Summer: The Palace Show

Summer: The Palace Show

Okay, so to save myself from going boring with the ascending numerical count every time I do a new post, I’m gonna start naming these summer posts by the specific event or memory that I’ll be writing about. So let’s retroactively name the last post “Summer: The Wedding”. Now that we’ve settled that, let’s get into the meat and potatoes of this post. First, a little backstory…

Sometime in mid May, John had come to me with a new show offer: it would be for one of the Living Room Concert sets that Palace Canyon put on. When Palace Canyon was doing regular music, Retrospection had played a set in April of 2015 that went off phenomenally. It was a mid-range type of thing: in some beautiful and luminous sonic space between our heavy electric sets and an acoustic set. The entire show went off without a hitch, and we sounded stratospheric. It’s still one of the best shows Retrospection has ever played, and I look back on it often with great fondness. Sadly, the music soon stopped up at Palace Canyon. I had seen some fantastic shows down there in my time. The chance to go back, and to play there again while I was at it, was something of a dream. And then, I found out about the Living Room sessions.

Really, there’s no living room involved, correct? That’s just a nifty name given to a show designed to feature a grassroots down to earth kind of performance, correct? That’s how I took it anyway. I hope I’m correct in that perception.

NPR hooks these events up, I believe. I hope I’m correct in that assumption. I have a strange relationship with NPR. We’ll get into that another time. Point is, we managed to get the opening slot for touring bluegrass artist Nikki Talley. I was so happy to be going back to Palace. I figured we’d do another mid-tempo kind of thing, just as a two-piece. If we could play a totally tubular punk rock set and make two people sound like 5, then surely we could do something phenom with less distortion and a few more dynamics. We wouldn’t have a bass player, but we could make something happen.

The show was set for May 20th; a lovely Friday evening. To promote the show locally, I spent most of the week posting my famous pop-culture gems on Instagram (that I totally stole from Thelma and the Sleaze and Local H). This time, the theme was Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, a show that is still immensely significant to me and which should never ever be remade unless it’s by me (hear me well, Hollywood). With a Goldar or a Green Ranger, I would write a pithy promotional sentence about where and when the show would take place, hoping to generate some interest in John and I’s circle of friends. In my father’s car, the radio is usually tuned to NPR, and about a day before the show, I heard a folk artist on the station piqued my interest. She had a really good voice. I was elated after the song to find out that it was Nikki Talley; the announcer advertised the Palace show and even mentioned Retrospection, if memory serves me correctly. It was quite an honor, and my enthusiasm for the show doubled.

Our set went off fairly well. I was kind of nervous and not entirely prepared for what it was exactly that I wanted to do. Whereas before, we had gone in calmly and with little practice, this time I think that I overthought the set, got too in my head about it (an all too common practice for me), and ended up kinda getting flummoxed while attempting to present our music in a way befitting of the NPR Living Room format. I think there’s an important lesson there: compromise of one’s sound in order to appease some assumed perception can lead to a kind of identity crisis, one that ends up transforming an artist beyond their authenticity. A bit of that may certainly have been going on here. We were a bit unfocused, a bit too reliant on performance ingenuity, and the bulk of this blame goes to me. I hadn’t properly taken the time to come up with a good mid-range guitar sound to use, one that would correctly represent Retrospection’s intrinsic qualities and also not assault the audience with angry audacity. Andrew Akins showed up midway through the set and attempted to adjust the sound system to better suit our fluctuating, genre-happy shimmy sham. During soundcheck, the PA had been tailored to Nikki’s flavor, and the poor pitiful punk rockers were kind of left to fend for ourselves and figure something out along the way. Though Andrew certainly helped us, I got a little too present in the microphone at times, once even greatly overwhelming the room and scaring myself with a burst of auditory energy.

