Ode to a summer cold…

One does not typically expect to be bedridden with a 100 degree fever in early August, but this is precisely where I found myself this Saturday. Plans for yard work, long bike rides, trips to Home Depot to pick accent colors for my upcoming interior painting project – *poof* – all in a blaze of nasal congestion, a sore throat and the aforementioned fever.

I was not alone in my misery, mind you. Kid #2 brought the ick home with her from daycare. Kid #1 succumbed to said ick on Friday. So, come Saturday morning when Ryan should have been hatching plans to slay the Morlocks that apparently live in our southern side-lot and I should have been mowing lawns, spraying weeds and contemplating a leisurely ride on my trusty steed, we were both instead pretty much unable to do a lot more than moan and fart.

Many years ago, when I was a bachelor living alone in San Francisco I invented a ritual of watching a favorite movie any time I was laid up by the ick. Back in those days I’d dust off my ill-gotten copy of [tag]Citizen Kane[/tag] and watch it and wonder at how any movie could be so brilliant. Then I’d take twice the recommended dose of [tag]Nyguil[/tag] (mind you, this was back in the day when Nyquil actually contained some semi-powerful pseudo narcotics) sleep until the following morning and be miraculously cured. After dozens of viewings of Citizen Kane I actually grew tired of watching it. I still think it’s the greatest film ever made and will debate this point until my lips fall off with anyone who cares to, but I’ve watched the damned thing now so many times that when I’m in a diminished capacity I can’t enjoy it. I think too damned much when I watch Kane now.

To resolve this predicament and still achieve my trusty miracle cure from my bouts with recurrent [tag]Ebola[/tag] I switched to somewhat less weighty fare several years ago when I bought my first copy of the [tag]Star Wars Trilogy[/tag]. Yes, that’s right. You read that correctly. I said my first copy of the Star Wars Trilogy. The first set I bought was a set of VHS tapes of the original theatrical cut of each Episodes IV, V and VI. Naturally the print used in these copies was inferior, so when [tag]Lucasfilm[/tag] released the restored (and enhanced – as in the set with extra digitally re-done footage) I, being one of those 11 year old boys who saw Star Wars for the first time in a movie theater in 1977 and had my world well and truly rocked by it, had to buy the new set. Of course, this set was also on VHS tape, so when I got a DVD player and the enhanced version of the Trilogy was released on DVD in Widescreen it took me all of ten seconds to plop down my check card at Best Buy and gobble it up.

The next set of Star Wars DVDs I purchased were the second Trilogy – the prequel – Episodes I, II and III. Yes, I too was pained by [tag]Jar Jar Binks[/tag] and the Hop Sing caricatures of the Trade Federation. But must I remind you that I’m a first generation Star Wars nerd. When I saw Episode I for the first time I was so stunned by the gross ethic stereotyping in some of the characters that I almost didn’t like the film. And my companion in the theater was vocal in her dislike of it. But since this was a Star Wars film I went back and saw it again. And without the shock I experienced the first time, I saw the underlying intelligence of the film, and was overwhelmed by the elegance of the fight scene with [tag]Darth Maul[/tag] at the end. In the end I decided that not only did I like Episode I, I loved it. And I loved the other two films in the second trilogy even more, especially the final film whose ending actually made me cry the first time I saw it.

So, I had in my collection all six episodes of the greatest space opera ever told. But something was missing. The DVDs of the first Trilogy were not the films I’d experienced in the theater. Sure, the underlying plot and major characters were unchanged, but [tag]George Lucas[/tag] had used these films to test out ideas and techniques he was going to use in the second Trilogy. Some bits were cool, but some parts were just dorky or downright stupid looking. Then, bless my soul – Lucasfilm released all three original films on DVD in their original theatrical cut with the prints restored. Do I own these? Does the Pope shit in the woods?

