yoda pancakes

Recently, the Jim Henson Company sponsored a contest that would grant one unknown, aspiring author the prize of a lifetime: A contract to write the very first novel based off of the film THE DARK CRYSTAL. Being an unknown aspiring author myself, my heart raced with excitement at the opportunity, and I knew I had to submit a manuscript.

There was one small problem, however. I had never watched The Dark Crystal.

It was not that I never wanted to watch it. Quite the opposite, in fact. I really wanted to see the movie but whenever I had the opportunity, something would come up and I would miss it. There was a questionnaire on the submission page that asked, “What does The Dark Crystal mean to you?” to which I gave this honest reply:

Fate, it seems, did not want me to watch The Dark Crystal until the Author Quest contest was announced. I tried to watch it when I was younger, but for various reasons it never happened.

That was a blessing in a way, for everything felt fresh and new to me, and I was able to feel a bit of that magic that gets lost after you’ve seen a film countless times. If you’re four years of age or thirty-four, Jim Henson movies have the power to immerse, thrill and captivate.

In case you’re wondering, I have now seen The Dark Crystal three times and I absolutely love it.

A set of similar circumstances surround me and another film that has come to impact my life in exponentially increasing ways. STAR WARS: A NEW HOPE.

I was born in 1979, so Episode IV was already two years in the can by the time I made my debut on Planet Earth. It was long out of theaters by the time I was old enough to comprehend what was happening on the screen. Eventually it made its way to VHS, but I unfortunately lived in a household where such luxuries as a videotape player were deemed unnecessary expenses. If it were ever played on broadcast tv, I was never made aware of it. I once started to watch it at a friend’s house but my mother ordered me to come home just before Luke met Ben for the first time. There was even a moment when, on one of those rare awesome school days when the teacher rolls in the tv/vcr on wheels, that I requested we watch it. He made us watch SPACED INVADERS instead. I suppose he thought he was being clever. He wasn’t; nothing about Spaced Invaders is clever.

The bizarre thing is that I had seen both EMPIRE and JEDI countless times. It seemed that I could watch those two whenever I wanted. I knew that Vader was Luke’s father. I had witnessed time and time again the ferocious battle of the second death star. Heck, I could even hum the yub nub song. What I could not do, though, was tell you about poor Greedo, for I had not seen Han shoot him (first).

So when did I finally get to see Episode IV? My senior year of high school. I was seventeen years old. SEVENTEEN. Think about that. It took nearly two decades for me to see this movie.

I was in choir class (RIP Mr. Bullion) one day, discussing sciency fictiony nerdy things with a fellow student, and the conversation naturally turned to Star Wars. When I mentioned that I had never seen the first one, Captain Bill (that was his nickname; the guy was a big Star Trek fan but I won’t hold that against him) offered to let me borrow his boxed set of the original, unaltered (back then, the only versions to choose from were the unaltered versions) trilogy on VHS. I took them home and finally got to experience the thrill of A New Hope.

Less than a year later the special editions came to theaters, and I got to watch ANH the way it was meant to be seen- in a movie theater. My life was forever changed at that moment.

You can watch Star Wars on your sixty inch television, with your Dolby Digital 7.0 surround sound system cranked up to 11, while you lay back in your comfy loveseat, and it will be a great experience. But until you have seen it in a real movie theater, you will never truly understand its magnificence. I honestly believe that A New Hope should have a theatrical release every ten years or so just so each generation has their own moment to understand just how great the original film is.

And it might just save one or two of them from waiting a ridiculously long time for their first viewing.

-James Howell (aka yhop)


Powered by
Please follow and like us:


  1. Lisa
    January 10, 2014 at 17:10 Reply

    Great post, my friend! I never you were sooo old when you first saw ANH. Wow! I can’t imagine that. O.O

  2. Matthew Spillman (@MattPSpillman)
    January 13, 2014 at 01:07 Reply

    James is the one who introduced me to Star Wars. James and I have been friends since elementary school. James, I like your post. I am looking forward to reading more of your blogs. You’re a good friend and a amazing writer my friend.

  3. djtommymac
    January 14, 2014 at 01:08 Reply

    firstly just testing this to see if I am logged in properly and can actually leave comments LOL.

    I can’t believe I’ve known you all this time and never heard that story before! Seeing ANH on the big screen must have been amazing for you by the time you finally managed it.

  4. Melinda
    January 14, 2014 at 05:40 Reply

    I agree with you 100 percent! In fact, I’m of the mind that all 6 of the movies should make their way to theaters every so often just so (new) fans can enjoy the experience of seeing it on a big screen. 🙂
    Our 2 daughters, young as they were, already had been introduced to the OT by the time the Special Edition was released, and even though they knew the story of Luke, Han, Leia, Darth Vader, etc., it was imperative they see the films in the theater. I never will forget how blown away by the experience they were!
    Great story, James! And welcome to CWK!! 🙂

  5. Jay
    January 26, 2014 at 20:54 Reply

    Every time I get on this site I see a new face from the old days! Good to see you again YHOP!
    You’re so right. Every generation should get to see ALL of the OT movies ( and PT) on the big screen. It fully exemplifies the true nature of the saga…A TV just can’t measure up.
    Although I must say I did watch A New Hope On cable so many times once it was released there. I even cassette taped it so I could sit and type out the entire script word for word! I still have it, too!
    I love Star Trek too, by the way. ..Hope you won’t hold that against me, either! 😉
    Aka MO2YP… maybe you remember me?!

    1. James Howell
      January 29, 2014 at 08:51 Reply

      Yeah, I remember you!

      What’s a cassette tape?

      Just kidding! I remember them quite well. Gads, I’m old.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

A wannabe author with big goals and little talent, James spends most of his waking hours dealing Blackjack, crushing gamblers' dreams and robbing them of their mortgage payments.

%d bloggers like this: