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January 11th, 2013

Thank you, Mom and Dad...

...for teaching me how to balance my checkbook. And for stressing the importance of balancing my checkbook.

I don't have much money, but by Gum it's accounted for.

For a while, it wasn't. A couple of years ago (during my first year at Hoffman) I got really lax about it; I let my bank notices stack up in their neat, proper envelopes for months. Then I realized I was getting nervous about that; it took me a while to break my mental logjam, the one making me not want to think about the money, and got it straightened out. And I wasn't off by that much. It took some time, but I got back into the habit of checking it monthly...and now I'm less nervous about it. And nowadays if I'm off, it's by small amounts. Once I'd written down a debit wrong and was off by five cents.

Haven't yet had a mistake-in-my-favor the way one of my aunts did, where it turned out she'd underestimated what was in one account by hundreds of dollars. But of course, I've made no mistakes where I thought I had hundreds more than what I had.

Now to add more to what's there. It'll all need to be legal tender. Banks frown on the other kind, right?

This entry is brought to you partly by my desire to continue not bouncing checks. I've never done it before and hope not to start now!

Artifacts of Star Wars, found in words

There it is, in standard script format:






S T A R * W A R S
EPISODE FIVE
THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK

BY
LEIGH BRACKETT
AND
LARRY KASDAN
FROM THE NOVEL
BY
GEORGE LUCAS

(c) CHAPTER II Company

FIFTH DRAFT FEBRUARY 20, 1979

With a coding number printed vertically over that, in black instead of (as noted on the title page) red, since I'm looking at a photocopy of one of the copies of that script, part of the making of one of my favorite films ever.

I've had this since the late 1990s, when I attended a small science fiction convention in Heppner, Oregon, about 160 miles east of where I live now. I bought the script in a silent auction. It likely isn't worth anything (and me selling it is most likely problematic -- hello, copyright), but I like getting to see this document of the process. Structurally it's almost exactly the story that hit theaters in summer 1980, but changes big and small are everywhere. Scripts are battle plans, and those always change once you're in battle, i.e. shooting the film and dealing with schedules, budget and weather. (One day in Norway, the production was so snowed in that the only filming possible was done by pointing a camera straight out a hotel door while Mark Hamill pretended to be a hurt and delirious Luke, lost in the snow. Lost only yards from said hotel. Movie magic, people! It doesn't matter that Hamill could see walls and people.)

Some of the changes: Han's response to Leia's "I'd just as soon kiss a Wookiee" is "There's no accounting for taste." On a page revised March 16th, 1979, Luke hears Ben Kenobi's voice as he tries to use the Force to grab his lightsaber; that's followed by an August 24th revision of the page that's a photocopy of the earlier version, but with Ben's lines whited out. Throughout, R2-D2 and Chewbacca's general attitudes are spelled out where their "dialogue" would be, in script format, which is slightly jarring if you read it literally. ("CHEWIE: Barks at the mention of food. Licks his lips.")

No outer space opening to this draft: the opening crawl happens over helicopter footage of Hoth:

After the destruction of its most feared battle
station, the Empire has declared martial law throughout the galaxy.

A thousand worlds have felt the oppressive hand of the Emperor
as He attempts to crush the growing rebellion.

As the Imperial grip of tyranny tightens, Princess Leia and the small
band of freedom fighters search for a more secure base of operations...

This draft includes the Wampa ice creatures breaking into the Rebel base, a subplot throughout the Hoth sequence that ends, as a lot of you know, with the Wampas breaking out of a trap as Imperial troops storm the base. (It doesn't have C-3PO tearing off the warning sign on the door to the Wampa trap, as was filmed but not used. Surprisingly malevolent thing to do, Threepio.) The Imperial probe makes us hate it even more by killing a Wampa that it runs into randomly, then later killing a few Rebels before Han and Chewie can get out to fight it. During the AT-AT battle, Hobbie's speeder crashes into the head of a walker, which later inspired the A-Wing crashing into the Super Star Destroyer bridge in Return of the Jedi.

I like Luke and Artoo's exchange when he leaves for Dagobah: Artoo argues about whether they should, and if they have enough power, plus the droid wonders if Luke's thinking clearly post-Wampa attack and AT-AT battle *. I like seeing Artoo concerned. I also like that when the Millennium Falcon is parked in the asteroid and Threepio worriedly asks if he'll be shut off, the script points out that Chewie says "yes" just as Han says "no."

The script does something canny: it writes around Vader's revelation that he is Luke's father. The line "No, I am your father" isn't in this draft, but it's implied:

VADER
There is no escape...Don't make me destroy you. The Emperor is strong with the Force --
but The Force runs strong in the Skywalker line and together we will overthrow him.
I will complete your training and we will rule the Empire as equals...
[Vader puts his sword away. He holds out his hand to Luke.]

LUKE
No!

