My wife and I have become addicted to the TV show Weeds. It's excellent. Smart and funny, that's what we like. Anyway, as is so often the case, I ended up on a Wikipedia tangent-a-thon this evening. It went like this: Weeds > Showtime > HBO and then I jumped over to Youtube to watch this, the old HBO feature presentation logo thing from the early-mid 80s.*
My family didn't have cable until I was in high school, just in time for Mike Nelson's run on Mystery Science Theater 3000. But growing up, my VHS copy of Star Wars was one that my uncle had taped off of HBO. I still have that tape somewhere. I hope. Anyway, as kids do when they watch the same thing thousands of times, I had the rhythm of the whole tape down: first, there's the tail end of an HBO documentary special on women in prison or something, meh. Then a promo for an upcoming Neil Young concert broadcast, with Neil singing After the Gold Rush ("Look at mother nature on the run in the 1980s"), oh boy here we go. Then a bit about how the following feature presentation has been rated PG by the Motion Picture Association of America, and parental guidance is suggested, because this movie is the best one ever, and you should guide your children to it. Then the spinning HBO thing, discussed above, SUPER-exciting. Then the 20th Century Fox drumroll and the Lucasfilm logo and holy crap the STAR WARS and the music and the words flying off into oblivion and the giant spaceships and then your 3-year-old heart explodes because STAR WARS!**
Now, here's the thing. I saw Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back on VHS, and Return of the Jedi in the theater. But! Tonight I discovered this other video on Youtube. Puzzle pieces contained therein: ads for the premiere of both Star Wars and Fraggle Rock, both coming to HBO "next month." But according to Wikipedia, Fraggle Rock (alright, I'm sick of italics) premiered on HBO in January 1983. Return of the Jedi came to theaters in May, 1983. Was my discovery and enthusiastic embrace of all things Star Wars really within the span of just a few months? The whole timeline of my youth has just been contracted. Baked in an oven and shrinky-dinked (or is shrunky-dunk the past participle of shrinky-dink?).
I am well aware of the accelerating nature of time. When you're a child, a year is an eternity. The first four years of elementary school seems like a geologic age, to say nothing of K-12 education as a whole. And I've been out of college for six years now, gone in a blink. This is not a new idea to me. Pink Floyd wrote songs about it. But to go back now and see how short a span of time it must have been between the first time I saw Star Wars (Episode IV, A New Hope, nerds***) and Return of the Jedi, I'm awestruck. In my memory, those events were years apart. I guess little kids' internal clocks just run fast, like hummingbirds or mayflies. They can fill their days and take in information and digest it and move on and do it again so much faster than adults.
So remember, the next time a Sunday afternoon slips away from you and you spend it reading the archives of Bill Simmons' articles on ESPN.com instead of cleaning the gutters like you planned, that somewhere, in the same amount of time, little kids are experiencing their equivalent of the rise and fall of the Roman empire.
Or maybe video games and MTV ruined all that. Get off my lawn.
* I also found this hilariously self-important "making of the HBO opening logo" film from around the same time. Two things stuck out in this thing: 1) they spent a lot of time and money on that project and 2) whoever wrote the song featured throughout this insider look must have been told "Pretend you're Billy Joel, only less talented. Now write a song for a Reading Rainbow segment about the incomplete nature of human perception. Now make it more condescending."
** Given the Pavlovian connection of the promo and Star Wars in my mind, I've gone so far (full confession) as to put an mp3 of the HBO music on my iPod, so it plays at the beginning of my copy of the Star Wars score album. This kicks lots of nerdy ass.
*** Remember when the number IV in front of that movie felt full of promise instead of disappointment?