Thursday, January 31, 2008

Star Wars, Nothing But Star Wars....

I recently watched all six of the Star Wars movies, in the order that George Lucas prefers. That is, episodes I-VI, rather than in the chronological order of their production. Here's what I came away with, as far as opinions are concerned:

1) The saga holds up very well, in terms of a narrative flow. To some degree, I think this is a bit of a feat. On the other hand, there was plenty of time between the production of Episodes VI and I, to ensure that the plot points were all ironed out in a way that keeps things consistent. I'm not really all that sure of just how much tinkering Lucas did to alter Episodes IV-VI to achieve that end. I did notice, with a bit of disgust, the insertion of the Christensen ghost and the appearance of celebratory Gungans at the end of Episode VI. Neither insertion improved the movie in any meaningful way.

2) Hayden Christensen is a phenomenally awful actor. He's dull on the grandest of scales, rivalling Kevin Costner--and that's no small anti-praise!

3) Episode VI is really quite a terrible film! Yes, it wraps up the story arc very neatly. But it's just not a good movie. I loved it as a kid, and I think it probably still has an enormous appeal for children--all those cute little Ewoks scurrying about. But as an adult viewer, I think it's a terrible disappointment.

4) Watching the films in sequence is quite a fun experience. It's a nifty way to spend a bunch of hours. My view is that the movies rank from best to worst in the following order: V, III, II, IV, I, and VI. Given that Christensen is in Episodes II and III, I'm really quite surprised that they both rank above the original movie (IV). But there it is. All opinion. I think those two really do stand out. I think episode V is the best by a pretty wide margin. The margins between III, II, and IV are pretty small. Then there's another fairly large quality drop to I. But the biggest gap of all is between VI and the rest. Every time I've watched it in recent years, I've been really shocked at how awful that final episode is. Too bad it's an essential link in the chain. If you stop watching at Episode V, I think you miss a lot of important stuff. Too bad it has to be couched in so much frivolous muck!

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Responding to Some Early Democratic Primaries

Well, I must admit, I was fairly crushed by what the Democratic primary voters in New Hampshire did. Michigan was an aberration (thanks to Obama and Edwards and others choosing to stay off the ballot). Nevada was surprising, inasmuch as Edwards got such a teensy slice of the pie--but at least Obama likely came away with more delegates than Clinton.

I'm still supporting Edwards, in principle. However, it's become quite apparent that his chance of getting the nomination is approximately as good as is my chance of winning the general election. Which is to say, approximately nil.

So, I've got to say that my political spirits are greatly buoyed by yesterday's results from South Carolina. Why? Because my preference for Edwards over Obama is only about the width of a dime. Whereas my preference for either over Hillary is as vast as the Pacific Ocean.

I am unaffiliated with any political party, and yes, I do consider myself to be a true political independent. Nonetheless, it's fair to say that I should be a reliable vote for the Democratic nominee. However, unless something changes my mind, I will not vote Democrat if Hillary is the party's nominee. I absolutely can not stomach the idea of voting for Hillary.

I have been deeply bothered (sickened) by Bush 43's policies. I am terribly distraught about us now being a nation that invades and occupies other sovereign nations. Particularly when we have done so for no good reason, then justified it by applying yet another rationale, then continue to justify it by throwing an ever increasing number of excuses at it in hopes that one of them will stick. I am deeply upset by what Bush 43's administration has done to destroy our standing in the world. (This goes to that "moral authority" that was discussed in my last post.)

I firmly believe that the best thing our next president could possibly do for our national security would be to take the oath of office and then to immediately issue an apology to the world for what we've done to the Iraqi people. Admit that the invasion was misguided and unjustified. Correct the seemingly endless chain of distorted motives, restoring the historical truth that we went in because of faulty intelligence that said that there were weapons of mass destruction. Stress that the intelligence was faulty. Erase the post-applied lie that we went in to free the Iraqi people from the tyranny of Saddam Hussein's rule. Stress that that justification was a lie, fabricated when we discovered that there were no weapons of mass destruction. Repeat, unambiguously, that there were no weapons of mass destruction, and make it clear that the new administration understands that truth. Erase the convenient lie that we're there to spread democracy. Explicitly state that Iraq had no connection whatsoever to the attacks of 9/11, thereby crushing that persistent implicit lie. Admit, officially, what we all know: That there was no connection between Iraq and al-Qaeda until we invaded Iraq and destroyed their infrastructure and occupied their land and otherwise did things that gave their millions of citizens very justifiable reasons for resenting America and being angry with, and yes, even hating Americans.

