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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Luxor: Land of Pharaohs

Time to give Egypt another chance…We were on to the city of Luxor.

Leaving Cairo behind, we had a colorful train ride sharing a car with a few Egyptians and a mother and son duo from China. Getting any sleep on this journy proved futile, as the conditions of the train, were, well, take a look. Yes, this is often the brutal reality, the sleepless nights of a budget traveler.

In Luxor we were anxious to discover the once capital of Egypt under the rule of the great Egyptian Pharaohs. Today it’s said to be an open air museum of Egypt’s Golden Age, and we had a long list of sites we were excited to check out while discovering the desert oasis built along the palm-fringed Nile.

Arriving in Luxor, we got a far different welcome. While Western culture seems to be making its way to the streets of Cairo, in Luxor, this is how we were greeted.

Temple of Karnak

Our first stop in Luxor was a visit to the Temple of Karnak, a city of temples just north of Luxor covering almost a mile by two miles in area. A little old man standing out front of the temple promised he held all the hidden secrets to the ancient temples so we hired him as our dutiful guide. Winding through the 25 temples and chapels we passed sanctuaries, obelisks and shrines covered in hieroglyphs, telling the stories of the ancient Pharaohs. Awestruck, we walked through the Hypostyle hall, which turns out to be the largest room of any religious building in the world. Watching the morning light fill up the hall of 134 columns, we began to imagine the grandeur of these temples thousands of years ago.

We learned that approximately 30 pharaohs contributed to the buildings over thousand of years, enabling it to reach the complexity and diversity not seen elsewhere. The sheer size and number of temples makes this one of the most impressive religious sites we’ve seen to date.

Valley of the Kings

Facing the 115 degree temperatures, we headed out to the West Bank of the Nile to the Valley of the Kings. Among the rugged, arid landscape of the mountainous terrain some of Egypt’s most important rulers were buried here in tombs that were elaborate undertakings. Most of the tombs were buried deep into the earth, hidden in the limestone mountains.

Pictured above is what the scene looks like, but it’s what you find inside the mountainside that makes the valley so remarkable. Entering through the doors, it’s like you’re walking inside a mountain to a hidden world. Here we found the walls covered in colorful frescoes and hieroglyphs, depicting the life of the Pharaohs buried there. Each of the tombs contained three corridors, with the final room the location of the tomb of the Pharaoh.

While the iconic pyramids have come to symbolize Egypt, it was here at the Valley of the Kings we got a real picture of ancient Egypt.

Traveling the Nile River by Felucca

4837354887 d981c86d5f z Luxor: Land of Pharaohs

We were bombarded with touts to take a felucca ride the moment we stepped off our train, and this was one experience we’re glad we didn’t miss. A felucca is traditional Nile sailing boat that has been the main mode of transport on the Nile since the days of the Pharaohs. The felucca doesn’t have any form of engine and relies entirely on the wind. The sails are seriously low-tech, made of native cotton and other natural fibres.

We embarked on our own felucca ride at sunset on our last night in Luxor. What we weren’t told upon boarding this traditional ship was that the wind, which builds during the day, usually subsides dramatically at night. There was only a gentle breeze, which didn’t turnout to be quite enough to carry us very far down the river. Quite a memorable experience, however, was docking up our boat on the shores of the Nile, enjoying a hot cup of mint tea while watching the sun set behind the swelling dunes and feluccuas in the distance. This was the Egypt we were searching for.

pixel Luxor: Land of Pharaohs

Comments (1)

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  1. I’m glad to see that it seems you had a much better experience there than in Cairo.
    Jill – Jack and Jill Travel The World´s last [type] ..Would We Have Enough Money — October Budget Outlook