To Fuss is Human, To Rant, Divine!!

Location: Vienna, Virginia, United States

A graduate of Dartmouth College (2005) and Washington and Lee University School of Law (2010). These are my personal blogs, and the musings expressed on them do not reflect the positions of my employer. They do reflect my readings, thoughts, and aspirations, which I figure is good enough.

Monday, May 30, 2005

I Love Journalism

Sometimes, journalism just takes care of itself so well. Very Darwinian in that regard. Whether it's bad grammar that suggests that Pedro grabbed a fan's crotch, or inane writing that is badly researched, there's often a sublime pleasure in reading bad journalism. Call it schadenfreude, call it sadistic glee. But either way, it's just so damn fun sometimes.

Because I didn't know that you were allowed to print this. Even though it's the New York Post, I feel that the first sentence is a little much.

Perhaps he was going for one image, but the first rule of journalism is of course, there is no journalism.

That's not it.

I mean, the first rule of journalism is "know thy reader."

And if I know the average New York Post reader, they won't get an image of Paul Quantrill, Mike Stanton and Carl Pavano in front of a large bowl of mesclun greens.

Oh no, the image will be far different. . .

Does no one at the New York Post listen to Chris Rock? Or do they just have their heads under rocks?

And one last thing:

(Chris Rock) I prefer syrup! (/Chris Rock)

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Two Sides of the Same Coin

If I were to tell you a sports athlete spent thousands of dollars taking substances that might be illegal, would you consider it cheating?

Forget the fact that the drugs might not be banned yet. Forget the fact that other players could have easily done the same thing. If sports are theoretically supposed to be played on a level ground (talentwise at least), don't you consider what Bill Romanowski did for more than ten years cheating?

And yet John Clayon (one of ESPN's more respectable football analysts) applauds Romo's work ethic, saying "his life story will detail the crisis every NFL player goes through every day. No 245 pound body is prepared for the collisions a linebacker absorbss 60 to 70 times a game. The difference with Romanowski was his willingness to try new things to keep his body in play."

I think that if an ESPN baseball analyst, say, Jerry Crasnick, wrote "Barry Bonds is a fierce competitor who should be applauded for his willingness to try new things," Crasnick would be looking for a new job. Yet there's no problem (none that I've found at least) when Clayton writes this about Romanowski.

It's silly when people argue that there must be fewer steroid abusers in the NFL than in the MLB, just because of the NFL's more stringent testing policy.

But the bottom line is, if you're willing to pay for the drugs that the NFL are unaware of and don't screen for, you can get them.

This article on Romanowski is really laughable though. He was "willing to try new things."

Yeah, new things, like the latest "health supplement" from his BALCO buddies. New things, like numerous, potentially hazardous cheap shots on the field.

Everyone knows that Bill Romanowski was a fierce competitor. No one who's watched him play can deny that. But it's also impossible to deny that once in a while, sometimes more than once in a while, his drive to compete led him to rather questionable actions. Cheap shots, fights, unsportsmanlike conduct . . .

Let's use his on-field action as a metaphor for his training regimen off the field, shall we?

On Field: Blindsides a quaterback, lays him out on the turf. - A good, hard play and legal

Training: Buys a hyperbaric chamber - It's a little extreme, but no problems there

On Field: Grabs a guy's groin while at the bottom of a scrum, and then spits in his face - Not legal - unsportsmanlike conduct and gets fined $7500

Hits Kerry Collins with a cheap shot during an exhibition in 1997 and breaks his jaw - Not legal - and it was a damn exhibition

Training: Takes "supplements" provided to him by trainers from BALCO - Not legal - while not specifically against drug policy, these "vitamins" he was taking were probably banned eventually by the NFL- he just went off them in time. But they were illegally obtained in the first place.

On (Practice) Field: Broke his own teammate's eye socket in a fight, ruining the man's career - Good lord, he should have gone to jail for this. Jail. This was plain out assault for God's sake.

Levels Jerry Rice during a non-contact drill - Roid Rage?

Training: Who knows what he's taken? Consider that he told reporters that he took steroids for nearly his entire career. He tested positive for THG. Steroids could mean supplements, it could mean HGH. Who knows?

Needless to say, I think Romo was always over the line. But his supporters applauded his actions as those of a warrior, a gladiator who sometimes got a little carried away by his emotions. Can they really defend his steroid use?

John Clayton can write what he wants about Romo's training regimen. He can marvel at the man's drive. He can fellate Romo's career and Romo's passion all he wants.

