RSS Feed

St. Patrick’s Day

St. Patrick’s Day

What if I proposed a certain holiday where we celebrated Africans by dressing up in plastic clothes that were the colors of their flags, eating chicken and waffles, wearing things that said “Kiss Me I’m African,” and basically turning the day into a giant frat party where we celebrate the worst of the Hollywood stereotypes about African-Americans? Maybe the answer to that question depends on your political leanings: If you’re a liberal, you’re probably already calling me a racist because this idea IS as racist as all fucking hell. If you’re a conservative, maybe you’re saying that if we’re going to do that with African-Americans, we should be doing it with people of every race.

Here’s a news flash: We’re already doing it with at least one other ethnicity. (My hypothetical liberal up there might argue that we’re doing it with two, since there’s a strong case to be made that Thanksgiving is the same thing.) The Irish are dragged into the spotlight on St. Patrick’s Day for such a holiday for such a thing. St. Patrick’s Day is considered a minor holiday in Ireland. Although the Irish who immigrated to the United States brought it with them as a way of holding on to their home, America has turned it into the ultimate excuse for public drunkenness and debauchery.

I don’t think it was my parents’ intent to instill me with any sense of pride in my lineage, but it’s something that happened. I’m not sure it could have been helped: Buffalo is a VERY Irish city, and I was raised in the most Irish part of it. The South Buffalo Irish District served as the city’s Irish ghetto during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and the influence of the old Irish guard there was still very powerful when I was born. A lot of the residents were from the Motherland straight or first-generation born in the United States. There are several Irish dance troupes, Irish flags line a section of Abbott Road, and the street names are written in both English and Gaelic. Although St. Patrick’s Day in Buffalo is stretched out into a season and everyone has a lot of fun, there’s a traceable solemnity underneath all the festivities. The Irish population in South Buffalo knew its past well and everything during St. Patrick’s Day took place in honor and recognition of our history, in both Ireland and America.

At one of the first Irish festivals I ever attended, I stood staring at a wooden door sign, trying to decipher it. It said, “now hiring – Irish need not apply.” My Mother spotted me looking at it and whispered into my ear, “See, it happened to your people too.” It hammered home the point that America’s playing field was never quite as level as it was supposed to be, and told me there was a lot my school history books were leaving out. As I got to learn a little bit of the history of Ireland, it started to create a sense of real ethnic pride. I had been taught by my school system that all people were of some color. But it was learning what I did about Irish history that I started to identify as an Irish-American. I even have a few subtle ways of showing my pride – wearing subtle hints of orange and green, telling people how much I love salt potatoes and soda bread, cheering for Celtic FC of the Scottish Football League, trying to stay up to date on old Celtic gods, and learning the origins of several well-known St. Patrick’s Day traditions. Even though I have an English surname, grew up as a practicing Protestant, and am the first to say what a huge asshole the real St. Patrick was (really, we’re talking Columbus-level assholery here), I always held true to my Irish lineage.

I was excited to move to Chicago and celebrate my first St. Patrick’s Day in my new home. I had heard all the stories about the parade in Chicago and the way the Chicago River was dyed green every year. So as I left work at the Symphony that Saturday, I made a zipline path right to the Michigan Avenue bridge, where everything was taking place. Now, I’m not a dummy – I’ve seen all the ridiculous hats and loud horns and novelty t-shirts in stores. I also thought, who buys this crap? I had never seen anything like them being worn around in Buffalo.

In Chicago, they were everywhere, and my heart just sank as the realization hit me: The people around me saw St. Patrick’s Day as nothing but a reason to have their heads in the bar at the top of the morning. I was finally wearing the moccasins of all the Native Americans I had once denounced. What they felt during Thanksgiving was now what I was thinking of St. Patrick’s Day. Hell, I even have my own version of the people telling me that I should just suck it up and get over it because it was supposed to be an honor that celebrated something good. All the liberals who were jumping on people about Thanksgiving being a bastardization of real history were now telling me to kiss their blarney stones over St. Patrick’s Day.

Maybe it’s the Catholic guilt present everywhere in my home neighborhood eating at me, but I never forgot that. As I walked along the Chicago River watching the drunken revelers, I couldn’t help but feel like there was something very wrong with the whole scene. Were these people even Irish? Did they have any kind of lineage to call their own? Why did they feel the need to claim mine, and why did they just want to hold the Hollywood version of it?

I’m not sure how many of the old Irish stereotypes I live up to, but I do identify as an Irish-American. I think one of the most important things I got out of that St. Patrick’s Day was the fact that I see it as my duty to tell people about Irish history and the origins of many of the Irish traditions they’ve come to know, and correct their perceptions of them when I can. Fortunately, I’ve found that most people are pretty receptive.

A Response to Seattle Met: Why I am Buying a Car

A Response to Seattle Met: Why I am Buying a Car

The Seattle Met recently wrote an article about how more and more Seattleites are forgoing the follies of the local public transit to move themselves around in their own cars. It was a whine that didn’t feel like a whine, but they weren’t totally off. Traffic here is a capillary jam. They did, however, choose to conveniently ignore a few things about the Seattle area public transit which might help them understand what’s going on.

Seattle’s transit goes through about nine agencies in some three or four counties, and the Met decided to focus strictly on the King County transit. It makes you wonder if the Met thinks Seattle exists in some sort of little capsule. What, is everyone in the general area a vampire, they can’t get into Seattle proper without invitation? Because last time I checked, there were a lot of people living in various places outside Seattle who venture in and out of the city for work. Back when I was working my night shift, I made friends with a co-worker who made a nightly commute from Olympia. That means Tacoma wasn’t out of the question.

Seattleites voted to expand their public transit system. I give them all the credit in the world for that – its been at my attention for some time that Nashville recently voted down a railway expansion for its MTA because it would bring “the wrong sorts of people.” (Read: Minorities would be able to, you know, go places.) But I’ve also made the recent decision to end years of being a holdout radical to go out and buy a car of my own. Why? Because I have an hours-long commute in both directions which the I-5 is only partially responsible for.

