Three Years of Hell to Become the Devil: Outgeeking Bainbridge

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Outgeeking Bainbridge

Now, I'd never take on Professor Bainbridge when it comes to wine: I haven't the taste buds. And on corporate law? More fool me to challenge the guy who authors textbooks. But outgeeking? There we're on more equal ground. And I'm afraid that his accusation that George Lucas has sold the soul of Star Wars to the Democrats just rings hollow.

Basically, the good Professor is upset because:

...Lucas betrayed the basic story arc of the Star Wars mythology in order to score these cheap political points. In the original trilogy, Luke struggled against the absolutism of Obi-Wan and Yoda. It was Luke who insisted that there was still good in Vader, which Yoda and Obi-Wan rejected.

The betrayal in question is in having Obi-Wan say to Anakin, after the latter has muttered some you're-for-me-or-against-me line, "Only a Sith thinks in absolutes."

Now, I've not seen the movie yet, and to the best of my knowledge, neither has Prof. Bainbridge, but to my mind his internal critique doesn't hold up. Bainbridge spends a great deal of time talking about how an older (presumably wiser) Obi-Wan was still doctrinaire and absolutist in his consideration of the Force. But if we consider this Obi-Wan to be less mature than Alec Guinness (and who wouldn't), then the plot still hangs together. Obi-wan may just be full of it. And there's no "betrayal" for "cheap political points" so long as the elder Jedi isn't doing anything more than the lightsaber equivalent of Godwin's Law: you know the conversation's over (and someone's limbs are about to go) when somebody mentions the Sith.

So why are so many assuming that Old Kenobi needs to be taken seriously? It seems that the New York Times found political meaning in the film:

"This is how liberty dies - to thunderous applause," Padm observes as senators, their fears and dreams of glory deftly manipulated by Palpatine, vote to give him sweeping new powers. "Revenge of the Sith" is about how a republic dismantles its own democratic principles, about how politics becomes militarized, about how a Manichaean ideology undermines the rational exercise of power. Mr. Lucas is clearly jabbing his light saber in the direction of some real-world political leaders. At one point, Darth Vader, already deep in the thrall of the dark side and echoing the words of George W. Bush, hisses at Obi-Wan, "If you're not with me, you're my enemy." Obi-Wan's response is likely to surface as a bumper sticker during the next election campaign: "Only a Sith thinks in absolutes." You may applaud this editorializing, or you may find it overwrought, but give Mr. Lucas his due. For decades he has been blamed (unjustly) for helping to lead American movies away from their early-70's engagement with political matters, and he deserves credit for trying to bring them back.

Dear goodness, we can only hope. I mean, if Democrats can't do better than Lucas's tin-ear for dialogue for their political bumper stickers, then I suspect the Republicans will get the geek vote. But now the New York Times has done the impossible: it's made me curious about the final Star Wars film.

Let's face it: Lucas is about as subtle as a chainsaw running through a screen door, at least when it comes to dialogue. I'd expect that even if Chewbacca were mouthing Bush-lite rhetoric, you wouldn't need to be Han Solo to figure out the reference. On the other hand, the New York Times could probably scan Beowulf and find hidden anti-Bush meanings.

So who is it? Is George L. taking on George B.? Or is this all a figment of the Times' fevered fantasies? Sadly, I'll have to see the film to find out, because when it comes to a conflict between the Lucas lack of subtext and the Greying Lady's determination to find same, we reach a level of difficulty almost equal to that of the Great Sci Fi Paradox: What happens when a bunch of clueless red-shirts, guaranteed to survive less than three minutes after a beamdown, meets a platoon of Imperial Stormtroopers, who can't hit a barn from inside it?


This article on a Cannes press conference might save you the trouble of going to the movie.
A wise man once pointed out that "Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar", and I think someone needs to remind Prof. Bainbridge that sometimes a trashy sci-fi B flick is just a trashy sci-fi B flick.....
The "wise man" was Freud, on the sometimes-noninterpretation-of-dreams. Less well known is his debt to Kipling. The original line went something like "Wine is only wine, but a cigar is a smoke."
I've noticed that people who are absolutist often think that they are nuanced. (Often because they know other people on their own side who are even more extreme, or have unexpressed feelings which are much nastier.)
TTP: I know it was Freud; I was under the impression that the quote was familiar enough that nobody (at least nobody well educated enough to be follwoing a first person narrative of American legal education) needed to be told who said it. :-)
Oh, perhaps I've underestimated folks. I was under the impression that a lot of people didn't know the source. Eh. Also I was trolling for the exact phrasing of the Kipling quote.
"Now, I've not seen the movie yet, and to the best of my knowledge, neither has Prof. Bainbridge..." And thus continues the conservative tradition of critiquing movies without having seen them. :)
If you notice, Dave, the above isn't a critique of a movie, but a series of questions about it. And having now seen the movie, if you want to carry water for Lucas's dialogue, I hope your back's pretty strong.

