Blogging the Trilogy: The Empire Strikes Back

This is the second in a three part series about watching the original pre-special editions of Star Wars. The first part covered A New Hope. The third and final will deal with Return of the Jedi.

It used to be that whenever I was asked the “desert island” question about movies, I would hem and haw about not being able to pick five, ten, or whatever arbitrary number of favorites—I’ve seen hundreds of movies after all; how can I be expected to pick some finite number to watch for the rest of my life? But in recent years, I’ve realized that there are movies that, for whatever reason, I can watch over and over again, and still find something new every time. Lawrence of Arabia is one—luckily, nothing distracts you from the pain and thirst of being trapped on a desert island more than a movie set entirely in a desert.

The Empire Strikes Back is another. It is also quite possibly about as close as a film can get to perfection, as well as probably my favorite movie of all time. Still, as was the case with Episode IV, it has been probably close to ten years since I’ve watched the original release. It remains one of the most tonally consistent, immersive movies that I have ever seen. Tonal consistence is something I often go on about at length, especially when it comes to movies. It means, to my mind, that nothing in the movie feels out of place; characters behave as expected; there are no major plot holes; there’s nothing that brings you out of the experience to remind you that you’re watching a movie. In a movie like Empire, which is largely escapist, this is crucial.

Once again, my friend Brian joined me to sit down and watch the Laserdisc, and, as last time, he offered his own brand of incisive commentary, starting with the opening crawl itself (“How can it be said that Luke is any way in charge of Hoth base?”). I’ve seen Empire so many times that there are always things I laugh at; the inside jokes my friends and I used to make. Like when Luke asks his gunner, Dack, how he’s feeling, right before they take off to fight the AT-ATs. Says the intrepid Dack: “Right now I feel like I could take on the whole Empire myself” at which point Brian and I both turn to each other to remark: “He dies.” Or commenting how lucky Boba Fett is that the Millennium Falcon doesn’t appear to have a rearview mirror. And the fact that, in the last scene, Lando appears to have totally raided Han’s closet aboard the Falcon. My favorite, though, is still the most awkward dinner party ever. The jokes are practically part of the experience now, as is the familiar feeling of filling in a lot of the gaps in the stories with what I knew from the radio dramas, and comparing the movie with its 1997 rerelease.

Fewer changes were made to Empire than either of the others, I believe, though the report on DVD Answers does list plenty. For the most part, they are more subtle than the changes to Episodes IV and VI, but as with IV, there is not a single one that is really necessary. Again, I haven’t watched the new DVD releases of the original trilogy, but a lot of the changes are significant: Temeura Morrison, who played Jango Fett and voiced the clones, redubs all of Boba Fett’s lines; Ian McDiarmid is inserted as the Emperor (I realize it fixes continuity with the rest of the movies, but, well, it irks me); they’ve even gone back and put the Imperial officers’ insignias on the correct side in one scene. Thank God.

The most inexplicable change is from the ’97 rerelease: a long scene where Vader goes up to his Star Destroyer on a shuttle towards the film’s end. This alteration bothers me, mainly because it completely throws off the pacing of the scene (to my ears, it even sounds like they have to retrack the music a bit to cover for the extended sequence). They pulled an unused take from Jedi, which I noticed the first time I watched it. As DVD Answers points out, you can see the Death Star commander start saying his lines as Vader approaches. Just prior to this, as Vader is departing Cloud City, there is another small change: the scene there has been extended, and the dialogue/music changed. When we first heard this, my friends and I argued whether or not it was actually James Earl Jones doing the new line (“Alert my Star Destroyer to prepare for my arrival” versus the old “Bring my shuttle”). DVD Answers, however, says that it is Jones, and the IMDB trivia page for Empire reports that Ben Burtt (sound designer for the original trilogy) has confirmed the line was originally recorded for A New Hope, which clicks for me.

