My First Lightsaber Class, or, How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Jedi

Yesterday, I booked it north after work to head up to Hollywood boulevard for my first ever lightsaber class.

No, seriously! Thanks to The Force Awakens, lightsaber combat and fitness are on the rise — meaning that, finally, classes are easier to find in most major cities. With two more months left until I had the insurance required for the West LA Kendo dojo, I was antsy to polish up on sword combat (something I hadn’t actually done in over a decade) and completely geek out at the same time. I didn’t know what to expect, but going in blind made for one of the most exciting and fun combat classes I’ve ever taken.

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Instructor Flynn Michael founded the original New York Jedi, and has been training in various martial arts since before I could walk. Our first class focused on the 8 Core Principles, which most combat arts are founded upon. Flynn was hilarious, knowledgable, and most importantly, easy to work with. I made instant friends with the other students, thanks to the fact that we were so distinctly amongst “our people” — saber swinging kids who used to jump off of our parents’ couches attempting to catch the air that the wild-flipping, top-of-their-game Jedi of the prequels could, or faced off against our friends in epic duels as Luke and Vader.

Factor in a comprehensive first class that made me reconsider the very way I stand on a regular basis, and it was almost too much fun. My upper body feels sore “in the good way,” and I actually feel calm today. This in itself is a feat, since anyone close to me can tell you how anxious and tense I can get at almost every hour of the day. I feel a lot more focused, but more than anything, I really want to get back to class. I guess that’s a bit weird to anyone who might look at this from an outside perspective, but the sheer amount of joy this class brought me topples the achy joints in my body tenfold. Going in without worrying about judgement — and writing about it now with as little care for my peers’ opinions on my hobbies as I can muster — is like a breath of fresh air. (For the record, my peers think it’s either neat or hilarious, which are both pretty decent outcomes for me.)

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Over the course of the class, we were taught basic forms, stances and swings, but the highlight had to be the very end, when we paired up and staged two combat skits. Some were more combat-heavy, a few others were more dramatic, but we had tons of fun regardless.

Anyway, I wrote this blog post mainly to spread the word. Our batch this time was pretty small, but I’m hoping to get Flynn and his folks back to L.A. for more classes in the future. If you’re into it, check out the Lightsabers L.A. page and ask for it!

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Announcements Regarding Podcasts and Vlogs for 2016

I’m narrowing down my schedule and committing to some great projects over the next year, including the continuation of Woman Up! Podcast (Live at 8PM PT on Wednesdays – follow here for the show schedule) with Sarah Rodriguez. Woman Up now has it’s own YouTube channel, where we’ll upload our episodes and extra vlogs! I’m also periscoping our pre-show, where Sarah and I brainstorm our ideas and pitch songs at each other before every podcast. Those will upload to my YouTube channel after the show!

I actually get to serve as co-host on a few shows this year, including From a Certain Point of View (weekly uploads here) and Hangin’ With Team Kanan (LIVE on Google Hangouts, Sundays at 10am PST). Comics in the Cantina (formerly Mos Eisley ComicPort) is now a monthly show with a wider focus — we’ll cover the most recent comics, then have a broad topic or guest interview to explore!

Topping off this incredibly unbalanced list of podcasts is #ForceFangirl (LIVE on Periscope every Thursday at 7pm PT), my half-hour block on Parachute TV dedicated to all things from a galaxy far, far away.

I’m still vlogging sporadically on my YouTube channel, primarily documenting my adventures in Los Angeles and talking about comics.

The only bad news here is that I’m indefinitely shutting down Mos Eisley Underground — because with that much on my plate, it’s just a tad too much to run a podcast network at the moment. Luckily for you, my friends at Making Star Wars have just launched an awesome podcast network that you should check out!

TL;DR

Here’s my show schedule:
From a Certain Point of View (weekly)
Comics in the Cantina (monthly)
Hangin’ With Team Kanan (LIVE Sundays at 10am PT)
Woman Up! Podcast (LIVE Wednesdays at 8pm PT)
#ForceFangirl (LIVE Thursdays at 7pm PT)

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DO WANT: Sphero’s Force Band

Every once in a while, a piece of tech meshes with my most nerdy obsessions, and my wallet cries — prematurely. This is one of those moments. 

After obsessing over the Sphere BB-8 to the point where I was practically The Worst Kid On Christmas about when I’d get it, I’ve had non-stop fun with my little droid, and it has quickly become a part of the family. From delighting my cat and little kids at the office to racing it against other BB-8 owners (VERY fun, by the way), I’ve gotten everything I paid for and more. 

Now, first debuted at CES, Sphero has unveiled its latest addition to my budget: The Force Band. 

One of the biggest selling points of Sphero’s BB-8, for me, was how intuitive and reactive it was. While it’s a galaxy far, far away from the AI capabilities of it’s on-screen inspiration, BB-8 still serves up hours of fun. But now, with the Force Band, Sphero has gotten just a step closer. 

