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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A Chinese Reality Check

4623277161 7fa1aca6c7 A Chinese Reality Check

When I pictured China, I imagined grand, dilapidated stone walls guarding ancient cities dotted with colorful pagodas. I envisioned quaint, wooden tea houses lined with cherry blossoms and a countryside covered in rice paddies and ox carts. I pictured enormous, polluted cities where street sweepers shaded themselves under bamboo hats while dodging vegetable carts and barefoot children begging in the streets.

If this was the China I was looking to discover, turns out I was 50 years too late. My China expectations were due for a serious reality check and that’s exactly what I got.

4643767933 650038662b A Chinese Reality Check

I was blindsided by the bright lights of the China that awaited me. It’s modern and slick. It’s immaculately clean. There is no litter on sidewalks and streets look as if they’re scrubbed by hand daily. Even the pollution is better than I anticipated. The singeing smell of burning garbage that prevails in most Asian cities was absent here and instead I was greeted by newly planted, green, leafy trees lining the streets.

Everything about the country is massive. From the skyrocketing population to towering buildings, China does everything big. You have mammoth-sized banks and shopping malls that seem to go on forever. Billboards here are the size of houses and train stations look more like convention centers than transportation hub. Even the streets are enormous, with boulevards stretching out seven or eight lanes.

4623279307 1102fa1f16 A Chinese Reality Check

The growing middle class was what really struck me. It’s not a world of rich and poor as you’d imagine finding in most developing nations. People have expendable income here. Shops and restaurants are busting at the seams with patrons and tourist destinations are flooded with Chinese tourists. For so long China has depended on the U.S.’s purchasing power, but by the looks of it, this won’t be the case for too long. They’re going everywhere…fast.

The country is extremely advanced. Public transportation is fast and efficient; better than you find in any U.S. city. People are wired with the latest technologies and you can hardly find a café that doesn’t offer free wireless Internet connection. People in the cities are also highly fashion-conscious and sophisticated and make a strong effort to put their English skills to use.

McDonalds China e1277986370720 A Chinese Reality Check

Poverty seems non-existent. People walk the streets with purpose, and we rarely, if ever, saw anyone begging. So taken aback we were by this that we even questioned whether image-obsessed China could be ‘relocating’ the poor to some far off land out of sight? I wouldn’t put it past them.

China is moving ahead at an astounding pace, however, this has to come with a price. With such rapid change sweeping the country, the Chinese seem to have lost a sense of who they are. They seem to have no respect or appreciation for their cultural heritage. Ancient monuments, including old city walls and even parts of the Great Wall of China, have been knocked down and built to look new again. They see any sign of their past as antiquated and go to great lengths to hide it from the public eye.

The country is also heavily Western-influenced. You can’t walk down a street without being bombarded by a Starbucks, Dairy Queen, Apple, Nike or Puma store. What is 21st century China? It seems everything but themself.

There must be negative consequences to the rapid growth. In the meantime, they have certainly come a long way, and I must admit: I am impressed!

pixel A Chinese Reality Check

Comments (3)

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  1. travellyn says:

    Well I agree with you that China has moved rapidly into the modern world, but China is not too different to other countries where things have burnt down or been destroyed during a war, and then been rebuilt as the same iconic structure. I did a tour of Germany and found most of their historic buildings like the Residenz at Wurzburg had been destroyed by bombing during the war and rebuilt exactly the same as the original at an enormous cost. However when you havn’t seen these sites before they awesome!
    travellyn´s last [type] ..China a most attractive destinationTop Ten Places to visit China

  2. Echofeifei says:

    Yes, it’s a pity that China is losing so much its historical heritage, its traditions…almost everything is rebuilt, renovated or even replaced by the new ones…Is it a good thing or bad one?…
    Echofeifei´s last [type] ..Echofeifei- Can you imagine living in a huge stone as your house- A Fred Flintstone Inspired House- Architecture http-bitly-92rLdz RT @bitrebels

  3. Cam says:

    Interesting post. I too am guilty of making assumptions about China. We plan to do a tour of the area at the end of the year, so this post is very timely for us!
    Cam´s last [type] ..Drinking Beer Around the World – Part Two