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Just to prove that we were first

Friday, May 9th, 2003

When you think of Chicago Force, you probably think of die-hard Star Wars fans who, while being good natured and charitable, let nothing (including George Lucas) stand in their way when it comes to enjoying all things Star Wars. From con room parties to charity drives to the many clubs, we do nothing half-way.

So it should come as no surprise to you that we were first to be in line for Episode III, whatever it will be called. May 9, 2003 marked the beginning of the official Chicago Force Line Up for potentially the last Star Wars movie.

Don’t believe me? Check it out for yourself:

Tragedy in Nal-Ottawa

Sunday, February 9th, 2003

Organized crime was struck a blow today when noted gangster and crime lord Jabba the Hutt passed away. Details are yet unknown, but so far officials have released the following information:

Jabba was captured and taken into custody Sunday morning by CF officials just outside the core world of Chicagoscant. He had erected a smaller yet accurate copy of his Tattooine throne room on the upscale planet of R-Lingtin Hites and was, according to authorities, holding some sort of celebratory gathering.

Due to the size and nature of the Hutt, the Force had to call in their Hazardous Materials truck (Hazmatt) to provide transportation. Jabba was loaded into the vehicle and secured with a gray covering and a rope-like substance.

The Hazmatt vehicle left Chicagoscant and headed south on Imperial highway Fifty-Five (I-55), maintaining a constant speed of 55 MPH (moles per hectare? Hey, if Han can travel a distance in less than 12 parsecs….and have you tried going 55 on the Stevenson? That is the posted limit, but people normally do 80). The trip progressed without incident until they reached Imperial highway Eighty.

Upon turning west onto I-80, the unit was faced with a 35 MPH headwind. This combined with their ground speed of 55 MPH to give a combined airspeed of 90 MPH. The gray covering holding Jabba the Hutt from escape was not designed for such velocities, and it was not long before one of the supporting grommets tore from its fabric and revealed the Huttese crime-lord to the elements.

A word of explanation here for our loyal readers: it is not common knowledge, but Jabba has a rather large indentation in the back of his cranium (watch the movie again, you’ll see it). Also, his skin is very thin and fragile at this point. When the protective tarpaulin was removed, the gale-force air current set up a vortex action between the vehicle and Jabba, causing dire effects. One dismembered arm was caught in the maelstrom and impacted the rear window where it, according to one witness, “stuck there, plaintive and sad, like it was trying to hold on, then it was gone.”

The rush of atmosphere continued its path of destruction. An exposed flap of skin caught in the current and peeled back, exposing the viscera of the great slug. The transport operators immediately brought the vehicle to a stop, but it was too late, the damage had been done. Unable to repair the damage, even to find any of the violently removed pieces, they continued on to the penal colony of Nal-Ottawa.

The remainder of the trip was not kind Jabba’s corpse. Now fully exposed to the wind, small bits and pieces felt free to detach themselves and spread over a large stretch of road. When the transport arrived at its destination, little remained of the once great piece of slime-ridden filth. One of the pilots, who had grown quite close to Jabba during their time together, was taken by his emotions and weeped openly at the sight, causing one passerby to exclaim, “Jeez, Matthew, you’re such a freak. Why did I even marry you in the first place?”

While Jabba is no longer with us, and his time on this plane of existence was brief, we have the comfort that he was laid to rest with the full honors of a crime-lord befitting his stature–in empty dumpster behind an anonymous car wash.

Saturday, November 2nd, 2002

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Journal of the Myths – It’s done

Friday, July 7th, 2000

It wasn’t supposed to be finished yet, but we did it.
I got the call at about 8:30 this morning: “We need you down in Star Wars for the rest of the day. The exhibit has to be completed by 4:30.”

“I don’t get it,” I said. “What about Monday?”
“Press preview is Tuesday, but Lucasfilm and the suits will be in there first thing Monday.”
“Shit.”
“Right. When can you be down in Hall E?”
“Well, I’m almost done with Africa as we speak.”
“Good. Park the lift in a quiet spot and hurry down. We’ll be here all day as it is.”
“10-4. Gotta love overtime.” (I’d been at the Field since six.)

Well, enough of my melodrama. Suffice to say that Magic of Myth is up and running in Chicago… just not for the public yet. I just wanted to send out what will probably be the final entry to this little journal (unless something or someone interesting happens on Monday.)

It was worlds of fun working on the exhibit and I got a big kick out of writing these entries every few weeks. I hope all of you who took the time to read my rants enjoyed the vicarious tidbits I was able to offer.

But as Mr. Paul Anka said “And now, the end is near…”

… and I can proudly say that there really isn’t much more for me to talk about that every one of you won’t be experiencing for yourselves next weekend. I’ll be sure to look for a lot of familiar faces next Saturday, and if you’re a new face to the Chicago Force… well, look for the guy who’s clearly enjoying himself more than he should.

