Friday, August 26, 2011

It's funny how now and then completely minor choices have repercussions you can never forget. For example, the pants I wore Tuesday caused me to spend more than an hour sitting around and waiting in the hot sun, and if the earthquake had been just a bit worse, my pants might have cost me several more hours.

Let me explain. I have a pair of pants that are perfectly good - look nice, a bit warmer and more formal than is really needed but not ridiculously so - except for a hole in one pocket. I plan to fix it, of course, but you know how easy it is to put things off... I have only worn the pants twice since noticing the hole, and normally I keep my keys and metro pass in that pocket, so the first time I wore the pants I just put the keys and pass in my messenger bag, and it was a perfectly normal day except for feeling very slightly off-balance.

The second time I wore them, though, happened to be Tuesday, the day of the earthquake. And when the quake hit, I didn't think to bring my messenger bag with me when we evacuated. (Maybe I would have if we hadn't had a fire drill earlier that day, by bizarre coincidence, so I was primed to expect evacuations to be brief, harmless interruptions.) So my house keys and every means of travel except for on foot were still in the office. About half an hour or so after the quake, they announced that the building would be closed for the afternoon to check for damages, but they'd let people back in briefly to get things they needed. Just by bad luck, my floor was the second-to-last to be allowed back in. In the end, I had to wait for more than an hour in the DC sun. All because of those pants. Well, the moral of the story is, get holes patched more quickly...

Friday, August 19, 2011

I read this post, which is more than a year old but I just stumbled on it so it's new to me shut up, and found it interesting.
On the one hand, I’m not crazy enough to say that the “Star Wars” prequels are good. There’s some rough sailing there, for a variety of reasons: Lucas hadn’t directed a film in a long time, his scripts were less polished due to a lack of a strong editor…and the less said about Jar-Jar, the better. But there’s a very strong theme that tends to get lost or misinterpreted, and it’s actually pretty impressively clever–but it requires letting go of one of the big assumptions the classic trilogy gave us. You have to be willing to understand that while the Sith are the villains of the series, the Jedi are the other villains of the series.
Luke’s final battle against Vader and the Emperor is the culmination of all six movies. When we only saw it in the light of the classic trilogy, it seemed as though Luke was on the verge of falling to the Dark Side and only barely managed to redeem himself by remembering Yoda’s teachings; seen as part of the complete picture, it’s a total repudiation of Yoda’s philosophy. Luke gets angry at his enemy, uses his attachments to his friends as a source of determination, and uses the Force for attack–everything Yoda says will drive him permanently and irrevocably to the Dark Side. (And “once you start down the path of the Dark Side, forever will it dominate your destiny.” There are no in-betweens, remember?)

The Emperor, who’s bought into this black-and-white bullshit just as much as Yoda, says, “Now, strike him down and take his place at my side.” And Luke…doesn’t. He’s a Jedi. More importantly, “I am a Jedi, like my father before me.” The line is striking, in light of the full picture we see. Luke isn’t just saying that he’s not a Sith, he’s saying his father wasn’t either. Before Anakin Skywalker failed the Jedi, the Jedi failed Anakin Skywalker. It couldn’t be any clearer if he’d said, “Oh, and fuck you, you dried-up green bastard.”

After reading that and most of the long discussion in its thread, it made me think of my own personal theory on the prequel trilogy: it shouldn't have been a trilogy. It could have been a great epic tragedy as one single movie. It would have been decent as these things go, and quite possibly outstanding. Braveheart or Gladiator in space, Lord of the Rings where Frodo can only destroy the ring by falling into the pit himself, X-Men: First Class. Because really, there's a good epic story in the prequels. Jedis are on a routine mission that goes wrong, they stumble on a prodigy and recruit him almost incidentally, people have high expectations for him but instead he turns out to be their worst nightmare due both to careful manipulation by the bad guy and simple human nature, all against a backdrop of a nation falling into fascism. That would have been awesome. There's a great villain there - the best thing by far about the prequel trilogy was that the bad guy was genuinely an evil genius. The Republic was clearly falling apart (more economic-minded people than me have commented on how the background details actually paints a very darker picture, and/or just don't make sense at all) and the Jedi's own dogmatism was almost as much of a cause of their fall as the bad guy's plan.

That would be a good epic movie and could be a great one. It would take right around three hours to tell, maybe 20 minutes more or less depending on how much atmosphere and stuff it turns out to need. The problem is, to make three movies of it - between four and a half and eight hours - Lucas had to include racing scenes and ridiculous subplots about a teenaged democratically elected queens and Jedis moonlighting as detectives and bodyguards and an entire war before Anakin is even properly recruited and having the main characters do absolutely everything. Maybe he did it for the money of three movies instead of one, or maybe he just was mentally stuck in the mold of thinking that it had to be a trilogy because the first one was, but either way it sucked because of the extra two movies shoved in there, I'd say.

So why am I posting this? Because it's a lazy afternoon and something like this is a good way to avoid work. Why this specifically? I guess just because I've been meaning for a while to add to my blogroll.