Thursday, May 30, 2002

Dense Jedi. At the risk of disclosing what a total Star Wars geek I am, I have one more continuing complaint. If the assorted Jedi are so great -- why can't Yoda, Qui-Gon Jinn, Mace Windu, Obi-Wan, etc. ever figure out that Senator/Chancellor Palpatine is Darth Sidious? Oh yeah, it's because he wears his cloak over his forehead and eyes -- Clark Kent should've tried that. Geez -- are you sure the Jedi aren't working for underperformin' Norman?

Could this be why Darth Maul gets his resident alien forms in Attack of the Clones?
First Job. Do you remember what Threepio said in the very first Star Wars movie, you know, Episode IV? "Sir, my first job was programming binary load lifters -- very similar to your evaporators in most respects!" So when does he get his first job? And how come he doesn't recognize Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru? Nor does Artoo? And why don't Owen and Beru recognize the droids? Just one of many problems...
Some Excitement. We had a lady come through our offices late this morning who apparently was robbing people. I saw her enter the office of the lady across the hall, who turned up missing $20. When I let the lady know that someone had stopped by looking for her -- someone I didn't recognize -- that started the alarms. We just heard that they picked her up in the building next door -- the CNN building.

Update. I just got back from trying to identify the detainee. Unfortunately, I didn't look at the mystery person's face very closely and couldn't identify her. Why do I feel guilty -- like I let my co-workers down? Apparently she returned the money to everyone who ended up missing some -- why wasn't this an admission? I don't do criminal law.
Star Wars, Take 2. Since I'm still catching up from my time away, I'll give you my take on this one. I think Attack of the Clones was actually a worse movie than Phantom Menace.

My daughter and I saw it together after her dance class on May 17, 2002 -- the day after the official debut. She loved it -- I was disappointed.

Let me explain my reaction. I look at the Star Wars movies in two ways: first, as part of the Star Wars canon, second, as stand-alone movies. Like it or not, the first movie made, the Star Wars movie now known as "A New Hope" is the foundation on which all the other SW movies will stand or fall. Since it came first, all others have to be consistent with it. The original Star Wars was a great movie -- give it a nine on a ten point scale. Similarly, the second movie in the series produced, The Empire Strikes Back, was a great movie -- although, in my opinion, not quite as good as the first. Yes, there were many things which were better and it easily enhanced the Star Wars canon. In fact, if I was rating it as a movie, I'd probably give it an 8.9, but as part of the canon, give it a 9.1.

The third movie produced, Jedi, seemed to be more merchandising oriented, with the Ewoks, which always bugged me. Nevertheless, it still works. I'd give it an 8.5 as a movie and an 8.8 for the canon. [BTW, is Portman going to appear in Jedi?]

Then came Phantom Menace -- introducing Jar-Jar, Ani, racist characters (not to mention the gratuitous slams of the republicans -- Newt Reagan?), Mitichlorians, and a virgin birth. Yech. This drops to about a 4 on the Star Wars canon. Nevertheless, as a movie -- if it were a stand-alone movie -- it would rate pretty high. Maybe an 8. (Maybe I'll lay out some of my problems with PM in a future note, just for the fun of it).

Which brings us to Clones -- a movie that is nothing more than a transition between PM and the next one. One reviewer, I think it was in the NY Times, likened Clones to a graduate seminar -- I wouldn't rate it that high -- call it a community college seminar taught by a bored, embittered professor. The plot, if there is one, is a mess. The love story is wooden -- there is no emotion between the character -- in fact, they seem predestined to breed and that's it -- characters without any choice in the matter. Where Lucas should have gone was to Casablanca -- give us a love triangle -- make Amidala torn between Ani and someone else -- leave the choice in doubt and in tension. [Ewan McGregor is good -- why not make him the third point of the triangle -- make the show-down between the master and the aprentice in ANH more meaningful.]

As it is, this movie plods to the next. Therefore, as a stand-alone movie, I give it a 4, but as part of the Star Wars canon, I'll give it a 6 (when did Artoo get a rocket pack?).
Teen Sex. Ehh, why not put my two pence in, since I was out for the first go 'round. The Professor weighs in with his essay on teen sex -- saying the sexual activity is nothing new, rather what is new is the role of the teenager in the 20th Century. He sees the reaction to teen sex as treating the symptom -- teen sex -- rather than the cause -- what he calls "infantiliz[ing] teens" -- treating them more like kids. He advocates giving teenagers more responsibility -- treating them more like adults and less like members of the leisure class. [I believe this is an accurate summary -- read his essay to be sure.]