With hand gestures, users will be able to control BB-8 in a more natural manner, making the droid react in ways that seem authentic outwardly and bring it to life that much more. While I haven’t gotten my grubby paws on it yet, the folks over at The Verge have, and their rundown of its capabilities had me bouncing in my chair from excitement: 

Here’s how the Force Band works, at least in its current state. Resting your hand to your side enters driving mode. With your palm down, Sphero looks away from you; with your palm up it looks toward you. Spin in place, and BB-8 spins with you. The direction also dictates where it drives, and the rolling speed is at least somewhat affected by your hand’s elevation. Waving your hand in place will enter a gesture mode — the only one that worked for me was a nod “yes” when we did a quick right jab — and then putting your hand back down re-engages driving mode.

The Force Band has no price or official release date, though right now, it looks like you should budget for Fall 2016 — which means we’re probably looking at another Force Friday release! Until then, make sure you keep BB-8 up to date, and may the Force be with you!

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Review: The Perfect Weapon by Delilah S. Dawson (Spoiler-Free)

The latest string of Star Wars short stories — three within the ‘Aliens’ collection, and this short story by Deilah S. Dawson — focus on a handful of supporting characters that are set to appear in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. While their roles in the film remain a mystery, the saga’s masterminds have skillfully revived a tradition established in the early days of the former Expanded Universe (now known as Legends): filling in the gaps with mountains of backstory that make even the slightest background character into someone interesting and real.

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In The Perfect Weapon, bounty hunter Bazine Netal takes center stage with an incredible heist and a sense of wit as sharp as any weapon. At first, Bazine seems to fit within the same sleeve as the legendary Asajj Ventress, a former Sith acolyte turned bounty hunter whose tragic, beautiful story started in The Clone Wars and continued in the pages of Christie Golden’s Dark Disciple (released this past summer). But Bazine is different — despite her own fiery pride, the assassin takes on her missions with a constant physical reminder of what happens when one does indeed get too cocky.

Netal’s adventure opens the character up in an honest manner, and she’s given time to show off who she is in order reveal secrets to the reader that one might not have guessed when they first saw her in the trailer for The Force Awakens.

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Dawson, known for artfully crafted dark romances and the supernatural, does an incredible job of fleshing out a complicated woman within less than sixty pages of story. Bazine’s vulnerability does not reduce her to a doe-eyed inner child so that readers are forced to feel sympathy for. Her rough upbringing is looked at through the honest, no-nonsense lens of Bazine herself.

Bazine Netal is an extremely enjoyable new addition to the canon, and almost every bit of her outward appearance is explained. From the caps that cover her skull to the massive heels that seem so deceptively difficult to run in (for Bazine, that’s the point — but there’s a lot more to it than just the element of surprise), every part of her is a believable and refreshing definition of this new character.

For a one-shot adventure, the story packs a punch without desperately trying to make too many direct connections to The Force Awakens. From start to finish, this is Bazine’s story, so it rarely points and grins at the seventh installment to the blockbuster saga; instead, we’re given more of what the new expanded canon is in a most direct sense — a look at that galaxy far, far away at certain points in it’s history that focus on the many people, creatures and droids that make it so massive.

Get your copy of this ebook — only $2 — right here.

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Light Side or Dark Side? Cute Star Wars Holiday Ornaments!

Now that all of us here in the U.S. are overstuffed with assorted meats (or non-meats) for what may be the next full week, it’s time to look forward to the festivities of the holidays. Decorating the Christmas tree was always a major tradition in my house — as was making our own ornaments. So when you take a ten year old Star Wars fan and leave her with tons of new, disposable mini figurines from assorted prequel promotions at local fast food joints, you get Anakin Skywalker as a Christmas tree ornament.

Yep — I used to glue hooks to my KFC toys and hang them on my tree. I was ten! They had to go somewhere!

But, for those of us looking to avoid covering our collectibles in superglue, creative Christmas ornaments are where it’s at. This year, in celebration of the Star Wars saga and December 18th’s release, Merchoid is releasing an adorable new line of figurines that I think you’ll really like. All of these ornaments are currently on pre-order, and discounted for your holiday glee!

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I LOVE the adorable blush on the Han (Hoth) ornament from the Empire Strikes Back set – it’s absolutely my favorite, and that’s saying a lot for a girl who prefers to root for Leia more than anyone else! I can’t resist my space boyfriend. What can I say?

Check out the full gallery below for details on each set:

All of these adorable designs are on sale on Merchoid new, and they’re an officially licensed line of goodies. I love these adorable little baubles and I can’t wait to add them to my collection – after all, who wouldn’t want to hang their glue-covered Darth Vader right near the Death Star Ornament?

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