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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Wild Cats

Cheetah Face Wild Cats

A beautiful face welcomes us at the Tenikwa Wild Cat Center

There’s little debate that wildlife is Africa’s main attraction. With nearly two weeks since stepping foot on the continent and no more than a few baboons and bird sightings, we were due. It was time to step it up a notch with an up close and personal encounter with South Africa’s wild cats.

On our journey down the Garden Route we learned of a unique experience at the Tenikwa Wild Cat Activity Park. The park is dedicated to taking in injured cats of all shapes and sizes to nurse them back to health. Those that are prepared to return to the bush are released back into the wild.

Putting a special emphasis on cheetahs, the park rangers make long walks with these magnificent cats a daily priority. At sunrise and sunset they walk these cats through the surrounding dense forests to give them a chance to get much needed exercise. They now allow visitors to the park to share in the experience, and it was an opportunity we would not pass up.

Photo 11 Wild Cats

Meeting our girl Tandy for a walk in the woods

Arriving to the park on a misty spring morning, we were greeted with freshly baked scones and piping hot coffee before meeting our furry friends. Just outside, brother and sister Tandy and Shockra awaited us. When we caught our first sight of them, we were awe-struck with how just how beautiful they were. They also seemed much bigger, taller and brawnier than expected. Upon entering their man-made den, we could hear the rumbling roar of their purr and were quite hesitant when given the okay to run our fingers through their fur. Cautiously extending our hands into their hay-like hair, we were surprised to find the coarse spots on their coat actually raised above the rest of the fur.

Cheetah Body Wild Cats

Gracefully spotted body of the cheetah

Cheetah Yawn Wild Cats

Don't fear, this cheetah is just taking a yawn

The park is home to five cheetahs with Tandy and Shockra the youngest at 22 months. These cheetahs weren’t rescued directly from the wild but from other game reserves where they had plenty of human contact. Though there was no doubt they were wild cats, their upbringing ensured they were much more docile than many of their feral relatives.

Laura Cheetah Wild Cats

Cautiously buddying up to Tandy the cheetah

We learned all about the beautiful animals with whom we’d be spending our day. The cheetah is the fastest animal on land, however, in recent years has become critically endangered. Its timid ways, non-confrontational demeanor and picky eating habits have all affected its survival. Unlike most cats which are nocturnal, the cheetah hunts during the day. They typically hunt at sunrise and sunset in open plains where they can use their speed to run down predators. We were surprised to learn that while the cheetah is fast, endurance isn’t their strong point. They can reach 60 miles an hour in three seconds flat, however, can only hold the speed for thirty seconds before needing a half hour to recover.

Photo 7 Wild Cats

Another interesting factoid we learned about the cheetah is the function of the distinctive black “tear” running from their inner eye down to their mouth. This actually works much like sunglasses do for humans, blocking the sun from the cheetahs’ eyes, thus allowing them to hunt during the day.

Sunrise Walk Wild Cats

Sunrise walk with our cheetah Tandy through the forest

After a brief introduction, we set out to begin our sunrise walk. The cheetahs were strapped into a small harness with leash attached and soon we were on our way. We were instructed to hold the leash and walk behind the cheetah, letting our Tandy lead the way. Should Tandy take off running, which she did several times, we were instructed to drop the leash. Of course there was no way we could compete with this kind of speed.

We were also told, for good reason, they don’t allow small children in the park. With children the size of their prey, cheetahs feel they can dominate them and may opt to take advantage. At my petite size, I learned this first-hand. Accidentally stepping in front of Tandy’s path, she closed in, wrapping her front paw tightly around my leg. Though I was soon freed, it certainly gave me a good scare.

Ryan Cheetah e1290587836204 Wild Cats

The lack of endurance in the cheetahs was certainly evident. Tandy tired fast and plopped down several times, seemingly unwilling to take a step further. A few water breaks and toss of a soccer ball helped to get her going again as we lead her back to her home. Here she and her brother were delighted to find raw chicken awaiting them and within seconds they had torn into it and gobbled it down.

What a surreal feeling it was walking through the forest with a cheetah by my side and during our hour walk, this feeling never got old. I didn’t want this experience to come to an end, but it was time to say goodbye to our cheetah friends.

After quite a memorable morning, we were off to meet some other wild cats.

Serval1 Wild Cats

The petite-sized, spotted serval

Next up was the spotted serval. It’s almost as elusive as the leopard, but a much smaller cat. It has large, bat-like ears and has a distinctive hunting style of using high leaps to pounce on prey. Entering serval land the little guy welcomed his visitors by jumping up in the air in excitement, and we got a chance to see the leaping bounds this cat is known for.

Caracol Wild Cats

Our visit with the small but aggressive caracals

We closed this special morning with a visit with two caracals. The small cats have a brown coat and big, pointed ears. Though small and size, the father and son duo we met were a bit more aggressive than the other cats so we were warned to watch our backs when entering their den. Hard to believe these little guys, just larger than your typical domestic cat, could do any damage but we weren’t going to test our luck.

What a morning it was getting to know some of the many wild cats that walk this land. We left even more anxious to meet again out in the wild.

pixel Wild Cats

Comments (1)

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  1. I’m so jealous! Cheetahs are like my favorite animals ever and it’s always been my dream to see them in the wild. Wonder if we’ll get to see them in Kenya/Tanzania next year. Following you now.
    Jill – Jack and Jill Travel The World´s last [type] ..RSS and Twitter – Socially Challenged