The Dartmouth Observer

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Monday, May 30, 2005
Surprised Joe and Dartlog haven't linked to this

Andrew Sullivan mentions an ESPN piece on Dartmouth's gay lacrosse goalie. Long, but very much worth a read.

Saturday, May 28, 2005
Star Wars

A bit late, I know, but the euphoria of witnessing the Greatest Football Game Ever Played two mornings ago rather drained my desire to write anything for the next few days. However, since I said I'd say something about the movie, I will.

It was a decent effort. Not as a bad as the first two, but certainly not as good as Empire. On the plus side, the lightsaber fights were on the whole good, particularly Yoda-Palpatine, and Windu -Palpatine. I just wish we had seen some variety in the choice of sabers employed: Anakin briefly fought with two sabers against Dooku in Episode II, and I was hoping to see him do the same this time around. But the use of force powers was quite good: choke, which Dooku used on Obi-Wan at the start (I thought it only worked on muggles), push, right at the end between Obi-Wan and Anakin, and throw, which Palpatine used to great effect to get Yoda off his back in the senate chamber. And speaking of Palpatine, Ian McDiarmid gave an excellent performance, especially before he was outed as Sidious and received his, erh, makeover.

I'll just point out one negative, since the others have been covered elsewhere. Between Coruscant, Kashyyyk, Utapao, and Mustafar, the audience simply had too many places to take in. There was never enough time to get the feel of any of the latter three settings, especially as our time there was solely consumed by frenetic battle sequences. Empire, by contrast, besides featuring real sets, took us slowly from Hoth, to Dagobah, and then to Bespin via the asteroid field sequence. We had the chance at each locale to take a look around, and as a consequence the level of immersion was far deeper. Return of the Jedi is even leaner on sets: Tatooine, and then the Endor moon.

Not so in Revenge of the Sith. At Utapao -- which looks spectacular, by the way -- Obi-Wan arrives, and the next thing you know it he's flying around on a giant lizard. At Kashyyk, we arrive to see the droid army motoring across the lake. At Mustafar, Anakin arrives, hacks the Separatist leaders to pieces, and then confronts Obi-Wan. Where's the "local colour," so to speak?

All that said, I enjoyed myself, and am a little sad that it's all over.

Friday, May 20, 2005
Movie reviews

I'd like you to know that I've seen Revenge of the Sith and will be posting a review shortly. I also saw Kingdom of Heaven last night and must say that Ridley Scott's depiction of the Saladin and the Saracens as somehow less responsible for the violence that engulfed the Holy Land was irksome to the historian in me. Less so was having an illiterate blacksmith come up with the sort of rhetoric that would have made Cicero proud (okay, maybe I'm exaggerating). Still, taken as a movie and not a thinly-disguised attempt at political commentary, Kingdom was really very good. Edward Norton as King Baldwin IV of Jerusalem (an uncredited role) was the pick of the bunch.

Friday, May 13, 2005
Executive assistant?
In opposition to these good guys are the imperial forces led by someone called the Grand Moff Tarkin (Peter Cushing) and his executive assistant, Lord Darth Vader (David Prowse), a former student of Ben Kenobi who elected to leave heaven sometime before to join the evil ones.
Read more from the NYT's review of Star Wars IV here.

Memo to Peter and Todd

James Panero, following up on an essay by Roger Kimball in the latest New Criterion, is hailing Robinson and Zywicki's victory as "one more battle won in the effort to retake the universities." I'm a little skeptical of the military metaphor. As I've said previously, I don't think Dartmouth is in dire straits; and I certainly don't think it needs to be "retaken." We aren't Crusaders and Dartmouth isn't Jerusalem. In fact, I think conflict and open hostility between the new trustees and the administration or faculty is a bad thing. Conservative stalwarts may recollect with fondness the battles the Review waged against official Dartmouth in the 1980s, and may look forward to such skirmishes in the years to come, but I don't. I don't want my professors protesting on the Green; I want them in the classroom, teaching students. This is not to say that I'm against the trustees criticizing the faculty or administration. Some degree of criticism is necessary, because some things -- like tuition fees for instance -- need to be looked at. The question is how.

Crucially -- and I hope this isn't a radical suggestion -- Todd and Peter need to dispense with, or at least find alternatives to, the staged meetings between trustees and Dartmouth students that take place every once in a while at the Top of the Hop. Like the proverbial prince who disguised himself so that he could wander the streets of his kingdom and learn about his citizens, they ought to make the effort to get to know Dartmouth's students, administrators, and faculty in more informal settings (disguises probably aren't necessary). Most importantly, they must meet those who may not be immediately inclined to trust them. Susan Ackerman may have had her mind made up about conservatives before she was even born, but I know that there are reasonable people out there, liberal though they instinctively may be, who will listen to them. It will be a challenge for Peter and Todd to sway these people, and they will encounter hostility along the way, but I'm confident they're capable of it.

Congratulations to Todd Zywicki '88 and Peter Robinson '79 for being elected to the Dartmouth Board of Trustees

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Just finished Steven Runciman's Sicilian Vespers, a sweeping history of the Mediterranean world in the 13th century, with its centerpiece event the Sicilian uprising against French rule in 1282. As expected, the prose is so good it almost reads itself; and Runciman's command of history's complexities is quite astonishing. His narrative spans the entire Mediterranean world from Spain to Byzantium and teems with characters big and small -- countless popes, conniving Byzantine diplomats, dashing admirals, the larger-than-life figures of Emperor Frederick II and his bastard son Manfred (the subject of a poem by Lord Byron, if I'm not mistaken). And yet at no point in the book do the multiple plot threads seem in danger of unravelling. Each character's fate is resolved, whether within a couple of pages of the character being introduced, or several chapters later. Each subplot runs its course -- though not necessarily as expected.

Friday, May 06, 2005
Sorry for not posting lately. It's not that work is all of a sudden more hectic. Perhaps I'm suffering from Blogger Fatigue (which affects even the best of them -- although you wouldn't know it from reading Sullivan); perhaps -- and I think this is the more likely reason -- I've just lost a little interest in politics and the stuff that usually features on this blog. Take the trustee election, for instance (which should be over by the time I type this): I had my say some time ago (just scroll down), but haven't really said anything since. Why? Well, for one thing, Dartlog's covering the election just fine. And second, like Brad Plumer, I'm beginning to think it doesn't matter that much in the grand scheme of things. I'd like Todd and Peter to get elected, but it isn't the end of the world if they lose (as I trust they know).

Perhaps it's this country. A fellow countryman -- someone whom I went to school with a long time ago -- has just been threatened with legal action from the government for posting defamatory comments about them on his erstwhile blog. Since he's taken down his blog, I've no way of knowing what exactly he said.

But what the heck. This is outrageous. (See here for extended coverage.) It's one thing to sue prominent opposition leaders, as the PAP does so often (and which I also disagree with, by the way). It's another thing entirely to threaten legal action against one random blogger for speaking his mind. What possible harm to the government's reputation could he have done? Don't those government lawyers have better things to do than comb the web for criticism that "went way beyond fair comment"? Apparently not. And what constitutes "beyond fair comment"?

I'm not expecting any answers soon. And that's why the powers that be shouldn't expect me to hang around for longer than I have to.