Hurry, Star Force! There are only 3 days left!
Just finished my Algorithms final. Done! My GUSS paper is virutally done, I just need to proofread it and add a few more data. Half my stuff is moved into the new apartment. My room is suddenly bare and spacious. The oppressive humidity tells me it's summertime again. I have some leftover programming tasks to finish up for Mike/Ian/Gregor/Bill (the "Argonne-nauts") and I have tonight, tomorrow, and Thursday morning to finish them in, because Thursday afternoon I'm getting on a train to St. Louis, where Erin's wedding will be full of people I haven't seen since JET. After that comes a road-trip to California and then a flight to Connecticut before I come back here for the summer. I'll be away from computers for a whole week. I have my boss's permission and everything. And for the first time since January 2004 I won't have unfinished schoolwork hanging over my head.
That is, if I can fix all these bugs in the next few days. It's the same kind of crunch time as the end of every quarter, but this time instead of pressing through the death march into another quarter of the same stuff, I can finally see the finish line. A cool breeze is coming in the window and some heroic music is playing.
I have multiple competing job offers this summer. I think from now on I can be picky. I can choose to work on something I care about.
I feel like my life is about to begin!
How Much do We Love Liquid Nitrogen?
Answer: We love it exactly 2.5 times more than we love dry ice.
(Note: I originally pulled that number out of thin air, but then I looked up the boiling point of N2 and the evaporation point of CO2, and found that the ratio of one to the other, in negative degrees Celsius, is 2.4968. Dude!)
So anyway, last night Aza retreived some liquid nitrogen from the physics lab. We carried it home in a styrofoam container from Wal-Green and used it to make ice cream. If I can get the recipie, I'll post it later, but basically you mix milk, condensed milk, egg yolks, sugar, whipping cream, and your flavor of choice in a big metal bowl, then pour in the liquid N2 slowly while stirring constantly and reciting lines from MacBeth because there is fog swirling out of the bowl onto the floor. We flavored ours with maccha powder to make green tea ice cream. The result has a more delicate texture than store-bought ice cream because it freezes very evenly with no ice crystals and it's full of tiny nitrogen bubbles.
Of course, once you have liquid nitrogen, it would be a shame to pass up the many opportunities for mischief. The weirdest thing was freezing an egg solid and then breaking it open. The layers inside were opaque and perfectly preserved. We ate some shards of frozen yolk -- it tastes like ice until it suddenly turns back into raw egg in your mouth. Very strange.
Insert Star-Wars-Related Pun Here
I just gave the school $7,325. Writing a number that big on a check made me feel like a bigshot, temporarily, until it sunk in that I'm now a very poor bigshot. Well, my tuition is finally paid, and as this is my last quarter of classes, the financial drama is finally over. (Except for paying loans for the next five years.)
The secretary who took my check saw that it had a Star Wars picture in the background, so she asked me about the new movie. I told her that I've seen it in the theater twice. "Oh, it must be really good, then?" she said. "Well... it's not a good movie. But it is a good Star Wars movie." I said. Hot dog! A relevent segue!
Is there any point to me telling what I thought about Revenge of the Sith, when the Internet is full of reviews and everybody who cares has probably already seen it and made up their minds? No there is not! But I don't care, because the Internet is a place where people can loudly proclaim their opinions whether or not anyone is listening!
This is not saying much, but episode 3 is a whole heck of a lot better than episodes 1 or 2. Episode 3 feels like it has a reason to exist. It feels like something is at stake. The feeling that something is at stake is the heart of any movie, really, but especially action movies, and especially especially space opera. The original trilogy worked because you felt like the galaxy was hanging in the balance. Episodes 1 and 2 just didn't have that feeling. Now it's back, especially in the scene where Anakin has to choose between helping Windu and helping Palpatine. And the Yoda-Emporer duel, and the "Order 66" scene, and the Obiwan-Anakin duel. Those scenes were all great, and no amount of cheesy dialogue can take them away from us. So was the space battle at the beginning of the movie. It's the first space battle I've seen in a movie that looks truly three-dimensional: ships are going up and down and sideways and every which way, stuff is happening everywhere on multiple planes, and it's big and fast and confusing. That's what I imagine it would really be like.
But! There were so many missed opportunities. It could have been better in so many ways. I'm really talking about the whole prequel trilogy, not just Revenge of the Sith.
First, politics. The prequel trilogy should have been the political trilogy. Based on what the galaxy was like at the time, and the role of the prequel trilogy in the overall story, it makes sense for the conflict driving the story to be politics, manipulation, conspiracy, moral ambiguity, etc. There was some of this, but it was clumsily handled.
For example, I would really like to have gotten some exposition about the Separatists. After all, didn't the first two movies exist to give us background for the Clone Wars? But we really don't know who they are or why they want to separate. It's like, here's a random bunch of aliens with a droid army who are just there to give the Jedi something to fight. By the way, the movies would have been a lot more exciting if the droids didn't seem so completely wimpy and non-threatening. And the politics would have been more interesting if we knew why people wanted to secede from the Republic. Did people on those planets have legitimate grievancies against the Republic? Or did their leaders have ulterior selfish motives? Does your average citizen fear and distrust the Jedi for their powers? (That would really add an interesting dynamic). Do they hold their senators accountable?
