Re-imagining Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Remember back to the end of Star Wars episode VIII when Rey saved everyone by removing the rocks at the back of the cave, while Luke sacrificed himself as a distraction? Kylo Ren figures it out but by then it’s too late. Rey and the resistance are gone. Imagine that Episode VIII ended on that scene, and that Episode IV starts moments later…

Kylo

Kylo Ren standing at what used to be the back wall of the cave. Rocks scattered everywhere. Rey, Leia, and the rebels are gone. Eluded him. Again.

I imagine that in this moment, the humiliation, the rage and the self-loathing would soak his whole being.

He failed to stop them. Again. He failed to convince Rey to throw all of it away — the dark, the light, Jedi, Sith, everything — and start something new with him.

He had his chance to kill his mother, and failed. A coward, he couldn’t pull the trigger.

Meanwhile, he murdered Snoke and appointed himself Supreme Leader. He murdered his father as a display of ultimate allegiance. For what? Why? To lose, yet again? He looks at this costume, his mask, and lets himself acknowledge what he’s always known but pushed out of his head: it’s pretense. It’s posturing. He’s a petulant child playing dress-up.

We established in The Force Awakes that he’s prone to childish temper tantrums, and here he has a big one.

He rips off his cape and gloves, tosses them aside. He grabs a large rock and uses it to bash his lightsaber to pieces. Kylo has murdered or alienated everyone who ever cared for him: Han, Chewbacca, Luke, Leia. He hates Snoke for manipulating him, he hates Luke for threatening him, and more than anything he hates himself for being a querulous, immature child. “Kylo Ren” is an embarrassment and Ben has no one to blame but himself.

Fuck this. Fuck. All. Of. It.

He turns and walks back through the cave where the First Order awaits at the entrance. The AT-ATs are being loaded back onto cargo ships. Smaller fighters are returning to docking bays on the Finalizer. Two First Order Troopers approach him. 

“Supreme Leader, General Hux requests—“ he Force-chokes them without breaking stride. He approaches his TIE Interceptor “The Whisper” and gets inside. Ben engages the engine and a holo of Hux appears. “Supreme Leader, the resistance fighters —.” Ben flicks it off. Closing his eyes, he cuts himself off from The Force. Like flicking a switch, it’s gone.

The Whisper flies off into space, past the Finalizer. Ben is eager to go. Anywhere. Just away. Away from all of it. Light speed, and he’s gone.

Rey

Swipe cut to Ajan Kloss. Leia, Rey and the remaining resistance fighters are gathered at a memorial for Han. Leia says some beautiful things and places the Falcon’s dice on a makeshift altar. Chewie places his bandolier. Ben’s absence is palpable, as is Luke’s. While Leia is confident and eloquent, she seems distracted. There’s a real sense of “the old guard is dying.”

After, Rey pulls Leia aside. “That was beautiful, General. I’m sorry I couldn’t—“ “Never mind ‘could have’ and ‘should have’,” Leia says. “Destiny and fate don’t care about those things. Tell me, my brother was training you, yes?”

“Yes,” Rey says. “He told me there were three lessons, but only got to two before he…”

“Lesson three, tomorrow morning,” Leia says. “But—“ Rey answers as Leia interrupts. “Tomorrow morning.”

Hux

We established in The Force Awakens that Hux loathes Kylo. They vie for Snoke’s attention. They jockey for power among The First Order. They one-up and humiliate each other and every opportunity. Most of all, Hux believes that he should be Supreme Leader, not this little boy playing make-believe.

And now he is.

He gives a vein-popping, dictatorial speech to the remaining members of The First Order. “The deserter,” he says, “murdered Snoke in cold blood. He failed to eliminate General Organa and sever the head of the Resistance. He let ‘the girl’ escape yet again and he abandoned all of us. All of _you_. With me as your Supreme Leader, we will find and destroy the traitorous dog!”

Thus, the First Order is off to find and kill Ben Solo.

