder of a life lived authentically, because the static schedules of daily living prohibit it—and true intellectual learning is often crippled in children as a result.  But for a mother who is there ready to answer that “Call to Adventure” at the slightest provocation a simple trip to the grocery store on a sunny summer in July might lead to a lifetime of discoveries that stay with young people forever because if the schedule of acquiring food is relaxed there may be opportunities for adventure that come up along the way—someone might need help changing a flat tire or a snake may be caught under a car in the grocery store parking lot and need help getting over to the cool grass before somebody runs it over.  You just never know—but there is tremendous value in following the “Call to Adventure” and it makes me feel very good to see that my daughter has matured to a point where she can understand it well enough to photograph.  That takes talent!

Rich Hoffman

Sign up for Second Call Defense here:  http://www.secondcalldefense.org/?affiliate=20707  Use my name to get added benefits.

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Defending the Cincinnati Zoo: Raw footage of the gorilla attack and the reason it had to be killed

I wasn’t going to say anything about this because I love the Cincinnati Zoo and it was really difficult for them to have to shoot one of their prime gorillas when a four-year old boy fell down into their very nice exhibit over Memorial Day weekend.  Unfortunately most of the news outlets did not show how violent the gorilla had been to the little boy cutting out the harshest moments.  At times the gorilla looked to be protective of the child, and he likely was.  But, things can turn nasty in a moment and anybody who knows anything about animals like these types of gorillas understands that once a human being is in a closed exhibit with a much stronger creature that trouble is highly probable.  So here is the original footage to add context to the situation.

The Cincinnati Zoo is one of the best in the world and I commend the team on staff who had to make an incredibly difficult decision that will cost them greatly.  I don’t blame the mother, I don’t blame the kid, and I certainly don’t blame the zoo.  It was just something that happens and the value of such zoo exhibits are worth the danger.  It is really our responsibility as a human species to respect the dangerous tendency of all animals and not to provoke them.  Below is another example of an aggressive gorilla at another exhibit which might better explain why the Cincinnati Zoo felt they needed to act so quickly.  Notice that when the child beats on its chest in the reflection on the window glass, the gorilla took that as a challenge and attacked the glass—cracking it.

Here is the same exhibit where the same two gorillas got into a sudden fight in front of the spectators.  Listen to the stupid comments of the visitors.  The best thing a zoo can do is protect everyone the best they can and use the profit generated to help save more animals around the world.  For the best experience, zoos try very hard to put visitors as close to the natural habitat of the animals.   But danger is inherit, and that slight threat should always be present in the back of our minds while visiting.   Sometimes in Sea World when dealing with killer whales, people get killed.  And sometimes when dealing with dangerous gorillas bad things happen.

However, it’s important to have these exhibits for both the animals and the humans who visit so that our species can learn something from them.  They need our protection and we need to understand their nature.  When bad things happen, we all need to shrug it off and get to the next day.  The best thing you could do dear reader is to support your local zoo for the service they provide.  And if you live in Cincinnati like I do, make sure to throw a little money in their direction every now and then.  They are some of the best in the business and losing a gorilla is a great loss to them—and they need your support, not your criticism.  Zoos aren’t day cares.  They need to be respected as well as enjoyed.  So treat them that way and visit the Cincinnati Zoo as often as you can.

Rich Hoffman

 CLIFFHANGER RESEARCH & DEVELOPMENT

Sign up for Second Call Defense here:  http://www.secondcalldefense.org/?affiliate=20707  Use my name to get added benefits.

War Gaming Tactical Entertainment: Birthday joy at Nostalgic Ink

It’s not quite my birthday, but usually my family makes a big deal about it always leaving me something to look forward to.  This year, because of my interest in the game Star Wars X-Wings Miniatures we all gathered at Nostalgic Ink in Mason to play a series of games.  My daughters brought their husbands and a tray of Chick-fil-A chicken nuggets and we had a blast.  The highlight of the evening was when the owner of the popular comic book store came back to watch our game overhearing a South Park reference that we had been talking about and performed a perfect reenactment of it.  It sounded just like this!

That is typical in these gaming environments, there is such a love of creativity and boundless imagination which I find refreshing.  Comic book stores are great places to recharge after all the dread of reality has done its best to erode away logic.  Some of the best people I have known over the years find solace in those kinds of places, so it was nice to celebrate my birthday there with my kids.image

I can’t say enough about the X-Wing Miniatures game.  As often as I reference it, it continues to impress me.  Nostagic Ink had on hand an impressive array of Y-Wings, and X-Wings.  The Y-Wings have been mostly sold out on Amazon because players buy them up for their durability during combat and Ion Turret ability.  My son-in-laws’ had their Imperial Aces on the table for the first time which was a sight to behold.  Those new Imperial ships have a curving barrel roll effect that is really valuable and is yet another wrinkle in an otherwise highly imaginative and innovative game that is ever-changing forcing constant adoption.image

Way back when I was 13 to 14 I was involved in military war simulations which were tabletop games that I found very stimulating, intellectually.  Back then, West End Games was producing some great stuff and eventually the realistic simulations of actual World War II battles, and Civil War engagements gave way to a game called Assault on Hoth, which was a Star Wars strategy game done in the spirit of those battle simulations.  It contained a map with the traditional game hex-and-counter mechanic and played well.  Imperial Walkers attacked the Rebel base on Hoth and Rebel Snowspeeders had to meet them to prevent the shield generator from being destroyed.  During the early days of our marriage my wife and I played it three to four times a week and it set a pace for our relationship that would last for decades.image

When I learned war gaming as a young man I quickly learned that much of what was being studied were battle tactics no different from what military generals had been taught at West Point for generations—only without all the politics of the position.  By role-playing battle field formations set against values players had to make the same kind of decisions that military generals had to make in wars from the past.  In this modern age of gaming—for the first time in the history of the world, war gaming wasn’t regulated to the military elite—but to hobbyists and history enthusiasts.  Of course the emotion of the battlefield is not present, and the threat of death not a factor, but the same types of decision-making that George Washington had to make during Revolutionary War battles, or General Lee had to make during the Civil War were available to anybody curious enough to play a game.  Most modern war games are very sophisticated and take into account the many factors which are required for such strategic thinking.image

Nostalgic Ink has in the middle of their store an entire section of these military war simulations that are much better than the ones I played as a kid.  They are fascinating and players routinely set up in the back of that store to play them.  But for me, Fantasy Flight Games has changed the entire field of miniature war gaming with Star Wars X-Wing.  It has all the battlefield tactics of many of those traditional war games, but it has the added element of flight.  I find myself thinking about that game all the time these days.image

This is a good thing because real life often requires the same kinds of hard decisions that X-Wing forces players to realize.  American society has the Second Amendment to protect themselves from an overzealous government.  But it also has freedom of thought, and this has given rise to a culture emerging in these comic book stores where tactical decisions are available to regular people outside of any orthodox political class.  For instance, this year’s FFG world champion is Paul Heaver a software engineer from Northern Virginia who is married with two kids.  He plays online CCGs and computer games, but X-Wing Miniatures is the first game of its type that he’s gotten really serious about.  Before going to the World’s competition—where literally people from many countries all over the world came to battle it out in Minnesota during February of 2014, Heaver paid close attention to the battle reports on the game forums and saw that Tie Swarms were dominating tournaments so he calculated a strategy of using two low pilot value X-Wing fighters and two moderate pilot rating B-Wings to slowly whittle away at the low pilot rating Tie Swarm strategy.  The effectiveness of this approach can be seen below in the video of his championship game.   If you watch the video it has the visual quality of a golf game.  People cheer when ships are destroyed the same way an expert golfer sinks a long birdie.  The same skills that Heaver used to win the Worlds championship at FFG are the same skills it takes to manage large companies, run military maneuvers, and run countries.  I would put Paul Heaver against Vladimir Putin any day and I’d put my bets on Paul.  But in this emerging X-Wing popularity there is Paul Heaver types popping up everywhere and this is a very good thing.  There are a lot of very smart people coming up in these gaming circles.

