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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India’s Great Contradictions

Kerala 60 e1268640925970 India’s Great Contradictions

Colors of India displayed at Kerala market

We’ve been in India for two weeks, and have experienced more in this time than maybe our whole trip combined. My absence in writing stems not from a lack of time but rather the sheer inadequacy of words to describe this experience. I’m struggling to accurately depict just how bad the poverty is and the brutal reality with honor and respect for the people who have touched me deeply. I am also overwhelmed with a deep sense of guilt being a mere witness to it all as a passing tourist.

At the same time, I am absolutely captivated with the rawness of life here – the beauty and simplicity of the people and ever-present spiritual energy, which bring forth a myriad of emotions. Peaceful yet frenzied. Inspired yet hopeless. Disgusted yet enchanted. It’s brilliantly beautiful while desperately heartbreaking. It’s colorful and vibrant while mystifying and enlightening.

In all its chaotic glory, India is a puzzle, and I find myself pondering its extreme contradictions.

The smells: All at once, India smells horrific and delightful. Where litter and urine-stained sidewalks are plentiful so are the intoxicating aromas of cumin, turmeric and cardamom wafting from spice stands on every street. Where leaking sewage and pollution prevail so do the sweet scents of lime juice, cinnamon and jasmine. I can’t get enough.

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Traffic jam in Mumbai

The mayhem: Home to a disorderly order, India is havoc like no other. It’s cities of 15 million people and 100,000 taxis embracing an absence of driving lanes and crosswalks. It’s mobs of people zig-zagging through the labyrinth of food stalls while tripping over beggars and mounds of litter. It’s rickshaw drivers dodging cows walking down the middle of the streets. Somehow, though, you never feel threatened in the harmonious chaos.

The food: India is the culinary trip of a lifetime. Food is fussy, complicated and delicious, and the variety of offerings is mind-boggling. Copious amounts of fresh, sumptuous spices ensure even the simplest meals will dance on your tongue and blow your mind. But where meals are an art form, Indians barbarically wolf it down, shoveling mouthfuls in with their hands.

Mumbai 100 e1269082210153 India’s Great Contradictions

A day of work for a young child in Mumbai

The poverty: People without hands banging on our taxi window. Men with mangled legs clamoring for small change. Children two and three running half naked through traffic and bathing in the leaking water coming out of sewers. Steps away luxury cars carry India’s elite to the palatial towers housing million dollar flats. These are the scenes of our days.

The melting pot: Religion plays a paramount role for the colorfully devout Indians. Vibrant Hindu temples pulsating with people in the same neighborhoods where Muslims, Buddhists, Jews and Christians abound. So different in their traditions and dress, yet united in a strong faith.

The colors: India is a symphony of colors. Women dress in vibrant shades of red, purple, blue, yellow and orange. Multi-colored saris blow in the wind, hanging from balconies. Drab, ramshackle buses painted brilliant colors while rickety old fences and dilapidated buildings are given new life with splashes of colorful paint.

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The dramatic colors of the Indian saris

The affection: Complete strangers put their arm around you as they give you directions. Store owners welcome you with pats on the back and a limp shake of the hand. Men express affectionate camaraderie walking hand and hand down the street. But between men and women? Hands off. Kissing and holding hands are considered sexual acts saved strictly for the bedroom.

India is, no doubt, a sensory extravaganza. Yes, it’s filthy, hectic, frustrating, smelly and always unpredictable, but give it enough time and it will capture your heart. It certainly has mine.

pixel India’s Great Contradictions

Comments (6)

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  1. roundwego says:

    @Jennyb – Glad you found us. Absolutely, you can reference the post. Good luck with your blog.

  2. Jennyb says:

    Great for me that I found your Blog… I just started with my own Blog, can I reference to this post? I want to write something on similiar topic!
    Jennyb´s last [type] ..I got started to blogging!

  3. Echofeifei says:

    I’m totally enjoying your blog…especially what you’ve writtern for India: the contradiction – yes, totally agree…
    Good luck for all your new trips!
    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

  4. roundwego says:

    Thanks Liz and Heather! It’s been difficult at times to witness the reality of life here but feeling very inspired at the same time by the people. It’s really a special place and the amazing food doesn’t hurt either…except our waistlines!

  5. Liz says:

    Beautifully written, Laura! I just watched a documentary about the children of Mumbai and I agree it’s really hard to see. But the FOOD must be amazing!

    Keep up the great posts!

  6. Heather says:

    What a great way to describe what I am sure was hard to see and experience. You have such a way of making us feel like we are there with you. Safe travels…