Why Star Wars Sucks

“They were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Naturally they became heroes.” — Prologue, Star Wars novelization by George Lucas

Star Trek is about to go dormant, a decade after descending into gross suckage. I can’t help but hope that it hibernates for decades. It likely won’t. The Star Wars franchise once descended into dormancy after a disappointing third film; when it revived fifteen years later, things had become even worse. (Admittedly, the new Battlestar Galactica kicks ass, but that’s only because it’s a re-imagining of the original concept; if it had picked up where the old show left off, it wouldn’t have worked.)

But why does Star Wars suck now? What happened? Where did it go wrong?

I wrote this three years ago during my rant on the last film:

As we left the theater, Pam wondered aloud if George Lucas had even watched the first three films before making the last two. He seems to have forgotten what Star Wars was about. Or perhaps changed his mind.

Now that I’ve read the script and the graphic novel for the upcoming Star Wars Episode Three: Revenge of the Sith, I’ve begun to think more on where the franchise failed.

The Role of Our Heroes
In the original Star Wars, Han and Luke and Leia were accidental heroes. They were small players on a big stage. The galaxy in which they lived was vast, and full of wonder.

Luke, for example, was a simple moisture farmer on a backwater planet. He had no future. His dreams of leaving to join “The Academy” were constantly dashed.

LUKE: It just isn’t fair. Oh, Biggs is right. I’m never gonna get out of here!
THREEPIO: Is there anything I might do to help?
LUKE: Well, not unless you can alter time, speed up the harvest, or teleport me off this rock!
THREEPIO: I don’t think so, sir. I’m only a droid and not very knowledgeable about such things. Not on this planet, anyways. As a matter of fact, I’m not even sure which planet I’m on.
LUKE: Well, if there’s a bright center to the universe, you’re on the planet that it’s farthest from.
THREEPIO: I see, sir.

Now we’re asked to believe that all along Luke was some crown prince, destined for greatness. That Chewbacca and Yoda are pals. (Wait and see, wait and see.) Instead of being bit players in a galactic struggle — iconic everymen (and everywomen) — our heroes are actually larger-than-life bluebloods upon whom the fate of the galaxy has always rested.

Give me a break.

Focus Shift
The first film (or fourth, depending on how you count) focused on the periphery of this galactic struggle. The second film shifted more to the center, though it still felt as if our heroes were only small players. The third film, however, crossed the line: our heroes were in the thick of it, key to the galaxy’s freedom. And with the prequel trilogy, we’re no longer able to see the periphery at all. Lucas has forgotten about it. (Or discarded it.)

And with it, he’s forgotten about fun.

Would it be fun to watch a movie about the United States Senate debating trade sanctions? Of course not. Would it be fun to watch a movie about a Kennedy or a Bush kid coming to power? I don’t think so. Would it be fun to watch a movie about a poor kid who becomes a karate champion? You know it would. (“Wax on, wax off, Daniel-san!”)

Over the past twenty years, Lucas has gone from a young, creative artist to a wealthy movie mogul. His realm of experience has changed, and I think that shows in his filmmaking. If you skim early drafts of The Star Wars, which once included material from all of the films in the series, it’s clear that Lucas has shifted from the realm of the common to the realm of elite. What was once important to him, no longer is. He’s writing from his experience, and his experience is one of wealth and comfort.

Scale
In the prequels, Lucas has changed the scale of the films. The galaxy seems small. Our heroes play central, pivotal roles in the titanic (but nonsensical) political struggles.

One of the wonderful things about the original Star Wars universe was the diversity of life and civilization, the awesome scale of the story. The galaxy seemed vast. No wonder our heroes were small players; there were simply too many other people for them to be anything else. There were always new and bizarre aliens to discover, strange new worlds to explore. (To be fair, Lucas has continued to entertain with unique worlds; I loved the water world Kamino in Attack of the Clones.)

In the early years, the Star Wars story was continued in novelizations and comic books. Authors like Alan Dean Foster and Brian Daley seemed to grasp the fundamental concept of a vast universe. The comics most certainly got it. These supplementary texts effectively conveyed the sense of scale present in the first film.

The prequels, however, make the galaxy seem like a small and petty place.

Prettification
The original trilogy — or at least the first two-thirds of it — was dirty and gritty. That was part of its charm. The Millennium Falcon didn’t work. Luke’s garage was a mess (and whoa! so was the jawa’s sandcrawler). The base on the ice planet Hoth was in scattered disarray. Yoda was a slovenly housekeeper. The Death Star was mostly polish and chrome, but even it had a stinky trash compactor.

The space ships and the ground vehicles looked real. One got the feeling they might have been produced on a planet called Detroit, and that with time they’d gradually fallen apart. Many of the ships and vehicles we saw had outlived their warranties.

Compare that with the new trilogy. Everything is bright, shiny and new. Only Watto’s shop on Tattooine bares any sort of resemblance to the old messes we’re used to. (Oh — and the pods for the pod-race; they’re fairly junky.) All of the space ships we see are sparkly clean. Maybe that’s a cost of moving from models to computer animation.

The water world Kamino (to which Kenobi flies to learn about clone troopers) is fascinating, but I have to wonder: don’t things on this planet rust? Isn’t there seaweed of some sort? Or is everything just washed clean by the perpetual rain? And, on a larger scale, do all of the planets have oxygen-based atmospheres?

De-Mystification
In the original trilogy — especially the first film — The Force was a mysterious mystical mental power. It was a rare gift, difficult to harness.

The prequel trilogy has made a mockery of The Force. Does anyone say “May the Force be with you?” Of course not. George Lucas has forgotten about it. All he remembers is the Jedi mind trick, that Jedi can jump really very high, and that the Force can let bad Jedi shoot lightning out of their fingertips.

Yes, the Force was a silly quasi-religious structure. So what? It was fun. It doesn’t even exist in the prequel trilogy. It’s been replaced by midichlorians and magic.

QUI-GON : With your permission, my Master. I have encountered a vergence in the Force.
YODA : A vergence, you say?
MACE WINDU : Located around a person?
QUI-GON : A boy… his cells have the highest concentration of midi-chlorians I have seen in a life form. It is possible he was conceived by the midi-chlorians.
MACE WINDU : You’re referring to the prophesy of the one who will bring balance to the Force…you believe it’s this boy??
QUI-GON : I don’t presume…
YODA : But you do! Revealed your opinion is.
QUI-GON : I request the boy be tested.

I guarantee you, that scene would never have found its way into the first trilogy. (In fact, I’ll go so far as to say that if The Phantom Menace had been made first, there never would have been a sequel of any sort. The film would have bombed because of stuff like that.)

It may be that George Lucas has lost religion during the past twenty years. Maybe he’s an atheist now, and doesn’t want to encourage any sort of religious thought, and so has shifted the Force from “hocus-pocus religion” (as Han would call it) to a pseudo-scientific explanation. I’d rather have the hocus-pocus religion, and so would you.

Bad Acting
Natalie Portman is not a bad actress, but George Lucas’ direction sure makes her seem like one.

Ewan McGregor is not a bad actor, but George Lucas’ direction sure makes him seem like one.

Even Hayden Christiansen isn’t that bad an actor, but it’s unbelievable that he was asked to carry this prequel trilogy on his shoulders. To make matters worse, George Lucas seems to have chosen to print the worst possible reading of his every line.

Marketing
Do I really need to go into this? Have you ever seen a larger marketing juggernaut? It makes me wonder if the this prequel trilogy is simply a six-hour long advertisement meant to get consumers to buy toys, tacos, and dark chocolate M&Ms.

The appearance of the first Ewok marked the end of Star Wars as we know it.

Nonsensical Political Struggles
Here’s a quiz:

1) What is the plot of The Phantom Menace?
2) What is the plot of Attack of the Clones?
3) Who are the good guys in each of these films? Who are the bad guys? Why?

The first question is moderately easy. The bad guys are the (gasp) Trade Federation. They’ve blockaded Naboo for some reason (do we ever know why? does it matter?).

(And let me rant about this for a moment: how stupid is it that the “blockade” is simply an equatorial band of ships? A band of ships that may even be in stationary orbit above the queen’s palace? Pretty damn stupid, I say. Even stupider is the fact that when our heroes try to escape the planet, they blast off right into the blockade instead of, say, heading toward the polar regions in order to elude the known enemy. Dumb.)

The second question, however: I defy you to answer the second question. (Harry Knowles once mounted a spirited, and earnest, attempt to do so, but only confused me more. He seemed to miss the irony that the plot actually needed explaining, and that it took him several hundred words to do so. Inadequately.)

Here’s a second quiz:

1) What is the plot of A New Hope?
2) What is the plot of The Empire Strikes Back?
3) What is the plot of Return of the Jedi?

Hmmm. Suddenly it seems obvious that the prequels lack a…

Loss of Wonder
The fundamental problem with the prequel trilogy is that they no longer impart a sense of wonder.

The first Star Wars films were filled with wonder: the aliens in the cantina, the lumbering Star Destroyers, the awesome power of the Death Star, the Imperial Walkers storming the base on the ice planet Hoth, the cloud city of Bespin, and even the speeder race across the forest moon of Endor.

The first two films amazed because they imparted a sense of wonder. Our heroes were small, but they’re actions took place on a vast an awesome stage.

Compare this to the eye-sore that is the climax of Attack of the Clones. Can you follow what’s happening? Of course not. Nobody can. It’s an orgasm of gratuitous digital effects. There are hundreds, or thousands, or hundreds of thousands, of objects on screen at once. There’s nothing to latch onto.

My heart broke for every dead X-Wing pilot in the first film. When Porkins flamed out, I cared. I cared because the battle was kept on a small scale, an identifiable scale. There’s no wonder involved in an all-out fight between a gajillion clone troopers and whoever it is they’re fighting. (I can’t even remember, which is a bad, bad sign.)

Another example: I want to be awed by the vast Asimovian city-world of Coruscant, but I can’t. It’s an ocean of skyscrapers and painful-to-watch aerial highways. It’s nothing but a cornucopia of digital effects. It doesn’t give me a sense of awe; it makes me depressed.

What Might Have Been
For several years, I have maintained (and I continue to maintain) that the ideal Star Wars episode one was actually Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. It would be child’s play to retcon that film so that it occurred in the Star Wars mythos. It would fit perfectly.

But there are scores of other possibilities that would have worked well. Any half-way literate Star Wars fan could have constructed a better prequel trilogy than what Lucas has produced. My heart aches to consider what might have been.

Conclusion
Is there hope for Star Wars? I think there may be. But if a final trilogy is going to be made, it oughtn’t be done for many yeas. A decade maybe. Yes, I know George Lucas is old, but so what? The less he’s involved the better, in my opinion. I think it’s important that the stories come from his mind, that he provide the basis for the screenplay, but the best thing that could be done for the franchise now is for Lucas to take a back seat. Let others take the helm.

Despite all of these complaints, despite the fact the current state of Star Wars sucks, the fact remains that I will go see Revenge of the Sith in the theaters. My geek friends and I have discussed boycotting the film on principle, but ultimately I’m going to lose this moral battle. And maybe that’s the only thing that matters. (The one saving grace is this: my expectations for this film could not possibly be any lower; it’s as if it cannot help but exceed them.)

The kids I know have begun to love love Star Wars. Harrison and Emma, for example, have now seen the entire original trilogy. They love it. They play Star Wars all the time, exactly like we used to do. I hope they don’t see the prequel trilogy for many years. Let them enjoy this sense of wonder while they can.

Postscript
It’s still possible to produce Star Wars material that maintains the feeling of the original trilogy. It happens all the time. Books, comics, and video games all tap into this feeling now and again. For example, the game Jedi Outcast, which I obsessed over several years ago, did an outstanding job of putting the player in a galaxy that felt like the one from the original trilogy. It’s possible, but not from the mind of George Lucas.

Links
My memories as part of the Star Wars generation
Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace script
78 Reasons to Hate Star Wars Episode One (as if you needed any more)
Star Wars Episode 2: Attack of the Clones script
64 Reasons to Hate Star Wars Episode Two (as if you needed any more)
My review of Attack of the Clones
Star Wars Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith script (plot summary)

Comments


On 29 April 2005 (10:58 AM),
dowingba said:

Plot of Episode 2: Chancellor Palpatine, the Lord of the Sith, secretly builds a clone army and creates a war to secure his place as supreme emporer of the republic. Anakin marries Padme, starts to turn to the dark side.

What is so complicated about that?

And the one thing I love about ALL of the star wars films, is the “lived-in” feel of the universe. As you describe above, how things look worn and used. Same in the new trilogy as it is in the old. Not sure what you’re problem is, here. CG has nothing to do with the lack of used-ness of the ships and stuff, because there is no lack.

I’m really sorry to say, but you seem to be falling into that ever growing camp that (at least subconsciously) believes:

A) CG is evil.
B) New is evil.

The old Star Wars films are awesome. I’ve watched them a bazillion times. The new ones are different, and awesome. Many people complain that the ships’ styles are too different. Yeah, they are ships built during a time of peace (there hasn’t been a full scale war in THOUSANDS OF YEARS), built for looks, much like cars nowadays. In the old trilogy, we’re seeing ships and vehicles built for war, like jeeps and hummers nowadays. The Deathstar is a giant war machine.

I didn’t much like the new Yoda puppet in Ep1, but the CG Yoda in Ep2 (which was based on the Empire puppet) is perfect.

Lucas does know what he’s doing. He’s dedicated his entire life to these movies, trust me he hasn’t forgotten about the original trilogy. The whole point of the prequels is to better explain the original movies. It’s backstory, much like the appendices in any given Tolkien book.

Now, maybe someone like me, who loves reading the appendices in Tolkien books, is who these films are tailored toward. I don’t know. But I’m definitely a fan.

The acting, while not great, doesn’t bother me. The acting in the original trilogy was just as bad, in my opinion. There are some definite weak spots in the Ep2 script, though — near the beginning of the film, it seems way too rushed as they try to cough out as much plot build up as possible. The worst actor in any Star Wars film to date, though, is the black guy who plays Padme’s chief of security in Ep2. Man, that guy can barely even choke out his lines.

And the Luke being a “crown prince, destined for greatness” isn’t even a construct of the new trilogy; it was revealed during Empire, hailed by many as the greatest Star Wars film to date.

Furthermore, as each new film gets closer to the timeline of the original trilogy, they get more “Star Wars”ish, if you follow me. Ep2 was definitely much more reminiscent of the original trilogy than Ep1, and I’m very excited to see Ep3 (and I’ve been very careful not to see any spoilers…your links on this page not helping matters much…the dark side of the force is strong…)

On 29 April 2005 (11:27 AM),
jeremy said:

Harrison and Emma won’t be able to handle the most recent three movies for some time – the first three were a stretch. Believe it or not, I think the new computer effects make the newest movies way to hard-core for the kids.

On 29 April 2005 (11:58 AM),
Rich R said:

Well, I’m not a big fan of the last 2 movies, but I’m not 8-14 anymore. I have also been exposed to lots of special effects, vs. not having seen very many good ones when the original came out.

I heard that the IMAX version of ep2 was the one to watch. They had to cut 45 minutes out because IMAX film is hard to string up and can’t be longer than about 90 minutes. SO the entire love story got cut out. I may have actually liked the movie in that state.

As far as ep3 goes, I think I may like it best of the newest set– maybe even better than Jedi… because it lends it self to less fluffiness.

The point I have to really disagree with you on is marketing. Yes the machine for ep3 is a juggernaut, but Lucas was showing his prowess when he made ep4. He was the first director to keep all of the toy/ancillary marketing rights to his little film. The studio happily gave those rights to the young fool. And he had the last laugh. Was the marketing as sophisticated and as prevalent– no. But he was the start of making money from a movie outside of the box office.

On 29 April 2005 (12:54 PM),
dowingba said:

Also: Luke starts out as a young poor farmboy from the far outreaches of space who dreams of becoming a star pilot.

Anakin starts out as a young poor slave boy from the far outreaches of space (same planet as Luke) who dreams of becoming a star pilot.

On 29 April 2005 (03:16 PM),
Denise said:

You know – I read this whole post thinking my thoughts exactly but then I read dowingba’s comments and I can see the argument. Looking at it from a pre-war point of view makes it easier to swallow.

I still agree that I don’t like the CG, but mostly when dealing with actual characters in the movie. I loved Chewy – he was one of my favorite characters in the first three movies – but I despise Jar Jar Binks. I think he would have been much more believable if they would have made a real costume for him instead of just using the computer graphics.

On 29 April 2005 (04:16 PM),
Dave said:

Although I agree with JD on his overall disappointment with the state of the Star Wars mythos as it has progressed (and degraded), I do see some redeeming qualities to the arc as a whole. I also think that the series (original) is not without it’s warts and that JD would gloss over them in a wave of nostalgia.

I agree with JD’s disappointment with the Force becoming just a matter of midichlorian manipulation and losing the mystical nature that seems to pervade the first three movies. To salvage the difference between series (original) and series (followup), in the second (pre-Empire) films, the average person probably didn’t know that midichlorians formed the basis of Force-sensitivity and so to the average person it looked mystical. By series (original) the only people around who would have known about them would be Palpatine, Vader, Yoda and Ken-obi (so spelled b/c JD’s filters won’t let one write out “K” “E” “N” “O” “B” “I”). The former two aren’t going to advertise this, nor are the latter two going to let on that they know a whole lot about it for fear of being exterminated. Of course, it robs us, the viewers, of the mystical experience when we find out about it/them.

Second, I view the glossy and new, nearly devoid of wear, nature of the series (followup) films as being the cause of the Republic’s fall. Palpatine uses that sterility and complacence to topple the Republic and replace it with the Empire. Similarly, Lucas is using it to simultaneously provide us with what in many ways is a picture of an egalitarian utopia in order to show us just how poorly things go (for certain people) under the Empire and how much is lost in the fall of the Republic. Under the Empire things get much Darker (from the Death Star to Bespin to the Emperor’s quarters) and grittier for most of the common folk. In contrast, the Death Star is the epitome of sterility, both in form and function (excluding the trash compactor, which I’ll deal with in a moment).

Third, the series (original) is not without it’s gaping holes. Most critics thought that Mark Hamill’s acting (along with the majority of the rest of the cast except for Alec Guiness) was absolute crap and couldn’t believe that Lucas would cast such a neophyte in such a pivotal role. And who puts something as mundane (and worthless) as a trash compactor on a brand new space station that’s designed to vaporize planets? You’d think they’d come up with something better to do with trash than mash it once they figured out hyperspace travel. Worse, why bother to stick some kind of monster in the brand new space station’s trash compactor? How did it get there? Is this some kind of Sith garbage disposal technology, or merely a really old style trash compacting defense system?