The tactic that Paul used to win his championship will be destroyed with all the new ships and rules coming out quickly, like the new rules involving the Imperial Aces ships.   They can now barrel roll out of a firing arc and right into the side of a targeted ship taking away their shot, while performing theirs with deadly effectiveness.  So what works today may not work tomorrow, which is why I love X-Wing.  It is why I spent my early birthday with my kids at Nostalgic Ink eating chicken nuggets and playing tactical table top warfare.  Back when I was introduced to these miniature war simulations I learned from a Green Beret who was so obsessed with military tactics that these war games were the only way he could experience battlefield excitement, that the only real difference is that you don’t hear the bullets whizzing by your ears and possess the obvious knowledge that every breath might be your last.  Otherwise, this is what it is like.   Fantasy Flight has done with X-Wing Miniatures something that is new—it has turned up the heat considerably and no longer is reliant on the Star Wars brand to sell the game.  It’s great by itself as its own thing.  Tactically it is complex, and is a wonderful way to pass the time for those obsessed with strategy.  And that would be me.  It is my ideal of a fun time and how I prefer to spend my leisure because all too often real life calls on those skills—and because usually what we do in our recreational time directly contributes to how we conduct ourselves professionally.  And because of Star Wars: X-Wing, the future looks very bright to me.image

Rich Hoffman   www.OVERMANWARRIOR.com 

I am Han Solo: The ‘Star Wars’ personality test

I’m Han Solo—at least that’s what the new Star Wars personality test told me when I took it.  A friend of mine told me that The Blaze did a story on a new Star Wars personality test by www.Zimbio.com which was actually more sophisticated than I thought it would be.  The questions are involved and pretty good about bringing to the surface the raw nature of a person’s personality as related to the Star Wars film series.  For instance, while taking the test I thought I’d come out as Obi-Wan Kenobi—whom I personally admire for his love of wisdom and the philosophic chess matches he tends to play on a galactic scale.  But Han Solo has always been my favorite character and that trait emerged during the test even though I was consciously aware of avoiding it.  So it was a pretty neat test.  At the end of The Blaze article linked below it was revealed that most of the staff at The Blaze including Glenn Beck, Doc Thompson and Skip LeCombe had taken the test and were enthusiastic about their results which they promised to cover on air.  I thought this remarkable because it provides insight to all that I have been saying lately about the cultural impact of Star Wars and the future of our society.  There are few things which can unite minds quicker than Star Wars does in discussions with other people and it’s not just nerds anymore—but mainstream acceptance.  NFL football used to be that topic item breaker that anybody could discuss with any other person in business or other affairs, but quickly Star Wars is overtaking it.  It’s hard to find someone who doesn’t know about Star Wars who is under 55 years old and doesn’t have an opinion about the film series.

http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2014/01/18/are-you-a-yoda-luke-skywalker-or-maybe-a-princess-leia-take-the-star-wars-personality-test/

I took the test while on the road at my sister-in-law’s house with many family members present so we all took the test and had a good time with the results.  I was surprised how many of them came back as Yoda, and the young men who took it mostly came back as Boba Fett—which was remarkably accurate.  There were no Darth Vader’s in our group which says a lot about the quality of our family.  That much didn’t surprise me—but the number of Yodas did—my wife included.  It could not be ignored how many of our family members instantly understood what the test was and the intent which reflected the response of The Blaze staff.  Star Wars is something that touches just about everyone as good memories of their childhoods flood back to them upon the mention of Han Solo, Luke Skywalker or Princess Leia.

I remember what it was like to be a kid in the late 70s and early 80s.  Star Wars was everywhere—it was on the radio, it was at the stores, it was on television, it was in comics, magazines—it defined popular culture from about 1977 to 1985 when it began to subside just a bit.  Even popular films like Back to the Future and ET the Extra Terrestrial made frequent Star Wars references—so it was a huge part of that 8 year period and anybody who was a child during that period knows what I’m talking about.  That doesn’t mean that everyone was an open Star Wars fan.  Many of the kids in my school made fun of kids who openly loved Star Wars—kids like me who had Star Wars notebooks, wore Star Wars t-shirts, and drew pictures on my homework papers of Star Wars space ships.  I didn’t care what other kids said, once I got past the 7th grade, I was never picked on for Star Wars again because I had so many fights at school that kids stopped trying.  The more they made fun of me the more I rubbed it in their face.  I had a Star Wars shirt for every day of the week—my favorite was a Han Solo shirt that I never got tired of wearing.  I wore it so much that it fell apart.  I developed a rivalry with another kid in Junior High school at Lakota who was a Star Trek fan and hated Star Wars.  We actually had fist fights over Star Wars and which movie was better.  It got so bad that I shoved the kid right into the principles office as he was trying to escape me after I was waiting outside his bus in the morning to catch him with a confrontation before class started.  He had previously declared during lunch period that Captain Kirk would beat Han Solo any day of the week—so I was going to teach him otherwise. I’d give him some real life Han Solo through me—and as he was running away from he thought he’d get safety inside the principles office—which he didn’t.  I took the fight straight there shocking all the other kids in the hallway and the adults alike when I grabbed hold of the Star Trek lover by the back of his shirt and threw him right into the front door with the principle and secretary standing right there.  Nobody had been so audacious before—and nobody knew what to make of it.  Nobody understood that I loved Han Solo that much because the character represented everything I wanted to become when I grew up—and calling him names was the same as calling me names—and I wasn’t going to stand for it.

My brother and I had so many Star Wars figures that we set up our basement with elaborate hand-made models featuring Star Wars toys. Every Christmas and birthday was an opportunity to increase our holdings for these gigantic Star Wars set-ups.  On Friday and Saturday nights our friends would come over and we’d build new Star Wars buildings and ships late into the night staying up until 3 and 4 AM in a world of our own making inspired by Star Wars.  My parents couldn’t afford to give me a Millennium Falcon like many of my friends had, so I built my own out of a cardboard box.  That creation was destroyed during my late teens—and I never got over it.  During the Christmas of 1995 my wife finally bought me a Millennium Falcon when Kenner re-released the old toys with minor updates in anticipation of the Special Editions to the films which occurred in 1997.  The world we created in that basement had so much reverence for me that I wanted to do little else but create my own world in the context of that one.  We had entire areas around our set-ups in the basement sectioned off with black felt to simulate the darkness of space and on the ceiling was white felt to simulate clouds.  We had our own power supply, there were floating asteroids, and epic worlds re-created to model scale.  It was the happiest place for me on earth.

I was never shy about my admissions.  Star Wars represented limitless possibilities and an escape from oppression and Han Solo was the kind of guy who was full of confidence and a never say die attitude.  He was the model of a man who I would grow up and become.  Many other kids one-on-one loved my enthusiasm, but would never admit it in the light of day.  But privately most of them felt as strongly as I did, they just didn’t show it publicly.  I carried this love into my adulthood and it never really subsided.  With my children I raised them on Star Wars, and now with the Disney acquisition of Star Wars, my grand children will benefit—and with everything I just described, the cultural impact under Disney’s guidance will far eclipse my experience.  There will be more toys, more clothing, more music, video games, posters, magazine articles-virtually everything in our society will be touched by Star Wars and a whole new generation will find solace within the story lines.  Unlike me—who had good parents who really cared and behaved in a traditional sense–kids today have broken families, step parents and lack structure as a result of progressive social engineering policies.  The strongest thing to a real family a lot of modern kids will have is the characters of Star Wars—which as sad as that may sound—is absolutely true.

The character of Han Solo was never intended to be a hero in the way he turned out.  Fans of the films were supposed to yearn for Luke Skywalker, not Han Solo, but I could never relate to Luke’s naïveté.  I wanted to grow up and become the space pirate Solo who is more like a character out of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged than any other creation ever put on-screen.  A lot of people thought this was destructive, but it has made me into an interesting adult—one who thought I’d be more like Obi-Wan Kenobi than Han Solo as more mature years are now upon me. But upon seeing the test results I was actually relieved to see that many of my core values are still intact after all these years and I can honestly say that I’ve lived my own Han Solo type of life and behaved in a very similar way when pressed.  The difference between being a young person and an old person is the experience.  People are drawn to certain types of things based on their core personality—something this Star Wars test is attempting to uncover.  When I was a kid I hoped that when faced with perilous situations that I would behave with the same valor and skill that Han Solo did in Star Wars.  Now as an adult, I no longer have any doubt.  With a string of car chases, crashes, narrow escapes, and perilous follies of virtually every type now behind me, I can rest easily now knowing I measure up to the highest hopes I had as a child.

It is for that reason that this Star Wars test is flooding office buildings and places of business with a fury.  Most of the adult population had similar hopes for themselves, and they want to know how they measure up after all these years.  Now with some of the social stigma of fandom removed, people want to know how far they have fallen from their childhood dreams.  For me—not far at all.  I would have considered Obi-Wan Kenobi to be a concession—an honorable one—but a concession.  Han Solo, out of all the characters in Star Wars was my target, and now as a grown man who has grandchildren of his own—I have hit the bull’s-eye, and for that I am very, very proud.  Setting those high standards actually made me a better grown-up than Han Solo—considerably.  But under pressure—and when it really counts—it is good to know I’m still more like Han Solo than Obi-Wan Kenobi.