One song that did go off extremely well was Untitled Love Song. My goodness, that got the energy up in the room. By the time we got to the comedown of the bridge, everyone was applauding. I kind of wanted to applaud us too; everything good about that song had come to fruition somehow during this set. It was a combination of the earnestness and vivacity running between John and I. Somehow, it made this song stand out as something beyond any conception I had previously held of it, any estimation that was lower than the power pop punk rock anthem that it became on that stage. John has always been the one to help me love that song more.

Nikki and her husband played after us, and did a great set. I’m not a huge fan of bluegrass or folk, but they are both exceptional at what they do, and I hope the very best for them in days to come. They were very kind as well and addressed us from stage, me still feeling incredibly vulnerable to the audience and sensitive about our performance.

There was a girl in attendance that night who I had a minor crush on at the time (so high school of me). I talked to her for a bit after our set, hoping she had enjoyed it. We ended up playing seven or eight love songs in a row, and I like to think that that was intuitively inspired by her presence.

That night is cemented with grace for me now; though I could have played smarter, smoother, better, etc… it was fun. And the crowd was gracious, also considering that about half of them were the kind of highbrow crowd that my father would find great commonality with; they didn’t strike me as avid punk rock fans. This wasn’t their typical kind of performer, and yet they received us with dignity. I am still very grateful. Also, Ash bought us Subway before the show, and for that, I am very grateful. Friendship outshines the sun.

Zen Arcade: Part 5

Zen Arcade: Part 5

The next 7 tracks (“The Biggest Lie” through “Pink Turns to Blue”) are just as important as the first ten tracks, though I have yet to hit that point where I delve super deep into this portion of the album. The opening to “The Biggest Lie” is reminiscent, to me, of Nirvana’s “In Bloom”. Fitting, as Krist Novoselic would later say something to the effect that Nirvana didn’t invent anything with their style and sound; Husker Du had done it before. Both bands are different, and I recognize their contrasts as well as their comparisons, loving both with equal measure. I guess I kind of owe a portion of Retrospection to each band also. Nirvana has certainly been a major influence on my art for over a decade, and Husker Du their influence, so double thanks go out. These are the bands that always help me to remember why I love music.

As the storyline goes, I think the main character progresses through some more turmoil on his quest to a better life; seems like some uneasy friendships are made and fall apart. People are dishonest, the protagonist turns the lens inward and examines themselves. What’s going on there? “Standing By the Sea” gives us another foray into a genre and feeling not often touched upon in hardcore, and certainly not in the ‘80s. I love that waltz-like flavor to the whole thing, plus the imagery of the sea is always a welcome addition to any story of adolescent soul-searching and angst-filled rebellion.

“One Step at a Time” is absolutely brilliant; perceptive to the more vulnerable parts of us, concise as to avoid one lingering too long where they shouldn’t be.

Then we hit that tragic bit: “Pink Turns to Blue”. Written by drummer Grant Hart, this is about the protagonist losing his girlfriend to a drug overdose. Everything about the song is poignant. This one has personal significance for reasons that I won’t divulge here; they don’t include someone passing, thank God. But it is a hard subject. How do you broach that with your friends whose lives you care about immensely and want to save? Don’t ever turn to those substances. There is nothing there but pain.

Let’s take it as personal:

