The Star Wars Holiday Special

If you’ve ever done anything in your life that you aren’t proud of or that you simply regret, I have something for you that might help: It’s called the Star Wars Holiday Special.

It’s a horrible bastard-of-a-TV-program that aired only once (in 1978 on CBS) to capitalize on the wave of pop culture mania that followed 1977’s Star Wars. As with all cash cow Hollywood projects, it’s thoroughly terrible and pointless. It’s also unintentionally funny, but perhaps in that way when something is so poorly constructed you might think it was done on purpose. No, this comedy comes with pain. The kind of pain you feel when you know someone actually wrote it down on a piece of paper. That the project was approved by someone. That millions of dollars probably produced it.

If the "Carol Burnett Show" and "Star Wars" had a baby and then aborted it, it would be the Star Wars Holiday Special.

If the “Carol Burnett Show” and “Star Wars” had a baby and then aborted it and mixed it with Hamburger Helper, it would be the Star Wars Holiday Special.

I won’t go into the details too much, but if you watch it you can expect…

  • about 15 minutes of Wookie famly dialogue with no subtitles (or any other language to explain what’s going on)
  • Art Carney, Harvey Korman, and Bea Arthur trying to parlay variety show comedy like a bridal party serving wedding punch from an old toilet bowl
  • Chewbacca’s father basically having a sex dream about a 70’s disco diva while sitting in a “fantasy simulation chair”
  • a musical performance from Jefferson Starship
  • Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia) singing a holiday carol about “Life Day” (the Wookies’ version of Christmas).

Trust me, by this point you’ll wish YOU had a cocaine habit.

Anyway, when all is said and done, think back over your life and your mistakes. Watch this televised horror and remember that no matter your guilt about dropping out of school, cheating on your taxes, or raising a kid that turned out to be a deadbeat…at least you had nothing to do with creating the Star Wars Holiday Special.

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A Selfish Skin

The Christmas holiday has passed, but it has left me in a contemplative mood.

I was fortunate this year to have several invitations. Since I live so far from my immediate family, I often spend the holidays with close friends in the area. These are always enjoyable affairs, and I don’t think I am alone in saying a Christmas spent with friends (rather than family) can often involve less emotional baggage and mental scarring. I do, however, recognize that there is an ancient power inherent in family bonds that cannot be replicated anywhere else.

"Pie Fight" by Romanian painter Adrian Ghenie, 2011.

“Pie Fight” by Romanian painter Adrian Ghenie, 2011.

This year, I spent Christmas Eve with a couple who are very dear friends of mine, and Christmas afternoon with a co-worker with whom I share a love for poetry, history, and off-beat relationship wisdom. Both events were wonderful and my hosts provided me with a delightful combination of sustenance and memories. However, I left both feeling somewhat sad and disappointed in myself. Although it may have been but a footnote in the program, I completely failed to bring a gift to any of my entertainers. They all opened their beautiful homes to me. They fed me and filled my brain with enlightening conversation, and all of them had set a side a present for me. The thought did cross my mind earlier in the week that these generous folk might get me something to open – being it’s Christmas and all – so perhaps I should be prepared with something to give them? Well, apparently in my old age, I discarded that thoughtful notion and when the moment came, I was receiving objects of their kindness – but had nothing to give in return.

None of my hosts seemed bothered by it, but I was bothered.

I was bothered very much.

“I didn’t use to be this way,” I said to myself on the drive home. I used to be that very intuitive person who could go out and find a gift that was perfectly reflective of its recipient. I used to have an excellent memory for details about my friends. I would inventory comments they made about music or fashion all year long and when the time came for a birthday or wedding, I would unleash the fruits of my intuition to an amazed friend. And more importantly, I felt great joy in those moments. What happened to that guy? I actually did a full-on dissection of my decision-making process. It was like a mechanic pulling apart an engine to find out why all the pistons aren’t working. Although it is no excuse, I think I found the explanation: More and more, I am becoming a selfish-thinker.