Okay, it’s only the second-longest commute I’ve had to get to a job since I moved to Seattle, but the longest and most difficult commute I had took me into Bellevue for my night shift. But that one can be easily hand-waved; I live in Everett, and no one would expect a half-hour drive from Everett to Bellevue no matter how they’re going about it. My current commute, however, only goes into the U-District. Not only is that a lot closer, but the way there is just a straight shot down the I-5… Yet it gets drawn out to over two hours – not much quicker than my old transport to Bellevue – because two transit systems in the area have randomly decided to emasculate themselves!

What’s more is that there is a perfectly normal bus run that makes a dash right across the part of the U-District I need to be in. The problem is that the bus line that takes me straight the way there only starts up at 9 AM. Think about that – I don’t work weekends, and the easiest, smartest bus route in the King County/Snohomish County transit plays dummy. It goes straight to Downtown Seattle, hitting a handful of the big hot stops on the way in, including the place I need, and it starts making the runs well after workers need it. You would think the problem would be solved when I leave work and make my way back to Everett, but it actually gets worse. That great route I just told you about only runs until about 2:30 PM, when it just stops… And starts back up again an hour and a half after my shift ends!

Going in and out of Seattle requires navigation of a transit labyrinth. In the morning, I have to make jumps from Everett to Ash Way before hitting the bus that gets me to 45th. You would think going back would be a run of that same route in the other direction, but here’s the thing: My transit source for the main leg of the journey, Community Transit, runs about half of their intercounty busses in the morning. The other half only runs in the evening, and none of the evening routes put me anywhere near my station n Everett. So I have to get on the first bus to Lynnwood, hop a second bus for a five-minute ride to 99, then catch the Swift to get to my cross-street. The way back is made even more of a pain by the fact that my bus options for the short stretch along 200th don’t synch up with the Swift times and there not being a stop right on 99. I get to 99 just in time to miss the Swift, and since the Swift chooses THAT time to switch to its non-business schedule, I get left with 20 minutes to kill while I get soaked.

Review that ride home: The Swift switches to its non-business schedule a half hour to an hour later, I get home at a more reasonable time. Community Transit places a stop on 99, I get home at a more reasonable time. The bus I take on 200th leaves three minutes earlier, I get home at a more reasonable time! Got all that? I didn’t even have to bring Everett Transit into it, because – despite its circulator runs being sore spots – they don’t really have anything to do with this.

The tipping point came on one of our “esteemed folks” bank holidays earlier this year. Now, on normal holidays, damn near every system running around Puget Sound switches to a Sunday schedule. But Martin Luther King Day and Presidents’ Day are, for whatever bullshit reason, not normal holidays. And Sunday schedules usually offer all-day service. But here, we can’t have that, because it would only make sense. Therefore, the transit gets to avoid switching to a Sunday schedule and just make service cutbacks. And by “cutbacks,” I mean they just plump STOP a handful of the routes I need. The morning proved to not be much of a problem; I was able to find an alternate way through Lynnwood. The evening run, though, forced me to stand for the full 90 minutes waiting for the Soundtransit bus to finally arrive and take me straight to Everett.

That sound like fun?

Yes, I’m glad to see that while a lot of cities are cutting transit, Seattle and the areas surrounding it are willingly voting to add to it. But those Link extensions will be years in the making, the Sounder is the most useless train on the planet, and the Swift is only working on one extra route at the moment. In the meantime, I can go crazy or get a set of wheels so I can roll out of bed at a reasonable hour.

Lamenting the Loss of the Saturday Matinee B-Movie

As I laid in my bed recovering from a cold a couple of weeks ago, I entertained myself with the household Netflix account. When you’re all stuffed up, you don’t have much of a will to turn your brain on to watch walking and talking pictures, so my choice of movie for the day was The Eagle, one of those Roman Centurian movies I like so much. The Eagle was meant to be quick, cheapo entertainment – a popcorn flick. It was dropped into the theaters early in 2011 to be a quick studio cash-in, then disappear into obscurity.

The director of The Eagle, Kevin MacDonald, clearly didn’t get the idea. I’m not going to say he didn’t get the script; he had the script, alright. What he didn’t get was the studio notes. And the studio notes should have included the instructions to just get the damn thing filmed ahead of schedule and under budget. The damn movie is about two men from the ancient Roman times trying to recover a sacred eagle emblem. This doesn’t have an Oscar plot attached to it. Michael Bay would have said the plot wasn’t quite complex and elaborate enough to his high-class tastes. But MacDonald – and let’s not mince words, it’s entirely MacDonald’s fault – hammed the shit out of The Eagle, thinking it would vault him into the same directorial echelon occupied by Ridley Scott.

Yeah, that was never going to be the case. Ridley Scott is one of the greatest directors to ever sit in a cloth folding chair. He was the director of a very good ancient Roman popcorn flick called Gladiator. You may remember that one – it won a couple of major Oscars. But Scott was able to balance the ham with a sense of self-awareness that made Gladiator better than it should have been. MacDonald didn’t have that talent when he was making The Eagle, so it comes off as some kind of high-handed moral play.

We’ve lost the traditional Saturday Matinee B-movie. Replacing it has been a glot of movies that are just plain bad. The obvious counterpoint here is the fact that a lot of the legendary bad movie directors were trying to create dramatic morality plays – Ed Wood was famous for that, and that same element is what made The Room so much fun. But those were a little different because The Room was so clearly made on the fly while Wood had enough money in his budgets for a cheeseburger. (Which, arguably, was what he was delivering.)

Then There was Roger Corman. The Simpsons once featured a joke about the “thousand-dollar movie,” a version of Titanic created by Corman. It featured a cheesy-looking ship crashing into a clearly fake iceberg, the ship sinking instantly, and then an immediate shot of two survivors in a rowboat, one man, one woman… You get the idea.

Unfortunately, movies like that seem to have been lost strictly to the Syfy channel. Mostly they’re about sharks. Unfortunately, where the potential for a great bad movie exists, it’s likely to be ruined by someone doing it a bit too professionally. There are too many directors out there who think they’re making the next great philosophical statement or the next huge blockbuster. Sometimes, these can have hilarious consequences, but with budgets in the stratosphere, they come out more like statements. And not even fun ones.

Predicting Autobiographies by Peyton Manning and Tom Brady

Predicting Autobiographies by Peyton Manning and Tom Brady

Let’s have some fun today. Two things we know about football are that the greatest quarterbacks of all time are Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. That means after they’re both retired, they’ll inevitably release their autobiographies.

