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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Over-budget in the Land Down Under?

Sydney Skyline e1266454295411 Over budget in the Land Down Under?Leaving behind the unspoiled countryside of New Zealand we knew things would be different in Australia. But how different, we had no idea.

As budget travelers (perhaps a step above your typical backpacker and a flight of stairs below holidaymakers and vacationers), we’ve found ourselves, up until now, in a pretty good spot. Traveling through South America we enjoyed meager breakfasts followed by afternoon jaunts to corner cafes and sumptuous dinners out on the town. We could afford private, clean (albeit modest) rooms at budget hotels, family-run B&B’s and hostels.

In Fiji and New Zealand we were pushed a bit on these norms and had to make some minor changes: cooking in from time to time, restricting our café and alcohol intake a bit and opting for accommodation with shared bathrooms. Australia, however, turned out to be a whole different playing field.

Facing the Music
Nothing could have prepared us for how expensive Australia is. I’ve spent some time in some of the more expensive cities in the world, like Paris, London and New York City, and let me tell you: Australia (not just cosmopolitan Sydney) is right up there in terms of cost.

With the Australian dollar near one to one with the US dollar, we’re paying top prices for even the most basic goods. Here’s a look at the price tags you’ll find on some daily necessities in Australia:
- $4 for a cup of coffee
- $5 for a loaf of bread
- $9 for a box of cereal
- $15 for a six pack of beer
- $17 for a movie ticket

With these costs, you wouldn’t be surprised to hear that budget accommodation (and I’m talking low-end, backpacker hostels, people) will cost you around $80-$120 for a private room and $60-$80 for two beds in a shared dorm. Yes, absolutely outrageous.

How? Why? After continuing to ask myself these same questions, I got down to the bottom of it. Australians are making big bucks. Yep, minimum wage is a whopping $14.31. That means a day of flipping hamburgers at a Sydney McDonald’s or picking fruit in the farms surrounding Melbourne puts a near $150 bucks in your pocket. Score a more prestigious job manning the espresso machine behind the counter and you’re darn near $200 bucks for a day’s work. To put that in perspective, that’s nearly $40-50K per year on a minimum wage job!

What does this do to someone like us, the budget traveler? It has prices skyrocketing, making it close to impossible to fully enjoy the beauty of the country without constantly struggling to keep your budget intact. We could literally feel our wallet getting lighter as the day wore on and realized we needed to re-strategize and fast.

Stretching Aussie Travel Dollars
Here are a few of the tips we’ve picked up along the way and some ideas for those looking to enjoy Australia without busting the budget:

Say No to Organized Fun: Australian tourist agencies are talented stalkers. They will literally hunt you down on the streets and try to convince you the only way to experience Australia is through organized tours. Heavily promoted at most hostels, most backpackers seem to fall into this trap, but stay away from these and you’ll avoid putting a huge dent in your budget. Want to see the Whitsundays, Fraser Island, the Blue Mountains? In most cases you can do it on your own and for much cheaper. Do your homework, rent a car, get your own group together at your hostel and weigh your options heavily before jumping on one of these tours.

Akaroa 9 e1266455848395 Over budget in the Land Down Under?Small Splurges: Even when money is tight, don’t give up on those little things that make you happy while traveling. If it’s an afternoon cup of coffee, a scoop of gelato or an ice cold pint at the corner pub that gets you excited, don’t go without. We began our time in Australia forgoing these small things to try to stay on budget and realized without the small pick-me-ups throughout the day we were left feeling bitter and frustrated. Find other ways to cut corners, but don’t sweat the small stuff.

Surf on Someone Else‘s Dime: Internet in Australia is very pricey with most places charging $4-6 an hour. There’s even a monopoly on places with WiFi that make you pay into a public network for use. Keep your eyes, peeled, however, for the gazillion travel agencies lining the streets. They offer free internet to tourists (to encourage you to book tours with them). Makes for a great place to stop in to catch up on email and get some free travel advice at the same time. Check out Peter Pan, Tribal Travel and Wicked Travel agencies in nearly every city in Australia.

Food Market Sydney1 e1266455898929 Over budget in the Land Down Under?Food on the Cheap: It’s no surprise eating out is the biggest way to bust your budget. In fact in Australia, even mediocre restaurants are charging $20-30 a plate. Cooking in is obviously the way to go, but even grocery shopping can be a budget breaker. Good news: Most cities in Australia have some really great food markets. Here you’ll find really fresh produce (and local food treasures you didn’t even know existed!) for nearly a third of the price you find in grocery stores. Head to the market in the afternoon to get the best prices (prices drop dramatically after the midday rush) or consider hitting up grocery stores for late night specials. After 7 p.m. you’ll see they often drop their prices on meats and produce, too, to get rid of fresh food before the day’s end.

Reassess Your Budget: We had a set idea of how much money we’d like to spend each day/week to make our 12-14 months of traveling a reality. We were right on target for our first four months and then we hit the wall: Australia. Instead of spending our days making big sacrifices to stay on track (i.e. staying in dirty, unpleasant hostels that more resembled frat houses) and being irritated we couldn’t afford to do much, we came to accept the fact we needed to give our Australia budget a little more leeway. We decided we would up the ante, adding a bit more to our daily budget, and vow to cut back when we hit cheaper places like India.

After two weeks into our month in Australia, we’ve learned how to make the most of a not so budget-friendly destination. We now better understand the importance of being flexible, realizing when to give in a little and when to pull back on the reins. We recognize our dollar may not take us as far as it once did, but we’ve come to realize those rare, authentic experiences are the ones that don’t come with a price tag. And along the way we’re discovering these are the challenges that push us to savor the daily adventure each day brings and make our journey all the worthwhile.

pixel Over budget in the Land Down Under?

Comments (7)

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  1. Kendra says:

    Thanks for the tips, as my husband and I are in the same boat with the prices just as bad 3 years later! And that is with camping too!
    Kendra´s last [type] ..South Africa Part 2

  2. roundwego says:

    Great to hear. Glad you enjoyed the article.

  3. Kristina says:

    Thanks for the advice! Loved this article!

  4. roundwego says:

    Yes, I think we’re finally at the point where we have accepted the outrageous prices and can start to fully enjoy our time here. Half of it was the initial shock and frustration.

    Greg – Thanks for the reco on Great site. We heard about it, but just a little bit too far into our time here, which resulted in staying in some seedy places. Better luck next time, I suppose.

  5. Greg says:

    During our 30 some odd days in Australia, we heavily relied on You can book hotels at a fraction of the advertised rate. They cater to all price levels, below the $80 – $120 cited above. Often they are cheaper than hostels.

  6. Shannon OD says:

    I had a similar heart-attack experience when I first got to Oz. I was really fortunate that it was about 1.26 Aussie to the $ or I would have had to leave before my 2 months were up. It’s pretty hard to believe it when you’re walking through the stores and see how much everything costs. Good luck guys and great tips – I loved the Peter Pans because they’re everywhere and if there were not a lot of people they would let me stay longer :-)

  7. Shannon says:

    I just forwarded this to my two Aussie friends here in AZ. They just moved here from Sydney and they’ve been trying to explain the Aussie = pricey way to me. I forwarded them the link to this. Hope you’re having fun despite the expense. Miss you two!!!