The Not Quite Adventures of a Professional Archaeologist and Aspiring Curmudgeon

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Teaching Anthropology to Stormtroopers

So, yesterday I woke up early, made the trek up to San Francisco's Presidio, and did the Voodoo that I do so well. I delivered the talk.

Things got off to a rough start. An old friend of mine was driving from Portland to Los Angeles, and needed to stop at my place for the night. This was not a problem. However, the fact that he didn't arrive until nearly midnight and I needed to be gone around 7 the next morning was a problem. So, Kaylia and I dragged our sorry carcasses out of bed, got in the car, fortified ourselves with coffee, and headed north to San Francisco.

We had prepared for gnarly traffic, but encountering no such thing, we arrived at Lucasarts an hour early - just in time, as it turns out, to pull into the Lucasarts garage and see Obi Wan Kenobi helping two other people pull large plastic boxes out of their car.

This would presage the rest of the day, really.

As we had plenty of time to kill, we went over to have more coffee with Obi Wan and his friends, one of whom would be dressed as a female Tusken Raider before the day was done, the other of whom was just a very pleasant, mellow guy. I also knew that a number of people dressed as Stormtroopers would be joining us at the lecture hall. I have written about bad experiences with costumed hobbyists, and was a bit wary when I heard that such a group would be in attendance. But, as it turns out, these folks were all very friendly, very nice, and had a great sense of humor about what they were up to.

At any rate, we slouched about with the costumers for a while, first at the coffee shop, and then at the Lucasarts lobby, and finally my friend Stacy (who had set this whole thing up) came to gather us. We headed over to a small theatre, where the stormtroopers, Jedi, Sand People, and Lucasarts employees got comfortable, and I set up my computer to start the presentation.

My original intention had been to give a brief overview of anthropological theory and then spend most of my time talking about how this might be applied to alien races in Star Wars. In the end, I actually ended up using Star Wars as a way of introducing topics that are of interest to anthropologists and archaeologists, and providing a large number of examples to illustrate points from North America and Australia.

The talk done, we headed over to the dining area. I realized two things:

A) Lucasfilm employees have the best cafeteria on the planet. Aside from a wide variety of outstanding food, they also have views of the Golden Gate Bridge and the Palace of Fine Arts.

B) There are very few things more surreally funny than watching a Stormtrooper do such mundane things as order a sandwich and get Coke from a soda fountain.

From there, Stacy led us on a tour of the facilities, including the opportunity to look in on ILM's offices/workshops in San Francisco, and also the chance to check out the merchandising office. All in all, it was a very cool back-scenes look at how Lucasfilm works.

I was also asked if I would give the talk again. And, if invited, I think I will.

Kaylia took photos, and I will post some in the next few days. In the end, we had very sore feet, were very tired, but were very happy that we had come. It was an excellent experience, and one that I would welcome again.

I wonder, if I were asked to speak again, if they would be interested in a talk on the archaeology of San Francisco. That is a fascinating topic.

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