I’ve taken the liberty to predict those autobiographies. Here are a few excerpts from them on various subjects, written in the very style I believe they will both respectively employ.

Brady:“I was always smaller than the other kids, but naturally gifted. I would knock on the doors of the other kids and ask if they would please play football.”

Manning:“Whenever my Dad and brothers finished throwing around our durable Wilson footballs, we’d eat delicious Papa John’s for dinner.”

Brady:“I was awed to play in the biggest football stadium in the country for Michigan, the greatest college football team ever!”

Manning:“Tennessee, of course, was a popular team with a lot of merchandising.”

Brady:“I couldn’t believe it when I finally heard my name called. I was finally going to play in the NFL for one of its greatest teams!”

Manning:“I switched on my Sony radio just in time to hear my name get called on Sony’s crystal-clear airwaves.”

Brady:“In my first NFL season, I owned the bench. No one could own a bench like me. And I had the privilege of learning from Bill Belichick and Drew Bledsoe, who were great.”

Manning:“Although I led the Colts to only three wins, I had started something great, but it was the hard, uncomfortable Astroturf holding us back. The softer and firmer footing offered by the Gardenista brand allowed the Colts to play without fear of injury.”

Brady:“When I had to start for the rest of the 2001 season, I didn’t have any jitters. I had total confidence in my team.”

Manning:“In my second year, I was feeling much better about the Nike cleats I had to fill.”

Brady:“Accepting that first Vince Lombardi Trophy was the proudest moment of my life.”

Manning:“Accepting that smooth-riding Cadillac Escalade for being the MVP of my first Super Bowl was the proudest moment of my life.”

Brady:“I was nervous about my first commercial shoot, and I knew I couldn’t do it without the people who made me a success: My teammates.”

Manning:“I was never nervous about commercial shoots, but I knew I had to come up with something for the commercial for my reliable and rewarding Mastercard that people would remember at their banks. I was at the butcher shop waiting impatiently because I was late for the filming, and I suddenly yelled to the butcher, ‘Hey, you! Cut that meat!’”

Brady:“That perfect season was hollow without the ring. I let so many people down.”

Manning:“My neck injury wasn’t so bad, because my Covidien neckbrace gave my axis and atlas the support and alignment they needed.”

Brady:“I took the pay cut. Leave the greatest fans of the greatest team in the greatest city in America? That would be unthinkable.”

Manning:“After it became clear that I would no longer fill the comfortable Reebok hi-tops Johnny Unitas once wore, I hopped a Learjet and flew to Denver in first-class style.”

Brady:“After that second Super Bowl against the Giants, everyone said we were done. But I knew we had a great team, and we would return!”

Manning:“After heaving that interception to Tracy Porter, all I could do was stand on the sidelines in my perfectly stretched, one-size-fits-all New Era cap and watch my team fail on me.”

Brady:“With my team frantic, I knew I had to stay calm. I trusted Mr. Belichick to make all the right calls to get us out of this hole against that vicious Seahawks defense.”

Manning:“All the clear, high-definition footage from the Broncos’ Canon XA35 HD camera didn’t prepare me for Seattle’s defense. It wasn’t the camera’s fault because it has top shutter speed.”

Brady:“Even against Buffalo, we had to play our best. The Bills were one of the worst teams in the league, but they had still won a few games against us.”

Manning:“Visits to Buffalo always involved the moist, tender, crunchy chicken wings made by Duff’s.”

Proper as the New Radical (Short)

Proper as the New Radical (Short)

So I thought about this today. For pretty much my entire life, my parents always taught me how to act proper, but I didn’t take to a lot of it very easily. As I always did, I questioned because all of it seemed like relics of the ancient past. Through my late teens and most of my 20’s, I was always playing the role of the radical, trying my best to avoid what I thought of as pretension.

It wasn’t until I returned to Buffalo after living in Chicago that it hit me: I had the radical beliefs and capacity to question everything that city raises its natives to pigeonhole them, but if you lined me up side to side with anyone else there, you would never know the difference between me and the types of people I was rebelling against. I wasn’t doing anything to distance or elevate myself, so I started to re-evaluate the way I presented myself. I haven’t regretted it.

Today we saw the inauguration of Donald Trump, a man with the temperament of a spoiled child whose “bwankie” was taken away. This man, who ran a stormy Twitter rant almost 20 minutes long about how he was portrayed on Saturday Night Live, is now the leader of the free world. So it was today that I realized the full importance of conducting myself as a proper gentleman the way my parents always wanted me to.

With the enormous swath of people taking after Trump’s vile behavior, being proper is the way every radical should rebel and show the rest of the world the best of our behavior. Any nitwit can scream curse-filled slogans at the town hall while wearing political cartoon t-shirts and growing unkempt hair; they just blend in with their ideological opposition, which can frequently be seen dressing and acting the same. It takes a true wit to rebel by outclassing their opponents.

Now, more than ever before, is time to stop being an angry slogan-screamer. Look what just happened – see what doing that got us? It’s time to start cleaning up our language and expanding our vocabulary. Wear well-fitting clothes that flatter our figures, even if we’re just in jeans and t-shirts. Stop being indignant and start being tactful when we get offended.

If Donald Trump wasn’t born with a silver spoon, he’d be just another whiny little brat. Think about it: Who or what would he be without his pop’s fortune? So since the new president has no intention of acting presidential, it’s time for us radicals to pick up his slack and show the rest of the world the country’s best.

The Definitive Ranking of Every Star Wars Movie (Including The Clone Wars)

The Definitive Ranking of Every Star Wars Movie (Including The Clone Wars)

With the recent selling of Star Wars to Disney, we Star Wars fans know what we’re all about to get: Star Wars up the ass. A few weeks ago, the first movie is a series of canonical spinoffs, Rogue One, appeared. Last year we received The Force Awakens, the first in a line of direct sequels, and still before that, an animated series called Star Wars Rebels began a run on The Disney Channel.

