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RIP Ralph McQuarrie, Star Wars Visionary

Geekdom lost an important figure over the weekend – Ralph McQuarrie died at the age of 82. Many people won't know the name, but they will undoubtedly know his work as a concept artist on everything from Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Cocoon to the original Battlestar Galactica. But what he will always be remembered for is his work on the original Star Wars trilogy. In fact, were it not for McQuarrie, Star Wars might never have existed at all.

George Lucas commissioned McQuarrie to create concept art based on scenes from an early draft of the Star Wars script, and Lucas used these visuals to help sell the film to 20th Century Fox. After the movie got the green light, McQuarrie stayed on to help develop the look of everything from iconic characters to vehicles to buildings and landscapes, and even worked on marketing materials, like posters and promotional artwork.

As a tribute to McQuarrie and his impressive body of work, we present a gallery of some of his concept and production art for Star Wars. I think you'll agree that his vision helped define a generation and quite possibly changed cinema forever.

Concept art for the scene when Darth Vader reveals to Luke that he's...well, you know.

Early concept art of Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker.

Early versions of R2-D2 and C3PO that helped convince 20th Century Fox to make Star Wars.

Early Snowspeeders take down an AT-AT while Snowtroopers run past.

Concept art of an AT-AT preparing to step on Luke Skywalker and his Snowspeeder.

The Ewoks carry their golden deity through the forest of Endor.

Production art for the cloud city of Bespin.

Stormtroopers carrying lightsabers and shields as they intercept our heroes on the Death Star.

An early concept for the Jawa Sandcrawler, as well as a Jawa settlement.

Production art of a squadron of B-Wings taking out a Star Destroyer.

Luke evading the Empire on his Speederbike on the forest moon of Endor.

A Tusken Raider gathering in the cold night of Tatooine.

Production art for Sy Snootles and the Max Rebo Band.

All images copyright Lucasfilm

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How Do You Stress the Word: THANKSgiving or ThanksGIVing?
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Here’s something else to stress about for Thanksgiving: where to put the stress in the word Thanksgiving.

If you’re from California, Iowa, or Delaware, you probably say ThanksGIVing, with the primary stress on the second syllable. If you’re from Georgia, Tennessee, or the Texas Panhandle, you probably say THANKSgiving, with the primary stress on the first syllable.

This north-south divide on syllable stress is found for other words like umbrella, guitar, insurance, and pecan. However, those words are borrowed from other languages (Italian, Spanish, French). Sometimes, in the borrowing process, competing stress patterns settle into regional differences. Just as some borrowed words get first syllable stress in the South and second syllable stress in the North, French words like garage and ballet get first syllable stress in the UK and second syllable stress in the U.S.

Thanksgiving, however, is an English word through and through. And if it behaved like a normal English word, it would have stress on the first syllable. Consider other words with the same noun-gerund structure just like it: SEAfaring, BAbysitting, HANDwriting, BULLfighting, BIRDwatching, HOMEcoming, ALMSgiving. The stress is always up front, on the noun. Why, in Thanksgiving alone, would stress shift to the GIVE?

The shift to the ThanksGIVing pronunciation is a bit of a mystery. Linguist John McWhorter has suggested that the loss of the stress on thanks has to do with a change in our concept of the holiday, that we “don’t truly think about Thanksgiving as being about thankfulness anymore.” This kind of thing can happen when a word takes on a new, more abstract sense. When we use outgoing for mail that is literally going out, we are likely to stress the OUT. When we use it as a description of someone’s personality ("She's so outgoing!"), the stress might show up on the GO. Stress can shift with meaning.

But the stress shift might not be solely connected to the entrenchment of our turkey-eating rituals. The thanksGIVing stress pattern seems to have pre-dated the institution of the American holiday, according to an analysis of the meter of English poems by Mark Liberman at Language Log. ThanksGIVing has been around at least since the 17th century. However you say it, there is precedent to back you up. And room enough to focus on both the thanks and the giving.

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Watch Boris Karloff's 1966 Coffee Commercial
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TAKWest, Youtube

Horror legend Boris Karloff is famous for playing mummies, mad scientists, and of course, Frankenstein’s creation. In 1930, Karloff cemented the modern image of the monster—with its rectangular forehead, bolted neck, and enormous boots (allegedly weighing in at 11 pounds each)—in the minds of audiences.

But the horror icon, who was born 130 years ago today, also had a sense of humor. The actor appeared in numerous comedies, and even famously played a Boris Karloff look-alike (who’s offended when he’s mistaken for Karloff) in the original Broadway production of Arsenic and Old Lace

In the ’60s, Karloff also put his comedic chops to work in a commercial for Butter-Nut Coffee. The strange commercial, set in a spooky mansion, plays out like a movie scene, in which Karloff and the viewer are co-stars. Subtitles on the bottom of the screen feed the viewer lines, and Karloff responds accordingly. 

Watch the commercial below to see the British star selling coffee—and read your lines aloud to feel like you’re “acting” alongside Karloff. 

[h/t: Retroist]

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