Hello there, welcome to another issue of Morning Coffee.
For the past few weeks, we’ve been taking an extended look at Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Last week we left off with Rey and BB-8 meeting each other for the first time, and we explored the introduction of Rey as a character.
This week, I want to talk to you about what is perhaps the cornerstone of the entire Star Wars universe: friendship.
Of course, before we begin, a fair spoiler warning is due.
WARNING, HERE THERE BE SPOILERS
Issue #32: My friend is out there
Star Wars is traditionally defined as a space opera, a genre where space battles are supposed to be the main driving point of the plot. However, while there are certainly quite a few space battles in the Star Wars movies, I never felt like I was watching a story about war.
Most people say Star Wars is really about Anakin Skywalker. That, at its core, it is a story about family. To me, though, it is a story about friendship.
If we look back at the original Star Wars movie, we see how an unlikely friendship develops between Han Solo and Luke Skywalker. These two characters don’t even like each other much at first, but gradually warm up to each other and by the end of the film, it is thanks to this newly developed bond that our heroes save the day.
Indeed, even though Luke had the Force on his side during the climactic trench run to blow up the Death Star, it took an intervention from Han at the eleventh hour for Luke to be able to fire his proton torpedoes in the first place. Had it not been for Han’s change of heart, the story might have had a very different end.
This change of heart is incredibly powerful because of what it says about Han as a character. By this point in the story, his arc has taken him from being a mostly amoral mercenary who cares about nobody but himself — and Chewie, of course — to being the guy that risks his own life to save his friend’s.
Make no mistake: when the battle to blow up the Death Star ensued, Han wasn’t invested in the Rebellion at all. He had been living happily enough under the Empire’s rule, slipping through the cracks of the system and making a living doing what he did best. I don’t think saving the day for the good guys was the driving force behind his actions, but rather a much simpler, much more powerful impulse: to save his friend from certain death.
To further drive the point home, it is through Luke’s friendship that Han becomes involved with the Rebel Alliance at all. At the beginning of The Empire Strikes Back, Han — now General Solo — is still only half-interested in the military aspect of things, but he is fully, unconditionally supporting his friend Luke. And when Luke gets stranded in Hoth after being mauled by a wampa, Han once again doesn’t hesitate for a second to risk his own life in order to rescue his friend.
“Your tauntaun will freeze before you reach the first marker”.
“Then I’ll see you in hell!”
This is, to me, the defining aspect of the Star Wars universe, and the central idea that permeates the entire story: that great things are only accomplished when we act selflessly, and when we are loyal to our friends to the very end. It’s a nice sentiment, and one that was conveyed brilliantly in the original trilogy.
If we then look at The Force Awakens, we see that the same theme is still alive and well. Friendship is, indeed, the driving force that makes everything that happens in the film possible, and it all starts when two strangers in need meet by chance.
When we left him a couple weeks ago, Poe Dameron was being held hostage by the First Order for interrogation. At the same time, Finn, our Stormtrooper with a conscience, was having a full-on panic attack after realizing the truth about the enterprise he works for.
Once Kylo Ren successfully extracts the location of the plans from Poe’s mind using his trademark Force-aided interrogation tricks, it becomes clear that Poe is largely useless to them, and so his life is in grave danger. Finn knows this, but more crucially, he knows Poe is an accomplished pilot who can fly them both out of that horrible place once and for all.
Finn then does the only thing he believes he can do: he decides to set Poe free so that they can both escape together, essentially linking his own fate to Poe’s in the process.
The scene is comical, but definitely powerful, as well. When Poe asks “why are you doing this?” and Finn replies, “it’s the right thing to do”, Poe sees straight through Finn’s BS and immediately realizes what Finn needs is a pilot. That “I need a pilot” line always gets a laugh out of the audience, but there’s something else going on in that scene that I believe is worth mentioning.
Poe is well aware that his pilot skills are needed, but he’s also aware that Finn is risking his life to help him, and so any possible concerns he might have felt towards Finn are immediately brushed aside and replaced by trust.
After their escape attempt takes a turn for the worse, we as an audience continue following Finn’s path and we, too, wonder what happened to Poe when Finn finds his jacket among the remains of their TIE fighter ship. At this point we get to experience Finn’s sense of loss, and it comes as a surprise at first, but then it makes all the sense in the world.
Finn’s face when he picks up Poe’s jacket and starts walking through the desert dunes of Jakku is that of a man who is not only lost, but who has just lost someone.
In the few minutes these two characters have been together, a very real bond has formed, one that hints at much bigger things to come in the future. We are no doubt witnessing the beginning of a remarkable friendship, one that is very much reminiscent of Luke and Han’s. This is the kind of stuff these films are about.
Of course, having seen the film, we know Finn will go on to reunite with Poe, but first he will meet a certain scavenger and a little droid, both of whom will forever change his life.