Naturally, that gets one wondering what the best and worst Star Wars movies are, especially if they’re one of the few who have somehow managed to avoid exposure to Star Wars. Well, being a major league Star Wars nerd myself, I started asking myself that very question as well. If every Star Wars movie was to be ranked, what would be the best one? What would be the worst? How would everything look in between? So I sat down and thought, and this was the list that eventually popped up. Before getting to the list, here are a couple of things to remember: First, these are movies only. To qualify, they have to have made a run in theaters. That means anything shown only on television doesn’t count – not the original Clone Wars movie or the Holiday Special. Second, the pilot episode of The Clone Wars TV show DID visit the theaters, so it counts.

9: The Phantom Menace (Episode I)

Yeah. You already knew what this one was going to be, didn’t you? Even in a media universe as expansive as Star Wars which has so many differing opinions about what is and isn’t worth your time, hatred of The Phantom Menace is something that’s as universal as returning to The Force.

If you were a newcomer to the Star Wars universe watching this and then asking hardcore fans their opinions, a lot of them would be pretty Star Warian: The whole Midichlorian issue, the apparent virgin birth of Anakin Skywalker, the fact that Anakin was now the creator of C-3PO, and a few other things tend to rub fans the wrong way. But you would also notice that there are a few hallmarks of filmmaking which is just bad: Jar-Jar Binks might be the face of everything wrong with The Phantom Menace, but he’s not the only problem. A lot of character development is just off. We got nothing about Darth Maul – although he proves to be one of the most badass characters of the EU, he’s just a figurine-pusher in the movie that introduced him. Anakin himself – the boy who would become Darth Vader – isn’t evil enough to hit back a cheater in the pod race. The space shootout at the end seems composed of bridge shots, and it’s pretty disgusting that Anakin destroys the space station by accident.

I’m one of the few people who doesn’t completely decry The Phantom Menace. It does have a few redeeming values. I always thought Qui-Gon Jinn was one of Star Wars’s most underrated characters, the final action sequence is great, and even Episode I’s loudest detractors think highly of the pod race and lightsaber duel. But the movie does keep getting bogged down in things that it’s not. Ultimately, there are a number of problems that glare brighter than Darth Maul’s lightsaber. The first is that despite the Clone Wars and the friendship between Obi-Wan and Anakin being noodle incidents, George Lucas focuses more on bringing the Star Wars universe full circle when he really should have been concentrating on telling the story of a friendship blossoming and going bad. The second is that with The Phantom Menace, Star Wars forgets its identity and tries to be a kids’ version of Star Trek. Jar-Jar is another figurine-pusher, no one wants to see a kid Anakin when they dreamed of being Han Solo while growing up, and The Phantom Menace gets bogged down in politics. Politics doesn’t work for Star Wars, which has always been a classic good against evil tale.

8: The Clone Wars

The Clone Wars were first mentioned in the very first Star Wars movie, A New Hope. They were a noodle incident: They were mentioned and implied to be something huge, but otherwise left to the imagination. We knew two things about the Clone Wars from there: First, there were clones. Second, they were wars. No need to be descriptive. Then the Prequel Trilogy came along, and for a set of movies that delves into the Star Wars backstory, we didn’t actually get to see a whole lot of them.

Since Star Wars has always been a classic tale about the battle between good and evil, it usually shows us its best when the two sides are duking it out in the traditional fashion. That’s what The Clone Wars is, and holy hell, what a spectacle. The Clone Wars is bare-boned, straight-laced action rushing at you in a form video game designers from the 16-bit Golden Era would have appreciated. A fan of a well-done action movie will love every waking moment of it, and there are plenty of blasters, lightsabers, duels, and all that other great jazz we know from action movies. Taken as that, The Clone Wars is pretty fucking awesome. It lets us view the spectacle of the legendary conflict right up front, starts giving out details of why Anakin Skywalker was the great pilot and warrior Obi-Wan first described in the original, and introduces us to Ahsoka Tano, one of the greatest characters in the Star Wars universe for my money.

The reason it ranks so low is because it barely feels like a Star Wars movie. Aside from the lightsabers, there are almost no hallmarks of Star Wars anywhere to be found, and so a movie nut who has never seen anything Star Wars (a stretch, I know, but bear with me) would never figure out just from watching The Clone Wars why it is that Star Wars stands out. Lest that be written off as the ranting of an outsider, there are a few things in The Clone Wars to piss off Star Wars fans too: The Jedi are working for the Hutts? How many Sith are there anyway, and where do they keep coming from? Padme was almost certainly shoehorned in, the twists are clearly in the movie to extend the running time, and I’m not sure many fans are all that interested in more of Jabba’s relatives. But this movie was the pilot to an animated TV series – yes, even though it was a feature film – and what it blossomed into was incredible. The TV series showed us the full potential of what The Prequel Trilogy should have been drawing out, the conflict and the friendship between Obi-Wan and Anakin.

7: Return of the Jedi (Episode VI)

Few fandoms are weirder about their fandom than Star Wars. For everything Star Wars envelopes, there are still legions of fans who proclaim that true Star Wars consists solely of A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back and The Clone Wars TV series. Vaunted though The Original Trilogy may be, there’s a surprising mass of fans who hate – and some who even refuse to accept – Return of the Jedi. Yeah, it can be tough to take Star Wars fans seriously when they refuse to defend the entire trilogy that started everything.

It’s confusing, but Jedi was written to be the grand finale of what was back then expected to be the only Star Wars media that ever existed. George Lucas and director Richard Marquand wanted Jedi to be a testament to finality, and holy shit did they deliver. Episode VI is littered with some of the biggest and grandest sequences the whole series has to offer: The revelation about Luke and Leia’s relationship, the speeder bike chase on Endor, the death of Yoda, the Sarlacc Pit, Luke fighting the Rancor Monster, Darth Vader’s return to the light, Wedge and Lando navigating the tight innards of the Death Star in a race to its core, and a Rebel Alliance pilot guiding his terminally damaged starfighter in a kamikaze attack against the Executor. There’s plenty here that screams out for attention, but despite so many scenes that carry heft, there seem to be only two things scenes that people remember: Anakin coming to the rescue of Electroshock Luke and Leia’s official and permanent embossing as a teenage fantasy.

