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 Journey Down the Garden Route

There’s one place uniting nearly all visitors to South Africa. This spot is known as the Garden Route, a scenic 400-mile stretch running down the southern coastline of South Africa. Second to only Cape Town or Krueger National Park, it usually earns a spot on the itinerary of nearly every South African traveler. Promising incredible topography and vegetation with a wide range of outdoor and wildlife activities, we set aside nearly two weeks to traverse this terrain.

Garden Route 1 A Journey Down the Garden Route

Road trippin' it down South Africa's Garden Route

Arming ourselves with some wheels, we took off from Cape Town with our pals Greg and Ashley for a proper road trip along the acclaimed Garden Route. Our journey commenced in picturesque Hermanus Bay.

Whale-Studded Shores in Hermanus Bay

Hermanus 1 A Journey Down the Garden Route

Our charming digs in Hermanus Bay

The town of shake-shingled cottages with thick slated-roofs overlooking a rocky shoreline of crashing waves was straight out of a New England dream. We settled into a delightful little B&B on the Atlantic shores and the intricately hand-carved furniture and African accents were the only thing reminding me I was far away from home. While our adventure hungry pals, Greg and Ashley, set off to organize a cage swim with Great White Sharks (check out their blog for stories on this adventure!), I tended to my wifely duties. Ryan was suffering from a bad case of food poisoning – South African style – from the ostrich burger he mowed down the night before. Between caring for my sickling, I soaked up views from the balcony of our room of the sun setting over the dramatic coastline line.

Hermanus 2 A Journey Down the Garden Route

Whale-watching on the shores of Hermanus Bay

With the ‘bird flu’ behind us, we had the following day to enjoy Hermanus Bay. We were more than pleased with our charming digs and the coastal scenery, but what had drawn us here could be found along the water’s edge. We’d arrived in October, peak whale-watching season, to watch the massive water beasts put on their show. To our delight, a fleet of enormous fins poked out of the water followed by a stream of rolling, colossal bellies revealing themselves amidst breaking waves.

A Taste of the Wilderness

Wilderness 2 A Journey Down the Garden Route

Canoeing through Wilderness Wildlife Reserve

Next up was the eponymously named town of Wilderness . Here we found ourselves in the midst of – you guessed it – the wilderness. Surrounded by dense forests, deep ravines and rippling streams, the area is any outdoor enthusiast’s paradise. With little time on our side, we had to forgo the variety of nature hikes encircling the area and opted for a day on the water. Saddling up on canoes we spent a leisurely afternoon paddling our way to the waterfalls of Wilderness Wildlife Reserve. Paying proper adieu to the day, we then watched the sunset from the white-sandy beaches of Wilderness Bay with a bottle of cheap wine and block of cheese in hand.

Wilderness 3 A Journey Down the Garden Route

Enjoying sunset with friends over Wilderness Bay

The unexpected highlight, however, of Wilderness was a visit to a hobo camp on the outskirts of town. Our buddy Greg had gotten word of this remote encampment from a fellow traveler and was adamant we pay a visit. To my surprise, it did not disappoint. Following deserted train tracks around the side of the mountain, we walked through a long tunnel. This lead us to an enormous cave with unparalleled views of the rocky coastline. We immediately recognized this was no ordinary cave and were soon greeted by cautious hellos from the cave’s inhabitants. The cave is called home by thirteen homeless people and on a brief tour conducted by the mastermind of this eccentric ‘residence’ we learned it was unlike any place we’d ever seen.

Wilderness 4 A Journey Down the Garden Route

View inside the Hobo Camp in Wilderness

Entering the cave I felt as if I were walking into a Tim Burton film. Proudly leading us through his whimsical home, our dutiful guide explained how each ‘room’ had been constructed out of various relics found on the shoreline or around town. In reality this group of hobos had simply taken others’ rubbish and used it to create a residential masterpiece. In the three years of occupying the cave, they had skillfully crafted a beautiful home. Old mops and brooms were converted into ornate bed posts and vases. Fanciful strands of seashells strung together with fishing line magically hung from the cave ceiling and elaborate chandeliers made of pebbles and rocks look fit for a spread in Better Homes & Gardens. It was sheer genius.

Great New Heights in Storm’s River

Bungee 1 A Journey Down the Garden Route

Ryan preparing to take the plunge off of Boulkrans Bridge

On the eastern edge of the Garden Route, Ryan chalked up another one on the adventure list: bungee jumping from the highest jump on the planet. Located near the town of Storm’s River is the towering Balkans Bridge standing proudly over a deep ravine. It’s become the place for adrenaline junkies looking to take the plunge and claiming to have highest bungee jump in the world, my superlative-seeking husband wanted in.

Bungee 2 A Journey Down the Garden Route

About to make the jump off the highest bungee jump in the world

After getting strapped into his gear and getting an earful from me on how stupid I thought it was, he braved his way to the center of the bridge and made the jump. Standing a football field away, it was quite unsettling watching him make the jump and witnessing his flailing body suspended in the air hundreds of feet above earth. After confirming it was the most terrifying moment of his life, I crossed my fingers hoping it might be the last.

Bungee 3 A Journey Down the Garden Route

Ryan makes the jump at 708 feet above the earth

From pristine coastlines and whale-studded shores to cascading waterfalls and hobo camps, the Garden Route was a special place. And this was just the beginning. Standing out from our Garden Route journey were the wildlife encounters to come. Graceful cheetahs and fierce ostriches awaited us on our journey and wet our palette for the host of African wildlife adventures to come.

pixel A Journey Down the Garden Route

Comments (3)

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  1. Will says:

    I love the garden route especially living in a coastal town Jeffreys Bay on the edge of this route. Sometimes I have to drive through the scenic garden route for work purposes, what a privilege!
    Will´s last [type] ..Fall in Love with South Africa

  2. Ashley says:

    Loved this post! I am currently picturing that day Ryan bungee jumped. Think too much wine the night before and a group of American college students. Hilarious!!! So glad we did not do it…Miss you two!

  3. Patrick Shuff says:

    wow – look at you Ryno. Intensity in ten cities.