Kylo

Flying through space in The Whisper, Ben is aimless. Where could he go? He’s a monster who isn’t welcome anywhere. Then it hits him. 

Mustafar. Vader’s long-abandoned castle on Mustafar. It’s an empty, ruined relic on a hostile planet. He sets a course and follows it. Yes, perfect — he’ll hole up in that awful place and wait for his body to die. It’s what he deserves.

Rey

Back on Ajan Kloss, Rey and Leia and sparring with Lightsabers. Leia is shouting out commands — stances, movements — to Rey as they “fight.” The blades sizzle and crack as Rey turns in such a way that she is able to rush Leia. The general does not move and lets Rey come. Rey’s eyes grow wide and she leaps, impetuous…with a flick of her wrist Leia counters and in an instant has her blade at Rey’s throat.

“Again, what is lesson three?” Leia asks.

“Patience,” Rey says, her eyes downcast. Both women extinguish their lightsabers.

“Let’s try it again,” Rey says.

“No,” says Leia. “It’s…that’s enough for today.”

Rey clips her lightsaber onto her hip. “I can bring him home. I know I can. There…”

“….is still good in him?” Leia asks. “Now you sound like my brother.”

“Is that so bad?”

Leia says, “Luke rushed to confront our father, certain he could save him. Save us, save everything. And what happened?”

“The Emperor was destroyed,” Rey says.

“As was Anakin,” says Leia, “and Obi-Wan and countless others, both Rebel and Empire, all because of a rash decision. Then Luke failed in his training of Ben; yet another impetuous decision which created Kylo Ren and The First Order.”

“He’s your son,” Rey says.

“Was,” says Leia.

Later, Rey tries to establish her little “Force Skype” connection with Kylo and fails.

Kylo

Kylo arrives at Mustafar and puts The Whisper down outside Vader’s long-abandoned castle. Lava flows far below.

He finds the once proud palace dilapidated and crumbling. Wandering around he comes across a meditation chamber, much like the one we saw in Empire. He hesitates, then sits inside. The chamber closes as the upper half descends, completing the sphere. Ben examines the stark white interior as a holo buzzes to life before him. It’s Palpatine.

“Lord Vader, you will travel to Exegol and seek out Darth So-And-So [reader, we’ll call him “Darth SoS”]. Only then will you become a true Sith.” A star map appears above the holo. “Do not fail me.” The holo disappears.

A dark spark flickers to life inside Ben. “Yes,” he thinks. “Kylo Ren was make-believe. This is the real deal.” He exits the chamber and climbs into The Whisper, enters the coordinates and takes off.

Hux

The Finalizer and its compliment of First Order ships travel through space. Hux is ransacking Kylo’s old quarters, looking for anything. He rejects this and that, until he finds Vader’s ruined helmet tucked away. Of course he knew of Ren’s devotion to his lunatic grandfather as well as the legend of Darth Vader.

A First Order officer enters the room. “Sir, we’ve found a signal.”

“What is it?” Hux says.

“Its one of ours, sir. But we can’t be certain it belongs to—“

“Follow it.”

“Sir.” The offer turns on his heels.

Hux tosses the mask on the floor.

Kylo

Ben arrives on Exegol. It’s dark, dreary, scary, all that Sith-y stuff you’d expect. A massive granite wall — the landscape’s only feature — seems to rise to the sky. [I really liked this in RoS so let’s keep it].

Kylo’s mind is invaded by a grasping, violating power. He stumbles.

“You wish to join the order of the Sith.”

Ben feels all of his memories being examined, as well as his fears, his hopes and the things he loves. He’s helpless to stop it. It’s an aggressive violation. He doesn’t notice that he’s hovering a foot above the ground, nor the hooded figure, bent and impossibly old, moving toward him.

“You had much to love,” it says, “and soooo much to hate.” Darth SoS’s voice is lusty and vulgar. “You hate…yourself. Oh yesss.”