And I was there……………….Han shot first!

Take the Star Wars Test for yourself and see who you are most like.  CLICK THE LINK BELOW.

http://www.zimbio.com/quiz/Ukldm8Pi5Ub/Star+Wars+Character

Rich Hoffman

 www.OVERMANWARRIOR.com

 

Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game: Pizza, Coca Cola, and Strategy, the cornerstones of a happy life

At Mos Eisley Radio these guys not only talk news concerning the most recent Star Wars Game X-Wing Miniatures, which I am crazy about, but a lot more.  Have a listen to them for  in-depth looks at classes, guilds, lore, and everything else fans care about in the galaxy far, far away.  But related to this article, they go into great detail about the strength of ships and strategy of the game for those who are prompted to get more involved by the conclusion of this article.   Have a listen while reading the below text!

star-wars-x-wing-miniatures-game-milennium-falcon

While it’s true that many of the people I know are locked into the very real and immediate danger of a real-life rebellion, which is covered at this site extensively, the way I endure the stress of such a thing is to fill my life with interesting hobbies, that also help build up my strategic ability.  I share some of those hobbies from time to time in hopes that others might become inspired and do the same for themselves, not by copying my suggestions so much as in finding something that works for them to give themselves a break so to endure the rigors of life just a bit more efficiently.  I have shared glowingly my love of the strategy game Pirates, the Constructible Strategy game by Wiz Kids.  My family has spent many hours buying, building, and playing that game till the very small hours of the morning.  I can remember one very fun Holiday week after Christmas where my kids and I with a small army of other kids bought every single pack of WizKids pirate ships on a cold December afternoon at Cincinnati Sci Fi in West Chester, Ohio.  The delighted store clerk even brought out a new shipment of those ships which had just arrived that was in the back while we were in the store, of which we bought every single one.  So needless to say, we love those types of role-playing games as a family, and as individuals.

Recently while on vacation in Florida my nephews along with my kids, my wife and I played a very cool Dungeons and Dragons type of role-playing game called Heroscape over pizza from the best place in Central Florida till the late hours of night with the condo door open to the ocean outside.  We had turned our large dinning room table into a war zone and found ourselves intensely engaged in mortal combat with dragons and warriors.  Like the referred to pirate game, I enjoy those types of games that allow you to play with several live players around a dinner table.  It is a great way to bond with other family members and actually speak to each other, while exercising the brain. 22_Top I find those types of games to be stimulating in a similar way to reading a novel, or playing a great video game.   The difference is that you have to work with other people in a way that is only possible with this type of strategic gaming.  For many years these role-playing strategy games have increased in popularity from a sub-culture of Dungeon and Dragon players, to what is now considered mainstream geekdom at major conventions all over the country.  The transition came officially from the popular game, Magic the Gathering.  The gaming industry in that market has never been the same, which is wonderful for the human race.  A short history of this type of gaming can be seen at the link below.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dungeons_%26_Dragons

However, for me, I always loved that Pirate game from Wiz Kids the best of any that I have played in the last twenty years.  My entire family was deeply into it and our playing time together represent some of the most fun we’ve had together, which is quite a statement.  So I have missed it as Wiz Kids stopped making the game in the format we enjoyed, and time and distance has moved us away from the contents.  However, I recently received news from Lucasfilm about their latest version of a Star Wars Role Playing game by Fantasy Flight Games which I thought at first would be gimmicky, but upon investigation quickly found that it was a quite in-depth game that actually combined the type of game play that I enjoyed so much in  Pirates, the Constructible Strategy game by Wiz Kids and the Heroscape.  The new game is called Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game.

Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game is a tactical ship-to-ship combat game in which players take control of powerful Rebel X-wings and nimble Imperial TIE fighters, facing them against each other in fast-paced space combat. Featuring stunningly detailed and painted miniatures, the X-Wing Miniatures Game recreates exciting Star Wars space combat throughout its several included scenarios.

Whatever the chosen vessel, the rules of X-Wing facilitate fast and visceral gameplay that puts you in the middle of Star Wars fiercest firefights. Each ship type has its own unique piloting dial, which is used to secretly select a speed and maneuver each turn. After planning maneuvers, each ship’s dial is revealed and executed (starting with the lowest skilled pilot). So whether you rush headlong toward your enemy showering his forward deflectors in laser fire, or dance away from him as you attempt to acquire a targeting lock, you’ll be in total control throughout all the tense dogfighting action.

Star Wars: X-Wing features (three) unique missions and each has its own set of victory conditions and special rules; with such a broad selection of missions, only clever and versatile pilots employing a range of tactics will emerge victorious. What’s more, no mission will ever play the same way twice, thanks to a range of customization options, varied maneuvers, and possible combat outcomes. Damage, for example, is determined through dice and applied in the form of a shuffled Damage Deck.1XW For some hits your fighter sustains, you’ll draw a card that assigns a special handicap. Was your targeting computer damaged, affecting your ability to acquire a lock on the enemy? Perhaps an ill-timed weapon malfunction will limit your offensive capabilities. Or worse yet, your pilot could be injured, compromising his ability to focus on the life-and-death struggle in which he is engaged…

The Star Wars: X-Wing starter set includes everything you need to begin your battles, such as scenarios, cards, and fully assembled and painted ships. What’s more, Star Wars: X-Wing’s quick-to-learn ruleset establishes the foundation for a system that can be expanded with your favorite ships and characters from the Star Wars universe.

More can be learned at these links:

http://www.fantasyflightgames.com/edge_minisite.asp?eidm=174

http://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/103885/star-wars-x-wing-miniatures-game

The hook for me was when I saw the game’s version of The Millennium Falcon which is for me one of my favorite fictional symbols in film history of rebellion.  CLICK HERE FOR MORE.  I remember vividly when I toured the Smithsonian Museum in Washington D.C. to see the actual model of the Falcon in a traveling display that was set up there.  I traveled to Washington that weekend just to see the Falcon.  I spent nearly two hours looking at it, photographing it and memorizing every pipe, dent, and burn mark on a ship I had watched so many times in the feature films.  It was for me one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen in my life.  When I saw the level of detail that Fantasy Flight Games had poured into the Millennium Falcon game piece for the X-Wing Miniatures role-playing game it called to my mind memory of that original model in sheer detail and I instantly fell in love.  I immediately bought a starter set of the X-Wing game and launched my family onto a new generation of game play that is sure to engulf for many years. In the game players can fly the legendary Millennium Falcon into fast-paced battles for the fate of the galaxy! The Millennium Falcon™ Expansion Pack for the X-Wing™ Miniatures Game allows players to blast through hyperspace with Han, Chewie, Lando, and more. The Millennium Falcon comes with four pilot cards, thirteen upgrades, and all requisite tokens. New rules expand the X-Wing galaxy to include large ships and modifications. With its pilots, upgrades, and lovingly detailed miniature, the Millennium Falcon Expansion Pack is a beautiful addition to the X-Wing game!  It may be the coolest thing I have seen in years regarding this kind of thing.  It is a marvel to look at and unbelievable to have as a game play option.  I consider it stunning.

If the Millennium Falcon didn’t close the deal for me on the new X-Wing game the promise of the next ship did.  It doesn’t come out until the end of August, but when it does, I will buy it immediately.  It is the HWK-290 designed by Corellian Engineering Corporation to resemble a bird in flight, the “hawk” series excels in its role as a personal transport. The HWK-290 Expansion Pack comes with one detailed miniature at 1/270 scale, a maneuver dial, all necessary tokens, six upgrades, and four pilots, including the renowned Kyle Katarn. Each HWK-290 provides a wide range of support options for your squad and can be outfitted with both a turret weapon and crew member.  The reason this ship is significant for me is because it was the featured spacecraft of the main character in the video game Dark Forces.  pic1394907_lgIt never appeared in a Star Wars film, but was the home craft of the video game character Kyle Katarn, who would later become a Jedi Master in the novels years later.  One of the very first video games that my oldest daughter ever played was Dark Forces.  It was a first person shooter that came out in 1995.  My daughter was only 6 years old at the time and helped me play it by pressing the space bar on the key board when I told her to which caused my character to jump.  She was too young for the complex shooting and strategy it took to win the game, but she knew how to hit the space bar when I told her to and it was that game that launched her into a lifelong love of video games.  She and I will always share that unique father/daughter experience, and I will always think of her when I think of the HWK-290.  I was dazzled to learn that Fantasy Flight Games was actually inserting that ship into the game mythology before other types of ships, which let me know that the game designers were very serious about expanding the Star Wars experience of role-playing gaming in a format that hasn’t seen such a level of attention since our beloved Pirate Constructible Strategy Game.

