Transcript of Resilience Squadron – Episode 1 – Taking Flight

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Resilience Squadron is a monthly podcast on the Skywalking Through Neverland Network where Greg Norman and Jack Vasvary share and discuss great stories related to disability, chronic illness, and mental health within the Star Wars fandom.

On this premiere episode Jack and Greg discuss the personal stories behind their conditions and also their history as Star Wars fans. They also cover news from The Mandalorian and new Star Wars books that came out the week of November 8, and talk about some of the goals of Resilience Squadron, as well as future discussion topics for upcoming podcasts. You can listen here. The transcript continues below.

Transcript

Greg
[Over uplifting music] Welcome to Resilience Squadron, where we share and discuss the adventures, challenges and representation of disabled chronically ill fans across the Star Wars universe.

Jack
Hey everyone, welcome to the premiere episode of Resilience Squadron. I’m Jack Vasvary.

Greg
And I’m Greg Norman.

Jack
We’re so excited to be here and share our adventure with all of you.

Greg
Yeah, I’m really excited to get started. Our whole idea behind this podcast is to talk about disability and chronic illness in Star Wars fandom. And sometimes within the Star Wars universe itself. Jack and I each have our own disabilities and illnesses, but we really want to hear from other fans. We’re hoping to feature stories from people in the community and to talk about the connection between their disability or illness and their fandom.

Jack
Oh absolutely. Greg, why don’t you tell our listeners a little bit more about yourself?

Greg
Well, I’ve been a fan of Star Wars for probably going on 40 years, as far as I know, you know, I’m one of those OT fans. And I’ve been into Star Wars since literally before I can remember. I do not recall going to the original couple of movies in the theater, although I was told that I did. And I was told I had to leave Empire Strikes Back, which is now my favorite movie of all time. But at the time, I had to leave the theater because it was too scary. I don’t remember that, but I was told that.

My very first memories, though, of the series is two things. One was obviously the toys. I think I remember playing with the toys before actually remembering seeing the movies. I probably did, again. But I had you know quite a collection of stuff. That was you know, that was my life growing up. That was my creativity. That was my outlet. I embraced it and loved it. I still have many of those toys to this day. They’re part of my now much more expanded collection.

But my other distinct memory that I think really set me on my path in the fandom was that I have a really clear memory of once visiting some family friends, probably for dinner or some type of party, with my parents, where as a kid I was relegated down to the basement, which was the playroom/”mancave”-type place. I was pointed towards the record player and the Empire Strikes Back soundtrack on vinyl. And I put that on and just listened to it the whole night that my parents were upstairs, having their good time or whatever. And that just blew my mind. I don’t even remember what age I was but from then on I was just latched onto that music, that world, everything about it. I’m sure I hummed all that stuff while I played with my toys for years.

Until I finally saw – was old enough and I saw Return of the Jedi in the theater. And that is what kind of brought my fandom just to a head. I was the perfect age for that experience, for that adventure. Um, and I know you’ve said much the same thing, Jack with that movie that I think we were both right that age that it just…

Jack
Yep.

So it was also my first one to see in the actual theaters. Again, I think I saw it like five or six times.

Greg
I’m sure I was pretty similar. I’m sure I just kept demanding to go back. It was just the best thing I’ve ever seen. I got the toys from it and just went nuts.

Another big part of like the, the toys for me. And in the media and everything in the movies. My background is I was an army brat. It was my dad in the US Army. And we moved all over the world all over Europe in the US every two, three years. So every time I’d pick up move, I had to reacquaint myself, find new friends, and occupy myself. And those toys would go with me to each place. I would have them with me to play with no matter what else was going on, whether I had friends or not. And at the same time, Star Wars is always an entry point to making new friends to get together with kids who had toys and play together no matter whether we ever met or had anything else in common.

I think also that that, and I’d have to ask my parents this, but I bet it’s probably a good reason why I have a significant collection and still have it to this day is that they, you know because it would allow so much and everything else. They were pretty, you know, they weren’t rolling in money, but they would make sure I was well stocked on toys. Probably to occupy me and to kind of compensate for that. Knowing that that was a big thing for me.

Jack
That’s pretty cool too, with I mean, all that moving, you were able to keep them, you think, you know, when people move all the time, you would tend to lose things so that you would call that you were…

Greg
Right, you would think so. I think maybe either we were just organized or I thought before about the fact that moving a lot might have actually be why I have so much of it, because we would just always be ready to pack it all up again.

Jack
True.

Greg
I’d always have it all together, pack it all up again, be ready to take it somewhere else unpack. The other big thing for me too, was that my brother and I would play together. He got some of these toys first, he’d hand them off to me eventually. But he also would keep playing with them with me.

Jack
How much much older was he than you?

Greg
He was four years older.

Jack
Okay, yeah, my sister’s five years older, so…

Greg
I should mention my brother passed away a few years ago. But at the time, it was, it was certainly a bonding thing for us. And we still talk Star Wars years later, as we got older and became adults. And you know, we had a contentious relationship. But we also had our good points, and one of those was playing and bonding over Star Wars. So I will always have those those memories too. And I think that’s a big part of a lot of this is why I got into collecting, you know, people could talk about like, you know, you’re blowing money on things, and I’m trying to be very reasonable about things that I collect.

But it is that, not just try to bring back your childhood or hold on your childhood. But that it brings to life these memories and these experiences of exploring this world. And that creativity we have as a kid and fun of collecting is is, you know, has its own has its own value. But there’s there’s a lot more to it than that. That’s emotional. That really, is you reconnecting with that feeling that I think is really, really important.

Jack
I think that’s part of the reason too why the sequels had so much nostalgia. Because I think just we as human beings, we, we love nostalgiac, because it’s familiar. It’s comforting. So I think that’s definitely and even like, in these past couple episodes of Mandalorian. There are so many, especially in the first episode. There’s so many throwbacks, because it just it’s makes you feel good. And it’s comforting.