But it's evident to me that Romanowski was always a punk and a cheater. I don't care how well he played. He played the game wrong, on and off the field, and no one should value his accomplishments for that reason. Another article on Romo tells the real story. And I can't think of a better way to end this piece than by copying it.

"It's clear that Romanowski is going to capitalize financially from his bad-boy NFL career.

He's written his autobiography: "Romo: My Jekyll and Hyde Life." In the upcoming remake of "The Longest Yard," Romanowski has a role as a prison guard. Odds are good that he'll land a high-paying job with some television network as an NFL analyst.

Then there's Williams [the teammate who Romo punched, whose career was ruined - he sued and has since settled out of court for 415,000 dollars, my addendum]. No, he wasn't headed for a Hall of Fame career. He was a backup and a special teams player. But the Berkeley High School graduate had played one season with the Raiders -- his dream job -- and had a chance for more seasons in a league that now pays a minimum annual salary of $455,000.

Williams deserves our sympathy and a huge check from Romanowski, who should pay for this mistake."

I Was a Teenage Warmonger

Well, no, that's not entirely true. But military biographies and documentaries were a big part of what I read, between the ages of 8 and 11. I did read everything from Shakespeare to Bill Watterson, but I had a special place for accounts of war.

I read a lot of fairly childish books about the American Revolution. Most of them were about Valley Forge, or Ben Franklin, or Thomas Jefferson, the Battle of Yorktown, yadda yadda. But my favorite book was a series of biographies about the most well known generals of the Revolution, and some of the less well known.

I'm glad I read it too - I know why Fort Moultrie in South Carolina is called Fort Moultrie, and why palmetto trees make really good fort material. I know who Count Kazmir (?) Pulaski was (he's now more well known as a freeway in New York). Ethan Allen isn't just a furniture store, and I know who the Swamp Fox was (Francis Marion was the Ethan Allen of South Carolina - or Ethan Allen was the Francis Marion of Vermont).

I think the book was so intriguing because it offered such a personalized and in some cases, varied accounts of the war. It was especially interesting to read about the backgrounds of some of the men, especially the foreign ones like Van Steuben and Pulaski that didn't really need to be here. I never thought about it, but those men had no reason to fight besides an ideal. Them and Lord Byron, but that was a different war.

Now, it's less valuable that I know who these people were, but I can at least understand who landmarks are named after and why. More importantly, at least I know what some of them were fighting for.

For some reason, accounts of the Civil War were never quite as attractive to me as a kid. Most likely, it was due to the fact that I couldn't really figure out the good guys from the bad guys. It took me a long time to figure out who was "grey" and who was "blue." I enjoyed reading about Robert E. Lee a whole lot more than I did reading about Grant or Sherman or the other union generals. He just seemed like more of a real person.

Teddy Roosevelt's Rough Riders, General Pershing in World War I, I read about all of them.

The vast majority of the books I read, however, were about World War II.

There was one book about D-Day that I read the cover off of. Then the rest of it started falling apart, until by the time I found it on my shelf again two years ago, only the middle fifty pages or so were left. The book went through each of the allied beaches and gave account of individual Rangers or Marines, so who met their end on those beaches. For a kid's book, it was surprisingly well organized, and not at all fearless about depicting death.

I also read plenty of biographies, about Generals on both sides of the war. I especially liked reading about the British general Montgomery and German general Rommel (although I can't decide of Jeff's Rommel doll is really cool or really creepy). Some of the best stories about World War II came from North Africa, and I'm not just talking about Casablanca.

And of course, in between showings of Mets games, Army of Darkness, and Willow, WPIX (Channel 11) ran Midway a whole lot. It's actually not a great war movie (older, campier ones like the Guns of Navarrone are much better), but I must have watched it at least five times. I didn't even Charleton Heston with Moses until much later.

Also, I had completely forgotten about the love story in Midway. It kind of sucks the life out of the rest of the movie.

I had no clue Toshiro Mifune was in the movie Midway. That was a long time before I knew who Toshiro Mifune was. I suppose his character in the movie is rather wasted.

It was also incredibly amusing that all the street names in my neighborhood were named after World War II generals. At least a bunch of them were - Halsey, Nimitz, Arnold, Eisenhower. Actually, my street was named Eisenhower, that is, until he became President and they renamed my street Northridge.

But then, sometime around 7th or 8th grade, I saw Apocalypse Now. And then Platoon not too much later. I saw Dr. Strangelove a bit later, so it was less influential. Those were very different war movies, indeed. The books I read before had depicted the casualties as martyrs and heroes. I think those movies were the first works that made me begin to understand what Sherman meant when he said "War is Hell."