  • The Biggest Lie is what you’re led on to in high school. It’s that nonsense about what’ll get you ahead, and who you have to suck up to in order to attain companionship. It’s party culture, and it’s culture that says you need to waste your cognitive resources coming up with ways to impress. It’s about getting into that glorious environment, where everyone knows your name and they know that you not only exist, but that your thoughts and words are extremely precious, that you’re in on the good stuff, and you know the better way of life. Don’t you dare fall short, and don’t you dare deviate, cause this is where stars are born. But later on, we realize that those stars produce plastic, not carbon. Steer clear of that vacuity kids; make your own identity and enjoy your own craft.
  • What’s Going On is when things turn inward. When you’ve had your fill of the need to impress, when you gotta get away from lingering and wishing that someone would notice you, or whenever you go so far outside who you really are and you act like a complete arse… this is when you look good and hard at yourself, at myself, and try to figure some stuff out. What happened? Why are you being this way? Suddenly, God gives me that wonderful glimpse back into my childhood. I realize that I am still that person, looking for the good things. I don’t need clearance to do better for myself.
  • Masochism World is back to some aggression. Billy used to tell me that I liked to punish myself or something, referring to what I put myself through with unrequited affection. He was on to something.
  • Standing by the Sea is more examination, but softer this time. I have no sea around me here in west Texas, but I have Saturday mornings made of dew and grace, watching The Breakfast Club and Star Trek. I also have those moments at Summit Elementary, where I get into my ideas and exit to an advanced environment of the same look. There is peace. I’m so much more. Why don’t they see it?
  • Somewhere touches on this same thing; it’s where I start looking ahead, actually visualizing the place, and more importantly, the me who I will be someday. I gotta make a plan and get out asap. Somewhere, there is better. But I still enjoy and am eternally thankful for all that I cherish here.
  • One Step at a Time is a glimpse of peace. It’s transient, but it’ll be back. I can show this part of me to God and my new friends. They don’t ask me to be anything but me, and they help me see the best I could become. Life won’t always be so hard. God will always be just as good. Take it day by day.
  • Pink Turns to Blue reminds me that I’m not like them. I don’t seek release the way they do. I won’t judge, but I won’t condone. I want to help you. How can I? I listen.

 

More songs and stories coming up soon.

Love and Peace to all and GO LISTEN TO ZEN ARCADE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 

Summer: Part 2

 

Summer: Part 2

Okay, so for the starting event, let’s return to May 14th. It was a Saturday, nice and warm if memory serves me correctly. I had spent the previous nights working on the opening acts to an ambitious new undertaking: a mini punk rock opera that would follow in the tradition of The Who’s A Quick One and Green Day’s Jesus of Suburbia. I wanted to make something narrative, something that had a definite vision and storyline (albeit not entirely on the nose), shared between a few different movements, short songs that expressed different moods to fit whatever it was I was trying to create narratively. I knew that I wanted the bulk of the opera, at least the core, to be a decidedly punk rock flavored angst-party hullabaloo. I had the first act nearly completed. It sounded good. Familiar (obviously taking note of classic up-tempo punk rock that came before me) and yet uniquely me, the way I played punk. Lyrics weren’t there yet, save for the nascent 2nd act which had a repeating chorus line: “I’ll never be good enough for you”. That would be my narrative opening. This would dance around some autobiographical elements. And I would eventually name it Middleland… more on that later.

Sometime around noon, I got a text from John. It was part of a small group message asking if any of us could come be with him in the hours leading up to the wedding. I was perfectly able, and I sprang down to Canyon not long after. This was in between my wrecked Kia Spectra and when I bought Sylvia, so I borrowed my mom’s Santa Fe for the ride. I think I was at the venue two or three hours before the wedding was set to start. I helped out with a few errands and then creeped around as John got ready and the photographer was getting pictures. It was an incredibly relaxing atmosphere, serene and lovely. I saw some deer down in the valley below the property. They didn’t mind us being so near; we all were there in perfect peace and love.

Familiar faces began to arrive, and I made small talk with friends as we surveyed the magical environment. The layout was absolutely perfect. I think we were all feeling it, the expansive power of love. The time drew near, and we sat down in the warm afternoon sun. I sat next to Juan and Katie, contemplating friendship, the passage of time, changes, the foundations of lasting ideals that would help me transcend my rotten character… typical things that go through my mind on a Saturday afternoon. I wonder how John was feeling. I saw him standing up there in the shade, getting ready for one of the most important moments of his life. Here was a person who I had befriended as a child, lost contact with for about 15 years, and now had grown very close to in the preceding two years. What a wild journey, and a young one too. What would our journey look like the rest of this year?