Now that I’m going to be playing, it won’t take long before other members of my family will also and soon we will be ordering LaRosas pizza late at night and lining up 2-liters of Coke along our kitchen counter playing Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game well into the night.  It doesn’t matter that everyone playing will be well over 20 years old and in my case their 40s.  I still get a thrill about purchasing new strategic game pieces that can be used under battlefield conditions that have infinite possibilities.  I do not feel this kind of passion for other types of games.  The reason is that the role-playing games allow for complete independent freedom of strategy, unlike board games where the path is set and random chance puts players often into a position to win the game.  With games like X-Wing Miniatures all the conditions of battle are set and designed by the player, and that is why I love these experiences so intensely.  For me the game is only part of the fun.  I enjoy often reading the stats of the cards and infinitely considering various strategies before hand.  The game only proves a theory good or bad. 

 

I have played these games with people who are really good.  They are very quick with their mind and spend a lot more time playing the games than I ever will.  It is fun to watch these kinds of players at tournaments and conventions.  I will never put the kind of time into these games that they do, but I admire their efforts.  Too many adults in our modern age believe falsely that games are for kids and that such things should be put away as adulthood consumes our lives.  Games are not for kids, they are for minds.  Games like the Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game feeds the mind with more than entertainment, it provides mental exercises that are invaluable to real life.  I can’t say how many times I have been locked in epic political struggles and other situations where I resorted on the practices used in these strategy games to apply some skill I tried and won with in theory, against real opponents in real scenarios. 

 

So as I sometimes take breaks from the rebellions of the real world to embark on these flights of fantasy, even in my leisure, strategy is an important part of my life.  It is far safer to make errors in judgment among friends and family over pizza and Coca Coke than when it really counts in real life.  And with that said, I am ecstatic to see this new Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game available at what might only be termed, an essentially important period in my life.  The timing couldn’t have been more perfect and I am so glad that the good people at Lucasfilm put the short playing clip of the example with Wil Wheaten and Seth Green up so I could see the Millennium Falcon playing piece for the first time and become enticed enough to investigate further.  That investigation will yield tremendous benefits that can only be found when adults play the games of young people and further develop their minds against the antagonists who have lost such abilities to their own detriment.  Sometimes being good at strategy isn’t about being better at the game itself, but is due to working against un-armed opponents.  Those who don’t play these kinds of games find their minds unable to think strategically enough to compete when it really matters, and every time a new game like Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game comes out, I am deeply thankful for the opportunity to feed my mind with the contents that have benefits which extend beyond convention.  When a vacation is needed, it’s not just the body that needs rest, the mind does also.  But the mind enjoys stimulation, not stagnation, and often a game like this can provide the crucial ingredient that the mind seeks with abundance in all the best scenarios.

 

To get the gist of what I’m talking about read this review from Boardgamegeek.com.  It reveals why this game is so much better than most other games, and why it will become one of the most enduring games of its type in this generation. 

 

 

 Harrowing dogfights, family drama, shootouts, a tender moment, amazing monsters, humor.

There’s a tempo to Star Wars. We all remember Luke screaming NOOOOOOO at Vader. For different reasons, we remember Anakin turned Vader screaming NOOOOOO. But we also remember Leia offering a little cracker to an ewok. We remember first seeing Darth Maul’s double lightsaber. And we remember Han saying “I know.”

It is NOT all pew-pew-pew. It is NOT all Vrusssshhhhhhhzwwwmzwwwmmm. It’s a cycle of teasing action and drama.

Even though the X-Wing Minis game plays out some incredible dogfight sequences, the play of the game is NOT a straight forward flow.

I’ve got dozens of rounds under my belt now, and I’ve been wanting to write a review, and it finally came to me what it is that makes this game such rip roaring fun.

It’s not the astoundingly detailed minis. And anyone complaining about scale needs to take a close look at the movies, where the scale of the ships to each other changes from shot to shot due to the compositing techniques used at the time.

The minis are awesome. I’m somewhat surprised that different ships use different plastics, but I understand why. That denser stuff used on the X-Wing would collapse a Falcon into itself.

The prepaint jobs are incredible. The cards gorgeous, the components just off the scale. Even with the bit more they must pay in royalties to Uncle George, the massive appeal of this game allows them to make a ton of copies and the price, while at first glance seems daunting, isn’t a lot for what you get.

What makes the game work is the pendulum swing. The rhythm.

First, the setup. The agonizing squad building. Is it worth 2 points to raise this pilot’s skill, not knowing what the enemy force contains? It could easily be two points that have ZERO effect on the game. Terribly tough gambles. Now that wave 2 is out and you could just as easily face a hulking mothership like a decked out Slave I or a swarm of the world’s most annoying TIE fighters, you really have to prepare for a wide contingency of opponents.

This setup is tense. You want flexible. But strong. Synergistic support between squad members, but not so much that the loss of a key ship means defeat. And you ALWAYS want about 3 more points for that perfect build. No matter how many points you choose to fight, you will kill for another 3.

So it’s got that whole squad building aspect down great. Especially now that there’s a ton of options. Who knows what your opponent will bring?

But the flow of a turn is brilliant.

Everybody chooses their maneuvers. No downtime. But here in the game is where you are playing cat and mouse. Maybe psychologically toying with the opponent, making them think your plan is A when it is actually B.

Hidden agendas and secret moves. That’s the next game that plays out after the squad building math.

Then the wonderful move system. Everyone slowly reveals their moves, in what might be the games most questioned rule. The lowest skilled dudes go first, and eventually the better skilled dudes, which mean they have a fairly good chance of accidentally hitting and losing their action, where the lower skill guy might pull it off.

But it works in the long run, because it keeps higher skills in tailing positions.

Bit in this phase of the game, again, very, very little downtime, as the nefarious plans and maneuvers are revealed.

Squeals of glee and grunts of horror abound as unexpected collisions happen and skillful turns are executed.

But then comes the start of your devastating on the spot decision making. While plotting your squadrons moves, you had an overall plan. Now, each ship must choose it’s precious action.

Evade? How many guys might end up firing on you? Target? Are you clear to get the shot this or next turn? Focus – the all purpose “Egads, I need help” token. Or maybe that barrel roll or super freakin cool new Boost – move a bit maybe out of a firing arc or -surprise – snap someone into your arc. Maybe you execute some trick of your specific pilot.

Here is where you are tempering your odds. Things that will alter the upcoming luck sequence. carefully guiding the gods of luck to your favor.

The tokens build up on the board as actions get selected. At first, this is a pile of confusing cardboard. In a few games, the counters become invisible, simply reminding you of who plans what.

Whew. So, strategic planning in the squad build, then the secrecy of move plotting, then the agonizing action choices. What more does this game need?

Raw luck.

Bring out the dice. Or the iPad app, if you prefer.

Its Star WARS and the dice bring on the war. Now MORE decisions that hurt. Do I spend my focus token to get that extra damage possibly in, or hold on to it to help me avoid possible damage? What if I hold it and no one fires? What a waste… Two hits coming in… Do I evade? Or hold on to the evade since a crit might come next?

Hopefully, you’ve pile bonus upon bonus on your fighters. Distance, skill, weapon, focus… Or maybe all you’ve got is a shot in the dark.

Fire away.

Even defenders are active, choosing focus and evade moments.

Again, very little downtime. Lots of whining and cheering. Little downtime.

Start the cycle again. Hidden choices, movement reveals and actions, combat.

I think THIS is why X-Wing is such a stunningly successful design. It bobs and weaves each turn. No phase is long enough to overstay its welcome. And you must juggle and balance each phase to support the others.

An excellently designed system that overcomes any of it’s perceived problems due to the overall strength of play.

http://boardgamegeek.com/thread/942443/why-it-works-review-after-wave-2

Listen to Star Wars gaming news at Mos Eisley Radio broadcasting straight from the Outer Rim!

http://moseisleyradio.com/category/mos-eisley-radio/

Rich Hoffman

 www.OVERMANWARRIOR.com

Give yourself the gift of ADVENTURE.  CLICK HERE!  

