Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Your Audiology Tutorial, Auditory Processing, Part II

NOTE: Part One was posted in November 2010.  Um, sorry for the delay...

Recently I was the substitute teacher for a graduate class of Speech Language Pathology students.  The topic for the session was auditory processing, which has been defined a few ways:

"A deficiency in one or more of the auditory behaviors.  (An individual with an auditory processing disorder) is unable to attend to, discriminate, recognize, or understand auditory information and therefore has trouble making sense out of what is heard" (Yellin, 2004).


"Difficulties in the perceptual processing of auditory information in the central nervous system, and in the neurobiologic activity that underlies those processes" (ASHA APD Working Group, 2004)

In the earlier entry I began to list the sub-tests typical for an APD battery.  Continuing.....

-Staggered Spondaic Word Test (SSW): a dichotic (different signals simultaneously to both ears) listening test with bi-syllabic words presented partially overlapping in time, one to each ear.   The SSW is designed to assess auditory integration and the brain's ability to handle a more challenging environment for word understanding.  It considers "order effect", omissions, substitutions, and more in its highly complex scoring system.

-Phonemic Synthesis: an evaluation of the smallest units comprising a word (phoneme) in terms of the patient's awareness of them and the ability to fuse two or more together. Such skills are critical for reading.  The test requires the patient to respond with a word after hearing stimuli that consists of a set of phonemes separated by one second intervals.

-Auditory Continuous Performance Test (ACLT): Assessment of a patient's attention.  He or she is asked to respond when a target word (one version uses "dog") is announced among a list of "distractor" words.  The test is lengthy and almost becomes hypnotic for some participants.  It can be easy to lose track, especially for those diagnosed with ADD or ADHD.  An "impulsivity" error occurs if the patient responds to something other than the target.

The SCAN (Screening Test for Auditory Processing Disorders) is also sometimes implemented.  With versions for both children and adults, the SCAN is made up of several sub-tests including competing words/sentences, filtered words (distorted), and figure ground (identifying messages in the presence of competing noise). Some clinics may only use this set of tests for their evaluation.

Additionally, the Token Test can assess auditory comprehension skills in its evaluation of the patient's responses to verbal commands that become more and more complex.  A set of plastic colored tiles of various shapes are used and the tester will begin with something like "point to the blue circle" and progress to "place the blue circle on the orange square..." and so forth.

Treating an auditory processing disorder usually involves a modification of the learning/communication environment. Distance and background noise are factors that affect communication.  The most common strategy: preferential seating in the classroom.  Placing sound absorbing materials such as stuffed animals or even tennis balls can help.  Acoustic tiles are recommended.  Managing auditory overload is key. Assistive technology can improve the SNR (signal-to-noise ratio) in the room.  An FM system - devices worn by both student and teacher for wireless communication- is commonly used.

Audiological approaches involve attempts to strengthen a patient's localization skills, sequencing and memory, phonemic synthesis, the ability to recognize speech in noise (noise desensitization), and multi-modal integration.  Compensatory strategies can include the rephrasing of words, written and verbal assignments, and "chunking" - the breaking down of long messages or lists into smaller components and grouping concepts or objects together.  Computer programs like Fast Forward and Interactive Metronome have documented results in assisting with treating APDs. 

Not every audiologist performs the APE battery due to time constraints, reimbursement difficulties, and sometimes even lack of interest.  Call around.  Most audio clinics/ENT offices know of someone to whom you can be referred if their provider does not conduct these evals.  Universities with an Au.D. program and the school board in your area are good sources.  

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Danger: Diabolik

1968's DANGER: DIABOLIK, for all of its eccentric sets and occasional flashes of psychedelia, was a bit surprising in its rather flat presentation.  The trailer suggests a garish, over-the-top James Bond/Matt Helm-like adventure with excess in every frame.  Despite a scene where the two main characters make love on a spinning bed under and among millions of dollars, and a tracking shot of a line of hipsters smoking buddha, the movie goes about its tasks with a low profile, with less energy than expected.

To boot, John Philip Law is his usual expressionless self in the lead, a master criminal called Diabolik who seems quite fond of the high life and has a statuesque girlfriend Eva Kant (Marisa Mell), though like many such individuals may get off more on the difficulty to attain/keep them. He's a walking comic strip (in fact based on a real Italian source), sometimes clad in fetish gear as he works.  Inspector Ginco (Michel Piccoli) has been forever trying to apprehend him and capitalizes on the publicity surrounding a costly emerald necklace, certain that Diabolik will be tempted to steal it from the Saint Just Castle. The movie, by the way, takes place in a generic European country.

