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Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Thoughts Upon Star Wars - The Force Awakens

My dearest friends,

I think that it's about time now, almost 2 weeks after the official release of the Episode 7 of Star Wars, that we let the spoilers loose and say out loud what we thought of it. People had enough time to watch it (and rewatch it) and form an opinion. They already know if they love it, like it or if they succumbed to the Dark Side and they hate it. 
I did not go for the opening night, even thigh I really wanted to. Instead I went with dear friends on the afternoon of 19th December. To my defense, we had bought the tickets almost 2 months before the show, as soon as the information came out. It was a must and I remember how the platforms were down for several days - everyone wanted a piece of Star Wars history. To get ready of course we rewatched the Star Wars original trilogy + the Prequels + The Clone Wars cartoons ;) just to make sure we cover everything! We went to Star Wars Episode 7 ready to enjoy it - we even had Star Wars T-Shirts ;) I had one with the poster of "A New Hope" and Marek had one with 9 characters of the series ;) I knew only a few things from the trailers and I knew that they have chosen not to follow the expanded universe created by the books.... so everything was brand new! 
The moment the trailer got out - the very first one, the long trailer - and I heard Harrison Ford saying the line "Chewy, we're home", that is the moment I started crying... 30 years later and I realised I loved this characters still so much as I did the very first day I saw them. I rooted for them when I was a wee lass and I will root for them as long as I will live and it is clear for me now that our children will love them as well. They will grow up with it as we did :) But taking that aside... I think it's about time to speak of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The main idea that everyone shouts out loud and it's the very first thing we all said once we got out of the cinema: it's the "A New Hope" Star Wars 1977 movie, just with different small twitches and new characters.
About Rey - I love the fact that we finally have a female Jedi as the leading role. We had Luke in the original trilogy and we had Anakin in the Prequels as the leading role,  but now we have a girl kicking everyone's arses - one by one - and the feminist in me loves this idea. We did not have enough female character in the old series - true we did have kick arse Leia Organa being amazing with her strategy skills & we had Padme Amidala as a Queen and then Senator of Naboo, working her way through treaties and politics. As I truly believe she is part of the Skywalker - Solo family, though the Episode 7 does not say much about her roots, I think Rey will turn out to be an amazing character. She is already rated the best character of the Star Wars Episode 7 ;) even kicking BB8's shiny metal arse. Now I love Rey as she is a tough lady that knows how to live on her own, she knows how to fight her own battles and from what I saw I think she will be one kick arse Jedi - she only learns about the Force and she has visions of the past and can hear Obi Wan's voice + the moment she gets a hold on the lightsaber it is as if she was born for it, born to wield it. She is smart and strong like Leia, she feels the Force like Luke, yet she has amazing flying skills and she can figure out the Millennium Falcon... so she can either be Luke's daughter or Han and Leia's - Episode 8, I hope you come with an answer on this one!
About BB8 - this new droid got me thinking so much about R2-D2... it's as if they were family or something... so deep rooted with artificial intelligence that they could almost be human. I love some scenes that BB8 has with Finn (especially the thumbs up one, when all the cinema burst out laughing). In the old trilogy and the Prequels, the comic relief was done by R2-D2 and C3PO; in this one its mainly Finn and BB8 but they do a marvelous job :) they got me laughing each time. That does not mean that I do not miss my dear R2-D2... Somehow I wished for more space in the movie for him... BB8 steals his thunder as like in "A New Hope" when R2-D2 had the plans of the Death Star hidden inside him, now BB8 has the map of where Luke is located inside him. Coincidence? I think not! The whole movie follows closely Episode 4, and that is why probably it got such a wide acceptance + high IMDB score (currently 8.6 out of 10 stars!).
About Poe Dameron - I must admit he is my favorite new male character that the team brought to the new series. He reminds me both of Han Solo but also of Luke - we is warm and gentle, he loves BB8 and treats him as a good friend (like Luke with R2-D2), he has amazing flying skills (again like Luke but also like Han with the Millennium Falcon - he managed to do things which should not even be possible with a X-wing!). I would love to know more about his background and where he came from, how he developed into the man we see today; but I hope at least in Episode 8 we get a glimpse of that. I also love his chemistry with Finn, their relationship and the faith they develop in eachother. I love Poe is fearless and has no issue whatsoever attacking Kylo Ren with a blaster - even though I believe Poe has at least a vague idea of how strong the Force can be...
About Finn - I know everyone complains about Finn for different reasons. The main one being that we have a black character stealing the spotlight. All I want to say about this is: would you cut that out and relax?! Each of the trilogies has a dark skinned character that was quite a bad ass and brought light in the group: Mace Windu for the Prequels - the only Jedi with purple sword! & Lando Calrissian for the original Lucas trilogy - a smuggler domesticated, friend of Han Solo, leader of "The City in The Clouds". Now take a moment to think about that! I know it's quite a shock having someone from the Dark Side - Stormtroopers - crossing over to the Rebellion but I want to see how this develops. Also his relationship with Rey and Poe :) looking forward to that!
About Kylo Ren (Ben Skywalker-Solo) - now this is a painful subject. Everyone throws hate and bad vibes on this poor boy... the idea that Leia's and Han's boy was trained by Luke and then he became rogue and killed everyone else and went to the Dark Side - this is Anakin Skywalker turning Darth Vader all over again. The small but significant difference that a lot of people seem to forget is the fact that his training is not yet complete and that Kylo Ren (even though he has a different name now) is NOT a Sith Lord yet! When I look at him all I can see is a troubled child... a troubled child that manages to kill my childhood by killing one of the most beautiful characters of Lucas original trilogy. Kylo Ren kills his father, Han Solo, taking one step forward to the Dark Side. I wonder if they will try and use Rey (as they did Luke) and get Kylo to turn to the Light Side of the Force... let's face it... killing your father is quite a stepping point. Luke did NOT kill Darth Vader and he stayed with the Light Side; Kylo killed Han, so theoretically there should be no way back... Another thing that people have complained about his childlike behavior is the tantrums and fits he has. I remember being younger and having tantrums as well when something would not work the way I wanted. I would punch and hit so the energies would be released. Kylo Ren is in a tough moment - he wants to break away from the family yet he still feels the calling of the Force... he is not stable and as far as I can see he doesn't get much guidance. He needs someone to be with him. That is also why he loses the fight with Rey. He is not trained enough and it may be that this is his first Jedi fight with lightsabers - force choke and defending from blasters is one thing, going one on one with lightsabers is another. Oh! Don't forget he is also hurt and bleeding and Rey is quite damn strong with the Force.  Cut him some slack! I look forward to Episode 8 :)
The old team - Chewie: we don't see as much as him as we wish but I loved seeing him again with Han Solo. The saddest scene was watching him take off with the Millennium Falcon but without Han by his side... C3PO: why on earth does he have a red hand?! We have no explanation and I feel I need one! R2-D2: in a "coma" until BB8 brings the other half of the map that would lead them to Luke. Why is he not with Luke? Somehow I wanted more of my favourite droid :( Leia: she aged, her voice changed, but it's still somehow nice to see her, especially when Han is next to her. Is it really bad that I wanted them to kiss? Or that I wanted to see Leia and Luke and Han together for one more time? :( Luke: showing up only at the end of the movie, for a couple of second but stealing the thunder from everyone and making you think if he's going to train Rey :) I guess he is the new Yoda now... Han Solo: Han-Freacking-Solo-The-Hero-Of-My-Childhood dies!!! I knew it was coming, the moment he stepped on that bridge it was "A New Hope" again but I knew that Kylo Ren would not choose the best side of the Force... prepare tissues and prepare yourself for Han's son to be the new Darth, with the help of Supreme Leader Snoke... whom we know nothing of. Due to his hologram size I predict he is as small as a Yoda and that he may have some inferiority complex. I would like to know whom he is, how does he know of the Force, how he got in touch with Kylo Ren... there are too many questions unanswered :/ Episode 8, come quick!
Another small thing I need to raise my voice about is the fact that the Dark Side looks more and more like Hitler's army and the red-white-black colors in the scenes with the Stormtroopers and when they assemble... the scene where General Hux addresses the troops gathered up, that scene reminds me of Adolf Hitler speaking to the masses... let me know if you have the same feeling or if I am going mental here and making a fuss. General Hux could be the next Hitler ;) mark my words, he may not have the Force flowing through him, but that sir knows his stuff! 
Winning AFI Awards Movie of the Year 2016 and breaking one record after another, Star Wars Episode 7 - The Force Awakens - was a welcomed gift for Christmas for fans of all ages :) it is true that it could have been better, it is true that it is a copy of "A New Hope" with new characters and not necessarily the very best lines, but it reminded me of my childhood and it made me say I wish to see it again in the cinema. We saw it first as 3D and the battle scenes in space are glorious but... 2D is the next step. How about you? Have you seen it? Are you planning on re - watching it? What are your thoughts and feelings? I would love to hear it from you - did you feel the same as I did? :)