“You’ve cut yourself off from The Force,” Darth SoS says, reaching a decayed, withered hand towards Ben. He touches Ben’s face. “Let’s fix that.”

Rey

Rey is talking with Leia when she is suddenly ripped from that reality and now sees Kylo hanging in the air, Darth SoS before him. Her eyes widen with fear.

“Wh- where are you?”

“It’s too late, Rey” he says.

“I see you Ben,” Rey says. “I…know where you are! I’M COMING—“

Darth SoS Force-pushes Rey 30 feet into the air. She slams into the ground on Ajan Kloss. Leia is kneeling beside her, concerned.

“I found him,” Rey says, out of breath. “I know where Ben is.”

Hux

The First Order comes out of light speed in orbit of Exegol. “Prepare my ship and a hundred men.”

“Sir this planet isn’t on any charts. Are you sure—“

Hux pulls out a blaster and shoots the officer. “Who else has a question about my orders?” Silence fills the bridge. Hux process to the launch bay where troopers are filing into a First Order shuttle. Hux enters and orders the pilot to land next to The Whisper’s last known signal. They depart.

Rey

Rey is loading supplies onto the Falcon. What have that scene of “You aren’t going anywhere without me” featuring Finn and Poe. Rey eventually relents.

Finn and Poe take X-Wings. R2 is in Finn’s ship. BB-8 in Poe’s. 3PO enters the Falcon to find Chewbacca in the pilot’s seat. Rey sits co-pilot.

Rey shouts down the hall, “Tell her we’re ready!” Camera cuts to Leia climbing through the roof hatch, where Rose is making a repair. “That’s got to be good enough, I’m afraid,” Leia says. “Let’s hope ‘good enough’ is enough” Rose says, and the two women enter the ship and it takes off.

Kylo

Darth SoS is tormenting Ben with all of the memories he’d rather forget: Luke’s decision to kill him. Han’s death. His multiple failures. Anything to break him, to foster the misery and hatred inside him. Ben wails, as hatred and regret fill him in equal measure.

Above the planet, the Falcon and X-Wings exit light speed. Rey says, “We got company!” because, you know, Star Wars. A fight between Resistance and First Order breaks out. Rey is pulled into another Force Skype call and sees Ben struggling to resist Darth SoS’s indoctrination. He reaches out a hand, and Rey reaches to touch it. As she does she moves from the Falcon’s co-pilot seat and is now physically with Ben and Darth SoS.

Chewie freaks out. “What do you mean, ‘gone?’” Poe says, reading the translation on his dashboard. Chewie continues shouting, and flying. Leia and Rose are in the cockpit. Leia closes her eyes. “Ben,” she says.

Chewbacca yells at Rose. “Oh, no” she says. The Falcon is jolted by a blast and Rose relents. “OK, fine! Fine!” She sits in the co-pilot seat and says, “I got a bad feeling about this” because, you know, Star Wars.

Down on the planet, Darth SoS turns his attention to Rey and uses Force Lighting to subdue her. He zaps her again and turns to Ben. “Finish her. Embrace your hate and your transformation is complete.”

Ben walks over to Rey. He turns to Darth SoS. “Never,” he says. “This ends now. No more Sith. No more Jedi. It’s over.” Rey stands shoulder-to-shoulder with Ben. “You would need an army,” she says.

“Indeed,” Darth SoS says just as Hux and his garrison of troopers enter the room. Hux is expressionless, staring blankly ahead. “Kill them,” he says. Rey ignites her lightsaber and Ben assumes a defensive pose.

Above the planet, the battle rages. Chewbacca barks orders at Rose who replies. “I.. I don’t understand you!” What she does understand is the Falcon. As it takes damage and systems malfunction (they always do), she fixes each one. Poe and Finn are picking off TIE fighters. Without Hux or Kylo, the First Order is in disarray. The rebels have the upper hand and are seemingly winning the battle.

