It starts with five simple words:


And then it comes. The music builds. Lightning from the sky strikes the man with the upraised sword. Does it hurt him? Just listen to what he says next:


You remember. Electric bolts of pure energy crackle around his muscled body. Hands that can punch through solid steel grip the sword that transformed the bumbling prince into the most powerful man in the universe. You remember the way it felt to grab hold of a plastic sword or a stick or even empty air and say those same words: I have the power.

We all want the power. But the world seems to be short on magic swords these days. Believe me, I've checked. (You think I'd be writing this if I had a magic sword? No way. I'd be out battling shadow beasts and seven-headed monsters, saving nubile red-haired maidens from guys with skulls for faces.)

So what do we do? Well, I suppose you can grow a mustache and build weapons devices and adopt an orphan who grows up to be captain of the guards. But let's face it. Not everyone can grow mustaches. And even if you can, do you really want to? Basically the only people who can have mustaches without looking silly are those who've always had mustaches. (Having a mustache attached to a beard doesn't count, by the way. It's still just a beard. That's a whole other story.) It's something set from the time of adolescence, something you have to choose. Either you're a mustache guy or you're not. Once you've decided, it's locked in. (It works both ways, too. Suddenly you shave off your mustache and bam! You've got a lip coming from nowhere. Scary.)

Okay. You don't have a magic sword, or a mustache, or skill with weapons or space technology in a barbarian sorcery world. You can't be He-Man or Man-At-Arms. I'll assume that, like me, if you can't do any of the above, you also cannot fly, ram into buildings with your head, or transform into a mystical falcon. Is this reason to despair? Will your life be meaningless from now on?

The answer to all of these questions is: NO! You can have the power without the magic sword. No, I don't mean you'll be able to pick up Castle Grayskull and throw it into the air using your bulging muscles. I'm talking about the real power that He-Man wields. His morality.

Fast forward to the end of the show. The battle with Skeletor was fought and won. Old skullface runs off, shaking his hands in the air, vowing eternal revenge. Like we're scared. Next time we'll just beat him again. No matter who he brings along! (By the way, who has a skull instead of a face? How can he even see without eyeballs?) After all that the show should be over, right?

Wrong! Now comes the most important part. The moral.

You've heard the expression, "the moral of the story." No doubt your 11th grade English teacher had you combing all the pages from "Call me Ishmael" to "Finis" so you could explain, in your own words, just what Moby Dick really meant. He-Man would never lead you on such a pointless chase. At the end of every single episode, He-Man (or one of his faithful and heroic friends) tells you plainly and simply what you should know about how to live a good and happy life. That knowledge, my friends, is real power. With it you can master the universe. Stay tuned.

Friday, April 17, 2009


Trap-Jaw is the Swiss Army knife of the Eternia universe. For every occasion he has an appropriate arm attachment. Need to freeze someone? Trap-Jaw has an attachment for that. Need to blast through a door? There’s an attachment for that, too.

I’ve always wanted to have lots of cool tools, to have something ready for any situation. Gear is good. It gives us a longer reach – for Trap-Jaw, literally so. He is the symbol for the merger of man and machine. We use technology to extend our reach into the world, to give us powers not endowed by nature, and in doing so we become something different.

Something different, yes, but does it make us less human, like Trap-Jaw?

I’ve never believed that. Sure, the more we rely on technology, the more things can go wrong: computer crashes are a constant cheery reminder. An even greater consequence is the psychological impact of relying on things whose workings we don’t understand. It gives some of us a sense of perpetual unease.

Once upon a time we humans felt that way about the natural world. We lived in fear of storms and bear attacks and invented intricate cosmologies explaining their capricious behavior. And although the weather can still be a problem, what with hurricanes and floods and earthquakes, we are much better insulated from them than ever before.

It’s kind of funny, then, that just as technology has drastically reduced the worry of the natural world, it’s given us something new to worry about: itself, which we created. (Which makes you wonder if there is something in the human brain that requires us to be worrying about something all the time.)

Of course, some people understand the technology. Like Man-At-Arms. He doesn’t always get it perfect (like the time he invented the lasso gun; that didn’t work the first time), but he’s confident enough to tinker with a problem until it gets fixed. When he doesn’t understand how something works, he takes the time to figure it out because he believes it can be figured out. Why? Because he’s been able to understand so many other things in the past.

Machines can help us achieve what we want faster and better. When we feel uneasy, let’s take a page out of Man-At-Arms’s book: let’s tinker. (Under competent supervision, of course. Some things blow up when you mess with them. He-Man will be the first to tell you: Safety First!) Understanding how something works goes a long way towards feeling comfortable with it.

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