Greg
Yeah, and that and coming back around to my story, really, like a lot of people I had drifted a bit away from, you know, the saga and everything in my teenage years, a lot of people, a lot of kids, a lot of people in 90s and stuff, it just was it became out of mind until they started releasing new figures in the 90s. And then the special editions came out, which gave us an opportunity to see see those on the big screen, some of us for the first time or the first time within memory. And it just reinvigorated everything and brought everything back, combined with anticipation again, because it was more like that imagery, everything for Episode One was the anticipation that was just out of control. And all those things came together, probably by design, to just reinvigorate my fandom. And I’ve been going pretty much diehard ever since past 20 years or more of following everything and collecting and all that stuff.

At the same time, the theme of our podcast here to talk about how these things overlap with our other life experiences and difficulties. So in my case, I have Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, or EDS, which is a genetic collagen disorder. It affects joints, skin, nerves, and it commonly leads to secondary problems such as dysautonomia, which is an autonomic nervous system problem affecting your heart rate or blood pressure, fatigue leads to sleep problems. And it leads to cognitive issues, brain fog and other problems processing information. And it also contributes quite a bit to mental health issues like anxiety, depression, and all of those things then compared to each other in the anxiety, the heart rate, fatigue, sleep, all those things get caught in a cycle, just compounding each other. And so that evolved for me over the years, because I was born with it as a genetic condition. But I didn’t start having problems other than little weird body quirks until my teenage years when I started fainting a lot, all the time. And…

Jack
I think that was one of the first things I noticed or one of the first things you had told me about with your disability was the fainting thing.

Greg
Right. And I think the interesting thing with my understanding of my condition, of my body at the time, um, was that until I was in, I wasn’t diagnosed until my 30s.

Jack
Because you said that, didn’t you say something like, it’s really hard to diagnose because everyone’s symptoms are different?

Greg
That’s a big part of it. And just the fact it’s so complex and has so many different problems related to it. So a lot of people will go in with significant problems with fatigue, or joint pain or something. And doctors are rarely trained or equipped, or knowledgeable enough to make these connections between all these different things that are happening with your body to say that there’s a problem with the autonomic nervous system, or that there’s a even more complex underlying problem like Ehlers danlos happening. Um, so yeah, the average is years to to get diagnosed. But my problems in particular weren’t even that significant until my 30s. So even when we met, we’ll get into our, you know, our history together, but we met in college. And at that time, like, I wasn’t under any impression that I had any kind of medical condition. I just fainted a lot. And it was sometimes due to physical exertion or situations or standing up quickly. But also, you know, as you know well, it’s at the sight of blood, or the thought of blood or talking about blood, which is why I’m gonna stop talking about blood. [Both laugh] And so it led me to understand at the time that I was just a wuss, you know, and that that was my and I was part of my mental state. And what I internalized was, I’m just, I’m just a wussy guy, and I just faint when I see blood or when I exert… I’m just a weakling. And I’m lazy, and, you know, all those things. And, you know, and I wasn’t diagnosed until years later with ADHD, which seems to be kind of a secondary cognitive problem with all these other things, in my case, but you know, growing up I struggled with struggle school, struggled with work. Until I got diagnosed, got treated for it, it was like a night and day difference. And, but at the time, before I got diagnosed with those things, in order before I was even knowledgeable about any of it, I just thought I wasn’t very smart, you know? I just thought I wasn’t good at school. Just wasn’t good at work. I really internalized all that stuff. And it took a lot of years and a lot of help and therapy to get over all that. Um…

Jack
Yeah, I had just a lot of troubles too. I don’t think… I don’t think my schools really knew, and of course we didn’t know either, so… my troubles with certain things were just they tried to help me like any other student.

Greg
Yeah, exactly.

Jack
Which probably wasn’t the best idea. But again, I’m not gonna sit there and blame anybody because they didn’t really know. But I was kind of in the same boat.

Greg
Yeah. And that’s part of why it is the same story a lot of EDS patients have and other similar kind of conditions. It’s like getting that diagnosis years later in my 30s was like, first dysautonomia, and POTS, which is a condition that’s part of dysautonomia, and later, the EDS was just like life-changing, because it was like validating in a way that was like, wow, there’s something significantly wrong with my body. Not necessarily me. No, it’s not me. Um, but so like I said it, it was there all the time. It was there when we met, when we knew each other. But it was over the years, even years after we were living in separate cities living distant from each other that I started to kind of go downhill in my 30s to start experiencing a lot more significant impairments. To the point where I had to start working from home, I don’t drive much, I use a cane now to get around. And I’ve developed pretty significant severe sleep problems. And so growing up, I had all these issues. They weren’t a massive impairment at the time, but I did experience them. They affected my self worth, my feelings, my value. But I always had besides the support I had from my family and everything. I also always had Star Wars as the thing that I leaned on as a kid that just took me away from everything. And as I got older, and actually started developing issues at the same time, I was really diving into the fandom, and that really gave me an outlet. And it gave me the escape that I needed, and also gave me a community and support I needed. I don’t know that a lot of people see it that way. And that’s partly why we’re here is to talk about how that’s happened for us. And…

Jack
Exactly.

Greg
To share those kind of stories from other people. So what about you, jack? What’s your background? What’s your story?

Jack
I’m 44. I currently you live in Pittsburgh. I was born in Virginia. I have spina bifida. I think it happens around the sixth week or so after you’re conceived. And that’s when your spinal cord starts to form. And if you think of your spinal cord as a sheet of cells, well, when it forms the sheet of cells, it rolls into the spinal column, then when it connects, the two ends connect, there’s part of it where it doesn’t connect completely, and a hole is left. Basically, wherever that hole is down, is where the damage done. My hole was around L4 and L5. So pretty low in the spinal cord. I do use a wheelchair. I’m paralyzed from the waist down. It’s really weird too, because like, from the waist to the knee, my sensation is all over the place. It’s so weird. Some parts I can feel everything. Some areas, I can only feel temperature. Other places I can only feel pinching. And in places I can’t feel anything at all. I can walk with full leg braces and crutches. And Greg, you know, like when we met, I pretty much, I mean I had my wheelchair, but a lot of times I would use my braces and crutches.