There’s good reason for that, too: Jedi’s structure was a clear rush job. The movie’s entirety goes like this: Jabba the Hutt’s palace, Dagobah, Rebel meeting, Battle of Endor. The Dagobah and Rebel meeting parts run a collective total of about 20 minutes. So what we’re left with is Tatooine and Endor sequences bookending 20 minutes of blah. It was like George Lucas was in a hurry to finish up Jedi so he could get to his other landscape-altering projects like Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and, ah… Willow and, er… Howard the Duck… It’s a blatant example of trying to put style over substance, at least in terms of the story. As if that wasn’t offensive enough, Return of the Jedi also marks the spot where Lucas came to fully realize the marketing potential of his onetime sci-fi serial pet project. Gold Bikini Leia? That was done to appease the crowd adolescents. The Ewoks were there to sell to the kids. To really drive the kid angle in, an animated TV show was later created about the Ewoks. When Jar Jar jumped to the small screen, he did so as an important but bit player on The Clone Wars, not as some Alf clone wannabe.

6: Attack of the Clones (Episode II)

After The Phantom Menace hit audiences with a loud thud, George Lucas started making a push to bring Star Wars back in The Original Trilogy’s direction. Attack of the Clones doesn’t miss what his goal was, but it doesn’t quite hit it, either. It may be the best movie in the series as far as pure action movies go – at least the live-action movies and exempting The Clone Wars, anyway – and it brings the series back in the proper Star Warian direction it had to return to after The Phantom Menace’s bad reception.

Attack of the Clones is good at holding your attention. Unfathomable action scenes are sprinkled everywhere, Christopher Lee gets to play the villain, Yoda finally goes into combat himself and shows us why he’s the ultimate Jedi Master, and Jango Fett gets to be the badass everyone thinks of Boba Fett as. At the same time, it starts to plant the seeds of the Star Wars universe of The Original Trilogy, right down to the Death Star. As with Return of the Jedi, Lucas seems to be taking the big-scene-of-impact approach. The difference is that the statement scenes don’t seem to contain as much heft. It’s also in Attack of the Clones that we start to see the dark side of Anakin Skywalker. He comes out in an arrogant and angry fury, especially in a scene where he slaughters a group of Tusken Raiders.

And then there’s that damn love story. Because of course there is. The story between Anakin and Padme is pretty trite and cliched – it ranks in the wretched annals of love stories right along with Romeo and Juliet. It slows the movie down, makes no fucking sense, and has water/oil chemistry. And the delivery of Hayden Christensen, who plays Anakin, doesn’t help matters. Now, this is just the delivery I’m talking about. In every other respect, Christensen actually does a great job portraying Anakin. He has a sense of regret, sadness, and anger which drives Anakin into doing a lot of things a proper Jedi wouldn’t do, and it’s through his array of gestures, unsure postures, and facial expressions that Christensen gives a performance which is actually very effective. Acting is about much more than line delivery. Unfortunately, line delivery is often the most noticeable part of a performance, and Christensen is so bad at that part that it overwhelms a lot of the other aspects of his performance. It’s almost as if Christensen himself can’t believe the load of shit he’s being told to recite. But he doesn’t deserve all the blame for it. Do you honestly believe that even Marlon Brando could have ever rescued the atrocity that was Anakin’s sand monologue?

5: A New Hope (Episode IV) (AKA Star Wars)

And lo, we have it – the phenomenon that started it all. The original Star Wars movie that came out in 1977, Hope was expected to be nothing more than a quick cash-in B-movie. It was supposed to run a familiar trajectory: Plop it into all the theaters, let it make a few million bucks for the local studio, then put it on this new thing called a VCR while it dissipated in the backwoods, forgotten by all but the biggest bad movie nuts. No one was expecting Oscar nominations, let alone Oscars. No one was expecting Star Wars to break every box office gross intake record known to man. No one was expecting a massive multimedia empire with stories in a fictional universe that dated thousands of years. And no one was expecting Star Wars to be influencing movies and filmmakers 40 years after the fact; even the great hit movie of 2014, Guardians of the Galaxy, was a clear nod to Star Wars.

Being the first of a long running series, you know what that means: Early-installment weirdness! Except in the case of Hope, there’s not as much of that as you would probably think. A lot of the regular Star Wars Easter eggs are in there. Lightsabers, The Force, the Millennium Falcon, hyperspace jumps, Star Destroyers, the grandiose score of John Williams, X-Wing and TIE Fighters, Stormtrooper aim, and all those other things. The installment weirdness is less in retcon than in simple tone – the dramatic heft of most of the other movies is notably absent in Episode IV. Luke’s aspirations of Jedi-dom are a quick vocal McGuffin; he’s more interested in getting off Tatooine. The original lightsaber duel happens between Obi-Wan and Darth Vader; it’s clearly shoehorned in so a couple of earlier scenes featuring the lightsaber have some sort of significance.

There’s not a whole lot to hate on here. Hope is two hours of condensed fun and awesomeness which is as joyful as an adult as it was as a kid. The problem comes when you go back and watch it, and it sinks in just how many of the lines in it no longer make any sense. George Lucas himself clearly had no idea of what Star Wars would become, and his attempts to retcon it in the ensuing two movies were just clunky. (See, he was doing it back then too.) Darth Vader wasn’t originally Luke’s Father – in Star Wars, he’s described as a former student of Obi-Wan’s who murdered Luke’s father. Although Lucas finally got around to explaining it in Jedi, it was given a single-line throwaway so hasty that it pretty much pegged Obi-Wan as a puppet master. Luke and Leia’s relationship comes out of nowhere, and Obi-Wan and Darth Vader seem rather benign toward each other after what they went through. (Well, okay, there was 20 years since their last meeting, but still…) Did I say early-installment weirdness? Yes, I did, a couple of times. And this can’t be said enough: HAN SHOT FIRST!

4: Revenge of the Sith (Episode III)

Here’s the end of The Prequel Trilogy, where Darth Vader makes his transformation into Darth Vader. It doesn’t happen the way The Original Trilogy would have had us believe, where the cool suit is part of the identity and went with everything, and I think that may be something that a lot of fans are upset with. But I think one of the big parts of the issue fans often take with Revenge is that, once again, they were expecting something that was quite different from what was actually shown.

