Monday, December 20, 2004

Best birthday ever? Could be

Ten years ago, on December 20, 1994, I had what might have been my worst birthday ever. I was a junior at Georgetown, finished with finals, just hanging around campus waiting to go home for the holidays. I was in a terrible frame of mind due to a bad breakup a few weeks earlier. I spent part of the day in my living room, making a mix tape of bitter, angry songs that expressed my thoughts on love at the time (it sucks!) and kept me in a foul mood. Liz (who was not my girlfriend yet) had planned to spend the evening bar hopping with me, but her parents had arrived that day to take her back to Starkville so the four of us just had dinner before they left later that night. Instead of spending my 21st birthday enjoying a drink at a bar with my friends, I bought a six-pack at a deli, drank it at home with a friend, then tried to get into a strip club. The club would have let me in, but my friend had no ID, so we went to 7-11 and then back home. If that wasn't my worst birthday ever, it's in the top three. The other chief contender is the one when I was a kid and my mom got me a Snoopy trash can for a birthday present.

Today was a much better birthday than 10 years ago. I took the day off, woke up at my usual time and enjoyed my usual morning shows over a leisurely breakfast. I spent the late morning watching some of the special features on my Return of the King EE DVD, including the documentaries on the music, the horses, and Cameron Duncan, a young New Zealand filmmaker who spent time with the cast and crew of the films while dying of cancer. Getting those out of the way leaves only five hours or so of other features to watch (not to mention the hours of extras that I haven't yet watched on the first two EE DVDs, or the four commentary tracks for each film).

After lunch I moved into the office and watched the entire extended edition of ROTK on my computer, so as not to compromise the picture resolution by watching it on my crappy old TV. I took a short break between the two discs to run out for coffee and groceries, but otherwise spent about four hours sitting in a darkened office, wearing headphones for top-quality sound, enjoying the Best Picture of 2004. As ROTK was the best of the trilogy, I think the ROTK EE is the best of the three extended editions. The added material is as seamless as it could be, and I have only the slightest complaints about the way one or two scenes were incorporated. Most of the time I couldn't even remember what I'd seen in the theater and what I was watching for the first time this afternoon. And it never fails: I got misty-eyed just before the Ride of the Rohirrim and at the end when all of Gondor bows to the four hobbits.

I've decided that when I finally get a widescreen, high-definition TV and surround sound audio system, I will inaugurate my new home theater system with a day-long screening of the entire extended edition Lord of the Rings trilogy. I figure I'll need about 14 hours for the whole megillah, factoring in bathroom and snack breaks. Maybe that will be how I celebrate my 35th birthday?

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