Greg
Right. You were actually taller than me… when you didn’t use a wheelchair.

Jack
Oh, yeah, that’s, that’s actually really funny thing. Because like, especially when I meet people in my chair, and even if I’ve known them forever. It’s like, they see me because what I’m probably about five foot in the chair, maybe. So when I actually, I mean I don’t use them… I don’t use my braces and crutches anymore. But when I did, and I would stand up and I’d go somewhere with them like, oh my god. It was like totally mind blown.

Greg
Right.

Jack
Probably one that I could walk, but two, like oh my god, you’re so tall. One of the conditions with spina bifida is called hydrocephalus. If you’re not familiar with hydrocephalus, basically what it is, is your brain produces too much cerebral fluid that can cause brain swelling, which you know, isn’t really a good thing. So I have this thing called a shunt actually have two shunts. All a shunt is is a tube that goes from my brain into my stomach cavity. And they help drain the excess fluid. So my brain doesn’t swell.

Greg
So it’s funny, it’s like you, you have too much fluid, too much fluid in your brain. I don’t have enough

Jack
Wanna share?

Greg
Different fluids. So I don’t think of the whole picture. But yeah, often my problem, essentially with the postural orthostatic tachycardia is that when I stand up too quickly, my blood drops. Because my legs don’t maintain tension to keep the blood flowing from my body.

Jack
Right.

Greg
Blood leaves my head… and I faint. What was like for you growing up with that?

Jack
It wasn’t really bad. I mean, I know a lot of my peers, got bullied and didn’t really fit in. And I’ve never really had that problem. Matter of fact, I think the only time that I was being bullied or somebody was saying stuff about me, one of my friends threatened to beat him up. My first love of Star Wars, Jedi is absolutely my favorite. Even today, it’s still my favorite film. And that was the first film like I said earlier, was the first film I ever saw in the theater. And I think again, I saw probably five or six times and it just really had an impact on me. That first time Luke ignited his green lightsaber, I just my… my jaw just dropped. And then one of my favorite musical cues in the entire saga ever comes from Jedi. And that’s the moment when Luke is hiding from Vader and Vader’s trying to get into his head. And he’s like, well, if you if you won’t join this dark side, then maybe she will. And then he screams and just goes crazy on them.

Greg
And then that chorus…

Jack
The chorus. [Mimics the chorus]

Greg
Probably one of my top ones too.

Jack
It’s amazing. I mean, there’s so much there’s so much great, Star Wars music, obviously.

Greg
Right.

Jack
And we’ll get into that a little bit more. Our experience with that, but yeah, that… that’s my favorite cue. I remember when they announced the Special Editions, and that’s all we talked about forever. Like oh my god, they’re gonna have this and this, and it’s gonna be so cool. And what was I think what I enjoyed most about the Special Editions is just seeing all three finally, in a theater. Like I didn’t even I didn’t even care that they weren’t the original theatrical versions, it was just cool seeing them in the theater. And I remember too our first shared experience was when I came up to your place, and we saw it, we saw Attack of the Clones in IMAX at one of the local museums. My first experience with Star Wars video games, was a good old fashioned arcade. Oh my god, I still love that today. Even with those graphics… you put it in front of you right now. I would see you in a couple months.

Greg
So should we talk a little bit about our friendship?

Jack
So you and I both attended Radford University, and we both lived in the same dorm.

Greg
Yeah I think we kind of gravitated towards each other, I think over playing video games

Jack
Right.

Greg
And things like that, and watching movies. And very, very early on, we found the Star Wars connection and clicked over that.

Jack
Exactly. And art.

Greg
I was gonna say, and art.

Jack
But mostly Star Wars. Yeah.

Greg
I mean, you were specifically you’re an art major. And I was minor. I specifically remember that we did animation together.

Jack
Yep.

Greg
And that is a big interest of both of ours.

Jack
Video toaster!

Greg
Yeah, so that was around the time that the special editions are coming out, which is a good opportunity for us, the first time for us, in some of those cases, to see those movies on the big screen. And with all the enhancements and stuff, you know. I remember when we went to I’m pretty sure it was Empire. But my wife had come out, my fiance at the time, came out to visit. And we all went to it together. Yeah, the prequels, then started coming out after we’d left college…

Jack
Right.

Greg
And then it was more of a matter of us talking about it the whole time, but we were talking for a few years in advance. We had that shared anticipation of the prequels. And following every bit of news and rumors and everything else and artwork that was released, you know, online leading up to the release of Episode 1, we were just obsessed.

Jack
Exactly.

Greg
So we’re sharing that stuff all the time. And we do that to this day, talking about new releases and what’s coming, and rumors. And yeah, I know that we we saw for the most parts all the prequels separately, because we had basically moved away

Jack
Right.

Greg
By that point. But I do remember that with the Attack of the Clones, you were living in Lynchburg at the time, and you came and drove out to visit us in Virginia Beach. So we could see it IMAX.

Jack
Right.

Greg
Which is pretty awesome. And, you know, the quality of the IMAX might be questionable, being an upconversion. But so yeah, I mean, at that point, you’d moved up there to Pittsburgh, like you talked about earlier.

Jack
I moved to Pittsburgh in 03.

Greg
Yeah. Right. So that was right before Revenge of the Sith. And a few years after that, like, I think I’d realized we were starting to talk about some of the stuff recently that like, with one exception, all of our get togethers over the years. It’s almost like we use Star Wars as an excuse.

