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Why Gen-Xers mourn their idols more than any other generation

29 Dec

 

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We lost so many important people in 2016. Why was that particularly hard on my generation?

I feel like I’ve spent much of the last  year in mourning — not for family or friends but for people I’ve never even met. For many people that sounds like someone being overly dramatic but, for anyone who grew up in the 70s and 80s, they will tell you that it’s not. Every expression of grief is heartfelt and genuine.

Yesterday I woke up to the news that Carrie Fisher (beloved author and actress best known for playing Princess Leia Organa in the Star Wars film franchise)  passed away at the age of 60. The news came barely 24 hours after the untimely death of another icon, pop singer George Michael, and after what feels like an endless list of obituaries of personalities from my youth: Prince, David Bowie, Muhammad Ali, Garry Shandling and Gene Wilder. (In addition to other great influences like Harper Lee and John Glenn.)

Why do we feel for the loss of celebrities like we would a “real” person? I like to believe it’s because my generation (aka Gen-X: born from 1965 to 1984) is the first truly “multi-media” generation: the first to be exposed to cable & satellite television, home video recorders and the first early adopters of the internet. We didn’t just read about these people through static images and journalistic intermediaries. We brought them into our living rooms, our bedrooms, our desktop and laptop computers. Ours was the first generation that consumed their media whenever we wanted, as often as we wanted. We spent literally thousands of hours listening to their voices, reading their faces and even mimicking their best lines and moves.

As writer Stereo Williams describes it: “We were the first generation of kids to grow up with VCRs and Blockbuster video and cable TV as mainstays of our culture. We were able to watch our favorite movies at home whenever we wanted, we could tape our favorite TV shows, and were constantly bombarded with syndicated gems. (Requiem for an ’80s Kid: We’ve Lost Our Prince and Now Our Princess)

1101830718_400I may not have had cable television growing up in Manila in the 1970s and 80s but we could tap into the US Armed Forces’ Far East Network (FEN) UHF television signal, giving us a steady supply of American news, sit-coms and late-night television. I rented pirate VHS tapes recorded live off MTV in the US. When I close my eyes while listening to 1984’s “Do They Know It’s Christmas” I can tell you exactly who is singing and when. That’s also how I learned Prince and David Bowie were the coolest cats on the planet. Throughout high school, I had Bowie’s TIME magazine cover pinned to my closet. My copy of the 12-inch single of “Purple Rain” (in purple) is the most prized possession in my record collection.

But back to Carrie Fisher. My brothers and I had a copy of both Star Wars and Empire on VHS. I must have seen each film at least 200 times. (And that was just in the 80s.) Tell me any line from any of the movies in the original trilogy and I can tell you the line that comes immediately after. I played with my Star Wars action figures, mixing them with LEGO and Playmobil to create my own private “expanded universe” throughout my childhood (and even, I have to admit, long after it was considered cool to still play with toys).

Fisher is, of course, part of the original Star Wars triumvirate that includes Mark Hamill and Harrison Ford. In 2016, all three reassembled onstage at Comic Con to promote Episode VII: The Force Awakens.

It was the first time I had seen all three onscreen for the first time in decades, each one having visibly aged since the original movie in 1977.  But as I watched with delight the Youtube clip on my living room TV, I noticed tears involuntarily streaming down my face.  I couldn’t fully explain why. I still can’t. I was just so happy to see all three of them together again.

So if you have a sibling, partner or work colleague railing at the tragic deaths of 2016, have a little sympathy. It isn’t just another random celebrity or pop star we lost but a piece of our childhood.

A version of this article was published in Esquire

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The long wait for Episode VII begins …

1 Nov

Call me optimistic, but I am excited by the news that Disney has acquired Lucasfilm and, more important, that an “Episode VII” film is expected to be released in 2015. To me, any news that extends the story beyond the original trilogy has to be good news.

Saying “May the Force be with you” just might become cool again.

[NOTE: I did not create the above image. If anyone objects to my linking to it from this blog, let me know and I will take it down.]

Floppy Disk Plays Imperial March from Star Wars

4 Oct

This one is really worth seeing. The “music” of the Imperial March from Star Wars (aka Darth Vader’s theme) is actually the noise made by two hard drives. Great job!

Could this be the most amazing Star Wars game ever?

12 Jul

Sadly it’s not commercially available … yet. The game was designed by Arthur Nishimoto, a student at the Electronic Visualization Laboratory at the University of Illinois at Chicago. This should be a wake up call for the folks at LucasArts whose game efforts in recent years have been less than memorable.

Reported by Kotaku.

Grumpy Fanboy’s Comic Book & SciFi TV Shows We’d Like To See

24 Aug

Over the years, we’ve seen old television shows remade into modern live action feature films. A small handful are excellent (Serenity) some are pretty good (JJ Abrams’ Star Trek) and most are just too awful for words (GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen). We’ve of course seen a lot of comic books made into movies, with their own share of the good (Iron Man, The Dark Knight), the bad (Spider-Man 3, Ghost Rider) and the festering piles of turd (Elektra, Catwoman).