On the planet the battle begins and Ben Force-pulls a trooper’s blaster to himself. Rey is picking off troopers left and right. Ben is blasting. The two get separated. Rey takes on several troopers as Ben faces Hux. Ben is grievously wounded and falls to the floor. He reaches out a hand and says “Mom,” pulling Leia into the scene. 

She and Ben make eye contact. “Hello, my son,” she says just as Ben dies.

Rey finishes off the last of the troopers as Leia ignites her lightsaber. She and Rey face Darth SoS. He turns to Leia, his eyes wide. “The last Skywalker,” he says, throwing Force lighting her way. She defects it with her lightsaber and a three-way battle between Leia, Rey and Darth SoS begins.

Darth SoS is getting the upper hand on Rey and Leia recognizes this. She positions herself in a way that sacrifices her life to save Rey. Rey cries out, flies at Darth SoS and slays him. The room falls silent and the camera pans to show Rey, alone, among the carnage.

Above the planet Poe & Co. win because, whatever. The story isn’t about them anyway. They fly down to get Rey.

They go to Tattooine to bury Leia and Ben at the old Lars Homestead (Aalderaan is gone so yeah, this seems like the next best thing). Rey sees Luke’s Force ghost, as well as Leia’s, Obi-Wan’s, and Yoda’s, plus apparitions of Mace Windu, Qui-Gon, Plo Kloon, Shaak Ti and so on. “A thousand Jedi live in you now,” Luke says. Rey smiles, pulls a bag over her shoulder and she and BB-8 walk off into the sunsets.

Yep, this is terrible. It’s half-baked and there are enormous problems:

  1. Finn, Poe, Rose et. al. have nothing to do for, like, the entire movie.
  2. It doesn’t address Rey’s parentage (that was by design but I know it will bother some of you).
  3. There’s still no explanation of who/why the Sith are.
  4. Other stuff.

However, I’ve been trapped in this damn house for almost a month and this little project kept me entertained for a few hours. Plus I love Star Wars so much, that this is my little love letter to the characters and stories that have given me so much joy since 1977.

When the Dungeons & Dragons session ends

Sometimes when I’ve finished a session of Dungeons & Dragons Kids Club and the kids are gone and I’m sitting here in the quiet room, I’ll take a moment and reflect on the past two hours.

Everyone laughed and had a great time.

Everyone contributed to an ongoing story.

Everyone felt unified and connected.

Everyone in the room used their imaginations, their creativity, their senses of humor and their life experiences to solve a puzzle, unravel a mystery and resolve a problem.

We all walk away with a shared history. The experiences that happened in our imaginations simultaneously over the last two hours will be remembered and retold, as if these characters are people we actually know. In a way, they are. What a unique experience this is. I will play this game for as long as I live.

Dungeons and Dragons: Subvert and satisfy player expectations

As some of you may know, I run a pair of Dungeons & Dragons clubs for kids. It is tremendously fun. The current six-week session ends this weekend, and marks the first time I’ve used a completely original campaign. All told, it was about 12 hours of story and adventure. I’m quite looking forward to the conclusion as (I hope) it will completely subvert and satisfy my players’ expectations. Here’s what’s going on.

For session one, I took a little inspiration from Matt Colville, who, in one of his videos, talked about throwing the big bad at the players in the opening scene of session one, before they could do anything but cower in fear. I did that and it was great fun. They PCs were enjoying their time in a tavern (naturally) when this imposing, robed figure entered, flanked by two lesser robbed figures (I like for my baddies to have lieutenants to taunt and aggravate the PCs) and did all sorts of nasty stuff before making a quick exit.

As I expected, the players did nothing but wait for it to end. “That thing will kill us instantly,” one of them said.

Yes. Yes it would have.

That experience angered and frustrated them, and gave them a “bad guy” to despise. He was quite unpleasant to some of the tavern patrons with whom our heroes were having pleasant interactions, and they did not like that. Now each PC was personally invested in vengeance.