Recently I started thinking back and wondering how legitimate it was to read those books. After all, they were rather patriotic, usually telling the stories of American soldiers. For instance, in the D-Day book I loved, there might have been one story about a British soldier. And none about Canadians.

There's no reason NOT to read them though. Not then, and really, not now either. There's nothing worse than not reading a book or not watching a movie just because one thinks that it is overly patriotic, or that it does not align with one's political values. Unless it's to keep a few more bucks out of Mel Gibson's back pocket. I mean kilt.

If anything, I regret not reading more about wars that didn't concern America or Britain.

I think that a lot of pro-war conservatives might dismiss the pacifist voices as individuals who don't know anything about war, or don't know anything about the "need" for war. I sometimes wonder if some of them aren't right.

In other words, maybe not enough people have read those books, pacifists or not. I bet a better sense of history would give a lot of people that are anti-war a better sense of WHY they are anti-war. And it might give some people that don't take a stand a better reason to.

And maybe if some of the pro-war voices in the country knew what our country's wars were really about, some of them might not think that way at all.

But I never cease to wonder what people like Newt Gingrich are thinking about the war, and about the insular, xenophobic attitudes that so many people are adopting today. Newt, from what I know, is an avid historian, especially regarding the Civil War. Can you really have a good knowledge of American history and support what the current administration has done?

Friday, May 27, 2005

Everything Your Grandmother Warned You About And More

It's true you know . . . it will make you go blind.

I know I shouldn't laugh at other people's misfortunes, but this is a whole lot more amusing than some anti-inflammatory drug that causes liver damage.

Next thing you know, doctors will start reporting clients with hairy palms.

Anyway, another news item mentioned an American Idol type show becoming immensely popular in China.

I was there a little more than a year ago, and television was very obviously becoming much more Westernized. While they weren't in our current reality show frenzy, it's a perfectly logical next step.

They still have variety shows, which was rather amusing. But considering that the variety shows featured everything from motivational speakers who quoted Martin Luther King Jr. to lounge singers with sultry voices clad in glimmering gold gowns, no one should be surprised that shows like American Idol or Star Search are popping up in China.

Besides that, they had their twenty four hour news channels, and channels devoted to stocks and economic news. And they had soap operas, some domestic, some dubbed from their original Japanese.

My grandparents watched all of it.

It's not surprising at all that with so many more people investing, with consumer spending on the upswing, that China is a huge television market. It will be more interesting though, to see what happens when people start airing more controversial shows. Right now, from what I could tell, most of the televised material is still "safe." What happens when something like South Park comes out? What will the government do?

It might have happened already, and I just didn't hear about it.

And finally, two cents for anyone who can tell me which of the following terms I just made up:

Death Metal
Doom Metal
Rage Metal
Nu Metal
Thrash Metal
Black Metal

For extra credit, tell me what the difference is between these types of metal.

Thank You

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

The Lure of the Dark Side

Well, I'm glad to say that thanks to my Star Wars review, my blog has seen a large readership spike. Apparently, my blog pops up in google searches for "Javva the Hutt", " 'Return of the Sith' Sexy Twilek" and "Episode 3 Padme pregnant still some good in him." I guess that works, although it irks me that I never got this many people reading my blog during my previous (and better) months of posting. Oh well. That's George Lucas for you. Damn you . . .

Some comments would be nice though. Reaffirming or something like that.

Now, I will resist the urge to type the words "Twilek Sex" repeatedly in an attempt to drive readership up even more, because that would not be ethical. Must resist . . .

That's better.

Seeing as how there are more reader on this site, I'm going to proceed to probably drive most of them away. With this blog.


I've posted before about my inability to really get work done this term. Now that the term is winding now, I'm feeling the pressure, and such, I'm getting more work done. But I'm still not really working optimally, and I've found one scapegoat.

The first floor bathroom in Wheeler Hall.

See, since I live in the dorms, and I live in a single without even a half-bath, I have the use the communal bathroom on the first floor. Living on the first floor does have its perks, like not having to move your junk up and down multiple flights of stairs, but it does have rather large drawbacks. Especially when it comes to the bathroom.

I've found the men's toilet (the only one, I might add) in rather unusable condition on several occasions. A couple of times due to someone's binge drinking, and a couple of times due to someone's . . . well, let's just say that guys on my floor either eat tons of Mexican or like to hold themselves for three days straight. Or both. Not cool at all.

It's not Trainspotting bad, or Desperado bad, but it's bad enough.