So, this past Saturday as Ryan and I suffered under the yoke of microbial terror I turned to Ryan and said, “so, which Star Wars movie do you want to watch?” We ended up watching all three of the prequel episodes in a row. In terms of treatment for our respective infections I’d say this dosage was pretty excessive. To be honest, once [tag]Episode III: Revenge of the Sith[/tag](damn that’s a cool title) was rolling the closing credits Ryan was antsy as a June bug on a hot frying pan and my brain genuinely hurt, but we both awoke this morning feeling quite a bit better than we had, and darned if I don’t still love all three films. Are they flawless? No, but neither were the original Star Wars films. I am honestly at a loss for why so many people who loved the original Star Wars Trilogy not only claim to dislike the prequels, but express utter hatred, violent hatred for them.

On his new album [tag]Patton Oswalt[/tag], a man whose work I thoroughly enjoy and a guy I’d love to have a beer with some day, devotes a segment to a bit about how he’s a rotten person because if he was suddenly given the power to travel back in time he wouldn’t stop Hitler or prevent JFK’s assassination. No, he’d go back to the early 1990s and kill George Lucas to prevent him from making the prequels. The bit is funny, but it’s funny mostly because I’ve heard similar sentiments from so many people.

[tag]Chuck Klosterman[/tag] wrote a pretty fine article for [tag]Esquire[/tag] a few years ago in which he talks about the absurdity of people feeling that something as basically abstract as “your country” or “culture” could betray you. And Klosterman rightly points out how ridiculous this is. Betrayal is a horrible thing. Possibly the most horrid thing one person can do to another. It is not, however, something a nation or culture can do to anyone. Star Wars fans, I’m afraid, take their attachment to those first three films way too seriously. They forget that they’re just movies. They signify nothing and are ultimately trivial. Similarly fans of [tag]the Sopranos[/tag] got themselves absurdly into bunched-up-panty-mode when that series ended without any sort of meaningful conclusion. (Of course I can’t fail to mention that the concept of TV series having a conclusion of any sort is a relatively new fangled invention. [tag]Gunsmoke[/tag] ran of a bazillion years and went off the air without anything being resolved. Likewise series like [tag]Hawaii-5-O[/tag] and [tag]Marcus Welby, MD[/tag]. The concept of a series having a conclusion really got traction with [tag]M*A*S*H[/tag], a show that shouldn’t have had any linear plot to it at all – unless the writers wanted to try to explain why the doctors and nurses of the 4077th had all managed to age 10 years while serving a single tour of duty in a war that only lasted four years. And this concept of TV series having meaningful narrative conclusions should have well and truly jumped the shark with either the premature conclusion of [tag]Star Trek: Enterprise[/tag], which was wrapped up so neat and tidy it lacked any dramatic interest at all; or the conclusion of [tag]Friends[/tag] where we have to endure the ridiculousness of the breaking open of the damned foosball table to save Joey and Chandler’s pet duck and chick; or somebody should have gotten the point when [tag]Seinfeld[/tag], a show openly about nothing, was forced to have a concluding episode, which few people got and even fewer people liked. If a show has an actual narrative arc it makes sense for it to have an ending, if it’s just 7 seasons of episodes to fill up a later syndication run then it really can just not have any more episodes.)

Something is all out of whack when millions of people care more about having a conventional conclusion to a TV series than they do about what their country’s monetary policy is, or when our soldiers are going to come home and stop being paid to murder brown people in some third rate banana republic in the middle east. It doesn’t bother me that Patton Oswalt made a joke about wanting to travel back in time to kill George Lucas and stop him from making the prequels. It does bother me that when he says that line in his show it gets the biggest and heartiest laugh of the night.

Maybe it’s me. About once every six months I find myself arguing with someone who wants to convince me that I shouldn’t think [tag]Back In Black[/tag] is the greatest hard rock record of all time because [tag]Bon Scott[/tag] was too dead to sing on it. I don’t make excuses for what I like. I didn’t spend hours a few weekends ago seeking out mp3s of [tag]Pat Travers[/tag]’ records from the late 1970s out of some desire to be weird or overt. I really like Pat Travers. I really like the Star Wars prequels. If someone gave me the power to travel back in time and change one thing, I’d honestly leave it all exactly the way it is.

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