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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Camp Fiji

Ryan 300x225 Camp FijiFiji. The name itself conjures up visions of crystal clear waters, white, sandy beaches and stunning coral reefs. So, are the glossy advertisements and desktop backgrounds to believed? Could Fiji possibly be this beautiful? In a word, yes. Fiji lives up to the hype and is every bit as beautiful as it is made out to be. Honeymooners and tourists looking for their own version of paradise cannot be faulted for dropping thousands of dollars to call this place home for a week or two. Which begs the question – can all this goodness be experienced by the budget traveler? If you don’t mind your fun packaged summer camp-style, then your answer is yes.

Fiji is not an island, like I had always imagined. Rather, it is an archipelago of 333 islands that vary greatly. First, in size: many are but a blip on a map, capable of being circumnavigated in minutes. Others, like the mainland, Viti Levu, are quite large and require several days to tour around; Second, in landscape: there are volcanic islands, full of dry, scrub brush and rocky beaches, and others still with dense jungles enveloped by pristine, white beaches and a veil of mint green water; Third, and most notably, in cost: island resorts run the gamut from Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous (with one island resort going for a cool $70,000 USD a night) to all-inclusive backpacker hostels on the high-end of cheap.

Boat 300x225 Camp FijiTravelers typically choose to concentrate their time on one of the two main chains of islands – the Mamanucas closer to the main island or the Yasawas further north. Prices to both islands proved to be quite expensive due to a monopoly on the ferry trade, with the trip to the Yasawas double in cost. We quickly learned that the bartering methods we had mastered in Brazil and Argentina were a foreign concept to the Fijians. In the end, we decided that Mama knows best. We opted for the closer Mamanuca group of islands and set sail for our soon-to-be home, the $30 dorm bunk beds of Ratu Kini Backpackers Hostel on the island of Mana.

Like almost all of the island resorts, the cost was inclusive of a compulsory meal plan. Typically, I enjoy eating as a way of experiencing a culture, so I was a bit dismayed to learn that my restaurant and meal would be chosen for me. However, after arriving to Ratu Kini on the island of Mana, it became apparent very quickly why this is the case. All of the islands are very small, and still very well preserved. A slew of bars and restaurants on each island would only deteriorate the condition of the islands rapidly and take away from the beauty – which, simply, is why everyone is there in the first place.

Fiji 188 300x225 Camp FijiEach day was spent doing something that we could hardly imagine doing just last week when we were home in St. Louis for Christmas. Again, because the islands are very small and there are no outside establishments, the resorts and hostels come up with some very creative ways to keep guests entertained. Similar to camp, each night had a theme. The theme of our first night was “Fijian Fun” with a traditional kava ceremony and some very entertaining Fijian songs and dancing. The next night at Ratu Kini consisted of a ridiculous cross-dressing session that was taken way too seriously by way too many people. It quickly became Studio 54 on acid. After happy hour – consisting of “stubbies” or short, fat, apothecary-esque bottles of Fiji Bitter or Gold – we witnessed the head dive instructor dressed as a femme fatale in a dance-off with the other cross-dressed guests. His/her dance included some very lewd and hilarious moves that would make top-end strippers envious. It ended as all great things do, with his 2-year old daughter confused and crying in the audience, asking, “Daddy, what are you doing?!”

Days began with the gulping of Fiji water (yep – they actually do drink Fiji water in Fiji, and it’s not $15 a bottle like in Vegas) to ward off any hangover that could’ve existed from the previous night’s fun and a communal breakfast with the other campers. We went for hikes around the island, through jungle forests, snorkeled and hired a boat with several others for an island-hopping adventure to take advantage of Fiji‘s beautiful waters.

Fiji 245 300x225 Camp FijiWe ventured to Matamanoa where we pretended to be guests at the posh resort and then to Monuriki, where they filmed the movie “Castaway.” Our group was pleasantly surprised to find the “Tom Hanks island” empty, with the exception of two nudist couples. Fortunately, we arrived before the big touring groups and were able to hike to the top to the caves and check out the incredible views of the surrounding islands.

Fiji 028 200x300 Camp FijiAfter two days, we were ready to leave behind the camp-style life and took the bait on a great deal the Walu Beach Resort was offering on the island of Malolo. With the Australian reality TV show “The Resort” cancelled, the literally made-for-TV resort is in limbo and was offering free upgrades for guest staying in dorms to beachfront bures. Bures are the traditional thatch-roofed huts with pitched roofs. It was a second honeymoon of sorts, with a deluxe bedroom, two bathrooms and a sitting room, all with ocean views.

We took advantage of the resort’s amenities, including an ocean-front pool, hammocks and sea kayaks to head out to a reef to snorkel. There, we saw yellow sting rays with bright blue polka dots, Nemo, zebra fish, electric blue starfish, a sea snake and, on my last day, a shark! It wasn’t huge – only about a foot and a half long – but it was so incredible to turn around and see a shark right in front of my eyes (not to worry, it wasn’t a Great White and was far less interested in me than I was in him).

Our last day we spent on the main island and had fun drowning stubbies of the local micro-brew, Vono, and hashing over camp-life with other travelers we had met along the way. While initially disappointed in the camp life that was Fiji for us budget travelers, we came to appreciate the forced fun. We were both quick to realize that we had met and formed friendships with more people in the five days we were on the islands than we had in the six weeks we were in Brazil, where we stayed in private rooms in pousadas. Budget travelers, do not fear. Take our advice, there is still a place yet for you in the wonderful isles of Fiji.

pixel Camp Fiji

Comments (10)

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  1. Shane says:

    Fiji is awesome, I stayed at Robinson Cursoe island for most of our stay, but the best part of the trip was watching a local Rugby game. They’re so passionate about the sport!!
    Shane´s last [type] ..Mass Transport Systems around the world [Infographic]

  2. Jay Chua says:

    Thanks for sharing the real adventure of Fiji, and I have heard so much about Fiji island.

    One of my favorite golfers all time, Vijay Singh used to live in Fiji for a while:)

    I have listed Fiji as one of my must visit destination on agendas..


  3. Sounds like a great place to go! And it’s nice that they have thought about preserving the beauty of the island and stop exploitation.

  4. roundwego says:

    Yes, definitely add Fiji to your upcoming travel plans! Think more budget options are on the up and up.

  5. Dave and Deb says:

    Nice to know that you can do Fiji on the “semi” cheap. Would love to go there one day!

  6. roundwego says:


    We’re certainly not missing the Chicago cold. After a month in NZ, we’re headed to Australia today, then on to India. Good things ahead.

    We are getting visas on the road, which is a pain but gives us a bit of flexibility.

    Thanks for following us on our adventures. More to come soon!


  7. Doug Rothrock says:

    Hi Ryan,Hi Laura — sounds like you guys are having a great time! I love the website. Did you get all your visas before you left? Or are you getting them on the road?

    Weather here blows — I’m jealous.

    Have fun!!

  8. dana marcu says:

    Good to see that you’re having fun. All the best from Chicago.

  9. Grandma Ann Keller says:

    Have fun. Be safe. Much love

  10. eric wiepert says:

    I am so glad that you guys went out to the islands. We stated at matamanoa. Right where you guys were. I agree with laura. That islands are amazing, but the water is unbelievable.