You see, although Empire is incredibly consistent with itself, it is at the same time incredibly inconsistent in many ways from A New Hope. Some of these differences are unavoidable: Mark Hamill’s car accident after Episode IV, for example, left him with a surgically reconstructed face (before and after). And, of course, Lucas made great strides in special effects work after Episode IV, challenging the Industrial Light & Magic staff by insisting the Hoth battle be on the ground, because filming against the black backdrop of space was too easy. Some things, though, make for interesting disparities between the first two films.

On the whole, Empire is vastly more polished than its predecessor. Take Darth Vader. As I alluded to above, the fact that his voice sounds different in that one line made sense to me. That’s because if you listen to Vader in Hope and Empire, he actually sounds different. A large part of it is whatever effect they’re using: in Hope, he actually sounds muffled, as though he’s talking in a tin-can telephone; in Empire, his voice sounds more like it’s amplified, with a bit of reverberation. There’s also a difference in the way Jones delivers the lines; in Episode IV he sounds more harried and rushed (the line that always comes to mind is from his opening scene: “You are part of the Rebel Alliance and a traitor! Take her away!”) whereas in Episode V, he sounds much more menacing and deliberate (“If he could be turned, he could be a powerful ally.”). This extends to his movement too; he looks a little clumsier in Episode IV, and he walks much faster; in Episode V, he has this ponderous, foreboding stride. He even looks different, to an extent: the helmet in Hope has tinted, slightly translucent eyes that, in certain scenes, you can actually see through (it’s easier to see on film, but this was the best picture I could find). He also looks broader in the shoulders—no doubt a result of working out (or the 80s proclivity for shoulder pads)—and the helmet and the rest of his armor is a bit glossier. We also see for the first time a different side of Vader in the scene where Veers disturbs him in his little meditation chamber; he has a horribly scarred head. We learn that he’s presumably human, and vulnerable.

And of course, the very story line of the movie is different, darker. As Lucas himself said, this was the second act of a three act story, and in the second act, you put the characters in the worst predicament they will ever find themselves, the deepest hole they could possibly get in, so that in the third act, they can get out. The Death Star, which you would think was about as bad as it can get, is mentioned only in the movie’s opening crawl, and indeed, the fact that its gigantic McGuffin presence isn’t needed says something about where the drama really is. Empire is the only episode of the six Star Wars films not to feature any action on Tatooine (though the planet is mentioned by name in the last scene). Instead of the blinding heat of the desert, we have the intense cold of Hoth; the change in wardrobe alone gives it an entirely different feel. Luke wears mostly grays and earth tones throughout the movie, reflecting his transition phase; he is neither the white-clad innocent farmboy of A New Hope nor the black-swathed Jedi Knight on the brink of good and evil of Return of the Jedi.

Along with new settings and wardrobes, Empire introduces a number of new characters, who immediately set about carving out their own space in the Star Wars universe. In A New Hope, Peter Mayhew managed to imbue a surprising amount of personality in Chewbacca with body language alone, but if there’s one performance in the trilogy that manages to surpass Mayhew’s, it’s Frank Oz as Yoda. Lucas reputedly spent a fair amount of money on a campaign to have Oz nominated for Best Supporting Actor, but this was ultimately unfruitful, as it was thought that puppeteers were not actors (Oz, of course, is not only an accomplished director, but has appeared in several movies—among them, The Blues Brothers and Trading Places—and is the genius behind many a muppet, including Fozzie, Miss Piggy, Bert, Grover, and Cookie Monster; though the guy may not have won an Oscar, he’s certainly earned his place in cultural history). But Oz’s is the ultimate performance: bringing to life an innately lifeless hunk of rubber and plastic and making the audience believe that it was a living, breathing being. Despite the heavy use of computer-generated imagery in the new trilogy and other contemporary movies, it has never managed, in my mind, to make something as truly lifelike as the original Yoda—not even his computer-generated equivalent comes close. Credit, too, must be given to Mark Hamill; the fact that he converses with Yoda so earnestly makes it easier for the rest of us to believe.

But as good as the performances are, they would be nothing without good writing. The dialogue is sparse in Empire; there are only 40 odd minutes of speaking in the two and a half hour film. Consider the final exchange between Han and Luke, which takes place just before the battle on Hoth.