George Lucas did a lot of things right with Revenge that Menace and Attack got wrong, and one of those things was placing the full circle of The Original Trilogy on the backburner while focusing on telling the story. This is where Anakin’s fall into the Dark Side finally happens – and it’s pretty anticlimactic. Remember Obi-Wan in A New Hope telling Luke that Vader was seduced and tempted by the Dark Side? Well, Revenge of the Sith shows us that it’s more like he was tricked into joining it out of his love for Padme, whose health he was fearing for. More to the point is that it’s presented in such a way that we don’t really blame him for doing it, either; Palpatine offered Anakin a real way to cure her while the Jedi sat on their worthless asses and told him to not do anything. (In the EU, we learn that the story Palpatine tells Anakin about the Sith Lord who found a way to live forever was true.) From there, we have to wonder if there was any sense of nuance from Anakin – he goes from wanting to save his wife to greasing a group of little kids in nothing flat.

Revenge is Palpatine’s great show more than anything. The slimy, two-sided power monger is the standout star, and Ian McDiarmid has the time of his life playing him. The movie gives a full display of exactly how powerful Palpatine is and why the people in the Star Wars universe fear him. The way he gradually slides himself into greater evil and power is something McDiarmid portrays with such mastery that it’s worth it just to watch Revenge for him alone. This is a character so powerful that when four Jedi Masters are sent to arrest him, he quickly slaughters three of them in no time, and the fourth is Mace Windu, the greatest lightsaber master in the galaxy. He manipulates the entire senate into consolidating its power and giving him absolute control and no one thinks twice. He lies to his personal pet project – Darth Vader – about how Padme dies so Vader completely loses it. He fights Yoda so hard that Yoda gives up. (And yes, Yoda just plain fucking gives up in that lightsaber duel.) In the meantime, Obi-Wan and Anakin give us one of the greatest scenes in all of Star Wars. The only thing that drives me crazy about Revenge – besides Vader’s big “NOOO!!!!!” – is Padme’s death: She “gives up” while her damned kids are being born? Wouldn’t having her kids turn her into a stronger, more resolved Mama Bear? What the fuck, George? That’s even worse than the virgin birth of Anakin!

3: The Force Awakens (Episode VII)

Remember all the lines in A New Hope – and, hell, the entire Original Trilogy in general – that don’t make any sense in hindsight? The Force Awakens is that ridiculously expansive – and expensive – Youtube video that goes back and corrects all of them. At the same time, it also serves as Hope’s gritty reboot and the remake millennials pissed off with The Prequel Trilogy didn’t realize they wanted until it came out. Director JJ Abrams doesn’t do anything to hide it, either. Even Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, and Mark Hamill were tapped to show up and say, “Hey, look! Star Wars is gonna be good again real soon!”

Despite the blatant tributes, though, there was also more than enough inside The Force Awakens to bring back the old Star Wars magic that captured imaginations in the 70’s and 80’s. It was pretty cool that one of the main characters, Finn, was a reformed Stormtrooper. Rey is a great character too, and the way she spends the movie slowing learning and growing in the ways of The Force is a good way to show the kind of person she is and the kind of character she can grow to be. Of course, those are also callbacks to Episode IV – Rey, like Luke, spent the movie trying to learn and use The Force, and the way she comes out using it is more overt than what we saw at the end of Hope. The reformed Stormtrooper angle of Finn is a way of redoing Han Solo, the reformed smuggler. And I know I’m not the only one wondering about the issue of Luke’s old lightsaber. The plot revolves around the old blue-bladed lightsaber Obi-Wan gave Luke in Hope and which Luke himself finally wielded in The Empire Strikes Back; you know, the very same lightsaber last seen taking a swan dive to the bottom of Cloud City’s repulsorlift shaft with Luke’s severed hand still attached. It would explain Luke’s look at the end of the movie. He’s thinking, Who in the name of The Force went to pick THAT up?!

All in all, though, The Force Awakens cured the collective cynicism and doubts of Star Wars fans left disenchanted by The Prequel Trilogy. After three movies which were drowning in computer effects that are starting to look dated, Episode VII brought us a return to a Star Wars defined by characters we don’t have a whole lot of trouble thinking up general descriptions for. It gave us back the special effects and classic action of The Original Trilogy, brought back a lot of our favorite old characters to show us that our opinions were heard, and basically showed us that Star Wars can still have plenty of life left in movie form after all. I’m sure there were several Star Wars fans who walked out of every movie in The Prequel Trilogy wondering if the problem was on them, and that Star Wars had lost its magic because they were now grown up and critical. The Force Awakens showed us that that wasn’t the case after all. The problem with The Prequel Trilogy really was the movies themselves. And Disney and JJ Abrams took Star Wars and said, “We know you love Star Wars, and you don’t have to worry about it anymore. We got this.”

2: The Empire Strikes Back (Episode V)

The second movie from The Original Trilogy, Empire was the movie that raised the bar on the series. It still stands tall today as the movie that every other Star Wars movie is judged against. More to the point, Empire is the movie in which Star Wars truly became STAR WARS. The universe hinted at in Hope was fully realized, and a lot of the series’s mythos that we know and often take for granted was first introduced in The Empire Strikes Back.

Remember how we all assumed Darth Vader was the supreme universal bad guy after seeing Hope? Empire was the movie that showed us that he himself had to answer to Emperor Palpatine. Remember how Obi-Wan told Luke all about his Father, the best fighter pilot in the galaxy, a cunning warrior, and a good friend? Empire brought on the plot twist that Luke’s Pop wasn’t dead at all, that he was the one who fell to the Dark Side and became Darth Vader, and that turned into a million terrible plot twists in a million bad movies afterward. It developed the love story between Han and Leia and introduced Yoda and the Force Ghost of Obi-Wan. Lando was seen for the first time, and we got the true scope of how dangerous the Galactic Empire really was and how The Force could really be used in the hands of a capable user. Most importantly, it was Empire that went out of its way to bring the characters to the front and center in an effort for us to better KNOW them and understand them. What we saw in every piece of Star Wars-related media from here on out was based on character traits from Episode V.

