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The Essential Geek #1: Secret Origins

The Essential Geek #1: Secret Origins

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Hey, gang!

Jim Hill here. And -- I know, I know -- we've been introducing new columnists left and right here at JHM lately. But today, I've got someone really special for you to meet: Matthew Spring. And he's a geek.

Now don't worry. Matthew's a geek in a good way. He's self aware. He has a sense of humor about his obsessions as well as himself. And Springer has a real gift when it comes to spinning out a story.

So -- in honor of Matthew's debut at the site today -- JimHillMedia.com is geeking out! We'll be following up Springer's debut column with an article by yours truly about how embarrassing it is to be a grown man who collects McDonalds Happy Meal toys. And the lovely Miss AlikZam will be chiming in with a new column where she geeks out over the new "Jim Henson's The Storyteller" DVD set.

Yes, it's going to be a real geekfest here today at JimHillMedia.com. So why don't we get this rather dweeby gathering underway by letting me get out of the way.

And now, ladies and gentlemen, it is with great pleasure that I introduce to you -- making his JHM debut -- Matthew Springer!!

Take it away, Matt!


I have a terrible memory.

That's not true. I have a strong but strangely selective memory. There are whole sections of my life about which I have nothing but the vaguest of recollections, and yet I can sing you all of "Jesus Christ Superstar," word for word. I won't unless you ask, but I can. So consider yourselves warned!

Since my memory sucks, I don't have many vivid recollections. I remember moods, or tiny slices of time. Songs bring me back to moments I had long abandoned, and a smell drifting through the air in a restaurant will take me to some long-faded and probably ill-advised crush.

I do, however, remember one thing vividly from my childhood, and that is seeing "Return of the Jedi."

I was six years old. Before the film's release, I had convinced my mother to buy me the officially licensed "Jedi" magazine. I stared endlessly at its white cover with its portrait of the hand of Luke Skywalker holding his lightsaber aloft--the same image that would grace one of the "Jedi" theatrical posters--and I devoured over and over the secrets within its pages. It literally fell apart in my hands from overreading.

I read about an Ewok rebellion in the forests of California, stared at pictures of Salacious Crumb and Admiral Ackbar, and wondered time and again how the story would end. A partial summary was offered, even a tantalizing description of the writing of the climactic final battle, but no clues were given about the ending of the Star Wars saga. Where would the films go? What would happen to Luke, Han and the others, these strange characters from another galaxy who I'd come to know so well through the magic of our first VCR, which was roughly the size of a two-bath ranch house?

On Memorial Day 1983, I found out. My mom dropped my dad and I off in front of the River Oaks Theaters in South Holland, IL to wait in line for "Return of the Jedi." It was a long line, winding outside the theater's front doors, and while waiting I goofed around with a kid I didn't know while my dad and his dad chatted. I recall making an awful joke about a Gammorean Guard exploding against the theater wall, and I remember going into the theater and taking our seats, and I remember being blown away. This movie kicked my tiny Underooed ass.

The entire experience of seeing "Jed"i that day--even the fact that I remember it at all--has had a massive impact on my life, no doubt about it. I love movies, I write about movies, and I still buy too many Star Wars toys. But there is one particular moment I will carry with me forever.

The Rebels have finally reached the power generator on Endor; they're ready to shut down the shield generator and give the fleet battling above them a shot at blowing up the second Death Star. Han and Leia need R2D2 to help them open the blast doors of the generator. Being a hero, Artoo runs off to help them, but as he approaches the door to open it, he's hit by enemy laser fire. His body is engulfed by sparks of energy; he's thrown back from the building by the impact, and he sputters and smokes.

The entire audience gasped in unison. I was six years old, hardly at an age when perceiving emotion is something one does well, and yet I could sense the anxious worry that filled the air. A room full of people--adults and kids alike--were concerned about the well-being of a fictional robot from a long time ago and a galaxy far away.

I didn't know it then, but I had just learned an unforgettable lesson in the power of film. And I had just become a geek.

That's right. A geek. A card-carrying, Game Boy Advance SP-playing, Star Wars movie-camping, Buffy-taping, DVD-buying geek.

There is a geek culture. There is a geek wardrobe. There are geek accessories. There are geek hot button issues (Did Matrix Reloaded suck?) and there are geek sex symbols (Carrie Fisher circa 1983, Jon Stewart).

Some choose to define it further. You may be a movie geek-just how many laserdiscs do you have in those boxes in the closet? You may be a music geek-what'd you pay for that pristine vinyl copy of Blonde on Blonde? You're probably a Disney geek-how many trips to Anaheim did you make last year?

Beyond it all, there are the movies and TV shows, the DVDs and video games, the books and rumors and concepts and STUFF that define geeks. And that's what this column is all about. Sci-fi, horror, fantasy, animation, comics-we'll be taking a journey through the then and the now of the great and the awful. For my fellow geeks, it'll be a chance to examine old classics, new hotness, and the obscure. For those with no experience in the realms of geekdom, welcome to the party, pals. Coats go in the bedroom. Would you care for a cocktail?

For Walt Disney, it all started with a mouse. For me, a life in geekdom started with a midget in a tin can and the inexplicable emotional attachment of a thousand viewers, all of us geeking out and wondering in the dark.

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