…maybe it’s just George Lucas. Because, holy *balls*, this is amazing.
People who have known me for a long time tend to react with surprise when I tell them I’ve done something like going to Blockbuster to rent “Star Wars” on DVD so Helen can watch it.
“You don’t own all of those movies on DVD in three or four different versions?” they say.
This is a completely legitimate thing to ask, by the way. Like a lot of people my age, my memories of Star Wars go back almost as far as I have memories; I can’t really say there is a time in my life that I can really remember that didn’t involve Star Wars in some way.
So when asked about things like having to rent Star Wars on DVD because, no, I haven’t ever bought it, I explain how the state of the franchise has disillusioned me, and how those movies have become nothing more than an opportunity to turn the greatest pop-culture phenomenon in human history into Disney Princess-level merchandise whoring. I explain how, despite the existence of shelf after shelf of Star Wars toys in my basement, Star Wars computer games in boxes in my office, various iterations of Star Wars on VHS tape elsewhere throughout my house, and billions of sections of my brain permanently tattooed with images of Stormtroopers, stories about my parents taking us all to see Empire Strikes Back, standing in a huge line at the mall with my mom waiting for Dad to get off work and meet us for Return of the Jedi, being visited in line by a two-year-old Megan while I was waiting all day for my tickets to the midnight showing of “The Phantom Menace,” how excited Helen was when she helped me unbox and assemble my Big Millennium Falcon a couple of years ago… It started when I was five and, in many respects, has carried on to and through my kids.
But despite everything that’s great about those memories, and the thousands of other great memories that I have because of those movies, this current generation of “you will consume this garbage because it says Star Wars on it, and for literally no other reason” has just about killed it for me. It’s Chewbacca giving out a statue at the MTV Movie Awards; it’s that horrendous “Star Wars Weekends” advertisement that shows Darth Maul with a rainbow painted on his face; it’s being able to buy Darth Vader’s voice for your GPS; it’s that horrendous Clone Wars cartoon that mixes five minutes of “awesome” with 17 minutes of horrible dialogue and what feels like intentional efforts to insult and patronize anyone over the age of nine. It’s so “everywhere” that it’s hard to take pleasure in any of it.
Now, thanks to adidas, instead of taking any effort at all to explain this, I will pretty much just have to point people in the direction of this. Here, in two minutes, is why “Star Wars” feels dead to me:
“So, Andy, how can you hate Star Wars? You’ve loved it your entire life.”
“Because they replaced Luke Skywalker… with Snoop Dogg.”
This week is the 30th anniversary of “The Empire Strikes Back,” which seems patently ridiculous and makes me feel old. It also makes me remember one of the favorite events of my childhood — going to see this movie with my parents.
One afternoon on some weekend in El Paso, Texas, my parents rounded the three of us up and said that “we are going to do something that your father wants to do. Let’s get in the car.” This, of course, led us to fears of a famous “buggy ride,” where we just drove around and looked at stuff. My two brothers and I protested rather vehemently, particularly since my parents steadfastly refused to give up this “thing” that dad wanted to inflict upon us. Surely, it was going to be horrendous.
We stopped at a gas station or a 7/11 or something like that and got some drinks, and started driving. After a time, we went through an intersection and Dad proclaimed from the front seat “Shoot, I just missed my turn.” Dad decided to use the parking lot of a nearby mall to turn around, and said “well, since we’re here, why don’t we just stop here and walk around for a bit.” We thought it was great to have some freedom from the car, even though we’d probably been in there 10 minutes, so this seemed like a fine idea.
I don’t even remember what mall it was, just that by the time we paid it a visit that day it was struggling and mostly empty of shops. A few stores here and there, and at the end of a long corridor we could see there was a movie theater attached to the far end. Dad says “Hey, why don’t you guys run up there and see what’s playing?”
So, my brother Tom and I started walking toward the wall of movie posters. We got closer, and I noticed several posters on the wall were this. I stopped and looked, trying to make sure I was seeing what I thought I was seeing. When I was sure I was, I ran for the wall as fast as I could. It was the greatest news I could imagine; “Empire Strikes Back” was playing in some second-run dollar theater in *this* mall, and it was starting *soon*. I immediately pivoted and bolted, top speed and screaming, back to my parents. Tom and I assaulted them with shouts of “momanddad momanddad, Empire Strikes Back is here! It’s here, and it starts in a few minutes! momanddad momanddad momanddad canwegocanwegocanwegocanwego?”
They made us wait for a painful eternity of probably no more than a few seconds before relenting, and the five of us went to the movie.
