May The FIRST Be With You...

May 2, 2018
May The FIRST Be With You...

Something occurred to me the other day, as I was trying to wash the bad residue of the day’s national news cycle from my psyche by going back to the stuff I loved as a kid…


George Lucas (or maybe it was Alan Dean Foster) predicted the rise of Donald Trump.


Way back in December of 1976, roughly six months before the movie actually debuted in theaters, Ballantine/Del Rey Books released the novelization of the film Star Wars. The book carried the byline of the film’s writer-director, George Lucas, although it was ghostwritten by popular science fiction author Alan Dean Foster.


As is so often the case, the book differs somewhat from the film in some respects. For a lot of fans who read the book only after they saw the movie, some of those differences proved quite jarring - even though, by and large, they were for the most part trivial (Luke Skywalker's designation as Blue Five rather than Red Five during the Battle of Yavin, for example).


One of the things I found most interesting about the novelization at the time was the fact that it opens with a prologue that is presented in the form of am excerpt from history book (“From the First Saga Journal of the Whills”) and sets up the story by briefly recapping the rise of Emperor Palpatine… in essence a Reader’s Digest version of the story later told in the prequel films (as well as the “Clovis” story arc in the final season of The Clone Wars television spinoff.)


It was that original prologue, as much as anything, that made 13-year-old bookworm me already long for further adventures set in that galaxy when I read the book that December, even before seeing the movie. It also provided a better understanding for so much of what I saw when the movie finally came out that following spring, but that’s a topic for another time.


It has only been in retrospect - with the insight that (hopefully) comes with maturity and a sense of history honed by both a lifelong interest in history and my experience as a professional journalist - that I have come to realize what incredible prognostication powers the Lucas-Foster team demonstrated more than 40 years ago. Like so many other science fiction writers before them, they gave us a harrowing glimpse of what was to come…


Presented for your consideration: Exhibit A, the opening paragraphs of the Prologue of Star Wars:

 

Another galaxy, another time.


The Old Republic was the Republic of legend, greater than distance or time. No need to note where it was or whence it came, only to know that… it was the Republic.


Once, under the wise rule of the Senate and the protection of the Jedi Knights, the Republic throve and grew. But as often happens when wealth and power pass beyond the admirable and attain the awesome, there appear those evil ones who have greed to match.


So it was with the Republic at its height. Like the greatest of trees, able to withstand any external attack, the Republic rotted from within though the danger was not visible from outside.


Aided and abetted by restless, power-hungry individuals within the government, and the massive organs of commerce, the ambitious Senator Palpatine caused himself to be elected President of the Republic. He promised to reunite the disaffected among the people and to restore the remembered glory of the Republic.


Once secure in office he declared himself Emperor, shutting himself away from the populace. Soon he was controlled by the very assistants and boot-lickers he had appointed to high office, and the cries of the people for justice did not reach his ears.


Having exterminated through treachery and deception the Jedi Knights, guardians of justice in the galaxy, the Imperial governors and bureaucrats prepared to institute a reign of terror among the disheartened worlds of the galaxy. Many used the imperial forces and the name of the increasingly isolated Emperor to further their own personal ambitions…


Now go back and re-read those paragraphs, substituting the name “Trump” for “Palpatine” and “the First Amendment” for “the Jedi Knights,” and what you have is a legitimate piece of prophesy - one every bit as chilling as anything H.G. Wells or George Orwell gave us.


Of course, there was in that prophesy a sense of hope in the form of the final two paragraphs: 


But a small number of systems rebelled at these new outrages. Declaring themselves opposed to the New Order they began the great battle to restore the Old Republic.


From the beginning they were vastly outnumbered by the systems held in thrall by the Emperor. In those first dark days it seemed certain the bright flame of resistance would be extinguished before it could cast the light of new truth across a galaxy of oppressed and beaten peoples…


Which, if we carry the analogy forward, means that people like me - those of us who still understand that the First Amendment is First for a reason, and who still share a dream one day actually achieving the kind of America that the forefathers envisioned and Lincoln fought to preserve and Martin Luther King Jr. dreamed about, and detest what the current administration is doing in terms of tearing away at that dream - freedom fighters. 


A real-life Rebel Alliance, if you will. 


And so, my fellow journalists: May The First Be With You.

 

ONE HOLIDAY AT A TIME...!

November 21, 2017
We didn’t have a whole lot of what you might call “hard and fast rules” in the Small household when my younger brothers and I were growing up.

Compared to some of my classmates – especially a couple of fellows I knew whose fathers appeared to run their households like German stalags, and wielded an iron hand even over visitors of all ages who usually left looking shell-shocked - life was actually... well, I hesitate to say that it was relatively cushy, but it definitely could have bee...
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RAY LOKEY: 1953-2017

November 21, 2017

(Note: The following is a transcript of my eulogy for my employer and friend, Johnston County Capital-Democrat Publisher Ray Lokey, which was delivered on Saturday, Nov. 18, at Ray's memorial service. The service was held in Fletcher Auditoirum on the campus of Murray State College in Tishomingo.)


I've been agonizing all week about what I was going to say when I got up here… It's hard to sum up in just a few short minutes a relationship that lasted over a quarter of a century. But let me sta...
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THINGS MY MAMA TAUGHT ME

October 11, 2017
It is a sad fact of life that, all too often, we become so bogged down with the minutiae and infinitia of everyday life that we find ourselves accidentally forgetting the really important stuff.