But that, as they say, is a story for another day.
Now let’s take a look at some of the week’s most interesting pieces of writing.
Top Five: Macs, iPads, lenses, managers, and whisky
In this week’s Top Five, we get a tinge of nostalgia for our beloved Macs, followed by a couple of interesting reviews. Then we have a great essay about the importance of setting aside enough time to focus for a manager, and finally, we learn about the details of whisky maturation. Enjoy.
Great piece by Dan Moren:
I also can’t discount the power of emotion. I love my Macs—always have. And despite the fact that I carry my iPhone with me everywhere I go, I’ve never quite developed the same attachment, in part because I trade in my iPhones nearly every year. By contrast, my iMac, on which I type this, is nearing the five-year mark. There’s an old Blue & White G3 sitting next to my desk. Somewhere in the mess that is my office is my PowerBook G3, one of my favorite Macs of all time—and the first laptop I ever owned.
Nostalgia is a powerful force, and given that I’ve spent the majority of my life using a Mac, it’s no surprise how many memories are tied up with the platform. From typing my first stories as an elementary schooler, to writing papers in high-school, to editing videos in college, the Mac’s been there at every stage of my life.
This is absolutely spot-on. It’s very easy to develop an emotional attachment to your Mac.
If you’ve ever gotten a Mac stolen from you, you know how painful it is, and not only in terms of money. There’s a very real sense of personal loss there, too.
For me, it comes down to the reality of my life’s circumstances when I bought it. For most people, buying a Mac is an expensive investment. It takes effort, and you give up other things for it. That helps a great deal in making it feel significant. You don’t tend to think of them as disposable devices, but rather meaningful additions to your life.
Both my Macs are nearing the end of their life, and I will be sad to see them go when they finally kick the bucket. I haven’t experienced the same feelings with any other Apple devices I’ve ever owned.
This is one of the most interesting iPad Pro reviews I’ve seen. And definitely one of the better photographed, too:
Trying to hold it above your head to read your Instapaper queue at night is the beginning of a bedtime story about how noses break. It isn’t that it’s heavy, disproportionate, or imbalanced in any way, it’s just not the same kind of device.
To me, the moment it all clicked was the moment I let go of treating the iPad Pro like just another iPad.
That makes so much sense. I would love to use an iPad Pro as my main computing device, but unfortunately there is still one must-have feature in my workflow that iOS fails to provide: RAW file support. Until it becomes feasible for me to have an iOS-only editing workflow for my pictures, the iPad will remain a close but still unreachable dream for me.
Josh Ginter reviews what is arguably the best MFT lens you can buy today. There’s not much more to say about this gorgeous lens: it is, quite simply, as good as it gets for the system.
However, I still find it funny that the aperture rings and built-in image stabilization systems found on some Panasonic lenses, including the Nocticron, don’t work on Olympus camera bodies. It’s been a couple years now since we started seeing these features, and it seems like this is something that should just work seamlessly across manufacturers. These small issues, while certainly not deal breakers, do give an overall amateurish impression of the system as a whole, something that is fortunately not mirrored by its technical quality.
The biggest competitive strength of the MFT system is that it has two major manufacturers pushing innovation forward at a tremendous pace. But when these two manufacturers don’t collaborate with each other, the end user experience suffers considerably. Despite being rivals, Panasonic and Olympus should be working together really hard to ensure the MFT system has a bright future. They’re already facing strong competition from other systems, and I don’t think they can afford to fight each other on top of that.
Ben Brooks shares some insights on how to stay focused on what matters as a manager:
When I first started managing teams, I would respond to emails as fast as I could. I wanted to get answers back, to keep people going. But soon all I did was respond to emails.
So one day I stopped.
Not forever, but for that day. I did anything but respond to emails. Something interesting happened: people with real fires called me, and those were worked out. And the next day, when I went to look at my email, I started responding with: “Is this issue resolved now?”
This was a great read.
I’ve always been fascinated by how whisky picks up the character and flavor of the environment it was matured in. This feels like alchemy to me, but of course there is method in this particular madness. Mark’s piece, as always, skillfully explains the intricacies of the process, and even opens the door of experimentation for the brave.
This has been a busy week for me. In case you missed it, I published a cool photo story of my recent trip to Paris for New Year’s. This is something I’ve been working on for a pretty long time, and I’m very excited to finally share it here.
I love photo stories, and I think they make for great memories. Hopefully, though, they will also be entertaining for other people to read — at least, that is my intention. This particular trip was different because I really tried to document it as thoroughly as possible, and I do believe the end result was worth the effort.
Other than that, I’m working on my next review for Tools & Toys, and on a couple other projects I hope to be able to share with you soon. It’s going to be an interesting month, no doubt.
Until then, thank you for reading, and have a great end to the weekend.