Two amazing hours of AT-ATs, Wampas, Yoda and lightsaber fights later, my parents somehow herded three stupidly-happy children back into the car and we headed home. After a few blocks, we came to that intersection from earlier in the afternoon. We again drove right through the light.
“Dad, that’s where you said you were supposed to turn,” I said. “What about that thing you wanted to do?”
From the driver’s seat of our little station wagon, Dad just peeked back at us over his shoulder and grinned.
“We just did it.”
This is the first of three pictures I posted of Flickr as a preview of Toy Lair 4.0.
This is a picture of the five new bookshelves I’m adding to this iteration of The Toy Lair. ♥ Target clearances; the total cost of those five bookshelves was less than $90, and the three-shelf case was only four bucks. The “G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra” video game promo poster you can see on the left is hanging on the wall above the small bookcase now.
I finally picked up “Star Wars: The Force Unleashed” for my Playstation 3 last week; it was on clearance at Target for $10 to make room for the new SKU with the Sith missions.
I hadn’t had much experience with the game beyond playing through the free downloadable demo available on the Playstation Network, but I thoroughly enjoyed that brief glimpse of the game and have been looking forward to the full game.
I’m only through the first two chapters so far; I finished the second mission this evening, and so far the game is pretty fun. Targeting can be pretty frustrating, and the game’s approach of making your character significantly more powerful than any single enemy means it’s a game of surviving despite being vastly outnumbered. And anything you’re supposed to “use the Force” on to manipulate is either targetable or glowing in this hideous blue; so there aren’t really environmental puzzles to solve (at least through the first two missions), but just a series of “push here, dummy” waypoints to fight your way to.
I like the role-playing aspect of the game, where you earn “orbs” by achieving various things in the game that you can spend to upgrade skills or abilities in three different categories, although this would be more interesting if it were set up in more of a traditional talent tree. Still, it’s an engaging process that gives you some connection to your character’s progression.
I’ve enjoyed being able to levitate a Jawa, hit it with Force lightning and turn it into a bomb, then hurl it into a group of enemies and watch it explode and kill them all. That’s the best part of the game so far. The environments are also incredibly detailed and very attractive; a lot of effort was put into recreating the visual atmosphere of the Star Wars movies.
It’s not a perfect game by any means, but I’m enjoying it so far.
So, thanks to Twitter, today I discovered the existence of Katie Cook: http://katiecandraw.typepad.com/
The site name isn’t hyperbole; she really can draw. Her work is fantastic, and she has a *lot* of it available for people like me to check out. Her subjects run the gamut of geekdom: Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Battlestar Galactica, comic books, G.I. Joe, the works.
I really enjoy the opportunity to run across people like Katie, and be inspired and *completely* humbled by their amazing work. It makes me want to be better.
My awesome wife hooked me up with a PlayStation 3 for my birthday a couple of weeks ago, and so far I’m totally loving it. Highlights:
• watching Melissa gun her way through Resident Evil 5 has been a lot of fun. She beat the single-player campaign on weaksauce mode the night before last, and is now replaying it on normal difficulty; I’m co-piloting her attempts to complete Trophy achievements for collecting all the game’s hidden treasures and badges.
• I’ve been playing Resistance: Fall of Man, which I have thoroughly enjoyed so far. It’s a pretty old game, I know; it was a Greatest Hits pack-in with the PS3. It took me awhile to regain my console shooter chops, which atrophied pretty solidly during a four-plus year World of Warcraft addiction; I’m still not completely back yet, but it’s been a few stages since I’ve managed to get myself killed. The setting and the storyline are well-done, and so far I’ve really enjoyed the time I’ve spent with it.
• LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga is awesome. Same-screen co-op games are pretty rare, and Mel and I have enjoyed playing this together. Also, it’s easy enough that Helen can actually play too, which has been pretty fun. This is a game Megan will love once she gets back up here.
• Video streaming! Oh, I’m loving this feature so far… I have been ripping DVDs onto the old-school PowerMac G5 in my upstairs office at home and streaming the video to the PS3 down in the living room with MediaLink. It’s incredibly easy to set up, and works extremely well. My computer’s going to be pretty busy over the next few days ripping our DVD collection, and I’m now officially on the hunt for bigger hard drives. The 150-gig drive I’m using for this now ain’t gonna cut it for long…
Coming up next – Killzone 2, Metal Gear Solid 4 and Grand Theft Auto 4, not necessarily in that order. Also have an eye open for a Final Fantasy XIII release date; I skipped 12 (again, due to that pesky WoW addiction), and am excited to pick that series back up again.