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Fool Me Once, Shame on You

One Chinese experience stands above the rest. It involves some tea and a few female fists thrown in my face. Read on.

4622771061 127cfd5e29 Fool Me Once, Shame on You

On our first day in Beijing we were off for a day of sightseeing. Our first stop was historic Tiananmen Square before making our way to the Forbidden City. Along the way we met a group of 20-something Chinese tourists. The two girls and one guy spoke pretty good English, and soon we found ourselves in a friendly conversation. Before we knew it, we were off to the Forbidden City together when one of the girls mentioned she wanted to stop and grab something to drink. We were getting along so well, we opted in, too.

Into a teahouse we went. We were led to a back room which should have been the first sign. The door behind us shut, and we bellied up to the table for some tea. When we saw the ‘No Photo’ sign, this should have been a second clue, yet still we continued on. We took a brief glance at the menu when our new-found Chinese pals suggested we partake in a tea tasting. We agreed. Some lady in some ridiculous silk robe soon pranced out to lead us in our tea tasting. She served up various teas while giving an explanation on what each tea signified.

“This tea is for long life and this one for happy marriage,” our Chinese pals translated as we gulped it down.

Teacup Fool Me Once, Shame on You

We’d been on the road for six months at this point, so you’d think we’d have our head on straight and be able to spot a scam from a mile away. We certainly fell right into this one, but I have to admit…These guys were really good. We were among professional con-artists.

At this point Ryan and I were both looking for some extra sign to confirm our subtle doubts. But there weren’t any. Everyone in the room was so calm and collected. They seemed so innocent. They had also strategically sat so that Ryan and I were apart. Separated, this meant Ryan and I couldn’t exchange questioning glances each other’s way.

Well, the bill came and a doozy it was. We were told to fork over $150 for our tea tasting! When our Chinese comrades willingly started emptying their pockets, I confirmed my fear. We were involved in some mega scam.

Teahouse Fool Me Once, Shame on You

I felt uncomfortable. I told Ryan to throw money on the table and we’d just get out. I didn’t know who might be behind the closed door and violently threaten us to pay up. Ryan reluctantly obliged.

As we exited the tea house, so did our Chinese pals. They walked silently, trying to scurry past us. As they walked away, I decided I didn’t want them to get away with this so used the only weapon I had: my camera. I started snapping photos of them and yes, rather close, like some overzealous entertainment paparazzo. Just then one of the girls turned on me. I went running into the grocery store yelling “jing cha” (police in Mandarin), but no one would help. The girl proceeded to physically attack me. She began throwing punches in my face and trying to rip the camera out of my hands. I was half terrified, half enraged.

DSC04163 Fool Me Once, Shame on You

We’d had enough trouble already, but Ryan was adamant about coming out on top. He went back to the teahouse and threatened “jing cha” one more time. This time it worked. The money was put back in our hands.

The morale of this very long story is beware of Chinese teahouses and if you ever get the urge to snap photos of your enemy, think twice.

pixel Fool Me Once, Shame on You

Comments (6)

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  1. Echofeifei says:

    Wow, it’s really an unpleasant travel experience… As a Chinese I’m so sorry for these kinds of things happened on foreigners during their visit in China…
    Please kindly warn your friends to be awre of unexpected hospitality from some Chinese while visiting wherever. And if it happens again, do not hesitate to go to the police!

  2. Meg says:

    Wow I know this was awhile ago now but interesting story guys!!! I am happy to hear you turned out on top. Lol did you have any black eyes? My oh my.

  3. Ryan says:

    Great story… sometimes these guys are so professional that even seasoned travelers can’t pick up that it’s a scam. Glad to hear you got your money back though!
    Ryan´s last [type] ..Travel Video Spotlight- Paris Montage

  4. roundwego says:

    Completely forgot you guys visited Beijing! We had a really great time there. Actually stayed with a college buddy so he was able to show us the ins and outs of the city. Sometimes easy to get lost, i.e. miss out on the local spots, without some good recommendations in a city that large…I can’t believe you guys got involved in a scam there too! What are the chances it happened to both of us and we both fell for it? Ah!

  5. Nora says:

    WAY TO GET THE MONEY BACK! i cant believe you were assaulted. way to think on your feet kiddos! you are my hero laura keller!

  6. Kristin Rohlfing says:

    We should have warned you about this! We fell for a similar scam with the same set up. Polite well-spoken Chinese student approaches you as you’re enjoying the sights, says he’s an art student and well shucks, aren’t you in luck? Today is the art show! Colin and I later agreed that warning bells were going off in our heads as we were lead into a building, an elevator and into a small room. We basically took one look at each other and could tell we needed to get out quickly. We were chased down the hall and I swear the elevator door never closed so slowly! We had some other friends who fell for the tea scam too, bad news! Anyway, enjoy Beijing! Not sure how long you’re there but let me know if you want some restaurant reco’s. We had some really great meals there, and unfortunately they are hard to find. The first couple days we were there I was so disappointed with the food. Luckily we had some local colleagues of Colin’s help us out. Safe travels!