The Twisted Red LadyBug that very much enjoyed Star Wars Episode 7
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Sunday, 27 December 2015

Why Love The Star Wars Original Trilogy

My dearest sweethearts,

If we were to name the movies that everyone knows (not necessarily watched or liked/loved), surely Star Wars would grade up high on that list. To be sure, you can even Google this out, and you will see how in the top 5 villains of all time you have Darth Vader taking his position. His screentime, his actions and his way of being demands it and it would be hard to deny it... the Force is strong within him!
I have told you a few days ago why I love the Star Wars Prequels,  despite of the hate - flow coming towards them from the people who call themselves "Star Wars fans". Today I wish to share with you why I love the original Lucas Star Wars movies. When Lucas first started out his adventure with sci-fi he first bought up the rights to Flash Gordon. That is why he was so heavily influenced by the idea... along time he came with the idea of "A New Hope". Up to this day it amazes me the fact that he thought it would be a one - time movie. He never thought of it from the start as a series... he never knew how powerful it would become. The main story was the fight between Good (Luke Skywalker - Jedi) and Evil (Darth Vader - the Emperor).
Thankfully enough people understood the potential and they flocked towards the cinema. A mass media frenzy already starting... Think of the times back then, when the first movie was released, in 1977, when there was just the beginning of the mass media we know now. Most of the promotion was based on word-of-mouth; everyone who would be at that movie would tell several others about the most epic movie of all times: an epic space opera! It was selected to become part of the US National Film Registry by the Library of Congress in its first year of opening as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant"; at the time, it was the newest film to be selected, and it was the only film from the 1970s to be chosen. The film's soundtrack was added to the US National Recording Registry 15 years later. Today, it is often regarded as one of thegreatest films of all time, and is also considered by many to be one of the most important films in the history of motion pictures.
Nobody can deny the huge influence the original Lucas trilogy had and still has on movies, books, society at large... people quote Star Wars on a daily basis and it all works like magic! You know a fan when you meet him and you know that if you both watched the movies there is that secret bond between you that can never separate you. You will always have something in common that you love and respect. That is what Star Wars does :) it's a bridge between gaps of age/race... you name it! So here is some reasons I love the old trilogy:
1. The amazing one-of-the-kind story - nobody thought about anything even remotely similar before and George Lucas style was truly a revelation and a stepping stone in the history of movies and in the history of science fiction stories. He had the courage/madness to try to create something so completely different than what people tried until then, that people flocked to the cinema to watch and rewatch Star Wars. George give birth to the most beautiful science fiction story and the most amazing settings. He opened up a door to other movies of this genre and showed how much people can be attracted by space and "galaxies far far away" :) and I will always love him for that!
2. The space scenes never-seen-before & the fighting scenes in space - let's face it... each time I see the Millenium Falcon flying or making jumps through the hyperspace, my heart melts... every Star Wars movie, after the opening crawls, starts with an image of battleships in space - it's one of the movies trademarks. I could not live without it :) or try to imagine Star Wars "A New Hope" without the amazing (especially for that time, for 1977) fighting scenes at the Death Star. Red leader - Gold leader - stand by... they had no CGI back then so they had to do the fighting scenes with puppets and handmade x-wings and all done up to scale and shot up - close and personal so you would not see the guys maneuvering the props. They put a lot of hard work and dedication into building the original Star Wars and with a budget that now seems incredibly low. Way to go George!
3. The main story/idea that Star Wars initial trilogy tried to instill on people: Good always prevails over Evil; a person, no matter how dark he may have become, can still find his way towards the light. Darth Vader managed to come back to the light side of the Force through his son, Luke Skywalker. I love the fact that Luke, even though he finds out his father is the greatest villain in history, even though he killed so many people and is the huge icon of the Dark Side, he is still sure that "there is good in him". How he can sense it? Of course through the Force, that is a constant in the Skywalker family ;)
4. The characters - everyone loves them: Princess Leia Organa, a kick arse lady that does not need to be rescued, when needed she will fight and shoot better than any Stormtrooper; Luke Skywalker, who is such a huge contrast over what we are used to call a hero, he whines and he toils and he has moods (just like his father) and even though he is very good with flying ships (again this runs in the family) he is not the typical hero you root up for; Han Solo on the other hand... Now that is a smuggler and a good for nothing scum/villain, that you cannot help falling in love with :) it may be also due to Harrison Ford's amazing acting skills (though he was not trained to be an actor, in case you did not know); add to that 3 adorable sidekicks like Chewy (Chewbacca) - the furry mountain of unlimited love - and C3PO - "human cyborg relations" fluent in thousands of languages but unable to stay out of trouble... - and my very own favourite R2-D2 - the sweetest and kinkiest robot - why else would it go "beep beep bèeeeeep" all the time?! :p Not to mention THE ONE: Darth Vader - the ultimate evil!