What I’ve never understood is why, when Vader’s wandering around on that first ship (and every scene thereafter) in the original film, doesn’t he recognize a) the astro mech that was his buddy for years and which was used to help pilot his fighter, and b) the protocol droid that he built from scratch as a boy, was his companion for decades, and used to assist Padme (his wife)? Would it not tell even the casual observer that there was something fishy going on, or at least some connection to one’s former life and spouse when your former property ends up in the hands of your sworn enemy? Or better yet, wouldn’t both droids know that Anakin Skywalker = Darth Vader? You might think that they’d say something to someone (ie, Leia) at some point. Or, hmmmmmm, why wouldn’t Vader figure out that there are some Skywalker’s around and keep an eye on them? Oh, wait, his mother didn’t have any family, so apparently Luke went into the infant Jedi witness protection program but they decided to throw everyone off the scent by keeping the same last name as his father and making some poor dupes who just appear to be hapless moisture farmers when in fact they are really highly trained Alderaanian or Naboo-ese agents who are sworn to protect Luke from his heritage by raising him as a hapless moisture farmer keep him in squalor and absolute ignorance. Fortunately there’s a hermit nearby who dresses like a Jedi and has the same last name as Vader’s original master but because he’s changed his first name to Ben, no one can see that he’s really Superman.

Or whatever…

I find that the books that’ve been published in the Star Wars universe go a long way toward rectifying some of the flaws JD notes in the films and filling in many of the blanks. On the other hand, let’s face facts. Lucas didn’t have the whole story arc in mind when he wrote “Star Wars”, “The Empire Strikes Back” and “The Return of the Jedi”. The second set of films is a cobbled together set of ideas that’s designed to capitalize on the success of the first series of films. That, ultimately, is what handicaps the new films.

On 29 April 2005 (04:21 PM),
Jennifer said:

As I write this response Emma and Harrison are playing Star Wars. They have built and Imperial Walker out of k’nex. Han, Luke and Leia are actually characters from Harrison’s pirate set. Legos are used to create various ships. It doesn’t matter the toy, the play is always Star Wars.
Harrison’s favorite part of the trilogy is when Darth Vader saves Luke and returns to the good side. He also likes to act out Luke getting his arm cut off. Harrison has also learned how to play the theme music from Star Wars.
Emma’s favorite part is when Princess Leia gets chained to Jabba, because she says it is silly. Of course she also loves the ewoks.
I prefer to enjoy the fun of the original trilogy and ignore the new releases. I have to go now, an argument has ensued over the color of Leia’s eyes.

On 29 April 2005 (09:42 PM),
dowingba said:

I assume the droids have had their memory erased at some point. I also assume that Episode 3 will explain when and why this happens. Also, when does Darth Vader see either of the droids when he’s in that ship? That’s right: never.

What we also don’t know: does Darth Vader know he has surviving children? From what I understand, he kills Padme when she’s pregnant, perhaps even when she’s in the early stages of pregnancy — so he might not even know she was pregnant in the first place. I don’t think he’s gonna spend much time combing the outer reaches of the galaxy for skywalkers, in that case. Not that he probably has much free time to do so anyway, as I assume the life of a Sith is much the same as the life of a Jedi, in that they generally just embark on various missions, without much vacation time.

I don’t think secrecy is why Leia’s name was changed…she was adopted by people named Organa. Luke was adopted by people named Skywalker, so his name remains Skywalker. I don’t know how many sextillions of lifeforms live in the galaxy, but I’m sure there are plenty of Skywalkers around — so even if Vader was looking around for Skywalkers, it might be hard to pinpoint who his son is, who he doesn’t even know, or care, exists. Also, I doubt Tatooine has much in the way of a registrar of names on hand, as there isn’t any government to speak of there. So unless Vader goes there and knocks on every door asking “is there a Skywalker here?”, while getting truthful answers out of each resident, even though he looks so menacing…

On 29 April 2005 (11:14 PM),
J.D. said:

I am so dedicated to you, the readers of foldedspace. How dedicated? I’m so dedicated that I spent my afternoon re-watching The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones.

Here’s a dirty little secret: although I complain about these two films, although I just wrote an entire weblog lambasting them, I still watch each of them a couple of times a year. I’ve probably seen The Phantom Menace ten times and Attack of the Clones at least half a dozen times.

Usually, I find it an exercise in sadism. Today it was kind of fun. Today, I took notes. Lots of them. I mean that I annotated the damn films down to the second in order to reply to some of dowingba’s points. In the end, however, I think that’d be counter-productive. Instead, I’ll reply with general impressions.

First off, I was surprised to find that this time I found the second film more enjoyable than the first. This has never been the case before. Today, though, Jar-Jar Binks grated just a little too much; the political intrigue was slower in the first film; and, perhaps worst of all, there were actually more plot holes in the first film.

What about the “lived in” feel of the universe? Dowingba’s right that the first film does share that with the original trilogy. I’d missed it before, but sure enough, it’s there: Watto’s junkyard, Anakin’s home, the various ships (except the Naboo flyers), and even the close-ups of the battle droids all exhibit signs of wear and tear.

(That’s not to say that I don’t have problems with the CGI, because I do. The large CGI armies in the final battle scene are painful to watch. I wish that those who work on CGI battle scenes would watch some actual footage of battle scenes staged with live actors, or, preferably read accounts and view drawings/photos/paintings of historical battles.)

However, Attack of the Clones is guilty as charged. Every set in the film is spotless. Nearly every ship is spit-and-polished. Remember how I complained about the structures on the water world Kamino not exhibiting any signs of rust of mildew, etc? It’s worse. Ken-obi and Jango Fett have a fire fight in which lightsabers, blasters, turbo lasers, rockets, and a jetpack all bombard a landing platform. Yet how much damage is visible? None. The platform is untouched. Bizarre! There are many similar examples. Attack of the Clones does not exhibit the same lived-in feel as the other Star Wars films: not the bars, not the ships, not the living quarters. (There are a couple of exceptions, particularly on Tattooine, but they simply serve to accentuate the problem.)

Re: CGI in general. I am guilty as charged. It’s not that I dislike new things — I don’t — but I do generally dislike CGI. It’s not that I dislike CGI out of spite, or for an arbitrary reason; it’s just that I feel that it’s often misused. Filmmakers seem unable to show restraint. There are many films that use CGI in a judicious fashion, and I’m quick to praise these. (Examples include Amelie, Spider-Man (and its sequel), and even the new Battlestar Galactica.) Too many films, though, follow the Peter Jackson’s Helms Deep path, or the Phantom Menace path, the path to the dark side, the path down which more is actually less.

Dowingba’s right about another thing: the CGI Yoda looks damn good (except during his lightsaber battle).

I still think the acting isn’t that great. I suspect this has to do with Lucas’ direction. However, after taking careful notes, and rewinding the bad scenes multiple times, it’s pretty clear that the script is the culprit. Some of the lines are just awful, no matter how they’re read.

Ultimately, some sense can be made of Episode Two’s plot. And, for the most part, dowingba has it nailed. The problem is, this whole muddled thing is very difficult to follow. As I say, I’ve watched the film a half dozen times. I’m a smart guy. I have a college degree. I read Proust for pleasure. I love the twisty passages found in a film like Rashomon. Still, I could only decipher Attack of the Clones when I took notes on the damn thing. Maybe I’m not as smart as I think I am. Maybe I’m an idiot. Or maybe we’re all confused because the plot, though present, is muddled and difficult to see.

The plot of the second film is not as simple as dowingba makes it out to be. It can be summarized thusly: for whatever reason (we’re never really sure), a group of star systems has begun to break away from the Republic. These “Separatists” are led by Count Dooku, is secretly Lord Tyranus, a dark lord of the Sith, and partner with Darth Sidious (aka the Chancellor). Tyranus has been employing Jango Fett to create an army of clones. This army, in development for ten years (since the end of episode one), is destined to be used by the Republic to fight the Separatists. (But wait! didn’t I just say Dooku led the Separatists? I did indeed.) The Separatists basically comprise various financial interests, groups with names like the Trade Federation, the Banking Guild, the Commerce Alliance, etc. Dooku — and, apparently, Jango — are helping them construct an army of battle droids. They’ve also begun to develop the battle station that we know will become the Death Star. Dooku/Tyranus is doing all this work behind the scenes while Sidious/Palpatine is manipulating the Senate and the Jedi council.

So, you see, a plot is present, it’s just rather complicated. Certainly more complicated than any of the other films in the series. Basically, Dooku/Tyranus and Sidious/Palpatine are leading the galaxy into Civil War for their own nefarious purposes.

I’m still not persuaded that the stories of the first two films (and what I know of the third) do a good job of setting up the original trilogy. In fact, they do a rather poor job. Yes they connect the dots, but they do it in a very clumsy way. They try to hard. They take the feeling of magic out of it for me.

Moving on: Dave, I’m well aware the original series has warts. Most of Return of the Jedi is one big wart. However, the problems with the first three films are smaller, to me. Also, I’m apt to be much more forgiving of these because I grew up with them. I love Buckaroo Banzai despite the fact it’s a bad film for this very reeason.

I think Dave has an interesting point regarding the clean/gritty dichotomy based on the descent into Empire.

Rich, I was actually going to mention the whole bit about Lucas negotiating for the marketing rights for the first film. I had it typed out under the marketing subhead, but then I edited it out for some reason. I should have left it in! 🙂

There you have it: Dowingba makes some good points, though I don’t agree with all of them. (Par for the course!)

Favorite part of Phantom Menace: uh, I’m thinking here — oh yeah! the pod race!

Least favorite: Jar Jar Fucking Binks

Favorite part of Attack of the Clones: Ken-obi dives through Amidala’s window, catching the assassin droid thing

Least favorite: the painful, painful, painful love scenes (followed closely by Yoda with a lightsaber)

On 01 May 2005 (08:29 PM),
Paul said:

The 5/1/05 article about Star Wars.

On 02 May 2005 (08:44 PM),
Nendae said:

You rock. Star Wars is the WORST movie ever, i am glad you know that it sucks. And the only use for a Lightsaber is as Christmas lighting. Darth Vader has Asthma. Yoda is a green prune with a speech problem. Luke is a loser. Leia gets her hair done at “Cinnabon.” George Lucas is an idiotic moron. The answer to every question in star wars is the Force.
Why did that happen?
the Force
How did it happen?
the Force
Why does star wars suck?
the Force

On 03 May 2005 (11:19 AM),
Keith said:

Years ago I read a book called True Believer. This book is about how someone can put forth a dogma, a set of beliefs and then preach them to people in such a way as to totally suspend their ability to analyzethe truth. In other words, you tell the people a lie, and they believe it, and follow the teachings that accompany the lie. This is a simplified explanation, but it covers mass movements like Nazism and Communism and anti-Starwarsism.

Are the movies perfect? No, none of them are. There is poor acting in all 5. There are numerous mistakes in all 5. One complaint I’ve seen over and over is that the starships are clean…well if thats a flaw in the first 2 movies how about in episode 5 where the Falcon flies from Hoth to Bespin…without using the hyperdrive. How many thousands of years should that have taken?

And the complaint about how the story has shifted from people on the side to people in the center is silly. Obi Wan was a General who came to fame in the Clone Wars. Of course he was going to be a character in the center, and anyone involved with him would be too. Princess Leia was a Princess and a Senator…she was not an accidental heroine by any means.

I feel the poster has fallen into the True Believer school of thought that the SW movies suck. Are they perfect? No. Do they entertain? I think so. Lucas changed moviemaking, and continues to do things no other filmmaker does.

I could go on to comment on the other points the initial poster attacks the movies on. I think in the end it would be an attack on the intelligence of the poster…If he can’t even comprehend the subtle story Lucas is weaving or enjoy the storytelling, then I doubt any criticism of mine will sway him. If he hates Star Wars so much, I suggest not seeing Episode 3, and never doing anything at all related to the 6 works.

On 05 May 2005 (07:35 AM),
A.R.Yngve said:

All you diehard fans who feel a need to “defend” STAR WARS against criticism, please bear this in mind:

1. Lucasfilm Corp. has not paid you one red cent to do this costly PR work.

2. Lucasfilm Corp. does not owe you anything.

3. You do NOT own the STAR WARS franchise. Lucasfilm Corp. does.

4. Lucasfilm Corp. is owned by George Lucas, not by you.

5. George Lucas does not owe you anything.

6. You do not owe George Lucas anything.

Now, my opinion on the prequel films… I’ve worked many years in the IT industry and seen a LOT of computer graphics.

Computer graphics in film should NEVER DRAW ATTENTION to itself.

Because when it does, it ruins the experience. You simply stop caring, when you’re constantly reminded that you’re not watching physical objects.

CGI works best with subtle effects and enhancements – such as editing or background detail – or water and cloud effects which require lots of small, anonymous particles.

The ONE acting CGI character I’ve seen who really worked in a movie, was Andy Serkis’ Gollum in THE LORD OF THE RINGS. (Maybe Peter Jackson knows something about CGI that George Lucas doesn’t.)

And yeah, the plots of the prequel are convoluted and boring. I don’t need the prequels. I have the original trilogy, and that’s fine with me.

And as for the Ewoks… I LIKE the Ewoks! I think there are a lot of people who like the Ewoks, but are scared to admit it… because they think this “emasculates” them.

-A.R.Yngve
http://yngve.bravehost.com

On 07 May 2005 (09:35 PM),
Darth Joe said:

I read the article, and found that I agreed 100% 🙁 🙁 🙁
The prequels…..well….Sucked. “From a certain point of view.” OK, they weren’t good stories, but I like seeing how Anakin became my hero. I believe that is the 1 saving grace….the 1 thing everyone wants to see….unless George screws that up too….
I can forgive him IF he apologizez to the public for these blunders and uses the profits to correct the mistakes….basically rewrite the series. But after reading parts of the script for Revenge of the Sith, I think the Force has left him, and the midi-chlorians are cutting off circulation. Characters need to be rethought for who they are…scenes need to be reshot to make sense…Yoda needs to continue to have Intelligent, Wise things to say, not just Yoda-ish. Everyone remembers “Try not; do or do not; there is no try” How many people are going to quote “Around the survivors a parameter create”??
The Jedi and the Sith BOTH need to be mysterious… that is the way of things; the way of the force.
Mabe the Midi-Chlorians can be a RESULT of access to the force, as if they depend on it for survival rather than the source of the force.
Mabe someone should create Star Wars X.
But then, mabe we should let a terminal dog die.

On 08 May 2005 (07:48 PM),
John C. Welch said:

If they wanted to keep Luke hidden, they should have changed his name to match Owen and Beru’s last name…Lars

But they did the aunt & uncle thing, so that was at least sensible.

The problem is, Lucas backed his ass into a corner with 4-6, and he’s just not good enough to handle it without being lame.

there is one essential store arc in the first 6 films…Vader’s. If the films succeed or fail it’s on the strength of that. 4-6 created a damned good villain. I mean, he tortures Han in “Empire” because he CAN. Probably because he’s trying to sucker Luke to the city.

When Vader picks up the head of Threepio, there’s a long pause there that’s never explained until the first movie. That was great.

The 4-6 Vader/Anakin was Miltonian. The 1-3 Anakin/Vader is Spearsian. There’s just nothing in 1-3 that makes you give a rat’s ass about Anakin. He’s a whiner. Hell, when I read the book where Obi-Wan finally accepts that his former student’s a jackass, he just lays the beatdown on him, and I was almost cheering.

Then in the same book, when Palpatine finds him, you realize that Vader’s a Jedi Loser because he’s got no skin. What the hell? The Force comes from your soul, but you need hands? GAHHHHHHH!!!! WHY IS THAT EVEN IN THERE? When the force goes from “The thing that binds the universe” to “A side effect of bad water, and it’s not for crips” then it goes from cool to sucks.

But at the same time, i was crying over what Lucas had done to vader. He’s small now. He’s not the embodiment of tragedy and evil. He’s just a jock who Peaked in a pod race. I was crying because never again would I be able to watch 4-6 and be as impressed by Vader. that scene in 4, early on where he’s pointing his finger at Leia? I’ll always hear, “DON’T YOU SASS YOUR FATHER LITTLE GOIL”. When he tells Luke in 6 “Now his failure is complete” I’ll be hearing “1 PWN3D K3N0B1!!!”

Lucas took Vader and made him into less that what he was, and for that, I’ll never forgive him. I haven’t paid to see a star wars movie since “Jedi” was in the theatres. I have the original series on tape. I imagine I’ll dump it to DVD. It’s wonderful, warts and all.

The new series? It’s like everything else created for the sake of technology…dead by the time you get it.

john

On 17 May 2005 (08:52 PM),
[CLONE] 1147 said:

I agree with you completely about what you had said about recapturing that original feel that isn’t a product of whoring the CGI. I thought a movie version of Jedi Outcast would be wonderful if it stayed as true to the game as it did to the star wars universe. If you haven’t played the KOTORS yet, we highly recommend them. Didn’t think I’d like them since I was never really into star wars or RPGs, but if you have already played through them you’d know what I mean.

On 20 May 2005 (12:12 PM),
Davey said:

One small point that no-one seems to have picked up on about Luke’s adoption.

Luke was living with his (step) Uncle Owen (Lars) in his Granny’s(/step-Grandpa’s) house.

Uncle Owen features in EpII as the son of the guy who maries Anakin’s mum (dunno his name – was in a wheelchair… . ..without any wheels, so just a chair really).

So Anakin actually meets the guy who ends up looking after his son whilst looking for/finding his missing mother and then burries her body outside the house where Luke will spend his youth.

All in all, not the best hiding place. Probably a good job Vader was off killing some Jedi, then some rebels throttling English blokes in Nazi uniforms and blowing up some stuff (you know, planets and that).

Also I’m not even sure (from memory) how/when Vader figures out he has a son. The name’d probably twig it for him if he heard there was a Skywalker out there causing a bit of a stink for the empire. (I’m pretty sure it is in the original films but I’d appreciate a reminder!)

Cheers.
Davey.

On 20 May 2005 (12:15 PM),
Davey said:

One small point that no-one seems to have picked up on about Luke’s adoption.

Luke was living with his (step) Uncle Owen (Lars) in his Granny’s(/step-Grandpa’s) house.

Uncle Owen features in EpII as the son of the guy who maries Anakin’s mum (dunno his name – was in a wheelchair… . ..without any wheels, so just a chair really).

So Anakin actually meets the guy who ends up looking after his son whilst looking for/finding his missing mother and then burries her body outside the house where Luke will spend his youth.

All in all, not the best hiding place. Probably a good job Vader was off killing some Jedi, then some rebels throttling English blokes in Nazi uniforms and blowing up some stuff (you know, planets and that).

Also I’m not even sure (from memory) how/when Vader figures out he has a son. The name’d probably twig it for him if he heard there was a Skywalker out there causing a bit of a stink for the empire. (I’m pretty sure it is in the original films but I’d appreciate a reminder!)

Cheers.
Davey.

On 20 May 2005 (12:53 PM),
Davey said:

D’Oh! Sorry for the double post, the page froze during submission.

I agree about the feel of Jedi Outcast.
It was the a game in a series that went all the way back to Dark Forces, then Jedi Knight, Jedi Outcast and then Jedi Academy.

