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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Sailing the Backwaters of Kerala

4464308004 b429153558 e1270373254754 Sailing the Backwaters of Kerala

Scenes from the backwaters of Kerala

After four days in Mumbai, we were already feeling the need for a little escape from the dizzying chaos of the city. In just a few days, we had used up our nine lives trying to cross the city streets and were already blowing black soot from our noses and coughing up unmentionables. With our guide book promising “a deliberate and thoughtful pace of life as contagious as the Indian head wobble,” we were on the next plane south to the coastal state of Kerala.

In South India’s coastal gem, we explored colonial Fort Cochin. Our noses danced to the tunes emanating from the fragrant spice markets and our eyes feasted upon the rows of fresh prawns, lobster and crab at the shoreline fishing wharf. In search of the country’s best beaches, we made a stop in Varkala where we fought off the oppressive heat Arabian Sea-side. The highlight of our Kerala adventure, however, was undoubtedly our voyage down the backwaters.

The backwaters of Kerala consist of an extensive network (some 575 miles) of canals and waterways running from the sandy coast and flowing inland. Long before highways existed, the backwaters were the only means of transportation for local villagers and still play an important role in daily life. Today, the water passages also find themselves at the center of the Keralan tourism industry. Several of the area’s larger towns now rent out riverboats for excursions down the remote waters.

IMG 6588 e1270376175539 Sailing the Backwaters of Kerala

Houseboat journey through the waterways in Kerala

We found this idea of exploring the lagoons and waterways aboard a luxurious houseboat wildly appealing and decided to set sail. Our first course of business was finding a proper boat to suit us on our journey. We spent a day boat shopping and found the charming boats were all handmade out of bamboo in the traditional, rice barge style. They boats do vary widely in terms of amenities with some no more than rickety, shacks while others, more like floating palaces. We were promised a gem of a boat big enough, in the words of its owner, to host a proper cricket match.

Boat 2 e1270374924245 Sailing the Backwaters of Kerala

The bedroom in our houseboat

The following day we took to the waters and discovered we were in for a treat. With just the two of us as passengers, it came with a private staff of three – a captain, a chef and a waiter – who greeted us with lays of jasmine and coconut water. They showed us our new digs, which included a bedroom, a bathroom and a separate sleeping area for the staff. There was a kitchen where our meals would be prepared and the best part was the enormous bow. Clearly more space than we would ever need, the bow was equipped with a full dining room table, a sofa, chairs and even a plama screen TV.

Boat 1 e1270375406444 Sailing the Backwaters of Kerala

View of the bow on our houseboat

Floating through the palm-studded canals and steamy jungles, we came face-to-face with daily life of the colorful Indian villages. Along the way, we saw fathers paddling their children in wooden canoes off to school before setting out for a day of fishing with their bamboo poles. We heard the beating of laundry against the shoreline rocks and the clanking pots and bans in the murky water. We felt the heat of the hot sun beating down on brilliantly colored Hindu temples and the tired faces working the rice patties. At day’s end, we admired the cool detachment of families splashing playfully together in the waters bathing after a hard day of work.

Boat 3 e1270375035837 Sailing the Backwaters of Kerala

View of hallway to the kitchen on houseboat

As we took in our surroundings, our cook prepared a delicious South Indian meal, and we enjoyed the quiet afternoon sipping down our chai masala (India’s sweet, milky tea) and munching on fried bananas. We picked up some massive tiger prawns from the fisherman on the side of one of the canals to be prepared for dinner and docked our boat for the night in a small village just in time to watch the sun set over a field of rice terraces.

Sailing the backwaters of Kerala, we were treated like royalty, and I felt like an Arabian princess being carried off to my palace. The experience, however, was far more than this. Far away from the chaos of city life, in the stillness of the backwaters, this journey reinforced what I was already beginning to uncover about this country. Amidst the most basic of conditions life is tough, but happy. People struggle but lives are peaceful. And in all helplessness, there is immense sense of hope.

Docking our houseboat meant our Keralan journey had come to an end, but my window into the village life of the Keralan people will be en experience I won’t soon forget.

pixel Sailing the Backwaters of Kerala

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