5. The multitude of planets and galaxies and the idea of all the races coexisting, nobody looking odd at another person... ok maybe a bit racist when it comes to droids - as they were not allowed is Moss Aisley... but maybe there is an antecedent there we know nothing of... I love Tatooine with its rough sand and vast spaces, with the twin sun reminding me of the fact that Luke and Leia are twins as well - I see parallels everywhere! I like Dagobah even though it's swampy and damp and probably smells like hell... it's a great place to hide and I understand why Yoda chose it. Endor is probably one of my personal favourite :) you will see it in "The Empire Strikes Back" - a lovely planet, all green forest, with small and crazy (human - eating!) inhabitants. On the other side, you have Hoth, where eternal winter reigns and you have inhabitants looking like Yeti... Lucas brought it all to life and everyone became fascinated with the possibilities :)
6. The friendships developed - as unlikely as they may seem - between races and people of different ages and personalities. Han Solo and Luke Skywalker are one of the most unlikely friendships / couples that you may find on screen, yet the way they bond and care for eachother is genuine; especially due to the fact that they pass through so many things together. Take even for example R2-D2 and C3PO - droids - having their very own odd, funny and adorable relationship. Take also Chewie and Han - you never hear their background story in the movies but you can see clearly the trust that they have in eachother. I truly believe Han would not fly the Millennium Falcon with anyone else! :)
7. The amazing writing aka The Epic Quotes that everyone uses nowdays (maybe even without even knowing they originate from the most epic saga Star Wars):
- “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.” (Obi Wan)
- “I am your father.” - now I bet you were NOT ready for THAT twist in the story!
- “I Love You.” “I know.” - and that one was not supposed to be like that, Harrison Ford did the twist and we have him to thank for one of the most epic likes in the saga :)
- “When 900 years old, you reach… Look as good, you will not.” (Yoda)
- “Great, kid. Don’t get cocky” (Han Solo)
- “Luke, you can destroy the Emperor. He has foreseen this. It is your destiny. Join me, and together we can rule the galaxy as father and son.” (Darth Vader)
- “You can’t win, Darth. Strike me down, and I will become more powerful than you could possibly imagine.” (Obi Wan)
- "Aren't you a little short for a storm trooper?" (Princess Leia)
- “If there's a bright centre to the universe, you're on the planet that it's farthest from.” (Luke Skywalker)
- "Help me Obi-Wan Kenobi, you're my only hope." (Princess Leia)
8. The amazing, deep and sometimes heartbreaking soundtrack, created by the talented John Williams - who wrote the film's famous musical score, had won an Oscar for his work on "Jaws" (and has since won four more). Star Wars often is credited as heralding the beginning of a revival of grand symphonic scores in the late 1970s. One technique in particular is an influence: Williams's revival of a technique called leitmotif, which is most famously associated with the operas of Richard Wagner and, in film scores, with Steiner. A leitmotif is a phrase or melodic cell that signifies a character, place, plot element, mood, idea, relationship or other specific part of the film. It is commonly used in modern film scoring as a device for mentally anchoring certain parts of a film to the soundtrack. Of chief importance for a leitmotif is that it must be strong enough for a listener to latch onto while being flexible enough to undergo variation and development.
9. The lightsabers - the first time I saw Luke opening his father's sword, I was completely mesmerised... Even the idea that such a tool would exist and the possibilities it would offer... the fact that it is just like a sword - and I love swords as they remind me of the old days and the old ways of knights in shining armour and fair maidens... - but actually it is better than a sword! It can cut through any material and in a fight it leaves clean cuts - take for example Luke's arm being cut off, clean shave, sterile and without blood splashing all over Darth Vader 's attire. It's a clean weapon, elegant, taking very few space... is it wrong to also thing of other ways one would use it?! Let's say... how smooth and silky would a bread cut be? Or the Thanksgiving turkey ;) just saying...
10. The Force - the best idea that came to life with Star Wars. Who would not want to be able to lift and move things with the power of your mind (actually with the power of the Force), who would not want to be excellent plane flyers or aim & shoot correctly 100% of the time? The idea that there is a power, the Force, an energy field that binds all things together... that idea is not completely new. We know we are all the same and yet different and we believe in a powerful being above us - the concept of the Force is quite similar, not talking about a person though, but about the energies penetrative all of us and keeping us bonded. Of course a lot of explaining comes in the Prequels that everyone drags in the mud, but I love them nonetheless!

