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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The Lake District: Italy’s Best Kept Secret

We met a man who lives by a simple travel rule: pick a destination and give yourself a 200 mile radius from which to explore. After our recent slow travel visit to the northern lakes of Italy, we couldn’t agree more.

With many a months on the road under our belt and my parents by my side, these two weary travelers were quite content slowing down the pace and handing over the travel torch. Basing ourselves in the village of Lesa, my dad became our dutiful guide. On an Italian lakeside odyssey, we discovered the alluvial charm of Italy’s best kept secret: the great northern lakes.

Maggiore’s Small Town Sophistication

With our home base, Casa Sue, resting along the forested shores of Lago Maggiore, we got to know this glorious lake rather well. An hour north of Milan and the Swiss border to the east, Maggiore is the second largest lake in Italy. Sitting on the edge of the Alps, Maggiore boasts heavenly alpine scenery studded with enchanting lakeside villages.

It was sophisticated Stresa that caught our eye. Opting for opulence, we took an afternoon stroll along Stresa’s lakefront where we gawked at posh villas and poked into its gracefully decadent hotels. With cocktail in hand, we pretended to be part of the generations of exclusivity that surely graced these halls. Admiring marble steps, ornate chandeliers and gold-framed furniture, we discovered the kind of worldly wisdom and moneyed elegance of a bygone era. The history and natural grandeur of Stresa had arranged it to perfection.

It was the quaint villages of Maggiore, however, that captivated our hearts. On our daily rounds to bread and cheese shops in the villages of Lesa and Meina we grew to know and love small town Italy. Fumbling over words and signing food orders, there was hardly a word in common yet I could tell it was the kind of place I could put down my roots. We’d ventured into that place where strangers become friends, where “everybody knows your name” and where only that kind of down-to-earth , gentle spirit can survive. This was the Lago Maggiore for me.

Mist and Devotion on Lake Orta

The splendor of Lake Orta has an untouched innocence. Just a half hour away from our home on Maggiore, we arrived to a morning mist revealing the quiet beauty of the lake. On the water’s edge, we discovered the unspoiled hamlet of Orta with its cream-colored houses topped with thick slates. After stopping in a cozy wine cafe for lunch, we wound through the tight cobblestone alleyways to the magnetic central square. From here we caught our first view of the star of the show: San Giulio island.

We grabbed one of the water taxis docked on the piazza and took the boat over to the picturesque island. On our visit to the island of devotion, we visited a Benedictine monastery and passed the privileged villas that hug the shore. Wandering down the stone pathway known as “The Way of Silence” we wrapped our way around the island, enjoying these precious moments far away from the frenzied Italian tourist trail.

Swish, Swash: Lake Como

Lake Como probably rings a bell. A regular on the glossy pages of the tabloids, it’s home to the opulent villas of Italy’s elite and mega-superstars, including, of course, George Clooney. While our visit to Lake Como didn’t include a stopover at Mr. Clooney’s lavish abode, our time on Lake Como was nonetheless luxurious.

5000428265 c371671e4d z The Lake District: Italy’s Best Kept Secret

We began our visit on the southern edge of the lake in the town of Como. Over cappuccinos and espressos at a lakeside café, we immediately recognized why this area gets all the hype. Lake Como is breathtaking. The midnight blue water is enclosed by lush, precipitous mountains on all sides. Colorful villas cascade down the mountains while white Chris Craft boats cut through the water like glass.

Winding our way around the slender lake, we passed scenic villages built into the wooded lakeside slopes until reaching the village of Bellagio. Ringed by gardens and forests and overlooking azure-hued Lake Como, Bellagio sits pretty in a large inlet on the western shore of the lake. Waterfront promenades, upscale boutiques and swish hotels dripping in décor provide an appropriately extravagant setting for enjoying this jewel.

And to no surprise, the food fit the bill. In Bellagio we enjoyed a three course lunch consisting of smoked goose breast served over sliced apples and topped with aged balsamic followed by Sardinian dumplings in a sausage ragu. Simply decadent as Lake Como should be.

pixel The Lake District: Italy’s Best Kept Secret

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