In addition, it's often being used, because on any night, there are more people using the bathroom than there should be; drunks tend not to walk up stairs to use a toilet. So even if it's been cleaned by the janitor (once a week, which is six times too few), there's a good chance someone will walk in, see the door is closed to the toilet, and leave. It's more disturbing when they peer through the slit between the door and the wall to see if there's REALLY anyone inside. That's creepy. Don't do that. Ever.

Then, there's an even bigger problem, one which gnaws at the roots of my soul and tears at what is left of my sanity like a newly awoken Elder God.

The first floor bathroom in Wheeler Hall, because of it's overall uncleanliness and overusage, is utterly unconducive to reading while on the can.

The walls are nasty, the floor is grungy, and the toilet is pretty groady too. Therefore, it would take a concentration greater than mine to focus on any reading material, not to mention philosophical ponderings.

I do not believe this is a "male problem." I would assume that there are girls that also like to read while on the can. I just have not met any of them. If any of them are reading this, please speak up so we can defeat this gender stereotype.

But getting back to reading while on the throne. I do it. A lot. I've been known to get through a copy of Time magazine. When I can, the Op-Ed page of the New York Times is nice too. Except you get all the print on your hands, and while it's only a minor nuisance usually . . . .

I read novels as well, although obviously not all in one sitting. Tolkien, The Romance of the Three Kingdoms, and a few other books are pretty much bathroom staples for me.

It leads to some of my best thinking. I had a few breakthroughs fall and winter term regarding my thesis while I was on the throne. It's entirely possible I would not have finished if I didn't take the time to think while on the can.

There's a certain calmness that lends itself to contemplation. It's a contemplation that is utterly lost when the stall is filthy, and people are walking in periodically to see if the latrine is occupied.

I can honestly say that it bothers me more than people smoking cigarettes outside my window, which also happens, because my room is next to an entrance. That's a little bothersome, but I can crack my door open and deal with it.

I don't really care about sharing a shower; there's a curtain. So there's no problem there.

I also don't really care that the walls are paper thin and my neighbor sometimes brings home a lady friend. I can sleep through that. Besides, considering how loud I snore, I probably shouldn't complain.

But not being able to read or get a little privacy in the men's bathroom?

Seriously, I wonder if the greatest philosophers and writers and thinkers (men or women) just had amazing, pristine, well-kept toilets that they could retreat to. What if this were true? While I'm sure having a nice bathroom doesn't make your average socialite any more intelligent, who knows?

Would Einstein ever have written his paper on the photoelectric effect if the toilet in the patent office in Bern was filthy?

Is it possible that Decartes (that drunken fart), if he did not have a nice place to take a dump, would not have come up with "Cogito, Ergo Sum," and could only think "Voro, Ergo Defaecare" (I eat, therefore I poo)?

Perhaps Janis Joplin would never have written "a song of great social and political import."

And I'm next to positive that Trent Reznor has the most kick-ass, illin', insert-euphemism-for-awesome-here, toilet on the face of the Earth. Although it was probably out of order when he penned his latest album.

You get my drift.

I have to make do with the bathroom on first floor Wheeler though.

Life is so unfair.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Like a Stone

The new Audioslave definitely builds on the sounds that Chris Cornell + the Rest of Rage were able to develop in their first album.

But Chris Cornell really needs to go away from the ballad sound that comes forth on songs such as "Like a Stone." While they're not exactly ballads, Cornell's voice takes some very repetitive turns in the songs, especially on the sustained notes. There are songs like that on the new album, for instance "Yesterday or Tomorrow," and it doesn't improve my opinion of the band.

Audioslave is at its best on new songs like "Heaven's Dead" which really feature the drumwork that is reminiscent of Rage Against the Machine. Otherwise, the band is basically Chris Cornell crooning about women's private parts and his penis, and that just gets old after awhile.

I was leery about the union of Cornell and Rage from the start, if only because it didn't seem to me that they could either blend their sounds or come up with something original. I was very afraid that it would just end up sounding like Soundgarden-lite. The first album was decent, I thought, although the lyrics were at times horrible ("I am not your rolling stone / I am a highway"?) and the guitar work was often too anonymous. If you're going to make a band with the rest of Rage, make sure people can tell it's Rage.

So what I ultimately concluded about them was that they were going to be a decent band as long as they stayed away from slow, whiny songs that exclusively featured Cornell. The band's writing simply isn't strong enough to sustain interest in the lyrics, even though Cornell does have a unique voice.

