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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La Dolce Vita With Swiss Chocolate on Top

This year of travel would certainly not be complete without sharing our adventures with my favorite traveling partners. These partners of mine happen to be twice my age. They’re also my parents.

I’d been looking forward to the day of our reunion since our tearful goodbye last fall. Standing in the St. Louis Lambert Airport, my mom whispered to me as she hugged me tightly goodbye: “Think of all your eyes will see before we see each other again.” She was right. These eyes have seen quite a lot, but no exotic locale has brought these eyes more joy than seeing my favorite traveling partners again.

First came the great debate: where to meet up on our around the world journey. With my dad’s thirst for adventure, the sky was the limit. A remote corner of Africa or isolated region in Asia, he was in. My mom’s adventurous appetite is, well…quite malnourished. She sticks to a strict diet: no further west than France, no further east than Italy.

With this in mind the decision was made: la dolce vita it would be with a little Swiss chocolate on top.

Italy is a special place, and in my opinion, the perfect holiday destination. There’s abundant sunshine, rich culture and history, friendly people and arguably the best food and wine in the world. We had all gotten a taste of this on previous visits to Italy, making the Italian Grand Tour -Rome, Florence and Venice. This time around it would be different. We were here to discover how to live like Italians.

And so our adventure began. We greeted my parents in the fashion capital of the world and from Milan headed north to our new Italian digs.

Our Italian home away from home goes by the name of Casa Sue. Located on the shores of Lago Maggiore in the Piedmont region bordering the Italian Alps, Casa Sue is owned by a relative of mine who so graciously lent us their Italian holiday home for our stay. Just an hour north of Milan, the home sits on the mountainside between the lakeside villages of Lesa and Stresa overlooking one of Italy’s great northern lakes.

I fell in love with Casa Sue from the moment we walked through the doors. Housed in a renovated paper mill, the place oozes with charm. High ceilings and well-appointed furniture give it a Venetian ambience and the hanging copper pots, hand painted cupboard and sun-choked kitchen take you out to the Tuscan countryside. But above all, what really got me with Casa Sue is the veranda. This is the heart of the home and where many of our sweetest Italian memories were made. Country-style barn doors open up to an unparalleled view of idyllic Lago Maggiore. Flower boxes exploding with purple, orange, pink and white flowers welcomed us as we sunk into the bouquet of pillows awaiting our arrival. We thought our view was even better than that of octogenarian president Berlusconi whose ‘humble’ abode sits on the large swath of real estate resting just beneath our lane.

For the next 10 days we would use Casa Sue as our Italian headquarters from which to explore the surrounding region. My dad set the tone of the trip early on. Within the first hour, we ventured into the town center to feast on an Italian lunch of cannelloni and eggplant parmesan, hit up the local gelaterria and stocked up on meats and cheeses, breads and pastries and copious amounts of red wine.

For the next week we took pleasure in exploring the traditional villages dotting the northern lakes of Italy while indulging in all our Italian fantasies. Our to-do list each day consisted of two things: eat well, drink better. Mornings were spent lounging on the veranda preying on flaky pastries while plotting out the day’s drive and culinary escapades. Afternoons consisted of leisurely walks into the neighboring villages for cappuccino and stand-up espressos. At sunset we assumed position: the ladies preparing the veranda with candlelight and men uncorking bottles of wine and laying out a platter of antipasti fit for a king.

5139568021 7eab5a4852 z La Dolce Vita With Swiss Chocolate on Top

From here, with our hosts’ restaurant Bible in hand, we faced the biggest decision of the day: where to eat. After selecting our ristorante di giorno, poor Pop had to cut his cocktail hour short as the windy roads to dinner necessitated sobriety.

Like all regions in Italy, Piedmont has its own assortment of provincial specialties. Each night we set about making the second most difficult decision of the day: what to eat. Again, my dad set the tone, always ordering a primi and secondi piatti, surreptitiously, if we ever chose to forgo the two courses. As luck would have it, the famed white truffle was in season as well a myriad of Italian game. As such, primi piatti often consisted of homemade tagliatelle topped with white truffle or a wild boar ragu. The second course was often fresh fish and seafood from one of the surrounding lakes or local game. A favorite dish, and certainly hard to top, was the sage-stuffed quail wrapped in prosciutto and served over parmesan and truffle risotto. Back at the homestead with bellies full, we eased our way out of the food comas with chocolate liqueurs.

This was la dolce vita at its best and the reunion with family proved well worth the 11 month wait. Truly the trip of a lifetime within our trip of a lifetime. Thank you, Mom and Pop!

pixel La Dolce Vita With Swiss Chocolate on Top

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