Tuesday, October 30, 2012

"I have a [great] feeling about this!"

If you've been living under a social media rock today, there is some news you need to hear: Disney has agreed to buy Lucasfilm for $4.05 billion and they plan on releasing Star Wars: Episode VII in 2015. If you're a huge Star Wars fan like me, this is either the best or worst news ever -- either way, it's huge. Personally, I am pumped. So pumped. Here are five reasons why:

1. Goodbye, George Lucas. Now, I don't hate the guy. But I will be the first to admit that while I enjoy Episodes I-III (especially III), George didn't do the best job with them. He is an excellent visual director, but he's terrible at harnessing the actors' talent and he can't write dialog to save his life. Think of the quality writers and directors the Star Wars brand name can attract. Sure, given the notoriety the prequels carry, it would be a risky move to write or direct a new Star Wars movie, but there are undoubtedly many great writers and directors willing to take a shot at it.

Lucas signs his life way. I hope this agreement contains a clause that he can't go back and tinker with the old films ever again. Full press release and image from here.

2. Pixar and Marvel. Marvel makes great comic book movies and, for the most part, Pixar makes the best animated movies. I'm hoping this logic follows with future Star Wars movies from the new Disney-owned Lucasfilm.

3. Despite the acquisition, Lucasfilm is not Disney. The acquisition allows ol' George to step down, letting others add to the Star Wars universe he has created. Lucas has simply entrusted Disney to protect -- and hopefully honor -- Lucasfilm's Star Wars brand (while padding his pockets with $4.05 billion).

4. Learn from the past. With the sale of Lucasfilm, Lucas has appointed longtime cohort Kathleen Kennedy as president. Under new leadership, I hope Lucasfilm will be wary to repeat the mistakes they made with Episodes I, II, and III.

5. Midnight. Maybe best of all, it gives me an opportunity to dust off my old Jedi robes*, head down to the theater and camp out all day while I wait for the midnight showing. In short, I have another opportunity to make memories with my family and friends. For me, that's what Star Wars is all about.

Since the release of Episode III, I've always wondered what Star Wars in someone else's hands would look like. With this acquisition I will finally see that. I couldn't be more excited.

*I don't actually own a set of Jedi robes. That needs to change.

Update: My brother Thomas is speculating on directors on his blog. Check out the post here and be sure to follow his blog.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

no little plans

"Make no little plans. They have no magic to stir men's blood and probably themselves will not be realized."
     -- Daniel Burnham

Through a series of events too lengthy to detail here, one night in late July of last year I found myself seated with my family for dinner at The Original Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana in New Haven, Connecticut. (How come no one ever pronounces that second "C" in Connecticut?) It was possibly the best pizza I've ever had.

Now, I've always been handy in the kitchen. I remember baking cookies, cakes, and brownies with my mother and grandmother at a young age. As a teenager, every week I was responsible for our Sunday dinner dessert. I started small with cake mixes and simple chocolate chip cookie recipes. Over the past few years I've expanded my repertoire to include more complex desserts like baklava. My current go-to chocolate chip cookies recipe is much more subtle than the cookies I used to make. And I've even tried my hand at cake decorating.

About a year ago I decided I wanted to start making pizza. I can't detail exactly how this desire developed, I just know that this serendipitous visit to Pepe's in New Haven was the initial catalyst. I set the ambiguous goal of being able to make really good pizza.

For the past year I've worked on that goal quite passively. And today I can make a pretty good pizza. Earlier this week I remembered that quote above by Daniel Burnham. It's worth repeating: "Make no little plans. They have no magic to stir men's blood and probably themselves will not be realized" (emphasis added). So after a year -- a reasonable amount of time for someone with my home kitchen experience to come up with a really good pizza -- why haven't I been able to realize this goal? Because "really good pizza" is what Daniel Burnham would call a "little plan."

So this week I decided to upgrade my pizza goal to something that stirs my blood and hopefully stirs the blood of those around me. I don't want to make really good pizza. I want to make the best pizza in the world.

This isn't one of those bullcrap, shoot-for-the-moon-land-among-the-stars goals. When I say in the world, I mean in the world.

Of course, I have no idea how I'm going to do this. I'll begin by sampling the finer local pizza joints. And travel to the pizza capitals of the world will be necessary. More than once I've looked into building a backyard pizza oven (I should probably buy a home first, eh?). As Helen Keller put it, "Life is either a daring adventure or it's nothing." I look forward to the adventure that will come in creating a perfect pizza.

To Frank Pepe I say thank you for best pizza I've ever had. One day mine will be even better.

== == == == ==

It seems counter-productive to put a disclaimer on your dreams, but I do have to say this: While I will no doubt have to sacrifice in the pursuit of this lofty goal, one area where I will not compromise is in the relationships I have (or will have) with my family, loved ones, and friends. I love pizza but I love people more. The cool thing about pizza is that it's easy to share with people.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

flat like the old days

For my birthday a couple months ago, this really great girl I'm dating gave me a set of maps of Canada that, based on the maps' provincial and territorial borders, date from somewhere around 1881 to 1889. She knows I'm a sucker for maps and old crap, and having served as a missionary in Quebec and Ontario, the great land of Canada is quite dear to my heart; so these maps were a perfect gift. (And she also got me a pizza peel and a pizza cutter, the kind that's a huge blade that rocks back and forth, which could also double as a weapon in the event of a home invasion.)

Here are the maps:

Ontario circa 1881-1889

Ontario here was one of the first Canadian provinces when the Dominion of Canada was formed on July 1, 1867, although it was much smaller then than pictured on this map (it's even larger today).

Quebec circa 1881-1889

Quebec, which was incepted* the same time as Ontario, is my favorite province, if only out of pure bias: I spent the majority of my mission there. (Don't worry Ontario, you're a very close second.)

Montreal circa 1881-1889

And finally we have Montreal. I've heard Montreal called the San Francisco of Canada but to compare it to that great city cheapens it a bit, as Montreal holds its own among the great cities of North America and the world.

Not pictured: A map of the entire Dominion of Canada circa 1881-1889. This one is hanging on the wall in my bedroom and I was too lazy to remove it from it's frame to photograph it.

*Not a real word.

== == == == ==

Like I mentioned earlier, I love maps. So it shouldn't come as a surprise that I spend an inordinate amount of time on Google Maps, on both the mobile app and full web versions. Anyway, these old Canadian maps got me thinking. How hard would it be to add a function to Google Maps that lets you take a map back in time to see the layout of a certain country or city, say, 100 years ago? Google Maps already has layers for traffic, weather, bicycling routes and more so adding another wouldn't be that hard. Time consuming? Sure, to pore over old maps and come to a consensus on where borders and roads actually were is no small task (I nominate myself for this job). But Google is known for taking on new projects a piece at a time, and this wouldn't be any different.

Am I the only one who'd be interested to see what my home town looked like 10 years ago? Fifty years ago? One hundred years ago? True, this function may not have an every day use like Google Maps' traffic or navigation features. But if you're like me and 75% of your Google Maps usage comes from perusing maps for the sheer joy of it, this function would be awesome. Or rather than adding a new function to Maps, maybe Google needs to create an entirely new product: Google History or Google Old World or whatever they feel like calling it.

Google, you already read my email so there's a good chance you're reading this too. Please make this happen.

== == == == ==

Can Apple Maps do this? Google Maps news: "Google's Street View Goes Into The Wild".