While Empire revolves around Luke’s quest to become a Jedi while Han and Leia search for safety from the pursuant Empire, this movie is Darth Vader’s show. Think about it: What did Darth Vader DO in Hope that was so bad besides kill Obi-Wan? You could build a good argument that Grand Moff Tarkin was the true villain – Vader answered to him, and he was the one who ordered the demolition of Alderaan. But in Empire, it’s Vader who takes out Echo Base, invades Cloud City, chokes two of his Admirals to death, carbon-freezes Han Solo, and nearly kills Luke. And don’t forget, he’s still taking orders from Palpatine. It’s because of Vader’s coming out that Empire takes a more operatic tone than Hope. It plays out like a tragedy, and by the time it ends, the only good thing about what the Rebels just went through is that they’re still alive after it all. It’s an incredible testament to Empire’s staying power that it still holds up among the fans as the highest-regarded Star Wars movie, but once more, I have a wild disagreement with the general consensus…

1: Rogue One

The fact that Rogue One is the newest Star Wars movie doesn’t detract from its quality. I take nothing away from the other movies in the series, but there’s a new champion. Yes, Rogue One is an unusual feat among Star Wars movies. Whereas the other movies in the series essentially centered around the bad mojo of the damned Skywalker family, Rogue One is the movie that gets us to wonder about the scale of a full-fledged rebellion and what the sentient cost of it would really be. We’re looking at a war movie set in space, among characters who are somewhat aware of their roles as cannon fodder.

You remember the opening crawl from A New Hope? About Rebels striking from a hidden base stealing plans to the Death Star? Rogue One is about that battle. The buildup to that battle, though, provides some nuance to the Rebel Alliance and Galactic Empire that much of the Star Wars series has been lacking. The Rebels in Rogue One are frequently prone to use techniques which would be condemned if the Empire tried them. There’s an entire scene late in the movie where the Rebels argue about whether or not trying to keep going with their fight would be worth it if the Empire to build something as powerful as the Death Star. Many of the battles are sudden and random and make it difficult to tell who’s on what side, alliances among characters are formed at random and very shaky until loyalties are proven, and the bad guy isn’t a face of traditional Star Warian evil. The main villain is Grand Moff Tarkin, our old pal that got himself blew up with the Death Star in Episode IV and was never seen again. Tarkin has always been a representative of more bureaucratic evil than the more light and dark forms of it, and it makes him a downright chilling villain. So no, this isn’t a typical Star Wars movie.

What Rogue One does do is successfully give us the trench viewpoint. Few standards from the other movies are mentioned at all. Darth Vader makes only a short cameo. But where Rogue One succeeds is placing us on the ground with the Rebels who fight even knowing their time is going to come. The AT-AT walkers from The Empire Strikes Back return in this movie, and the look like the giant monstrosities they were supposed to be. Darth Vader’s cameo is short, but he takes on his original role as a menacing terror who cuts through a swath of Rebel Alliance soldiers with ruthless efficiency and immunity; Vader is finally faceless again. The Rebel Alliance, as Rogue One points out, is built on nothing but hope. Throw that mix in with an in-your-face final space battle which sets up the famous opening scene in Episode IV (and includes a spectacular scene of two Star Destroyers smashing into each other), an explanation for why the Death Star had that silly weakness at all, a very funny reformed battle droid played by Firefly’s Alan Tudyk, and an array of well-developed characters, and Disney has delivered on its ultimate promise: Star Wars is back. Surely anyone who remembers falling in love with The Original Trilogy at an early age remembers how overcome they were with the incredible scope of it all. Then we got older, started tacking adult meanings to everything, and were pissed off at various points with subsequent Star Wars media, and that original magic was lost even among the best Star Wars stories. But I never forgot four-year-old me and the way he felt watching Episode IV. And I’ll never forget how, seeing Rogue One for the first time, the surrounding world dropped out of sight and, for two and a half hours, I was that four-year-old watching Star Wars for the first time once again.

 

The Annual One-Percenter Christmas Gift List

Well, it’s that time of year again: You rush out and buy gifts for everyone you know. And then you come to the realization that you have that one rich friend who lives the life you envy, and can’t figure out what to get them. Then you get into a big funk about it and start to wonder if you should even bother trying to buy a gift for a person who has everything. And then you come to the conclusion: Yes, of course you should! The incoming president is an egotistical billionaire, so if anything, thinking of your One-Percenter pals is going to be more important than ever! And that, readers, is why I’m here: To give you all a decent starting point for what to buy for Christmas for your One-Percent friends. After all, it’s not the gift, it’s the thought, right? Except in their case, it’s also the gift.

Panavision PSR 35mm Film Camera Used to Film Star Wars

I feel almost bad about including this, just because I’m a huge Star Wars freak myself, and this is an honest-to-god piece of real movie memorabilia. It’s not some cheap junk camera that you’re going to use to try to make your own home porn movies. It’s something that you’re going to toss into an out-of-the-way corner of your house to show all the visitors to make yourself feel cool. Think of all the iconic scenes that could have been filmed using this thing: The Cantina scene in Mos Eisley, the trash compactor scene, that big fucking Star Destroyer flying overhead… It would be harder to come up with a set of the more inconspicuous scenes in Star Wars to dissuade you from buying this. This is something ANY movie nut would love to have. And it recently sold at auction for $625,000, which makes it the most expensive vintage movie camera to ever be sold at auction. The big problem with nabbing this for your One-Percent friend should be obvious: There’s only that one right now. So if you’re thinking of trying to pick it up at auction yourself, you should take a knife or a silenced gun and learn how to sneak to the room’s light switch VERY quickly.

star-wars-vintage-camera.jpg

Kopi Luwak Coffee

What we have here is a One-Percent answer to a very common need: Coffee! Coffee is the robust, smoky, bold liquid that wakes us up in the morning, and therefore it’s something your One-Percent friend will find essential to hold onto their One-Percent status and not end up giving it all to a megachurch Minister who is more One-Percent than they are. But you can’t be cheap and buy your everyday Folger’s for your friend. They have exquisite tastes, which means you should go out and buy them a nice pack of Kopi Luwak, the world’s most expensive coffee. A little bit of this coffee will impress your One-Percent pal not only for the price – $600 per pound and $50 per cup – but for the bean collection. Kopi Luwak is from Indonesia, and it comes from beans which were eaten by the common palm civet, partially digested, and then let out the other side. The name of the coffee comes from the Indonesian word for coffee – Kopi – and the local name for the animal – luwak.

