My Thoughts on the Original Star Wars

Star Wars: The Force AwakensI will not be seeing Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Part of that is just that I’m not that fond of seeing old actors doing big budget curtain calls. As it is, every time I see Harrison Ford, I think, “Have we really gotten that old?” When I saw him in Firewall, I thought he looked like he could use a walker. And that was almost ten years ago! But maybe I’d feel differently if I cared about any of the cast. Certainly, if Johnny Depp revisits Jack Sparrow in thirty years, I’ll be waiting in line. The truth is that I didn’t like the first Star Wars.

Let me be clear. I saw Star Wars on 4 July 1977 with a packed crowd at the Summerfield Cinemas in Santa Rosa. I remember it was July Fourth because someone threw a fire cracker at the screen when the bad guys blew up the planet. And I didn’t dislike it. I just didn’t see what the big deal was. It’s an action film set in space with stock characters. Darth Vader is easily as silly as Robot on Lost in Space, without the saving grace of it being camp. The only character I thought was cool was (despite the name) Obi-Wan Kenobi, and he gets offed in the second reel.

In my discussions with people who are fans of the franchise, it is clear why they like it: because they do. It struck something ineffable in them when they were in their tweens or teens. And I appreciate that. I wish it had been similarly magical for me. If I had not been such a pretentious intellectual in training, maybe it would have done it for me. Certainly, Close Encounters of the Third Kind was more up my alley. But that one didn’t do much more for me either. If there was any film that captured my imagination as a tween, it was Jaws. And I’m pleased to report that it really is an excellent film.

This explains why Star Wars fans have been more and more disappointed with the franchise as it has gone on. The problem isn’t the films; it’s that the viewers are no longer 13 years old. It’s the same way that Star Trek will never be quite as good as the original, despite the fact that nothing that came later will be as silly as “guy in a reptile suit” in “Arena” or the space hippies in “The Way to Eden.” Hold on. We’ve really got to watch Kirk fight Gorn. It’s funny that Gorn never thinks to use his teeth:

But I can see why Star Wars: The Force Awakens is such a big deal to people. It’s a way of revisiting the past in a way that is new but the same. From what I hear, the film is largely a remake of the original. And that’s just fine. People are allowed that. Just the same, it’s not like Hollywood does much more than give people retreads of old things. It reminds me of myself when I’m doing anniversary posts and can’t find anything interesting to write. I go back and look at what I wrote before. But that seems to be step one for Hollywood.

I hope all you Star Wars fans out there enjoy this. Really, if I could get in on the adoration, I would. But I didn’t even manage to drag myself to see the second Star Wars film; I’m certainly not going to watch the seventh.

Matt Bevin’s Christmas Gifts for Kentucky!

Matt BevinAlice Ollstein at Think Progress reported that just in time for Christmas, Newly Elected Governor Strips 140,000 of Voting Rights, Lowers the Minimum Wage. Yes, everyone’s favorite red state governor Matt Bevin decided to reverse the executive actions of the previous governor, Steve Beshear, that allowed non-violent ex-felons to vote and government workers to have something approaching a living wage. Merry Christmas!

Of course, Matt Bevin doesn’t want to disenfranchise all these men and women. He said that “it is an issue that must be addressed through the legislature and by the will of the people.” And you should believe it to the extent that you believe a pathological liar. Politicians never claim to be against any popular legislation that they overturn or otherwise sabotage. It is always something along the lines of, “I would love to support this legislation, there is just this one problem…” And if that one problem is eliminated, they always find another “one problem” that prevents them from supporting that legislation that they otherwise love.

“Studies have found that ex-felons who have their voting rights restored feel more invested in their communities and are less likely to end up back in the criminal justice system.” —Alice Ollstein

Earlier this year I discussed the status of the states regarding this, Felons and Voting Rights. Kentucky — along with Florida, Iowa, and Virginia — are what I called the “completely vile” states where “you have to file an individual petition and get a pardon from the governor.” Think about that. Republicans, who go on and on about efficiency, think that the state should have to go over every one of those 140,000 before they get the right to vote. That’s over 3% of the population. And according to Think Progress, “As a result, one in five African Americans in the state are disenfranchised.” Know this: if the legislature did send him such a bill, he would find a reason to veto it.

Of course, none of this is an accident. Michelle Alexander talked about this, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. Going away to jail for even ten years is not the big deal. It is that you are labeled for the rest of your life. Look at the way we talk about this issue: 140,000 felons. Not ex-felons. And this is part of the idea that a felon should never be allowed to vote again. As Think Progress noted, “Studies have found that ex-felons who have their voting rights restored feel more invested in their communities and are less likely to end up back in the criminal justice system.”

Matt Bevin didn’t just ruin the Christmas of ex-offenders, of course. He also reduced the minimum wage for state workers and contractors from $10.10 per hour to $7.25. Ho ho ho! Merry Christmas! He stated, “Wage rates ideally would be established by the demands of the labor market instead of being set by the government.” That’s your typical conservative claim that the market is perfect and if the government would just get out of the way, everyone would have jobs and own their own homes with picket fences and Barbara Billingsley waiting with a martini. They’ve never heard of monopsony.

But it wasn’t all bad news! Matt Bevin saw to it that someone got good news for Christmas. And that someone was Kentucky clerk Kim Davis. She’s wanted clerk names removed from marriage licenses because God don’t like them gays but she sure likes her job. So Bevin saw to it that Kim Davis and the other bigots like her can have a happy Christmas knowing that they are complicit in helping to establish equal rights.

This just in: Matt Bevin seen stealing Tiny Tim’s crutch so he can sell it and provide tax cuts for squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old rich people.

Morning Music: Burl Ives Shrugged

A Holly Jolly Christmas - Burl IvesWho is Burl Ives? When he says that we should have a Holly Jolly Christmas, is he a destroyer or a liberator? Why does he have to sing his songs not against his enemies but against those who need them most? Why does he sing his hardest battle against the woman he loves?

You will know the answer to these questions when you discover the reason behind the baffling song that plays each Christmas in the lives of the amazing men and women at this blog. You will discover why a musical genius becomes a worthless playboy… why a great folk singer is working for his own destruction… why a composer gives up his career on the night of his triumph… why a beautiful woman who produces children’s Christmas specials falls in love with the man she has sworn to replace with Paul Soles.

Anniversary Post: DC Home Rule

Washington, DC SealOn this day in 1973, Richard Nixon signed the District of Columbia Home Rule Act. This gave the residents of DC the right to elect some of their own local government officials. In particular, this law allowed them to elect a mayor and a “city” council. It’s kind of amazing to think that it wasn’t until this late that they got this right.

But the truth is that Congress continues to mess with the people of DC. The idea of creating DC was to de-politicize it. But at this point, Congress is the one who politicizes the district. I think it is completely unfair and it should change. DC will never have home rule as long as it isn’t granted statehood. But that isn’t going to happen. DC is overwhelmingly Democratic, and the Republicans would never allow the Democrats to have two more Senate seats, even though the Senate is weighted heavily in the Republicans’ favor.

If DC became a state, it would be the third smallest by population — just larger than Vermont and Wyoming. So there isn’t a lot of reason why we should keep DC in their weird limbo where Congress can abuse it in the name of “sending a message” to the folks back home. Of course, before we make DC a state, we should make Puerto Rico a state. The fact that it isn’t is an outrage. But again: we can’t allow states that might vote Democratic. We really do need to destroy the Republican Party before it destroys the nation.