Hook in place.

To make a long campaign short, the players eventually learn that a local mage is intent on becoming a lich, and is gathering souls for the process of transformation. He has several lieutenants doing the dirty work for him, including the Master of Crows, the Master of Locusts and the Master of Coin — all dealt with in one way or another at this point. The trail eventually led to the mage’s tower, where the players find themselves this week.

Once they battle their way to the top of the structure (and deal with the yet unknown Master of Books) they will find the figure they met in scene one, as well as a feeble gnome, dressed in mage’s robes, utterly inert in his throne as a Will O’ The Wisp encircles his head.*

In D&D 5e, Wills are nasty things that subsist on the potent emotions induced by horror, panic, and death. They revel in luring people away from safety, bewildering them, and finally leading them into deadly danger, so they may feast on their desperate emotions.

I decided to have a Will as the real big bad for two reasons. First, it’s a little more interesting as a climax than, “we expect to find an evil mage intent on become a lich, and we do.” Second, there are two strong camps in my group of nine kids: the slayers and the savers.

One group wants to slay bad guys. They like weapons, they like combat, they like being the heroes of the battlefield.

The other group prefers diplomacy. They’ll fight if they have to but they view battle as a last resort. Failure, actually. Discussion failed, so it came to blows. Now blood will be drawn. In fact, the aforementioned Master of Locusts is now a member of the party.

My finale should satisfy both factions. They’ll have an obvious baddie to kill, and a clear victim to save. I’m quite looking forward to their reaction upon finally seeing Brovac the Lost, the decrepit, doddering gnome that he is. I’m sure they’ll want to slay the Wisp — I had each of them experience whispers and dreams promising them glory every now and then throughout the campaign — as well as the original robbed figure. But I’m not sure what they’ll do with Brovac. Yes, he’s a victim but he did collect a lot of innocent souls. Like, a lot. 

Hopefully I’ll subvert and meet player expectations in a way that leaves them happy. But honestly I don’t know, and that’s why I love cooperative story telling so much.

*Thanks to our friend Johnny Tolkien of the inspiration.

Loving my Bullet Journal

I started using a Bullet Journal in September, 2019 and today it’s indispensable. Ryder Carroll’s vision for “…a mindfulness practice disguised as a productivity system” hits all of my buttons: Convenient, flexible, accommodating (more on that later), hand-written and personal. Here’s why I’ll be bringing my Bullet Journal (or “Bujo” for short) into 2020.

Hardware

All you need to adopt the Bullet Journal system is a notebook and a pen. Any notebook and any pen will do. I bought the officially branded Leuchtturm 1917 because, as my daughter would say, I’m so extra. But that’s not necessary. You could get a pocket-sized, spiral bound from the grocery store for two bucks and it will work perfectly. Just number the pages and you’re off.

The system

The Bullet Journal system has the user apply a series of symbols to a list of items (reminiscent of Patrick Rhone’s Dash/Plus System). For example, a “.” signifies an action item, while a “-” indicates reference material that is important but requires no action (Ryder calls these “notes”). Other markings include circles to identify events and an asterisk to highlight important information.

As information comes into your life, you quickly capture it via brief text and the appropriate symbol. The system calls this “rapid logging” and I like it quite a bit. For me, it’s proven to be a speedy way to record meaningful information quickly.

There’s more to the system, but not much. It’s rather bare bones and that’s a big part of the appeal. There’s a “future log” that offers a quick overview of future responsibilities, as well as a formal way to move unfinished tasks over to the next day, next week or next month, which Ryder calls migration.

Collections are similar to projects, in that it’s a way to keep all relevant information together.

You can dive into all of that here but I want to talk about the one feature that really makes this work for me: the index.

The Index

At the start of each journal, set aside several pages for what will become your index. You’ll fill it in as you go.

Really, Dave? You’re this excited about a table of contents?

Oh, yes. This is the way.