Han: Hi, kid. […] You all right?
Luke: Yeah.
Han: Take care of yourself.
Luke: You, too.

In the words of another great sci-fi story, “She’s terse. I can be terse. Once, in flight school, I was laconic.” Han and Luke’s interactions were part of the fun that drove the first movie; here, their time together involves only one major scene in which Luke is not unconscious. The writers take a risk splitting up the pair of dynamic heroes; it’s no longer the friction between them that gives the story momentum, but the experiences they have separately: Luke with Yoda and Han with Leia. And for all that Yoda and Luke’s scenes are important to their characters’ development and the story itself, the movie is frankly stolen by the Han Solo-Princess Leia romance. Their dialogue fairly crackles, from the first exchange in the corridor of Hoth (“Afraid I was going to leave without giving you a goodbye kiss?” “I’d sooner kiss a Wookie!”) to the famous last lines before Han is put into carbonite: “I love you.” “I know.” Incidentally, never ever say that to a girl when she utters those words unless you are actually about to be frozen in carbonite.

The two credited writers are Lawrence Kasdan and Leigh Brackett. Kasdan would later move to writing and directing his own works (The Big Chill, Grand Canyon, Body Heat); he would also contribute to the script on Jedi and write Raiders of the Lost Ark. But if you listen carefully, especially to the Solo/Leia ripostes, you will detect a note of film noir; that, I would guess, is Leigh Brackett’s handiwork. Brackett wrote the signature Humphrey Bogart/Lauren Bacall film The Big Sleep and did uncredited work on their first pairing, To Have and Have Not, both of which sizzle with the sexual tension that also lies under Empire‘s sci-fi veneer. Tragically, she died shortly after her first draft was turned in, but I firmly believe that her distinctive touch is what helps tonally shift the saga from the adventure serial that was A New Hope into the full-fledged drama of The Empire Strikes Back. Would that she had lived long enough to lend a hand on the new trilogy.

Poor writing is my main criticism of the new trilogy in general. As a case in point, take one of the single most complex and thoughtful moments in Empire, and perhaps the whole trilogy: Luke’s experience in the cave. Told by Yoda that the cave is strong with the Dark Side, but contains “only what you take with you,” he ignores the Jedi Master’s advice to leave behind his weapons. Inside, he confronts Vader and defeats him, only to find his own face behind Vader’s mask. There is a subtext in that scene, a use of layering, metaphor and imagery that is notably absent in the prequels.

If it were only that the prequels were ruined by subpar writing, I would be okay. Disappointed, but hardly inconsolable. Maybe Lucas had just caught lightning in a bottle with the originals. But unfortunately, the nature of the prequels seems to spoil the originals merely by occupying shelf space near them, via some sort of heinous osmosis. Now, if you watch the prequels before the original trilogy (in chronological order), the ending of Empire is completely without weight. The biggest reveal in the history of cinema is ruined. Sure, there’s the dramatic irony of watching Episode IV and V knowing Luke and Leia are siblings and Vader is their father, but it’s not played for dramatic irony; for that you need suspense, and the climax of Empire is dependent on surprise, not suspense. It is the reason I will ensure that my children not watch the prequels until they’ve seen the original trilogy (in whatever form it exists by that point).

I’m not sure why Empire resonates with me so much, though I wonder if it’s because the movie and I were released, so to speak, in the same year, Episode V debuting less than a month after I was born. I think it has more to do with the fact that it is the second act of the Star Wars saga. The middle is, for me, a comfortable place to be; it’s where all the action of the story really happens. You’ve already been introduced to the characters, so there’s the familiarity that comes with seeing old friends. At the same time, with Empire‘s cliffhanger ending, there’s the reassurance that the story is not over, that there is more to come. One of my cousins once told me that she could remember worrying, as a kid, that she would die before Return of the Jedi came out and she would never find out what happened to Han Solo. Even though the story has long been completed, as long as I can keep watching the middle, I can pretend it isn’t over yet and feel assured there will always be more to see.