Oh, who am I kidding, that’ll be all of us.

Le Penguin
“So. To the death, then?”

Journal of the Myths – Part IV

Wednesday, June 28th, 2000

One crate. One massive crate resting in the Field’s design loft where our extreme ping-pong table usually sits.

Ten people. Ten people standing around a massive crate in the middle of the Field’s design loft. Two on each corner. Two more sliding off the newly-unbolted front panel of the massive crate sitting in the middle of the Field’s design loft.

Twenty-five people. Twenty-five people stood around and watched eight exhibit preps (two on each corner) remove the top and three remaining sides of the massive crate sitting in the middle of the Field’s design loft.

When the boards were clear, thirty-five people paused and took a long, quiet look at the thing sitting in the middle of the Field’s design loft that used to be home to the Exhibits staff’s extreme ping pong table.

One Star Destroyer. The Star Destroyer. Eight feet long. 200+ pounds. Thousands of fiber-optic filaments. So many little plastic bits that the surface looks like a recently unearthed Snap-Tite burial ground. The subject of what is arguably the most famous, most gripping opening shot in film history.

And I was holding it in my hands.

Well, ok, not just my hands. Six of us had been carefully positioned (on the corners, along the sides, on the nose) to support its wooden framework for the five-foot journey over to the wheeled mount built specially for Star Destroyer Inter-Museum Transport.

This afternoon was absolutely surreal. We rolled the model into the elevator and headed for the ground floor. As I stood near my position at the back corner of the giant gray pie-wedge of plastic, I looked down to check out the little light bulbs Lucasfilm used to “ignite” the engines.

“Christ,” I whispered, and rattled off a few number codes under my breath.

“What’s up?” asked the rep from the Smithsonian.

“These lights,” I said, “I go through at least five a day here at the museum to keep graphic panels lit in Nature Walk and What Is An Animal. The Underground Adventure has dozens of them. And here they are, part of an image that is so deeply embedded in my head that I don’t remember not knowing it.”

All right, so I wasn’t that articulate at the time, but that’s what I was thinking. I probably said something closer to “wow… incredible…”

Still, the best part of the day came when we got out of the elevator and started the ship toward the soon-to-be-mythical Hall E. Most of our nervous, extremely cautious journey was done behind-the-scenes. But there was a stretch of about thirty or forty feet of public space we needed to cross between the end of the back hallway and the entrance to Hall E. I went ahead to join half a dozen other staff members in order to stop visitor traffic and clear a path for the Star Destroyer.

I stopped a mother and her family on their way out of the Underground Adventure. I apologised for the inconvenience, and told her that we’d be out of the way in a few moments. She correctly guessed that we were transporting an artifact. I said she and her family were welcome to watch, but they had to stay clear.

“With all this attention, it must be prety important,” she said.

In my best Jeremy Irons voice, I turned to her and said “You have no idea.”

No more than a foot of the ship’s nose was out the doorway when the mom realized what was coming into view.

“Kids, look,” she yelped, in the sort of voice she probably hadn’t used since she saw Menudo live when she was fifteen.

We stopped about fifty or so people to clear a path for the model, but by the time we arrived at Hall E, at least 200 people were crowded around ten people; ten people all huddled close together with little white Mickey Mouse-looking gloves on.

Ten people with artifact-protecting gloves. Ten people and one starship.

A Star Destroyer. The Star Destroyer. Eight feet long. 200+ pounds. Countless man-hours. Unending childhood and adult dreams and fantasies. 18 days left.

Le Penguin
“The damage doesn’t look as bad from out here.”

P.S. This is probably as good a time as any to send an extra-special thanks to the good people from SITES (Smithsonian Institute Travelling Exhibits Staff) and the reps from Lucasfilm for putting together such a great show and for being so accommodating to a geeked-out, overzealous fanboy.

Journal of the Myths – Part III

Thursday, June 22nd, 2000

A representative of the Smithsonian showed up on Tuesday, along with two more trucks full of crates – crates which are considerably larger than the ones we got in last week. All of a sudden, things got very crowded and very busy in Hall E.

Friday is looking to be the big day for the prep crew. That’s when LFL reps are set to show up and the Exhibits crew can get down to serious business. Right now, the murals are being put in place; anyone who hasn’t seen the expo elsewhere is going to be blown away by these incredible prints of Ralph McQuarrie’s design paintings. Some of them are up to 8 feet square. By the end of the day, the entire hall should look like a McQuarrie gallery.