Songs on the new album like "Dandelion" are just silly. "Little Dandelion, let your heart keep time" is not what we want to be hearing from Audioslave. It's unfortunate that they went so far away from the political message of Rage that they ended up with stuff as trite as this. That said, Brad Wilk's drums and Morello's guitar come through a lot stronger on this album, and it's a good thing.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Ends and Beginnings

A large, waxing gibbous moon sinks into the horizon. It is framed by the two bare flagpoles that during the day would fly the Dartmouth Green and the Stars and Stripes. Above it, there is an overhanging bough, buds freshly blossoming to hail the coming of Spring to Hanover. It is 2:30 AM, and I am walking back to my dorm. Along with five hundred odd people, I have just come from the final Star Wars movie.

Warning: Massive Spoilers Ahead. I mean massive. Don't read this until after you see the movie. Otherwise, you'll read it and come hunt me down, because I'm going to tell you everything.

I had fought with myself about whether or not to see this movie at midnight. On one hand, I found Attack of the Clones eminently disappointing, for reasons that I have articulated to most people who know me. For those who do not: Natalie Portman cannot act, George Lucas cannot write. Nuff Said.

But finally, I had to see Revenge of the Sith on opening day. Or opening midnight as it might be. I had to because Star Wars occupied so much of my adolescence, whether it was the head of my Jedi Apprentice getting blown off on the first day of a pen-and-paper RPG campaign, or the feel of the remastered versions in the theaters, or playing Dash Rendar in an N64 video game, or reading the multitude of books. I will never, ever, again have the time or the desire to see a movie at midnight on opening day. No other work of literature, no sequel, no original screenplay, no actor or actress can get me that worked up.

And when the sparkling Lucasfilm logo came up on the screen (after only ONE preview, I might add), I knew again that Lucas, despite his many trespasses which are too many to list, still has an effect on me. The force, if you will.

The spoilers really start here, by the way.

First, my rating: Out of 4 stars, I'll give it a 2.9. I can't in good conscience give it a 3.

The title crawl was a bit disjointed, as I've lampooned before.

And the opening space battle, while exhilirating and impressive on a technical scale, is extremely confusing to any viewer. I actually think a computer programmed to "enjoy" a CGI scene would like it better than most human viewers simply because it could process it faster.

I could also tell from the very beginning one specific problem I would have with this movie.

None of the ordinary human characters draw any empathy from the viewer. I knew this from the instant Red Squadron lined up behind General Obi-Wan and some of them started getting killed. In the first trilogy, there were normal contrasts to the superhuman heroes and archetypes represented by Luke, Leia, Han and Obi Wan. We had Biggs for a scene, Wedge Antilles, even Mon Mothma. Heck we even had Porkins. He was . . the Pork. There are none of those individuals in this movie, and it's a jarring lack. This is exacerbated by the fact that the majority of soldiers are clones or droids.

Moving along, another immediate impulse you will recieve regards the repetitive nature of the film. Whether it is Obi Wan repeating lines from the first trilogy, or the familiar look of a Star Destroyer, Rebel Blockade Runner, X Wing, Tie Fighter or Advance Transport, it's all there. I suppose they wanted to establish some continuity, especially because it seems strange technology would have regressed between Episodes 3 and 4, but it's a bit much.

It seems a bit much especially considering where continuity is broken. For instance, there is no suggestion of how Chewbacca, who owed Han a life debt and was his first mate in the first trilogy, was before a leader on Kashyyk and KNEW Yoda. Yoda's line "Miss you, I will, Chewbacca," is possibly the most confusing line in the entire movie. Other instances of continuity include Leia's memory of her mother, R2-D2's mad l33t skills, and others.

To some extent, the extensive self-referencing does work though. Hardcore Star Wars fans will analyze the color of the lightsabers, the lines that characters repeat, Padme's ear danishes (does she don a skull cap in one scene?), the planets mentioned, the characters mentioned by other characters, etc. etc. etc., ad nauseum. I was actually surprised Ackbar wasn't in this movie, or any other Mon Calamari. Or Bothans for that matter.

Many Bothans died to bring you this review.

I'll preview some of the more random references at the end of the review. But a lot of it really falls flat, especially the dialogue.

Oh, the dialogue. Everyone will say "Oh, Lucas can't write. Empire Strikes Back is the best film because it wasn't written or produced by Lucas." And to a certain extent, it's true. His rehashed lines rarely work, except to elicit knowing laughs, and his original lines often garner laughter when there's not supposed to be laughter.

The dialogue between Anakin and Padme continue to be stilted and leaden, to the extent that the audience was often laughing at their banter. Their most effective scene together actually occurs when they aren't in the same room and neither of them are speaking. This is the extent to which this relationship simply does not work in this film.