For the most part, I agree with him. I note, from Ben's comments that although they have been in disagreement in the past on this subject, they are not far apart here. In fact, it seems to me, from having read a good number of the comments from the first go around that the two "sides" are, in fact, not that far apart. I think what separates the two sides is, in fact, "extra-marital sex" as Mark Byron noted.

My disagreement with the Professor is, first, I don't necessarily think teen-agers are all that crummy. I actually think the next generation -- the kids I see in their teens right now down to the 10-year olds -- are actually a top notch group (especially, when you consider what my generation and the Baby-boomers before me have given them). This group is not merely a group of survivors, but over-comers and victors. Second, I do think that teen-sex is a cause for concern, where I get the feeling that he doesn't think it any more risky than say taking a toke or something. I really believe that sexual relations (the broad definiton, not the Clintonian definition whereby he did not have sexual relations with her or whatever), is incredibly charged -- physically, emotionally, spiritually, and psychologically.

Now, having said all that, I agree with his take -- we must treat the cause, not the symptom.

Wednesday, May 29, 2002

Four Decisions Yesterday. I really thought the Court was taking a Memorial Day break and wouldn't be issuing any decisions until next week. I was surprised to skim through the NY Times this morning and see that the Supremes issued four decisions yesterday. For me, there weren't any surprises. I'll refer you to Howard Bashman's appellate blog for summaries of each decision and their import.

Oh, and what the heck, I'll throw in a prediction -- the next batch of decisions will include the school voucher case -- Hanna Perkins School, et al. v. Simmons-Harris, Doris, et al. Moreover, the Court will uphold the Ohio law in a 9-0 decision and the main precedent relied upon will be Witters v. Washington Dept. of Svcs. for the Blind, 474 U.S. 481 (1986). In that case, the Court "held that the State may, through a generally applicable financial aid program, pay a blind student's tuition at a sectarian theological institution." (quote summarizing Witters from Justice O'Connor's concurrence in Rosenberger v. University of Va. (94-329), 515 U.S. 819 (1995).

As some brilliant guy once said “government doesn’t necessarily endorse private choices that people make with government funds, any more than it endorses cabbage by letting people use food stamps to buy the food of their choice, which may include cabbage.”
(okay, that was Eugene Volokh in his article titled "Equal Treatment Is Not Establishment" in 13 Notre Dame J. L. Ethics & Pub. Policy 341, 357-358 (1999).)
Back to Work. After the long vacation, the first for my wife and I together in about a decade, it's back to work. I have to apologize for the lack of posts, but I've been blissfully uninformed for the past week and a half. In fact, the day that I turned on CNN they were covering Chandra Levy and shark attacks, just as they were doing on our last family vacation, after labor day last year. On that day, my last day of vacation was 9.11.01 -- a different world ago.

Anyway, I've been spending time with the kids, cutting the grass, doing laundry, etc. Now it's back to work -- i.e., my job. When I was a janitor at an enlisted men's club on a Marine base (my first job) and I took vacation, someone mopped the floors and cleaned the bathrooms while I was gone. No one does that for me anymore and I have a pile of work, mail and e-mail to respond to. Accordingly, I'll be spending a few extra hours each day getting that taken care of, so it'll be awhile still before my personal time is really personal and I'm back here blithering again. Check out the folks on the left for excellent commentary in the meantime.

Monday, May 27, 2002

Memorial Day 2.
In Flanders Fields
by Lt. Col. John McCrae, M.D. (1872-1918)
Canadian Army

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
Memorial Day 1. Driving around town, in Springfield, Virginia and south to Dale City, we saw at least one brand new flag on both the north and south side of every overpass. One overpass had as many as seven flags.

My sister said she was out for a run with some friends in Wakefield park, very close to the Beltway, when she heard an awesome sound that went on for several minutes -- at first she panicked, thinking it might be a plane or something dreadful. Someone else noticed the distress and noted it was just Rolling Thunder. Just?? Heh. What a great country -- I love my fellow citizens.
Hola! My Bride and I returned from our trip to Mexico last night. More later -- spending time with the kids.