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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Flying High on Singapore Air

Singapore Airlines e1267683655999 Flying High on Singapore Air

Our aircraft on Singapore Air

Have you ever been on a flight so good you never wanted off? For any first-classers out there, this may be commonplace, but for an economy regular like myself, it’s a true rarity. Cramped quarters, rubbery food and stuffy air are unfortunately the dreaded norm, and I typically find myself counting down the minutes till landing from the time I step on the plane.

This all changed on a 14 hour flight north and half way across the world, from Sydney to Mumbai. Dubbed by international travelers as “the world’s best airline,” Singapore Air lived up to the hype and then some.

Singapore Air Stewardesses e1267683574601 Flying High on Singapore Air

Stewardesses of Singapore Air

On Flight SQ422, we were greeted by the gracious stewardesses clothed in elaborate dresses. To help us freshen up before the main event, they greeted us with piping hot, moist towels while we settled into our spacious, Lily Tomlin-esque seats. The foot rest popped down, the steward delivered a newspaper of my choice and a glass of chilled, white wine, and suddenly I was in air craft heaven.

In front me sat my very own, shiny TV with an entertainment lineup fit for Homer Simpson. I had my picking of nearly 100 films, ranging from all those playing in U.S. theaters to the classics and top comedy and foreign films of the past several years. There was a plethora of hit U.S. and international TV programs available, including oldies, but goodies like “Cheers” and some truly fabulous foreign reality shows like China’s “A Date with Lu Yu.”

The offerings also included a built in iPod, where you could choose from over 5,000 songs to add to a play list, you could enjoy while perusing articles from today’s world newspapers. There was also a spot to plug in your camera memory card to watch your photos zoom by. And if that didn’t keep you busy, brush up on your foreign language skills with the audio language lessons available or check out the travel guides of over 25 countries.

IMG 6231 e1267683436286 Flying High on Singapore Air

Singapore Air handout of knit socks and toothbrush

I was giddy as a schoolgirl with all that was in front of me, yet it didn’t stop there. The stewardesses soon arrived to deliver these little zipper pouches filled with knit, knee-high travel socks accompanied by a toothbrush and toothpaste. Soon came the glossy flight menus, with glorious food options laid out before us, and the food certainly didn’t disappoint.

Needless to say, I didn’t sleep a wink of the 14 hour flight because I was consistently and exceptionally entertained. For the duration, the fine ladies of Singapore Air continued to parade down the isles, showering us with goodies of all shapes and sizes.

Singapore Airport e1267683892719 Flying High on Singapore Air

Glistening floors of Singapore Airport

Our experience on flight SQ422 could only be rivaled by our overnight visit to the Singapore airport, which offered everything from a movie theater to a hairdresser to a swimming pool. Clean as a whistle you could literally eat off their floor, it was reminiscent of the bright lobby of a luxury hotel.

Ryan had to hold me back form applauding when the show was over and we landed in Mumbai, India, but let me tell you, I will never forget you, Singapore Air, and I will do everything in my power to fly with you again.

pixel Flying High on Singapore Air

Comments (3)

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  1. Mom Keller says:

    Now that’s a plane I would love to be on with you. Why can’t American Airlines learn a lesson from them?

  2. roundwego says:

    Unfairly, we didn’t feel the need to explore the city of Singapore. Indulging in the airport’s posh, glimmering “sterility” was a wonderful way to pass our time. Free movies, free internet and a pool. What more can you ask for in a layover?

  3. Ryan S says:

    Amazing. That airport looks stunning. I would sacrifice a day’s holiday exploring that airport and finding out all that it has to offer.