Dark Forces was great! All the levels were well designed, it played well, it definately had the original Star Wars feel (minus the Lightsabers – more Rebel Aliance than Jedi Council), though the graphics are v.dated, but not without a good deal of atmosphere.
At the time the story seemed a bit detached from the Films by the end. Not to give too much away in case anyone likes retro-gaming, it seems pretty well tied in now, with the fighting droidy stuff in the prequels and the Fett’s depply rooted Imperial connections.

Jedi Knight again had great levels, more weapons, Lightsabers, great (though pretty dumb) enemies and the force. there was a pre-destiny theme which was ffamiliar from the films. Jedi Outcast brought better gameplay letting you control the Lightsabre, properly – (like “Severence”(only RPG game I could ever get into) but better), though the level design fell down a bit for me. The last one was pretty similar to Outcast though.

Anyway, relevance?
I rekon these games held true to the feel of the original films – far more so than EpI/II though I’m holding out hope that EpIII will fulfill its purpose – stepping the void.

On 20 May 2005 (08:43 PM),
Sai said:

You know I think you’ve made some really great points. I may have been introduced to Star Wars via VHS tapes by my parents, seeing I was only born the year Return of the Jedi came out, but I still had sense enough to know the new Star Wars feels nothing like the old Star Wars. So far all I’ve been able to describe it as is “it doesn’t have the same ambience”.

But what you’ve said makes alot of sense. How this vast galaxy seems a whole heck of alot smaller in the new Star Wars. How everyone is suddenly so important. I didn’t really relate to the characters in the new movies, I can barely remember most of their names. I can remember who Luke is. Who Obi-wan is. Who Yoda is. Who Leia and Han and Lando and Jabba the Hut are. But it took me a while to even connect the fact that Queen Amidala’s name is Padme. Maybe I was just too distracted by the poor acting, poor plot contruct and Unnesessary CGI, but I could barely follow episodes 1 and 2 at all. As for 3, I think I’ll wait to rent it at Blockbuster some rainy day.

And really, I don’t like to knock CGI that much, I’ve come to appreciate what computers can do for art and film over the years, but I have noticed far too much emphasis/reliance on them. There does seem to be far too much of an air of “hey look it this!” and “check out our nifty graphics!” and “look how we can make this alien blink almost realistically!” in the new films. It’s really annoying. And having grown up with the rapid development of video games and even Dinsey integrating computers into films this stuff tends to wear on me pretty quickly.

Though I have to admit when I was younger and the Star Wars Special Edition came to thearters it left me giddy. But even then a few extra aliens in a scene didn’t change the plot.

Unfortuneately, the prequels COULD have been really great. They really could have been a Star Wars for a new generation, for my generation, but apparently George Lucas has grossly understimated what appeals to my generation in an almost insulting manner.

On 20 May 2005 (08:45 PM),
J.D. said:

I should note that I just saw Revenge of the Sith. I didn’t hate it nearly as much as I hated the first two prequels. In fact, I kind of liked it. My thoughts are here.

On 22 May 2005 (07:49 PM),
D said:

Just saw Episode III. Truthfully, it’s the biggest sci-fi disaster since Episode II. A real eye-sore, it hardly classifies as a “movie” in my book. Lucas has no story to tell–only poorly concieved computer effects to play with in his Imperial Light & Magic studio.

George Lucas should be grounded from his computer.

On 23 May 2005 (05:00 PM),
TBRWolf70 said:

I have to say I agree with all of the postings on this site….although I have some disagreements with some of the things said. I seen 3 on opening night and I have to say Lucas messed up again. I don’t know exactly what George was thinking when he made these (last or first depends on how you look at it), 3 films. Episode 3 was filled with a lot of non direction. The film seemed to me to be jumping around a lot. I read the book before the movie came out and there is a lot in the book that is not brought out in the movie. The only quality that even remotely saves this film is the fact that they somewhat show the conversion of Darth Vader. I do believe that the movie went way to fast with anakins conversion to vader and that it didn’t really say why he so easily converted. The CGI in this film was way to much and almost ruined the film. I have been a star wars fan from the begining and loved the first three. I lived star wars as a child and now that these last three came out I am almost shamed to be called a star wars fan. I don’t know what made lucas think that humor had a place in the films but I think that was a BIG mistake. Jar Jar totally ruined a film for me that I had been waiting to see for years. When Lucas stated that he was waiting for computers to get to the point so that he could do with the films what he needed I didn’t know he couldn’t wait to totally destroy the flavor and style of the films the way he did. I could continue to rant about this for hours but I will spare you unlike lucas did to us. I think lucas fell out of love with the movies or just got tired of making them and just wanted to get the story told so that his fans would leave him alone. At least this is how I feel. There is a rumor that Lucas’ son is going to do 7-9, I hope this is true and I hope he goes back to the original style of the movies and does not ruin them like his father did.

Thank you for your time,
TBRWolf70

On 25 May 2005 (09:38 PM),
Cepo said:

if we just pretend they’re a whole different set of movies, then perhaps after George Lucas is dead someone will remake the prequels. 😛

On 25 May 2005 (09:55 PM),
D said:

I’d love to see special editions of all three prequels that introduce real characters on real sets delivering real dialogue with lucid action scenes and coherent plotlines.

On 26 May 2005 (09:13 AM),
DAKMOR said:

Firts,I must point out that I did not read any books,scripts,or commentaries on any of the Star Wars films. Second,I must say that I enjoyed them,although most of this stuff you guys are saying does change it a lot. Third, I do beleive that Lucas never really understood what he was writing. I bet that if he could redo the “original” series,he’s would have two actors in the whole thing. The guy playing Luke,and the guy playing Obi-wan. The rest,CGI.

Lucas’ idea of Star Wars and ours are too very different things. Think,LOTR and and old robin hood movie. Lucas is LOTR,and ours is robin hood. that big of a difference.

His marketing license is really what made him keep making the dang movies. Without absolute millions coming in from toys,this fat cat(not from washignton hough) is just out to get money!

On 27 May 2005 (07:18 AM),
Shinzon said:

I agree with this great article. I loved Episode III BUT I cant love it entirely like the first one (episode IV). I fell asleep in episodes I and II because they were too long, but I liked it cause it had all of those space ship and army fights.

But yes, there is soemthing akward in the prequels. I had no problem with Luke working his way to becoem a Jedi. But in Anakins case, I just didint buy it, it was too aristocratic, I mean after all Anakin is the center of the galaxy in the prequles, that would fit with george Lucas becoming a multimillonaire praised and worshiped, probably went to his head and reflected it. I just didnt buy the whol “anakin is the god of the galaxy” thing, its unreal and imposible, life never works that way to such an extreme. Trule Lucas head is too big so he reflected it on Anakin.

A New Hope is better.

On 10 June 2005 (10:41 PM),
Clayton said:

Wonderful article on all levels. I’m only writing to say ‘Eureka’ in regards to your comments on the relationship of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon to Star Wars. I have never met anyone else who thought the same and here you are expounding upon what i’ve always thought as well! The only thing I can recommend to someone so apparently in the know is that you read Milton’s Paradise Lost for the true story of Vader that LucAss never told us becuase he has been so busy wacking off with CGI (And since he is just merely a hack in the first place)

Peace.

On 14 June 2005 (09:10 AM),
Jack Sargent said:

In short, Episode II is a terrible movie. The acting, special effects and dialogue are not only poor, but un-engaging. The action sequences are tedious and un-involving, and the love scenes are laughable. This film has no redeeming features. It is worse than Episode I!
The worst scene has to be the one in the droid factory (it looks and feels like something from a video game).
George Lucas and Jonathan Hales’ screenplay for this film is appalling too.

On 19 June 2005 (06:57 PM),
I want George Lucas’ head on a platter said:

While I agree with most everything said on this site, I feel that most people missed a really important complaint and it is one of the reasons I really feel ripped off by the first trilogy. For one, in a universe that’s so vast and interesting, there is wayyyyy to much coincidence going on. It’s like the whole story is based on a few influential families. Such coincidences not only make the universe seem immeasurably small, but also takes the great library of Star Wars literature and throws it in the garbage. This brings me to my second point. While George Lucas may not owe his fans anything, he certainly owes the people that worked hard explaining the technology and filling the plot-holes in the original series. One small example of this is the astromech droid Obi-Wan has for his ship in EpisodeII. He refers to the droid as ‘R4’, which isn’t that big of a deal until you go and buy the book on droids which explains that the first part of an astromech’s serial isn’t different for every astromech (like people’s first names) but explains the type of model the astromech is i.e. there are several thousands of R2’s but only one that’s called R2-D2. According to the book (which George recieved a paycheck for) the R4 model is one of the newer models that does look similar to an R2 unit, but has a clear dome. Some people may think this nitt-picky, but since George Lucas did recieve a paycheck for that book, he could at least crack a copy open before he took his big dump on the universe that so many other more talented authors were able to keep to a timeline that takes everyone’s work into consideration and builds off a world that has become so much more diverse than anything George Lucas could have done himself.

Sorry, got a little long-winded there. The real reason I even posted here is this question: On the May 8th post of John C. Welsh posted that there is a scene in one of the movies (he doesn’t say which) where Vader picks up threepio’s head and there is a long pause or some such. Could anyone tell me in what version of what movie this scene is in? I’ve seen all the movies multiple times and I can never even remember Vader sharing a scene with either of the droids. And one more point, just because they never shared a scene doesn’t give the excuse for having them in episodes 1-3 (just one of those huge galactic coincidences that helps ruin episodes one-three).

On 19 June 2005 (06:58 PM),
I want George Lucas’ head on a platter said:

While I agree with most everything said on this site, I feel that most people missed a really important complaint and it is one of the reasons I really feel ripped off by the first trilogy. For one, in a universe that’s so vast and interesting, there is wayyyyy to much coincidence going on. It’s like the whole story is based on a few influential families. Such coincidences not only make the universe seem immeasurably small, but also takes the great library of Star Wars literature and throws it in the garbage. This brings me to my second point. While George Lucas may not owe his fans anything, he certainly owes the people that worked hard explaining the technology and filling the plot-holes in the original series. One small example of this is the astromech droid Obi-Wan has for his ship in EpisodeII. He refers to the droid as ‘R4’, which isn’t that big of a deal until you go and buy the book on droids which explains that the first part of an astromech’s serial isn’t different for every astromech (like people’s first names) but explains the type of model the astromech is i.e. there are several thousands of R2’s but only one that’s called R2-D2. According to the book (which George recieved a paycheck for) the R4 model is one of the newer models that does look similar to an R2 unit, but has a clear dome. Some people may think this nitt-picky, but since George Lucas did recieve a paycheck for that book, he could at least crack a copy open before he took his big dump on the universe that so many other more talented authors were able to keep to a timeline that takes everyone’s work into consideration and builds off a world that has become so much more diverse than anything George Lucas could have done himself.

Sorry, got a little long-winded there. The real reason I even posted here is this question: On the May 8th post of John C. Welsh posted that there is a scene in one of the movies (he doesn’t say which) where Vader picks up threepio’s head and there is a long pause or some such. Could anyone tell me in what version of what movie this scene is in? I’ve seen all the movies multiple times and I can never even remember Vader sharing a scene with either of the droids. And one more point, just because they never shared a scene doesn’t give the excuse for having them in episodes 1-3 (just one of those huge galactic coincidences that helps ruin episodes one-three).

On 20 June 2005 (06:22 AM),
dowingba said:

“I want George Lucas’ head on a platter”,

In Episode 4, Luke and his uncle buy a weird looking red astromech droid that looks nothing like R2-D2 from the jawas, but soon afterwards it malfunctions and smoke begins emitting from it. “Uncle Owen, this R2 unit has a bad motivator!” says Luke.

On 25 June 2005 (10:11 PM),
Jeff said:

New Jedi Order, New Jedi Order, New Jedi Order, New Jedi Order!

In case you’re wondering what I’m ranting about … it’s the 13-or-so book series that ended a couple years ago that truly reminded me how much I love the Star Wars saga. Yes, the prequels have been a dissapointment … which is why I have immersed myself in the Expanded Universe and all but ignored everything before “A New Hope”. Yes, I’m a huge Star Wars fan and definitly a Star Wars geek … but the books really are where it’s at now.

On 01 July 2005 (11:43 AM),
jd said:

you must be the most stupidest peices of s**t on the planet, how can you not like star wars are you lot stupid.

On 08 August 2005 (04:01 AM),
Chris Laughlin said:

Thank you so much! This is a fantastic analysis of why the new Star Wars movies suck so badly that they make baby Jesus cry. Damnit I hate these new movies!

Chris

On 14 August 2005 (12:42 AM),
Stinky said:

“I’d rather have the hocus-pocus religion, and so would you.”

-good one

On 24 August 2005 (08:41 PM),
JT said:

Thank you so much. I thought I was the only one to think this movie series was suckville.

On 28 August 2005 (09:42 PM),
alien said:

Phantom menace, Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith� ALL SUCK. Not because they have �Computer Graphics� or that their �New�. No,� simply because they SUCK AS FILMS! They suck because Lucas could not sell them as workable ideas 30 years ago and as a consequence started the series at EPISODE 4. I mean why would you start at episode 4 why? What�s the logic? Yes the prequels have a story on which they are based but what most people fail to observe is that the films lack the most obvious thing that all good movies have. DRAMA! How do you support a film that is carelessly littered with inane details and has absolutely no emotional draw to the characters?

But don�t blame Lucas I�m sure he wanted to make the prequels into epic films but what has happened is that industry is not the same anymore. The talent pool around him is not the same either. The Seventies and Eighties had incredible designers like Syd Mead who did the set and vehicle designs for the early films and Blade Runner. Now you basiclly have groups of CG jocks that incestuously copy each other and compete for recognition among the studios.

What�s also sad is that when you become rich and powerful and the people that work for you are dying for your approval it does not foster a healthy environment for creativity or new ideas. I think Lucas should never have revisited his old ideas because they were just not good enough to make the cut. I suppose when you are close to being a Billionaire and the public looks at you with envy or as a living god then this must encourage you to believe that even the ideas that you abandoned 30 years ago were secret gems yet to be discovered.

People should recognize that many incredibly talented people collaborated with Lucas to make Star Wars what it became. If you read Star Wars as just a script�. God almighty�. that could have easily become an incredibly bad seventies Sci-fi flick. Yet that�s not happened, Star Wars became the most significant SCI-FI film of the Twentieth Century! HELLO!!! Does this register with those arguing about Astromech droids! Can you grasp the magnitude of what Star Wars was and what it has now become? Probably not�Honestly if you were not alive to see Star Wars during the 70�s and 80�s you just don�t get it and you never will understand the magic of that time. I grew up on a farm and as a kid when I saw that Star Destroyer rumble overhead I sat with my mouth gaping wide in disbelief�.As �JD� so poetically pointed out�.. It was truly a time of wonder.

So let�s talk about supposedly hating the �New� and hating CG? . . What�s that about? As an original Stat Wars fan I resent this remark because it is a sweeping generalization and a polite way to call someone �old�� Yet the question in my mind is why prequel fans love these movies when they appear to be so heavily vested towards children and not adults? Honestly it�s a real drag for anyone with any taste or capacity for good film to sit through these so called movies.

To be blunt, many Star Wars fans would have slept outside theatres just to see any film related to the Star Wars Legend. Really, . . . I mean it. Lucas could have taken a shit on a plate, pointed a camera at it and released it as “The Phantom Menace” and maybe some people would have gone to see it twice. So my question is? If you are George Lucas and you can do anything…..I mean anything….Money is not an issue, selling the movie is not an issue and getting creative talent to work with you is not an issue ….Then why not make a film for Adults? Why not keep the aura of the original films and do something innovative and epic�If the Star Wars movies were better films they would have easily overtaken the success of Titanic in earnings?

I think most original Star Wars Fans have remained SCI-FI fans and I personally loved A.I., Minority Report, and The Incredibles. How much more CG do you want me to like? The Incredibles was all CG but it had effects and characters that were highly memorable. As for ep1, ep2 and ep3 � No one will remember these effects because they sucked at delivering an idea and that�s because the prequels have no tangible feeling or idea to deliver� �NOTHING�� just a list of detailed inane Star Wars babble. The original Star Wars films always blew us away when we saw the effects! To this day, I still get goose bumps when I watch the rebel soldier look through his binoculars to see those gigantic Imperial Walkers lumbering towards them on the ice planet Hoth. This �effects shot� created drama, because you felt sympathy for those poor souls who faced certain death defending themselves against such terrible machines of war.

Nobody wants to watch a two hour Star Wars trivial pursuit with convoluted land battles between CG cartoon characters? Didn�t Lucas see Braveheart? . . . What if the battles in that film were hundreds of instances of 3D Scotsmen fighting the 3d English army, all with a predictable randomness? How boring would that be?

How about the �New�? When I saw the Lord of the Rings in the theatre that scene with the Balrog blew me away! What an incredible effect, the flames, the textures, the heat distorting the air as it roared and lastly the haunting chants and music of the Balrog. That is cinema, that is genius and sadly it did not come from the Skywalker Ranch and for my friend that loves the appendices of books don�t confuse Tolkien with Lucas they are not equals� not even close.

I think many Star Wars fans are living in denial. Most of them can�t admit that the prequels failed at the most basic level as films and what�s even worse is that these films denigrated the original Star Wars Myth. They can�t come to terms with this simply because �this is it��like it or not there will be no alternative to this cinematic suck fest in triplicate.
Yet I think the future holds even darker things for Star Wars fans�As Hollywood has been consistently reinventing old movies because they just can�t take a chance on any new ideas. Soon the time will come when they recreate episodes 4, 5 and 6 to match the crappiness of the prequels.

Maybe they will get Vin Diesal to play Han Solo? God Help us……

On 06 September 2005 (10:35 AM),
Devil’s Advocate said:

On 19 June 2005 (06:58 PM), I want George Lucas’ head on a platter said:

“It’s like the whole story is based on a few influential families.”

Ever heard of the Kennedys? Or the Bushs?

On 01 October 2005 (07:35 PM),
Jake said:

i completely disagree with you 🙁

Get Rich Slowly!

Note: foldedspace.org died recently, and is gradually being reconstructed. This entry has moved. Its new URL is http://www.foldedspace.org/weblog/2005/04/get_rich_slowly.html. The 86 comments from before the move can be found here.

Today’s entry is long and boring. It’s all about the keys to wealth, prosperity, and happiness. Over the past few months, I’ve read over a dozen books on personal finance. Recurring themes have become evident.

These books have embarrassingly bad titles, seemingly designed to appeal to the get-rich-quick crowd: The Richest Man in Babylon, Your Money or Your Life, Rich Dad Poor Dad, Think and Grow Rich, Wealth Without Risk, Creating Wealth, etc.

Some of the books out there — most of them? — really are as bad as their titles. Others, however, offer outstanding, practical advice. The best books seem to have the same goal in mind: not wealth, not riches, but financial independence. According to Your Money or Your Life, which I consider the very best of the financial books I’ve read, “financial independence is the experience of having enough — and then some”. More practically, financial independence occurs when your investment income meets or exceeds your monthly expenses. Financial independence is linked to psychological freedom.