Rival criminal/mobster Valmont (Alfredo Celi, perfectly cast) also wants Diabolik and makes a deal - under duress- with Ginco in exchange for leniency if he can nab and deliver the elusive thief.  The plot will further involve laughing gas, melted gold, exploding train tracks, and two faked deaths.  It sounds like grand fun, and DANGER: DIABOLIK coasts on its '60s vibe alone, but director Mario Bava (better known for horror flicks) fails to give the movie any real zip or pace.  It's serviceable and competent, but unimaginative.  Far too long, too. Not the expected grindhouse guilty pleasure.  Bava's screenplay dutifully goes through the paces, but it all feels stale, despite a few eye filling moments and attractive vistas. Ennio Moricone's score is deliciously overwrought.

But I really dug the sets, especially the underground fortress in which the finale plays out.  Diabolik's pad is also very cool.  Maybe some Bel Air or Palm Beach residents sought a similar look for their cribs.

Thursday, July 23, 2015


Spoilers Within!

Say what you will about Russ Meyer, the man responsible for some of the cheekiest, most bitingly satiric, and most blush and groan inducing softcore of the 50s-70s, but you have to admit the man knew how to direct a movie.  Really had a handle on pacing, shot composition, transitions, and narrative drive.  His screenplays, which featured some unusually sharp dialogue for this disreputable genre, have musings on social and political issues with a bit more erudition than you'd typically find.   This was often due to film critic Roger Ebert's frequent collaboration (sometimes under a pseudonym, and who could blame him?).  The main draw for a Meyer movie were those impossibly buxom women and scene after scene of lascivious liasions, of course, but ol' Russ usually had it both ways - a merry plunge into carnality while meanwhile offering winking commentary on it.

1975's SUPERVIXENS is sometimes considered the CITIZEN KANE of sleazy drive-in sex romps.  Not entirely overstated.  It's a lengthy (for this genre), caustic, delirious adventure through the desert as hapless Clint Ramsey (Charles Pitt) tries to clear his name after a dirty cop named Harry Sledge (Meyer favorite Charles Napier) kills Clint's crazily oversexed, patently evil wife SuperAngel (Shari Eubank) and pins the murder on him.  Clint's journey involves several detours, each with a lusty female who also has the word "Super" in her name.

One cannot accuse Meyer of homogeneity with his women as several ethnicities are represented. One is even deaf!  All insatiably horny, true, but none (other than SuperAngel, but she's evil so it's O.K.) are mere victims.   In fact, female empowerment is a running motif here.  Or are they just manipulative?  What would Gloria Steinem have thought of this movie? Or even Erica Jong?  Were they familiar with the similar girrrl power on display in Meyer's FASTER PUSSYCAT KILL! KILL!??

That said, Meyer's films sometimes also include some potent violence.  BEYOND THE VALLEY OF THE DOLLS, probably Meyer's best known work, had some such moments. SUPERVIXENS features a surprisingly gruesome death scene for SuperAngel in a bathroom at the hands of Harry, who was insulted due to his lack of potency.  The scene goes a bit far, too far, and further than such a mostly lighthearted film would be expected to.  But while many drive-in comedies that package sex and violence keep both fairly light, Meyer's violent scenes are relentless.  Is there more commentary here?  A sobering slap to the audience who are there to be simply be titillated? Is there some maturity in the director's strategy? Was Ebert an influence? Maybe, but there are many viewers who also crave this sort of red meat, and don't care if the tone of the picture is uneven.  And would miss/not care about any serious undercurrent.

But the silly Benny Hill type moments predominate in SUPERVIXENS, and Meyer always shows sex scenes for what they are - completely absurd.  Some of the outdoor unions are especially uproarious.  Ebert once said, "There's nothing as ridiculous as someone else's sexual fantasies and nothing as intriguing as your own." 

Monday, July 20, 2015

Star Wars (No, not THAT one!)