When you create a new entry on a page that you’ll want to refer to in the future, write down that page’s title and page number in the index. For example, I’ve got “Mazda Collection” on page 8, and October on page 22. Now, if I need some information on the Mazda, I turn right to page 8. That’s great, but we’re just getting started.

In the image at the right, you’ll see “Jaclyn Collection” says “13, 45.” That collection starts on page 13 and continues on page 45. If you turned to page 13 and looked at the “13” in the lower right-hand corner, you’d see a small “45” written next to it. Likewise, page 45 has a small “13” written in.

“But Dave, why do you have 32 pages between the start and conclusion of that collection?” That’s the whole beauty of this! If I want to start a collection on page 13, then doodle unicorns for nine pages, then do a mind dump on two more pages, then take notes during a meeting and finally list my favorite songs before resuming the Jaclyn collection, I can. No more treating pages like precious objects. No more guessing how many pages I’ll need for something…maybe I’ll need four pages for this? Five? Who knows, who cares. Doesn’t matter.

Best of all, not more flipping around to find anything. Jaclyn collection: Boom, page 13. Unicorn doodles: boom, page 14. Meeting notes, page 21. Mind dump, 23. It’s all in the index.

A bullet journal is rigid and free-flowing at once. It’s Type A and ADHD. It’s a reliable tool and a fun toy. If you’re a minimalist, you’re all set. If you’re the artsy type, go to town.

I love this thing. It’s always with me and it gives me a real sense of confidence that I have what I need and that things aren’t falling through the cracks. I even went and got a fancy Nock case for it (SO EXTRA).

Welcome, 2020. I’m ready with my Bujo.

Blogging is harder than I remember

Now that I’m trying to wean myself from Facebook and get back to blogging, I’m noticing the big differences between publishing between those two platforms. For me, the most pronounced is immediacy.

As we all know, it’s ludicrously easy to publish to Facebook or Twitter. It takes only seconds and if you’ve got a connected smartphone, can be done from nearly anywhere.

With a blog, it’s different. Sure I can install the WordPress app on my phone, but even that can’t compare to the ease of publishing to social. When I have a thought I can summarize it in a few words, hit publish and read replies, all within minutes.

Writing to the blog is much more intentional. I’ve got to set time aside, which takes a little effort. Even harder is resisting the supreme ease of pushing something out to social and saving it for when I have time to sit with my computer.

As I said, this is a process that will take time. It’s more of an effort to blog but I hope it will be worth it.

6-year-old Vivian Lord prompts production of “plastic army women”

“Why don’t you make girl army men?”

That’s the question 6-year-old Vivian Lord had for manufacturers after playing with her brother’s “green army men,” those inexpensive little toys that became popular in the 1950’s and 1960’s. Not content to sit and wonder, Vivian wrote to several companies that produce the little figures, including BMC Toys, which is in my home town of Scranton, Pennsylvania.

Since then, BMC launched a Kickstarter campaign to help fund an initial run of figures depicting female soldiers, with a goal of $11,400. As of this writing $55,401 has been raised, and BMC says the figures will be available by Christmas, 2020.

Of course, Vivian wasn’t the only one to make this request. As NPR’s story outlines, adult female members of our military have written to manufacturers as well. You can listen to the story and hear Vivian herself via the player above.

What’s making me happy this week – Aug 10

A look at what’s making me happy this week, and how you can enjoy them, too. . You’ll find an archive of my “happy picks” here

Steve 1989’s YouTube channel

I really enjoy watching someone share that one thing they absolutely love. Steve, the man behind the channel, loves military rations.

As of this writing, he has produced 165 videos of himself exploring MREs and other military rations from various countries, battles, time periods and climates. While it is admittedly interesting to see what’s in an authentic 1943 WW2 British RAF Emergency Flying Ration, what’s even more appealing is Steve’s obvious, unbridled enthusiasm.