The music started, and we all grew silent, turning our full attention to the moment. I had held myself together pretty well this whole time, as I sometimes do. I like to process emotion differently. Then the song started. In My Life rings out, and Ash appears in the most beautiful wedding dress I’ve ever seen. I looked back at John and the tears had started. And I felt it welling up in my own chest. The ceremony is pure and perfect, unique and eclectic.

Afterwards, we all retire inside the loft for the best breakfast food I’ve ever had. Somebody drank all the specialty Angry Orchards before I could get one. I sat at a table with friends, warmth abounding. We welcomed in the summer days by the dawning of our friends’ union.

I eventually found Ash and John outside with the photographer and said my goodbyes. I drove back to Amarillo fresh off the greatest wedding I’d ever been to.

Later that night was a Mount Ivy concert. I stood against the beam at Golden Light and continued to contemplate relationships and happiness. Juan had told me a few days prior that I would find someone to love.

I keep hope. My friends help me see it.

To Ash and John, with infinite love. Thank you both for your friendship and your fun. May all your years be full of the very best, and nothing less.

Summer: Part 1

Summer: Part 1

So I have these specific events that demarcate the respective beginning and end of last summer in my mind. John and I have talked about this before; I think he’s maybe the only one I’ve told so far. Though these events are not calendar points for the “proper” beginning and end of summertime, they serve as bookends to my experience of summer. Everything before is a springtime memory and everything after is a fall memory.

The opening event is Ash and John’s wedding that took place on May 14th. That Saturday kicked off everything summer. The ending event is John and I’s trip to Santa Fe that took place on August 25th and 26th.  That was a magnificent conclusion to the hot season, and that subsequent Saturday felt like the inaugural day of autumn to me.

I know that doesn’t sound like a large amount of time, but there were several events and landmark life moments that took place during this period, certain memories that I often look back to daily with great fondness. I’ll be trying to convey my feelings properly for these, going chronologically through the great, the good, and the tragic.

Looking forward to relaying my memories.

Peace and Love to all.

Distortion

Distortion became a fast friend

It met me on a sunny day, sometime in the spring

It was fully respectful of my childhood anxieties, my trepidation that was under the surface

It had an instant and deep intuition about me that was completely correct

It didn’t knock me over with power, but invited me into something larger than myself

I realized, on that sunny midday, that there was a potential deep inside me

Something that was innate, but untapped

Something that wanted to be expressed, that could help me overcome my intense fear

There were infinite potentials here

This was, and is always, a gift from God directly to me

I believe in its potential

And through it, I believe in my potential

Distortion is tired to some

Overpowering to others

A raucous nuisance that disrupts conversation and thwarts positive thinking

But it will never be any of these things to me

Distortion is pure

It is a friend that has stuck with me longer than most people

And it is still a profound gift that helps me to believe that I can be profound as well

Ever onward on this journey

Zen Arcade: Part 4

Zen Arcade: Part 4

So let’s take the first ten songs (Something I Learned Today-I’ll Never Forget You). Honestly, this is the section of the story that I’m most familiar with at this point in my life, due to it being the portion of the album that I listen to most often. A large reason for this is that, due to the narrative format of the album (as loose as it may be), I genuinely enjoy taking the album as a story over picking out individual songs, placing myself into that narrative and experiencing a progressing story as the songs go along. This can be done with several albums, especially those wonderful rock operas of yore. I’ve done it with Tommy, Quadrophenia, The Wall, The Black Parade, American Idiot… concept albums/rock operas are wonderful. It gives me the greatest thrill to insert myself into a storyline told with rock music. I think mostly because it combines my love of characters and storytelling with my favorite music. I really have no “favorite” rock opera/concept album per se; each one is important and has been a blessing to me at different stages of my life. I seem to learn things from them and meld their story with mine in some ways. And I did that with immense intuitive insight as I listened to Zen Arcade.