The anticipation for SW:MOM is unbelievable. Two weeks ago, the Field held its annual Members’ Nights on the 8th & 9th. From 5pm to 10pm on each day, an estimated 12,000 families poured through the museum, which opened up its third and fourth floors (research and development) for teh members and their families to explore the institution from behind the scenes. Every department had demonstrations set up, from anthropology to interactive design to the print shop. But far and away the most popular display was the desk of Robert “Bob” Weiglein. You see, Mr. Weiglein is the designer in charge of SW:MOM. He had a small mock-up of what the entrance to the exhibit will look like, along with some photos from the Smithsonian’s setup as well a copy of the spectacular companion book to the exhibit. Not a groundbreaking display by any means; but I had a small lighting demonstration set up not to far away from his spot, and from where I was standing, I could see that as many as 60-75% of everyone who walked into the museum those two nights made sure to stop by Weiglein’s desk. That’s even more popular than the fox dissection they had going on down in Mammal Biology. Only SUE, on display in the main hall, received such a constant mob of attention.

Now for some bad news… due to conservation concerns, there are three artifacts from the original expo that are not included in the travelling exhibit. What makes things worse is that two of them were among the best photo-ops from when I visited the show in D.C. The third is a ship model that, while it’s impressive, it’s not exactly heartbreaking to learn that it won’t be showing up here. Anyway, here’s the short list of absentees:

  • Jabba’s sail barge model
  • Gamorrean Guard
  • Sy Snootles

Like I said, it’s stinks that anything needs to be left out, but those last two will be extra-specially missed.

22 days and counting…

Le Penguin
“This leash demeans us both.”

Journal of the Myths – Part II

Tuesday, June 13th, 2000

Two non-descript trucks rolled into the FMNH docks early this morning. I was informed just after they arrived that there wouldn’t be any artifacts in this shipment. What’s being set up over the next few days is the “pre-install”: mounts, reference photographs, Plexiglas cases and all of their bases (check it out; that kinda rhymes). The exhibit preps rolled them in all morning… one-by-one and two-by-two. At the time of this writing, the once modest Hall E has been almost completely transformed from a small underground corner of the museum into what can only be described as a shrine waiting to happen.

The hall looks like the scene of a very thorough crime. Scattered everywhere along both of the long, narrow corridors are small cylindrical columns, thick rectangular bases, and short odd-sided platforms; their brushed and pebbled copper finishes just as they stood in the Smithsonian (in design if not in placement.) Even though the mounts fill space in the hall, their presence without the artifacts in place creates an incredible vacuum. Imagine an entire art gallery full of empty frames.

I’m a rational guy. I’ve seen The Magic of Myth in D.C. I know that what’s coming here in just a few days is pretty much the same stuff I saw a few years ago. But walking into the hall this afternoon; seeing all those empty spaces and knowing what the place will look like by this time next month…

Le Penguin
“Excuse me, I have something in my eye…”

Journal of the Myths – Part I

Wednesday, May 24th, 2000

Well, the future home of Magic of Myth is currently as empty as a Dean Devlin screenplay, which means that sometime next week, the wonderful prep boys (and girls) will begin construction of the dividing wall and start matching up colors for the paint and carpeting in the hall. Installation-wise, there’s not going to be anything terribly interesting to report on/brag about until the middle of June, but here are a few things of interest that have come up…

  • Contrary to earlier reports, the original audio tour from the Smithsonian exhibit will be included with the tour.
  • The case layouts I’ve seen haven’t shown any room for Episode I artifacts (I love using that word when talking about SW). However, I haven’t seen the layouts for the exhibit’s entrance, so it’s possible that the EpI additions will be located somewhere in or around the SW store.
  • There’s no room for the massive Jabba diorama from the original expo, but most of the artifacts (there’s that word again!) from the display will still be included in the exhibit. These include: Leia’s slave costume, Klaatu, the Rancor model, and the skiff and sail barge models. I’m not sure if we’ll have Salacious Crumb on display anywhere. If we do, then the only thing missing from the original diorama will be the scaled down Jabba… which I wasn’t to hot on in the first place.
  • Thanks to SUE the T-rex, we can expect longer lines than usual for general admission into the museum. I know, I know, none of us are strangers to waiting in line (“three hours… PAH!!”) but why wait if you don’t have to?! Here’s an obvious tip: if you can avoid it, don’t show up on weekends or Wednesdays.

As always, none of this stuff is set in stone and is subject to change without advance notice. For the museum’s official word on the exhibit — including opening and closing dates, admission prices, and museum hours — go to the Field Museum Website.

Le Penguin
“Patience! For the Jedi it is time to eat as well.”

Update: Le Penguin writes in with this to say:

   The Lucasfilm crates will begin arriving on June 13. I’m hoping to get a good look at what goes into the storage, transport, and mounting of stuff like Yoda and the vehicle prototypes.

To find out more, be sure to read part 2 of our exciting series.