How is financial independence achieved? Again, the best books all basically agree. (To some of you, this will be common sense, stuff you’ve known all your life. To others, like me, this kind of thinking is a sort of revelation.)

Here, then, is my personal summary of the collected wisdom found in these books.

Step One: Prepare the Foundation
The first step is to lay a foundation upon which the secure home of financial independence can be built. To prepare to build wealth, one must first eliminate debt, reduce spending, and increase earnings.

There are many ways to approach debt elimination; the key is to use the one that actually works for you. All the books agree on this: cut up your credit cards. Get rid of them. There is no compelling reason to keep them. Next, pay off your debts. All of them. For years, I tried the oft-touted method whereby you first pay off your highest-interest debt. This never worked for me, because my highest interest debt was also my largest debt, and psychologically I just never seemed to make any progress. What worked for me was the “debt snowball”, as defined in Total Money Makeover. I eliminated my debt by paying off the obligation with the smallest balance first. Then I took the amount that would have been applied to that debt each month and used it to pay off the second-smallest balance. When that was finished, I went to the next, etc. It only took me four months to pay off my debts this way. I was dumbfounded. I’d struggled with this for a decade, and I solved the problem in four months? Good grief.

The next step in preparing the foundation is to reduce spending. First, track your expenditures for a month. Or two. Or three. (Many people — including myself — use Quicken; it’s quick and easy.) After you’ve accumulated enough data, analyze your spending patterns. Are you spending a lot on shoes? Books? Alcohol? Dining out? Try to find expenses you can eliminate or reduce. I cut my comic book spending by a huge amount. Many of the personal finance books encourage you to reduce your auto and homeowner insurance coverage to save money. This is also the point at which some books encourage you to adopt a budget. (I tend to think a budget is unnecessary if you remain aware of your current financial situation.) (Note: it’s in this step that I should note that all of the books I’ve read advise against purchasing a new car; all encourage you to purchase late-model used cars.)

The final phase in laying the foundation is to increase your income. Not all of the books mention this, and I happen to think it’s optional. However, there are a couple of authors who are quite vocal that this is an important step on the road to financial independence. How do you increase your income? Become better educated so that your job skills are more marketable. Work harder, and smarter, at your current job so that you qualify for raises and promotions. Change careers. Find a way to make a hobby profitable. Or, as more than one book suggests, work two jobs.

I can testify first-hand that by following these three steps, you can lay a solid foundation for future financial independence. I’ve only recently finished my foundation, and am amazed at the amount of money I’m suddenly able to save each month. Amazed. And that means I’m now ready for…

Step Two: Build the Framework
The second step toward financial independence is to construct the framework upon which future wealth can be built: establish an emergency fund, maximize your retirement investments, and begin acquiring income-producing assets. This is what I’m preparing to do. (I’ve already done one part, but only by happy coincidence.)

Every book I’ve read stresses that the most important part of the framework, the first part that must be completed, is the establishment of an emergency fund. This emergency fund ought to contain enough money to support you for three to six months in case you find yourself without an income. I have a very hard time grasping this concept, admitting its usefulness. All of the books stress it. Kris, who is always right, insists that it is important. Yet I want to skip this and go to other, more exciting steps. However, having seen the results after “laying my foundation”, I’m willing to suspend my disbelief and just do it. I’ll build the emergency fund.

Next, the books encourage you to maximize your retirement accounts. If you have a retirement account through work, contribute as much as you possibly can, as soon as you can. Establish a personal IRA outside of work, and every year contribute the maximum amount. I already do this, at least in part. Custom Box has a retirement plan, but not one to which the employees can contribute. The company itself contributes approximately ten percent of each employees’ annual salary to a stock plan. One of my goals for when the bathroom is finished is to get a Roth IRA set up.

The final step in building a framework for financial independence is to invest in income-producing assets. For some reason, I’d totally missed this recurring theme until this weekend; on Paul C.’s recommendation, I read Rich Dad, Poor Dad, a book that’s almost solely about this particular portion of the framework. Beyond your retirement investments, the collected financial wisdom is that you ought to participate in further investments, specifically in income-producing assets. For different people, this means different things. Maybe it means bonds, maybe it means stocks, maybe it means investment properties. It does not mean things like cars, or collectibles (coins, comic books, baseball cards), or expensive furniture. These things may be assets of a sort, but they are not income-producing assets.

Step Three: Finish Construction
After you’ve laid the foundation to financial independence, and after you’ve built the framework, you must then spend years (decades!) finishing construction. All that’s required during this time is patience and discipline. Resist temptation. Do not accrue debt. Acquire income-producing assets; avoid non-income producing assets. Faithfully contribute to your retirement plans and your IRAs. Wait.

Step Four: Move Into the House
Some years later, you will wake to find that your financial house is in order. It’s finished. It’s ready for you to move in. How do you know when this is the case? Financial independence is achieved when your investment income equals or exceeds your monthly needs. If the total of your house payment and living expenses is $1000 per month, then you are financially independent when your investment income reaches $1000 per month. Achieving this takes time. It’s a slow, gradual process, but every book emphasizes that it’s not only possible, it’s inevitable if these steps are followed.

That’s it. That’s the combined wisdom of more than a dozen financial self-help books. I haven’t fleshed out the final two steps as much as the first two simply because I haven’t reached those steps yet. There are scores of books on how to best approach each step (even each substep!). I’m sure to obsess over each one in turn.


There seems to be only one major point on which these books disagree. Some argue that your home should be considered your most important investment, that you should carry a thirty-year mortgage and not attempt to accelerate payments. Others declare that a home should be considered a liability, the same as a car or a credit card. (The latter admit that a home will appreciate in value, but they note — rightly so — that a home is a cash drain, not a source of income.) All of the books, with one exception, encourage readers to only purchase modest homes; they smash the commonly held belief that you ought to “buy as much house as you can afford”. Instead, these books say you should only buy as much house as you actually need.


A lot of these books are easy to summarize. Their content lends itself to bullet points. For example:

The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey. This book was the first I read. I want to re-read it. It features lots of practical advice, including the concept of the “debt snowball” I mentioned earlier. Here are Ramsey’s steps to a “total money makeover”:
Step #1: Save $1000 as an emergency fund.
Step #2: Pay off debts, starting with the smallest first (ignore interest rates).
Step #3: Increase the emergency fund so that it will cover three to six months of expenses.
Step #4: Invest 15% of income in growth-stock mutual funds.
Step #5: Pay off the mortgage.
Step #6: Build wealth.
(I’ve left out a “Save money for college” step because it doesn’t apply to me.)

Your Money or Your Life by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin is, as I mentioned, the cream of the crop of these financial books. It’s advice is sound. This is an especially great book for those seeking simplicity. It lends itself less to bullet points than some of the others, but I’ve made an attempt to enumerate the steps it advocates for financial independence:
Step #1: Determine how much money you’ve earned in your life. Next, determine your net worth. Compare and contrast the two.
Step #2: Establish the actual cost — in time and money — required to maintain your job. From this derive your actual hourly wage.
Step #3: Keep track of every cent that enters or leaves your possession.
Step #4: Determine which items are actually worth the money you spend on them.
Step #5: Graph your total monthly income and your total monthly expenses.
Step #6: Minimize spending through conscious decisions.
Step #7: Maximize income by doing something you love.
Step #8: Accumulate capital. Track its growth.
Step #9: Invest this capital so that it provides long-term income.

The Richest Man in Babylon by George S. Clason is an aging chestnut. It’s a classic in the field. Many later financial books are based on Clason’s advice, which is framed in King James-style English rules:
Rule #1: Start Thy Purse Fattening — save 10% of everything you earn
Rule #2: Control Thy Expenditures — create a budget to live within your means
Rule #3: Make Thy Gold Multiply — invest the savings from rule one
Rule #4: Guard Thy Treasures From Loss — invest only where the principal is safe
Rule #5: Make of Thy Dwelling a Profitable Investment — own your home
Rule #6: Insure a Future Income — plan for retirement
Rule #7: Increase Thy Ability to Earn — become better educated, more skilled; respect yourself

7 Money Mantras for a Richer Life by Michelle Singletary is a recent all-purpose financial book. I was ready to dismiss it for the absolute stupidity of mantra number one (stupidity in its phrasing, not in its advice), but after reading the book, I have to admit its advice is solid. It features:
Mantra #1: “If it’s on your ass, it’s not an asset.” If you can wear it, it’s not an investment. Also, something is riding your ass (such as a high house payment), it’s not an asset.
Mantra #2: “Is this a need or a want?” This is a question Kris has been trying to get me to ask myself for years.
Mantra #3: “Sweat the small stuff.” Do worry about the small expenses; they add up.
Mantra #4: “Cash is better than credit.” There is almost no reason to carry a credit card.
Mantra #5: “Keep it simple.” With money, avoid anything that seems complicated. If you don’t understand it, avoid it. You’ll probably lose money.
Mantra #6: “Priorities lead to prosperity.” Determine what’s important to you, and pursue that with your time and money.
Mantra #7: “Enough is enough.” Don’t overconsume. Recognize when you have fulfilled your needs and your wants.

Ordinary People, Extraordinary Wealth by Ric Edelman is rather a unique book. It features advice distilled from surveying 5000 people of moderate wealth. Each chapter relates a secret for obtaining financial security. At the end of the each chapter, there are excerpts from the surveys featuring anecdotes and advice from the respondents.
Secret #1: Carry a mortgage even if you can afford to pay it off. — This flies in the face of every other financial book I’ve read, and I do not subscribe to the idea. I’m willing to be that the people surveyed carry a mortgage out of habit, not because they think it’s smart.
Secret #2: Don’t diversify the money you put into your employer retirement plan; instead, put all your contributions into stock mutual funds — I’m okay with this. It may not be appropriate for someone close to retirement, but for younger people, this seems like sound advice.
Secret #3: Make many small investments rather than a few large investments. — The key is to make investing a habit, and to invest the money when you have it.
Secret #4: Rarely move from one investment to another. — Market timing is not something to be treated lightly; it’s not easy for a casual investor. Buy and hold.
Secret #5: Don’t measure success against the Dow or the S&P 500. — Understand what you own and why you own it; don’t compare it to market indicators.
Secret #6: Don’t spend a lot of time paying bills and fretting about personal finances. Don’t bother budgeting. — Many books encourage a budget, though I’ve not adopted one. And my success these past few months has come precisely because I have fretted about my personal finances. Maybe this advice is true for the long run, but I’m not sure it’s applicable to somebody just starting to lay the foundation of financial independence.
Secret #7: Involve your children in family finances. — This is another piece of advice that all of the books offer. I haven’t mentioned it because it’s not appropriate to me, and doesn’t actually fit my metaphor.
Secret #8: Pay attention to the media, particularly financial news. — This seems to go against secret #6, but whatever. I’m not willing to devote a lot of time to reading financial news, but it can be fun from time-to-time.
The rest of this book contains three wonderful chapters entitled: “The Biggest Mistake I Ever Made”, “The Smartest Thing I Ever Did”, and “My Advice to You”. The common threads? Far and away, the number one thing these people recommend is to start investing as soon as possible. As much as possible. (They also recommend getting a financial adviser, something I’ve avoided until now.)

I was going to include a point-by-point summary of Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert T. Kiyosaki, but when I went to write it up, I couldn’t put Kiyosaki’s advice into words. I re-read a chapter. Everything seemed generalized. I did a google search, and found that not everyone agrees with the author. I, too, found the book amorphous and vague, full of outlandish claims. I thought it contained some kernels of wisdom, though, and so I’ve taken some of its advice, albeit with a grain of salt. I’ve incorporated advice from Rich Dad, Poor Dad in my general summary at the beginning of this entry, but I cannot recommend the book.

Other books that I plan to read soon include: The Millionaire Next Door by Stanley and Danko, Wealth Without Risk by Charles Givens, and Creating Wealth by Robert Allen.


On the drive to work today, I was remembering another time I was deeply interested in personal finance. When I got out of college, I went to work for Combined Insurance. (I still promise to tell that full story some day.) During training, we were asked to make a poster illustrating our life goals. I cut out a picture of a log cabin in a lush, green woods. My goal was to retire to a peaceful lifestyle within ten years. Ha! Now, fifteen years later, I have the exact same goal. Only this time, there’s a chance that I just might achieve it.

Pre-Crash Comments

On 26 April 2005 (11:40 AM),
paul said:

All these financial planning books seem to forget to tell you one thing. Write a book about financial planning and make a lot of money! Regardless of whether or not they follow their own rules, principles or plans, they are making money off selling their book. The all state that you should make money off of an asset that you don’t sit on. So, JD, get off your ass and write a financial planning book. It appears there is money to be made.

On 26 April 2005 (11:44 AM),
J.D. said:

I should note, because it’s appropriate, that I am proud to have purchased only one of these books. The rest I’ve borrowed from the library.

The one book I’ve purchased was Your Money or Your Life. Michael gave me my first copy. Yesterday, on the trip back from Bend, I found a used copy for $6.95, so I bought it. It’s now available to loan to anyone who might find it useful.

I recommend it highly!

On 26 April 2005 (11:56 AM),
Denise said:

I think this is a great entry. I have always struggled with my personal finance and just recently have gotten it under control.

I have to budget and I have to consciously track what I spend or I will over spend. I have gotten better at this, but it is still a constant battle for me. I think as I start to see the returns from not over-spending it will get easier as it has for you.

I think the getting your children involved in the family finances is very important (if you have children, that is). I wish my parents had done that with me. I had no understanding of financial responsibility and what damage credit cards can do. That was a long, hard lesson I had to learn on my own.

Great post – thanks, J.D.!

On 26 April 2005 (11:58 AM),
Denise said:

Hey – I wouldn’t mind borrowing that book if you don’t have any other requests yet!

On 26 April 2005 (01:00 PM),
tammy said:

My husband and I have no debt! Everything is paid in full including the house. For what it’s worth, here is man who bought his first home spanking new at 22 yers old. He bought his first brand new car at age 40. It was a Ford Expedition. We paid cash for it. Before that he drove only used cars.

His Dad died when he was 13 years old. At 15 he began working at a gas station. By 18 he was living on his own. Nobody helped him or gave him even one penny. He never went to college. He chose the trades instead. He is a steam fitter.

He never uses an ATM card. He doesn’t even own a debit card. He uses a credit card only for things like ordering over the internet or going on vacation. He gets the room and rental car with it. But on a daily basis his slogan is to take only the cash in his pocket to the store. He says people get in trouble when they take checkbooks or debit cards or anything that gives them full access to their bank accounts.

Today he is 47 years old and owes no man anything. We live in house that would sell in todays market for $400,000.00

And this is what this man says about budgets. I quote; “Budgets are for people who dont know how to budget.”

We have been together 19 years and have never lived on a budget.

On 26 April 2005 (03:31 PM),
Denise said:

Tammy, you say that you don’t live on a budget – but doesn’t your husband give you a certain amount of spending money every month? Is that not a budget?

On 26 April 2005 (04:30 PM),
tammy said:

Yes, he gives me 80 bucks a week. To him that’s an expenditure just like paying the electricity or paying the baby sitter or paying the gas bill. That really isnt budgeting. It’s paying a bill.

Budgeting is an itemized account of expected income in any given period. Then one forms a plan of operation from that itemized account. It’s intent is to make sure the money is there for the needed items and at the needed time.

No, when my husband gives me 80 dollars a week that does not mean he’s budgeted that money to go to me. Nor does it mean I’m living on a budget. I carry my credit card all the time. I have access to all of our accounts. I choose not to make use of that access. That’s why we now live debt free.

Neither of us live on a budget. But because we hold ourselves in check financially we have no need for a budget. The money is always there to pay the bills and to put into savings.

On 26 April 2005 (05:16 PM),
Johnny said:

For those of you who are wondering, that’s called a control issue. The only difference between “an itemized account of expected income in any given period…[combined with] a plan of operation from that itemized account” and doling out the cash like that is that the budget has never been committed to paper. My dictionary also includes “the amount of money that is available for, required for, or assigned to a particular purpose”. $80 per month seems like a budget to me.

On the other hand, kudos to prospering within your means. Most folks can’t do it, which is why we’ve such a high bankruptcy rate in this country (that and a lack of truly market driven credit practices that encourage poor credit and lending decisions).

On 26 April 2005 (05:29 PM),
J.D. said:

Though Johnny Doe — how I miss his weblog! — has a point, I agree with Tammy. To me, a budget specifically must be written down somewhere. Maybe that’s just me.

I’m developing certain limits in my head. I don’t want to spend more than $100 on books/comics combined. I’ve bend spending $120/month on restaurants; I want to reduced that to $80, or maybe even less. But I don’t consider this budgeting.

Of course, it’s quite possible we’re all just playing semantic games.

Johnny Doe’s right, though: the key is to live within your means. And, if possible, to live well within your means.

Our culture has been constructed so that it push push pushes us to spend spend spend on anything we want. Remember that I used to say that I lived paycheck-to-paycheck. I always had enough to pay my bills, but I always spent any surplus. I lived within my means, but only barely. I lived at the edge of my means. Why?

I have self-discipline issues, no doubt, but I’m also a willing participant in our society, a knowing victim of the advertising and marketing machines that surround us. The more we expose ourselves to mass media, the more we allow the media to influence our thoughts. We may think this isn’t happening, but it is. It absolutely is. The best-kept secret of advertising is that it works, and so our society descends into debt.

If I could evangelize the first step in achieving financial independence to all my friends, I would. Wait. Maybe I can. That’s what this weblog is for!

You heard it from me, friends! Even if you do nothing else toward financial independence, you can enjoy a happier, wealthier life if you simply eliminate debt, reduce spending, and increase earning potential. (In fact, those first two alone will do a damn good job of setting you right.)

Go read Your Money or Your Life. Read it and think on it.

On 26 April 2005 (05:49 PM),
tammy said:

This thing of semantics is exactly why my hsuband says that budgeting is for those who can’t budget. In esssence he is saying he lives on a budget but nothing is truly budgeted on paper. Whew sorta complicated but I still maintain there’s difference. 🙂

On 27 April 2005 (09:11 AM),
Denise said:

Hmm…I don’t fall in the camp of ‘must be written down to be a budget’. If you are mentally saying we can spend $100 on fill in the blank a month then I consider that budgeting. Even though you have access to credit cards or bank accounts, if you make the conscious decision NOT to spend the money on say, a new pair of jeans or a new fishing pole (or whatever), you are budgeting yourself.

I think people (like me) who like to have it written down are just more anal than those that don’t write it down. Plus, since I know I am really bad at finances, if I have it written down I have a way to track my success.

J.D. – you say that you budget things in your head, but at the same time you track EVERY cent you spend in Quicken. Is this not in some form budgeting? You look and see that you spent $150 on comics and say to yourself, I want to spend less on comics. This in itself is budgeting, it is merely after the fact budgeting.

[Please note I am devil’s advocating here.]