The story of the album is somewhat loose. According to Wikipedia, Zen Arcade “tells the story of a young boy who runs away from an unfulfilling home life, only to find the world outside is even worse”. It’s a pretty basic idea, and one that’s been touched upon in several mediums with several different interpretations. But it was the only introduction I needed to be hooked. I’m obsessed with coming of age stories, teen drams, the age of adolescence, the saga of the American teenager, everything that could be drawn from and interpreted through that. And that’s something that I think prospers greatly from translation through punk rock. When it’s done correctly (through my eyes, anyway), then it’s a deep, poetic, and sagacious account that captures what we experience when we’re young and idealistic, often overtly dramatic and prone to excessive frustration or apathy in the wake of mounting 1st world problems.

I knew this when I was 16. I won’t go into detail right now, but let’s just say that I was an unusual 16-year-old, eschewing what my peers were really into, and immersing myself into this dreamscape of ‘90s nostalgia reinvented just for me.

  • Something I Learned was about that feeling of being let down in your hometown, of realizing that you’ll have to break away.
  • Broken Home, Broken Heart wasn’t about my family, but maybe rather how I perceived my relationship with my father at that age. They don’t ever understand your dreams then, remember?
  • Never Talking to You Again is taking your indignation and precocious insights and taking them to somewhere where you’ll be appreciated. You could stay and prove something, but they won’t be worth the struggle.
  • Chartered Trips wasn’t about joining the military for me, but rather the immersion into a time apart from my own. I have no generation; I’m not like these other kids.
  • Dreams Reoccurring is a new landscape, a new place to dream. I’m taking my love of sci-fi with me. Punk rock is about doing what you like without apology. I don’t have to shop at Hot Topic to be a punk.
  • Indecision Time is where things get wild. Everything I love about that hardcore sound at 16. No one can rage as hard or fast as me. And absolutely no one in Amarillo, TX will ever come close to understanding my dreams, my identity, my power, or my rage.
  • Hare Krishna touches on my spiritual journey. I’ve been a Christian since I was 5. At 16, I decided to truly commit my life to Jesus Christ, and know Him in a pure way that wasn’t about someone else’s definition of faith. This was to be truly personal, and I give myself fully to the divine. This is getting to know Someone who speaks truth to my personality, and who gave me all good things, including punk rock.
  • Beyond the Threshold returns to the rage, the rage that covers up a very sensitive soul. I can pretend, but I’m not an angry nature. I’m not a vengeful person. I’m a very wounded child looking for healing. Punk rock allows me that.
  • Pride is that struggle; when I try to feign confidence, it comes off as insufferable arrogance. I hate that part of me.
  • I’ll Never Forget You is about her; that elusive person, that friendship that always verged on confusion and repressed affections. Sometimes, I wanted us to be madly in love; other times, I enjoyed our platonic relations. But I was always confused. And this isn’t about me. This is your decision. I’m afraid, I’m so very afraid. Why can’t I make myself appealing? Why am I ignored? Why does everyone else my age get to experience these high school rites of romance? What am I lacking? Is it intelligence, confidence, understanding, physical attractiveness, humor? Why am I pushed to the margins, alone on a Friday night? It’ll be better when I get away from here.

Zen Arcade spoke to my past… informing and taking a snapshot of those 9 years ago, when I was heading back to start junior year, conflicted and irritated, but ambitious and perspicacious in my own right.

 

Summer: Introduction

Summer: Introduction

The summer of 2016 holds several memories for me. On a personal level, many of them were extremely good and I will look back on them with fondness forever. On a larger level of humanity, there were some very dark times this past summer that broke my heart and sent me to tears for my sisters and brothers across the globe. Time and again, I return to the summertime when I’m having struggles of identity or anxiety, remembering my confidence and personal growth throughout May, June, July, and August. I’ve decided to dedicate some posts to the summer of 2016 on this blog. I’ll be discussing both the good and the bad, and offering some nostalgic and modest philosophical insights. I hope you enjoy; this is something very important for me to share.