Next, Padme. Blargg. A big part of the story is that Anakin cares so much about Padme that he will sacrifice everything to save her. That's a nice idea. Self-fulfilling prophecies are cool. But for it to work, the audience has to believe it. And it gets harder to believe with every word that comes out of their mouths. (The scenes where they don't say anything are, consequently, the most effective.) Worse yet, Padme's personality seems to have disappeared. In Episode 1 she was actually kind of smart and resourceful, but now she's just a simpering generic wife/mother figure. At the end, she dies in childbirth, for no good medical reason. Oh, I get it, she has lost the will to live without "Annie" and she dies of a broken heart like a character in a stupid 19th-century Gothic romance novel. Barf! What kind of misogynist fantasy is that? Wouldn't she want to live on for the sake of her kids, if not herself? The Star Wars galaxy is apparently not a good place to be a woman.
The second time I watched Episode 3, I strategically timed a bathroom break to escape from the worst of the Padme-Anakin dialogue. And it is bad. It is truly, deeply bad. There's not as much of it as there was in Episode 2, which is good, but it's still bad. In the future, when one of our guy friends tries to hit on a girl using lame, awkward cliches, we will mock him by saying "Ha-ha, you sound like Anakin Skywalker!!" And when one of our girl friends says some dumb, mushy, insincere line to a guy, we will mock her by saying "Ha-ha, you sound like Queen Amidala!!". That is how bad this dialogue is. It will become the basis against which all future bad dialogue is judged.
Finally, this is a movie about how good gets corrupted into evil, but its ideas about good and evil are confused and self-contradictory. Examples:
Anakin: the Jedi fight for good.
Palpatine: Good is a point of view.
later, after Anakin is corrupted:
Palpatine is evil!
from my point of view, the Jedi are evil.
From these two exchanges, we get the idea that the Jedi have a very strict, absolute morality, whereas the Sith argue for moral relativism. But then, later in the same scene, is this exchange:
Anakin: If you're not with me, you're my enemy.
Obi-wan: Only the Sith deal in absolutes.
I like the idea of having Anakin quote George Bush to show how evil he's become. This is a good line. But do you see the contradiction? Seems pretty hypocritical, Obi-Wan, when you and Yoda have been dealing in absolutes the whole movie and the Sith haven't.
Throughout the prequel trilogy they Jedi preach a lot but they often don't practice what they preach. Yoda seems to have no compunctions with killing all the clone soldiers who get between him and the Jedi temple. Come on, Yoda, they're just doing their jobs. What, clones don't have souls? Also the Jedi repeatedly overlook the obvious. Dooku tells Obi-Wan flat out that there's a Sith in the senate, but three years later when they find out it's true it comes as a complete surprise. Come on, Obi-Wan, even if you think he was lying don't you think you should have looked into it? Finally, their standards of training seem to have declined in the years of peace. Obi-Wan and Anakin can easily hack their way through thousands of droids and block every single laser beam aimed at them, but the other Jedi die when their own troops shoot them in the back. Come on, guys, where are your vaunted Jedi danger-senses?
So, maybe this is all intentional. Maybe the prequel trilogy is trying to tell us that the Jedi order falls because they are arrogant, hypocritical, and soft. You know, that would be almost like depth, or irony, or subtext! Something that good movies have! Things that are left unsaid, suggestions that all is not as it seems, heroes who may not be as heroic as they think. Good movies often drop hints about these things. Star Wars is directed in such a flat and literal and earnest way -- again, like something a 13-year-old wrote. It's all hey-guess-what-happens-next and hey-look-at-this-it's-shiny! And only afterwards when you think about all the consistencies do you start to wonder what's really going on. In other words, all the depth of Star Wars is in its plot holes. Get it? Deep? Holes?
Ahem. So, in summary, there's a lot to like and a lot to hate. They put so much effort into designing every little detail of every ship and every alien even if it just appears in the background for two seconds of one scene. If only they had put a comparable amount of work into maybe
WRITING DIALOGUE THAT DOESN'T SUCK!!!! It's not just the love chit-chat that's lame. Like when there's a close-up on General Grievous and you think he's about to say a cool line, but instead he says something like "You are doomed!" Well du-uh. Palpatine steals the show because he's the only actor good enough to take such lame dialogue and make it believable. In fact, I was talking with Stephen about this movie the other night, and we realized that every single problem with the whole prequel trilogy could be solved if the dialogue were just changed. You could add more depth to the background and the characters, fix all the plot holes, and get rid of the really groan-inducing stuff.
And you know, we could do it. We have the technology. Me and Stephen, that is. We could record our own voices, and do some editing and re-order scenes while we're at it. It would be like an anime fan-dub, like "Evangelion: Death and Re-Death", except we would be improving the movie instead of mocking it.
Know anybody who can do a good Yoda voice?