On 27 April 2005 (10:04 AM),
J.D. said:

To me, a budget is a written document, a sort of contract with yourself (and/or with your partner). A monthly budget for my discretionary spending might look like this:

Books $100
Comic Books $100
Dining Out $125
Computer Stuff $50
Cable $50
Cell Phone $40
Groceries $200

These aren’t actual numbers, though they might be based on them. These are targets. Firm targets. In my mind, a person tries not to spend more than the budgeted amount. If I budget $100 for books, and I’ve spent $95, I forgo the new Stephen King novel until next month.

My parents worked with a budget for a while when I was a kid, and I know some couples who do so now. I’m not imposing these sorts of written limitations on myself. Yet.

Instead, I’m trying to change my actual behavior. (Budgets don’t change behavior; they simply provide external stops.) I’m trying to change the way I think about money. I’m trying to change my relationship with it.

On 27 April 2005 (10:22 AM),
Denise said:

Yes, but you are almost arguing my point. A budget is setting limits – whether it is written down or in your head.

Behavioral change is a good goal, but wouldn’t you say that your changing your behavior from ignoring your budget (or not having one) to remembering your limits? For example – when I didn’t budget, I would pay all my bills and then just spend whatever cash I had left over. In addition, if I ran out of cash and wanted something I would just use my plastic.

Yes, I know – that is very stupid and believe me, I paid dearly.

I guess I just look at budgeting as imposing limits to personal spending (not bills such as electricity) and sticking by it. It is interesting to me that you make the link of it having to be written down. I mean – Nick and I have a budget that we created in Excel – $90 for this, $250 for that, blah, blah, blah. That doesn’t mean that sometimes the $90 isn’t $100 or even $75 – it is just what we shoot for so we know how much to save, how much spending money is reasonable per week, whatever. To me, even though we write it down we are doing exactly what you are doing.

Do you not think you are budgeting because you feel there is a stigma to budgeting?

I find it interesting how peoples minds work so differently when dealing with personal finance.

On 27 April 2005 (11:11 AM),
Courtney said:

Uh, J.D., I still have your “Your Money or Your Life.” Sorry. I’ll return it next time I see you.

We are definitely on a budget (in writing). We have been for over a year now. The first year was training for this year, now that we have a baby and only one income. It helps us live within our means, which is mandatory at this stage in our lives.

Great post! Thanks for summing it all up!

On 02 May 2005 (06:57 AM),
Darcy said:

After reading dozens of “wealth creation” books I’m amazed that none of the authors has strongly suggested that luck has anything to do with the creation of wealth. It clearly does.
Person “A” buys a “fixer-upper” investment property, pours hours of work and a small bundle of cash into the property and after 5 years it’s worth no more extra than the investment of time, effort and cash.

Person “B” on the other hand buys an almost identical investment property, spends the same effort and cash and is rewarded with a windfall courtesy of real estate market madness ie the timing was perfect.

The trick, as a great competitor knows, is to minimize the bad luck.

Luck is a very real commodity that enhances any wealth
system

On 02 May 2005 (07:32 AM),
J.D. said:

Though the above comment borders on spam (Darcy apparently runs the web site for Kiyosaki (of “Rich Dad, Poor Dad”) and his organization), I’m going to leave it. It’s informative enough, and there’s a good chance that people who find this page will want her information.

However, I must take issue with the “I’m amazed that none of the authors has strongly suggested that luck has anything to do with the creation of wealth” bit.

Yes, luck is a large factor in determining whether or not one can create wealth in the short term. It’s nearly impossible to get rich quick without luck; there’s no question of that. But getting rich quick is a sucker’s bet. There’s only slim chance that you’ll have the sort of luck that’s required. You might as well play the lottery.

It is possible to get rich slowly, however, with no risk, and with no luck. All that’s required is patience and discipline. To argue that some sort of luck factor is involved is specious.

(One of the books I recommend — 7 Money Mantras For a Richer Life — even describes how a poor black woman raising several grandchildren on her own was able to build wealth slowly by using common sense techniques, the techniques that the sensible books each emphasize, the techniques I’ve enumerated above.)

Patience and discipline are the sure keys to wealth.

On 13 May 2005 (01:47 AM),
mefite said:

Hi there, I followed this link from metafilter. This is really interesting advice – thanks for posting it!
I’m currently on Step 3, trying to build some income-producing assets. But this is something that always has me wondering: how does one account for inflation/cost of living increases when it comes to income production? It seems to me that the assets’ income never grows fast enough to keep up with what your spending will be, say in 10-20 years. Admittedly, I’m only investing in stocks/mutual funds (with dividends as the “income”) right now, and should probably look at other kinds of investments (if you have any suggestions, I’d like to hear them!) Thanks again, JD.

On 13 May 2005 (06:01 PM),
schmod said:

Although it’s not exactly related to the subject of personal finance, I would HIGHLY reccommend the book “Naked Economics” by Charles Wheelan. It really puts a different (more logical) perspective on money and the economy for most people.

Despite the fact that I typically find econ quite boring, the book’s a really fascinating (and easy) read.

ISBN: 0393049825

On 14 May 2005 (03:47 AM),
Debt said:

Kudos for writing the blog article, also kudos to all the comments. Personal finance, especially debt is such a huge problem. I myself have just recently gotten debt free. It inspired me to pick up a domain and start creating a site to help people get out of debt.

Budgeting is the cornerstone for getting out of debt. The main reason is that it requires discipline. The discipline then helps build your confidence in other parts of personal finance such as saving and paying down prior debts.

Great article.

On 14 May 2005 (03:14 PM),
Leon said:

Great article! I have link this article on this blog.

On 16 May 2005 (07:39 AM),
gregor said:

Here is a great site that has a lot of understandable essays in its Financial Sense University listings.

http://financialsense.com/

Buying mutual funds may not be such a great idea in all cases.

On 18 May 2005 (09:28 AM),
Juliana Atkinson said:

This is an awesome list. I read 7 Mantras–there is no way I could live as frugal as her. I think the best one I’ve read is Millionaire Next Door.

On 18 May 2005 (01:27 PM),
Nivi said:

A Random Walk Down Wall Street is the classic money management book for individuals. Read my article on it

http://www.nivi.com/blog/article/a-random-walk-down-wall-street/

On 25 May 2005 (09:30 AM),
brett said:

You can skip the Millionaire Next Door.. I just read it, and it can be summed up in one sentence: Spend less, save more. That’s it. The basic point of the book is that millionaires don’t look like they’re rich — they don’t spend a lot, and they save their money. Those who look rich, drive flashy cars, etc, are probably up to their ass in debt.

On 25 May 2005 (10:17 AM),
kuz said:

Re: Budgeting

A budget has helped us substantially. Here’s what we do:
1) At the beginning of the year, or when we change jobs or pick up new freelancing gigs, I project our monthly take-home pay and subtract out our agreed upon savings and involuntary expenses (loans, car, utilities, subscriptions, etc.)

Whatever is left is voluntary spending money we can buy anything with: groceries, shoes, beer, whatever.

For example, if:
-take home (after taxes) pay is $2500/month
-savings goal is $250/month
-car payment and insurance, utilities, Netflix, student loans = $750/month

That leaves $1500/month = $350/week to pull out of the ATM or spend with the debit card. Use a markerboard and update the total all week (We use Monday morning-Sunday night), and you’ll be surprised how it will help you make smarter decisions. When you have only $25 left to spend on Sunday, you’ll think twice before blowing $40 on chicken and beerrr.

One more thing. Transfer that savings to a savings account at the same time you pay your rent or mortgage. When you have to pay the man, you might as well pay yourself at the same time. If your cash flow is too low to take it out at that time, then reduce your savings goal to the amount you can actually swing without worrying about it.

On 25 May 2005 (10:32 AM),
Jamie said:

Great article. Thanks!

One point on which I will controversially disagree: Credit cards.

I use a dividend paying credit card for everything. Why? I get at least 1% back and because I use Quicken to track everything, I ensure that I never carry a balance. The result: In the last two years, I’ve earned about $750 extra dollars and have not paid the credit card companies a cent. Plus, I get the benefit of an extra month of cash flow sitting in an interest-bearing savings account (ING direct in my case).

I agree that credit cards can be used foolishly, but they can be used well too.

On 25 May 2005 (10:48 AM),
Dave said:

Nice summary. I have been following these general tips for 15 years. It came about because I was nearly bankrupt. I had debt, little savings, lost my job, and divorsed. Now, I have a 7 figure net worth.

I would say the best tips beginning with the first step are:

1. Save a minimum of 10% pretax earnings every month as soon as you begin earning income. I save 30% pretax every month. I don’t care what you have to give up to save 10%. Sell your car, find a cheap apt, etc… Don’t believe that you need to keep up with your friends and neighbors. Housing and auto costs are the top 2 discressionary expenses for most people. Spend what YOU can afford.

2. Save for emergencies. Put 2 mos in savings regardless of your current debt.

3. Pay off credit card debt. At 18-25% interest, this will kill you long term. Be very cautious if considering rolling over your credit cards for lower rates. There are almost always catches. Once your credit card debt is paid off, use your cards but, pay them off EVERY month. No excuses. Your credit card company will hate you but, you will become slowly rich. 2 credit cards are necessacary for car rental, short term emergencies, consumer protection and a good FICA credit score (this can save you 10’s of thousands long term in morgage interest).

4. Save for retirement. You will eventually want to stop working. You will become mentally or physically unable to work at some point. Trust me, you do not want to become a charity case. If your employer offers a 401K, max it out. This is pretax money. It is tax defered and often companies add matching funds. This is worth 100’s of thousands of dollars long term. If you do not have a 401K, get a SEP IRA, Roth IRA, or other IRAs. Contribute every month. Do not touch this money until retirement.

5. Invest. Buy highly diversified, low cost mutual funds. Buy world wide mutual funds. Don’t bother with individual stocks. Don’t bother trying to time the market by buying and selling short term. There are genius’s out there who do this full time and don’t succeed. Ther is no formula. If it was that easy, everyone would know the secret. Invest every month. Dollar cost averaging forces you to buy more shares when the price is low and fewer when the price is high. Re-invest the dividends. When you get to this point, seek the help of a fee only financial planner If a financial planner tells you to buy life insurance as an investment, run away.

On 25 May 2005 (10:58 AM),
Dave said:

6. Insurance. Choose the least amount of insurance with the highest deductables you can afford in the event of an accident or loss. You likely will also want a umbrella liability policy. You do not want to loose your nest egg because someone trips in your home and becomes permanently disabled.

7. Home morgage. If you are in a low tax bracket, less than 20%, pay off your home morgage early with additional contributions. But, do not become cash poor and home equity rich. It can be expensive to tap that wealth if you need it. If you are in a high tax bracket, do not pay off your home morgage early. Morgage interest is tax deductable and rates are low. In this case, increase your investing. If you think the market is overpriced, OK, pay more on your morgage. Generally, do NOT choose an ARM morgage. Interest rates can increase rapidly. You can always refinance when rates drop. Worst case, you may have to sell your house if rates rise because you can’t make the payment. At that point your house value may drop because the interest rates have risen, Yikes. If you are looking into an ARM, determine what the maximum payment will be if interest rates rise 10 points. If you can afford THAT payment, OK.

On 25 May 2005 (11:00 AM),
tiffany said:

I read “The Millionaire Next Door” and I can sum it up thusly:

“Live not just within your means, but below your means. Clip coupons. Buy a used car. Live in a smaller, less expensive house. Save and invest the rest wisely. No one gets rich by giving to charity. Manage your assets.”

On 25 May 2005 (11:01 AM),
tiffany said:

Oh.. I forgot one point: “Own your own business.” The book noted that entrepreneurs earn more and are worth more than employees.

On 25 May 2005 (11:53 AM),
Duane said:

There are just some absolutes that these books tout that I never was sure how to take. For instance, I have one credit card that I pay off every month. I just use it as a convenience, and the loyalty points don’t hurt. Should I tear that one up? Why?

Or how about my wife’s car? I’ve got a 4 year loan on that (late model used, thank you very much). I’m not sure that I could easily pay that off in 4 months just by adding some more to the principal. After that, my only debt is the mortgage. But lawdy what a mortgage it is.

I have a savings fund. Several, actually, in the form of cash on hand, index funds, and stock. Should I dip into those to pay off the car now?

On 25 May 2005 (12:38 PM),
Dean said:

One other thing is to make your saving automatic. Have 10% of your pay come right off your cheque and go right into an investment account automatically, without you ever having to remember to do it.

You will ajdust to living on what’s left over and you won’t even notice it.

See “The Automatic Millionaire”.

On 25 May 2005 (02:04 PM),
HF said:

One additional book I *highly* recommend (I’ve been working on this issue, too), is “How to Get Out of Debt, Stay Out of Debt, and Live Prosperously.” (Jerrold Mundis)

Based on the practices of Debtors Anonymous, but presented as a memoir/how-to, this book gets into *how* to convert tracking your expenses into a spending plan. He talks about budgets versus spending plans (a nuance of deprivation versus one of choice), and shows how to free up money for larger goals by “tweaking” spending categories.

One of my favorite things about this book is its advice that, no matter how broke or in debt, you *never* deprive yourself of any needs or at least a few wants. Severe deprivation can lead to resentment binging, joyless hoarding, etc. You pay current expenses, yourself, and old debt, in that order, and you don’t incur any new debt, ever, at all.

He gets into creating space for the new by paring down unwanted possessions and habits, and there’s also a nice touch of magic or kismet. Often, unexpected financial grace moments come when you take good care of yourself and focus on your true path.

This, by far, is my favorite financial health book, because it shows that it’s possible to go from *hopeless* debt to solvency, and even gravy. No pie-in-the-sky windfalls, but some heart-wrenching examples of people who were so deep in debt they were considering drastic, self-destructive actions, and how, step by step, they came out of crisis.

Also highly recommended, Sanaya Roman’s “Creating Money.” This allegedly “channeled” book may be too new-agey for some, but the tone and writing are spot-on. This is about seeing what you have already, cultivating an openness to all sources of wealth, practicing gratitude and generosity, and honoring your real talents. One of my favorite reminders from this book is that there are multiple ways to satisfy a particular desire, and focusing on just one form of satisfaction can make one blind to alternatives. So you look for the core desire; what does that “cabin in the woods” mean to you? Are there other sources available to you for creating such peace, privacy, coziness, time among nature, etc.

Along this same line, the one book I look forward to reading (and I’ve read dozens), that comes recommended by someone I trust a great deal, is “Spiritual Economics” by Eric Butterworth.

I do own Suze Orman’s 9 Steps to Financial Freedom. It’s a geat resource for information when making very specific investment, home-buying, retirement, will, etc choices.

However, for getting motivated & looking at the big picture, you can’t go wrong with Your Money or Your Life, Get Out of Debt.., and Creating Money.

For women, a SUPER resource is The Money Club, a peer-to-peer netowrk of local groups in which women help one another reach financial goals. (Not an investment club)

They have a website with good resources, but it’s the meetings, which include a combination of a financial topic and personal sharing, that ae the core of this program.

http://www.moneyclubs.com/index.html

Another great online resource for women are the printable essays and missions at Flylady.net

Flylady is a seriously generous web-based community of (mainly) women who are working on moving from chaos (whether financial, social, in the home..) to clarity. Once a year, they have a pay-down-your-debt month, and members pay off astonishing hundreds of millions in debt.

Here are the archived essays and missions:

http://flylady.net/pages/FLYsense2.asp
http://flylady.net/pages/FLYsense3.asp

Flylady even offers a downloadable .pdf “Financial Control Journal,” with advice, worksheets, and money-saving tips.

http://flylady.net/images/FACE2004.pdf

On 25 May 2005 (02:15 PM),
Eliot said:

Great summary, J.D! I’ve been reading a lot of these books lately, too, and want to get a good footing before I find a wife and settle into normal adulthood. So far I’ve read “The Richest Man in Babylon”, “The Automatic Millionare”, “The Millionare Next Door”, and “Rich Dad, Poor Dad”.

After reading a couple of books by Kiyosaki, I decided he was trying to pull a scam with the books. He has a few good points, but most of it could be summed up in a paragraph or so. He always refers to his other books and makes you think that you’ll find the real answers if you just read enough of his material (or play his ridiculously expensive “game”).

The best advice was from “The Automatic Millionare” and “The Richest Man in Babylon” (both say about the same thing): pay yourself first (save), make your savings work for you, and reduce your lifestyle.

Anyway, I guess I don’t really have anything intelligent to add. It is amazing that there are so many money books and they all basically say the same thing but yet Americans are still in severe debt. I hope I actually turn some of this advice into practice. I think a big key is to keep marinating my brain with this type of material and be around other people who are trying to get out of debt and save properly.

On 25 May 2005 (02:21 PM),
HF said:

Forgot one great resource.

I went to a women’s financial workshop with several speakers from different perspectives, and one was M.P. Dunleavey, a columnist with the Microsoft network Money channel.

I looked her articles up online, and found a real cache of excellent advice & practices.

For those daunted by budgeting, this one article gives a totally do-able system (in a nutshell, allocate 60% of income for fixed expenses, and 10 each for short-term & long-term savings, investments, and discretionary spending):
http://moneycentral.msn.com/content/Savinganddebt/Learntobudget/P36153.asp

Here’s a convenient article index with topic and author:

http://moneycentral.msn.com/Editorial/index/Homedate.asp?c=6&a=6

On 26 May 2005 (06:37 AM),
MrE said:

Nice article.

I think that Personal Finance should be required course in High School and college! Two of my favorite books were Andrew Tobias’ “The Only Investment Guide You’ll Ever Need” and Peter Lynch’s “One up on Wall Street” I also used to subscribe to Money and Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazines (am a I dating myself?) back when they offered advice for the average person.

Anyways, the “snowball” method for reducing credit card debt works great. There’s an excellent free program (“Credit Card Math”) offered by Zilchworks.com that explains why credit card debt is so hard to pay off and demonstrates how using “snowball” greatly reduces payoff time.

http://www.zilchworks.com/CreditCardMath.html

The program does promote their other Debt Reduction Software, but the advice is sound. I actually purchased their software back when it was being distributed on floppy disk – you can use it do diff payoff scenarios. I’m sure the popular finance software available nowadays can do similar, but I haven’t used programs like Quicken and Money in years.

On 26 May 2005 (02:20 PM),
Mike Duffy said:

Since no one has mentioned it, I would add The Wealthy Barber, which tackles personal financial planning in the style of The One Minute Manager, i.e. a story. It’s definitely a “get rich slowly” approach, but the story makes it easy to get through.

On 26 May 2005 (05:55 PM),
Christine said:

My folks have been talking to me about money since I was a wee one. That means explaining to me and my sister that we could either go to the movies every week or go on a family vacation (we chose vacation and I still rarely go to the movies). They also talked a lot about mutual funds, savings, doubling rules, universal life insurance etc etc. When I was 18, they opened an IRA for me. Not exciting, but now I’m looking at buying a first home, I have good savings and no debt, and at least three credit cards that I have never carried a balance on.

So there’s the argument for sharing with your kids.

