- The Washington Times - Monday, May 16, 2005

Fading force

“There has not, in fact, been a good ‘Star Wars’ movie since the first one. ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ and ‘Return of the Jedi,’ despite the presence of Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, the hologram of Alec Guinness and the voice of James Earl Jones, are rote elaborations of a story arc that was pretty thin to start with.

“Like the prequels of the last six years, they were made primarily to gratify a marketing line and, possibly, their creator’s ego. …

“But the real loss … was the cantankerous sexual triangle of Han Solo, Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia. … [Director George] Lucas seemed all too aware that the big money was made not through ticket sales to adults or even teenagers, but through toy sales to children. …

“As a consequence, Mr. Lucas jettisoned the sex stuff, along with any other traces of personality that had crept into his original story, in favor of poorly conceived Manichean tropes about paternity, empire, and the light and dark sides of the Force, plus a lot of warm-fuzzy thrown in for the kids.”

—Dale Peck, writing on “Sith, Boom, Bah,” Thursday in the New York Observer

Free to blog

“Last September, when bloggers deconstructed Dan Rather and Company over the bogus documents they used to question George W. Bush’s National Guard service, one CNN executive said that a typical blogger is ‘a guy sitting in his living room in his pajamas.’ He dismissed the blog phenomenon as having ‘no checks and balances.’ …

“[T]he CNN reaction to blog successes is echoed by other ‘mainstream’ media. …

“The one word that seems most apt in describing blogs as a group is ‘freedom.’ There is nearly infinite freedom of choice and there is the freedom from homogenized story selection and slant, which for years went from the New York Times to the evening’s network news broadcasts to newspapers, radio, and television in the hinterland. Amen.”

—Peter Hannaford, writing on “Pajama Game,” Thursday in the American Spectator Online at www.spectator.org

Sexist science?

“I am a feminist. I believe that women have been oppressed, discriminated against, and harassed for thousands of years. …

“But it is crucial to distinguish the moral proposition that people should not be discriminated against on account of their sex — which I take to be the core of feminism — and the empirical claim that males and females are biologically indistinguishable. … The truth cannot be sexist. …

“[A] number of public statements that have been made [in the] last couple of months can be seen as red herrings, and should never have been made by anyone who understands the nature of statistical distributions. This includes the accusation that [Harvard] President [Lawrence] Summers implied that ‘50 percent of the brightest minds in America do not have the right aptitude for science,’ that ‘women just can’t cut it,’ and so on. These statements are statistically illiterate. …

“For example, it’s obvious that distributions of height for men and women overlap: it’s not the case that all men are taller than all women. But while at 5-foot-10 there are 30 men for every woman, at 6 feet there are 2,000 men for every woman. Now, sex differences in cognition tend not to be so extreme, but the statistical phenomenon is the same.”

—Steven Pinker, Harvard University psychology professor, in an online debate at www.edge.org

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