There is a certain side effect to being single for a very long time, at least in my case. I am used to only caring for myself. Getting groceries for myself. Doing everything in my life with me as the primary focus. I am sure there are lots of people who live alone who are still thoughtful people who think of others first, but apparently I am not one of them. The co-worker who hosted me lives alone and is in my same predicament as myself, but he had the fore-thought to make me a beautiful CD of Christmas music and put my picture on the cover. A gesture of kindness that crushed me when I had nothing to offer in return. Certainly many people expect nothing for their good deeds, but I am not always someone who (when conscious of it) accepts things greedily and does not reciprocate. Had my long spells of loneliness baked me into a crust? Have the scabs of my life-hardening experiences grown like a second skin over my intuition? Good lord, I hope not.

I once read in the Talmud of the concept called “bread of shame”. Mind you, I am not Jewish or a religious person by any stretch, but the text was quite profound to me. The “bread of shame” is basically accepting gratuity when you have not earned it. These friends of mine could very well say, “These are gifts. This is our generosity to you, and you do not owe us anything.” But I would still feel as though I did not earn any special gifts. Maybe I was Jewish in a former life? Who knows.

It’s possible I made this more of a deal than I should have. However, I fear growing such a selfish skin; a thick alligator hide that will eventually relegate me to the swamps of humanity.

One Ugly Mug

A friend of mine recently texted me a picture of this mug…

mugI have some real issues with this piece of work. Why? It’s a stereotype-enforcing artifact designed with one purpose: TO KILL.

“How?” you ask…

  1. Travel mugs (which one would assume people drink from while driving) should not have mirrors unless the primary purpose is to cause loss of human life. You shouldn’t be checking your face in a mirror this small while traveling at killing speed.
  2. I think the rhinestone frame is further evidence of intent to kill. You could be fixing your face in the mirror and be temporarily blinded. “But officer, I swear I couldn’t see that kid in the wheelchair due to the glare from these rhinestones!”
  3. I find the added “For Her” label particularly insulting. Aren’t all mugs unisex by nature? Sure, this one is pink with fake jewelry but is that all it takes to lure a female in? Perhaps an idiot husband or a flamboyant lover of kitsch, but no self-respecting person is going to fall for this menacing accessory to highway murder.

I think it is clear this is meant to be an impulse purchase for last-minute Christmas shopping men with IQ’s under 40. I plan to organize a boycott of the sinister Totes Corporation.

The Odd Holiday

First of all, Merry Christmas (for those of you that celebrate it)!

As a child, Christmas was always the most magical of holidays for me. The promise of new toys and sugary snacks certain to lead me to diabetes in my golden years were the hallmarks of a much happier time. As I recall, I would wait feverishly in late August for the Sears & Roebuck catalog to arrive with all the new He-Man figurines and their imaginative playsets. With my trusty ball-point pen I would place a star next to the items I most desired, so that my parents could inform Santa (a.k.a. the sweatshop in Taiwan) what to bring me on that most exciting night of December.

Of course, as I have gotten older this holiday’s aura – once warm like apple cider – has grown someone dim and cold. Santa now comes every other Friday when my paycheck arrives and I basically buy whatever useless trinkets I desire.

PERSONAL NOTE: I might add that the “magic” of receiving a present you didn’t have to work your ass off for is a somewhat more enjoyable experience.

I suppose the trade off now is watching my Christmas celebrations devolve into a mélange of weird occurrences and family psychosis. I no longer live near my family so I sometimes experience these things through my friends who invite me to their family’s festivities when I don’t travel back to Iowa. Even through an alternate lens, it seems that most families are wacky to the extreme, and I would like to share some of these moments with you:

  1. Today, I called my mother. Shortly after exchanging the obligatory holiday greetings, she offered me this little known scientific fact: “Hey, did you know that when you die all your poop and pee comes out?”
  2. From a Christmas card sent by an uncle: “In November, I attended a funeral of a friend of mine who shot himself.”
  3. At my friend’s family Christmas, I arrived to the family matriarch wearing a diamond tiara and was given this piece of information by one of her sons: “This year we are enforcing a new rule…no using the words C*NT or F*CK.” Apparently all other curse words were given carte blanche.
  4. At the same Christmas event the grandmother was seen looking through a Chippendales calendar given to a different (younger) family member.
  5. The same grandmother made this comment before leaving: “I am having a shot when I get home.”

As one can see, the memories you cherish from Christmases past eventually lose their veneer and the true nature of the season is revealed. In some ways, I imagine it is like seeing Santa Claus busted on COPS for cooking meth in a trailer park bath tub.