VADER
Luke, we will be the most powerful in the galaxy. You will have everything
you could ever want...do not resist...it is our destiny.

(There. More of the seduction that's part of the Force, which Lucas emphasized in the prequels; only Luke does, ultimately, resist what his father hadn't.) Later in the draft, Luke does say to himself "Ben, why didn't you tell me?" So Lucas and company had likely already decided on that plot point, but kept it under wraps. I've heard that, when David Prowse and Hamill shot the revelation scene, they were told that Vader's revelation was that Kenobi had killed Luke's father. Is that rumor correct, or at least likely?

As is standard with many scripts, more is said with more: dialogue is wordier, before the actors and filmmakers decided what could be conveyed with fewer or no words. Other details were added later, like Admiral Piett's uncomfortable moment seeing Vader's scarred head, or the final Force-dialogue between Luke and Vader, or how Luke loses his hand and has it replaced with a mechanical one. (In this draft, Vader just wounds Luke, he doesn't cut his hand off.)

I've read Alan Arnold's neat 1980 book, Once Upon a Galaxy: A Journal of the Making of The Empire Strikes Back, one of the first chronicles of what it took to make Empire; now I want to read the 2010 book (The Making of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back by J.W. Rinzler) that goes into far more detail. I so wish I could've visited that set in 1979; the geek-out would've been strong with this one, I'm proud to say. It's easy to make me wish that; the films have that draw, even when I'm mixed on them like I am about the prequels. Reading and imagining is as close as I'm likely to get.

But I like that people still get to play around in the Star Wars universe.



* The exchange:
LUKE
Yes, Artoo?
[a carefully-put sentence of whistles]
No...no headache, I feel fine...why?
[Artoo chirps an innocent phrase]
No dizziness, no drowsiness, the scars are even gone...
[Artoo whistles a question]
No, that's all right, Artoo, I'd rather keep it on manual control for awhile.
[Artoo lets out a defeated whimper. Luke just smiles at his worried little friend.]
Trust me, Artoo. I know where we're going and I'll get us there safely... It's not far.

Tags:

Old School

It's audio tape night! I have a tape player (along with an LP player) still hooked up to my stereo, and earlier today when I was writing my entry about The Empire Strikes Back I opened through two boxes' worth of tapes and started digging out stuff I haven't listened to in years, sometimes a decade or more. Tonight's tally:

  • Charles Gerhardt and the National Philharmonic Orchestra's rerecording of John Williams's The Empire Strikes Back. Poor thing is distorted like whoa at the start, but by the second track "Luke's First Crash," from the AT-AT battle, the tape had settled down and was listenable. One of the few places you can find the concert arrangements of "Han Solo and the Princess" (Empire and Jedi's love theme) and "The Asteroid Field," as opposed to the versions that match what's happening in the scenes they were composed for.

  • The score to Lethal Weapon performed by Michael Kamen, Eric Clapton, David Sanborn and a load of Los Angeles orchestra players. Thick '80s cheese at the start with the title song -- yes Lethal Weapon had a title song (by the band Honeymoon Suite, which was still playing three years ago) -- which I enjoyed in one way, but then there was the score proper which is much more my speed. I like the warmth and wit of lots of Kamen's music, even though I've kind of burned out on this film series.

  • Right after that? Kamen's score to Last Action Hero, where HE MAKES FUN OF HIS OWN LETHAL WEAPON MUSIC, this time with the guitar parts played not by Clapton but by Buckethead. And Kamen still makes it work as a fun score. Bonus: the track title "Leo The Fart." That track has tuba. Of course it does.

  • The tape version of the first four-song EP that the band Oingo Boingo ever issued, titled (snappily enough!) Oingo Boingo 4-Song EP. Less than 15 minutes, but that 15 minutes is "Only a Lad," "Violent Love" (ska-style cover of the Willie Dixon blues song), "Ain't This The Life" and "I'm So Bad," all immediately identifying how clever Danny Elfman and his fellow madmen already were.

  • A somewhat nicely aggressive* jazz album by a group called Highrize, which I only have because a guitarist in the band was my cousin Amy (a.k.a. Max)'s girlfriend in the late '90s. I like the recording, but I've sent an email to Max asking if, out of loyalty to her, I should melt the tape. *grins*

  • The soundtrack to Good Morning, Vietnam, with songs plus some of Robin Williams being ADD in front of a microphone. I still smile at the line "My name's Roosevelt E. Roosevelt...I'm stationed in Poon Tang." (A line I didn't get when I saw the film, but give me a break, it was 1987 and I was 14.) Also my first exposure to the Vogues song "Five O'Clock World," which I really really like.

    Soon? The music of dreams, which happens in my dreams sometimes. I can't be changing tapes in my sleep. (...or can I?)



    * Clearly I have no experience describing jazz music. I apologize. Also, the band Highrize is no relation to the Los Angeles band of the same name I found via Google.