As for other writing, Lucas just forgets the whole "show, don't tell" thing, and lets his characters lay it all out on the line. Obi Wan has several lines like "Oh, drat" or "Oh, that was close." Before their final duel begins, Obi Wan and Anakin have this exchange (pardon the paraphrase)

Obi Wan: Palpatine is EVIL!
Anakin: No, to me, the JEDI are EVIL!
Obi Wan: I ain't evil, B
Anakin: You steppin', B? Come get some.

In retrospect, my version sounds better than Lucas'.

And the conversation between Darth (newly anointed in his Dark Armor) and Palaptine is really bad. For one reason.

Palpatine: She died, Anakin. You killed her. (Or something like that)

At times, Lucas has horrible timing when it comes to comedy. Little droid noises and little droids intrude on the most inopportune moments. Droids falling apart are his version of physical comedy, to replace Jar Jar, and it really doesn't work. At all.

I was also surprised by the shoddy editing in this movie. Some scenes looked like they were added at the last minute. There is a scene between Anakin and Palpatine that just pops onto the screen almost randomly, nearly breaking your cinematic standards, like the 180 degree rule. Other scenes are superfluous, like a ten second shot of Anakin looking angry and snarling on Mustafar, the volcano planetoid thingy.

And the action scenes. They would have been well done if they had stayed away from extreme closeups. The shots tend not to be as close as the beginning of the Anakin/Dooku duel in Ep II, but they're longer and closer than they should be in this movie. It gives a very disorienting strobe-like effect, and I could hear people murmer "what the heck is going on?" during certain scenes.

You might ask yourself - "after all this, why would he give this movie nearly three stars out of four?"

Well, plenty of the movie does work. The CGI shots are pretty, as are the landscapes. I actually think the best landscape is the last shot, which I believe is only partially CGI. And that's more because of the memory it calls up, if anything.

The light/dark imagery also works, despite being heavy handed. Watch the shadows on Anakin especially; Lucas actually does some excellent work lighting this movie the way he wanted to.

And of course, you will find yourself remembering the old trilogy, and loving this movie for it. Sometimes, the images are just too good. The silence as Darth Vader's mask descends on him, and when you hear the familiar rasping breath is simply stunning. As I just mentioned, the last shot, a twin sunset on Tatooine, is without a doubt the best ending/beginning this movie could have asked for.

The dialogue in this movie is somehow better than that of Ep II. Obi-Wan does have some crap lines, and one really silly conversation, but for the most part, Ewan McGregor sells Obi-Wan very well. At one point near the end, Obi-Wan is screaming at Anakin, who he has just defeated and is in the process of sliding down into some lava. And you hear convincing emotion as Obi-Wan yells "You were my brother! I loved you!". Actually, that "I love you" is by far the best one of this trilogy, possibly of all six films. I say that because the whole "I love you", "I know" thing between Han and Leia was cheesier, although not excessively so.

I do have to admit that Padme gets one decent line, and she delivers it well. But it comes after her worst line of the movie, which is a pity.

Worst Line: "Anakin, you're breaking my heart!" - a good example of Lucas telling and not showing.

Best Line: "You're walking down a road and I can't follow you!" - despite being a little cliche, this one works, and is actually poignant. Too bad most of the audience was laughing at the last line to hear this one.

Besides the dialogue and the CGI, the movie does succeed in one other large respect.

Although his reason for turning to the Dark Side was a little silly (he wants to save Padme from dying during childbirth, and he doesn't sense that she's carrying more than one child?), the turning itself is effective. This is partially because Lucas has him butcher all the little kiddy Jedi, which is plain old audience manipulation, but again, it works. You don't look at Anakin the same way after that.

In addition, the execution of the Jedi, the short vignette style of the executions does work. It's emotional, it's tragic, and it works for the film.

To a large extent, this film was easy to butcher and easy to get right at the same time. Lucas managed to do both to some extent.

But the worst thing I see in this film, the reason I cannot give it three stars, or my full endorsement, or even my partial blessing, is because of George's attitude towards women.

I know, I know. It's a movie. It's popcorn. It's sci-fi. But Jesus H. Christ, Lucas went from Leia, who shot people and did things and looked damn fine doing it, to Padme, who didn't really do anything, who can't help Anakin, and still looks pretty doing it. Neither one is the epitome of a feminist ideal, perhaps, but Leia was independant, while Padme is stereotypical.

Near the end of the movie, Padme goes to find Anakin and Obi-Wan sneaks on board. She brings C-3PO, who says in the cockpit "Gee, I'm getting the hang of this flying thing." She can't fly a damn plane and has to leave it up to a protocol droid? My, I like that stereotype. Even in the future, women can't drive.

