Thursday, August 25, 2011

Too forthright, he was, hm?

The outlawed emblem …
Some people won't let me live down this story:

A long time ago, in a life too far away these days, I designed this emblem for the adult patrol of Boy Scout Troop 328 in Carmichael, Calif.

Lots of Boy Scout troops have adult patrols. They serve many purposes, the most important of which is that adult patrols are formalized excuses for the adults to join in the fun but stay out of the Scouts' way. Scouting is toughest on parents and guardians because adults want their children to succeed without risk of failure, and Scouting is supposed to be the opposite — to enable boys to risk failure in repeated attempts toward self-discovery and success.

I must admit, I liked this design; it
incorporated Berthold City typefaces,
which I used as titling fonts in Troop
fliers, handouts and other communications.
At the same time, adult patrols enable adults to model success and, every once in a while, excellence. Many adult patrols will set up camp and cook fantastic meals one time through for their Troop, as a way of showing how it should be done properly and setting the bar high. After that, the adults will leave the Scouts to their own peer leadership, and periodically model patrol behavior later when they think it's needed.

Most adult patrols go by a small set of nicknames: Geezer Patrol, Rocking Chair Patrol, Old Goat Patrol.


I thought our adults should have something better and more befitting our own ideals as teachers and mentors. We could have fun, but we could also say something with our patrol emblem, something to symbolize pride.


It was perfect; so perfect I need not explain why, need I? I designed the emblem and even a patrol flag, since the Scouts had one for each of their patrols. The emblem is simple because it has to be embroidered and I didn't want to make enemies of the emblem manufacturer.

At the last moment, I acted on this thought: I'm trying to be a professional illustrator, and I'd have a fit if someone used my work without permission or recompense. I'll ask LucasFilm Ltd. for permission. George Lucas, who created Yoda and Star Wars, puts all of his creations under Lucasfilm's protection. It'll be a show of good faith. LucasFilm wouldn't say no to a bunch of well-meaning Boy Scouts.

LucasFilm said no.

A pleasant attorney thanked me for asking, even complimented the design, but said LucasFilm no longer allows use of its properties' imagery, even for a lowly Boy Scout patrol. George Lucas used to grant Marin County scouting groups to use the images, the attorney said, but had to clamp down on that.

Blame the military, he said: Too many flight crews and patrols were … modifying, shall we say … the Star Wars characters for their uses … one person's light saber is another's phallic symbol, I guess … and LucasFilm wanted to stop it.

Eh. Someone suggested, cleverly, that the bunch
should be grapes or bananas. My attempts at those
are too sophomoric to show here, even worse than these.
Once Star Wars turns you down,
it's kind of hard to gather energy.
Despite several more stops and starts over the years, I never did design an adult patrol emblem.

What'd you go and ask LucasFilm for? some asked — some of them adults within Scouting. Hmm. What am I missing here?

It reminds me of junior high, when I pointed out to my PE teacher, politely, that he had made an addition error and that in fact I had not earned sufficient points to receive special colored gym shorts indicating I had performed well in the presidential physical fitness award (I can't believe we were working so hard for red shorts).

In the after-school TV specials, the adult in this moment always praises the kid's honesty and points out how hard it must have been for the kid to bring the bad news to light, knowing what he/she would lose by doing so. My PE teacher told me I was a fool for depriving myself of the prize, and should have just kept my mouth shut.


(Why'm I writing about this, anyway? My daughter went on a college group field trip to San Francisco, and the group went to see the Yoda statue at LucasFilm headquarters at the Presidio. It just reminded me, is all. I'm mulling the idea of a statue based on an imaginary figure; sorta off kilter.)

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