expensive-coffee.jpg

Dussault Apparel’s Trashed Denim Jeans

Let’s be honest: I’m not sure what business your One-Percent friend would be doing moving around among the blue jean-wearing plebes. Anything that can be taken care of can be taken care of on the One-Percent oasis, right? Or if not, surely someone can be hired to run the common errands for them. But oh well, some One-Percenters have certain eccentricities, and when the need to satiate them arises, they can’t go out in their usual velvet and silk ensembles because the regulars can smell it. A good pair of blue jeans is essential camouflage, but surely you don’t plan to go out to Poor Palace or whatever it’s called for a mere $100 pair of the blues, right? Well, Dussault is here for them with a pair of $250,000 jeans that come studded with rubies, diamonds, and rose gold. Surely no one will notice.

expensive-jeans-trashed.jpg

Tod’s Alligator Skin Cover iPad Case

Damn near everything these days is about the iPad. They’re good to conduct business transactions, they’re just plain good for business, and they’re important if that business revolves around legitimate business transactions of the white collar sort involving offshore holding accounts. An iPad, though, is only as good as its casing, which means you can’t just send your One-Percent buddy’s butler to the mall for a cheap Star Wars case to attach to it. You have to go with the good stuff. Tod’s, a luxury firm in Italy – you’ll want to remember that no quality goods have ever come out of Slovakia – hand-makes these cute little iPad cases out of the world’s finest alligator skin and sells them for $4900 apiece. Be sure to get one in every available color: Blue, brown, or tan!

expensive-ipad-cases-tods.jpg

Hastens Vividus Bed

Sleep is another one of those great universals which no good One-Percenter dares acknowledge. Sleep is for the rich and work is for the poor, right? That’s why a One-Percenter needs a bed that lives up to the wealth they inherited. Hastens presents the Vividus bed, designed in Sweden, which has been described as sleeping on a cloud. It certainly sounds nice, and it will sound even nicer to your One-Percent friend with a $59,750 asking price. It will sound even better to them yet one your friend ganders at the $700 concrete slabs the people who do the work all sleep on.

expensive-bed.jpg

Chopard 201-Karat Watch

Yes, it’s pretty easy to keep time these days with everything up to and including your own eyeballs having the ability to keep time digitally, but sometimes you just can’t beat that old retro charm. A good mechanical watch can be a nice little addition to a good power suit, as well as a cool gadget that your geek friend can use to show their love for all things steampunk. This cute little accessory from Chopard, will allow your One-Percent friend to both flash back to the simpler days of Victorian yore while being glittery and ostentatious at the same time. This Swiss watch features a pink diamond of 15 karats, a 12-karat blue diamond, and an 11-karat white diamond, presumably because they decided making it a white diamond somewhere between 12 and 15 karats would have been pushing it. After making those heart-shaped diamonds the centerpieces, Chopard then threw in 163 karats of white and yellow diamonds just to be on the safe side. You know, in case the original three weren’t enough. And I’m going to assume it tells time according to the atomic clock! At least, for $25 million, it fucking better.

th.jpg

Pear ANJOU Speaker Cables

If you think all cables do the same thing and work the same way, you must be part of that OTHER percentage of people. The Pear Cable Corporation is here for your One-Percent pal with the ANJOU Speaker Cable, a good 12-foot length of cable which Pear says will “allow new levels of sonic accuracy to be explored.” Obviously, you, the 99-Percenter buying this for your One-Percent friend, probably believe the $7250 price tag is there to cover the advertising tagline that’s telling us that. And that a combination of “proprietary hybrid geometry,” “ultra low electrical resistance,” and “fully annealed 99.999% pure oxygen free copper” are what’s allowing these levels to be explored. Dave Clark, an editor for the high-end audio magazine Positive Feedback, said these cables were “very danceable.” Perhaps the best part of getting this gift for your One-Percent friend is that the James Randi Educational Foundation is giving you an opportunity to join the exclusive One-Percent if you get it for them! How, you ask? It’s easy: Just prove beyond any reasonable doubt, or questionable doubt, or really any slight facsimile of a doubt at all that these cables work better than any other cables on the market!

expensive-speaker-cables.jpg

William Shakespeare’s First Folio

This is a first edition of Shakespeare’s original plays, and like the Star Wars camera up there, it’s a pretty damn cool collectible for literature buffs which needs to be bought at auction. In 2006, it went off for $5.1 million, so be sure you have your little trick with the light switch and silenced gun mastered before tracking it down. If you manage to get ahold of it, this sucker has some priceless words written on it. It was published in 1623, seven years after Shakespeare died, and it has a treasure trove of 12 plays he wrote that were never printed anywhere again, as well as a lot of the favorites you’ve come to know and love. So pony up so your One-Percent friend can speak with the erudite “thous,” “verilys,” “thines,” and “thys” the upper crust was known to speak with before Donald Trump killed all but about 100 words in our wonderfully quirky language. And maybe if there’s a time continuum snag involved here, you can convince your friend to burn the original copy of Romeo and Juliet and fucking rid the planet of it for good.

expensive-books-first-folio.jpg

Team in the National Hockey League

Okay, we all know nothing excites a One-Percenter more than a new opportunity to make more money hand-over-fist without doing a whole lot, but your friend will almost certainly be disappointed at your cheap-shotting them here. This is a hockey team, after all, and it requires they make an effort to establish the team in the public consciousness; as opposed to a football team, which would make money even if they blew up the stadium during a game. But it’s still a professional sports team, which is always a good opportunity to gouge an entire city. And an NHL team would be comparatively cheap to run. It’s the NHL which is expanding to try to include teams in every city with populations of 100,000, and the ever-thinning talent pool means your friend can be as cheap as they want with the roster because there soon won’t be enough superstar or even starting-caliber players to go around. On your end, to get them the team, the application is $10 million, $2 million of which is non-refundable. Then the franchise fee is $500 million, which is considerably less than the $700 million the National Football League’s newest team cost the city of Houston. Yeah, they might have to do some work to get the team visible, but if even if they blow it, they can always take the team to Canada. Or Tucson. Knowing the commissioner’s line of thinking, probably Tucson.

knights 2.jpg

LELO INEZ 24-karat Gold Dildo

The very same one recommended by Gwyneth Paltrow, because a list of nice gifts for your One-Percent friend just isn’t complete without a GOOP gift from Miss Gwyneth. Right? Right!

th.jpg

With thanks to The Most Expensive Journal at most-expensive.com.