Here are some movie- and comic book-inspired ideas that would make excellent live action television shows:

Robotech

BSG with robots and giant aliens

Am I the only one who notices the similarity between Battlestar Galactica and the Macross saga? A lone aircraft carrier, hotshot pilots, civilians to protect and aliens bent on humanity’s destruction? Unlike the Robotech anime series, which was written for kids, this one would convey adult themes and delve deeper into the motivations behind the Zentraedi invasion.

Why it would work: The kids who were hooked on the original Robotech are now in the highly lucrative 30s and 40s demographic. Live action, a compelling and complex storyline combined with fighter jets that transform into robots. Come on! Who wouldn’t want to see that?

Why it wouldn’t happen: Japanese anime has never been successfully adapted into live action in the West. Back-rolling this project would take guts and a whole lot of vision to get it right.

The Corps

Trials of a rookie Green Lantern

Unlike the upcoming movie, this series would focus on Kyle Rayner, a teenager spotted by the Guardians to have the one-in-a-billion natural ability to operate a Green Lantern power ring. Think Greatest American Hero, wherein most episodes we see Kyle clumsily but courageously  learning the art of ring-slinging from retired Green Lantern Alan Scott. Occasionally, Kyle gets drafted into a military operation of cosmic proportions to fight alongside Green Lantern Corps veterans like Tomar-Re, Katma Tui and Kilowog.

Why it would work: The concept of a rookie drafted into a Star Trek / Starfleet Command-like military organization would be fascinating and extremely entertaining. With Smallville wrapping up, DC needs a new show on TV. (“Blue Beetle” you say? Groan.)

Why it wouldn’t happen: Quite likely that they will decide the Green Lantern movie is the only live action GL they want. It could confuse audiences.

The Defenders

Friends meets The Tick

Loosely based on the treatment of the Defenders in The Ultimates, this series focuses not on Marvel’s icons but its very deep bench of second- and third-stringer heroes. The line-up would include lesser-known characters such as Doctor Strange, Nighthawk, Hellcat, Valkyrie, the Son of Satan and other struggling-to-be-respected super-heroes. Naturally, its treatment would be lighter, often humorous, spending as much time dealing with inter-personal relationships and their secret identities as battling super villains. But importantly, the dialogue would reveal (or hint, depending on rights issues) that the show takes place in the same Marvel universe as the movies, without necessarily having any of those major characters appear.

Why it would work: Hellooo …  Marvel is hot! There’s a lot of demand between the blockbuster films for more live action super-hero content. Here’s a clever – and less expensive – way to deliver.

Why it wouldn’t happen: Too many people in Hollywood believe big budgets and special effects are the only reason people want to see comic book characters on the screen.

Gotham

Film Noir-style Batman

Most depictions of the Batman focus on him as the gadget-ridden, hi-tech super-hero. Even Dark Knight, as good as it was, missed the important word in that phrase: Detective. Sadly, the Adam West Batman still sets the tone for the character in many ways. The “Kapows!” may be gone but it’s still all about Batmobiles, Bat Jets and Bat ultra-sonar devices. I’d like to see a low tech Batman — no fancy car or special weapons — relying on his wits, resourcefulness and detective skills to solve the impossible or bizarre cases the police can’t. This was how the Batman was portrayed in the 1970s, as told by the likes of Denny O’Neil, Neal Adams and Marshall Rogers. Or, for younger readers, think CSI with a little X-Files mixed in.

Why it would work: There’s a market for intelligent crime dramas. A number of Batman fan films have demonstrated how a low-budget Batman could work well. The novel treatment could win a whole new audience.

Why it wouldn’t happen: There’s too much riding on the Batman franchise. Any Hollywood project with Batman in it has to be a big production. And based on the last two films, the formula is paying off too well.

Falcon

The adventures of young Han & Chewie

Han Solo as a smuggler / pirate /scoundrel set it in the years between Episode III and Episode IV. There’s no shortage of material! How Han gets drummed out of the Imperial Academy and goes underground. How Chewbacca comes to owe Han a “life debt”. How Han wins the Millennium Falcon from Lando Calrissian in a game of cards. How Han drops his cargo and crosses Jabba the Hutt. Bring in a charismatic actor who can pull off a young Harrison Ford, a rotating cast of colorful characters and, of course, the Falcon herself.

Why it would work: Are you kidding me? Joss Whedon saw the potential and ended up doing Firefly instead! It would be an instant classic.

Why it wouldn’t happen: Creatively, George Lucas seems focused on the Skywalkers. The current Clone Wars animated series pretty much revolves around Anakin, as did the recent prequel trilogy. An expanded Star Wars universe revolving around Han just doesn’t seem to be on his radar.

Latest Star Wars Call of Duty 4 mod version released

20 Aug

Check it out, kids. Those cats over at Blackmonkeys.de have released the latest version of their Star Wars-themed mod for Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. The Beta 0.8 version of ‘Star Wars Mod: Galactic Warfare’ is available for download here.

Can’t wait to dig up my copy of COD 4 and reinstall it. Here’s a little taste of the action.