How about you? Are you a Star Wars fan? What do you like the most in the original trilogy that Lucas built? What makes you tick and what makes you think "oh God! Even I could have done it better!" - do you agree with my 10 reasons to love the originals? Do you believe, like myself, that for the times then Lucas did the most amazing job one could do? I do, from the bottom of my heart!

Yours truly,
The Twisted Red LadyBug that loves movies and has ALWAYS loved Star Wars, since she was a wee lass, dreaming she would go on space adventures with R2-D2 
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Thursday, 24 December 2015

10 Reasons To Love Star Wars Prequels

My dearest padawans,

In case you have not noticed the media outrages happening lately in terms of movies - and to be more precise, around the new Star Wars movie - than I have no clue under what rock you stayed the last year (or cave... you can pick your poison!). I remember I was a wee lass when my father brought me to my first Star Wars movie to the cinema - I believe he never thought how much these movies would mark my life and make me the nerd I am, favorising all sci-fi / fictional books and movies. You never know how kids would react but I remember clearly how much I loved it. I was in love with this new world that I had discovered and I remember drawing non stop scenes and characters - I remember loving the design of the Millennium Falcon and the Imperial Fighters but also wishing I had my very own R2-D2. The world opened up to all the new planets and galaxies that George Lucas brought to life.
When I was older I used to watch and rewatch Star Wars as many times as I could on  TV. When I had my very own laptop I kept a copy - just in case I wanted to rewatch it. It never gets boring and even though now I know the scenes and lines by heart, I always take joy in watching it again and again. Then... I remember clearly, I was in school when the Prequels started... I remember being hyped and if when I was small the first book I remember buying with my money was the old Star Wars initial trilogy, than at that time I used to spend all my money on products that even had the Star Wars name on it. I was as excited about the Prequels as I was of the original, buy now - after many times of watching and rewatching them I know they could have been way better (especially without Jar Jar Binks...).
But without further ado, let me tell you my 10 reasons why one should love the Star Wars Prequels:
1. The Visuals - considerably more impressive due to the access to the latest technology; but what I refer here is not the CGI effects but the beauty that Lucas brought us to. Take for example Naboo - one of my all time favourite planets - with its luxorious green and it's sparkling lakes and soft sand. Or the wonderfully-reaching-for-the-stars Coruscant - "the entire planet is one big city" - skylanes, skyscrapers, you name them and they have them; it's the city of the future... Plus, don't get me started on those amazing costumes! Take only Queen Amidala's (Padme) wardrobe in Episode 1 - The Phantom Menace - at least and you will understand what I mean. The fact that they get better and better - I wish I could own all her outfits from Episode 2! - only shows the attention  to the details that the team has brought. Also, during the 3 episodes you can see clearly the changed though which Anakin goes to become Darth Vader and join the dark side - even the clothes he wear reflects that + have a close look to his hair color changing from light blonde Ani to dark Anakin.
2. The Politics - that is always a touchy subject by the Star Wars fans and I have seen close to none whom said that they were happy to see the Prequels so immersed in dense politics. Well I believe they were necessary to explain how the Emperor came to govern the Empire and how the Republic was dissolved. I truly belive that episodes 1-3 filled a lot of gaps and answered a lot of questions that the fans had. If they were not happy about it... well that is another thing! It is hard, truly, to understand how a single person could come to power and have so many people fall into his manipulations; but if you look at history until now, you just need to only look as close as World War 2 - Adolf Hitler - and you will see a lot of similarities. Of course, I am not saying all of the politics made sense for me,  but then again I am not fond of politics in real life so maybe hidden meanings slipped though my inexperienced fingers...
3. The different view over Star Wars - let's face it, we watch Star Wars and we know that in the end it is the Light Side of the Force that wins. Well when it comes to episodes 1-3 it was a clear "hell no!" - you are not getting away with a positive experience there: you will see a small boy, The One who will bring balance to the Force, being seduced by the Dark Side and becoming the world's worst villain: Darth Vader. And as much as you know where the Prequels lead, you will still not be ready for it! It will show you the long dark fall and the changes from being a Republic to a Galactic Republic to the Empire that we know of... it will be hard, but it is also rewarding when it comes to the knowledge that the Prequels give us.
4. The Light and Dark Side of the Force - the explanation - finally!!! Starting to how the Force flows through all beings and how it manifests in the form of midiclorians; how Anakin has the largest number of midiclorians recorded, even greater than master Yoda! And how Ani actually does not have a father and he came to life through "immaculate conception" to his mother, with the help of these tiny little bulbs of energy - the above named midiclorians. We learn more about the Dark Side and how one could turn dark; things are much more clear: "hate leads to anger, anger leads to suffering, suffering leads to death" - the exact path that Anakin follows, while becoming Vader.
