Friday, May 2, 2014

May The 4th Be With You

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"A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away.... 
It is a period of civil war. Rebel 
spaceships, striking from a hidden 
base, have won their first victory 
against the evil Galactic Empire. 
During the battle, Rebel spies managed 
to steal secret plans to the Empire's 
ultimate weapon, the Death Star, an 
armored space station with enough 
power to destroy an entire planet. 
Pursued by the Empire's sinister agents, 
Princess Leia races home aboard her 
starship, custodian of the stolen 
plans that can save her people and restore 
freedom to the galaxy..."

Since first reading these words on May 25th, 1977, fans of science fiction have been enthralled with the universe of Star Wars.  The tale of laser wielding knights, bounty hunters, royalty, monsters, and villains spawned five more movies, and more novels, comic books, toys, games, t-shirts, posters, buttons, and other bobbles than I can count.  The franchise's fictional Jedi Order even inspired the formation of The Temple Of The Jedi Order: Church Of Jediism in Texas.

While most fans haven't adopted the saga as a replacement for their personal God concept, the franchise has made an indelible mark on pop culture and, arguably, society in general.  This Sunday, fans will be celebrating Star Wars Day with movie marathons and themed parties.  I even plan to "get my geek on" by digging out my Luke Skywalker t-shirt and watching a few of the films.

First recognized in Toronto, in 2011, May the 4th was chosen for its phonic similarity to, "May the Force," within the franchise's popular tagline, "May the Force be with you."  While this observance may seem to lay nerd centrically outside the box, it's actually not unique.

In England and Scotland, January 25th is known as Burns Supper, in recognition of the UK's premier poet—Robert Burns.  The celebration features a set menu of Scottish favorites, including haggis, which is touted in Burns' poem Address To A Haggis. Other poems are read, speeches of appreciation are given and, in the case of more formal gatherings, the night ends with a dance.

May 20th is recognized, by My Fair Lady fans, as Eliza Doolittle Day.  Based on the lyrics, "One evening the king will say, 'Oh, Eliza, old thing — I want all of England your praises to sing. Next week on the twentieth of May, I proclaim Eliza Doolittle Day,'" the day is celebrated with showings of  the 1964 film and lots of chocolate for fans to eat.  Wouldn't it be lovely?

Bloomsday is a celebration of the life of Irish writer James Joyce, during which the events of his novel Ulysses (which is set on 16 June 1904) are relived.  On June 16th, in Dublin and elsewhere, enthusiasts dress in Edwardian costumes and retrace Bloom's route around Dublin via landmarks such as Davy Byrne's pub. Avid devotees have even been known to hold marathon readings of the entire novel, some lasting up to 36 hours.

Robert Parker at the Manchester (N.H.) Library
Title: Robert B. Parker at the Manchester (N.H.) Library | Date: 05/17/2006 | Photographer: Manchester (N.H.) Library | This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.
I personally set aside January 18th, each year, to remember the life and works of Robert B. Parker (September 17, 1932 – January 18, 2010), an American crime writer who's work helped me learn how to write fiction in the first person while including omnipresent narration. His most famous works were  novels about the Boston P.I. Spenser. Since they were known as Bullets & Beer stories, I spend the day with some beer and one of his many novels.

Fiction and poetry, when it's at its best, speaks to us in entertaining, instructive, and./or profound ways.  They can put issues into perspective, answer questions for us, impress us with their structure and flow, and provide us with a temporary escape from life.  Given the impact fiction and poetry have on readers and viewers, it's not surprising that we assign days to commemorate our favorites.  Thus, the observance of Star Wars Day may not be that far outside the box after all.

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