The Wonderful ‘T-Rex Cafe’: Refusing to honor “Mother Earth” with one more mass extinction

T-Rex1I enjoy fine dining and have rather high expectations in regard to food.  In my home town of West Chester when I want a nice dining experience, my wife and I go to Jags.  For power dinners it is the Montgomery Inn Boat House downtown along the river that most suits my taste.  So with those qualifiers I must report that I had one of the finest dinners I can ever recall at the T-Rex Café in Orlando, Florida.  This was unexpected as I thought the restaurant featuring animatronic dinosaurs that howl at you while eating would be just another gimmicky eatery that would fall short of anticipated hope.  My family was with me at Downtown Disney recently so I had the opportunity to treat them to a nice dinner in a unique place, so we headed to the T-Rex Café which is only one of two in the entire country.  T-Rex5The other establishment is located in Kansas City.  As expected the interior of the restaurant was fabulous looking resembling more a dynamic museum than a place to eat.  The hostess seated us in a corner table next to the fire pit cooking area directly underneath a pterodactyl dinosaur and flaming licks that emerged from a volcano.  Our large booth was situated inside a geode that looked out into the dining room as a meteor shower flew by violently overhead.  Across the room was the ice cave complete with fossils embedded in the walls.  Everywhere around the large dining room which held over 600 people were spectacles of science and ancient biological history.  But better than that, the food was as good as the environment.  The appetizers were seasoned wonderfully, the service was top-notch, and the feature plates were excellently prepared, and delivered.  For the climax of the dinner we had a Chocolate Extinction which was delivered as a flame spewing volcano that was absolutely fabulous.

As I ate my dinner and spoke with my family I had a persistent thought–the restaurant was just another miracle of capitalism.   Only capitalism could produce such a place, and even though the cost of the meal was certainly on the high side, it was well worth the price as the environment cost an enormous sum to maintain daily.  Only an economic system of capitalism could hope to produce the resources to make such a place possible.  Yet in our current time, capitalism’s greatest predator is socialism, and the current incantation of political socialism is the “green movement” that attempts to take mankind back to the roots of earth worship and primitive rituals in an effort to preserve the world for eternity.T-Rex4

As I looked around the room at the T-Rex Café I thought of a conversation I had with one of my nephews the day before—a small argument that we had in a swimming pool over the merits of personal Thorium reactors for sustainable, cheap power at each home in the world.  His position was one of concern for the radioactive waste generated by nuclear fission taught to him by the six digit debt he incurred in college that had steered his thinking.  I tried to sympathize with his view-point as he spent a lot of money on his education and wanted to believe that the things he learned were valid.  But in the scheme of things he was taught by left-leaning college professors the mystical trend of primitive sacrifice to the goddess Earth and were wrong.  The entire environmental movement is built on mysticism and a primitive need to sacrifice to the gods that are now representative in New Age doctrine as a love for the great Goddess Earth.  The mentality is the same as the Mayans sacrificing human beings to Kukulkan, or a bunch of Native Americans (displaced Chinese people) doing a rain dance to bring water to their crops.  The idea of sacrifice to a deity is a primitive concept that is rooted in ignorance which is wonderfully portrayed in one of my favorite books, The Golden Bough by James Frazer.  Human beings have evolved for the most part beyond that ridiculous mentality rooted in ignorance with the advances found in the philosophy of capitalism.  The T-Rex Café was a direct product of capitalism and was a celebration of life forms on earth that had become extinct for natural reasons.  Because of capitalism, children can share with their parents a celebration of a world long gone so that hopefully they can all learn something from the process while enjoying the roots of our own evolution.T-Rex2

Yet there are thousands of young people like my nephew who have been taught that preserving the earth is more important than the products of the human mind which is in essence a dedication to the primitive nature of human beings before the invention of capitalism.  Those human beings who hate capitalism tend to support socialist tendencies either directly or indirectly and it is they who have perpetuated the myths about global warming, and the sacrifice of human advancement to the benefit of the earth—which is just ridiculous.

As I watched the meteor showers strike each other across the ceiling of the T-Rex Café restaurant I thought of the future of the earth as we know it now.  Part of the ongoing supercontinent cycle, plate tectonics will probably result in a supercontinent in 250–350 million years. Some time in the next 1.5–4.5 billion years, the axial tilt of the Earth may begin to undergo chaotic variations, with changes in the axial tilt of up to 90°.

During the next four billion years, the luminosity of the Sun will steadily increase, resulting in a rise in the solar radiation reaching the Earth. This will cause a higher rate of weathering of silicate minerals, which will cause a decrease in the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. In about 600 million years, the level of CO
2
will fall below the level needed to sustain C3 carbon fixation photosynthesis used by trees. Some plants use the C4 carbon fixation method, allowing them to persist at CO
2 concentrations as low as 10 parts per million. However, the long-term trend is for plant life to die off altogether. The die off of plants will be the demise of almost all animal life, since plants are the base of the food chain on Earth.T-Rex7

In about 1.1 billion years, the solar luminosity will be 10% higher than at present. This will cause the atmosphere to become a “moist greenhouse”, resulting in a runaway evaporation of the oceans. As a likely consequence, plate tectonics will come to an end.[11] Following this event, the planet’s magnetic dynamo may come to an end, causing the magnetosphere to decay and leading to an accelerated loss of volatiles from the outer atmosphere. Four billion years from now, the increase in the Earth’s surface temperature will cause a runaway greenhouse effect. By that point, most if not all the life on the surface will be extinct.[12][13] The most probable fate of the planet is absorption by the Sun in about 7.5 billion years, after the star has entered the red giant phase and expanded to cross the planet’s current orbit

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Future_of_the_Earth

And at any time during this cycle of destruction, a meteor, an alien race, or even the collision of the Milky Way galaxy with another galaxy may occur destroying not just the earth, but all the millions of planets in the galaxy.  The idea of not installing a Thorium reactor on every home, every car, and every need for power that the human race desires seems insanely stupid when it is realized that the sacrifice of technical achievement to short-sighted preservation of the earth is currently occurring.  Humans would be wise to blast the radioactive waste of such nuclear fission into space to dump among the stars, but such things are of secondary concern to the efforts that are produced by the human mind.  Whether the earth ends in 100 years or in 7.5 billion years, the earth will end, and the human race will need to evolve into a type 3 civilization by that time, or it will go out like a light in the universe that has been turned off by its own short-sightedness.  When the earth ends, human beings need to be elsewhere.T-Rex3

To avoid extinction, human beings not only must develop an ability to move from one galaxy to another, but from one universe to another, because the universe is not exactly stable.  Mankind through capitalism has the ability to solve these problems but the trend of the current environmentalist is a dedication to the failures of mankind’s past, the sacrifice of humans to the gods of speculation—to the mystic desire to shun personal responsibility for ones own life to a deity of convenience and hide their lack of courage behind group behavior.

The T-Rex Café is an excellent example of capitalism at its absolute best.  The food is great, the environment, the service, the location was absolutely spectacular.   But more importantly were the thoughts that the place was able to invoke in the imagination.  Dining with my family at a big comfortable table with good food to ease the tensions of the day allowed for the possibility of thoughts that were stimulated by the dynamic environment.  For me, the conversation I had with my nephew at the pool came rushing to my mind as the meteor shower overhead violently erupted.  Everything on earth was created from violence and force.  Every mountain is the result of earth’s crust violently being shoved upward.  Every river is the result of massive rain fall.  Every drop of ocean water is the result of crashed comets millions of years ago.  The dinosaurs of which the T-Rex Café was dedicated to had lived and died over a much longer span of time than human beings have even been a thought on earth, and in all that time no dinosaur ever invented a way to draw energy from a Thorium reactor, yet the audaciousness of the modern-day environmentally conscious religious zealot is to assume that the earth will always stay just as it is now in the year 2013 and never become hotter or colder, or violently upset by a planetary collision of any kind.  They assume that humans are equal in value to all other life forms on the planet, and that’s not true—only humans have developed complicated thoughts that enable them to leave earth, extend their own life spans, and create their own future.  For the greenie weenie environmentalist the small mindedness of their short-life spans is unfathomably foolish and insecure.  They hope to revert mankind back to a cave man building fires and barking at a bolt of lightning streaking across the sky as some mystery delivered from the gods, instead of understanding the science of static electricity and using that power to carry them off earth for good, to destinations not yet discovered.T-Rex6

A good meal not only fills the belly, but the mind, and I left the T-Rex Café full in both regards.  It was worth the money of a 5 star restaurant because the combination of food and environment was so extremely magnificent.  I won’t soon forget the place because long after the food was enjoyed the experience continued to give me fresh ideas that are invaluable to proper perspective.  It was clearly one of my favorite dining experiences to date anywhere in the world, in part because of the restaurant itself, but mostly in the recreation of a time long-lost to history that was recreated as an honor, and a warning to mankind’s own doomed fate if it fails to embrace the proper philosophy of reaching for the stars instead of the jealous confines of mother earth and her selfish desire to doom all humans to the same fate she will surely suffer.