5. The Jedi's world - gets also very cristal clear pictures: the Jedi's have an academy, strict rules, structure (from padawans to being Jedi Master and becoming part of the council), code of honor (never to love a single being but love and protect the galaxy), even different physical appearance during their growth in the power of the Force. It is wonderful to see the Jedi's being so well established and respected, everyone knowing what they could do with their power. It is also nice to see how the Jedi's focus their attention on different planets and the different issues that their inhabitants have. They have their own status in society and few can be considered higher - "the taller they stand, the greater their fall"...
6. The Anakin - Darth Vader change - I always wondered how Darth Vader came to be this evil dark mass that terrifies everyone, I always wondered also about his feelings (especially after it was revealed to us in the original trilogy that he was Luke's (and implicitly Leia's) father...). For me it was certain he had a great attachment to the Emperor (though I did not know then why) but I could also see that not all his feelings were of hate. I could clearly see that he wanted his son next to him, he wanted them to be together. That is also why, in the end he single - handed (no pun intended) kills the Emperor when he tries to finish off Luke. It was wonderful to see him as a small 8 year old boy, flowing with energy and spark ans conviction that he can save the world and make it a better place and one day come to see his mother again... wait... that went wrong... the next time he sees his mother is when he saves her on Tatooine and she dies in his arms... and he ends up killing all the tribe (women and children included!). Taken aside the pains of episode 1 and 2 of Anakin growing up, episode 3 is pure genius - dark and twisted, showing the great change in Ani's life.
7. Obi Wan's friendship with Anakin - "we were like brothers! I trusted you!", Ben spits it up towards the burning mass that was Anakin... as he says that I feel always tears burning down my cheeks... I know that this is done for and the pain and lust for revenge in Anakin is growing, making the final step to become Darth Vader. It was interesting also watching Obi Wan grow, himself being a padawan of Qui Gon Jinn - played beautifully by the one and only Liam Neeson. If you feel the casting was not right for the Prequels, think again! Take only Ewan Mc Gregor as Obi Wan - for example! He is both wise and young and cheerful/playful at the same time; he grows as Anakin grows and it's like having a smaller brother. I belive he was the best choice to like the old trilogy with the new, blending in nicely even the tics he developed so he would be more like Alec Guinness (the old Obi Wan).
8. The swordsmanship of the Jedi's - I mean, I was in love with this new world that Lucas brought to life; but when I saw Episode 1 fighting scenes... my heart skips a beat each time I watch Obi Wan and Qui-Gon fight with Darth Maul (who in real life is a capoiera master!). You know what I am talking of; that's right: The Duel of Fates (you know that you already have that soundtrack playing in your head now ;) no worries we all do...). The way they fight is sometimes not human possible, but they are Jedi (I remind myself) and the Force is strong with them! Sometimes I hear people (sometimes even myslef) asking why have such a huge difference in style between the Prequels and the old trilogy type of fight; and then I remember how much time has passed between the 2 periods of time & the fights we see... we see only Luke against Darth Vader or the Emperor. Luke is young and inexperienced when it comes to fighting someone that has the Force strong and also has a lightsaber. Darth is a machine mostly - his feet were cut, he has only one real hand, he had body burns of the highest degree possible... - so he can't just do back flips; can't he?! The Emperor mainly uses his light-bolt-electric powers... so no fun!
9. "Execute Order 66" - well that was something nobody saw it coming... maybe except Yoda! But he was unfortunately too late :( they could have named it order 666 but that would have been much too obvious. Truth said, Episode 3 is a tear-jerker from head to toes. This scene is one of the saddest ones as we witness the death of so many Jedi's at the hands of the Clone Army - oh, if only they could have had conscience as Finn has in Star Wars 7 :((( You know you witnessed Anakin killing the younglings and paving his path to becoming Darth Vader, you know that by the begging of Episode 4 the Jedi's are extinct, you know what's coming up next yet you feel your heart breaking bit by bit... a plus to the scene is Chewie and his father saving the day, saving Yoda in the hidden Pod.
10. The constant links to the old (original) trilogy - always made me smile wide and feel very much at home. The moment I saw R2-D2 and C3PO I knew there were at least some things that they would not go wrong with. The fact that Ani is the "maker" of C3PO was ok but hey, that little shiny blue robot can warm everyone up - the things he has seen and the fights he has been through, his magical artifical intelligence (way brighter than C3PO and good also with the emotional intelligence) makes him the cutest and most adorable droid in the Galaxy! When I was small I always wished I had one and I would draw him a lot of times, always close to Leia ;) "Save me, Obi Wan. You're my only hope!". Take also the ending moment when baby Leia is given to Senator Bail Organa & baby Luke is given to his aunt and uncle. Focus on baby Luke, held tightly by his aunt/uncle while they watch the sunset of the twin suns. Twin sun = twins = Leia and Luke. Sunset as the Darth Vader rises to power. Fast forward to Episode 4 "A New Hope", where at the beginning we have Luke standing at the exact same spot, watching the twin sun rise... he is the new hope that will make like in the darkness that Vader brought...