Every old chocolate bar he unwraps, every bouillon cube he dissolves in a tin, every dehydrated cheese bar he explores elicits a “Wow,” “Amazing,” “Nice,” or “This is incredible” and his enthusiasm is totally infectious.

Yes, a part of the appeal is watching him eat food that’s 74 years old (see above), but really I’m in it for the sheer pleasure of watching someone share something he loves.

The trouble with the Boy Scouts of America (and how to fix it)

The Boy Scouts of America (the BSA) are in an insurmountable position politically. Long targeted by the left for its refusal to admit gay boys and leaders, the group recently earned the ire of the right by agreeing to welcome transgender kids. “For more than 100 years, the Boy Scouts of America, along with schools, youth sports and other youth organizations, have ultimately deferred to the information on an individual’s birth certificate to determine eligibility for our single-gender programs,” the group said in a statement on its website. “However, that approach is no longer sufficient as communities and state laws are interpreting gender identity differently, and these laws vary widely from state to state.”

Then, in October of 2017, the BSA announced its plan to welcome girls to participate in the program from its lowest Cub Scout ranks right up to Eagle Scout, the highest rank the program offers. “The values of Scouting—trustworthy, loyal, helpful, kind, brave and reverent, for example—are important for both young men and women,” said Chief Scout Executive Michael Surbaugh. “We strive to bring what our organization does best—developing character and leadership for young people—to as many families and youth as possible as we help shape the next generation of leaders.”

The divisive move angered, among others, Girls Scouts of America. “The need for female leadership has never been clearer or more urgent than it is today,” the group shared in a statement, “and only Girl Scouts has the expertise to give girls and young women the tools they need for success.”

Think of the general public’s perception of Boy Scouts of America:

  1. The boys help little old ladies cross the street.
  2. The don’t let gays in.
  3. They’re staffed by child molesters.
  4. They’re politically conservative.

While the first three points are patently false, number four is based in fact. The BSA has long been a bedrock of conservative American life; a stronghold of morality and traditional manliness. Its goal has always been to produce God-fearing male patriots, loyal to traditional values. It’s no surprise to me that the contemporary BSA still is a politically conservative organization.

That position alienates left-leaning families. Current changes do the same to the right, and the public’s perception is either archaic or flat-out wrong.

Oh boy.

The Boy Scouts of America needs a complete, top-to-bottom PR overhaul. I’d love to see a nation-wide campaign that hits everything: print, TV, online, social. The works. Here’s my proposal for exactly that.

The message is twofold: 1.) this is not your father’s Boy Scout Troop. 2.) the values you’ve always treasured are still in place.

One campaign would address the former. Imagine a TV spot like the following.

  • Video of uniformed boys on community service projects. Improving a park, working in a soup kitchen, building a sandbox for a preschool. One boy turns to the camera and says, “I am a Boy Scout.”
  • Boys and girls collaborating on an awesome STEM project as equals. A rocket launches into the air. One turns to the camera: “I am a Boy Scout.”
  • A teenage boy helps a younger kid light a campfire. He struggles and then gets it. They high-five and the younger kid obviously feels great. “I am a Boy Scout.”
  • A young girl sits in front of a display typing code. She executes the code; a robot on the desk does a dance. “I am a Scout.”
  • A busy film set. A middle-aged man is looking into a camera. People are walking back and forth. The man turns around. It’s Steven Spielberg. “I am a Boy Scout.” (Steve is an Eagle Scout).
  • An inflatable raft full of frantically paddling young men passes by on a river of rapids. They shout, “We are Boy Scouts!” before passing by, ushered along by the white water.

Mike Rowe – Star of “Dirty Jobs with Mike Rowe” on the Discovery Channel — emerges from some nasty situation, covered in who-knows-what, and stands along side smiling boys and girls. “You can be a Boy Scout, too.” (Mike is an Eagle Scout).

I see another campaign that addresses the notion that the values you’ve treasured as a Scout or or adult leader are still in place. This one uses the Scout Law: “A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent.”