Business vs. Pleasure

When I saw commercials for the 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System as a kid, I always wondered why they had a “Nintendo Seal of Quality.” It seemed to be on every game, including the really terrible ones, so I wondered what the point was. It wasn’t until very recently, while doing some background reading on the gaming industry, that I learned about the now-infamous video game crash of 1983 that came about in part from a flood of really bad games made by third-party developers. Nintendo didn’t really do much to test for quality, but the seal was at least a reassurance that the game had been licensed by Nintendo.


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“I’d love nothing more than to remain a factor in kids’ lives”

Teacher resigns when the school finds out he called in sick to go on a pro-wrestling tour. On the one hand, I find that kind of behavior pretty irresponsible. On the other hand, it’s so funny that I find it hard to hold anything against this guy. I just have this mental picture of him teaching history class, saying that Lincoln “body-slammed the Confederacy,” and talking smack to kids later on in study hall. I hope he goes on to take over for the Macho Man Randy Savage on the Slim Jims campaign. “Need a little excitement? SNAP INTO IT! And by ‘it,’ I mean a book, kids!”

It could also just be for making Windex

Wouldn’t it be ironic if our country invaded another country in search of chemical and biological weapons, only to oust its leader, find no such weapons whatsoever, and get mired in a lengthy ground battle with local insurgents who get the idea that maybe they should look into chemical weaponry themselves?

Oh.

(Then again, my first inclination is to say that the chemical plant full of chemicals “commonly used in industry” might just be a chemical plant. I’d want to know for sure, too, if I were out there myself.)

The Daily Doom: Jerks, Toasters, Robots and Dating

For your lunchtime reading pleasure, I bring you the first installment of The Daily Doom, a list of the somewhat inane links that you may have missed this morning. Enjoy.

  • Usually, I can tell when I’m talking to a jerk (hint, it rhymes with ‘smellemarketer’), but in casse you can’t, now there’s a computer program that can (but is it pronounced “jerk-o-meeter” or “jerk-ah-mi-ter”?).
  • Robots are a part of our society now, so it’s only a matter of time before they make your children cry.
  • Magneto and Professor X will become Shakespeare buddies in a version of The Merchant of Venice staged in the Venetian casino in Las Vegas.
  • Physicists who can’t get a date have come up with a very detailed theorem to make themselves feel better.
  • Who knew lying about being an Oompa-Loompa could actually help your resume?
  • For all those people who joked about their toaster running Linux… (yes, I realize it’s NetBSD, but let’s face it, nobody knows what that is)

That’s it for this edition of The Daily Doom. Hopefully we’ve brought a tiny little ray of sunshine into the overcast gloom that is your working day existence. If not, well, at least it’s Friday.

Film Flam Men

When Leo Tolstoy began Anna Karenina with the line “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way,” he probably didn’t realize that one could say the same thing about movie reviews. Though perhaps even Leo got his share of bad reviews.

We have a complicated history, movie reviews and I. When I was in high school, it would go something like this: Jay Carr, the Boston Globe‘s former critic, would pan a movie I wanted to see, I would get mad and throw the paper down in disgust. This eventually drove me to a sort of nihilistic stance regarding reviews: they were, after all, just one person’s perspective, and watching a film is an extremely individualistic experience. I scoffed at the idea of “reviewing”; the only true way to know if a film was good or not was to go see it yourself.

Many many many many bad movies later, I was on the road to Damascus. It might be—just possibly—that there were some movies that were inherently bad, that is to say, not worth my time and money. Usually, I would rely upon people I knew to tell me whether or not something was worth watching, but often, I was the one keeping up on new releases. If only there was somebody seeing these ahead of release, and telling me whether they were good or not.

In college, I started reading reviews on the web, at places like Ain’t It Cool News. The web appealed to me at the time, as did the somewhat proletariat feel of the reviews sent in; they were often chock full of misspellings and grammatical mistakes, peppered with so many exclamation marks (and profanities) it would make your hair stand on end. But they were passionate, rather than coldly calculating like the newspaper reviewers I reviled. I wrapped myself in these reviews, basing my moviegoing schedule around their advice, drinking in trailers and promotional shots of upcoming films.