As for not paying off your morgtage… if you’re paying 4% interest (it’s a great market!) and that’s tax-deductible anyway and you can make a conervative 6% on your investments, you’re making that 2% for yourself, courtesy of a loan from the bank. I don’t think it’s a trick at all. On the other hand, it’s also not guaranteed.

Nice conversation here… thanks!

On 26 May 2005 (07:37 PM),
Karen said:

If you are a woman, I would suggest David Bach’s ‘Smart Women Finish Rich’ or any of his other Finish Rich books. I received my last raise by reading this book. It gives you the courage to speak up for yourself and not be scared to ask for what you deserve. Many studies have shown that a woman makes less than a man performing the same job, plus women live longer than men. We need to earn more money and know how to manage our money. Someone has mentioned ‘The Wealthy Barber’, that’s a good resource, too. I really liked ‘One Minute Millionaire’ and like some others I wasn’t that impressed with ‘Rich Dad, Poor Dad’.

Good post, J.D.

On 27 May 2005 (07:09 AM),
Xavier said:

“Involve your kids in the family finance”

This is important. I speak as a child of a family who is now bearing the fruits of they type of wealth accumulation advocated in these books. I can’t thank them enough.

“The Barefoot Investor” is a great read for students or those just starting out. It offers good advice for those who aren’t currently entrenched in a career or nursing morgages.

On 27 May 2005 (07:23 AM),
Keith said:

Thanks for taking the time to consolidate all of this great info and post it for us!

On 27 May 2005 (07:28 AM),
Avi Solomon said:

Thanks for the great summary. FYI ‘Your Money or your Life’ has a great grassroot community here:
http://www.simpleliving.net/forums/simpleliving/

On 27 May 2005 (11:42 AM),
Chrees said:

JD, thanks for summarizing so I don’t have to read those books!

This may be mentioned or just implied in the books, but making sure you and your spouse are on the same page when it comes to money is very important. As is making damn sure when you get married it is for good (not trying to get into the morality or necessity of divorce, just the economic impact)–divorce can be economically devestating to both parties. I was fortunate in my divorce that both my ex and me had an easy division and were on equal footing at the time of the divorce, but in some aspects it was like starting over on some of the mentioned steps.

Regarding the Edelman book and the seeming contradiction between #8 and #6–I agree with him. Keeping up with financial news is important for your investments–if you left your money in stocks during 2000 and 2001, you would probably have considerably less worth now than if you temporarily cashed out (even after paying the taxes). While the saying “Invest in what you know” is true, I think it’s equally important to understand the market forces going on around you.

Again, a great discussion. Thanks to all.

On 27 May 2005 (02:39 PM),
Darren said:

I’ve seen a few people here talk about buying a car for cash as though this is a good thing or good accomplishment.

In most cases, this is one of the worst things you can do from a financial standpoint, especially if the dealership is willing to finance the purchase at 0%-3.9% like many do. Cars are a depreciating asset. By purchasing a car with cash, you are locking your money up in something that is *guaranteed* to decrease in value.

Most cars are $20,000+. That’s a sizeable chunk of cash that could easily be invested at 6% or more. If the dealership will finance your purchase at a reduced rate, you are much better off taking the financing and investing your money elsewhere.

Sure, you’d pay more for the car over the term of the loan because of the interest, but your invested cash will completely negate that difference plus generate a profit for you.

On 28 May 2005 (03:41 AM),
Alazka said:

A friend recently pointed out to me that, thanks to insanely spiralling property values around DC, I could theoretically sell the house I only signed a mortgage on six months ago and live on the interest alone back in Lesotho (a nation I’m quite fond of), effectively retiring at 38. One factor to bear in mind in seeking that financial independence is: there are many delightful places in the world where one can live quite comfortably on less than a thousand a month, so anyone who actually owns a significant piece of a house on either coast of the USA is probably already set for life if s/he’s willing to travel.

On 28 May 2005 (01:19 PM),
Scott said:

Re: Darren’s comment about zero or low-rate financing.

The cost of borrowing the money is actually substantially higher – the incremental financing costs are just buried in the acquisition cost of the car. If you can get 6% investing elsewhere, so can the financing company giving you the loan. So why would anyone loan money at zero percent? They don’t.

If you’re paying cash you should demand a sizeable discount over the price you pay if you’re financing.

On 28 May 2005 (08:27 PM),
Jim said:

Re: Budgeting

Here’s what we’ve been doing for two years now, and it’s worked very well:

1. Have your bank open a new checking account, and get a debit card attached to it.

2. Have your employer (if you have direct deposit) split some portion of your pay into the new checking account. You’ll have to figure out what’s appropriate for you though.

3. Use the new checking account for all the junk expenses — movies, dinner out, a new CD, etc. Essentially you budget a single lineitem for “miscellaneous expenses.”

I track every penny in and out of our primary checking account (to which all bills are paid from), but I completely ignore — except for the balance — the money in the junk account.

On 29 May 2005 (03:14 PM),
Betsys said:

My advice is very simple: save at least 10% of your income, ALL the time.

If you have direct deposit, arrange for your bank to take 10% off the top before you ever see your money. Do your budget as if the remaining income was all you had. If you don’t have a regular paycheck you have to discipline yourself. You can either accumulate the money in savings and move it to investments in chunks, or if you can, arrange for automatic mutual fund purchases.

I know this sounds inane: many people will say that they don’t make enough to save. My answer: if you were laid off, or if your paycheck was cut 10%, you would figure out a way to survive. So, just pretend. You can do it.

On 31 May 2005 (11:55 PM),
Ian Gilman said:

Also worth reading: ‘The Soul of Money‘, by Lynne Twist.

It’s not about financial independence, but about understanding and directing your relationship with money. A good complement to the other books.

Here’s what Vicki Robin (co-author of ‘Your Money or Your Life’) has to say about it:

“Lynne Twist, with great grace, beauty and conviction, is about to take away from you some precious and utterly failed illusions so you can claim, now and forever, truths that will set you free. She has earned these truths through years of meeting – soul to soul – some of the most and the least advantaged peoples of this earth. Let her speak to your heart and then test her suggestions… and see.”

And yes, I got my copy from the library.

On 02 June 2005 (08:34 AM),
Dimitri said:

Thanks for a great article. This is something I’ve been meaning to do myself as I have also read a handful of similar books.

I just wanted to mention one thing which seems to be missing: Tithe.

In the majority of books I read (including some of the abovementioned titles) there is a common thread of investing ~10% of your income and giving another 10% away to the needy (charities, communities, schools, etc.)

There seems to be consensus that although it doesn’t make financial sense, giving away a tenth actually brings in more wealth in the long run. This may have to do with karma – if you believe in that sort of thing – or maybe it’s just a psychological phenomenon … where, by willingly and happily giving money away, you lessen the chance of getting too uptight about the whole thing.

Some believe that money is a force that needs to flow (similar to water, air, chi…) when you hold on to all of it, it goes stale and is not productive. Give it away and it will come back to you hundredfold.

and that was my 2 cents (a very appropriate phrase, I think 😉

On 02 June 2005 (11:21 PM),
Emmanuel kinobe Mugerwa said:

i really appreciate yo work.

i really appreciate your work.

On 02 June 2005 (11:22 PM),
Emmanuel kinobe Mugerwa said:

i really appreciate yo work.

i really appreciate your work.

On 05 June 2005 (06:00 AM),
Lance said:

One small item that seems mostly overlooked…

Getting rich slowly doesn’t mean giving up every comfort or luxury. Reducing your expenditures doesn’t mean you can’t spend $100 on a concert ticket or $2000 on a beach trip. When you can afford it.

Yes, during the get-out-of-debt phase it makes a lot of sense to trim all your expenses and get the interest monkey off your back. Once you’ve got a plan established, make a little room for some unnecessary necessities so you don’t go insane. It’s just as neurotic to reject buying anything as it is to be an obsessive consumer. Whether that is $150 a month or $5 will depend on your own situation.

If you can’t enjoy your life while you’re saving, you’ll have forgotten how by the time you’re “rich”.

On 07 June 2005 (08:38 PM),
The WOWmenu.com team said:

You know, wow! Thanks for taking the time to share this information.

This is truly a wealth of knowledge you’ve put together here. Everyone could benefit from investing some attention in building their financial literacy.

I think they now have a catalyst available to them for beginning that process.

Say, any other interest you’d be willing to share?

On 09 June 2005 (06:11 AM),
Stefan said:

Nice article. I wanted to point out, why the an emergency fund is of such importance, and also, why I think that $1000 may not be enough:

Imagine you put your money into some long-term contract. Now imagine, your car breaks down (lose you job, whatever) and you need a new one. And you need it today. What will happen, if you don’t have an emergency fund? You will have to dissolve the long-term contract to get enough money to buy a new (our used 🙂 car, because you can’t wait to save enough to buy one.

Why is this bad? Because you will have to pay some kind “fine” for getting out of the contract early. Often you will also loose all the interest that you have been building up over the years. So basically you will start from zero (or less, because you will also buy that car). Without an emergency fund you would jeopardize your whole financial foundation that you are trying to build.

Instead, if you had an emergency fund things would have worked out differently. You would take the money for your new car out of that fund. That’s it. You don’t lose any insterest and don’t have to pay any fines.

Just remember to fill up that fund again after you bought your car!

So why is $1000 not enough for this? It depends. If you can live of off $1000 for half a year (not three month, that won’t do in my opinion — better save than sorry) then $1000 is fine. But just remeber: “Living of off” here means food, rent, gas, whatever PLUS any monthly payments for retirement accounts or basically anything that you cannot afford to NOT pay for (because that would cost you extra money).

On 09 June 2005 (03:43 PM),
Paul said:

With all these wonderfull words of wisdom, I don’t really know what to say. However I will give it a shot. I just began “Step 1”. I am now down to $1555 from $6000 in revolving debt. It took me 2 months starting with getting back almost $3,200 from the IRS, from 2004 and 2003 (I never filed the prior year…oops). With that kind of money, I decided to start paying my debt off and start saving again. At about the same time I landed a $20.00 per hour part time job and started becoming obsessed with my whole finacial situation. At this point, I am almost debt free and I started a savings acount with Capitalone at 3.15% APR…even better than ing.com. Stage one is actually fun =)

On 13 June 2005 (07:20 AM),
serenity said:

J.D Thank you so much for breaking it down for me. It is so happen today I return home with a book “finance for dummies”. It’s a bit dissapointing because many of those doesn’t apply here since it is meant for someone living in the state (I live in Indonesia), but your points are so simple to follow.
Thank you so much. I just spent my first point last month, but it’s ok, now that I got the picture I can build my frame.

When we’re both rich, you’ll hear from me.

Good luck with the bathroom, and you know what they say, borrowing comic books meant more friends as long as you returned them (and it is quite tempting I may say 😀 )

Again thank you.. mmuuach

On 23 June 2005 (08:16 PM),
barkah said:

On the credit cards, i happen not to agree with the statement that they’re bad. They’re sometimes usefull if you are wise in using it. I collected the tips based on my experience here: http://bw.or.id/blog/2005/06/119/

too long if i put it right here.

The main point is: credit card is not extra money.

On 26 June 2005 (08:46 PM),
Don said:

Great article. Thanks. I have The Millionaire Next Door and find it bland. However, Reading Rich Dad, Poor Dad helped me see the importance of everything you shared in your piece. I would highly recommend it to anyone who normally finds personal finance boring or difficult to grasp. It changed my whole attitude about my needs and possibilities. Keep up the good work.
Don

On 21 July 2005 (09:16 PM),
jbelkin said:

Not disagreeing with you on the overall but you do need at least 1 if not 2 credit cards. If you travel or plan to travel, you are labeled as undesirable without a card. You cannot rent a car without one (a debit card generally has a limit of $1,000 a day and rental card companies put a hold on your overall rental + up to 100%). If you buy a ticket with cash, you are labeled a security risk and you will get the full wanding and pat down.

There are lots of cards with no fees and rebates so the they key is not to have no credit cards but to PAY THEM OFF at the next month. There are also lots of deals now where you can transfer your card to a new one with no interest for up to a year … and ironically, the more cards you have and DO NOT use or have a low % balance versus your limit, they will offer you more cards.

On 22 July 2005 (07:48 AM),
Allan Kochis said:

Check out
“Common Sense Economics” by
James Gwartney, Richard L. Stroup and Dwight R. Lee
In the section on personal finance they summarize their point for you!

PS. in my opinion a book worth owning.

On 22 July 2005 (07:52 AM),
Robert said:

linked from boingboing…

anyway, I am getting into the financial thing myself, going into my sophomore year of college one of my “adult friends” is trying to pass on the wisdom…so far I’ve read “The Richest Man in Babylon” and “The Millionaire Next Door” — I personally appreciated how while their styles were completely different (babylon == king james, TMND = info about today’s people) and yet their advice seemed to be the same (within reason, the babylonians didn’t seem to have problems with economic outpatient care nor saving for college)

But anyway, I dig this post, and you’re totally right, their wisdom is sufficiently boiled down to a number of points — but I do appreciate reading their books, the examples are great 🙂 Oh, and they don’t profit off of me — I buy my books at half-priced books 🙂

On 22 July 2005 (08:44 AM),
Ché said:

An excellent post. I won’t go into my personal background, but I feel very strongly these types of books need to be read in every household.

A quick comment on one of your points:

“Secret #1: Carry a mortgage even if you can afford to pay it off. — This flies in the face of every other financial book I’ve read, and I do not subscribe to the idea. I’m willing to be that the people surveyed carry a mortgage out of habit, not because they think it’s smart.”

You spend your money on investments, not liabilities. Paying, say, $150,000 dollars to eliminate a $1400 dollar a month debt is a bad investment. Let’s say your house is 150k, and you owe all of it. The national average for appreciation is somewhere around 10%. That means your house is appreciating $15,000 a year, and costing you $16,800. Take into account equity buy-down of roughly $150 a month on your $1400 payment, and you have $16,800 worth of equity gain a year. Basically a wash, and that’s FINE. If you pay off your house, you now spent $150k to eliminate a $16,800 a year cost. You now have $150k in a bank account you can’t touch (equity in your house).

Take that 150k and put it into something that gives you a 20% ROI (not unreasonable), and you end up with a 30k a year cash flow, which pays off your mortgage AND gives you $13,200 to invest. So now your total ROI is better than 20%, because you still benefit from the equity buy down that is occuring as a result of your home loan ($1,680/yr).

Mortgages are -goooooood-. Collect as many as you can!

On 22 July 2005 (08:46 AM),
John S. said:

Nice post. I came over here from BoingBoing. I have one comment on a previous comment: although I haven’t read all of it by any means, I think you should be very cautious about the financialsense.com site. Just reading a few articles at random it became apparent that it is “tinfoil hat” territory. I would take what they say with a huge grain of salt.

On 22 July 2005 (08:59 AM),
Ché said:

Morning typos. That last number should have read $1800 a year

On 22 July 2005 (08:59 AM),
Kenneth Greenlee said:

Dear FoldedSpace,

First of all, great post. I don’t think we can ever talk about financial planning too much. Why? Because it must be realized by everyone that financial planning is not just for rich people! Becoming rich (aside from the trillion to lottery chance) requires financial planning.

Some points. FoldedSpace says he is not sure about housing: buy all you can afford? or only what you need? Is it a liability or an asset. The one thing that all the planners agree on (I believe) is that you should own rather than rent. I have read most of the books above and I happen to disagree mostly with Kiyosaki regarding a house as a liability. The reason is that no matter what we have to house ourselves and that costs money. My view of housing is that if an acceptable (but not lavish) apartment would cost me $700, then my task is to find housing that costs me $700 a month to own. Anything above that is a true liability. I found and purchased a 4 unit building (in which I live in one of the units) in New Orleans which costs me around $2000 a month and which brings in around $2000 a month in income. I don’t regard this as a breakeven situation. I regard it as being $700 a month ahead, as I would have to bear the housing costs anyway.

Final point. Paul said in the very first comment:

“All these financial planning books seem to forget to tell you one thing. Write a book about financial planning and make a lot of money! Regardless of whether or not they follow their own rules, principles or plans, they are making money off selling their book. The all state that you should make money off of an asset that you don’t sit on. So, JD, get off your ass and write a financial planning book. It appears there is money to be made.”

Actually there is a book out there which says just that! It is called “Multiple Streams of Income” by Robert Allen, author of the famous “Nothing Down” book on real estate. in it he says (from memory): “everyone has a book in them. I (Robert Allen) calculate that I have made around $20 per word per year from the book that I have published.” Not a bad return.

“Multiple Streams of Income” is very good. One of its strengths is that it gives very concrete recommendations. Of course there is a lot of handwaving, but it not a book of only handwaving.

That’s it!

On 22 July 2005 (09:02 AM),
Jeremy said:

Two Additional Notes:

1. As several people have already pointed out, use direct deposit to make your savings automatic. I have a hunk of every paycheck redirected to a savings account at a different bank. I can’t stress enough how much of an impact this will have on your savings. The best piece of mail I get each month is the statement for the savings account. I do nothing and the number just keeps getting bigger!

2. Eliminate as many of your monthly recurring fees as possible. Cable? Gym membership? Storage space rental? Netflix? Trash or minimize as many as possible, then add up how much you will save per year.

On 22 July 2005 (09:21 AM),
Mark K. said:

For anyone looking for an easy way of keeping track of expenses, I’ve been using the Dome Simplified Home Budget Book. It’s just a book of simple, blank Excel-like charts in which you write the money you spend in a certain category per day. (In case you have more than one expense in a category, you can keep a small calculator handy). Then when you do your monthly totals you compare them with your budget in the last column.

IMHO, this doesn’t have the flair of Quicken, but it CAN be taken with you out and about–which is where I do most of my purchasing. I also have a small accordion file for receipts (so now I know exactly where they go when people give them to me). Anyway, I’ve found it very useful.

The total cost of the book, a small calculator, and the accordion file is probably less than $15.

On 22 July 2005 (10:48 AM),
Mike said:

I am a bachelor and I save 75% of my net income. I really don’t understand why so many people accumulate so much debt. How do they sleep at night? I am 35 and plan to be partially retired (only doing part time fun jobs) in my early 40s. You credit card debt guys should try it. It’s fun to be responsible.

On 22 July 2005 (11:06 AM),
chele said:

Just wanted to repeat; great thread! Thanks for taking the time to write it out. I have read some of the books and noticed the similarities and wondered if they all sounded so much the same. Now I know they do indeed!
Thanks again…

On 22 July 2005 (12:40 PM),
Jeffrey Allen said:

Why is it easier to find investors/lender then it is to find eligible companies wanting capital?
[email protected]
Las Vegas

On 22 July 2005 (01:42 PM),
Steve said:

Tammy,

Bravo! Bravo! Bravo! That is exactly it! We do it too, similar ages to you. The best thing you can do for yourself is get rid of your debit card, they are for idiots. If you aren’t scared that your life can be completely compiled nicely for an irs goon, then you are just to stupid to really understand how this works and why. Good luck!

On 22 July 2005 (03:42 PM),
Sue said:

Great article

On 22 July 2005 (04:29 PM),
shwonline said:

Great thread!