Thursday, July 16th 2015 was a Hall of Fame awful day. I mean, really bad.  I almost wish I could tell you about it.  But there were two events in the entertainment world that assauged at least a bit of the aftertaste that day. Criterion finally announced their release of MULHOLLAND DRIVE (coming in October).  Knew that one was coming.  But later that day I discovered that Wilco was offering a new, free album! Called Star Wars! With a fluffy white kitty on the cover!

The album is a little over one-half hour.  Many songs are under three minutes.  Is this a throwaway effort? After a few listenings, I would say no, but I don't expect any new converts, especially when Nels and company perpetuate that grinding dissonance, as on "You Satellite".   As before, I detect some Beatlesque elements in the vocal and guitar. A bit of Sonic Youth, too.   Some tasty, albeit brief, licks on "Pickled Ginger". "Cold Slope" grabbed me on first listen with some staccato phrasing, doubled on the axe.  Tweedy's voice gets some filtering here and there. The melancholia still comes through.  Like just about every Wilco release, it's a grower, soon to be indispensable I'm sure.  Nice job, guys.

NOTE: Star Wars will get an official release on CD in August and on LP in November.  Currently, there are a few ways to download it for free, including through iTunes.

Friday, July 17, 2015


There never was a better showcase for Chevy Chase's detached, deadpan shtick than 1985's FLETCH.  In a career littered with far more misfires than successes, Chase more or less played the same indifferent smartass each time.  Many comedians (and actors, for that matter) are stuck in a certain recognizable persona with which they willfully exploit no matter what the script gives them to do.  Chase dined out on the same trademarked mannerisms so many times you wonder how he would've played Willy Loman had he been given the chance.

FLETCH is based on a '70s mystery novel by Gregory MacDonald and has maybe a similar tone but otherwise is far astray.  Chase interprets the character of L.A Times reporter Irwin Fletcher as a tired, sardonic, quick witted slacker who's behind on his alimony and his deadlines.  A big story involving drug trafficking on the beach, with a possible tie to corrupt cops, is brewing and Fletch has spent weeks trying to assimilate with a group of derelicts to get the inside info.  This and many other plot developments allow Chase to don an array of disguises.  Sometimes fake teeth, nerdy hornrims, or an afro.  He uses so many aliases throughout the film one almost requires a scorecard.

Fletch is also approached by a wealthy man named Alan Stanwyk (Tim Matheson) who offers him $50,000 to kill him.  Stanwyk alleges that he has bone cancer and would rather not be around once things deteriorate.  He also wants to ensure that his wife receives the benefit of his life insurance policy.  A carefully detailed plan is explained.  Fletch, skeptical as ever, agrees to the offer but naturally begins an investigation.  Some troubling discoveries are made in between rectal exams and narrow escapes from attack dogs.  Is there a connection between Stanwyk and the activities on the beach?

Andrew Bergman's screenplay maintains interest with the central plotline.  The mystery is actually fairly engrossing.  I wonder how a more faithful adaptation - without the near non-stop wisecracks- would've played.  It would've been a different movie.  As is, it's a showcase for its star.  And a damn good one if I do say so my damn self.  Chase is actually a good fit here.  What should've been an unfortunate collision instead becomes a Star Vehicle that actually doesn't warm the back of my neck.

Director Michael Ritchie guides the moody celebrity quite well through all manner of genre business, including the inevitable car chase.  I prefer the quieter scenes, ones observant of behavior, as when Fletch travels to Utah to visit Stanwyk's parents. It's like something out of an Ansel Adams painting with dialogue penned by Will Rogers or Garrison Keillor. The dead on Americana commentary in this scene is reminiscent of Ricthie's films in the '70s like SMILE, THE BAD NEWS BEARS, and THE CANDIDATE.

I suppose you can enjoy FLETCH without being a fan of Chase, but it really helps if you enjoy his smugness, his sarcasm.  Much of the movie's dialogue has a permanent fixture in pop culture lore.  There are even burritos at Moe's inspired by it.  You may find yourself quoting the film almost involuntarily.  I certainly felt a grin that night I told a waiter to "put it on the Underhill's" tab and he got it.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Shattered Glass

It's interesting that the story that would be the genesis of New Republic reporter Stephen Glass' downfall involves a computer hacker who is given a job at the company whose system he hacked.  The article, a complete fabrication by its author, nonetheless does mirror those times when a victim is so impressed by their oppressor's craft that they can't help but offer them some sort of alliance.  Reward their acumen.

