Tuesday, January 31, 2012
Sunday, January 29, 2012
Monday, January 23, 2012
It seems likely that this pattern will repeat itself indefinitely into the future, providing unmeasurable entertainment.
It is also true that the new Star Wars movies (Phantom Menace, Clone Wars, Vader is Back - or something) have provided a near endless supply of entertainment for Star Wars fans. However, 99.9% of this entertainment comes in the form of sitting around and talking about the ways the movies could have been better.
It is impossible to talk about these movies without, even by accident, mentioning a way by which they could have been improved.
Most of the methods of improvement can be summarized quite simply. They are ways in which the movies could be *better*. Better characters, better story, better moments, better casting, better writing . . . etc.
I can agree with that, but I've always had one huge issue with the challenge presented by Episodes I-III of Star Wars: at the end, the bad guys win.
That seems to me to be a structural flaw in the story that no amount of "better" is going to fix. At the end of the movie Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda, two cherished characters from the original movies, lose. A moment which I imagine goes something like this:
The bottom line is that Vader and the Emperor standing triumphant over a crushed republic and hundreds of dead Jedis is an ending that no amount of "better" is going to rescue.
Yoda: How did your battle with Anakin Skywalker go?
Kenobi: Great, I cut off all his limbs and left
him on fire next to a river
Yoda: At least the terrible evil who
betrayed us all and killed the Jedi is
Kenobi: . . . .
Yoda: He is dead right?
Kenobi: . .
. so, uh, how was your fight with Palpatine?
Yoda: oh, that . . . yeah, that
was fine, y'know,
Kenobi: like mine?
Yoda: yeah, uh, limbs .
. . lava . . . or something
Kenobi: . . .
Yoda: . . .
Kenobi: So, want to go hide out on remote planets for the next twenty
Yoda: sounds good
Don't get me wrong, I can appreciate a serious movie with a serious ending as much as the next guy. The Thin Red Line is one of my favorite movies of all time, and it ends with the harsh realities of war. But there are limits. You can't make a prequel of Saving Private Ryan that ends with the Nazis celebrating in the streets of France. That's going to be a terrible movie, even if it doesn't have Jar Jar Binks.
Those limits are especially applicable to an action movie about cowboy ninja wizards in space.
So how do we fix it?
The fact of that matter is that Episode IV starts in a dark place. The Jedi are dead, democracy is toast, and the Death Star is complete and blasting planets out of the sky. The prequels have to get us to that bad spot.
The answer, as with the corrections to all of George Lucas' idiocy, is pretty simple.
Episode III needs to end the moment before Episode IV begins. This way the triumphant ending of the movie can be the rebels successfully stealing the plans to the Death Star; the very theft which initiates the plot of Episode IV.
It's not that tricky to do. Simply lop off Episode I entirely. This way the first Star Wars movie is about the friendship and training between Obi Wan and Anakin. The second movie is about the betrayal of Anakin, the emergence of the Emperor and the fall of the Jedi. Then the third movie can be about the rise of the rebellion, and mostly center around Princess Leia. At the end, she manages to organize a group of rebels for the daring theft of the Death Star plans.
The third movie has the added benefit of allowing an explanation for why Yoda and Kenobi, the two most powerful good guys in the galaxy, are hiding in caves on remote planets. Yoda and Kenobi helped to organize the rebellion initially. However, their strength in the force allowed the Emperor and Vader to detect their presence, and could be used to give away the location of rebel bases and outposts.
This structure would mirror the basic outline for the first three movies. The first one is where we meet our characters and learn a bit about their struggles. In the second one the bad guys win. In the third, the good guys regroup and emerge with a gritty victory against all odds.
It's the formula by which all cowboy ninja wizards in space should live.
Friday, January 20, 2012
It's a dude writing an advice columnist asking for permission to skip a wedding because his girlfriend - who is the maid of honor - has, in the past, kissed other members of the bridal party. I can't muster a better response than....REALLY?
I can note that somehow, this fella is a member of my chosen profession, which is depressing, and manages to use the phrase "the repercussions of her actions" to describe his bowing out.
I have a lot of tolerance for teenagers acting like morons. That's why I put up with weird characters on teen shows. You can allow it, they're undeveloped! But law students have to be adults, and it's just frustrating and nothing more when they're these kinds of dillholes.