When the sitting POTUS has done that, then some degree of sincerity might show through when he/she then says that we want to try our best to put things right. And saying so should be the very next step in the process! We don't need to spread democracy to Iraq. We need to make reparations to the Iraqi people. We owe them as much, because we have done them wrong.

And the next step after that? Ask, request, plead!!! Beg the other nations of the world to do what they can to ensure the peace and stability of Iraq! Let them know that we want to get out. Plainly state that we understand that as long as there is a U.S. occupation in Iraq, there will be hostility and anger and fear and resentment, all at or just below the boiling point in Iraq. Make it clear that on behalf of the citizens of the U.S.A., the POTUS is begging for other nations (preferably nations that have not previously been part of the invasion/occupation) to volunteer to help the Iraqi people establish their own peace and functional government. Firmly establish that we are willing to provide funds or necessary equipment, but that our troops will be leaving. Promise that we will not maintain any military presence in Iraq; our mercenary forces (Blackwater, et al.) will leave; we want for Iraq to heal and to survive and to thrive. State, as official U.S. policy, that we hold no ill will towards the Iraqi people, and humbly request their forgiveness. Explain that we understand that we do not deserve their forgiveness and that we have absolutely not earned their trust. But ask for it anyway. Let them know that if they are able to forgive us, they will be setting an extremely admirable example for us and that we will be in their debt.

This is all fantasy. The next POTUS will do none of the above. I know this. To some degree, I actually understand it. Nonetheless, I firmly believe it would be the absolute best course.

Why did I go off on that huge tangent? Because I want to make it clear why I said that I should be a reliable vote for the Democratic nominee. It's not because I believe that the Democratic Party has a monopoly on good ideas. It's not because I stand behind the Democratic Party. It's because I am so deeply opposed to what the Bush 43 administration has done, and because I believe firmly that the Republican nominee will be altogether too close to Bush 43's position. Whoever the Democratic nominee is, I believe that he/she will be farther from wrong on Iraq than whoever the Republican nominee turns out to be.

I'm getting sleepy now, so I'm going to wrap this up quickly now. For those of you who may be Hillary supporters, you may be glad to know that I'm trying to understand where you're coming from. While I was at the book store today, I spotted a book on the new hardcovers table called Thirty Ways of Looking at Hillary. On my lunch break, I started looking through it. And I think I'll be borrowing it just as soon as I finish the little Kafka volume that I'm currently reading. You see, part of me keeps desperately hoping that I will hear/see/read anything that could make me think that she's not an astonishingly horrible role model for my niece. That's really what it comes down to. I've admitted in the past to being an idealist. I want to live in a world where only respectable people get elected to public office. I fantasize about that world. And yes, I want a woman to be president. I think that would be wonderful! Just not that woman. I think we could do better. And we should aspire to do better!

Yeah, I'm bothered by some things about Obama. For example, I'm bothered by his admitted dabbling in hard drugs. (And I'm bothered by Bush 43's alcoholism and possible cocaine use (which, as far as I know, he has never admitted to nor denied) and I was bothered by Clinton's marijuana smoking (whether he inhaled or didn't).) I want for our leaders to be people who lead by example, and yes, to me that does mean people who seem to have behaved properly in both their public and private lives.

Ultimately, I would rather have my niece looking to Obama than looking to Hillary, as a role model. When we elect our first female president, I want her to be someone who seems worthy of respect. And the same is true for our first African American president. Right now, Obama seems to me far more worthy of respect than Hillary.