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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Argentina: The Adventure Begins

Buenos Aires 080v2 Argentina: The Adventure BeginsAfter three fantastic weeks in St. Louis soaking up the fall weather and spending time with family and friends, we began our adventure overseas. I never expected the preparation for the trip to be so exhausting. It truly became a full time job. I also never expected to be so nervous to begin our adventure. I think it was a mix of anxiety (wanting to ensure we had all we needed, hadn’t forgot to, for example, pay or cancel a bill or pack enough socks and jackets) coupled with the sense of uncertainty and pure excitement.

Nonetheless, the adventure began with a return to our beloved Buenos Aires, Argentina. It’s a city we grew to love when we planted our feet to live there for six months four years ago. The people, the culture, the language, the food, the architecture and the energy of the city made a lasting impression on us, and we have looked forward to visiting every since we left. Not to mention, we also have some very dear friends we made when living here who we were anxious to see and spend time with.

It’s been quite surreal to be back. Besides the incredible inflation the city has experienced, it seems to be just as we had left it. The green parks, grand boulevards, French-inspired architecture, ecclectic boutiques and vibrant flare of the city awaited us. To me Buenos Aires represents a mixture of what I like most about some of my favorite places in the world. Strolling the cosmopolitan promenades of the city you find the rich meats, cheeses and bustling cafe culture of France, the style and bravado of Italy, the tradition and sophistication of England and the energy, passion and unparralleled nightlife of Spain.

After immersing myself again in the Porteno (the name given to the residents of Buenos Aires) culture I’m reminded of the many things that once surprised me when living here and those things I just don’t know if I’ll ever understand.

Things that shock me…

Mullets continue to be high fashion for men and women alike
Stoplights turn from red to yellow and then yellow again before turning green
Bars don’t begin to fill up till 2 a.m.
There are bakeries on nearly every corner of the street yet overweight people are like needles in a haystack
Maternity clothes are few and far between – women everywhere are popping out of their seams
Lanes on streets do not exist
‘Gordo’ meaning ‘Fatty’ and ‘Negro’ meaning ‘Black’ are common terms of endearment between couples and close friends
When the stoplight is red men line up across the crosswalk, face the cars and hold huge billboard advertisements until the light turns green
The paseoperros, dogwalkers, walk up to 15 dogs at a time
Coffee deliveries are common place – delivered to homes, businesses, etc.; This is quite an art form and conists of talented delivery boys winding their way through traffic while balancing espressos on silver trays. Such service it is that they actually come back later to pick up the cup, all for the same price as a regular cup of coffee.

Things that irk me…

The poverty – barefoot children begging on street corners, walking into restaurants trying to sell Kleenexes, juggling in front of cars at stoplights, digging out scraps out of trash bins
Minature napkins as thin as a piece of paper
Having to pay everything in exact change
Extreme gap between rich and poor
Right of way? Forget it. People rev their engines and speed up in attempt to hit any pedestrian crossing the street
Spontaneous protests break out on any street on any given day causing stores and classes to be closed and cancelled
Dogs leave their mark on all sidewalks of the city and no one feels obliged to clean it up
Graffiti covering beautiful monuments

Things I’ll know I’ll miss…

Our close pals
Café culture
Impromtu tango shows in plazas all over the city
Mouthwatering beef
Strong Sunday traditions – food, football and family
Drinking water out of wine glasses
Old fashioned elevators where you have to close a door manually for it to function
The sound of the Argentine accent
Lounging in the grass and reading in plazas all over the city
The adrenaline rush of crossing over Nuevo de Julio, the largest street in the world
The kiss on the cheek greeting, which applies to men greeting men, too
Best ice cream in the world
Walking through the book shops on Corrientes
Local crafts fairs at the ferias all over the city
Spending all afternoon in a café
The passion and unique culture surrounding the mate, Argentina’s national drink
Coffee always comes with small delicious cookies and a glass of sparkling water to cleanse the pallet
The excitement of Bosques de Palermo, our favorite park, on a Saturday afternoon
Sitting in the parks of Recoleta
The ever-trendy portenas
Asados – the Argentine BBQs unlike any other

I’m looking forward to rediscovering Buenos Aires and calling this city home again.

pixel Argentina: The Adventure Begins

Comments (9)

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  1. roundwego says:

    Glad to have helped inspire your journey to the Southern Hemisphere! We certainly fell in love with it and I was excited to hear you made the trip too. Thanks for following us on our journey.

  2. Greg Dawson says:

    BTW – You were the one that really inspired me to travel to Buenos Aires a few years ago after telling me about your travels to South America/Chile, etc… it was absolutely one of the best travel experiences of my life.

    Can’t wait to hear about the second leg of your trip!

  3. Tiasha says:

    I love this post. It definitely makes me want to visit Argentina. Don’t know when, but now I think I will. :)

  4. Becky Weprin says:

    Your blog reads like a novel I can’t put down (not that I’m at all surprised). I am very, very interested in the coffee delivery. Maybe something Starbucks should consider, actually people would probably try to trip them; however, the bourgeois pig could possibly have a potential market.

  5. Cathy Burns says:

    Looking forward to following along with you it will be about as close as I get to traveling for awhile.

  6. Enjoy your time. Don’t be in a rush to come back. It will be one of the best things you have ever done.

    I had no idea Argentina had poverty like that. Paris is the same way in terms of letting the dogs have their run of the sidewalks. I have no idea if they are scared of it, lazy to pick it up or just figure the next rain will wash it away. Not cool.

  7. Kristian shanline says:

    Wow. Sounds great! you write so well I can picture it and pretend I am there not cleaning my house for my mother in law’s visit! Have a great time!

  8. Wally says:

    This is a fantastic write up about what sounds like a fantastic city. Booze, beef, and french architecture on the cheap – paradise! Please keep it coming!

  9. Tim Stephans says:

    Great first post. You guys are excellent writers. Can’t wait to hear more. Good luck.