Eventually, I hit a brick wall again. I saw movie after movie recommended by the anonymous masses, and when I wasn’t glued to my seat, I assumed that I was doing something wrong. Clearly, I didn’t know how to correctly appreciate what I was seeing.

What I didn’t understand at the time was that my tastes were changing as well. No longer was a series of explosions and fight scenes enough to keep me glued to a movie. Now it had to have story and characters. My disillusion with film was timed, somewhat unsurprisingly, with the release of the first Star Wars prequel—but that’s a story for another time. After going to one too many movies that were raved about in online forums but sorely disappointed upon actual viewing, I vowed to give up on reviews altogether.

About the time I graduated from college, Jay Carr at the Globe had retired, and in his place, they had hired two new, younger critics: Ty Burr, who had formerly written for Entertainment Weekly, and Wesley Morris, who had done reviews for the San Francisco Examiner. At first, I would just glance at the star ratings on the front page, but as these began to puzzle me more and more, I would find myself turning to the review to figure out how a puff action piece could get the same number of stars as Road to Perdition. Thus began a slow process that eventually changed my entire perception of movies and their reviews.

See, the feeling I had always gotten from Carr’s reviews were that the movies were pitted against one another in a game of “king of the hill.” Only one could hold 4 stars at any time; the rest were consigned to a particular ranking, depending on how close they had gotten to overthrowing the reigning champion; it was like an enforced equilibrium.

Ty and Wesley seemed to do it differently. Instead of the movies competing, they were graded on potential. I’ve said before that filmmaking is like cooking. Given that, assume that a four star movie could have been made out of the ingredients they had here: how close did the result get? Was there too much sugar? Was it cooked long enough? Had one of the ingredients gone bad? It’s like getting partial credit on a test; you had the right idea, perhaps it was just your execution that was just flawed.

I took to reading the reviews with relish. Ty and Wes became my bellwethers. At first, I began only reading reviews for movies I wanted to see, but pretty soon I had expanded my scope to everything released that week, and it soon after that I discovered the fundamental truth of Tolstoy’s famous line.

You see, every good movie review is alike, because the end result of each is encouraging you to go see the movie. But bad reviews, bad reviews are their own genre of writing; bad reviews are windows into the writers themselves. A good bad review can be more enjoyable than a good movie.

Take Wesley Morris on the Angelina Jolie serial killer flick Taking Lives:

We never learn why our killer kills. We never learn what makes our federal huntress tick. The answers to these questions are probably in Michael Pye’s 1999 novel, which seemed a brisk riff on Truman Capote’s “In Cold Blood” and the works of Patricia Highsmith. However, the adaptation is such a radical departure from Pye’s book that it’s as though screenwriter Jon Bokenkamp used a recipe for apple pie to make meatloaf.

Or Ty Burr on Twisted, which is hardly fair to excerpt, as it deserves to be read in its entirety:

“Twisted” isn’t as fruit-bat crazy as “[Eye of the] Beholder,” but it’ll still make for solid bad-movie fun when you catch it on Cinemax at 2 in the morning. Next week.

By now, I’ve settled into a comfortable pattern regarding films. I see far fewer than I did in high school or college; it’s possible to attribute this to a refinement of taste, or the drought of good movies coming out of Hollywood, or probably some combination of both. I read Ty and Wes (and the occasional other reviewers) every Friday. I avoid reviews for movies that I know I will see, but read the rest. Occasionally, if there’s a film that I’m on the fence about, a review will tip me in one direction or the other, but usually I’ve already decided whether or not it’s a trip to the cinema, a rental, or a miss.

Still, my biggest criterion for movies and reviews alike is simple: good writing. Thus, even if I know I’m going to skip The Skeleton Key, I can still appreciate Wes’s reassurance that “…esteemed English actor John Hurt inhabits the character’s drooling catatonia with troubling professionalism” and feel secure in my cinematic choices, knowing that I’ve gotten far more enjoyment out of the five minutes it took me to read the reivew than the two hours it would take me to watch the film.

Only in Cambridge: The Price of Independence

Once upon a time, Harvard Square was overflowing with a plethora of independent book stores of all varieties: there was the Harvard Coop; Wordsworth; and the long-standing Harvard Book Store, along with an assortment of smaller niche stores.