A voiceover of several young voices begins: “A scout is loyal,”

The scene opens with a young teenage boy taking with an adult. They shake hands and apparently seal an agreement.

“loyal,”

A boy and girl are walking home from school. They stop as a third kid calls out and then joins them. The group smiles and continues to walk…

“helpful,”

A uniformed Scout helping a member of the community, or a friend or teacher,”

“friendly,”

…camaraderie around a campfire…

“courteous,”

…Scouts being kind to adults…

and so on with kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent.

I see kids having fun, laughing, doing activities. Camping, yes. Saluting the flag, of course. Participating in ceremonies, you bet. Also being pulled around a snowy pass by sled dogs, climbing a rock wall, cleaning a beach, handing out water to runners at a marathon, and cheering each other on in a variety of situations. All ages, all genders, all equal.

Each would make a nice 15-second spot for Instagram, too.

Finally, perhaps an obvious change to the uniform could also signify the changes in contemporary scouting: Girls welcome. Gay scouts welcome. All creeds welcome, and every one of them is “…physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight.”

It’s very much needed and I believe would lead to a huge jump in membership as well as a major shift in the perception of Boy Scouts.

An insurmountable situation? Yes. An impossible one? Not a chance.

JFK vs Trump

Recently I visited the JFK Museum in Hyannis, Massachusetts. As 2017 would have been President Kennedy’s 100th birthday, it seemed appropriate. It’s a great museum with many remarkable and moving artifacts, film reels and more.

At one point, you can watch the president’s inaugural address from January 20th, 1961. Most people remember its most famous line:

“And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”

It’s an iconic moment in American history and a call we all should answer. But the rest of the speech is just as remarkable, especially when compared to the words of our current leader.

President Donald Trump recently addressed the UN for the first time. Startled murmurs filled the hall as Trump said the following:

“The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.” He continued, leveling a juvenile nickname at North Korean leader Kim Jong Un: “Rocket man is on a suicide mission for himself and his regime.”

Compare that to these words from Kennedy’s first address to the nation as its President:

“Finally, to those nations who would make themselves our adversary, we offer not a pledge but a request: that both sides begin anew the quest for peace, before the dark powers of destruction unleashed by science engulf all humanity in planned or accidental self-destruction.”

Back at the UN this week, Trump said, ”Major portions of the world are in conflict and some in fact are going to hell.” In a 40-minute speech, he attacked Iran’s nuclear ambitions, belittled Venezuela’s collapsing democracy, and fanned the threat of Islamist extremists.

Back in 1961, John Kennedy surveyed the politics of his time, and instead name-calling and threatening nuclear war, said the following:

“But neither can two great and powerful groups of nations take comfort from our present course–both sides overburdened by the cost of modern weapons, both rightly alarmed by the steady spread of the deadly atom, yet both racing to alter that uncertain balance of terror that stays the hand of mankind’s final war.”

“So let us begin anew–remembering on both sides that civility is not a sign of weakness, and sincerity is always subject to proof. Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate.”

“Let both sides explore what problems unite us instead of belaboring those problems which divide us.”

“Let both sides, for the first time, formulate serious and precise proposals for the inspection and control of arms–and bring the absolute power to destroy other nations under the absolute control of all nations.”

“Let both sides seek to invoke the wonders of science instead of its terrors. Together let us explore the stars, conquer the deserts, eradicate disease, tap the ocean depths and encourage the arts and commerce.”

“Let both sides unite to heed in all corners of the earth the command of Isaiah–to ‘undo the heavy burdens . . . (and) let the oppressed go free.’”

How far we have fallen. How dire our lives have become, when America’s leader can stand before a world body of 193 leaders and threaten to “totally destroy” one of its members, including the women, children, elderly, disabled…heck the pets who call that country home.

“My fellow citizens of the world,” said President Kennedy, “ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.”
Donald Trump makes no such call. Instead, his is a call to war. To misery. To suffering. How long before we’re all gone?