Rich Hoffman

“Justice Comes with the Crack of a Whip’!”

www.tailofthedragonbook.com

‘Zorro’s Fighting Legion’: Celebrating Disney’s ‘The Lone Ranger’ with a tribute to Yakima Canutt

Many industry professionals have cautioned me that due to my Tea Party like beliefs, I will have limited opportunities to work in film, either in front of the camera as a whip consultant, as I have done a time or two, or behind the camera as a writer.  My specific attitude toward collective oriented labor unions is the nail in the coffin as today’s Hollywood for the most part has become an arm of the federal government, and the policies of statism advocated there.  But there are rare exceptions, and of late Warner Brothers with Legendary Pictures have produced fantastic films like Man of Steel and Dark Knight Rises, while Disney Studios is putting out pictures like Iron Man, the Avengers and now the upcoming The Lone Ranger.  It is the Lone Ranger that has me extremely excited because that character as I have mentioned before goes deep into my past.  I love the old versions of the Lone Ranger, the old Saturday morning serials that were recaptured by George Lucas when he made Star Wars and Indiana Jones.  I love the old serials so much that I have seen many of them, even though they are way before my time.  While they lack the polish and sophistication of modern films, they are filled with heart and soul.  Many of the film techniques used today in all the popular blockbusters were developed during the period of the popular Republic serials.  And of those serials there was none I love more than the 1939 series called Zorro’s Fighting Legion.

For readers of my novel The Symposium of Justice, I pay tribute to that 12 chapter serial in three different ways.  The first is that the character conflict of Fletcher Finnegan is much like the fight that Don Diego had with Don Del Oro in Zorro’s Fighting Legion.  I even went to the trouble of naming the antics of my protagonist in the novel Cliffhanger’s Fighting Legion.  The third is that the restaurant that Fletcher Finnegan worked at as a grill cook so that he could learn the movements of the towns politics behind the scenes was named Republics, after of course the company that produced Zorro’s Fighting Legion.  It was Zorro’s Fighting Legion that inspired me to take up the bullwhip to the extent that I have, and make it part of my life, almost as important to me as an arm or a leg on my body.  There is a lot of whip work in Zorro’s Fighting Legion and I wanted to learn every single trick, which I did.  I came to learn about Zorro’s Fighting Legion because I learned at age 12 while watching a documentary about the making of Raiders of the Lost Ark that the great stunt performed by Terry Lenard during the famous “Desert Chase” scene was first done by the great stuntman Yakima Canutt who I feel virtually built Hollywood on his back.  Without the great work of stuntmen like Yakima Canutt and Republic Pictures there would never have been a modern-day Star Wars, an Indiana Jones, or even movie versions of Man of Steel, Iron Man, or Dark Knight Rises.

Hollywood was not always liberal.  Communism slowly seeped into the Hollywood movie machines in the late 1930s during The Red Decade, but studios resisted.  Hollywood Black Friday is the name given, in the history of organized labor in the United States, to October 5, 1945. On that date, a six-month strike by the set decorators represented by the Conference of Studio Unions (CSU) boiled over into a bloody riot at the gates of Warner Brothers‘ studios in Burbank, California. The strikes helped the passage of the Taft-Hartley Act in 1947 and led to the eventual break up of the CSU and reorganization of the then rival International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) leadership. The Conference of Studio Unions was, at the time, an International union belonging to the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners and represented the Carpenters, Painters, Cartoonists and several other crafts working for the Studios in Hollywood.

Seventy-seven set decorators broke away from IATSE to form the Society of Motion Picture Interior Decorators (SMPID) and negotiated an independent contract with the producers in 1937. The SMPID joined the CSU in 1943 and the CSU represented the SMPID in their contract negotiations. After the producers stalled the negotiations for nine months, IATSE questioned CSU jurisdiction over the Set Decorators which led to a further five-month delay as the CSU and IATSE fought over jurisdiction. When the Producers refused to acknowledge an independent arbitrator appointed by the War Labor Board‘s assessment that the CSU had jurisdiction over the Set Decorators in February 1945, it set the stage for the strike

By October, money and patience were running low as some 300 strikers gathered at Warner Brothers’ main gate on October 5, 1945. Temperatures were abnormally warm for the already hot LA autumn. When non-strikers attempted to report for work at 6:00 in the morning, the barricades went up and tensions flared. As replacement workers attempted to drive through the crowd, their cars were stopped and overturned.  Hollywood would never again be the same as a gradual erosion of value began to leave Hollywood projects as the labor unions were backed by communist sympathizers with eyes favoring the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

Reinforcements arrived on both sides as the picket increased to some 1,000 people and Glendale and Los Angeles Police came to aid the Burbank Police and Warner Security attempting to maintain the peace. When more replacement workers attempted to break through to the gate, a general melee ensued as strikers mobbed them and strikebreakers responded by attacking the strikers with chains, hammers, pipes, tear gas, and night sticks. Warner security rained more tear gas down from the roofs of the buildings adjoining the entrance. Warner firefighters sprayed the strikers with fire hoses. By the end of the day, some 300 police and deputy sheriffs had been called to the scene and over 40 injuries were reported.

The picketers returned the following Monday with an injunction barring the police from interfering with the strike while Warner retaliated with its own injunction limiting the number of pickets at the gate. Although the violence would continue through the week, national exposure forced the parties back to the bargaining table and resulted in an end to the strike one month later but the CSU victory was a Pyrrhic one, where contentions over wording dictated by an AFL arbitration team would lead to further questioning as to CSU and IATSE jurisdiction on the set.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hollywood_Black_Friday

 

Zorro’s Fighting Legion was created during this turbulent period but was still free of unionized influence.  That makes it much more special to me for the sheer fact that the foundations of American story telling were built upon these Republic serials.  It was film projects like this one that helped slow the erosion of communism in America with the western that so proudly articulated American values of justice, and Zorro’s Fighting Legion is certainly that type of film collection.  I see the Republic serials as Hollywood’s response to the growing tension forming ahead of the Cold War between the communism of the Soviet Union and the capitalism of America.  The struggle of this philosophical debate is all over the story of Zorro’s Fighting Legion, and has resonated with me for decades.  One of the greatest days in my life was when the emergence of DVD technology allowed me to purchase the entire series to own for myself to watch over and over again, which has only been possible in recent years.  But even better than that, Zorro’s Fighting Legion is now available on YouTube, so to share this unique treasure with my readers here, and to share my vision of what Hollywood is all about in celebration of the upcoming Lone Ranger by Disney, please do enjoy all twelve episodes shown below.  They are kind of slow and boring compared to today’s entertainment, but try to watch them the way I do, for their purity of purpose, simplicity in design, and sheer bold stunt work by the great Yakima Canutt.  Mixed through the rest of the article between the episodes is information that is needed to compliment the films.

————–

Zorro’s Fighting Legion is a 1939 Republic Pictures film serial consisting of twelve chapters. It features Reed Hadley as Zorro. The plot revolves around his alter-ego Don Diego’s fight against the evil Don Del Oro.

A trademark of this serial is the sudden demise of at least one native informant in each episode. The direction was identical for each informant’s death, creating a source of unintentional humor: each informant, upon uttering the phrase, “Don Del Oro is…”, is shot by a golden arrow and dies before being able to name the villain’s alter ego. The serial is also unusual in featuring a real historical personage, Mexican President Benito Juárez, as a minor character.

The mysterious Don Del Oro (“Lord of Gold”), an idol of the Yaqui Indians, has emerged and attacks the gold trade of the Republic of Mexico, planning to take over the land and become Emperor. A man named Francisco is put in charge of a fighting legion to combat the Yaqui tribe and protect the gold, but he is attacked by men working for Don Del Oro. Zorro comes to his rescue, but it is too late for him. Francisco’s partner recognizes Zorro as the hidalgo Don Diego Vega. Francisco asks Diego, as Zorro, to take over the fighting legion and defeat Don Del Oro.

——————————

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zorro’s_Fighting_Legion

Republic Pictures was an American independent film production-distribution corporation with studio facilities, operating from 1935 through 1959, and was best known for specializing in westerns, movie serials and B films emphasizing mystery and action.