Fast forward through the dark days of the late 90s and early 00s, and here we are in 2005. Wordsworth closed earlier in the year; the Harvard Coop is now owned by Barnes & Noble. The Harvard Book Store alone remains independent. Arrayed against it are the powers of capitalism and the omnipresence of large chains.

I went in to browse on my lunch break today and overheard an interesting conversation. An older customer had noticed (as I had in the past) that there was a sign on the shelves asking customers to inquire at the desk for works by certain authors. Curious, he asked the clerk at the counter why, prompting the following exchange.

Clerk #1: We keep some of them up here, like Bukowski, Burroughs, and Kerouac…
Clerk #2: And Miller. Henry Miller.
Clerk #1: Right, and Miller. We keep them up here because they’ve been voted most likely to be shoplifted.
Customer #1: Voted by who?
(beat)
Clerk #1: By shoplifters.
Customer #2 (slyly): That sounds like literary profiling…

Are you ever going to get this kind of experience in Barnes & Noble? Maybe, but I’m not so sure. One of the differences between independent bookstores and the larger chains is that people who go into independents (at the very least, those who go into them because their independents) tend to be people who actually care about books.

This Post Brought to You By…

The BBC has posted the transcript of an interview with Sir Tim Berners-Lee. If you don’t know who Sir Tim is, well, allow me to paraphrase: “He is your father!”

Figuratively, of course.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Berners-Lee was working at CERN on a fellowship. The project that he set about to build was composed of a web browser and a web server. Which may not sound like much until you remember that this is the late 1980s, and as of yet, the Web did not exist.

Berners-Lee’s first website went online August 6th, 1991—just a few days ago, then, the web celebrated its 14th birthday. And, just like the spoiled younger brother, it has gone on to accomplish more in its fourteen years than I have in my twenty-five. To emphasize how different things were when the Web was born, take a look at an archived version of the page from 1992. No banner ads, no annoying flash animation. Come to think of it, no pictures at all. Barely any colors aside from the blue of the hyperlinks. Just the way Mother Nature intended it.

Berners-Lee’s site also served at one point as an early directory of other websites. Imagine this: a point when all of the websites in existence could be linked to off a single page. Try not to get to your mind blown. Go ahead, I dare you.

I boasted in a work bio once, somewhat hyperbolically, that I had been creating web pages “since the inception of the World Wide Web.” That, of course, is not strictly true, but I did start close to the beginning, probably in the early to mid 90s. I had long been dialing into my dad’s work computer and using telnet and gopher to explore this new world (probably even trying my hand at telnetting into the Pentagon or FBI; fourteen year olds, whether they be human or computer, are not so different). My first exposure to the Web was through lynx, a text-based browser that either my mother or father showed me (it still exists, and you can find it installed on most Linux machines). I remember deriding it at first, thinking that it was inferior to gopher’s carefully organized menu systems—the web was such a mishmash, you could put anything out there!

Wait a sec…anything?

I devoured books on HTML. My own webpage, hosted at the now-defunct Illuminati Online (owned by Steve Jackson Games), was a simple combination of text and links. There was a single picture on it, but I had to go into my dad’s office to look at it via Netscape; those days, even when I did dial in, I was doing it through a terminal. It would be a few years yet before I had my own PPP account.

Here we are, fourteen years later, and the web is quite a different place. The Wild West frontier has become a full-blown city, populated with affluent neighborhoods and shantytowns separated only by a URL. It has lost the gold-rush town feeling that dominated the so-called “Internet bubble” in the late ’90s. The businesses that survived the crash were sobered by it, becoming more cautious. Now, we are entering a time of increased prudishness about what the web should and should not be used for; debates rage about pornography, instructions for building weapons and inciting violence, and general Big Brother-ness. We’ve seen this before, and we shall no doubt see it again.

Through all of this, there is a very important point which is well worth keeping in mind. Berners-Lee says this:

I feel that we need to individually work on putting good things on it, finding ways to protect ourselves from accidentally finding the bad stuff, and that at the end of the day, a lot of the problems of bad information out there, things that you don’t like, are problems with humanity.

