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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Under African Skies: Moremi Game Reserve

Photo 1 Under African Skies: Moremi Game Reserve

Sunset over Moremi Game Reserve

Under this African sky littered with stars, I’m fighting off mosquitoes while journaling to the flicker of a citronella candle. We’ve just set up camp for the night, pitching our tent on the roof of our car. Two massive t-bone steaks sit beside me on a smoky braai (bbq) while our puny fire attempts to ward off the cacophony of sounds that surround. Hippos snorting, elephants trumpeting and lions roaring intermittently in the distance, it is the raw, rugged Africa we dreamed of. Deep in the African bush of Botswana, we realized we’d made it.

It didn’t take long for us to realize Moremi Game Reserve is a special place and quite unlike any wildlife park in the world. Encompassing 5,000 square kilometers in northern Botswana, it’s part of the inland river delta expanse known as the Okavango Delta. In stark contrast to the thorny forests and desert-like terrain of many of Africa’s great game parks, the Okavango Delta consists of a network of streams and marshland sustaining vast quantities of wildlife. The Moremi Game Reserve, however, is the only part of the Delta officially sectioned off for wildlife preservation, creating a flourishing oasis with the highest density of wildlife in all of Botswana.

Photo 2 Under African Skies: Moremi Game Reserve

Pitching our tent for the night in Moremi Game Reserve, Botswana

Aside from mass quantities of animals here, the exclusivity of the park helps add to its appeal. Accommodation is limited to those willing to fork out up to $1,000 a night for the handful of high-end luxury lodges or those experienced or brave enough to embark on a solo-4WD bush-camping expedition. This means absent in Moremi are those massive tour groups traipsing around the continent and crowds of people looking for their taste of the bush.

Experienced we were not, but armed with a, now reliable (story on this saga coming soon), 4WD vehicle, lots of guts and maybe a naïve sense of confidence, to Moremi we were bound.

There was a lot we couldn’t be prepared enough for. First off were the roads. We’d just wrapped up two weeks of bush adventures in Namibia where there was lots of talk about how nice and smooth the roads were. We didn’t know where the hell this reputation had come from as they were quite possibly the worst and most dangerous roads we’d ever seen. There we’d been the first to arrive to the scene of a fatal accident and had several close encounters ourselves. Once we arrived to Moremi, however, we got it. Roads here hardly exist. Tracks in the reserve are made of clay and sand. And boy is it ever thick. Like a Zamboni machine floating over ice, you’re not really driving, but just steering as you hover over the sand, weaving around windy paths of the forest.

Photo 4 Under African Skies: Moremi Game Reserve

Facing deep water on the roads of Moremi Game Reserve

The deep sand roads are reason enough to require a 4WD vehicle to enter the park, and then there is the water. Driving through the Delta meant we often came across marshland where water stood in our tracks. And it wasn’t just puddles of water we encountered. In some cases it was more like a river – waist-high. We had no choice but to test our wheels in the croc and hippo-infested water while crossing fingers we didn’t get trapped in the clay floor bed.

These were some trying moments, no doubt, but without them it wouldn’t have been the experience it was: the raw, rugged Africa we came for.

Now that I’ve painted a bit of a picture of the challenging conditions of the park, let me tell you about the beauty.

Beauty e1290591317636 Under African Skies: Moremi Game Reserve

Marshland envelops Moremi Game Reserve

We arrived to our campsite mid-afternoon to begin our three days in the park. We were staying at Third Bridge Campsite, named after the third log bridge you pass from the South Gate entrance. Rustic would be an overstatement for the condition of the bridge over the idyllic Sekiri River, but picturesque would be an understatement for our locale. The campsite consisted of 10 isolated plots of land interspersed in the forest equipped with no more than a small stone slab on which to build a fire. Ours was number 10, way off in the distance in the most isolated section of camp.

