JG Pasterjak
JG Pasterjak Production/Art Director
10/14/08 12:23 p.m.

Let’s talk about the Death Star a little bit. Not the first Death Star, the one that destroyed Alderaan and was about to blow up the Rebel Base on Yavin 4 when it was wiped out. Rather, let’s discuss the second Death Star. That’s the one that was hovering over the moon of Endor—home to those annoyingly marketable Ewoks—when Lando Calrissian took enough time away from hawking Colt 45 to team up with a sturgeon to summarily destroy Darth Vader’s latest instrument of terror.

The point is, there were probably people on that Death Star who weren’t really part of the war between the Rebels and the Empire. In its haste to develop its newest ultimate killing machine, the Empire probably turned to independent contractors to bring the job in on time. Obviously they had a rebellion to quell, and your average Stormtrooper doesn’t know anything about plumbing a space toilet.

Of course, this philosophical aside is not mine. I wish I could take credit for it, but I can’t. The credit goes to Kevin Smith, whose film “Clerks” features its two protagonists, Randal and Dante, belaboring just such matters. Smith’s movie dares to ask, Were these independent contractors innocent victims of a war that they were not involved in, or did they, by working for the Empire, directly involve themselves in the evil regime?

We’ll probably never know the answer, but I can at least tell you why I’m bringing this up. See, the last time I saw “Clerks,” I was watching it on the built-in DVD player of the latest Honda Odyssey minivan. This minivan was also carrying David Wallens, Per Schroeder, a host of test equipment, and a couple of sets of tires. We were on our way to Michelin’s Laurens Proving Grounds in Laurens, S.C., a several-thousand-acre facility where nearly any facet of automotive performance can be explored, exploited and extrapolated in the names of science, journalism and a quest to find the truth.

The truth we were seeking was all around us. Literally.

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