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 Mighty Matterhorn

Our location in Italy along the northern lakes meant we were a hop, skip and a jump away from its serene, green, pristine neighbor. Yes Switzerland lies just an hour away from our Italian abode and my parents agreed: we simply had to take advantage.

Winding our way around Lago Maggiore, the scenery began to change. Posh villas were replaced by wooden huts with brilliantly-colored shudders and window boxes overflowing with geraniums. Where the Alps once hugged Italian lake shores, they now embraced rolling green hills of impossibly perfect pastoral landscapes. “Ooing” and “ahhing” at every turn, we took pleasure in admiring the sprawling pine forests and meadows while snow-capped peaks towered high above.

I imagined Switzerland would be picture perfect, but nothing, not even The Sound of Music, could have prepared me for this kind of beauty. My mom said it best: “We are walking into a nursery rhyme.”

High in the Swiss Alps we got our first taste of Switzerland over heaping portions of apple and blueberry pies. What started sweet, just got sweeter. We were en route to Zermatt. The little hamlet is built into the slopes of the mountains below the famed Matterhorn. People come from all over the world to ski, hike, summit or simply get a glimpse of this precipitous mountain peaking out of the clouds and rising high above the rest. We were here to do the same while soaking up all the Swiss culture we could get.

Cars aren’t allowed in the pedestrian-only town of Zermatt so we arrived to the mountain hamelet in a bright, red train, cutting through the mountains at the speed of lightning. This was our firt experience with Swiss efficiency. Everything is run like a well-oiled, ‘cheery’ machine, and it’s so clean you can literally eat off the train station floors. Here we were also introduced to the outrageous cost of travel in Switzerland. The mere 15 minute train ride cost a whopping $40 per person! When we learned the price of hotels and dinner out on the town, we knew we wouldn’t be coming back any time soon. Time to soak up every moment we have!

Arriving in the main square of Zermatt we were greted by the neighing whispers and clicking of horse hooves towing well-heeled travelers by carriage to their Zermatt digs. We found our home at a quaint little chalet and from our balcony of our room, we laid our eyes on the prize. There, staring us in the face, was the Matterhorn herself. Like icing on a cake, we saw her peak was topped with a dusting of fresh snow as she revealed herself against a brilliant blue sky.

Taking a brief sojourn from our budget travel days, Ryan and I felt like two kids in a candy store. I wanted to jump on the bed, yodel from the balcony and rob the mini bar. Thanks to mom and pop, we were living high on the hog!

And after so long on the road, Ryan and I hardly recognized each other. We’d put in requests for a few ‘creature comforts’ prior to my parents arrival and were now basking in this new-found glory. I was now armed with a hair dryer to tame my unruly mane and even a pair of jeans, which hadn’t made the packing list cut. Ryan, too, got a little wardrobe upgrade for the occasion and we were feeling quite sharp from our Swiss-style makeover.

Switzerland was decadent and my parents succeeded in spoiling us silly. When we weren’t indulging in a hot pot of cheesy fondue, nibbling on decadent Swiss chocolate or diving into a fabulous dinner of venison or lamb, we were on the move. We took the gondola known as the Matterhorn Express up to the very top of the mountain to the base of the Matterhorn. On this clearest of days, we looked out over a panorama of snow-capped peaks for as far as the eye could see. We were told we were actually seeing 37 peaks with an altitude of over 12,000 feet. I’m no mountaineer, but I can tell you the view was awe-inspiring.

Once on top, we tackled the Matterhorn Trail. The trek was a full day of hiking through incredible Alpine scenery and had us descending on picturesque Zermatt just as the sun was setting.

There are some days so special you know you’ll remember them the rest of your life. Trekking through the Swiss Alps with my parents and Ryan beside me, today was one of those days.

pixel The Mighty Matterhorn

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