We carry only one major credit card, which is tied to a specific major airline’s frequent flyer program. $1 spent = 1 mile. We use it a lot, but only to buy what we would have bought anyway. If I have a choice of cash, check or credit card, I use the card. We pay it off in full every month.

I also use this same airline whenever I have a choice in my business travel, as does my wife for her business travel.

We use the accumulated miles to buy airfare and other incidentals during family vacations. We have been able to afford vacations to Hawaii and London this way. It costs us no more, and saves us thousands.

The only other time we ever acquire credit cards is during shopping for back-to-school clothes. If we are buying hundreds of dollars worth of clothes, and the store will give us an extra 15% off for signing up for a card that day, we’ll do it. As soon as the bill arrives, we pay it, and cancel the account. This takes caution and discipline, and I would not recommend it as a regular strategy for most people. However, it has saved us a bundle on occasions.

One other seemingly small thing we do is to order only water at restaurants, including for the kids. We’ve done this all their lives, so they don’t know the difference, and they recognize that it’s a special treat to get something more. For a family of four, this adds up to hundreds of dollars a year.

On 22 July 2005 (06:02 PM),
greg said:

Interesting sight France, thanks for turning me on to it, Greg

On 24 July 2005 (12:12 PM),
Sebrina said:

It was not until I was separated/divorced from my financially-illiterate husband that I really was able to start building my personal finances in a positive way. NO NO NO…I am not advocating divorce, but I am saying to you single folks BE CAREFUL who you marry if one day you want to become financially independent. Both need to be of the same mind to make it work.

One more comment…i agree about the credit cards. Get rid of them. if you are like me and find it mentally excruciating to commit to paying off the balance each month or to stay away from the limit, credit cards are not for you. I keep one just for car rentals and stuff, but it would be better if I had none.

On 24 July 2005 (12:49 PM),
sennoma said:

Nice one, JD. Picked up by Rebecca Blood now. I second Paul’s advice: write a book. There’s enough material in this post alone. Ethical reason: it’s good to have the same ideas presented in a lot of different ways, because different presentations “click” for different people, and because comparison among different presentations yields bedrock principles. Slightly less ethical reason: I bet you’d make a ton of money.

On 24 July 2005 (09:37 PM),
Marina said:

I have read many of the books mentioned and agree with most of them. I would suggest two others that I liked: “Live Rich” and “Die Broke” by Stephen M. Pollan. Good luck!

On 25 July 2005 (02:58 AM),
Fazzy said:

Thank you.

On 27 July 2005 (08:15 AM),
Ganesh said:

Nice discussions!

I dont think credit cards are that bad if you use it wisely. I have a major credit card which gives me upto 5% cashback. So for all my necessities I am using my credit card and each cycle I am paying it off fully. As a result at the end of the year I am getting whopping 2 to 3% adjusted interest on my expenditure approx as a free money.I take it as my gift for being self disciplined.

What do you have to say about it?

Cheers,
Ganesh

On 03 August 2005 (01:19 AM),
Gerard said:

Dear JD,

Thank you for this post.
I was not sure which books to purchase, but now know that the one I purchased was enough. And you summary of all the books will help me greatly.
Keep up the good work.

With regards,

Gerard

On 16 August 2005 (02:06 PM),
Michael said:

Thanks for a GREAT summary of financial books. I have been looking through some of the books, hesitating pulling the trigger on any of them.

My wife and I only have two “big” debts…my student loan from college, and our new mortgage from building a house….no credit cards and no car pymts. I have been looking at way to move retirement money into some better money making investments.

Thanks for a great post, I will stick it in del.icio.ous and refer to it often.

On 19 August 2005 (05:31 PM),
Holly said:

Of course, someone writes a fantastic article and along comes the spammers. :-p

On 27 August 2005 (10:58 AM),
Andrius said:

Great article! Worth tens of books about personal finance, but totally free. Thanks!

On 16 September 2005 (05:17 AM),
Glyn Simpson said:

Good read. Although not explicity named, ‘pay yourself first’ from The Richest Man in Babylon is a philosophy I believe in, and have successfully used.

On 08 October 2005 (12:07 PM),
emma said:

greetings,

this is my first post. i can’t say that i agree with all that you have stated but do with most of it.

first, i have read some of the books that you mentioned, all of which i own. the main reason i purchased the books was to develop a library of financial wisdom for myself and my children.

second, i agree with much of what you said about kiyosaki and his book rich dad poor dad. to me it seems more of a compilation of ideas influenced from think and grow rich, the richest man in babylon and who knows what else. like you, i was unable to narrow down his keypoints and therefore lacks clear and practical application. i am a believer in reading, so this book is recommended. i don’t find it crucial for wealth building however.

i am a huge fan of dave ramsey and own 2 of his books, total money makeover and financial peace university revisited. he is one of the few financial experts that offer practical application of financial ideas and goals. i highly recommend both of his books.

i absolutely enjoyed richest man in babylon. the manner at which clason presented practical ideas was done so creatively and memorably. i personally recommend this book and am happy to have it in my library.

think and grow rich is a much more difficult reading book but has great insight into harnessing the power of the mind to generate wealth.

thanks for your input.

Observed

Tuesday is Sno-Ball day!


The song Lick it Up by KISS is, quite possibly, the worst song every recorded.


I mean to write a follow-up to yesterday’s entry about technology, but I just can’t find the words. I want to write about education, but everything I get on paper is incoherent. I’ll keep trying.


This will come as no surprise to most of you, but getting more sleep makes me feel more rested. Amazing! Consider:

I get up at 5:30 during the week. Kris likes to be to sleep by ten on most nights, but I just can’t do that. I sit in bed reading, or web surfing, or — Kris’ favorite — writing weblog entries. I generally don’t try to sleep until eleven, and it often takes me half an hour to fall asleep. Net result: six hours of sleep, and I often feel exhausted.

While Nick has been in Italy the past few weeks — he just drove in for his first day back to work — I’ve been living a life of luxury. I’ve been coming to work at nine, which means I can get up at 7:30. 7:30! Omigod. You cannot imagine how pampered I’ve felt. If I follow my normal routine, I’m getting eight hours of sleep. Even if I stay up til midnight to, say, play World of Warcraft, and even if it takes me a half hour to get to sleep, I’m still getting an extra hour of sleep. Even seven hours is far superior to six.

What is the moral of this story? I’m exhausted all the time, but I really don’t have to be.


Remember my hypothesis that obsessive play of World of Warcraft was a contributing factor to my recent bout of depression? Preliminary anecdotal evidence would seem to indicate that this is, indeed, the case.

Since I wrote about my problem last Friday, I’ve played the game only once, for three hours on Monday afternoon. I had fun, and I didn’t feel like I was neglecting anything.

I feel great. Kris remarked last night how much my mood has improved over the past few days. It’s as if I’ve awakened from a stupor.

In January I wrote about a moment of self-actualization. This moment actually came about a week into a one-month period during which I set aside the game for other priorities.

Coincidence? I think not.


My fiscal responsibility program continues to work wonders.

Before October, I had a savings rate of zero. I never saved money. I didn’t feel pressed for cash (in the long term), but I never accumulated any capital.

When Tony left Custom Box, we restructured salaries in such a way that I began earning an extra $400 a month (which is a lot of money). Then I paid off all of my debts, which freed up another $350 a month. Finally, I’ve been working to reduce discretionary spending, and have been able to trim another $250 a month. Do you see that total?

In about six months time, I’ve gone from saving nothing to being able to save $1000 a month. Unbelievable. My mind boggles. (Of course, at the moment all of this money is being poured into our bathroom remodel, but still: in theory, I’ll be able to save a lot in the near future.)


Here are two examples of how I’ve reduced my discretionary spending, both of which involve books. (Remember that last year I spent over $200 on books and comics every month. (It’s difficult to separate those two number because I buy most of my comics in book form.))

Last week I placed a small order with Amazon. This order has been in-process for about ten days, and because it’s still active and I haven’t received the books yet, it acts as a kind of mental stop preventing me from wanting to buy more. Because I already have a book order in process, I feel no need to obtain other books. Strange, but effective.

Except for last night.

We were in Portland running errands for the bathroom remodel. I insisted that we stop at Powell’s. I wandered the store for half an hour, picking up Latin texts, books by Wendell Berry, Modern Library editions of favorite classics, a compilation of James Bond comic strips, and several other fine volumes. When I sat down with my basket, I had over $100 worth of books. I took them out one-by-one, deliberating. In the end, I decided on a set of Latin texts and the latest Wendell Berry anthology. On the walk to the cash register, I changed my mind. Ultimately, I purchased only the Wendell Berry anthology, which, ironically, had been the first book I picked up. Even six months ago, this scenario would have had a completely different conclusion.

Last year I spent $200+ per month on books. This month I’ve only spent $77. I’m not sure if it’s possible for me to reduce this much further, but I’ll try.


At last the sun has returned. After our month-long festival of early spring sunshine, we suffered a month of wet and grey. It seems, however, that things have returned to normal. We’ll even have highs around seventy for the next few days. I like that.

Comments


On 20 April 2005 (11:27 AM),
Rich R said:

Have you heard the Kiss song “let’s put the X in sex”…it is much worse….much worse.



On 20 April 2005 (12:43 PM),
traitor said:

When Tony left Custom Box, we restructured salaries in such a way that I began earning an extra $400 a month (which is a lot of money).

Wow, you got a fairly large raise to essentially do the same thing you where doing when Tony was there. Now what is it again you do at Custom Box????????????? 🙂 or maybe it should be:( .



On 20 April 2005 (01:15 PM),
Denise said:

I’d have to agree with Rich, X in Sex is much worse.

The video for Lick it Up is definitely in the running for worst video of all time, even by 80’s hairband video standards.

The Education of Henry Adams

You may want to skip this first bit and just read the questions at the end of this entry, which I’ve highlighted in bold. Or maybe just skip the whole thing…

For book group this month, I selected the autobiographical The Education of Henry Adams, a book I’ve been intending to read it for nearly a decade. There is much to be valued in The Education of Henry Adams. Unfortunately, it takes several hundred pages to find it.

The first fifty pages describe Adams’ life as a boy in Boston during the 1840s. He was born into a life of prestige and privilege; his grandfather had been a President, as has his great-grandfather. Our boy Henry spent his youth playing boyish games and resenting school, as boys are wont to do. He grew up, studied at Harvard, and then spent a couple of years wandering Europe.

During the next stage of his life — and for the next two hundred pages of the book — Adams found himself in the center of, but not actively participating in, the political turmoil of the 1860s. When the Civil War broke out, he was in London acting as his father’s private secretary. (His father was ambassador to England.) He witnessed first-hand a lot of the diplomacy involved between Britain and both the U.S. and the Confederacy.

The final two hundred pages of the book are devoted to Adams’ developing “Dynamic Theory of History”, and an extended meditation on the past as it relates to the present and, ultimately, the future.

The Education of Henry Adams is a fascinating book. However, the second section is daunting: it’s a swampy morass of names and dates and places, and events only obscurely hinted at. It’s difficult to read. (I longed for a hypertext version, or some sort of annotation.) In fact, only Bernie and I finished the book. Most of the other member barely made a dent in it, swallowed whole by the impenetrable diplomacy of 1860s London.

Because it was my book, and because I realized it was a difficult read, I made thorough notes, and prepared several questions to ask. Fortunately, these weren’t needed. The group was able to enjoy a fine discussion about the nature of education, anyhow.

I was sad, though, that I didn’t get to use the questions I’d prepared:

1. One recurring theme in the book is the contrast between the 18th and the 20th centuries. Adams was born in 1838, but his life — because of his family, his city, his culture — was firmly rooted in the 18th century. Society as a whole, however, was rushing headlong toward the 20th century, a place for which he felt ill-prepared. Think of you own life. What changes have you seen that boggle your mind, that make you feel even a little bit unprepared for what is to come. Could any education possibly help you prepare? (For example, it seems almost like science fiction that I can take a thin computer and, nearly anywhere in Portland, connect to a global network granting me instant communication — written or verbal — to anyone, and access to instant information.)

2. Adams continually professes his lack of education, yet he must be reckoned one of the most educated men our country has seen. He was born to a life of privilege, educated at Harvard, spent his life moving in circles of great men and women — politicians, statesmen, artists, writers, scientists — travelled probably more extensively than any of his contemporaries (he travelled the entire United States, Mexico, Canada, the West Indies, all of Europe — including Scandinavia — Russia, China, Japan, Egypt, and an around-the-world boat trip), and, perhaps most importantly, he was present for some of the most important moments of nineteenth century history. What does it say that a man with this much Education feels uneducated? What is education?

3. The Education of Henry Adams was awarded the Pulitzer Prize. The Modern Library named it as the most important book of non-fiction produced in the United States during the twentieth century. It’s considered an integral part of the Western Canon. Yet William James, the noted psychologist, when asked has to proof the book before publication, found it as dull and tedious as many of us do. James praised certain passages, but disliked the manner in which Adams treated history, his tendency to gloss. What makes this book great? What makes it awful?

4. Throughout the book, especially toward the end, Adams shows a remarkable ability. He is able to project to the future based on the course of the past. For example, in his discussion of the changing role of women in chapter 30, he notes that the woman of 1900 is unrecognizable when compared to that of 1840, and seems to acknowledge (tacitly) that suffrage must occur in the next forty years. He makes similar accurate forward-looking statements regarding the role of automobiles, regarding the course of Russian history, regarding the use of electricity. What do you think our world world will be like in sixty years? What trends, apparent from the past couple decades, will become fully realized? (Note: Adams makes a terrible prophecy in the book’s last paragraph, guessing that in 1938 the world will be a peaceful place. Heh.)

5. Adams seems to believe there are two primal forces in our lives, those he calls the Virgin and the dynamo. When he speaks of the Virgin, he speaks of the power of women in society, both in terms of their sexuality and in terms of their minds (which he finds superior to those of men). Women represent family, society, and unity. When he speaks of the dynamo, he speaks of the power of technological progress, of new technology. The dynamo represents progress, and power, and multiplicity. All other aspects — including the role of men (as in males) — are secondary. He does not make this suggestion in jest. What do you think of this dichotomy between the Virgin and the dynamo? (Adams’ poem: Prayer to the Virgin of Chartres, which includes Prayer to the Dynamo.)

6. To Adams, the Virgin represents order, coherence, and unity, not to mention spirituality. The dynamo represents chaos, change, and multiplicity. He believes that the fabric of society is gradually unravelling. Civilization is disintegrating. He wrote: “Some day science may have the existence of mankind in its power, and the human race may commit suicide by blowing up the world.” Do you think the world is moving toward chaos? Is it moving toward order? Or, all things considered, is it no more ordered or chaotic than it always has been?

7. Henry Adams felt that his eighteenth-century upbringing, with its emphasis on humane letters and strict moral accountability, had ill-equipped him for the twentieth century, with its emphasis on energy, science, and industry. How do you feel your education has prepared your for the world that lies ahead of us?

8. Throughout the book, Adams makes the point that real education does not come by rote, does not come from safe, established modes, but from experience, especially from experience that challenges, that forces him outside his comfort zone. In fact, sometimes — as with his discovery of Beethoven — the learning is accidental. Many other times, the learning comes from moments of emotional crisis or of great passion. These moments seem to teach more than intellectual learning. (Example: his exposure to the genius of Algernon Swinburne.) What experiences have been most educational for you? Which sort of education do you value most?

I have a tendency to pick difficult books (see Proust), but they’re actually the books I enjoy most. I’m sad that the other book group members are unable to persevere, but I cannot say that I blame them!

Moderation in Nothing

Dad used to tell the following story about me, more as a means to demonstrate the nature of his character than to demonstrate the nature of mine.

When I was a boy, probably around Harrison’s age, I wanted a goldfish. I don’t know why I wanted a goldfish, but I wanted one. Instead of buying a goldfish and a bowl for me, Dad went out and bought a twenty-gallon tank and a pump and filters and scads of tropical fish. “What do you think of that, David?” he asked. I wasn’t very appreciative. I wanted a goldfish.

Dad laughed when he told this story. It illustrated one of his character flaws. Whatever he did, he did with enthusiasm. He didn’t want to just sail boats, he wanted to build his own, and so he did (or tried to, anyhow). He didn’t want to just use computer programs, he wanted to write his own, and so he did.

Many of you will have recognized some of the same tendency in me. It’s often been remarked how I obsess over something for a period of time, only to leave it behind and move on to something else. The list is long: astronomy, chess, computer programming, tropical fish, bicycling, photography, gardening, board games, soccer, Latin, etcetera, etcetera.

I am a dilettante. This is not a quality of which I’m proud.

The crux of the problem is that when I obsess with something, I do so at the expense of other aspects of my life. In reality, these obsessions are nothing more than a manifestation of a fundamental character flaw.

Why am I overweight? Why have I had money issues? Why does my library contain more books that I will ever possibly read? Why? Because I am, historically, unable to practice moderation.

Moderation in all things,” admonished the ancients (many of them). Aristotle argued that moderation was the course to a happy life. Perhaps that explains why I’ve been fundamentally unhappy lately.

My unhappiness runs deep. It pervades my soul, my spirit. It’s been my dominant mode for the past three months. I could write for a week on this subject alone, but I won’t. It’s something that I need to overcome. (And Kris is helping me to do so.)

Instead, I’d like to draw attention to one possible source of my unhappiness, a drastic lapse of moderation.

World of Warcraft was released November 23rd, 144 days ago. Since then, I’ve spent almost exactly fourteen days playing the game. Yes, that’s right: fourteen days. A full ten percent of my life has been spent in game since Thanksgiving.

This is immoderation at its worst.

What do I have to show for this time? A host of virtual identities:

7 days, 7 hours, and 40 minutes on Proudmoore:
Maturin, 35th level night elf hunter (6d 8h 4m)
Beytu, 7th level tauren warrior (2h 47m)
Judyth, 12th level human priest (17h 41m)
Aylyana, 2nd level troll rogue (13m)
Morted, 6th level undead warlock (1h 53m)
Zapf, 2nd level gnome mage (1h 2m)

1 hour and 30 minutes on Azjul-Nerob:
Muerta, 5th level undead warlock (1h 30m)

21 hours and 17 minutes on Windrunner:
Norrell, 13th level undead warlock (12h 25m)
Poak, 6th level gnome warrior (2h 9m)
Snapp, 8th level gnome mage (4h 43m)

5 days, 18 hours, and 5 minutes on Alleria:
Ocius, 25th level troll hunter (2d 10h 27m)
Chantica, 27th level tauren shaman (3d 2h 6m)
Beytu, 10th level tauren druid (5h 32m)

The really scary numbers in the above list are those for Alleria. I’ve been on Alleria for about six weeks, which means I’ve spent a full day each week playing there. Even scarier, I started Chantica two weeks ago today. So, in the 336 hours since she was created, I’ve played 74 hours with her. I’m afraid to even do that math.

I’ve played this game for 336 hours and 12 minutes since its release. That’s more time than I spent playing Starcraft (and my Starcraft time was spread out over a year). It’s nearly as much time as I spent playing Civilization II (and my Civ2 time was spread out over a decade).