As I watched 2003's SHATTERED GLASS part of me kept thinking that instead of canning the guy maybe New Republic should've rather been impressed with this obviously talented writer and reassigned/referred him as a fiction editor somewhere.  Yes, make him apologize to your readers, say his mea culpas and then take the guy out for a celebratory scotch, already.

Of course there are issues of journalistic ethics, plagiarism and a myriad other concerns.  And I'm certainly not advocating the sort of methods Glass employed.  Maybe I'm just a snark who is mindless and disrespectful of the scared code of journalism and "reporting the truth".   Another unpopular view I sometimes hold regards "insider trading" in the stock market: if we engage in this capitalistic game which is essentially a legal horse race anyway, those with privileged knowledge perhaps should win.  You can't create a zero sum game and then cry foul when someone gets an angle.  Yes, I know.  Thus speaketh my evil persona.  I rub my face and remember my faith, my morality.

Glass' story (which unfolded in the late 1990s) seems less shocking with each passing year.  With media outlets' hysterical 'round the clock reporting.  Highly respected news anchors falling from grace over partial truths.  Many younger folk get their news from the likes of John Stewart.  My wry self might respond, the news deserves a Daily Show treatment anymore.  Domestic and world events (and people's reactions to them) are increasingly beyond satire.  But maybe it's always been that way, and now we just have more reporters.  Keep in mind I'm not downplaying the seriousness of much of the terror and oppression in the world.

Billy Ray, who cites Woodward and Bernstein as childhood heroes, wrote and directed SHATTERED GLASS.  His work is competent but strangely uninspired.  A bit like a fairly well crafted TV program.  Many viewers seem fairly easy to please regarding this sort of method.  With all the cries of how much better  many television programs are than films these days, I'd guess that several folks will give SHATTERED GLASS high marks.   The film remains compelling if you're already interested in the subject.

Hayden Christiansen does fine as Glass, though if you watch interviews with the real guy you'll see that the actor really soft pedaled the creepier aspects of his personality.  I was squirming during a DVD extra as Glass attempts to explain his way out of several questions.  Would a more accurate portrayal have made the film better? Different, for sure.  A deeper psychoanalysis of the guy could've allowed a mini classic.  I did enjoy the relationship between Glass and his new editor, Chuck Lane (an excellent Peter Sarsgaard), the latter of whom gradually learns the truth.  This element of the story elevates things a bit.  But overall, SHATTERED GLASS is a essentially a watchable, reasonably compelling drama that draws inspiration from a film like ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN but doesn't come anywhere near its mastery.

Friday, July 10, 2015

The Old Neighborhood

I escaped it in the spring of 1990. The old 'hood. After nearly fifteen years.  Honestly, I couldn't wait to bolt.  The reasons are numerous. My childhood was generally happy, but I spent a lot of it witnessing my parents' marriage fall to pieces.  Hearing their arguments while I tried to nod off to sleep.  In the last year or so, while still in college, I remained with my father following my mother's departure.  Things were fine until the last few months.  The deterioration was dramatic. His bitterness, tough to take. The anger against my mother and grandmother seethed until I couldn't even be around the man any longer.

But not just that.  The neighborhood itself was ancient and modest.  It never suited me.  It seemed sad and defeated.  Most of my friends lived in more affluent areas.  There were times during childhood when a pal would remark how small my house was.  First grade: Charlie was a sweet kid as I remember but he did let out a comment or two to that effect.  I shrugged it off.  I've usually been good at shrugging things off.  Then in fourth grade my friend Jeff began explaining how much nicer his house was.  He was a bit of a brat.  I got more defensive.  But I did agree with him.

The area was and is an interesting potpourri of classic architecture and post WW2 wooden "box houses".  There were really cool Spanish mission style abodes, in one of which I lived in my freshman through senior years in high school. I did like that place, and would love it now.  Some homes in my old 'hood were very well manicured and others reflected their owners' apathy.  Here and there was a newer one-story.  Even in the 70s and 80s, several of our neighbors spoke little English, though it did not stop them (or us) from being neighborly.  That was a good point about the 'hood, granted.

But a pity about that strange couple to whom we lived next door for seven years.  The wife was a prototypical busybody, endlessly fascinated with every move about on our street.  She probably had a pair of field glasses. Boy, was she pissed when my father erected a fence between our back yards!  I learned later that her first husband was a convicted child molester. He had a shed in that yard and lured children there for ice cream.  These events occurred before I was born. One potential victim was the older brother of my friend down the street, the one who I've recently gotten back in touch after three decades.

