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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Majestic Rajasthan

Rajasthan Turban e1270651005582 Majestic Rajasthan

Turban coiled on the head of Rajasthani man

In the northwest region of India lies the colorful state of Rajasthan. Known as the Land of Kings, it’s home to an arid, desert terrain marked with the remnants of a rich and powerful past. In each vibrant city, there is an impressive ensemble of majestic palaces and magnificent forts and a plethora of sun-kissed rooftops where you can soak it all in.

When you picture India, it’s likely Rajasthan you have in mind. Here the clanking sound of sparkling bangles and silver anklets is hushed against the taunts of sari stall vendors pushing intricate fabrics. Bobbing through the narrow alleyways of endless bazaars, there’s a sea of brilliantly colored turbans bantering at the spice markets. It’s India at its best.

We spent three weeks uncovering the splendor of the enchanting state. Here’s a look at some of our fondest memories.


 Majestic Rajasthan

Sunset from Monsoon Palace overlooking Udaipur

It’s hard to forget your first sight of Udaipur at sunset, and that’s why we stayed so long…to do it over and over again. Udaipur has a fairytale setting. It’s built around a group of lakes, mountainous green hills and floating royal palaces. Dubbed India’s most romantic city, we celebrated Ryan’s 30th birthday here and lived like royalty. Thanks to our generous parents, we were treated to a spa day at one of the city’s lavish hotels and enjoyed a private, palatial dining experience surrounded by hundreds of twinkling candles on a bed of marigolds.

We fell in love with the elegant haveli where we stayed. This 300 year old mansion is a structure built for India’s elite where all rooms are centered around a courtyard. We enjoyed calling this place home for our brief stint and spent many a hours on its rooftop terrace enjoying the spectacular views.


Camel Trek 2 e1270650482500 Majestic Rajasthan

Camel trek shadow in the Thar Desert

The town of Jaisalmer sits amidst the sands of the Thar Desert. As India’s ‘Golden City,’ the windy streets are lined with honey-colored temples and havelis. Suffering from an extreme case of dehydration, I couldn’t muster the energy to accompany Ryan on exploring the sandstone castle perched above the city. I was saving my energy for our trek out in the desert.

On the back of camels, we wandered through the rolling sands of the Thar Desert, bringing us just 30 miles away from the Pakistani border. Here we set up camp for the night. Wrapped in blankets on a bed of sand under a full moon, it was a night to remember.


Jodhpur e1270650607772 Majestic Rajasthan

Walking the blue city streets of Jodhpur

As I said, Rajasthan is big on colors. That brings us to Jodhpur, the ‘Blue City.’ Here the Meherangarh Fort (one of India’s best) is dramatically perched over the blue city skyline. Long ago, the people of Jodhpur added indigo to their white paint as a way to keep away pesty insects and keep their homes cooler in the desert summer. Whether it works or not, I can’t tell you, but getting lost in the blue maze of the city at sunset was a brilliant experience and likely any photographer’s dream.


Pushkar Monkey e1270650527662 Majestic Rajasthan

Monkey scaling the rooftops at sunset

For the mere 10,000 people that live here, Pushkar packs a memorable punch. This holy city has more than five hundred temples and strictly forbids meat, eggs and alcohol. There are several bathing ghats in the center of town (looking to be no more than dirty pools of water) but actually are one of the holiest of places. Bathing in the ghats is said to cleanse the soul of impurities, attracting hundreds to the water each day to get their scrub on. A rare sight was seeing the traditionally and obsessively modest Indians here bearing it all as they slipped into the murky waters.

As a visitor to the ghats, we were invited to partake in a puja (prayer) session. Our puja entailed a priest asking us to repeat prayers while sprinkling rose petals and rice into the holy waters.

Aside from the holy rollers and strange pilgrims crawling all over the place, our favorite memory of Pushkar was at sunset. Atop the rooftop café of our hotel, we were captivated by the sight of monkeys jumping rooftop to rooftop as the blood-red, desert sun dropped behind the white-washed temples and soaring mountains.

Ah, Rajasthan…a magical place.

pixel Majestic Rajasthan

Comments (8)

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  1. WireIndia says:

    Hi Laura,

    Looks like you had a fabulous time! You’re right about it being difficult to take a bad picture here in Rajasthan! There’s a photo opportunity round every corner! Did you get a chance to visit smaller places like Ranakpur and Alwar? Now you’ve seen the big sites, its definitely worth coming back to see more “off the beaten track” locations another time!

    Good luck with the rest of the journey!

  2. roundwego says:

    @Mina – It’s hard to take a bad photo in Rajasthan, that is for sure! Simply the most photogenic place I’ve been. Thanks for the kind words.

  3. mina says:

    gorgeous photos!
    .-= mina´s last blog ..afternoon tea =-.

  4. roundwego says:

    Ah, forgot to mention the reason they don’t allow eggs in Pushkar is because it’s a total vegan town, meaning no meat, no eggs and no dairy products. They actually do serve ‘omelets’ using no eggs, only vegetables. Really interesting city.

  5. roundwego says:

    Hi Sofia – Glad you enjoyed the Rajasthan photos! It was definitely one of our favorite stops in India. Each city was so full of color and history. Could have spent months there soaking it all up. We just met a Kiwi guy who is buying a camel to explore Rajasthan. Now that’s an adventure we’d like to have!

  6. I loved it there too, want to go back there again soon and stay a bit longer. Love the pictures, especially the one “Walking the blue city streets of Jodhpur”.
    .-= Sofia – As We Travel´s last blog ..Weekend Reading – Best Travel Blogs From Around The Web (4-9 April) =-.

  7. Jocelyn Capen says:


  8. For me there is something magical about India. Everything is upside down but still somehow so right. Love the picure of the man in the turban!

    How come they don’t allow eggs, is it because it’s an animal product? Do they forbid cheese as well?