A bonus of the Prequels are the beautifully places lines like "So this is how Liberty dies... with thunderous applause" (my very fav line of Padme) or "This party's over" (Mace Windu). The storytelling has its bright moments but there are of course a lot of flaws, that makes a lot of people say that the Prequels were a huge flop. I see them as an image of Anakin's coming to the dark side - rough and heartbreaking. How do you feel about them? Have you ever seen the Star Wars Prequels? Are you a fan of Star Wars? Have you already seen Episode 7 ;))) how many times? Tell me what you thought of it!

Yours truly,
The Twisted Red LadyBug - very much forever in love with Star Wars 
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Monday, 21 December 2015

Krynica Zdroj - Willa Witoldowka - The Coffee Shop

Dearest friends,

Each time we go home, to Romania, by car, we always pass a lovely little mountain city called Krynica Zdroj. During wintertime it is always most lovely decorated with Christmas lights and everyone told me it is a lovely place to visit for a day or 2 if one has time to rest. I have been in Poland for more than 4 years now and all I managed was to pass through it more than a dozen times. To my great satisfaction though, this end of November we managed to have a short trip with our friends there :) 
Krynica (or Krynica Zdroj) is a town in the Malopolskie voivodship  (just like Kraków) and it is located in the Nowy Sacz county. It is no more than a 20 minute car drive from Nowy Sacz, to be fair ;) Apparently it is the biggest Spa Town/City in Poland and it also holds the title of "Pearl of Polish Spa's". When I was hearing about it I could resemble this place with only 2 other locations: one that I have only read and watched documentaries about - Bath, in Great Britain - or one that I have visited since I was a wee lass - Borsec, in Romania. Somehow Krynica has a bit of both...
I have heard (I can really believe that after exploring the sites) that the most crowded times here are during summertime and when winter brings it's white covers and makes Krynica look magical. We came there when it was cold and not a lot of people were out and about. We enjoyed a glass of fresh water at the local pumps, tasted some oscypek with bacon on the grill (one of the best I ever ate!) & then we agreed we needed to warm up somehow. Our friends suggested a place but it was filled up to the brim so we went with the second best option: Kawiarnia Witoldowka - located on Bulwary Dietla 10, 33-380 Krynica-Zdrój.
 Prices:
- apple pie with whipped cream and icecream + Americano coffee = 12 zloty
- cheesecake + Americano coffee = 12 zloty
- hot chocolate = 8 zloty
- hot chocolate with rum / sour cherry vodka = 12 zloty
- mulled wine = 7 zloty
I am sorry for this, but I cannot remember how much the apple pie was separately, not how much was the tea or the yummy banana-chocolate mousse that Marek had. It was definitely not more than the prices above, and you have to excuse me for forgetting to take a picture of the menu.
The place is actually 2 storey villa + attic that I believe it is available as well to rent. The location is as central as it gets, very close to the watering places, and with a nice view of the mountain.  When I was trying to find any reviews or data online about this place all I could find was about the villa... and that had quite a good review - all in Polish of course - so if you wanna stay there for a day, I think it would be a good spot.

I had tea and szarlotka (= Polish name for the apple pie) with whipped cream and vanilla icecream. Now I am not a fan of icecream so Marek ate that, but I can tell you that even though the whipped cream was NOT homemade but rather straight from the tube, the apple pie was DE-LI-CIOUS! I loved the combination of chopped apples with the cinnamon - some people don't put enough cinnamon but this one was great! The tea was regular, nothing fancy about that. Marek had a treat that really looked yummy and apparently we need to go there again so he can have some more of it ;)) he had a banana-chocolate mousse in a very small espresso cup, split in 2. It really looked smooth and we'll done so I may try that as well next time :)

How about you, lovely pumpkins? Have you ever been to Nowy Sacz or to Krynica Zdroj? Are you planning to do that soon? Do you need any help with tips and tricks? :)  also... how are the preparations coming along for Christmas? Just a little more to go...

* I was not repayed in any way for this post and all the opinions are my very own, straight from the heart! *

Yours truly,
The Twisted Red LadyBug
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Friday, 18 December 2015