One typically scorching day about a year ago I parked on Garden Avenue and walked around my old streets. I stopped in front of the three places I had lived between 1976 and 1990. New paint jobs.  A gardenia bush was missing. The garden apartment behind the first place was still there.  I remembered these guys who lived there when I was 9 or 10.  They had smoked marijuana and made faces at me. Then I passed that formerly estranged friend's house (where his mother, now a widow, still lives), reminded of all the football games on the front lawn, the games of "Marco Polo" in his pool.  Secretly pining for his older sister.

Unlike back in the day, my old street now dead ends into a nice park that was built in the early '90s. I circled it a few times.  Long before its existence the school bus would to turn off Parker and chug down to stop in front of my house.  When the headlights would come into view my stomach would churn.  One day in 1977, snowflakes landed on my jacket as I climbed the steps.  Riding the bus was a wild experience.  Having eighth graders and kindergartners in the same vehicle was an amazingly bad idea.

Beginning with third grade, I transferred to the more local public schools, all within walking distance.  On the way home, we'd stop at convenience stores for Slim Jims or RCs.  Throw rocks at the water tower because they made a cool sound.  Sometimes the high school kids would scream or pretend to lunge at us as they walked by.  They looked like friggin' giants.   There was also a huge St. Bernard that chased us down the block.

I headed back east down my street, thinking on all the neighbors of the past.  Most memorable was a wealthy woman who always invited everyone for a New Years' Eve party.  Great food and Dick Clark's countdown.  Her house was as ornate as any of the other House Beautiful candidates down closer to the Intracoastal.  She was a godly, generous woman who took care of her husband, reduced to unintelligible utterances after a stroke some years earlier.  One day she told me that her insomnia was managed by the assurances of the New Testament.  Several years ago I began a short story based on this couple, one I've yet to revisit and complete. Hopefully soon.

I had other friends and classmates in the neighborhood, some a block or two over.  I walked by their houses and recalled how I felt about them, and vice versa.  There was one who was like a sister.  In later years, I had a serious crush on her but was too stupid (maybe shy) to act on it.  I chat with her on Facebook and she is still the same genuine person as she was in elementary school.  There was another girl on another street with whom I never was friends - she was snotty and unpleasant.  I heard she moved back to her homeland: Greece.  Her old house looked like hell. Wonder what she would say if she saw it now?  I bet she never thinks on the old hood, at least not the way I do.  She probably acknowledges it with contempt, maybe denial.

And for years I did the same.  But in recent times I've grown to appreciate it. Funny how that happened.  Maybe it's natural, a part of aging to long for the past, good or bad.  There is comfort in its presence, knowing it is still there, largely intact.  Aside from a few signs of progress and reshingling it appears much as it did thirty plus years ago.  Being there is like stepping back in time. It's fun (and occasionally necessary) to visit. In a way, it's like a recalibration of my mind and soul.   When I drove through the old neighborhood earlier this year there were even kids on skateboards and playing basketball in a driveway, just like during my childhood  They have no idea what played out there once upon a time.  But then, neither did I when I was younger.  If those houses and trees could talk......

Monday, July 6, 2015

Upstream Color

There are roundworms.  And pigs, several pigs.  Swimming pools, recording devices, glasses of water, rocks, trains, knives, a gun. The novel Walden.  Not mere props.  All are integral to 2013's UPSTREAM COLOR.  There are scene fragments with abstract imagery during its entire ninety five minutes.  The average shot length seems to be three seconds.  There are people, too.  A woman named Kris (Amy Steimetz), a figure credited as "Thief" (Thiago Martins), a pig farmer and location recorder known as "Sampler" (Andrew Sensenig), and Jeff (Shane Carruth, also the film's writer, director, composer, cinematographer, and co-editor).

The events in this film reveal themselves gradually.  Depending on how observant you are, perhaps only after the film has concluded.  Some may long for a cinematic equivalent to Cliffs Notes to get a handle on it. This is a very mysterious motion picture, one of the most enigmatic I've seen.  A palate of  vivid color and rich sounds (this is a foley artist's dream) that evoke memories of Antonionni and Malick.  A work of art to be pondered and discussed.  Obsessed over.  Many will find it random and meaningless.  Distance yourself from such people.