Photo 5 Under African Skies: Moremi Game Reserve

The rustic log bridge over idyllic Sekiri River

Upon checking into our campsite, a hard-headed Batswana woman gave us a reality check on our surroundings: always be armed with a strong flashlight, build a big fire and don’t get out of your tent for any reason in the middle of the night. Midnight bathroom breaks are strongly discouraged and in an emergency we were to go together, right next to our vehicle and be on a guard for hyenas and big cats lurking. Confirming we were, in fact, flirting with a bit of danger way out here in the bush, Ryan declared this was the best check-in rundown we’d ever gotten.

Before concluding our check, the woman added, “Oh by the way, there was a kill today just up the road.” Within seconds we were off weaving down the sand roads and over dilapidated bridges to get a glimpse at our first kill and first real taste of Moremi. No more than 15 minutes away from where we were sleeping, we came across a male and female lion feasting on an enormous buffalo. It was just the two of us in the wild with two lions just feet away. We could hear their roaring purr and the crushing sounds of their jaw breaking the buffalo’s bones as well as the heavy, almost exaggerated, panting from the day’s work. Out there on our own with no one else around but the king of the forest with his lady and cub, we could hardly believe our eyes.

Photo 71 Under African Skies: Moremi Game Reserve

Female lion and her cub snack on their latest kill

Photo 6 Under African Skies: Moremi Game Reserve

Male and female lions cuddle up after noshing on a buffalo

This was the first of many spectacular wildlife moments in Moremi Game Reserve. We spent the next three days jaws dropped in complete awe of all that was around us. Morning and afternoon game drives brought us to all corners of the park. We watched giraffes graze on branches of trees where monkeys gathered with their young. In the shallows of rustling reed beds, we witnessed a ballet staring every hoofed mammal on the planet. There were kudus, impalas, gemsbock and springbok galore. Wildebeest, jackals and the ever-comical warthogs were plentiful and even a momma rhino and her baby made a debut. And splashing hippos were sure to make their presence known , with one trampling through our campsite one night amidst his thunderous snorts.

Photo 10 Under African Skies: Moremi Game Reserve

A male kudu proudly shows off his warrior markings

IMG 2629 2 e1290592349471 Under African Skies: Moremi Game Reserve

The king of Moremi takes a break from the sun

Photo 111 Under African Skies: Moremi Game Reserve

Ever-comical warthog grazing the grasslands

Hurrying back to camp each night after our sunset drives, we raced to beat the falling sun so we could set up camp in the comfort of the last light of day. One night we didn’t quite make it. But this was for good reason. On our way back to Third Bridge, we experienced, quite possibly, the most beautiful moment of our trip. Driving into the unrivaled African sunset the sky was adorned in a symphony of colors as we drove directly into a herd of 40 elephants.

Photo 14 Under African Skies: Moremi Game Reserve

Elephants fill the horizon against the unrivaled African sunset

At first startled by their mass presence, we started to veer our car elsewhere. We’d been taught to be on guard as the African elephant can be extremely aggressive, in some cases actually chasing down cars and tipping them over to protect their young. But this incident would be different. The approaching herd was nothing short of peaceful, graceful and magnificent, throwing the earth’s red dust into the air amidst the sinking hot sun. Now out on the top of our car, we looked at each other in pure amazement and were reminded again why we travel.

Photo 15 Under African Skies: Moremi Game Reserve

Taking in the breathtaking sunset in Moremi Game Reserve

pixel Under African Skies: Moremi Game Reserve

Comments (3)

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  1. Camp Moremi says:

    Kudos for sharing this! You can definitely enjoy a great safari experience at Moremi. I will definitely put it in my checklist of places to go.

  2. roundwego says:

    @Jodi – you’ll get there if you want to. Thanks for reading. Looks like you’ve got a lot of adventure in front of you. Have a blast!

  3. Jodi says:

    I’m dying to visit Africa. Brilliant post!
    Jodi´s last [type] ..Singapore, I’m Charmed to Meet You!