Kraków - Bunkier Cafe - Desserts Time

My dearest friends,

How cool is to have a Cafe with plastic walls, open each season, right next to a green area - the green lungs of the city? Well Bunkier Cafe is just that. Located just a stone throw away from the Main Market Square, right on the corner of the Plac Szcepanski - Bunkier Sztuki Art House, this bohemian place will always welcome you with open arms. You may remember telling you about the yummy and healthy homemade smoothies or the delicious and filling English breakfast. This time I will tell you more about the caloric bombs: the Bunkier Cafe sweets ;) 
Bunkier Cafe is very popular in Kraków for having a beer and hanging out with friends, bit also for having a light read while having your breakfast. Looking from the outside, at first, I thought it was just a big box room, long and with all walls made out of glass... correct that and come closer: it's plastic! During the summer and early autumn the walls in front are taken off and the Cafe has full ans unrestricted view over the Planty area. The chairs and tables are odd and there are few of the same model. The tables are covered with handmade covers (like the ones my Granny makes, and this makes me smile and feel like home...). The room is split in 2 by a wall - smokers (the first room) and non - smokers (the second one). 
The Bunkier Cafe is open daily from 9 am and you can get a menu in Polish or English. You can even buy cigarette in here, in case you are low.  But I usually don't get on the 2nd room - smokers. This time I had to go as I was with my awesome husband and with a dear friend - and they are both smokers :( so I passively smoked as well... we were on our way to the World Press Photo 2015 exhibition (held always by the Bunkier Sztuki in the month on November - this year it was in Kraków until December 2nd). We had around one hour free for a sweet breakfast so I proposed Charlotte... but it was full (as usual) so I said we should try Bunkier Cafe. It was full as well but there were some empty spots in the smokers area (that also filled up quite quick!). 
We had a small disagreement about what to pick, due to all the goodies on the menu, but we finally agreed - my other half and I - to split a portion of pancakes  (as it was written down as "3 pancakes" per portion) and chocolate cake. We started off with the chocolate cake, which was extremely sweet (most definitely NOT for people with diabetes!) and the public thing I liked about it was the nice sour cherries on top. Not even Marek liked it - and he is a fan of sweets, like no other person I have seen! He loves chocolate with all his might! He even said it was too sweet! So we both agree we would not recommend it, unless you wish to get super hyper... it was good, it was homemade, but it was too much... 
***
On the other hand, we both adored the pancakes! And we would have been smarter if we would have got 2 portions of pancakes instead! The pancakes can of course be shared for 2, but if you really like them and you are hungry.... better take 2! They are really good. Well done, fluffy, American style, with some kind of warm honey syrup, pieces of plums and pears... with a little bit of white sugar puff on top... Only thinking of it makes me wanna go there again for some more :) Marek had half of it with his Big Black Coffee (dark, no sugar) and I had a latte with honey and cinnamon (that was not very sweet, but rather smooth and foamy - and I really enjoyed it!). The service was fast and the lady was nice, the sweets were finger-licking good  (minus the very sweet chocolate cake...). Even my dear friend said he will come again there ;) mission accomplished!

Prices:
- pancakes (in Polish language: nalesniki) with seasonal fruits = 13 zloty
- chocolate cake = 10 zloty
- latte with honey and cinnamon = 11 zloty
- big black coffee = 7 zloty (and it's really big)

*I didn't receive anything for this review, just wanted to share the love! Prices given were valid in late November 2015 - FYI the prices have not changed much since I first arrived to Poland, 4 years ago, so don't get frightened it will change much ;) **

Yours truly,
The Twisted Red LadyBug That (Ocasionally) Loves Sweets
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Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Pre-Christmas Time in Zurich - Zurich Christmas Markets

Good morning you lovely people!

There are a few more days till Christmas and less than 5 till I get to see the new Star Wars! Ain't life exciting / grand?! You have to excuse me just now for being a nerd but those 2 events were I could think of this year :) kidding aside, I don't always think of that. When I have free time I think of travelling... if I could I would be on the road 24/7. I admire people like Laura and Andrei who volunteered in different countries. Laura even wrote a book about it ;) - in Romanian language. I recommend it! I also love expats - people like me, who left their homeland for a better job and a more ferm economical situation. I feel they understand what I feel.
Most of all, though, I love travel bloggers. I love people who travel and enrichen themselves. This way they broaden their horizons. You can tell travellers from the regular people on holidays. You can see and feel that their mission is to understand the culture they immerse themselves in. Of course they will take pictures of everything but not in the "crazy mode"... they will want to capture a moment, a feeling, and they will know how to share that with you. I sometimes get jealous on them... I always wish to travel more, to know more of the world.

The first time you go to a city you are a regular bloke, regular tourist, who wants to see as much as possible at the first go... I still do that mistake sometimes but my awesome other half helps me through as he quite disagrees seeing more than 2 museums in one day - which is smart! My first time in Zurich was this summer, on a work travel assignment. I was there from Sunday afternoon to Friday afternoon, working regular hours from 8 am to 4:30 pm. Still, I must admit that being in Zurich during summertime has one main huge plus: the sun is up almost till 8 pm! Hence, you get to see more and do more. The huge minus: all museums close at 5 pm.
Zurich - View exiting from the Central Train Station
During my first stay I had quite enough time to see most of the important places in Zurich and I even had several small boat/large boat trips - one even as far as Rapperswil! So this time, during my short stay in Zurich, I was quite relaxed about everything. I came late afternoon Tuesday 8th and went away Thursday afternoon  10th December. It was all a hurry but it was all about meeting the team and setting up the plan for the new year. The one evening on 9th we had a team party so the single moment I could do something was the afternoon I came - on the 8th.

I had read numerous bloggers singing praises about the Zurich Central Station Christmas Market Fair. The main attraction, of course, was the shiny and sparkly Swarowski Christmas Tree :) I had to see it for myself and that is quite inevitable as almost all tourists will eventually get to the Zurich Central Station - main hub for trains, trams and buses. Try not to get lost ;) and allow yourself to be invited by the delicious smells of the fair.
Zurich’s "Wienachtsdorf" at Sechseläutenplatz
Of course, there is not one Christmas Market in Zurich, but several, in different locations throughout the city. I managed to squeeze 2 actually in a day! To my shame I was quick and did not buy anything to eat/drink, though there were a couple of things that really looked tempting. Each Christmas Market has its own charm - for example the one in front of the Opera House - Zurich’s "Wienachtsdorf" at Sechseläutenplatz - has an artificial skate ring where kids and grown-ups alike can have fun. There is a huge Christmas tree right in the middle of the square and there are several paths that lead you to food/mulled wine but also local handmade goodies. There are around 100 (or more) stalls that make you really believe that somehow you have entered a village where everyone is out and about having fun :) On the side of the street, quite close to where tram 11 turns to get to the Opera House station, there is also a special tram for small ones - you can leave you child there, to take a ride and have fun with Santa and the elves (no grownups are allowed inside and parents can have a break!).
The Christkindlimarkt - Christmas Market in the Main Station Zurich, is quite different from the one at the Opera House. It boasts itself of being "one of the largest indoor Christmas markets in Europe"with a number of over 150 stalls! And its not just Christmas decorations, mulled wine and food that turns your nose and invites you to grab a bite... oh no! In case you did not know, this Christmas Market also hosts (each year!) a 50 foot tall Christmas tree decorated by Swarowski, with over 70.000 crystals! Since 1994, the Zurich Christkindlimarkt has been held in the historic main hall of Zurich’s main station – the main hall was built in 1871 based on plans by the architect Jakob Friedrich Wanner. Even when I came here in summertime, I thought it is the best place to have a market - covered, sheltered and with thousands of people passing through it! But be quick as the markets close around 9 pm and then you will have to wait for the next day. Last time there was a market but it was a one-day thing. Now, as it goes on for several weeks... security is necessary, so each night I have seen strong police guards standing by (also to protect the precious tree?!) and also K9 team. The Swiss spare no costs when it comes to keeping something safe ;)