God bless all. Peace and Love.

26 and thriving

Feels so scary getting old.

This Sunday, I will be turning 26 :O That’s correct, I’m almost over the hill. People tend to laugh when I insinuate that I’m getting old. But I’m genuinely kind of freaked out. Could have a lot to do with my hypochondria (that’s been progressively worse since September). Every little ache and pain is quickly translated into a symptom of a much larger problem in my anxiety-ridden mind. That’s something I want to consciously put an end to this year.

I commit to be young, to remember that I am still allowed to figure things out and learn. I commit to good health, mentally and physically. I commit to love more and more every day, and to promote peace in all I do.

Anxiety can be a terrible adversary. I’m done letting it have so much power over me.

26 will be a great year.

Also, go listen to Ribs by Lorde. Touches on this subject of getting older and is just genuinely a great song.

Love and Peace, my friends.

Rogue One

Rogue One

I don’t even want to attach the part after the colon to this. You know, “A Star Wars Story”.

Let’s get something out of the way first: I am not a Star Wars fan.

I appreciate what Star Wars (1977) did for film in regards to imagining new directions for us to go in how we convey our stories and how we present the action and pacing of a film. I also greatly appreciate that it helped establish science fiction as a serious presence in the mainstream (sometimes, anyway; there are times when I long for the exclusivity that sci-fi used to have). I recognize that much of our culture is bathed in Star Wars legacy, and that much of my childhood was saturated in Lightsabers and X-wings, Leia and Luke, the planet Hoth, and that giant worm the Millennium Falcon flies into. And I don’t want to perpetuate or add any validity to the false dichotomy of Star Wars vs. Star Trek either. My love for the Star Trek franchise does not require me to be against Star Wars. Sci-fi is free and for the people in all ways.

No, what turned me off from Star Wars over time was honestly the over-saturation, the endless merchandizing, the awful prequel trilogy, and the lack of intellectual depth that I steadily became aware of with repeated viewing. I still enjoy watching the original films on occasion, and I can be entertained by them; but it’s honestly very hard for me to watch them in purity like I did when I was a child. Nowadays, there is so much peripheral heaviness that I take with me coming into the viewing; so much turgidity from seeing the logo slapped onto shampoo and cereal. In an attempt to have mass appeal, the franchise lost me somewhere. It doesn’t feel serious or sacred anymore, as I prefer my sci-fi. I usually want it to germinate contemplation in addition to being entertained. So maybe I need to detox and go back and pretend I’m experiencing all of those films for the very first time; like I’ve lived in solitude for the last 26 years and I have no idea what Star Wars is.

All of that aside, this post is a few of my ruminations on Rogue One, the closest that a Star Wars related production has come to redeeming my infant love of the space opera. See, this one was different. This one had me engaged from the first trailer. There was something there that was massively appealing; a few things, actually. First off, it seemed that there would be no Jedi, no force, no lightsabers, none of the things that I had grown so bored with. This seemed to be a story about the other people in the galaxy that we rarely get an in-depth look into. This was the rebellion, made up of the ordinary who strive to become extraordinary. After a few views of the trailer, with that classic tune lightly tapped out upon a lone piano, I got a sense that what Rogue One would eventually reveal itself to be is a grand espionage adventure set against the backdrop of the Star Wars universe. What a magnificent concept!! I’m a big fan of espionage anyway, and to see these hints of a tale of stealth, clandestine operation, immense danger, a small band of the oppressed taking on an empire of oppressors, all within the context of space travel, storm troopers, and death stars… I was hooked. And it looked to be dark, darker than any Star Wars film had dared to go before. This had a sense of ambivalence to it, an inkling that what we would see wouldn’t be a simple story of “here are the Death Star plans, go steal them, and have a good time”. That last frame of the trailer, when we see Jyn clothed as an imperial trooper (one of the really scary ones) that seemed to evoke a sense of underlying emotional conflict and personal philosophical dilemma that would unfold before us. Would these characters follow through with what they were tasked with doing for the Rebellion? Or would they succumb to the power of the Empire, and take the troubling, sinuous descent into darkness amidst the self-deceptions of personal gain and the Empire’s false promises? Or (the story I really hoped to see) would they survive torture and temptation and come out on the other side with their values and ideals fully intact and enduring, overcoming the adversaries and completing their mission after a rich and detailed struggle against the enemy and themselves? Basically, I was expecting a very dark and complex story that delved into the existential, the philosophical struggles of deontology and utilitarianism, the inner workings of characters who have grown up in this war torn and imperialistic universe. What would that be like?