The studio was also responsible for financing and distributing one Shakespeare film, Orson Welles‘ Macbeth (1948), and several of the films of John Ford during the 1940s and early 1950s. It was also notable for developing the careers of John WayneGene Autry and Roy Rogers.

Yakima Canutt (November 29, 1895 – May 24, 1986), also known as Yak Canutt, was an American rodeo rideractorstuntman and action director.

Born Enos Edward Canutt in the Snake River Hills, near Colfax, Washington; he was one of five children of John Lemuel Canutt, a rancher, and Nettie Ellen Stevens. He grew up in eastern Washington on a ranch near Penawawa Creek, founded by his grandfather and operated by his father, who also served a term in the state legislature. His formal education was limited to elementary school in Green Lake, Washington, then a suburb of Seattle. He gained the education for his life’s work on the family ranch, where he learned to hunt, trap, shoot, and ride.[1]

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He broke a wild bronco when 11. As a 6-foot-tall (1.8 m) sixteen-year-old he started bronc riding at the Whitman County Fair in Colfax in 1912 and at 17 he won the title of World’s Best Bronco Buster. Canutt started rodeo riding professionally and gained a reputation as a bronc rider, bulldogger and all-around cowboy. It was at the 1914 Pendleton Round-UpPendleton, Oregon he got his nickname “Yakima” when a newspaper caption misidentified him.[2] “Yakima Canutt may be the most famous person NOT from Yakima, Washington” says Elizabeth Gibson, author of Yakima, Washington.[3] Winning second place at the 1915 Pendleton Round-Up brought attention from show promoters, who invited him to compete around the country.[2]

“I started in major rodeos in 1914, and went through to 1923. There was quite a crop of us traveling together, and we would have special railroad cars and cars for the horses. We’d play anywhere from three, six, eight ten-day shows. Bronc riding and bulldogging were my specialties, but I did some roping,” said Canutt.[4]

During the 1916 season, he became interested in divorcee Kitty Wilks, who had won the Lady’s Bronc-Riding Championship a couple of times. They married on July 20, 1917 while at a show in Kalispell, Montana; he was 21 and she 23. The couple divorced about 1922.[2] While bulldogging in Idaho, Canutt’s mouth and upper lip were torn by a bull’s horn; but after stitches, Canutt returned to the competition. It wasn’t until a year later that a plastic surgeon could correct the injury.[2]

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World’s champion

Canutt won his first world championship at the Olympics of the West in 1917 and won more championships in the next few years. In between rodeos he broke horses for the French government in World War I.[5] In 1918, he went to Spokane to enlist in the Navy and was stationed in Bremerton. In the fall he was given a 30-day furlough to defend his rodeo title. Having enlisted for the war, he was discharged in spring 1919. At the 1919 Calgary Stampede he competed in the bucking event and met Pete Knight.[2]

He traveled to Los Angeles for a rodeo, and decided to winter in Hollywood, where he met screen personalities.[4] It was here that Tom Mix, who had also started in rodeos, invited him to be in two of his pictures.[2] Mix added to his flashy wardrobe by borrowing two of Canutt’s two-tone shirts and having his tailor make 40 copies.[4] Canutt got his first taste of stunting with a fight scene on a serial called Lightning Bryce [6]; he didn’t stay, and left Hollywood to play the 1920 rodeo circuit.

The Fort Worth rodeo was nicknamed “Yak’s show” after he won the saddle-bronc competition three years in 1921, 1922 and 1923. He had won the saddle-bronc competition in Pendleton in 1917, 1919, and 1923 and came second in 1915, and 1929. Canutt won the steer bulldogging in 1920, and 1921 and won the All-Around Police Gazette belt in 1917, 1919, 1920 and 1923.[2] While in Hollywood in 1923 for an awards ceremony, he was offered eight western action pictures for producer Ben Wilson at Burwillow Studios; the first was to be Riding Mad.

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Actor

Canutt had been perfecting tricks such as the Crupper Mount, a leap-frog over the horse’s rump into the saddle. Douglas Fairbanks used some in his film The Gaucho. Fairbanks and Canutt became friends and competed regularly at Fairbanks’ gym. Canutt took small parts in pictures of others to get experience.[2] It was in Branded a Bandit (1924) that his nose was broken in a 12-foot fall from a cliff. The picture was delayed several weeks, and when it resumed Canutt’s close shots were from the side. A plastic surgeon reset the nose, which healed, inspiring Canutt to remark that he thought it looked better.[2]

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Stuntman

When his contract with Wilson expired in 1927, Canutt was making appearances at rodeos across the country. By 1928 the talkies were coming out and though he had been in 48 silent pictures, Canutt knew his career was in trouble.[5] His voice had been damaged from flu in the Navy. He started taking on bit parts and stunts, and realized more could be done with action in pictures.[2]

In 1930 between pictures and rodeoing, Canutt met Minnie Audrea Yeager Rice at a party at her parents’ home. She was 12 years his junior. They kept company during the next year while he picked up work on the serials for Mascot Pictures Corporation. They married on November 12, 1931.[2]

When rodeo riders invaded Hollywood, they brought a battery of rodeo techniques that Canutt would expand and improve, including horse falls and wagon wrecks, along with the harnesses and cable rigs to make the stunts foolproof and safe.[4] Among the new safety devices was the ‘L’ stirrup, which allowed a man to fall off a horse without getting hung in the stirrup. Canutt also developed cabling and equipment to cause spectacular wagon crashes, while releasing the team, all on the same spot every time.[4] Safety methods such as these saved film-makers time and money and prevented accidents and injury to performers. One of Yakima’s inventions was the ‘Running W’ stunt, bringing down a horse at the gallop by attaching a wire, anchored to the ground, to its fetlocks and launching the rider forwards spectacularly. This either killed the horse, or rendered it badly shaken and unusable for the rest of the day.[4] The ‘Running W’ is now banned and has been replaced with the falling-horse technique. It is believed that the last time it was used was on the 1983 Iraqi film al-Mas’ Ala Al-Kubra when the British actor and friend of Yak Marc Sinden and stuntman Ken Buckle (who had been trained by Yak) performed the stunt three times during a cavalry charge sequence.[7][8]

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It was while working on Mascot serials that Canutt practiced and perfected his most famous stunts, including the drop from a stagecoach that he would employ in John Ford‘s 1939Stagecoach. He first did it in Riders of the Dawn in 1937 while doubling for Jack Randall.[2] In his 1981 film Raiders of the Lost ArkSteven Speilberg paid homage to Canutt, recreating the stunt when a stuntman, Terry Leonard, (doubling for Harrison Ford) ‘dropped’ from the front of a German Army transport truck, was dragged underneath (along a prepared trench) and then climbed up the back and round to the front again.[9]

John Wayne

While at Mascot, Canutt met John Wayne while doubling for him in a motorcycle stunt for The Shadow of the Eagle in 1932. Wayne admired Canutt’s agility and fearlessness, and Canutt respected Wayne’s willingness to learn and attempt his own stunts.[10] Canutt taught Wayne how to fall off a horse.[11]

“The two worked together to create a technique that made on-screen fight scenes more realistic. Wayne and Canutt found if they stood at a certain angle in front of the camera, they could throw a punch at an actor’s face and make it look as if actual contact had been made.”[10]

Canutt and Wayne pioneered stunt and screen fighting techniques still in use. Much of Wayne’s on-screen persona was from Canutt. The characterizations associated with Wayne – the drawling, hesitant speech and the hip-rolling walk – were pure Canutt.[12] Said Wayne, “I spent weeks studying the way Yakima Canutt walked and talked. He was a real cowhand.”[13]

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In 1932, Canutt’s first son Edward Clay was born and nicknamed ‘Tap’, short for Tapadero, a Spanish word for a stirrup covering. It was in 1932 that Canutt broke his shoulder in four places while trying to transfer from horse to wagon team.[2] Though work was scarce, he got by combining stunting and rodeo work.

