Wednesday, September 16, 2009

It's like Christmas in September

Santa Claus visited me early this year, and he brought Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, Chewbacca and Bea Arther (yes, Bea Arthur!) with him...

That's because almost 31 years after its one and only airing, the "Star Wars Holiday Special" has now found a home in my DVD collection! Sure, it hasn't been officially released by George Lucas or anyone else associated with either "Star Wars" or CBS, the network which broadcast it on Nov. 17, 1978 — probably 'cause everyone involved has tried their best to forget it — but that couldn't stop a true "Star Wars" geek fan like me. Make no mistake: This hastily produced "Star Wars" tie-in, made to capitalize on the success of the then-recent release of the movie that started it all, was horrible from the onset — the story stinks, there's no flow to the plot and the first 8 minutes of the thing are just Chewbacca's wife, son and father talking to each other ... in their own Wookiee language, not English! (Yup, just 8 minutes of grunting and growling.) Still, having heard how bad it is, I had to see for myself.

Don't get me wrong, the DVD was the best $11 (including s/h) I've ever spent, if for no other reason that I now possess a piece of "Star Wars" lore that many people don't even know about, let alone own.Another reason this was such a great buy: The only thing I love more than "Star Wars" is Christmas, and while this "holiday special" centers around Life Day, who are we kidding(?), they're talking about Christmas.

There are, however, some redeeming gems found (deeply) within this almost-31-year-old, once-aired, two-hour holiday special. It includes, for example, a 9-minute cartoon which introduces us to bounty hunter Boba Fett ... a full two years before the rest of the world met Boba Fett (seen here in the animated short) in the second film of the "Star Wars" saga, "The Empire Strikes Back." This first appearance almost makes up for the rest of the terrible content contained within. (Well, not really.)

Oh, and the cameos! The "Star Wars Holiday Special" guest-stars "Honeymooners" veteran Art Carney, comedic actor Harvey Korman (playing a trio of horrific characters) and a singing Bea Arthur. Yup, Dorothy Zbornak of "Golden Girls" fame belts out a tune in between tending bar at the Mos Eisley Cantina. Does it get any better than this?!

Yes, it does, as the whole thing ends in style with Princess Leia Organa sings a delightfully off-tune diddy commemorating the Life Day celebration. (Needless to say, I wouldn't invite her to go carolling with me.) It's a fitting finale to what are, for better or worse, two hours of "Star Wars" history that whoever watches them will never be able to forget. Anyone with two hours to kill (and a strong stomach) can scour the Internet and find the "Star Wars Holiday Special," in bits and pieces.

If you've got the guts to watch if, may The Force be with you.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

May The Force be with collectors

Strolling the aisles of a local toy department earlier today, I couldn't help but do a double-take when I came across this.

Seriously, how could I not take notice of this ugly mug?! Yes, that's Darth Maul, the fearsome foe of the Jedi Knights during the first of the "Star Wars" pre-quels, "Episode I: The Phantom Menace," but more important is the deal his face represents. This logo was on specially marked "Star Wars" action figures, plugging the latest chase for rare figures which are only available through a mail-in promotion from manufacturer Hasbro.

In short, if you buy five "Star Wars" action figures, send in the UPC codes and $6.99, you get two figures (a Jedi Master and the animal he rides around on) that you can't get anywhere else. While not interested in this promotion in the least, I did take part in what I believe was the best such mail-in offer they've ever had.

Three years ago, Hasbro had its "Ultimate Galactic Hunt," in which you had to buy five specific "Star Wars" figures and similarly send in the UPC codes. The catch here: I couldn't find all five figures in the same store! No, instead I had to spend an entire Saturday covering about 40 miles, round-trip, to find and buy the five figures at three different stores: Two at one store, two more at another and the last one at yet another store.

Seems like a lot of work, right? (Particularly for a guy in his early 30s.) Yes, but it was soooo worth it!

That's 'cause for all my hard work, I received what I believe to be the most amazing "Star Wars" action figure ever produced: Yes, that is "Star Wars" creator George Lucas himself, immortalized as a 3.75-inch action figure, disguised as an Imperial Stormtrooper just like Luke Skywalker and Han Solo when they escaped from the Millenium Falcon inside the Death Star in the original "Star Wars" film, "Episode IV: A New Hope." (Yes, I do know how geeky I sound, thanks.) Seriously, how do you top that?! Such a payoff was more than worth a day's worth of traveling from mall to mall, following by snipping UPC codes and mailing them in.

To this day, I cherish this collectible: It's still in the box in which Hasbro mailed it to me, and it only comes out once or twice a year, when I glance at it (still in its protective plastic case) only for a minute or two until I return it to its dark, cool hiding place.

Friday, September 4, 2009

It's been a Glory-ous summer

I just got to talk with two-thirds of Voices of Glory, less than two weeks before they compete for the "America's Got Talent" title.After singing the national anthem at tonight's Highland H.S. football game, I chatted with Avery (left) and Michael Cole (right) for a few moments — lil' sister Nadia was at home — about their summer on the show.

"It has been really exciting, just going this far," Avery said. "We're looking forward to the rest of the show."

The singing Coles have become a national phenomenon, reaching the talent competition's finals, which will be televised live on NBC on Sept. 14th. Michael, Avery and Nadia are headed back to Los Angeles on Tuesday to prepare for the championship round. They're not sure what their final song will be yet because "there's a lot of collaboration" between the acts and the show's producers, said Michael, a senior at Highland H.S.

If you know about the Coles' back-story, you can't help but root for them to win. They've been inspiring millions of viewers since this fourth season of the show debuted earlier this summer.
Michael said it's been great to hear so many encouraging words, especially when they come from those close to home in Highland.

"It's been really heart-warming to come home to a nice environment, such as Highland," he said, "and be able to see a lot of familiar faces who are supportive of you."

I'll be writing a full story about Michael, Avery and Nadia next week in the Poughkeepsie Journal, so be sure to check out our Web site.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Jon — Kate + me (and 18,000 others)

And this is Twitter is the most amazing thing on the face of the planet:

Just moments ago, I became a Twitter follower of Jon Gosselin — yes, the oft-maligned father of eight and soon to be ex-husband of Kate is now updating the world on his comings and goings! Jon's hosting a pool party in Las Vegas? Now I'll know about it. He's in Newburgh, hanging out with the Teutels of "American Chopper" fame? I'll read all about it first. Which cheesy Ed Hardy T-shirt is Jon wearing today? I'll know before anyone else. Ah, technology! Ain't it great?! My only regret: More than 18,000 Twitter users beat me to it and became a follower of Jon's before me (though I did sign up as soon as I learned he had set up his Twitter page.

I've always been a member of Team Jon (see poll at right), even before he and Kate separated earlier this summer. To see the way Kate would bicker at him, you couldn't help but feel sorry for the guy.

Sure, Jon's made some questionable decisions since separating from Kate (including his 22-year-old "girlfriend"), but he really seems like a better parent than his wife. Just look at this tweet: goodies from the Sugar Factory ... what kid wouldn't want that?!

Now, whatever happens to Jon post-Kate, his Twitter followers like me will be the first to hear about it!