What could I have done with those 336 hours and 12 minutes? I could have listened to thirty audio books. I could have read sixty physical books. I could have probably mastered the rudiments of Latin so that I’d be reading Virgil or Ovid in the original now. I could have taught myself woodworking, and maybe have even built a bookshelf or two. I could have fertilized the blueberries and the grapes. I could have pruned all the trees. I could have replied to e-mail, written to friends, devoted more time to this weblog. I could have made photographs. I could have done lots of things.

I’m not going to quit playing World of Warcraft. It’s fun. Too much fun. I enjoy the time I spend with Will and Joel and Andrew. And Scott S. recently purchased the game, too, and I look forward to playing with him. I am, however, going to practice some moderation, spending far less time online than I am now.

So: Will, Joel, Andrew, and Scott — e-mail or call if you’re going to be on-line and want to go adventuring together. I’ll join you with pleasure. Until then, however, I’m going to be studying Latin.

(Apparently Nate has a similar addiction.)

Comments


On 15 April 2005 (09:59 AM),
J.D. said:

Here’s an interesting sub-quality I possess: it seems that I can never have a completely balanced life. Some aspect (or perhaps more than one) must always be out of whack.

For example, my finances are completely under control now. (They’re in the best shape they’ve ever been, and only getting better!) I began to get control of them in the middle of November which, coincidentally, is about the time World of Warcraft was released.

Or try this: I’ve had a hell of a time with my weight lately. I was getting it under control last spring, had lost twenty pounds, and then we bought the house. I gained the twenty pounds back in six months. It’s my belief that if I were to focus on losing this weight again, some other aspect of my life would spring out of control.

At the core, all of these problems spring from a single fundamental flaw: I have no self-discipline. I have no strength of will. Perhaps I should work on that.

(It’s fortunate that I do seem to be able to exercise self-control when it comes to those things I perceive as potentially dangerous: alcohol and tobacco.)



On 15 April 2005 (02:33 PM),
Dave said:

Perhaps you overly perseverate your perseveration.

On 15 April 2005 (02:53 PM),
Amanda said:

Whoa. I would give serious reconsideration to dropping the gaming. What is it really adding to your life? Are there other activities that you can do with your gaming friends?

Perhaps I am unfairly biased. I don’t get these sort of games. On the other hand, I spend way more time watching TV than I should.

We all have our time-wasting vices.

On 15 April 2005 (03:05 PM),
J.D. said:

Yes, but for some people — such as Kris — that vice is knitting. sigh

This vice hasn’t just made me feel poorly physically, it’s also affected my output in this weblog. It’s difficult for me to write about all the fun little things that happen to me day-to-day when all that is happening is that Joel and I are killing Troggs and getting bright new shiny Sporkenators. Nobody cares. Not even me!

Moderation. Moderation. Moderation.

This ought to be my mantra.

On 15 April 2005 (06:07 PM),
Tammy said:

I dont think knitting can be placed in the same category as playing games on the computer. I believe it falls more along the lines of playing chess or reading. It’s constructive. There’s something tangible to show for your efforts.

IMO, getting lost on the computer is the worst feeling in the wolrd. It always leaves me feeling bad about myself. It’t unlike any of my other addictions. I’m happy to say that as of January I haven’t spent a lot of time on the computer; nothing like I used to. I’ve never played computer games. I know I would get addicted.

I dont do ebay either because of my addictive personality. If there’s something I want an ebay I email a link to my husband and he bids on it for me. He doesn’t seem to have addictions to anything. I wish I could be more like that.

On 15 April 2005 (07:37 PM),
nate said:

I do indeed have a similar addiction… though my roommate is even more invested in it than I am. I’m only level 41, but he hit 53 just today. For him, I think it’s pretty much, eat, sleep, play WoW, and maybe go to class.

(Oh, and while the link in your post has my new URL, the one on your sidebar doesn’t. Just FYI.)

On 15 April 2005 (11:10 PM),
dowingba said:

Whoa. I would give serious reconsideration to dropping the gaming. What is it really adding to your life?

I hate when people say things like this. Let me ask you this: how is it hurting you to play games? Do you enjoy it? Then do what you enjoy. Why does everything one does in life have to accomplish some material goal in order to be worthwhile? Can’t you just enjoy life once in a while?

I haven’t played WoW (or any other MMORPG), but from reading various snippets of this site, it sure sounds like it’s a pretty enjoyable game. Doing something you enjoy = good.

On 15 April 2005 (11:13 PM),
dowingba said:

And Tammy, explain to me how playing chess has more tangible results than playing computer games? Does this apply to computer chess as well?

On 16 April 2005 (09:19 AM),
Tammy said:

Ah dowingba, I haven’t heard from you in forever. The only reason I mentioned chess was because JD listed it among his obsessions. Upon review of the above entry I see that he didn’t necessarily rate it as a better pursuit than computer games, only as one of his addictions.

I originally read that to mean that he considered that list more worth while pursuits. And not being a computer game player I didn’t even think about it being played on the computer. But you’re right. It isan’t much more worthwhile than the games JD is playing, especially if it’s played on the computer.

On 16 April 2005 (11:33 AM),
Paul said:

NY Times faux depression quiz:

On 18 April 2005 (08:13 AM),
sennoma said:

Your Dad calls you David?

On 18 April 2005 (02:07 PM),
Amanda said:

Wow! It’s a red letter day! Tammy and I agree on something! Knitting is productive and yes, that makes a difference.

Now, dowingba, calm the fuck down. Seriously. Methinks thou dost protest too much. And to answer your hyperdefensive post, um, was JD not asking, at least by proxy, for some feedback and/or advice?

Man. Go take a Xanax or something.

622 Music Videos

Somebody on Metafilter posted a link to a page compiling 622 music videos. There’s some great stuff there, though there’s some other stuff that’s missing. To each his own, right? (I’d like to see a-ha’s “Take On Me” and Dirty Vegas’ “Days Go By” on the list, for example.)

(It’s also worth noting that the above site — which apparently dabbles in all things naughty — includes an entry where one can download the unreleased Fiona Apple album if one has not already done so…)

I’ve taken the time to go through and cull a list of my favorite songs and videos. Over the next couple days, I’ll download them from this list to my hard drive.

Air – Playground Love (dir. Sofia Coppola)
Fiona Apple – Criminal (dir. Mark Romanek)
Beastie Boys – Intergalactic
Beck – Jack Ass
Bjork – Army of Me (dir. Michael Gondry)
Blondie – Call Me
David Bowie – Modern Love
Johnny Cash – Hurt (dir. Mark Romanek)
Depeche Mode – Master and Servant
Depeche Mode – People are People
Depeche Mode – Personal Jesus
Devo – Whip It
The Donnas – Strutter
The Donnas – Too Bad About Your Girl
Dresden Dolls – Coin Operated Boy
Dresden Dolls – Girl Anachronism
Duran Duran – Careless Memories
Duran Duran – Come Undone
Duran Duran – Hungry Like the Wolf
Duran Duran – My Own Way
Duran Duran – Night Boat
Duran Duran – Rio
Duran Duran – Save a Prayer
Duran Duran – The Chauffer
Fatboy Slim – Weapon of Choice (dir. Mark Romanek)
Fugees – Killing Me Softly
Peter Gabriel – Big Time
Peter Gabriel – Biko
Peter Gabriel – Games Without Frontiers
Peter Gabriel – In Your Eyes (live)
Peter Gabriel – Shock the Monkey
Peter Gabriel – Sledgehammer
Peter Gabriel – Solsbury Hill
Garbage – Stupid Girl
Green Day – Boulevard of Broken Dreams
Guns ‘n’ Roses – Sweet Child O’ Mine
Lauryn Hill – Doo Wop (That Thing)
Billy Idol – White Wedding
Iron Maiden – Flight of Icarus
Chris Isaak – Wicked Game (dir. David Lynch)
Michael Jackson – Thriller (dir. John Landis)
Wyclef Jean – Another One Bites the Dust
Wycle Jean – We Tryin’ To Stay Alive
Joy Division – Love Will Tear Us Apart
Madonna – Borderline
Madonna – Material Girl
Madonna – Papa Don’t Preach
Madonna – You Must Love Me (dir. Alan Parker)
Massive Attack – Angel
Metallica – One
Kylie Minogue – Come Into My World (dir. Michael Gondry)
Moby – In This World
New Order – Bizarre Love Triangle
New Order – Blue Monday
New Order – Shellshock
New Order – The Perfect Kiss (dir. Jonathan Demme)
New Order – True Faith
Nine Inch Nails – Closer (dir. Mark Romanek)
Nine Inch Nails – Hurt (live)
Nirvana – Come As You Are
Nirvana – Heart Shaped Box
Nirvana – Smells Like Teen Spirit
No Doubt – It’s My Life
Sinead O’Connor – Fire on Babylon (dir. Michael Gondry)
Outkast – Hey Ya
Public Enemy – Fight the Power (dir. Spike Lee)
Rammstein – Du Hast
REM – Everybody Hurts
REM – It’s the End of the World
Paul Simon – You Can Call Me Al
Smashing Pumpkins – 1979
Smashing Pumpkins – Disarm
Smashing Pumpkins – Tonight
The Strokes – Hard to Explain
The Strokes – Last Night
Sugarcubes – Birthday
Tricky – Makes Me Wanna Die
U2 – I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For
U2 – With or Without You
U.N.K.L.E. – Rabbit in Your Headlights
The Verve – Bittersweet Symphony
The White Stripes – Fell in Love With a Girl (dir. Michael Gondry)
The White Stripes – I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself (dir. Sofia Coppola)

It’s fascinating that certain directors — particularly Michael Gondry and Mark Romanek — seem to produce consistently excellent videos. I never knew the director of a music video played such a key role, but I guess it’s so.

I’ll have to use file-sharing to track down a few more videos that I’d like to have…

Pre-Crash Comments

On 13 April 2005 (02:19 PM),
J.D. said:

If you’ve got a little time to spare and you’re feeling adventurous, check out these videos: “Coin Operated Boy” by Dresden Dolls, “Army of Me” by Bjork, “I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself” by The White Stripes, “Come Into My World” by Kylie Minogue, “Weapon of Choice” by Fatboy Slim, and, of course, “Hurt” by Johnny Cash. The latter is amazing.

On 14 April 2005 (08:42 AM),
Rich R said:

The way music videos usually work:

The band has a concept or the director presents a concept which the band approves. Once the concept is decided on, it is the director’s vision and style that bring that concept to reality. Lots of times the director’s role is much more important than the band’s in determining what the final product is like.

On 14 April 2005 (05:47 PM),
jeremy said:

Hurt!!!! Funny thing is, I downloaded this and watched it before I got to your comment.

On 17 April 2005 (09:04 AM),
pinti said:

nirvana come as you are

On 17 April 2005 (09:04 AM),
pinti said:

nirvana come as you are

On 22 April 2005 (05:57 AM),
alex napster said:

green day homecoming

On 12 July 2005 (11:26 AM),
Paulinho said:

acho o seu site uma bosta completa pois tudo que alguem precisa naum consegue…quer um conselho vai se ferrar.

On 19 July 2005 (01:17 PM),
michael said:

i have to see u please u all am in love with u

On 20 July 2005 (09:58 PM),
Littleboy said:

The site is fucking cool. Cash makes the diference here. but I like other things on the list. How about an Alice in Chains video? I´m not talking man in the box, ok? Thanx anyway and forgive these stupid brazilians.

On 20 July 2005 (10:01 PM),
Littleboy said:

The site is fucking cool. Cash makes the diference here. but I like other things on the list. How about an Alice in Chains video? I´m not talking man in the box, ok? Thanx anyway and forgive these stupid brazilians.

On 26 August 2005 (04:54 AM),
aleksandra said:

Alice in Chains songs, themes and feeling – come on people, Alice in Chains is classics – 100% should be included in every list of best piece of music ever – so do it, 10 titles should be !ok! for beginners who happen to explore music in the net – make them this voluptuous present – – – -Mkey!!
Take care!

On 29 August 2005 (07:58 AM),
J.D. said:

Just found a page with a few more videos. Also, I love this video for Eurostar from Ye Ye.

Tuesday is Sno-Ball Day

Kris and I met after work to go to Contract Furnishing Mart in Clackamas to look at various samples for our bathroom remodel.

“Look at that: a bakery outlet,” Kris said, as we walked through the parking lot.

“It’s not a bakery outlet,” I said. “It’s a Hostess outlet.” And we all know what that means.

We spent half an hour looking at samples of granite and Marmoleum. We hemmed and hawed over various shades of cream. Do we prefer the Umbra or the Shell? Maybe the floor would look better in Van Gogh. And what about the countertops? Should we go with Brazilian Brown or with Mystic Brown? Such choices. It didn’t help that we hadn’t thought to bring a paint chip. Kris had to scour the store for something close to the color she has in mind for the walls, and the best she could find was a big hunk of deep pile carpeting.

When we had finished, we walked over to the bakery outlet. To the Hostess outlet.

“Look!” I said, in awe. “I didn’t even know Hostess made breakfast cereal.” But they do. There were boxes and boxes of Hostess-branded cereals, knock-offs of Cheerios and Fruit Loops and various other big name brands. There were Hostess “toaster pastries”. And, of course, there was a big-ass aisle of bread.

But none of that was why I’d wanted to enter the store. You all know why I wanted to check out the bakery outlet: Sno-Balls. I’ve been very good with Sno-Balls since the start of the year. I’ve had them once. (Maybe twice.) But I figured that here, in a Hostess outlet, I’d let down my guard and stock up.

Only there were no Sno-Balls to be had.

“I don’t know if I want anything,” I said. “Do you?”

“Let me look around,” said Kris. While she wandered the rows of Ding-Dongs and Cup Cakes and Twinkies, I watched a man in distress do his shopping. Perhaps he was intoxicated. Perhaps he was crippled. Whatever the case, he teetered and tottered through the store. He reached for products in wild, flailing gestures that threatened to send stacks of Ho-Hos to the floor. When he’d finally found the food he wanted, he rummaged through his pockets to check for change. He had some, and we all knew it because it rained to the floor. Kris and I walked back to the bread where we pretended to be interested in the various varieties of hamburger buns. This guy was a little creepy.

When he’d gone, I grabbed a cherry Fruit Pie — a “sell by 01 APR” cherry Fruit Pie — and Kris picked up a box of chocolate Zingers.

“You don’t have any Sno-Balls,” I told the clerk when we went to pay.

She seemed a little daft, a little slow. “No. No,” she said. “We had them yesterday. You should have been here yesterday.”

“I love Sno-Balls,” I told her in a low, confidential tone, “but I always wonder if I’m the only one. They’re often sold out wherever I go. I wonder: are they sold out because they’re popular, or are they sold out because they’re unpopular?”

“Well, the boss used to order more of them,” she told me, “but we couldn’t sell them all. Now she don’t order as much, and it seems we always run out. I wouldn’t be surprised if people was stocking up because they know we don’t have enough.” A run on Sno-Balls!

“But you do get them in from time-to-time, don’t you?” I asked.

“Oh, yes,” she said. “I don’t know which days we get them, but we do get them in.” Then she changed her mind. “Well, Tuesday is Sno-Ball day.”

“Tuesday is Sno-Ball day?”

“Yes, Tuesday is Sno-Ball day. We always have Sno-Balls on Tuesday. All day long.” I thanked the woman, and we left.

“We should remember this place,” Kris said. “We should come here on our way to Bend.”

“Yeah,” I said. “Just think: we’d be the most popular couple if we brought a couple of boxes of Suzy Qs and Twinkies.”

“Can I have a bite of your chocolate Zinger?” I asked as we drove home. “I’ve never had one before.” I was impresseed. Compared to the non-chocolatey nature of other Hostess products — Ding-Dongs are the worst — Zingers are actually pretty good.

My cherry Fruit Pie was better. All 470 calories, all 22g of fat (11g of which are saturated), and all 35g of sugar.

But what I was really thinking was, “I’ll be back. Next Tuesday is Sno-Ball day.”

Comments


On 06 April 2005 (08:12 PM),
Kim said:

JD, It’s funny you should write about Hostess today. I logged on to your site to tell you that today is the anniversary of the Hostess Twinkie. The first one was made on this day in 1931. I can’t say I join you in your enthusiasm for Sno-balls or Hostess products in general. I think the last time I had one was in High School when I’d occasionally buy myself a fruit pie.



On 06 April 2005 (10:20 PM),
Kristin said:

Funny, indeed. Kim and I happened to be discussing your love of Hostess products while T and Tonio were having swimming lessons. Neither of us could recall your favorite. Now we know. I do remember your nutritious high school fruit pie-and-soda lunches.



On 07 April 2005 (06:51 AM),
J.D. said:

In high school, there was no question: Suzy Qs were my favorite. I loved the luscious chocolate sponge cake and the soft, creamy filling. I haven’t had a Suzy Q in over a decade now. Now my favorite Hostess treat is the coconutty Sno-Ball. I didn’t get this chubby without a little help from these snack products! 🙂

I know I’ve mentioned it before, but just for fun I’ll mention it again:

In high school, Kristin used to chide me for my poor diet. She warned that constant consumption of Suzy Qs and Twinkies couldn’t be good. My oh-so-clever response was that no, on the contrary, this diet was very good for me. In fact, what I was doing was conditioning my body to take Hostess products as nutrition. In fact, my goal was to make things like carrot sticks the equivalent of junk food for my body. I thought I was pretty funny…



On 07 April 2005 (08:51 AM),
Courtney said:

With all the Hostess products you’ve consumed, and all the preservatives, you should have a very long shelf life!



On 07 April 2005 (12:35 PM),
Lisa said:

Mmmmm! If I were at a Hostess outlet, I’d head straight for the lemon fruit pies (a.k.a. cardboard pie). Come to think of it, I haven’t had one of those in far too long…



On 07 April 2005 (05:50 PM),
Amy Jo said:

I used to have an affinity for chocolate donut gems in all their fried, waxy artifical chocolate glory . . . They don’t sound so good now days . . .



On 08 April 2005 (06:18 AM),
bill said:

gee golly! a Krispy Kreme does’nt stand a chance.but one would have to stop and wash ones sticky paws on the way to Bend. decisions -decisions -decisions!



On 08 April 2005 (06:18 AM),
bill said:

gee golly! a Krispy Kreme does’nt stand a chance.but one would have to stop and wash ones sticky paws on the way to Bend. decisions -decisions -decisions!



On 08 April 2005 (07:05 PM),
Lynn said:

When we were young, my brothers loved those fruit pies. Once, when we were driving somewhere, my mother pointed out the rear window of our car and announced, “Look it’s the Bains.” I assumed she was speaking of the two fruit pies in the back window that one of my brothers had brought along, but she was in fact speaking of another family that passed us in their car. So, we called Host fruit pies Bains for the remainder of my childhood. In fact, it’s difficult for me to say fruit pies when I really want to say Bains. I hope you enjoyed your Bain, JD.