In 1934, Herbert J. Yates of Consolidated Film Industries combined MonogramMascot, Liberty, Majestic, Chesterfield, and Invincible Pictures to form Republic Pictures, and Canutt became Republic’s top stuntman. He handled all the action on many pictures, including Gene Autry films; and several series and serials, such as The Lone Ranger andZorro. For Zorro Rides Again, Canutt did almost all the scenes in which Zorro wore a mask, and he was on the screen as much as the star John Carroll.[14] When the action was indicated in a Republic script, it said “see Yakima Canutt for action sequences.”[4]

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William Witney, one of Republic’s film directors, said:

“There will probably never be another stuntman who can compare to Yakima Canutt. He had been a world champion cowboy several times and where horses were concerned he could do it all. He invented all the gadgets that made stunt work easier. One of his clever devices was a step that attached to the saddle so that he had leverage to transfer to another moving object, like a wagon or a train. Another was the “shotgun,” a spring-loaded device used to separate the tongue of a running wagon from the horses, thus cutting the horses loose. It also included a shock cord attached to the wagon bed, which caused wheels to cramp and turn the wagon over on the precise spot that was most advantageous for the camera.”[15]

In the 1936 film San Francisco Canutt replaced Clark Gable in a scene in which a wall was to fall on the star. Canutt said: “We had a heavy table situated so that I could dive under it at the last moment. Just as the wall started down, a girl in the scene became hysterical and panicked. I grabbed her, leaped for the table, but didn’t quite make it.” The girl was unhurt but he broke six ribs.[5]

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Ramrod

Canutt tried to get into directing; he was growing older and knew his stunting days were numbered. Harry Joe, Canutt’s second son, was born in January 1937. Joe and Tap would become important stuntmen, working with their father.

In 1938, Republic Pictures started expanding into bigger pictures and budgets. Canutt’s mentor and action director for the 1925 Ben-HurBreezy Eason was hired as second unit director, and Canutt to coordinate and ramrod the stunts. For Canutt this meant hiring stuntmen and doing some stunts himself, but laying out the action for the director and writing additional stunts.[4]

“In the five years between 1925 and 1930, fifty-five people were killed making movies, and more than ten thousand injured. By the late 1930s, the maverick stuntman willing to do anything for a buck was disappearing. Now under scrutiny, experienced stunt men began to separate themselves from amateurs by building special equipment, rehearsing stunts, and developing new techniques.” – fromFalling: How Our Greatest Fear Became Our Greatest Thrill by Garrett Soden.[16]

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John Ford hired Canutt on John Wayne‘s recommendation for Stagecoach, where Canutt supervised the river-crossing scene as well as the Indian chase scene, did the stagecoach drop, and doubled for Wayne in the coach stunts. For safety during the stagecoach drop stunt, Canutt devised modified yokes and tongues, to give extra handholds and extra room between the teams.[4] Ford told him that whenever Ford made an action picture and Canutt wasn’t working elsewhere, he was on Ford’s payroll.[2] Also in 1939, Canutt doubled Clark Gable in the burning of Atlanta in Gone With the Wind; he also appeared as a renegade accosting Scarlett O’Hara (Vivien Leigh) as she crosses a bridge in a carriage driving through a shantytown.

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Second Unit Director

In 1940, Canutt sustained serious internal injuries when a horse fell on him while doubling for Clark Gable in Boom Town (1940). Though in discomfort for months after an operation to repair his bifurcated intestines, he continued to work.[2] Republic’s Sol Siegel offered him the chance to direct the action sequences of Dark Command, starring Wayne and directed by Raoul Walsh. On Dark Command, Canutt fashioned an elaborate cable system to yank back the plummeting coach before it fell on the stuntman and horses; he also created a breakaway harness from which they were released before hitting the water.[17]

It was in 1943 while doing a low-budget Roy Rogers called Idaho that Canutt broke both his legs at the ankles in a fall off a wagon.[2] He recovered to write the stunts and supervise the action for another Wayne film In Old Oklahoma. In the next decade Canutt became one of the best second unit and action directors. MGM brought Canutt to England in 1952 to direct the action and jousting sequences in Ivanhoe with Robert Taylor. This would set a precedent by filming action abroad instead of on the studio lot, and Canutt introduced many British stuntmen to Hollywood-style stunt training.[2] Ivanhoe was followed by Knights of the Round Table, again with director Richard Thorpe and starring Robert Taylor. Canutt was again brought in for lavish action scenes in King Richard and the Crusaders.[18]

Canutt directed the close-action scenes for Stanley Kubrick‘s Spartacus, spending five days directing retakes that included the slave army rolling its flaming logs into the Romans, and other fight scenes featuring Kirk DouglasTony Curtis and John Ireland.[19]

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Ben Hur

For Ben-Hur, Canutt staged the chariot race with nine teams of four horses. He trained Charlton Heston, (Judah Ben-Hur) and Stephen Boyd, (Messala) to do their own charioteering. He and his crew spent five months on the race sequence.[20] In contrast to the 1925 film, not one horse was hurt, and no humans were seriously injured; though Joe Canutt, while doubling for Charlton Heston, did cut his chin because he did not follow his father’s advice to hook himself to the chariot when Judah Ben-Hur’s chariot bounced over the wreck of another chariot.[21]

Walt Disney brought Canutt in to do Second Unit for Westward Ho, the Wagons! in 1956; the first live action Western Disney feature film followed by Old Yeller the next year, and culminating in 1960’s Swiss Family Robinson which involved transporting many exotic animals to a remote island in the West Indies.

Anthony Mann specifically requested Canutt for Second Unit for his 1961 El Cid, where Canutt directed sons Joe and Tap doubling forCharlton Heston and Christopher Rhodes in a stunning tournament joust. “Canutt was surely the most active stager of tournaments since the Middle Ages” – from Swordsmen of the Screen.[18] He was determined to make the combat scenes in El Cid the best that had ever been filmed.[21] Mann again requested him for 1964’s The Fall of the Roman Empire. Over the next ten years, Canutt would continue to work, bringing his talents to Cat BallouKhartoumWhere Eagles Dare and 1970’s A Man Called Horse.

For his contribution to the motion picture industry, Yakima Canutt has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1500 Vine Street. In 1967, he was given an Honorary Academy Award for achievements as a stunt man and for developing safety devices to protect stunt men everywhere. He was inducted into the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum (Hall of Fame).

1985 – Yakima appeared as himself in “Yak’s Best Ride” directed by John Crawford. Produced by Clyde Lucas and Ed Penny

Yakima Canutt died of natural causes at the age of 90 in North Hollywood, California.[22]

He is buried at Valhalla Memorial Park Cemetery there.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yakima_Canutt

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Now you might understand why dear reader that I feel the way I do.  The kind of Hollywood, and adversely the kind of America I want is the one that made movies like Zorro’s Fighting Legion which were populated by men like Yakima Canutt.  My admiration for George Lucas is that he kept this type of America alive for the world by paying direct tribute to the old Republic serials, particularly Zorro’s Fighting Legion with his creation of Indiana Jones.  Like Republic Studios, George Lucas’ Lucasfilm made movies with the same level of independence which fashioned the Republic serials to be so important in American storytelling.  Raiders of the Lost Ark, not to take anything away from the visionary story of placing a globetrotting archeologist in a high adventure setting which has advanced science in so many wonderful ways, borrowed heavily from the old Republic serials and because it did, made me aware of their existence across time and space.   And now you too dear reader have seen one, the best one in my opinion.  One of the big fears that many current day Star Wars fans has is that Disney will ruin the Saturday morning serial feel to the films that mean more to people than even modern religions can duplicate.  The reason is that the stories have values that are not provided in modern society, and movie fans are hungry for films with value.  But Disney, even though it is a large company has not forgotten where it came from.  It knows what Uncle Walt told them from beyond the grave and Star Wars is in good hands.  The evidence is in The Lone Ranger which Disney is producing to re-invent the western the way they re-invented the pirate stories.  But it cannot be forgotten that what came first, was the great Republic serials like Zorro’s Fighting Legion where truth, justice, and the American way were plot points of value not avoided by a growing consensus toward world-wide communist domination.

The Don Del Oro of our time is all those statist lovers who would destroy all who attempt to stand for goodness.  They reside among us in reality with masks hiding their true intentions from behind the desks of union leadership, political office, even movie studio heads.  But not everyone is playing by the rules, and like Don Diego from Zorro’s Fighting Legion there are film producers like George Lucas who kept the old serials alive for a new generation, and Jerry Bruckheimer who is making the modern version of The Lone Ranger possible.  But more importantly, it is the work of men like Yakima Canutt, and Terry Lenard who gave wings to the ideas of freedom, which motion pictures have traditionally stood for, and still do in isolated cases like Disney’s The Lone Ranger, and Warner Brother’s Man of Steel.

It is worth taking a day or two to watch all these clips.  So make up some snacks in the kitchen and take some time to enjoy the foundations of American film and the heroic ideals that accompany them.

Rich Hoffman

“Justice Comes with the Crack of a Whip!”

www.tailofthedragonbook.com