Sad to hear that Peter Mayhew, known largely as the actor who portrayed Chewbacca in five Star Wars films, passed away this week at the age of 71. Yet Mayhew’s death occurring two days before “Star Wars Day” (May the 4th be with you) probably resulted in even more attention and appreciation for his career than it otherwise may have received.
But maybe not. Chewbacca was a beloved, iconic character in the most famous movie franchise of all time (well, until Marvel and the Avengers came along). Mayhew’s death was going to be news. But a community came together online and in person, due to social media and Star Wars Day, to express their affection, which made it just that much more special.
— If you missed the last Overzealous Recycling, you can read it here —
Growing up with Star Wars (though I often recap my love of comic books and superheroes more), Han Solo was the coolest character for me. Roguish, charming, a little bit unethical, but ultimately noble. He wore a slick vest and piloted the best starship in the galaxy. Yet as I got older (and old), I developed more affection for Chewbacca. And not just because I often express myself with roars and grunts too.
Chewbacca was exceedingly loyal to his friends. He could be ferocious, but also tender. And there’s a sadness and mystery to his backstory that’s often only hinted at in the movies. Mayhew did such a fine job of expressing Chewie’s range of emotions under that mask. With just a nod, a wide-mouthed roar, or chuckle with that jaw, he showed skepticism, sarcasm, bemusement, humor, pride, rage and anguish. Sure, some of that was camera work, editing, writing and sound effects. But Mayhew gave those Star Wars directors a solid canvas to work from.
We just lost a part of our collective childhoods. Rest in peace, Peter Mayhew.
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** Is Game of Thrones the last show we’ll watch together as a culture? Will we ever again be united as an audience in our shared complaining about the dim light that the Battle of Winterfell was shot under? Probably not, since so many of us watch most of our TV at our own pace now. [Vulture]
** Buying older issues (or back issues) of comic books was once what made comics shops seem like such special places. Then those comics were often collected in trade paperbacks, hardcover omnibuses, or reprinted as single issues, and the back issue market suffered. But those old comics are apparently big business again, as fans and collectors seek out first appearances of superheroes or key storylines from their favorite movies. [Comic Book Resources]
Speaking of comics shops, I interviewed Scott Russell — co-owner of Pastimes in Asheville, North Carolina — in anticipation of Saturday’s Free Comic Book Day for my latest episode of The Podcass. We had a fun discussion about the business of running a comics shop and the industry as a whole.
Which app do you use to listen to your favorite podcasts? I’m an iPhone user, so I went with Apple Podcasts until about a year ago. Podcasts kept getting cut off for me, and a quick Google search told me this was a problem for many other people. I found many recommendations for Overcast, and it’s been my podcast app of choice ever since.
Last week, Overcast added a cool new feature that allows listeners to share a clip from a podcast on social media, like you might with a video. For example, here’s a clip from the interview I mentioned with Scott Russell about Free Comic Book Day.
Now if you want to recommend a podcast or just share a quick excerpt, you don’t have to send a link to the whole show. (Hopefully, you were helping out with a timestamp.) You can share or embed a 30-second clip. That social aspect was one thing podcasts were lacking, and it’s pretty cool that Overcast has addressed it. Yet another reason to make it your podcast app. (But you can also subscribe on iTunes and Apple Podcasts!)
** Nobody has to write under tighter deadlines — especially if working for print publications — than sportswriters. News and political writers may face deadlines on election nights, but that’s routine for beat reporters covering a baseball, basketball or hockey team. There is most definitely an art to writing on a deadline, which makes the outstanding work collected in The Great American Sports Page so impressive. [The Atlantic]
My experience writing under a tight deadline is limited (and I know I’ve pushed it with a couple of editors over the years), but there’s also a rush to it. During the few times I’ve been in a press box, I tried to watch how everyone worked, how they wrote ahead, how they had to change copy depending on circumstances, etc. I did a lot of peering over shoulders, learning as much as I could.
** This is either fascinating or kind of gross, depending how you feel about big corporate ownership. (Both feelings are not mutually exclusive, either!) As a result of the Disney-Fox merger, Disney now owns the rights to the Avatar sequels. So along with Star Wars and Marvel, Disney owns the top three movie franchises. And it might not help Avatar’s value if Avengers: Endgame breaks its all-time global box office record ($2.8 billion). [Forbes]
Grocery Store Playlist
My most recent shopping trip was to Trader Joe’s, so this latest Grocery Store Playlist has a slightly different vibe to it. I might hear most of these songs at Ingles, the main supermarket chain here in Asheville, but this playlist has a couple of deeper cuts that I needed Shazam to find.
For me, the standout on this list is “Turn It On Again.” Genesis just hit that sweet spot. It’s probably a reminder that I was too harsh on Phil Collins a few newsletters ago. (Although “Groovy Kind of Love” truly is an awful song.)
** If I was an editor commissioning a piece on Chipotle and its representation of Mexican food in the United States, I’d definitely try to hire Gustavo Arellano to write it. Arellano’s book, Taco USA, looked at how American cuisine has co-opted Mexican culture, and his syndicated column “Ask a Mexican!” dispelled many notions white people had about Latinos. So well done, Eater. [Eater]
** I’m not sure I spent more time thinking about something I read this week than this NY Times feature on housing demographics in large cities like Raleigh, North Carolina. As minorities become more affluent and move into the suburbs, whites are increasingly moving into cities — buying newly built properties in neighborhoods that had been abandoned and discarded. I’m still not certain how I feel. Is this a different form of gentrification? [New York Times]
** Is “sci-fi” a bad word for literary authors? If your work is considered Literature with a capital “L,” are you slumming if anything you write could fit into a genre like sci-fi, fantasy or romance? Ian McEwan wants no part of his novel Machines Like Me being labeled “sci-fi” — even though it involves alternate history, robots, and artificial intelligence — which perpetuates the notion that genre fiction is somehow lesser. [The Guardian]
It was quite a thrill to have a review of Avengers: Endgame in print. I was one of three writers Edwin Arnaudin asked to join in the fun for Mountain Xpress ran (Multiple Endgame reviews ran because few other movies opened in Asheville last weekend.)
And if you’re interested in an audio review, Chris Cox and I shared our reactions to Endgame on The Amusement Park Podcast. Consider yourself warned, however. We get into major spoilers during our discussion. (You can subscribe to the APP on iTunes.)
** As a comic book fan, I always liked Captain America, especially the J.M. DeMatteis-Mike Zeck and Mark Waid-Ron Garney creative runs. (Although Hawkeye was always my favorite Avenger.) But Steve Rogers has become a favorite of mine because of the movies. Chris Evans is a big reason for that. One intriguing tidbit in this feature: Evans says he’d like to direct a Marvel film someday. [Men’s Journal]
** It’s been difficult for me to lose myself in fiction after studying literature and creative writing so thoroughly at Iowa. For the past 15 years, my brain has dealt better with reading nonfiction. But Don Winslow is breaking through that personal barrier. I’m hoping to read The Power of the Dog and The Cartel this summer, then move on to The Border. This interview gets into his writing process, along with his appreciation for great crime cinema and fiction — which you’d probably expect. [Southwest Review]
** I was on the clock at Awful Announcing when news of WFAN’s Craig Carton being arrested by the FBI broke. A sports talk radio host being involved in an investment fraud scheme seemed unusual enough. But how long and deep Carton’s involvement with gambling debts and Ponzi schemes, vices which cost him a lucrative career in radio and has him facing nearly 50 years in prison, is an intriguing story. [New Yorker]