Jack
Exactly! I didn’t really think about it that way, but yeah.

Greg
It’s not that we wouldn’t get together otherwise. But you kind of need something, given how difficult it is for each of us to do that, to travel and the cost associated with it. Having something to aim for…

Exactly. And we’re like seven or eight hours apart from each other too. So…

Yeah, so the lengthy drive, so… But yeah, I think it was in 08, I came up there so we go see Star Wars in concert.

Jack
Yep. Yeah, cause I remember they had a contest on Facebook, where you could win two free tickets and I won!

Greg
That’s right. Yep.

Jack
And I was like, hey…

Greg
That was meant to be.

Jack
Yeah, exactly. It’s like, hey Greg, I won tickets. So you know, we made it happen.

Greg
Yeah. And at that point, you know, it’s when I’m just gonna drive and just crash at your place and with free tickets, the costs become negligible. And that was conveniently also, that was before most of my severe symptoms really set in, right. It was around the time that was starting to become an issue and actually, I remember being a great, actually I remember it being a great time for that to happen. Like that was really good for me at the time.

Jack
Good.

Greg
In a way that the later thing we’re gonna talk about also was a good timing for both of us. It was… I needed to get away from my work situation at the time and everything else going on and it was really healthy for me. So then last year you got sneaky…

Jack
Let’s go back, what like four years… when Disney announced the little thing called Galaxy’s Edge, I think, at that time it was a pipe dream because we have financial limitations, physical limitations, and it really probably wasn’t gonna be a possibility. It was about maybe like a year and a half, maybe a little bit more, ago that I came into some money through an inheritance. Well, Greg and I have always talked about doing a trip somewhere. My initial thought was Celebration,

Greg
Ah right, yeah.

But thing was I physically got my money in, like a week after they decided to date. So then it was like, well okay, I guess, Galaxy’s Edge it is. So, I kind of conspired with Greg’s wife for a while because I wanted… the plan was to go on his birthday.

Right.

So it’s like, does he have any big workload, that you know of? Or can you at least make sure that his schedule is gonna be free? My original plan was to actually just show up at your place.

I remember you told me that.

Jack
Hey, man, what’s up? Happy birthday.

Greg
And we just take off and go.

Jack
But then I figured you know that that was just too much. So the end of June, we talked on video, and I was like, “Hey, man, what are you doing on your birthday?” And he was like, “I don’t know.” Like, “So, you want to go to Batuu?”

Greg
“Uhhh… what?”

Jack
“Okay…” And I was like, “No, really, we’re going to Batuu on your birthday!”

Greg
And all I was thinking was like, we can’t afford that. [Both laugh]

Jack
And I explained, you know, that I didn’t rob a bank, I didn’t do anything illegal. But yeah I just came into this inheritance, and that’s exactly what I knew I wanted… We’ve always talked about a trip, a road trip for years and years. And we were talking about Galaxy’s Edge for the past four years, it was like “We’re doing it.” And for the next two and a half, three months, it’s all we did was plan, plan, plan and talk about it.

Greg
Obsessed over it, really.

Jack
Exactly.

Greg
All my mental free time.

Jack
Yeah, exactly. I remember too, that’s when it reinvigorated my love for art because I started making those datapad phone cases.

Right. Which is so cool.

Yeah. And I just wanted to make sure that, that was something, that was one little present – physical present – I could give you.

Greg
Yeah.

Jack
Yeah, we just, we went, we had a wonderful time. We built two lightsabers. We rode the Falcon like three or four times.

Greg
Mmhmm.

Jack
We didn’t give Chewie a hug.

Greg
I know… But yeah, I mean, it was challenging. It was a challenging trip, a combination of a wonderful experience and a difficult experience for both of us. And it was also really insightful for us and eye-opening. We obviously already have our own experiences and see what things are like, we know that Disney World and Disney in general, are great at accommodations. They’re a great model of that kind of stuff.

Jack
And I know, later on, we are going to go in depth about our trip and talk about the experiences, especially with the difficulties and the accommodations of going there as a disabled person.

Greg
Yeah.

Jack
And you know, kind of give you guys an idea of what we went through, and then hopefully help you plan your trip, if you ever want to go to Disney World, especially to Galaxy’s Edge.

Greg
The thing we came away with from that experience was during that trip, and after that trip, we were talking a lot about the disabled experience, you know, as fans. And I think around that time, I started collecting all the resources that I’d been looking at, and interested in, for a while, and sort of finding all these things where we find that overlap of disabilities and the Star Wars community. And it made us really start thinking about wanting to do something with that. And a few months later, we kind of birthed this idea of creating a group or a project around this, which we eventually kicked off earlier this year on social media as a way to start just collecting and sharing cool stories about this stuff, and resources. And that’s, that’s how Resilience Squadron got started. And, you know, it started off small, and it’s still fairly small in terms of up to the point we’re at now. But we’ve had amazing response from a small handful of people, who the idea really clicked with and who felt seen, and were excited to see what we were doing and talking about these topics.

Jack
I know you said you did a bunch of research about, you know, is anybody else doing this?

Greg
Yeah, when we first start talking about it, I guess that was one of the surprising things, you know, I’ve collected over the years, lots of articles, conversations and discussions on Twitter and forums that I’ve come across, that I just wanted to keep for reference, talking about, you know, disabilities and Star Wars, and both in the media and the fandom, but I had not seen anywhere that was focused on that. And I was quite surprised by that. There’s no, there was no, there were no groups organized around that topic. Which was not, which is common in a lot of fandoms.

Jack
And certainly no podcasts.

Greg
And definitely no podcasts.

Jack
So Greg, before we go any further, I do want to give a huge shout out to Richard and Sarah Woloski from the Skywalker Network.

Greg
Yeah, because they’ve given us a platform and an opportunity to get to get this out there.

Jack
And to reach reach so many more people.

Greg
Yeah, I don’t think it would have happened without them.

Jack
So thank you, Richard and Sarah, we really appreciate it.

Greg
Thanks a lot.

So now, we’ve talked a bit about ourselves and introduced the show, we’re going to get into our main first main part of the show, which is our Resilience Squadron Status Report. And our goal here is to talk about some of the recent events and news and releases in the Star Wars universe. And look at them from the perspective of our themes here around disability, illness, things like that. As a monthly podcast, we’re not going to be covering every news item that has happened in between shows, but we’re going to look at whatever recent things have come out or have happened that we feel are worth discussing. Yeah, and that have impacted our communities especially. So yeah, the big thing happening right now is The Mandalorian. And we’re at the time of recording this, we just got episode, or chapter 12 – chapter 11.

Jack
The Heiress.

Greg
Yeah The Heiress… which, uh, hey live action Night Owls have saved 2020 to me.

Jack
Yes, absolutely. And thank you Bo Katan.

Greg
Exactly. Thank you, Katee Sackhoff. But one of the big things about Mandalorian, there’s a couple different topics that we want to touch on, that are sort of relevant to what we’re discussing. And one of the first ones is that we were really happy to see this season, the return of Tusken Raiders, and especially their use of sign language. When this, when they appeared last season on the fifth episode, a lot of people were pleasantly surprised to see Tuskens using sign language to communicate. And it became especially interesting to find out that a deaf actor, Troy Kotzur, had not only been hired to perform that role, but helped develop the sign language. My understanding was that a cast member who knew signing had the idea of using it for the Tuskens and suggested and brought in Troy, who then worked on developing the unique language. It’s not ASL or any other language, he actually has created a Tusken signing language for the show. And so it was exciting to see in the first episode of the season, not only to see the Tuskens back to really dive into that use of signing for communication between cultures who didn’t speak the same language, and for other purposes, you know, for communicating across distances, and things like that. And the work that Troy’s done and how they’ve involved Troy in the storytelling itself, is a massive achievement, I think, in terms of representation that I don’t think we’ve ever really seen before in Star Wars.

Jack
Until you said something, like obviously I knew they used sign language sign language, but I had no idea that it wasn’t ASL.

Greg
Yeah, I agree. Right? And I think even more so like they did all that and then also took it like, to another level in terms of stories, the actual, the communication theme that they were dealing with there, they were able to explore it even more deeply.

Jack
Absolutely.

Greg
The other thing that’s happened in the fan community in the past week, related to Mandalorian was in the previous episode…

Jack
The Passenger.

Greg
The Passenger… there was a bit of storytelling involving the child eating the frog lady’s eggs, knowing these eggs have been built up as precious to her and being the last of her line, seeing the child eat them was intended as a comedic effect.

But it didn’t work for a lot of people, in ways the creators apparently did not expect. And at least some employees of Lucasfilm didn’t take very seriously once they heard about it.

In particular, many women shared that they had a real emotional reaction to it, and that it brought up their own health trauma, especially around difficult pregnancies or miscarriages. And some people brought up in-vitro fertilization, which is really similar in some ways, and which is really difficult and emotional experience.

And while I think it’s important to hear from the creators about their intentions, it’s really important to listen to those fans who were impacted by it.

Jack
Absolutely.

Greg
And because their feelings are all entirely valid. And even if a lot of us, you know, from our perspective and our history, we don’t have that background. Even me, even me as a father, I can’t relate to that necessarily. And I didn’t interpret it that way when watching it.

I saw it as disturbing. And I felt at the end that they went a little far with that… that’s pretty dark. But it never occurred to me how impactful that could be to some members of the community. And to kind of compound that fact, as people raised really reasonable, really valid concerns. There was then media coverage that was really poorly presented, like clickbait headlines, saying “Baby Yoda’s Canceled,” that kind of stuff. There were tweets embedded and linked to and retweeted from some of these people who spoke out – almost all women, of course – and it caused a lot of backlash against them.

And that’s the pattern over and over again, as marginalized people speak up about their experiences, even in a very reasonable fashion to say, “hey, this, this really bothered me. And can we address that?” And it results in a backlash of bullying, and verbal assault, and harassment, that just tears the community apart. And not only is damaging to those people, which is the most important part, but also guarantees a lot of times that these things don’t get addressed and don’t change.

Jack
That’s why I’m glad they spoke up.

Greg
Yeah.

Jack
Because they could have easily just not said anything. And nobody, nobody learned anything. And yeah, it needed to be said.

Greg
So Jack, there was another release last week that you got a hold of. You want to tell us about that?

Jack
Yeah I did. It’s a new book. It’s called the Jedi Mind. Secrets From the Force for Balance and Peace. It was written by Amy Ratcliffe. And it was beautifully illustrated by Christina Chung. I know you got it too, right?

Greg
Uh yeah, I’ve been waiting for it. Apparently, it just finally shipped from the publisher today. So I guess I’ll eventually I’ll eventually have it in hand. I mean, I’m excited to read it, though.

Jack:
Oh, it’s really awesome. This book is really cool, because it takes examples from certain characters in the Star Wars universe that… actually a variety of characters. And it talks about the obstacles that they faced, at some points in their lives. And it talks about how they perceive the obstacle, and then how they dealt with it. And how they met the challenge. And then after it illustrated that story, then it tells you how you can use techniques to overcome similar obstacles in your own life.

Greg
That’s, that’s so cool.

Jack
Yeah. And the really cool thing about this too, and Amy even talks about it, it’s very accessible because you don’t need to buy anything. You don’t need any training in anything. You don’t have to go to the gym, you can practice these skills from your home, at work, school, the grocery store, wherever…

Greg
You can be Yoda living in a swamp.

Jack
Exactly right. You could be the Wampa in his cave.

Greg
Sure.

Jack
But one section I liked was with Chirrut Imwe From Rogue One And his section was about motivation. Remember the famous line from Rogue One?

Greg
Yeah, I’m one with the Force and the Force is with me.

Jack
Exactly. And that was a mantra that Chirrut said to himself. He uses a mantra to provide clarity, and also to inspire him to always move forward.

Greg
Right.

Jack
I like to use the example of the scene towards the end of the movie, when they’ve already downloaded the Death Star files, there’s a console, all out in the open, and they can use that console to upload files, but they got to get to it. Meanwhile, there’s hundreds and hundreds of stormtroopers and other Imperial forces raining down on them. So to inspire him, and to build up his confidence, he starts walking slowly, and just repeating I am one with the Force, the Force is with me, just because he wants to block out all the negative thoughts, just focus on the goal, get to the console, upload the files.

Greg
Yeah, I imagine it’s a combination of like, the internal negative thoughts and negative voices and the fear. And also, literally the external noise and danger, that he just kind of zones all that out, focuses on his mantra. I was thinking, while you’re talking about that, like, we all have our own control switch, we have to get to all the time, surrounded by Death Troopers, blasting at us…

Jack
And too, I mean, with depression too, it’s really hard to fight off the negative thoughts. So by creating your own mantra, and focusing on that, it can help in blocking out those negative thoughts. And just keep going and keep going and keep going. Don’t let the negative thoughts hold you back.

Greg
Yeah.

Jack
Let’s say you have to get a project done or edit a podcast. [Both laugh] Then just like said, just keep repeating the mantra and like, keep moving forward, get it done, and don’t let the bad thoughts get in your head.

Greg
That’s awesome. That’s awesome lessons. I can’t wait to get it because having heard about it already, and just read synopses and stuff, and your summary… like I’ve, you know, I did some mindfulness stuff like years ago, and meditation stuff that actually really helped me a lot. And I got out of the practice and just couldn’t keep up with it. And I know that I could benefit from it and I’d like to try to get back into doing some of that stuff.

Jack
I kind of skimmed through the book, so I can get an idea…

Greg
Yeah.

Jack
… what it is, but when I have time, I’m gonna sit there and really read it. And then when I really have some time start actually practicing some of the techniques. Cause I know it’ll help. I’m scatterbrained. So it’s really hard to focus.

Greg
Right.

Jack
But maybe by using some of these techniques, I can learn to focus.

Greg
Right. And maybe, as we’re both referencing that and trying to dive into some of the stuff, we can kind of provide some updates on the show, on future episodes. How things are going.

Jack
Right. Oh, I definitely want to go… Once you get your copy, and we both read it. I definitely want to dive back into it in in a future episode and have a whole entire segment. Definitely taking the teachings and the practices of the Jedi and applying them to our everyday lives, which his book does quite a bit.

Greg
Yeah, the book is sort of serendipitous with its release time, because I think, you know, we were planning on this and these topics that we’re talking about and planning the show and saw the book was coming or like that’s exactly the kind of a crossover that we’re looking at. That we’re talking about.

Jack
Exactly. As soon as you showed it to me, I think within two minutes, I pre-ordered it.

Greg
Right. Yeah, exactly.

Jack
And I know you read a book that also came out this week…

Greg
Yeah, well, I’ve read part of it also, it’s funny – they’re kind of connected in a way. This is the From a Certain Point of View book for Empire Strikes Back for its 40th anniversary. And Amy Ratcliff also has a story in this one.

Jack
Oh, cool.

Greg
And so I saw her posting pictures of her holding both books, and she’s like, how often did you have multiple books released on the same day?

Jack
Exactly.

Greg
First, they did A New Hope. Now they’re doing Empire Strikes Back. Each one on its 40th anniversary, they took 40 authors from real diverse backgrounds, and had them each write short stories from the perspective of side and ancillary characters, secondary characters in the Star Wars universe around the story being told. So I really like the first book a lot. It was great for A New Hope. This one, you know, Empire’s my favorite movie. And there was a lot here that I was really looking forward to. So when we were talking about recording this, and I got a copy of the book, I didn’t anticipate this, but I saw that there was a story based on 2-1B, the medical droid, first from Hoth and later in the Rebel fleet. Because sequence doesn’t really matter, I jumped ahead to listen to that one. And I was kind of astounded at how relevant and insightful the story was. It’s called right hand man written by Lydia Kang, who I wasn’t familiar with, but the story takes place, you know, just after Luke has lost his hand on Bespin. And he’s in a terrible state, he’s in anguish, he’s been confronted with this new truth, and he is being healed and fitted with the prosthetic hand. This tells that story of 2-1B doing that work, tending to Luke and caring for him, right up until the point that we pick up at the end of Empire, as you know, they get a call and they get up and watch out the window. And it confronts some really interesting ideas around prosthetics, and injuries and limb differences tied specifically to the themes and Luke’s character in that part of the story. Like one of the main things that it deals with that 2-1B kind of tackles his issue that Luke to a degree actually doesn’t want a prosthetic at first, because he feels like this injury is a, he feels he deserves it, it feels like he has made a mistake, and that he screwed up and failed. And that he deserves it as a sort of punishment, which I’m sure anyone who deals with limb differences and injuries like that, or prosthetics or anything, you know, it’s not a matter of deserve, it’s more. It’s not a healthy perspective, I don’t think… is my feeling and my understanding of it. But you can see how he can feel that way in the moment. And…

Jack
Right. It’s a traumatic event.

Greg
Yeah, he’s traumatized in the story. And that’s really interesting. And you see his perspective and how his perspective shifts as he talks to 2-1B. And I want to talk about this without spoiling the story itself, knowing we know the story. But in terms of the arc of this particular short, 2-1B has to bring him around, you know, explain to him the idea that this is a tool, machinery is not good or evil. They actually bring up Vader, knowing that Vader is kind of renowned as being mostly cybernetic. Yeah, it has Luke comparing himself to Vader in that moment, which is kind of a foreshadowing of how he later develops that perspective, and that comparison, especially late in Jedi, where he starts to reflect on how he’s becoming Vader. And it made me really kind of look at that in a different light. Knowing how he’s gained his perspective of the limb was being part of him, but it’s a tool that he can use just like any other tool that we use, like a wheelchair or eyeglasses. And that’s some of the analogies that you know, 2-1B uses. It made me think more that he was thinking along those lines, the fact that Vader was the way that he was wasn’t a good or evil thing. It gave me some things to think about.

Jack
It’s interesting that you bring that up, because there’s a very similar section in the Jedi Mind, where it talks about Kanan, and this is from Rebels, obviously. And he had just lost his sight. And he obviously trying to same thing, traumatic event. That he now has to deal with, a permanent…

Greg
Right.

Jack
And so he’s meditating. And through some meditation, he ends up communing with Bendu. Right. And the Bendu is saying, “You know what? Yeah, okay, you lost your sight.” But similar to your story, it’s not inherently a good or bad thing.

Right.

It’s going to depend on you, how you deal with it, and what you choose to do with this new situation.

Greg
Yeah, I can relate to that, in the sense that like, with my illness, I took a long time to get to a point of acceptance, where I wasn’t angry at my illness. Because there’s no point to it, it’s not a conscious thing. It’s just it happens. It’s a fact…

Jack
And you can’t change it, I mean…

Greg
I can’t change it. So you can kind of accept it, but also look in a different light. Which it sounds like both these stories kind of touch on…

Jack
Right. Same thing with me, I mean, I see a lot of my peers with spina bifida and they’ve just like, given up, not really given up, I mean, I think they let their disability consume them. The way I look at it, and you know, me, I mean, I always use my humor.

Greg
Right.

Jack
And I don’t know if I use it as a coping mechanism or that I just like humor anyway. Yeah, but I’m 44 years old, even if there was a cure tomorrow. I probably wouldn’t take it.

Greg
Hm, right.

Jack
Just because I mean, I’ve dealt with this for 44 years. I figure I mean, why change. This is my situation, it’s not gonna change. Even if there’s a change, I’m not going to do it. So I might as well make the best of it.

Greg
Yep. Right. I’ll mention really quick also, to kind of wrap up this book topic. But the other thing it really cast in a different light, for me was two things related to Vader, that kind of made me look at him differently also. One was that 2-1B, when he talks about the fact that he’s using the bacta to heal the nerves to regrow them to attach to the prosthetic, which is really cool, at a very minute level, that you haven’t really heard them using bacta before. And he talks about the fact that it’s a living thing, that the bacta itself is a type of bacteria, which I just made that wording connection…

Jack
Yeah same here. [Both laugh] I never really thought about that.

Greg
He talks about the fact that it requires the cooperation of the patient. It requires them to have the will and strength the intention of healing in order to respond to that and work properly. And I thought that was kinda interesting from a healing standpoint. And again, it’s an arc that Luke is going through, where he doesn’t necessarily want to be healed at first, but then he comes around to it and understands and accepts it, and it starts to work better. And at the same time, 2-1B also talks about the fact that the injury that he sustained, he’s probably going to experience some phantom pain for the rest of his life. And that he describes it as sort of a memory of the injury. And I’m curious how that relates to real life, for people with those experiences. I obviously, there’s this concept of phantom pain out there, but I don’t know much about that. But it made me think that Luke’s gonna experience that going forward throughout the rest of the story. But also, both of those cases really cast Vader in another light, because we know that he heals with bacta. We know that he’s cybernetic now and that he’s lost most of his limbs through fighting Obi-Wan, and it made me think, first, he’s constantly… likely constantly experiencing that pain of those injuries throughout his life. From that point on, ever since Mustafar, he’s experiencing that loss and that tragedy and trauma of what happened with him and Obi-Wan. At the same time, he uses the bacta that he you know, submerges in to heal and you have to wonder… Anakin at that point, does he want to heal? Is that bacta responding to him? But yeah, so the one interesting thing about this chapter especially was like I said, I wasn’t familiar with Lydia Kang, but having read this chapter, I was like, she clearly knows a lot about this stuff, or, and has some kind of personal experience, or has done a lot of great research. So I looked her up, I was pleasantly surprised that she not only is a writer but is an actual practicing physician.

Jack
Oh cool.

Greg
And that’s where she brings that perspective and knowledge. She’s not just writing off the cuff. Um, and apparently from what I read it a couple of her tweets and stuff that she was offered the opportunity to work on this book, and like most the authors select a character, and she gravitated right to 2-1B and said, okay the medical surgeon droid, that’s the one I want to write about.

So you can pick up the Jedi mind or From a Certain Point of View Empire Strikes Back at any major booksellers.

For our next segment, we’ll be doing our Mission Briefing, which will be our monthly deeper dive into a particular topic. In this case, for our first episode, we’re going to be talking about some of the goals for the show itself, and some of the topics we’re going to be talking about and covering, especially in the months to come.

We just talked about, you know, the park accommodations at Galaxy’s Edge specifically. Um, you know, that’s something we’re definitely going to be addressing in more depth. At some point, we’ll talk about our experiences there. Things we learned, things that worked, what didn’t work, and hopefully talk to some other guests as well about their experiences. We’d definitely like to have people on and sharing their stories about what it was like for them. And I know I’ve also seen a number of, you know there’s YouTube videos out there about people doing their own little tour of the park. Um. And people have written up about their experiences, and I think a lot of that stuff we want to share and get out there.

Jack
Along the same lines, we’re going to discuss event accommodations. I, myself am an artist, as I talked about earlier, and I attend a lot of conventions, like comic book conventions, as a artist. And I’ve also attended a lot of Star Wars events. And you know, I’ve had some good and I’ve had some bad experiences. And we’re going to discuss that and hopefully, try and figure out ways that these events can be more not only be more aware of our needs, but also put those needs into action.