And worse, she "loses her will to live?" This is the reason the MEDICAL DROID gives for not being able to save her. That's why she dies? Some faux-depressive bout with lost love? She fades and wilts away like a delicate flower? NO WAY. She even says to Obi-Wan with her last breath - "There's some . . . good . . in . . . him." Damn it bitch, you don't give up if your hubby turned to the dark side and he STILL HAS GOOD IN HIM. What's that say about you, huh? Luke doesn't abandon his father, because he senses the good in Vader. But you abandon Anakin despite sensing this? I couldn't take that. It was just too much. The "weakness thy name is woman" works in other ways too.

In Empire Strikes Back, Luke senses his friends in danger. And despite Yoda's warnings that his training is not complete and that it is a trap, he goes off anyway, finds out his parentage, and loses his hand. But all's well that ends well there. It's a rite of passage.

For Anakin in Ep III, he senses his wife in danger, turns to the Dark Side, and slaughters the Jedi. You might say it's because he turns to the Dark Side to try to accomplish this, but there seems to be a large shift there, in terms the legitimacy of loyalty versus the legitimacy of love. That made me very uncomfortable, especially because Lucas made it such an obvious dichotomy.

This is another thing to look out for - A or B. Lucas often presents you with image A and image B. One is good, the other is bad. One is going up, the other down. Etc. Etc. For a movie that professes "Only the Sith deal in Absolutes," Lucas deals in a whole lot of absolutes.

Ok, that's that. Now, some weird, kind of fun stuff to look out for.

Check out the Twilek honey that dressed like J-Lo at the Grammy Awards. Damn Gina.

Who's the woman/androgynous thing with Palpatine? His wife? Because in that case, I understand why he turned to the dark side.

Ok, Nute Gunray and the other Separatists start the movie with weird, dub-sounding American accents. Then they switch back to the Chinese/Taiwanese accent. This was really strange to me.

Apparently, early hyperspace works in similar ways - Cowboy Bebop, meet Episode III. This isn't exact. Just something I noticed.

If I were Boba Fett, I wouldn't have gone bounty hunter because Mace Windu cut off my dad's head. No, I would have done it because all the clone soldiers WERE my dad. I think that would present some serious issues to a kid.

Some reviewers have complained that the movie is too sanitary - by that, they mean no one shits, drinks, eats, etc. etc. Well, Luke did come from a moisture farm, and there is plenty of eating in the first trilogy, but check this out.
I don't know if this is true, but when Obi-Wan slips onto Padme's spacecraft (sounds dirty already), does he hide himself in the fricking bathroom? It honestly looked to me like an airplane bathroom. Maybe he was hoping for some action from Padme - the Parsec Club or something like that. Dude, she was still pregnant. That's kinky.

Check out Padme's funeral - ignore the fact that Padme is reduced to a still symbol, blah blah, misogyny. I already talked about that. Check out the queen. That's whatsherface from the Whale Rider movie - Keisha Castle Hughes.

Near the end, Senator Organa tells a certain Antilles (can't be Wedge, must be his dad) to take the droids, and have 3P0's memory wiped. Now, is this actually an Extended Universe reference? Because I think it is. Can't remember though. Huh.

Check out the credits. Wait for a while. There's a credit to Javva the Hut after the Key Grips and stuff. Even the coffee gophers get slick titles when they work for Lucasfilm.

Another credit - is one of the characters played by one of Lucas' children? Jett Lucas? I seriously think so.

So in conclusion, that's it for me and the Star Wars universe. I can't decide if it's a clean break or if I'll go back and watch this one again. A real clean break would be not watching the old ones again either, and excising references to Star Wars from my daily vocabulary. We'll see.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Elvis or The Beatles

Actually, this post is about something else.

I finally realized why I'm a dog person.

It's not because dogs are subservient, while cats are independant. No, cats can be plenty affectionate and dogs can be assholes. It's not that.

It's because there so much more diversity in terms of how dogs look. Besides animals with the mange or various other skin diseases, or ones that are morbidly obese, it's not easy to find butt-ugly cats. Most cats are cute to some extent, some more so than others. I've never found myself thinking, "Boy, that cat is butt ugly." With cats, the range of appearance is from "not-so-cute" to "cute"

By the same token, dogs can be downright hideous. A google image search for "ugly dog" immediate returns several unequivocably ugly dogs, whereas the a search for "ugly cat" only returns some peculiar looking specimens and one perfectly normal cat with six toes (the image search for "ugly cat" gets you a couple of photoshops, a costume, one disfigured cat, and couple of cartoons).

It's Alcatraz For You

Apparently, Barry Bonds is the new Al Capone.