Technically you're not asking your wife for an open marriage if you've already been fucking another woman for six years. You're presenting your wife with an ultimatum. That doesn't make you a proponent of open marriage, Newt, it makes you a CPOS.
"Swingrich" is a CPOS masquerading as a swinger/polyamorous person. "I thought he was ethically nonmonogamous but he was just a swingrich."
Wednesday, January 18, 2012
Tuesday, January 17, 2012
Wednesday, January 11, 2012
Tuesday, January 10, 2012
But in a general conversation about Star Trek, a basically culturally literate person will know who Kirk and Spock are. They'll probably know Data, if we're talking about the true pop culture nerds that make up just about all of my friends. Picard is played by a legendary actor, and thus carries enough cache to break through. But then, we get to: the Riker Line.
William Thomas Riker is not a famous character. If you bring up Riker, if you reference Riker, if you call him "the Riker of the West Wing," you will only be understood by Star Trek fans. If you're talking about Sisko, or Worf, or Miles O'Brien, you're past the Riker line. But you can mention the Vulcans in relative safety.
There are a few very minor moments where the line is permeable. You can refer to "Scotty," perhaps, but "Montgomery Scott" is too far. You can talk about Nichelle Nichols work as Uhura being praised by Martin Luther King Jr. for having an interracial kiss with Captain Kirk, but that's about all you can know about her. Geordi LaForge gets you only as far as the visor and the treasured name Levar Burton, but not his work as an engineer on the Enterprise. But fundamentally, anything more obscure than Commander Riker gets you across the line.
But this makes me think of what other pop culture spheres have their own Riker Lines. I'd put Harry Potter's Riker line at Neville, I think. Star Wars line is at Bobba Fett. I haven't seen Lord of the Rings through, but whoever comes after Legolas fits the bill. Any others?
Monday, January 9, 2012
Saturday, January 7, 2012
But I do know this: those guys are all dead. Or they're living with debilitating injuries, or severe brain damage. That's a real problem.
I don't like watching and enjoying an activity that causes a lot of harm to real people. I understand they're well compensated (although the vast majority of people who play football try to play like the pros, and they're not compensated). But I don't think that's the way to just absolve the issue that real injuries are happening to real people for the purpose of entertainment. I think there's a prerogative to make football as safe as it can reasonably be. And that's why I support Goodell in all efforts to reduce violent hits and make the game safer. Nuts to you, James Harrison.
But what really confuses me is why people are so virulently against these kinds of changes. James Harrison, at least, makes a lot of money and gains his fame on these kind of hits, so I understand his motive. But the average fan isn't getting paid for the hits. Is he paying for the hits? I doubt it - the ratings keep going up no matter what the NFL does in regards to violence in the game. I like defensive struggles as much as anyone, but I really am skeptical that anyone hates high scoring games with the passion they express. They're mostly just people whose teams are losing high scoring games. And besides, the talk is all pretty moderate around rules about pass interference or defensive holding. The talk is always about late hits and defenseless WRs and out of bounds contacts or hitting a QB in the knees. Driving to the ground. All stuff that doesn't directly affect the outcome of the play. And really, improves defense most of the time (tackle with your arms, not your shoulder!)
The fundamental issue appears to be one of sadism: a desire to see people get injured. There's a real undercurrent of sadism in American life these days - a feeling that suffering is an objective good: for people who have sex, we'll get rid of abortion so you can suffer more. Remember the cheers for Ron Paul telling those without insurance to die? Or for Rick Perry's executions? It's one thing to support those positions as necessities, but they seem to be lauded as objective goods. It's important to cause suffering.
Part of this is that the love of violence rarely seems to carry over into incidences of fair fights in sports. Boxing is getting less popular every year, wrestling is gone, and MMA is catching on, but still very peripheral. These are all sports that are violent, but are based on a set of rules, with voluntary fighters. Even hockey is the least popular "major" sport, where the fights are entered into on equal terms - the player basically agree to fight each other, punch and grapple, and stop. It's a totally different scenario than leveling a receiver over the middle. It seems to be a crucial difference.
So we get the great defenders of what are essentially dangerous cheap shots. Because people don't like seeking violence: they want to see pain.