Now, what I got wasn’t exactly what I had hoped for. I’ll get it out of the way now: I really enjoyed Rogue One. It was fun, it was dramatic, it was inspiring (I found great significance in the spirit of hope, ingenuity. and resistance against oppression, especially in the wake of Trump’s election), and it was about regular people in the Star Wars universe (kind of). These characters weren’t big on wise cracks, they were serious. They had been through some dark things. They had grown up in the shadow of an empire that was dominant and violent. They bore scars of the body and the mind. But they believed in something enough to die for it.

I won’t get into the story much here (pretty much everyone has seen the film already), but I will just say that while I greatly appreciated the serious characterization, the ethnic diversity of the main characters, the placement of an awesome female protagonist in the center of the action, the ongoing theme of rebellion being built on hope, and that the film accurately and faithfully recreated the look and feel of the original 1977 film, I was personally let down by the film’s failure to meet the expectations built by that original trailer (to be fair, those were expectations largely of my own construction). I felt that in an attempt to once again placate fans (“HEY, THIS IS A STAR WARS MOVIE, REMEMBER KIDS?!?!”) the filmmakers made the mistakes of throwing in all the cameos of characters that we’re already overstuffed on. I didn’t need to see Darth Vader again (love you James Earl Jones). If it’s relevant to the story, in that it leads directly to the events of the 1977 film, then give him a small cameo, I suppose. But did we NEED that scene on his lava planet in his castle? Did we NEED that violent scuffle in the hallway while he made his way towards the plans being passed on? I wanted to go through one Star Wars related film without seeing a lightsaber. And C3PO, R2D2, the blokes from the cantina? WE DON’T NEED TO SEE THEM. I think that perhaps the filmmakers sacrificed screen time that could have been devoted to more character development (new characters, mind you) in order to shoehorn in these special appearances of familiar characters that would make families go “Hey!” (just like me and my family gleefully did during the new Gilmore Girls). But in my view, this film should have been centered around new characters, characters that we were unfamiliar with going in, and they should have developed them intelligently and inventively. Again, this could just be due to my oversaturation with the franchise, but I wanted a film that stood far alone, as far as it could, with characters at its heart that I was so tired of seeing.

So I wonder if my original imaginative apprehension of the presumed plot was actually what they had been closer to filming originally. The first trailer would hint at that, wouldn’t it? Remember Forrest Whitaker’s dialogue from the trailer? That wasn’t in the final film (and his character seemed way underdeveloped). That first act had some ostensive holes in it, things that had been muddled and confused in the reshoots. What the heck is that nasty tentacle beast in Forrest Whitaker’s place? How does the pilot snap out of its cerebral damaging so quickly? Who is this person, and what is he and Jyn’s relationship like? I need more, more information. Why is she reluctant to help the Rebellion? How did she end up separated? Many more questions ensue.

So, final thoughts: best Star Wars related film made since Return of the Jedi. But, I feel like the film that I was baited with, the film that may have been underway, was changed midway through production, either for creative choices or for a less dark tone. But I really hope that the filmmakers cared more about their characters and their story than they did placing cameos about to get quick nostalgia thrills. Great job with this one, everyone; but, I’d like to see you explore the potential of that first trailer a little more in the future.

Sincerely, a non-Star Wars fan.