See, since they couldn't convict him for racketeering and breaking the Volstead Act (Prohibition), Eliot Ness and his crew got Capone for tax evasion. Man, I love that movie.

But if tax fraud (giving a girlfriend a house or something like that, if I'm not mistaken) is what baseball is going to try to focus its efforts, and our attention on, we might as well tell Bonds we're reopening Alcatraz for him.

Why bother investigating him for tax fraud? Players on the DL can be tested for substances too, and I'm pretty sure all that stuff he's alleged to have taken stays in your system for over a year. It's not like you can drink some of that stuff that claims to flush your system; HGH, clomid and those supplements should affect hormones for a long time.

Test him, nail him, ban him. How hard is that? Let him be indignant. Let him rail against the media that brought him down. Hell, let him play the race card. It's not like the majority of African Americans in America still consider baseball to be the nation's pasttime. Barry Bonds is nothing compared to LeBron James and Terrell Owens at this point.

Without passing Ruth and Aaron, who's going to care in 20 years? Let him be voted into the Hall of Fame with the greatest numbers ever. Without public opinion, he's just another plaque in Cooperstown.

Bonds knows that he shot himself in the foot (or knee, as it may be). What baseball should do now is cap his other knee while he's down. But investigating his personal expenditures and relationships isn't the way to go.

Friday, May 06, 2005

And Now For Something Completely Different

The lyrics to this song, in addition to being very hard hitting lyrics, reminds me of my earlier post about Bob Dylan and the Nobel Prize for Literature. Why should an influential white songwriter receive any more attention than an arguably more influential black songwriter?

I suppose if you think songwriting is about telling a story in a span of minutes, there is a certain craft involved. And actually I'm hard-pressed to think of a song that tells a story more succinctly and in a more effective manner than Tupac's "Brenda's Got a Baby."

I've been expanding my musical horizons lately. I found the NIN album a little lacking, and the new Garbage album wasn't anything new. In fact, Shirley Manson is making a wonderful career out of complaining how un-sexy she is, even though she sells her sexuality very well in her music and her music videos.

And lyrics like "The boys want to fight, but the girls just want to dance all night" make me want to curl up in a corner and cry. Then again, there are decent songs on the album.

In any case, I've been listening to an African artist named Salif Keita. It's okay that I'm don't understand any of his lyrics, because his music just SOUNDS so good.

He hasn't done a whole lot of stuff your average American listener would recognize, obviously, but he did provide one of his songs for the soundtrack to the movie "Ali". The song plays at the end of the movie, when Ali is in the process of knocking George Foreman out in the eighth round of "The Rumble in the Jungle."

Curiously, I believe the song is something of a dirge for someone who has passed away, which makes it slightly inappropriate for the context of the movie, but it at least sounds good and climactic for an American audience.

I'm a bit surprised I hadn't heard of him before, since so many of his songs would (and probably have been) translated well into techno.

I had a similar thing for Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan this past fall, and actually, Salif Keita is probably a little more accessible.

Since I started listening to Salif Keita, I've also checked out a few other African artists, but none of them really hit me like his music does. The language barrier thing is probably a problem, but hey, I deal.

I have to say, I find most of this stuff a lot more involving and, for lack of a better word, more musical than most contemporary American music. Even bands and individuals who should be more reliable (Reznor, Shirley Manson) just haven't sounded quite right lately.

If anyone else is looking for other stuff to listen to, besides your Interpol, Franz Ferdinand, Weezer or whatever else is out right now, I urge you to check out . There's really something for everyone, which is especially nice up here in Hanover because we have all of two radio stations.

Oh and an addendum to an earlier post - when I said that old Top Ten lists tended to be a lot more political than today's, I also meant to say that old Top Ten lists tended to be a lot more intelligent.

For instance, Jan 13, 1988 had the Top Ten list "Top Ten Rejected Theme For the Ice Capades".

Coming in at number 8 is "Eldrege Cleaver's Soul on Ice on Ice."

Now I don't know if that was an oversight on their part back in 1988, and they just went a little too academic, or if Cleaver was getting out of jail or something, because next to nobody will get that reference today (Cleaver was a Black Panther who was, I believe, jailed for rape, and wrote Soul on Ice sometime in the late 60's (?) as an expression of his anger and an explanation of his actions against women).

Heck, if I hadn't taken an African American Studies class here, there's no way I would have gotten that reference.

Also, that's kind of a disturbing thing to put on a top ten list. It's probably better that no one got it.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005


Headline on Yahoo! MLB:

Brown, Yankees Rocked in the Bronx.

Only problem?

They were playing in Tampa.