Greg
Right. That goes for a lot of different types of conventions, and fan events and gatherings even, you know, within certain cities or communities. I know from like my perspective, there’s a lot of stuff I’m not able to attend, just because of my difficulty in getting out and about my fatigue and stuff.

We didn’t mention earlier, but this podcast really came about because of ForceFest, which was a virtual fan event back in August, that was meant to somewhat fill in the gap left by Star Wars Celebration, which had been scheduled for that weekend, and which had been cancelled due to COVID. We were actually invited to sit in on a panel at the last minute about Disabilities in the Fandom, which is how we met Richard and Sarah at Skywalking, since they were organizing it. Based on the response to that panel we started talking about a podcast within a few days.

What was so great about that, that event, and ones like it that have been happening this year is something else we really want to get into at some point, is to talk about the fact that really opens up these events to people who are normally not able to attend, and to be able to have a virtual event that we were able to participate in the whole thing, that was really awesome.

One thing we really want to get into too that relates to all these things is the idea of representation because a lot of times the way we see improvements in accommodations, taking disabled and ill needs into account is through people participating in the creation of those places, not just being, you know, consulting or being listened to, which is not always even the case but actually being part of the creative teams behind both physical spaces and the media.

All of that has a major impact on the ability of people to see themselves and to be able to take part in these things. So we really want to highlight cases in which we see representation in front of and behind the cameras, you know, and in the pages of books, etc. All those things.

In terms of representation of disabled experiences in the media of Star Wars, and in the Star Wars universe, it’s been really hit or miss. And I’d almost dare say it’s more miss and… negative than positive in terms of how disabilities are portrayed. And the fact that disability is often equal to evil, and villainy, which is a really common trope in media, that I think Star Wars is especially egregious at at times.

And as we gave the example earlier of Troy Kotsur being involved in the Mandalorian, as the Tusken people um, using sign, sign language, it can have a massive effect on people being seen, and in terms of story and stories that are being told. And we’d really like to see more more of that.

We also really want to talk about accessibility in terms of games and other media. Especially like, you know, you’ve probably seen Jack too, in the gaming world, there have been like, a lot of improvements in accessibility.

Jack
I remember I mean, back in the day, they might have like, one, one extra option…

Greg
Right. Yeah.

Jack
But now like, I know this isn’t Star Wars related. But in the new Spider Man game, there’s like 15-20 accessible options in that game.

Greg:
Right.

Jack:
Which is just unbelievable.

Greg
Yeah, and we saw in Squadrons when it came out, it had, apparently this has been happening in a few other games as well. But, you know, you start the game up, the very first screen you see even before you get into the game’s menus or anything is, is accessibility options that you can configure. And that’s amazing, because it lets people right off the bat, configure the game to their needs. And, um and, and really enhances their experience and ability to even participate in that game. Because it’s a difficult thing with accommodations and accessibility that people might not realize that when they’re not there, it means that people are just left out entirely in a lot of cases.

Jack
And one thing too, we can definitely talk about in the future along the same lines is Microsoft’s adaptive controller.

Greg
Yes.

Jack
Which is absolutely amazing. I never I personally don’t own one. But I know like you can hook up your own accessibility device. It has, like, I think, at least a dozen different inputs. And so it just, it’s nice to have another device that helps people with disabilities enjoy video games.

Greg
Yeah, yeah. And we talked a little earlier, you know, with the Jedi Mind book. And there’s certainly some aspects of mental health and mindfulness we’ll want to get into that can be tied back to to the Star Wars, universe and themes and characters. And I think that book is a good doorway into that kind of topic. But we had already been talking about the fact that we wanted to touch on that. We both have our mental health challenges. We know there’s a lot of fans out there who have their own as well.

Jack
There’s also a lot of celebrities within the Star Wars community that have now dealt with her own battles with mental illness and depression. Like Ahmed Best and Ashley Eckstein.

Greg
Yeah.

Jack
And it’s great that you know, they’re so open about their battles. And Ashley has her mental health Mondays…

Greg
Yeah, I know we’ve both been following those for a while. It’s great to see every week her putting out content and talking about these things. She does a live feed sometimes and talks to other experts and it’s a cool contribution to the community.

Greg
And one other aspect of all this that we’re going to touch on and also just incorporate everything that we do is this idea of intersectionality, which is the idea that disabilities in some cases is just one part of someone’s life, and they may be experiencing some other types of difficult experiences, or marginalization. And, you know, while Jack and I are a couple of middle aged cisgender, white guys, we don’t have all these perspectives that a lot of other people can bring to these stories. And those are the ones we especially want to share. Um we’re really hoping to bring on as many people as we can with as diverse experiences as possible. And, you know, as I think we’ve said, to each other, at least, we have very particular experiences, and we don’t know what it’s like to be disabled, and be a part of this other group that also, you know, experiences marginalization, and difficulties in society. And each of those different groups and different combinations have very unique and interesting stories to tell, that are really valuable, and we want to try to share those as much as we can.

Greg
Well, thanks a lot for joining us for our premiere episode. And again – we want to hear from you. We want to hear your story, or any thoughts or feedback you have about the topics we discussed in this episode.

Feel free to reach out to us on social media. We’re Resilience Squadron on Facebook and Instagram, and @ResilienceSquad on Twitter. Also please leave us a rating and review on iTunes – it’ll really help us out.

We’re part of the Skywalking Network, where you can also find other great shows like Talking Apes, Classic Marvel Star Wars Comics, The Max EFX Podcast, Neverland Clubhouse, and the flagship show – Skywalking Through Neverland.

Jack
And wait wait one last thing – Mark Hamill, will you please return our phone calls?

[Exit music]

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