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Star Wars {Nifty Title}

I saw Star Wars: Episode III over the Memorial Day weekend. In a theater. At night. I'd almost forgotten that there was an alternative to DVD. Anyways, it was like a full-circle experience back to 1977 - I even got to go with my parents, although this time it was me dragging everyone there instead of my dad.

The movie was about what I'd expected; not as "Great!!! *****" as many reviewers claim, but not a crushing disappointment like Eps. I & II either. So let's call it a win. Lucas wrapped things up in a way that was satisfying, filled in some good backstory, and provided so much eye candy that I think I'll have to go on a visual diet for a while.

My friend Trox and I dissected it over lunch the other day, and found a lot of things to be critical of, but I think it's a given that a movie of this scope, and born under such high expectations, is easy to criticize. And hell -- your nine bucks lasts a lot longer if you get to rip it apart afterwards.

One thing really surprised me while sitting there in the theater: the movie prompted some mini-epiphanies about other, grander subjects:

1. Perfect is boring, if not downright funny
The Darth Vader Gets His Mask scene was flawless. I mean, cinematic perfection; sound, image, pacing, structure. But, strangely, it almost seemed like self-parody. The smoke was the most ideal digitally-rendered smoke a thousand screaming Mac G5's could imagine. The reflections on that obsidian black mask contained entire galaxies. The editing was sub-frame, micro-pixel, beyond-human-hearing perfect.

But for all of that, instead of being awed or stunned (like I imagine was intended), I laughed at it uncomfortably. All that perfection was just too freaking perfect. Too ideally real to be taken seriously.

Why do I care? Because of some long-standing yet uncertain beliefs I have about what I do with pots. I suspect that perfection isn't worth trying for; that "handmade" means, in part, reflecting the flaws and semi-controlled variables of the process. Molds don't make many mistakes, and when they do, the context requires that they be discarded. Creating a mega-budget, digital blockbuster happens in a similar context - some of the real is squeezed out in the process of trying to create something super-real.

This perfection problem also highlights the virtues of limits and editors and unchageable final drafts - all of which, apparently, don't exist in the Star Wars galaxies.

2. There is such a thing as a Cultural Moment
What history now calls Episode IV will always just be Star Wars to me, and I suppose it is unfair to compare this movie to the first one. I also suspect that, to many kids, the prequels trilogy represents the franchise and resonates more than the originals. But despite box office figures and all the mediated gasping, it's hard to imagine Ep. III having the same impact on people as the original. Star Wars broke into magically uncharted territory back in 1977; it hinted at so many possibilities in such a compressed way that it seemed to fill my imagination for years afterwards. It defined a Cultural Moment.

It stayed in theaters damn near FOREVER. Including Saturday matinees at the 99c. Chula Vista Twin, I saw it about 19 times during the first run (sorry, kids - a note of explanation: this was before home video, before VCRs even existed!) It was always an event to see it, always with a crowd, always there up on the big screen with no way to pause, scan, or rewind. That sticks with you in a way that replays on the Sci Fi channel, or watching a DVD at home by yourself, cannot.

So the circumstances have got to be part of it too. We'll never have mass media quite that mass again, and movies have entered another realm in terms of how we experience them. Whatever the reasons, I think Ep. IV defined an era of fiction and films for a whole generation of kids, with a corresponding boatload of indebted associations. What would our childhood have been like without it?

3. You can only be 6 years old once
(This is something of a corollary to point 2, but it stuck in my brain as it's own idea.)

Like only being able to step into a river once, completing the Star Wars circle reminded me that I can't replicate the way the world looked when I was six, anymore than I could take all those amazing ideas that gushed off the screen during that first viewing back out of my mind when it was over. It made a sound when it hit, and at the end I was a bit older and a bit wiser. Now, I'm a lot older, and also more jaded, more calculating, more cautious about the tricks that a filmmaker uses to lure us in. I can't see the world like I did any more than I can see the movie again for the first time. And, like a river, that vector is constantly moving, so that now I can't see this last movie for the first time again, or go back to the Chula Vista Twin, or start this post from scratch.
~ scott @ 3:52 PM [link]

Much as I hate linking to, here's an interesting article on Google and their IPO. Why does this company persist in seeming so abundantly cool? The last of the dot com fantasy?
~ scott @ 1:48 AM [link]
Reason : Neal Stephenson Interview

Did I ever follow up on reading Stephenson's lengthy Baroque Cycle? I don't think so. Well, here's a good interview with him about it. Nice and "intellectual".

This quote turned on a few switches:
"Itís possible to have an emotional relationship with what you do for a living."
~ scott @ 4:13 PM [link]
John Cage

"The first question I ask myself when something doesn't seem to be beautiful is why do I think it's not beautiful. And very shortly you discover that there is no reason."
John Cage

I can't rediscover where I found this, or if it's even correctly attributed - Google searches to no avail. However, as the end of another semester of teaching arrives, it seems worth repeating:

Ten Rules and Hints for Students and Teachers and Anybody Else
- John Cage

RULE ONE: Find a place you trust, and then try trusting it for awhile.

RULE TWO: General duties of a student - pull everything out of your teacher; pull everything out of your fellow students.

RULE THREE: General duties of a teacher - pull everything out of your students.

RULE FOUR: Consider everything an experiment.

RULE FIVE: be self-disciplined - this means finding someone wise or smart and choosing to follow them. To be disciplined is to follow in a good way. To be self-disciplined is to follow in a better way.

RULE SIX: Nothing is a mistake. There's no win and no fail, there's only make.

RULE SEVEN: The only rule is work. If you work it will lead to something. It's the people who do all of the work all of the time who eventually catch on to things.

RULE EIGHT: Don't try to create and analyze at the same time. They're different processes.

RULE NINE: Be happy whenever you can manage it. Enjoy yourself. It's later than you think.

RULE TEN: "We're breaking all the rules. Even our own rules. And how do we do that? By leaving plenty of room for X quantities.

HINTS: Always be around. Come or go to everything. Always go to classes. Read anything you can get your hands on. Look at movies carefully, often. Save everything - it might come in handy later.
~ scott @ 8:38 AM [link]
Why Lucas Is Evil

This Salon article from 1999 by sci-fi writer David Brin takes some big shots at the Lucas/Star Wars worldview, and even debunks the sacred Joseph Campbell stuff. With - hopefully - the last prequel out now, seems like a good time to review.
~ scott @ 4:00 PM [link]

"Committees don't have vision. Committees have meetings."
A great Microsoft rant

I love it. Also has some thoughts about how something great - like the iPod - is or isn't developed.
~ scott @ 9:09 AM [link]