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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Que Linda, Colonial Olinda!

4143662978 9a4a78068a Que Linda, Colonial Olinda!The sister city to the much bigger and more modern Recife is the charming, colonial town of Olinda. The laid-back Olinda is the home of some of Brazil’s best preserved colonial architecture and its cobblestone streets lay claim to Brazil’s longest Carnaval, a 10 day affair deemed to be safer and more intimate than Rio and Salvador’s. Unbeknownst to us, we would get to experience the raw energy of Carnaval in late November.

We arrived early Saturday morning after our first of many overnight bus rides on our round the world trip. The town itself is quite small and conquerable on foot in an afternoon. Staying on the bottom of the city, we followed the “intuitive” walking tour Lonely Planet had recommended. Walking up the cobblestone hills, we passed several of the 11 colonial churches in the city and rows of brightly colored homes, shops and restaurants. The quick rise in elevation offered tremendous ocean views as well as a view of the town below us and the stark contrast of the modern and not-so-beautiful Recife skyline. The town has a very subtle way of gaining your approval. While first starting out we were unimpressed and already contemplating our next move. But, like a good chess player, Olinda had other offerings up its sleeve.

At the top of the city along with some great views were rows of food stands offering the famous Bahian dish, acarajé. I had read about the dish and now its smell was telling me that the deed needed to be done. I purchased one and waited as the brown bean fritter was fried in dende oil and mashed with salt and onions by the Afro-Bahian woman in the white cloth hat and big, flowing white dress, as is so common in this part of Brazil. Dende oil is a palm oil used in many Bahian dishes and possesses a more pungent smell and taste than corn or olive oil and commonly causes “tummy” issues for the uninitiated (i.e. gringos like yours truly). The acarajé was then topped off with vatapa, a mix of dried shrimp, pepper and tomato sauce. It was, in a word, delicious. And clogging my arteries. This would not deter me from ordering more street food like fried tapioca crepes filled with chocolate and cheese (yes, cheese). I’m trying to keep a balanced diet here and cholesterol is clearly part of that diet.

4142907719 7f58cd67e3 300x199 Que Linda, Colonial Olinda!To really experience all that Olinda has to offer you must stay for a Sunday night. This was not necessarily our plan but, as we found, the quiet days lead to music-filled nights when the blocos, or bands, begin practicing for the pre-Lent festival of Carnaval. Our walking tour ended with us following a band of young and old producing magnetic drum beats, twirling batons and some funky gyrations that I thought were saved for post-puberty, but apparently not. The bloco ended in the town square where there several other bands practicing as well. I can’t imagine what Carnaval is like given that this was just a small practice session but it was a party all the same.

Sunday night brought even more energy and music. Every teenager in town gathered in the square outside of our pousada to blast fevro, forro and other Brazilian beats from their car sub-woofers. It was quite a sight – something like a post-game ‘Friday Night Lights’ party gone Latin – lots of dancing, partying, drinking, flirting – all leading to public make-outs and loads of entertainment for us.

We will be returning again before our flight home for Christmas. We’re looking forward to again ditching Recife and keeping our fingers crossed that we happen again here on a Sunday night.

pixel Que Linda, Colonial Olinda!

Comments (2)

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  1. roundwego says:

    Thanks, Pattywho. We are home.

  2. mom says:

    I feel like I was there with you. Sounds fun. You are such a good writer. Hurry home.