Of course the entrance to the Christmas markets are free, but if you wish to visit more than one I would suggest having some kind of transit card, that would allow you to get fast from one place to another. Now I always use during my stay the Zurich Card - which can be found at the tourist office / train station / hotel - and it comes with the option of 24 or 72 hours. This gives you access to all Zurich areas - trips from the airport to the main tran station in less than 15 min! Besides train, tram, buses, you can also have a boat ride - it comes still as public transport ;) and I heard there is a nice Christmas market in Rapperswil as well :) How about you, lovely people, have you ever visited Zurich? Have you visited it during wintertime? Are you planning a visit soon? If you need any help - tips and tricks - pop a line and I will be glad to answer you ;)

Yours truly,
The Twisted Red LadyBug that loves Christmas Time :)
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Saturday, 12 December 2015

Kraków - Preserving Stem Cells From Baby Teeth

My dearest readers,

Look how far we have come: now you can preserve your child's stem cells from a naturally shed baby tooth! I find it fascinating how far science came and the options we have now vs. what our parents and grandparents (just a generation or 2 ago!). We cannot yet predict the future and see what path lies ahead of us... we have celebrated the "Back to the Future" day and yet we are missing the time machine... maybe it is better like that! Maybe we would get scared of what the future holds. Hopefully not a "1984" type of society!
A couple of weeks ago, when I was doing the routine yearly checkups, I saw in my private clinic - Medicover - a flyer that arrested my thoughts. I have been in love with genetics and the only reason I did not start a career in medicine was the fact that blood makes me physically ill. The flyer was about "The best choice for your child's future health" - promoting the extracting of stem cells from baby teeth. I think that is a wonderful idea! Before, the medics would collect the stem cells from the embrion stage. I always believed that somehow harms the child!
You must know about stem cell transplants - known as bone marrow transplants... In stem cell transplants, the stem cells replace the cells damaged by chemotherapy. These transplants use adult stem cells. There is a variate field where stem cells provided great help in curing disease or increasing the life expectancy (having a better cure): Parkinson, Alzheimer, heart disease, strokes, diabetes (type 1), birth defects, spine cord injuries, replace/repair damaged organs, cancer disease. Of course the cons in doing stem cell treatment is mostly on "playing God" - the fact that we should not mess with the human life, but them again who brought to this world this many diseases... most of the diseases nowdays are man - made (created by us!).
But what Medicover offers, nowdays in Kraków, is truly intriguing and it made me share this with you. Maybe you will have the money for it and you will find it useful for your children. Medicover can collect stem cells from the pulp of your child's baby tooth! And they can cryopreserve it for several years. Stem cells could potentially grow new organs, tissue and bone that would match perfectly with your child - if he/she will ever need it! Taking the cells of the baby teeth is done when cells are young and at their best, without interfering when the child is in embrion stage.
The child loses naturally 12 teeth over 5 years. It is the perfect and harmless method of ensuring his future. Medicover, in partnership with BioEden, does this procedure for you. BioEden was the first bank stem cells isolated from the pulp of baby teeth and wisdom teeth in the world! The process is unique and patented by BioEden. According to their flyer, "stem cells have been successfully used in treating patients all over the world for more than 50 years".
But how can you preserve your child's stem cells? Well, first of all, you need to become a member of BioEden; then you will obtain a collection kit and guidelines on what will happen next. You can find info on their Web page or you can call them at 500 900 500 (Medicover line). But choose carefully as the packages are quite pricey! (I mean for a regular budget... but hey! Some people like to have the best technology at their fingertips so consider this as the newest iPhone! But even more expensive!):
  • the annual package costs 1290 EUR and covers the isolation and extraction of the stem cells and the storage for 1 year + the annual fee for each year thereafter is 120 EUR;
  • the 21 year package costs 1830 EUR and covers the isolation and extraction of the stem cells and their storage for 21 years.
What do you say? What do you think of this option? I think it is brilliant this kind of options have become so open and public that a person can just drop by, see the add and take the decision. On the other hand, taking into the consideration the salary level, that is quite a bit to cover... on the flips side,  what would a mother not do for ones child?! What is your opinion? Would you do this if you would have the money for it? Do you feel that God would be upset if we would?... I would like to know...

* I was not repayed in any way for this post and all the opinions are my very own, straight from the heart! *

Yours truly,
The Twisted Red LadyBug that sometimes is unsure about what the future will hold... 
I guess it shall remain a surprise!
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