Kris is a victim of mind control at the hands of Thief.  She survives near starvation, depletion of funds, and the ingestion of larva before meeting Jeff, who has likewise suffered misfortune.  They connect, unsure as to why.  Their courtship is not initially romantic.  They begin to argue about their histories - she accusing he of co-opting her memories, stories she's told him about her childhood.  They notice identical scars on their bodies.  Were they both victims of the same evil (though oddly comforting and reassuring) presence?  Are there many others out there of similar experience?

The Sampler wanders about a pig farm, recording both natural and contrived sounds, for some sort of music.  We first see him removing a parasite (via a transfusion) from Kris's arm, later transferring it to one of the pigs, who are as important to the film as any element can be.  Grisly events occur.  Sad things that seem to run parallel with the experiences of Kris and Jeff.  Thoreau's classic novel of individualism, reconnection to nature, and spiritual awareness figures largely in UPSTREAM COLOR, both as a plot (such as it is) device and as a theme that washes over the film's conclusion.  A character even quotes it from memory.

Disparate elements, seemingly.  Carruth never orchestrates easy connections, but for the keen eye they are certainly there. There are cycles of destruction to be observed and ultimately disbanded. Loss and resurrection. Rebirth.

Carruth had earlier puzzled us with 2004's PRIMER, a most imaginative science fiction feature that was shot on a shoestring.  His themes are just as ambitious this time, though more humanistic. His experimental nature of plotting and editing leaves him in a very select class of filmmaker.  Both films require significant effort but are as vital as much great literature.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Return of the Jedi

Episode VI of the STAR WARS saga, RETURN OF THE JEDI, was for my fourteen year old self a tremendously satisfying film going experience.  By 1983, my affection for these characters and their plight was at levels that might've been cause for concern. The way some of my female classmates were involved with characters from soap operas like General Hospital, speaking of them as if they were friends or family, was how I felt towards Luke, Han, Princess Leia, C3PO, R2-D2, et al.  Never had I been so engaged in fictional worlds and their inhabitants, even in novels. George Lucas had created something engaging, so unlike anything else, yet with all the trappings of your average science fiction opus.  It's still hard to explain.

By this time, Luke has almost completed his Jedi training. He indeed returns to free Han Solo (who was imprisoned in carbonite at the close of THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK) from the clutches of the disgusting Jabba the Hutt.  The action occurs on his home planet of Tattooine amongst another large gallery of weird creatures, including with an arthropod-like sand beast that is essentially a large mouth with rows of teeth and a deep belly into which its victims are digested forever.  This battle sequence is very imaginatively designed and directed by Richard Marquand.  It provides pubescent boys with thrills not limited to Leia's much discussed two piece.

But most of RETURN takes place on the forest planet of Endor, home of the teddy bear-like Ewoks, beloved by many series devotees, detested by others.  The Ewoks are cute, but fierce when they need to be and help the rebels push Imperial forces back while the Empire completes repair of the Death Star.  Luke will visit Yoda one last time and again faces Darth Vader, who continues his urgent campaign to recruit his son to the Dark Side. You know the rest.

After the potent drama of EMPIRE, RETURN OF THE JEDI seems a bit weak, content with itself.  Maybe coasting a bit.  Harrison Ford appears to be on auto pilot, though entertainingly so. Many fans decry the willing embrace of sentiment in this episode, with its abundance of cuddly creatures and a finale that left many misty eyed and red faced. For me, this was exactly how it was supposed to be.  The movie is a relief after its heart thumping predecessor, but no less thrilling.  A chase through Endor's forest and the final battle are standouts.  The characters are compelling as ever and my heart warms for them every time I watch the film.

After RETURN's theatrical run, Lucas announced that there would not be nine movies as advertised. I was disappointed but also delighted, as I loved how everything was tied up at the end.  I liked leaving these characters frozen in their happily ever after.  I could always revisit the trilogy and I did read many of the spinoff novels like Splinter of the Mind's Eye.  But time has proven differently, and as you know Episode Seven will be released this December. Lucas was not involved this time.  After my reactions to Episodes One through Three, I am not saddened.  We shall see.

But first, let's revisit those prequels, all directed by Lucas himself.  How could they miss....?