This is humanity which is communicating over the web, just as it’s communicating over so many other different media.

He doesn’t know it, but he’s basically just alluded to something I call the Theory of Power Neutrality (originally termed “Why the Hammer Doesn’t Say Ouch When You Use It”; I opted for a more succinct moniker). Take any tool: religion, nuclear power, the Internet (or a hammer). Inherently, that thing has no propensity towards good or evil. It is completely neutral. What makes it good or evil, what ascribes those characteristics to an inherently neutral thing, is humanity. People. All of the tools I just named can be used for good or evil. For helping people, or hurting people. The choice to do that (for, after all, if those things are tools, they can have no conscious choice) is solely in the hands of those who use it. Which means we, humanity, are the architects of our own progress/destruction.

One of the wonderful things about the Internet, as opposed to religion or nuclear power, is that you don’t have to be a clergyperson/nuclear scientist to use it (unlike a hammer, which should be kept as far from me as humanly possible). This means you too can wield a power on par with anybody else in the world (the Internet is also a great leveler), and you too have the choice to use that power for good or evil. All that I would ask is that you remember the words of Ben Parker: “With great power comes great responsibility.” They ring true as much on the Internet as they do in the real world; indeed, the two become closer and closer entwined every day.

Berners-Lee could not be a better example of this maxim. He has seen his creation take on a life of its own, which at times was no doubt as disconcerting for him as it was for Dr. Frankenstein. This man held the web in his hand at the very moment of its creation, and at the time, he could have done whatever he liked with it. He could have sold it to the highest bidder; he could have put it back in the drawer. But instead, Berners-Lee decided to make the web open, and free; even fourteen years later, no patents, no licensing, no royalty fees are imposed on those who use it. For that, we should all be thankful; without it, it is questionable whether or not we would even be here today. That is an example I would like to see more people following.

Blogging as Communication

Guest post by Kristen today, who responds to Chris’s comments about the relationship between bloggers and readers.

So, I’ve been thinking. (A dangerous pastime. I know.) And I hope this will all make sense, since I tend to babble.

I’ve been thinking about 1) Dan’s blog entry about Peter Jennings and 2) Chris’s comment about blogs being the medium of friendship.

I will start with why I read this blog. To begin with, the obvious answer of “Jason is my friend.” I’ve known Jason for 6 years. He means a lot to me. And I could sit and listen to him talk about ideas he has for hours. It drives me to be more creative. And I am comfortable enough with him to share some of my creative ideas, which is rare, because I tend to keep such things under wraps. So, basically, at first, the blog let me feel that creative surge from Jason that I enjoy ever so much.

But let’s face it. Dan posts more than Jason. So it should be obvious that I find Dan interesting as well. Even when the entries aren’t necessarily well thought-out, they’re still thoughtful. I have a few friends who keep blogs, and it’s so much more interesting to read about someone’s thoughts on movies and politics and culture and society, rather than a three-paragraph bitchfest about how life is so unfair because that shirt at the mall was $30.

The problem: I feel affected by Dan feeling affected by Peter Jennings’s death.

By which I mean, this “medium of friendship” allows me to get to know someone in a rather cold and distant manner. Meanwhile, bloggers don’t get to know me at all. The Peter Jennings entry seems to indicate that Dan understands that. Feeling like you know someone, when you know you really don’t.

So thinking about the two things I was thinking about today, for the first time, I felt as though I was intruding on someone’s thoughts. Even though I know that Dan knows that I read every bit that he and Jason write, I still felt like this entry was personal. And I had no business reading it. Not because I don’t know him … more because he doesn’t know me.

I have met Dan in person and am getting to know him that way, but Doombot hasn’t really succeeded as the medium of friendship yet. So I guess I’m listening to Jason’s advice to “comment more on the blog.”

Short Movie Review: Whatever the Guy in the Elevator Was Watching Before I Overheard His Conversation

“I think it was kind of drawn out. They tried to squeeze some drama out of the evil duck at the end.”