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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Kickin’ It in Kathmandu

Bud e1273589604695 Kickin’ It in Kathmandu

Eyes of the Buddha on a stupa in Bodnath

The tiny nation of Nepal sits tucked away in the mountains between India and Tibet. It’s a land dotted with temples, prayer flags and historic villages resting at the foothills of the Himalayan Mountains. Home to some of the most stunning mountain scenery, it’s a place that has attracted us for some time.

For a country with such a mystical appeal I was surprised at how comfortable things were. In fact, the UN Human Development Index ranks Nepal 142 out of 177 countries, below the likes of India, Bangladesh and even Pakistan in terms of development. What we found in Kathmandu, however, was quite the opposite.

In Kathmandu we found an absence of roaming cows and open sewer lines we had grown accustomed to in India. Here clean sidewalks and well-manicured gardens awaited us alongside a plethora of Western eateries. A New Orleans pub cooking up spicy Jambalaya and an Italian bistro offering homemade gnocchi had our jaws dropping. But it wasn’t till we heard Lady Gaga and Pearl Jam cover bands rocking an ex-pat pub scene that we really thought we’d made a wrong turn.

We expected big things out of Nepal, but feeling at home was not one of them. From apple pie to filtered coffee, we could find virtually anything a homesick heart desired and couldn’t help but spend a few days basking in the abundance of Western amenities the city offered. Home we were not, but Kathmandu gave us some much needed coddling.

With a nation so dependent on tourism, they do a darn good job catering to the needs and desires of Westerners. This makes travel in Nepal quite comfortable, but it also makes it easy to visit the country without getting any real sense of the people and culture. We made an effort to venture outside of the backpacker ghetto known as Thamel to get to know the real Nepal. What we found were some really spectacular, medieval towns around the Kathmandu Valley, well worth a visit.

Here’s a sampling of some of the places we experienced while kicking it in Kathmandu.


Patan e1273589751448 Kickin’ It in Kathmandu

Sunset over the temples of Patan

Patan is more like a suburb of Kathmandu. There are a bunch of shops selling Nepali handcrafts, including Buddha statues, shawls and knives, however, the main attraction is the collection of temples and palaces concentrated in the Patan area.


Bud2 e1273589868716 Kickin’ It in Kathmandu

Prayer flags around the stupa in Bodhnath

Bodhnath is home to the world’s largest stupa, a mound-like structure containing Buddhist relics, typically the remains of a Buddha or saint. It’s the focal point for Tibetan Buddhism in Nepal and is considered to be the most important monument outside of Tibet. There is an entire village around the stupa inhabited mainly by Tibetans, many of whom are in exile since the Chinese takeover of Tibet in 1959.


Push e1273590910330 Kickin’ It in Kathmandu

Statues along the ghats of Pushpatinah

This is the location of Nepal’s most important Hindu temple. People gather here to ask for blessings from the Pashupati, the Hindu god of beasts. It’s also here, along the banks of the Bagmati River, where Hindus come to cremate their loved ones in public.

pixel Kickin’ It in Kathmandu

Comments (4)

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  1. roundwego says:

    Mrs. Rhodes – certainly no need to remind me of who you are. I’m glad you found us and are following our adventures. We are having the time of our lives. Hope you are well!

    - Ryan

  2. Claudia Rhodes says:

    Christopher Rhodes just told me about your travels and blog…it is wonderful what you are doing together right now. Truly an experience you will never forget and will always refer to and draw from your travels for a richer life. Keep up the wonderful postings and pictures….they are great. Hope to see you when you come to St. Louis.

    Claudia Rhodes
    Christopher’s Mom, Chaminade, class of ’99

  3. roundwego says:

    @Abby – Great to hear from you! We thought of you and Harper on our trek in Nepal. An absolute highlight for us… So funny about Kathmandu. Yes, travel certainly is all about perspective. We realize the city is a far cry from first world but after the sights, sounds and smells of India we thought we were in heaven. We only wish we had more time in Nepal…Thanks for following our travels! Looking forward to comparing notes upon our return.

  4. Abby Luther says:

    Laura this post cracked me up and really can define the phrase perspective is everything. See…when I was in Kathmandu…not having been to Bombay or dehli all I noticed were the cows, dirty river water and congestion. However you having been to the depths of India prior refer to it as “westernized”. I literally laughed out loud. Good stuff! You guys inspire me…one of these days I would love to do the same trip. Wish you the best.