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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Cape Town, Inside & Out

City Skyline of Cape Town South Africa Cape Town, Inside & Out

The city skyline of Cape Town, South Africa

It was time to leave behind Europe. We were hitting the road again, moving on to our fifth continent and final stop: the Mother Continent of Africa.

Boarding a southbound, transcontinental flight, we said ciao to Roma and touched down in Cairo, before planting our feet in the continent’s most southerly city. It was destination Cape Town, South Africa.

Table Mountain Ascent Attempt Cape Town, Inside & Out

For our African adventure, we were giving ourselves three months to make the journey from Cape Town to Nairobi, Kenya. To kick off this final leg of the trip we reunited with our fellow around the world travel friends, Greg and Ashley. Coincidentally, these Chicago pals of ours embarked on a similar journey this year, and we’ve been fortunate enough to meet up with them several times along the way. On our fifth and final continent we were together again to take in the splendor of Cape Town and tackle South Africa’s famed coastal road: the Garden Route.

Victorian Architecture on Long Street Cape Town, Inside & Out

Victorian-era buildings line Cape Town's colorful Long Street

With a handful of days to spend in the affectionately named “Mother City” of Cape Town, we took our time soaking up the many attractions. Walking our way along the Atlantic coast, we enjoyed spectacular scenery of white sandy beaches and Antarctic winds that nearly knocked us off our feet. Jouneying over to the city harbor, known as the V&A Waterfront, we found tug boats and sailboats splashing along the docks beside masses of shops, restaurants and pubs geared towards tourists like ourselves. It was in the City Bowl, however, along bustling Long Street, that we found all the action. Victorian-era buildings welcomed us with wrought iron balconies, and a plethora of second-hand bookstores and cafes. By night we were back on the main drag of Long Street, diving into its thriving culinary scene. Where Cuban cafes and gourmet burger bars sit beside Mexican eateries and stylish sushi joints, there was no lack of gastronomical diversity to suit these pallets.

It was no coincidence that the Cape Town Marathon was taking place during our visit. After making our city rounds, it was time for Ryan to take to the streets. In his goal to run around the world, Ryan has set out to run a marathon on all seven continents. His stellar performance in the Cape Town Marathon takes him one step closer to this goal. With Africa under his belt, it’s four continents down and three to go. Bravo, Ryan!

Ryan Runs His 7th Marathon Cape Town, Inside & Out

Ryan completes his seventh marathon in Cape Town

Cape Town Marathon Bib Number Cape Town, Inside & Out

Cape Town Marathon bib number and medal

With the race behind us, we were off to tackle Cape Town’s main attraction: the flat-topped Table Mountain dominating the city skyline. We were waiting for that perfect day to ascend the iconic mountain, and it just wasn’t happening. Weather in Cape Town is more than iffy and, on more than one occasion, we experienced all four seasons in a single day. On our final day, the weather did finally break, however, upon arrival our dreams were crushed. The cable car was suspended due to high winds, and we were strongly advised not to make the hike with a series of recent muggings on the mountain at this time of day. Two things were certain: we were definitely in Africa and we wouldn’t be seeing the top of this mountain.

VA Waterfront in Cape Town South Africa Cape Town, Inside & Out

View of the iconic Table Mountain from V&A Waterfront

Aside from missing out on the quintessential Table Mountain experience, I must admit, in Cape Town I expected a bit more. This city gets a lot of hype, and while I enjoyed my stay, there wasn’t anything really pulling at me here. I was itching to find that vibrant flare I always associated with the Rainbow Nation of South Africa.

On our journey south, however, to the outskirts of Cape Town, I learned this Cape does pack a big punch. Check out our journey here.

pixel Cape Town, Inside & Out

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