That almost happened to me this week. I got so busy tackling what was required of me while working on this week’s issue of the Capital-Democrat that it almost - almost - slipped my mind that today (Wednesday, Oct. 11) would have been my mother’s 75th birthday.

It’s hard to believe that it has almo...
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HOLMES AND WATSON: THE NEXT GENERATION

October 6, 2017
Last night I finished reading Brittany Cavallaro’s A Study In Charlotte, the first book in a trilogy about Charlotte Holmes and Jamie Watson - the great-great-great-granddaughter and great-great-great-grandson of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. The story is set in the modern day at a prep school in Connecticut, where both protagonists have been sent by their respective families for different reasons and who meet quite by accident (or so we are first led to believe).

Jamie is a rugby player ...

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A CLASSIC SONG RECONSIDERED...

September 7, 2017
“Eleanor Rigby” is one of the most popular of the hundreds of songs written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney and recorded by the Beatles. It is also one of the best examples of their growing maturity as lyricists at the time, a song containing poetic qualities not found in such earlier works as “She Loves You” or “I Want To Hold Your Hand.”

Unlike so many of those earlier compositions, which for all their energy were merely variations of the traditional love song, “Eleanor Rigby...

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THOUGHTS ON CHARLOTTESVILLE...

August 16, 2017

My wife Melissa, son Joshua and I were in Monroe, Louisiana, sitting in the living room of our dear friends Win and Lisa Eckert last Saturday, talking about any number of things - most of them far removed from this place we (sometimes grudgingly) refer to as “the Real World” - when we got the news about the act of domestic terrorism perpetrated by white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Like so many others - like anyone with even a trace of human decency in their soul an...


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ERB MOVIES OF THE 1970s

June 19, 2017

As Phillip R. Burger pointed out in an essay included in the 2005 Bison Books reissue of Richard Lupoff’s Master Of Adventure, 1975 was a particularly good year to be a fan of Tarzan creator Edgar Rice Burroughs.

For one thing, it was the centennial of ERB’s birth, which meant that much attention was being paid to the author and his works. As part of the centennial celebration, Irwin Porges finally published his long-anticipated (and definitive) ERB biography, Edgar Rice Burroughs: The Man...
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THE TARZAN NOVELS IN CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER

June 16, 2017

This project grew out of my son Joshua’s stated desire to read the entire run of the authorized Tarzan novels - the original series by Edgar Rice Burroughs, and those ERB Inc.-sanctioned novels by Fritz Leiber, Philip José Farmer, Joe Lansdale, Will Murray and Michael S. Sanford - more or less in the order in which they take place. When Josh announced his intent, I decided to compile this chronology for the purpose of helping him and other fans who might be considering a similar reading pr...


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A NOTE FOR MY MOTHER...

May 3, 2017

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away… Me and my mother, Romania Sue Small, circa 1963-64.



I am told that a certain member of my family apparently did not appreciate my sharing the following story at my mother’s funeral last Friday. 


I have to admit to having been somewhat baffled by this response. Certain things being what they are, certain people being who they are, perhaps I shouldn’t have been. I don’t know. 


Everyone else seemed to appreciate the story, and had nothing b...


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About Me


John Allen Small John A. Small is an award-winning newspaper journalist, columnist and broadcaster whose work has been honored by the Oklahoma Press Association, the Society of Professional Journalists, the Associated Press, the National Newspaper Association, and the Oklahoma Education Association. He and his wife Melissa were married in 1986; they have two sons, Joshua Orrin (born 1991) and William Ian (born 1996). Mr. Small is the News Editor and columnist for the Johnston County Capital-Democrat, a weekly newspaper headquartered in Tishomingo, OK. He obtained his nickname, "Bard of the Lesser Boulevards," from a journalism colleague - the late Phil Byrum - in recognition of the success of his popular newspaper column, "Small Talk." (In addition to the many awards the column itself has received over the years, a radio version of "Small Talk" earned an award for "Best Small Market Commentary" from the Society of Professional Journalists in 1998.) John was born in Oklahoma City in 1963; lived in the Bradley-Bourbonnais-Kankakee area of Illinois for most of the next 28 years (with brief sojourns in Texas and Athens, Greece, thrown in to break up the monotony); then returned to his native state in 1991, where he currently resides in the Tishomingo/Ravia area. He graduated from Bradley-Bourbonnais Community High School in 1981, and received his bachelor's degree in journalism from Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais in 1991. The years between high school and college were a period frought with numerous exploits and misadventures, some of which have become the stuff of legend; nobody was hurt along the way, however, which should count for something. In addition to his professional career as a journalist he has published two short story collections: "Days Gone By: Legends And Tales Of Sipokni West" (2007), a collection of western stories; and "Something In The Air" (2011), a more eclectic collection. He was also a contributor to the 2005 Locus Award-nominated science fiction anthology "Myths For The Modern Age: Philip Jose Farmer's Wold Newton Universe," edited by Win Scott Eckert. In additon he has written a stage play and a self-published cookbook; served as project editor for a book about the JFK assassination entitled "The Men On The Sixth Floor"; and has either published or posted on the Internet a number of essays, stories and poems. He has also won writing awards from the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the National Library of Poetry. He is a past president of the Johnston County Chamber of Commerce in Tishomingo; was a charter member and past president of the Johnston County Reading Council, the local literacy advocacy and "friends of the library" organization; served as Johnston County's first-ever Americans with Disabilities Act coordinator in 1994-95; served two terms as chairman of the Johnston County (OK) Democratic Party; and has taught journalism classes for local Boy Scout Merit Badge Fairs. He is a member of the New Wold Newton Meteorics Society.
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