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 Difference Between Traveling and Vacation

backpacker3 300x179 The Difference Between Traveling and VacationA while back, a fellow traveling friend of ours cc’ed us onto an email she had sent to friends and relatives back home. A bit frustrated with her life abroad, she ranted to those who thought that her many months of traveling “seemed like a nice vacation.” Upon reading the e-mail, I had to laugh, remembering the countless times people had expressed this same view to me. I thought that I should use this forum to dispel any misnomers about traveling merely being an extended vacation.

The first difference that comes to mind is simple. People all over the world choose vacations based almost solely on one of two things: 1) being able to relax completely or 2) seeking adventure. In both cases, people want ease. When we – I use we because I certainly can vacation with the best of them, too – go on vacation, we choose places where everything is done for us. We don’t want to have to walk far or take public transportation and there has to be a bar, a pool, and better yet, a bar in the pool.

Vacationers definitely don’t want any such thing as a language barrier to get in the way. Vacation knows no budgets, or at least, you budget ahead so you don’t have to budget. Grocery shopping is almost non-existent as cooking is rarely a thought. That’s what vacation is all about. I completely understand this. As Americans, we are usually only given two weeks out of every year to forget about all of the aforementioned things, and damn it, we are going to forget well.

But here, ladies and gentlemen, is the difference. I have yet to meet a traveler who doesn’t make rice or spaghetti at least twice weekly, take public transportation almost daily, balance a budget constantly, and deal with a language barrier that isn’t to be loathed, but appreciated.

This last one is the kicker. Suddenly, figuring out which bus to take in your native city doesn’t seem so overwhelming after all. In my travels, I have to try and communicate in my bumbling Spanish, to the curiosity of the other passengers, how to get from one part of a foreign city to another. If this were vacation, there would be a lot more people looking forward to going back to work and not the opposite. The smallest task can be dreaded in another language. How do I order this? What is the best way to get there? She seems nice, I wonder if she would be patient enough to answer my question?

I don’t mean to complain because I am the first to get upset when someone answers me in English. While I may reach more quickly and clearly the solution, I came here wanting to have this problem. Why? Because I want a challenge. I want to hear a different language and experience a culture other than my own. Vacationers don’t want a challenge; they want to relax, have a good time, have a new adventure (albeit with a guided English language tour to the top) so they can enjoy the ride down and still have time for cocktails.

Thailand Train 300x200 The Difference Between Traveling and VacationTraveling around the world is not a vacation. I have experienced personal space in my travels so small that I regret to call it personal. I have traveled for days on buses with barely a place to rest one’s head. I have shared a bathroom with over 30 people and gone to bed without a mint under my pillow, but instead other less desirable and unmentionable objects. I have been stuck in the middle of nowhere without knowing a single word of the native language. I have showered with the strangest of arachnids in freezing water under the light of a weak candle.

To put it a little more eloquently is a quote by Ralph Crenshaw, “Travel has a way of stretching the mind. The stretch comes not from travel’s immediate rewards, the inevitable myriad new sights, smells and sounds, but with experiencing firsthand how others do differently what we believed to be the right and only way.”

pixel The Difference Between Traveling and Vacation

Comments (8)

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  1. [...] Traveling or Vacationing? [...]

  2. Nora says:

    Ry, I love this entry. i was JUST having this discussion with someone. i love you guys. keep the torch going until i can run with it! xo

  3. Clark says:

    Enjoyed this entry. Currently dealing with this as well. Leaving Chicago for our RTW in a few weeks.
    .-= Clark´s last blog ..My Name is Clark…and I’m a gear-a-holic. =-.

  4. I like this. There is definitely a line between traveling and vacationing. I think people who don’t do it often think they are one in the same, but especially when it’s work related or as a journalist, it can often be much more work than leisure.
    .-= Spencer Spellman´s last blog ..Noble’s Restaurant, Charlotte, North Carolina =-.

  5. Angel says:

    Congratulations Ryan for this article. My wife and I are experiencing what you described as the traveler’s world. We love the challenge, excitement, people, and all that comes with it. We’ll follow your adventure and we share with you and your readers our open-ended journey around the world through our website:

  6. jack parler says:

    I really liked your blog!

  7. Becky Weprin says:

    Ryan, great blog. I completely agree with you and might need to steal your ending quote.

  8. Greg Dietz says:

    Right on! When Ash and I decided to embark on a RTW adventure, lots of people assumed it would be one big vacation. Drinking the cheapest beer, taking the lowest cost transportation option, and doing laundry in a sink. This is no vacation. And as you suggest above, it is not an escape either.