Three Years of Hell to Become the Devil: Outgeeking Bainbridge

« Getting Ready for Hong Kong | Main | Idealist? You must be joking »

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.

Post a comment

(If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting.)

NOTICE TO SPAMMERS, COMMENT ROBOTS, TRACKBACK SPAMMERS AND OTHER NON-HUMAN VISITORS: No comment or trackback left via a robot is ever welcome at Three Years of Hell. Your interference imposes significant costs upon me and my legitimate users. The owner, user or affiliate who advertises using non-human visitors and leaves a comment or trackback on this site therefore agrees to the following: (a) they will pay fifty cents (US$0.50) to Anthony Rickey (hereinafter, the "Host") for every spam trackback or comment processed through any blogs hosted on, or, irrespective of whether that comment or trackback is actually posted on the publicly-accessible site, such fees to cover Host's costs of hosting and bandwidth, time in tending to your comment or trackback and costs of enforcement; (b) if such comment or trackback is published on the publicly-accessible site, an additional fee of one dollar (US$1.00) per day per URL included in the comment or trackback for every day the comment or trackback remains publicly available, such fee to represent the value of publicity and search-engine placement advantages.

Giving The Devil His Due

And like that... he is gone (8)
Bateleur wrote: I tip my hat to you - not only for ... [more]

Law Firm Technology (5)
Len Cleavelin wrote: I find it extremely difficult to be... [more]

Post Exam Rant (9)
Tony the Pony wrote: Humbug. Allowing computers already... [more]

Symbols, Shame, and A Number of Reasons that Billy Idol is Wrong (11)
Adam wrote: Well, here's a spin on the theory o... [more]

I've Always Wanted to Say This: What Do You Want? (14)
gcr wrote: a nice cozy victorian in west phill... [more]

Choose Stylesheet

What I'm Reading

D.C. Noir

My city. But darker.
A Clockwork Orange

About time I read this...


Projects I've Been Involved With

A Round-the-World Travel Blog: Devil May Care (A new round-the-world travel blog, co-written with my wife)
Parents for Inclusive Education (From my Clinic)

Syndicated from other sites

The Columbia Continuum
Other Blogs by CLS students

Seven Days in Tibet

We had a mere seven days in Tibet. It wasn’t enough time to dive deep into the culture or gain any real insights on this dying nation. What it did offer was a glimpse at the natural splendor of the country and a window into the life of the Tibetan people.

Here’s a look at how we spent our days.

Day 1

4608248227 80a5bafa14 Seven Days in Tibet

Just across the Tibetan border, we were ushered into a large bus to begin our journey. Here laid before us, amidst the snow-capped peaks of the Himalayas and barren terrain of the Tibetan plateau, was a road stretching into the horizon. It’s known as the Friendship Highway and stretches from the Nepal border to Lhasa, the capital of Tibet.

The scenery on the highway features stunning views of the snow-capped Himalayas, vast grasslands and meadows, and other unforgettable sights. Getting across the Himalayas has been very difficult throughout history which has helped preserve the culture of the people living there. Many weeks of mountain walking were once required, but the Chinese have set out to change all this. You can now traverse the country in just a couple of days.

Day 2

4609110995 2e577b258c Seven Days in Tibet

We left the small village of Nylam behind and began our journey to Lhotse. We climbed high into the Himalayas with peaks seemingly kissing the sky. By noon time, we were at the Lalunga Pass, reaching over 15,000 feet. Sitting atop the roof of the world, the land was covered in a blanket of snow and the wind blew ferociously. You could hardly see three feet in front of you. The only view in sight were tangled bunches of colorful Tibetan prayer flags flapping in the wind. As we descended the pass, the sky cleared just enough to see the peak of Mount Everest jetting out over the clouds.

Day 3

4609138667 f54ba6fc91 Seven Days in Tibet

We watched the sun rise over the mountains this morning, casting down on a beautiful Tibetan village outside of Lhotse. The Tibetan architecture is very unique. The buildings are all one story and sit very low to the ground. They are made of mud, it looks like, and painted white. All the windows and doors are ornately decorated with colorful awnings and big, brass doorknobs. We paid a visit to a small monastery and came across saffron-clad monks thumbing prayer beads and chanting in unison. They invited us in to witness the intimate prayer session inside a dimly lit golden temple honoring Buddha.

Day 4

4609214059 325c134328 Seven Days in Tibet

Today is my 28th birthday! It’s not every year you can say you are celebrating in Tibet, right? We made an early morning drive to the town of Gyantse. The most well-preserved of Tibetan villages we’d be staying in, this place was a fairytale. Here a medieval fort sits at the tip-top of a mountain, guarding a snow-colored village.

As you can imagine, life is simple here so a birthday splurge was out of the question. Ryan did his best to make it special and made arrangements with our guide for dinner reservations and to have a surprise birthday cake await us. Our guide, in his broken English, only got half the story. He misunderstood Ryan and instead of hearing cake, he heard the word party. He spent the remainder of the day gathering up every Westerner in town for a surprise birthday party for me!

4611449174 a4df4b64a6 Seven Days in Tibet

When we walked into the restaurant for an anticipated intimate dinner, there were thirty others there to surprise me and a surprise it was for the both of us! They dressed me in white cloths and a golden crown and brought out a cake big enough to feed all 40 of us. A highlight of the night was when they sang happy birthday. Just as it came time to sing “Happy Birthday dear…” it grew completely silent. No one at my birthday party knew my name! Was certainly a birthday to remember.

Day 5

4610670371 0b50759416 Seven Days in Tibet

Today was a full day of driving while we made our way to our final destination of Lhasa. The scenery today rivaled anything we’d seen before. We reached the highest pass on our journey at nearly 16,000 feet. Here we were surrounded by beautiful snow-capped peaks and glaciers sitting in the clouds. Climbing back down, we passed beautiful lakes and fields of yaks and nomadic hill tribes.

Day 6

4609196083 95a98e933b Seven Days in Tibet

We spent our day exploring the mystical city of Lhasa. It’s lined with monasteries and temples and smells of incense and yak butter. For centuries it has been the center of Tibetan Buddhism and headquarters for the Tibetan government. Today, it’s largely occupied by the Chinese, seemingly closing in on the Tibetans. The old city is where the Tibetans live. Although it’s being encroached upon by Chinese modernization with each passing year, it still retains its ethereal charm.

Day 7

4608863280 8579eaca75 Seven Days in Tibet

Today we paid a visit to the most important monuments in Tibet, the Potala Palace and Jokang Temple. The Potala Palace was founded in the 7th century as the winter home of the Dalai Lama and main government building. The complex sits thirteen stories high, built on a red mountain in the center of Lhasa Valley, at an altitude of 11,500 ft.

4608267141 5b796a35ac Seven Days in Tibet

The Jokang Temple is the center of Tibetan Buddhism. Thousands of devout Buddhists circumvent the temple daily while clinching their prayer beads or swing brass prayer wheels. Others express reverence by prostrating (laying face down with legs and arms fully extended) in front of the temple for hours at a time. The beauty and originality of the architecture of these monuments can only be rivaled by their rich ornamentation and harmonious integration in the stunning landscape.

pixel Seven Days in Tibet

Comments (3)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Vicky says:

    Beautiful pictures and great writing!

  2. roundwego says:

    Hope you have a fantastic visit to Tibet! Sure hard to break out of the Chinese group tour travel regulations so hope you are able to do so and see a little more of the culture than we were able. Truly a special place.

  3. Agrim Khetan says:

    Haha… Hilarious B’day party u had there!! I myself am planning for a Trip to Tibet this April-May…