Sunday, May 29, 2005

A May Song

I need a May poetry post. Let me see, what can I find on the American Poems archive? I'll look at poets who were young in the '20s and '30s. I like that period, for some reason.

Oh, Gwendolen Brooks was born in Topeka, moved to Chicago, and became poet laureate of Illinois? Nice. Let's hope she has something interesting... Oh, I like these. And, this one seems very appropriate:

The Crazy Woman

I shall not sing a May song.
A May song should be gay.
I'll wait until November
And sing a song of gray.

I'll wait until November
That is the time for me.
I'll go out in the frosty dark
And sing most terribly.

And all the little people
Will stare at me and say,
"That is the Crazy Woman
Who would not sing in May."

Yes. I'll post that.


Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Only a Sith Speaks in Absolutes

I've seen Revenge of the Sith twice already. Ken kidnapped me away from work on opening day, and then we went again on Friday.

I'm not gonna write a review. Obviously I loved it. I was always going to. I liked the other prequels too. I don't think dialogue or acting has ever been the point. Spectacle and melodrama are respectable art forms too -- look at opera, or ancient Greek dramas. Critics may think Star Wars was made to a formula, but if it were easy to make something larger-than-life on this scale that doesn't collapse under its own weight, it would have been done more often. Star Wars isn't literature. It's architecture.

Anyway, I found it thought provoking. First of all, and I'll leave this vague for spoiler reasons, I want to know if we're supposed to consider the question of Anakin's parentage resolved. The hint was too subtle for me (Star Wars isn't supposed to be subtle!) but Ken thought it was obvious, and intentional, and if so, it makes me like the Phantom Menace much better. The virgin-birth-via-midichlorians thing was always my least favorite part.

Secondly, I've been thinking about Anakin's incredibly sudden change of heart in his scene with Mace Windu. I've decided that when he was lecturing Mace on the Jedi way, he wasn't really stating his own beliefs about good and evil (which then suddenly change.) He was reminding Mace of what the Jedi are supposed to believe. I think by this point Anakin has convinced himself that the Jedi are hypocrites. They've asked him to spy on his own government, his own friend and mentor. They say they defend democracy, but their own heirarchy is rigid, and closed to him. They took him away from his mother. He has had to keep his relationship with his wife a secret. When he goes to them for help, to save her life, they seem not to care. They preach about peace, but they are warriors, and have trained him for war. And they may say they don't want power, but they do definitely have strong opinions on how the galactic government should work, and are willing to use violence and deception to achieve their ends. Whatever ethical problems they may have with a clone army, ultimately, they use it.

Anakin has never really believed in those things the Jedi profess. As Ken points out, he didn't have a problem with dictatorships, in the second prequel. He did the very thing he's telling Mace Windu not to do, at the beginning of this movie. All he's trying to do is appeal to the principles Mace claims to live by, to stop what's happening... And when Mace shows himself a hypocrite, Anakin finally decides, I think, that there really is no difference between the Jedi and the Sith.

Orson Scott Card says Anakin's not wrong. But I don't judge the Jedi as harshly as Card does. Their redeeming virtue, in my opinion, is that they know they're hypocrites. I see Obi Wan's line, "Only a Sith speaks in absolutes," as an admission that the Jedi don't always know, can't always know, the right path either. Their fortune cookie maxims have exceptions.

In the end, everyone who has any principles betrays them sometimes, for the sake of the people they love, for the sake of their other principles. The Jedi know that just because you have to violate your principles sometimes, that's no reason to give them up entirely. Anakin doesn't understand this. That's why Anakin becomes a Sith. Only a Sith speaks in absolutes.


Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Google Cool

Some free advertising for Google...

Ken tells me about Google sets (try putting in "Xander" and "Willow" or "Scooby" and "Shaggy" or a couple of Kevin Bacon movies...) and Google suggest (you only need to type "Mary Mes" to find me...) and Google scholar (for those of us who still have homework to deal with...) He was also playing with Google ridefinder which Chicagoist is apparently just now discovering. They've also got links to all kinds of other super-neat Chicago-centric things to do with Google maps, like househunting, looking at crime stats, checking traffic, locating an El station (though I haven't gotten that to work yet) and photoblogging.

You go, Google.


Sunday, May 15, 2005

Real ID

There must be a huge debate about this "Real ID" act somewhere, but I've missed it. Seriously snuck in under my radar. Probably that's just because I've been busy. Probably this received the huge news coverage and public debate it deserves. Right? Anyway, C|Net seems to have a nice summary.

What does it mean for me?
Starting three years from now, if you live or work in the United States, you'll need a federally approved ID card to travel on an airplane, open a bank account, collect Social Security payments, or take advantage of nearly any government service. Practically speaking, your driver's license likely will have to be reissued to meet federal standards.

What's going to be stored on this ID card?
At a minimum: name, birth date, sex, ID number, a digital photograph, address, and a "common machine-readable technology" that Homeland Security will decide on. The card must also sport "physical security features designed to prevent tampering, counterfeiting, or duplication of the document for fraudulent purposes." Homeland Security is permitted to add additional requirements--such as a fingerprint or retinal scan--on top of those. We won't know for a while what these additional requirements will be.

You said the ID card will be electronically readable. What does that mean?
The Real ID Act says federally accepted ID cards must be "machine readable," and lets Homeland Security determine the details. That could end up being a magnetic strip, enhanced bar code, or radio frequency identification (RFID) chips. In the past, Homeland Security has indicated it likes the concept of RFID chips. The State Department is already going to be embedding RFID devices in passports, and Homeland Security wants to issue RFID-outfitted IDs to foreign visitors who enter the country at the Mexican and Canadian borders. The agency plans to start a yearlong test of the technology in July at checkpoints in Arizona, New York and Washington state.

Will state DMVs share this information?
Yes. In exchange for federal cash, states must agree to link up their databases. Specifically, the Real ID Act says it hopes to "provide electronic access by a state to information contained in the motor vehicle databases of all other states."

Oh. So, that's scary.

And it's already been passed by the House and the Senate, and Bush has said he supports it...

'Cause, you know, it's so consistent with those Republican principles of small government and limited federal power.

I want to immigrate to 1998. I know some of my Republican friends will tell me about the moral problems of the Clinton administration, but I can't see how Bush and Delay and Cheney and Co. have actually improved any of the situations they've objected to. My Republican friends have been betrayed.

And I'm getting tired of being an advocate for the Devil, with my Democratic friends.


Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Obligatory Links

You've probably already seen these links, if you're interested at all, but to keep my geek credentials valid, I must post about these things...

Star Trek is ending I don't really mind. I'm only really fond of the original series, which ended well before I was born. Orson Scott Card doesn't mind either, because he wasn't fond of any of it.

The Serenity Trailer is out. Yay!

"The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" is in theaters now. And it's awesomer than I thought it would be. Even though I knew it would be pretty good after I read this interview. It's by one of the screenwriters, who also wrote "Chicken Run."

Saturday was Free Comic Book Day. Yeah, I know that would've been more useful information if I'd got around to posting before Saturday. I got a Star Wars comic.

(And Sunday was mother's day. That's a little late notice too, for anyone who forgot...)

And I went to Wrigley field on Friday to watch the Cubs lose their seventh in a row. Curse you LaTroy! I'd write up a nice little report, but someone with a life that is scarily like mine went on Sunday and did a better job.

Man, talk about your old news. That's what I get for putting off posting.