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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A Sydney Side of Life

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Stairs of the Sydney Opera House at Sunset

Our arrival to Sydney couldn’t have come any sooner. We certainly knew there was more to this vast country than Bris-Vegas and the coastal party town we’d seen, and our Aussie experience was just about to turnaround.

Instead of booking a flight to Sydney, we arrived on a 14-hour overnight bus ride from Byron Bay. With Ryan drooling on the seat beside me, I awoke to the sounds of car horns and the smoke-filled commuter air while crossing the great Harbor Bridge. A hundred feet below I saw the white butterfly wings of the magnificent Sydney Opera House, signifying to me we really had made it to the other side of the world.

Extended Stay

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Victorian homes of Surry Hills

When planning our around the world trip, we imagined plotting out some lengthier stays along the way. Long-term travel often calls for the need to recharge your physical batteries, and the idea of planting our feet in a place for awhile has certainly been appealing. We didn’t, however, plan for this to happen so early in the game, nor in an expensive place like Australia. But as our nomadic lifestyle demands, we can‘t always call the shots. A delay in obtaining our travel visa for the next stop of our trip meant we were ‘stuck’ in Sydney to wait it out.

Sydney is certainly a fantastic place to be stuck! Perched on a stunning harbor, it’s a sophisticated city with a diverse population, thriving culinary scene and architectural excellence. Sydneysiders, as the city’s residents are called, are a chic and eclectic people with a strong pride in their city. They’re loyal as hell to their sports teams, their corner cafés and pubs and the sun and surf of their coastline. And for a nation at the end of the world – so geographicaly isolated – they seem to share an innate sense of adventure, to which I certainly relate.

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The surf in Bondi Beach

The visa waiting game lasted a good 10 days so we set up shop and set out to live like the locals. We rented an apartment in the Potts Point neighborhood of the city, which turned out to be an ideal home base. Sitting atop a hill overlooking the Sydney Harbor, it’s a stylish neighborhood whose leafy streets are lined with outdoor cafes, trendy eateries and upscale delis and bakeries selling French and Italian delicacies.

Discovering Sydney
We enjoyed discovering the personality of each of Sydney‘s charming neighborhoods. It was a nice mix of taking in the hustle and bustle of city life and relaxing. Highlights for us will definitely be:

- Starting our days off right, highly-caffeinated on a strong flat white and proper ‘brekkie’
- Morning walks along Macquarie Point for views of the awe-inspiring Sydney Opera House and Harbor Bridge
- Perusing the bookstores of nearby Surry Hills and window-shopping at the Victorian homes-turned-boutiques of Paddington
- Experiencing the colorful Gay Mardi Gras celebrations (more to come on this!)
- Stumbling through Kings Cross, the gritty underbelly of the city where the good, the bad and the ugly congregate
- Exploring the scenic coastline surrounding Sydney and the famed Bondi Beach
- Uncovering Sydney’s past by walking around the cobblestone streets of The Rocks where the first settlers made their home
- Admiring the plethora of fashionistas on the streets who seem to try so hard to keep up their image
- Partaking in the lively outdoor food market scene
- Indulging daily in pastries at Sydney’s top-notch cafes

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Views of Sydney Harbor from Macquarie Point

Sydney is a multi-faceted city with so many different layers. We felt like we were discovering a new side and view of the city each day we were there. It certainly has earned a spot on my list of world-class cities.

I found Sydney to be extremely livable and thoroughly enjoyed our stay. It’s comfortable, clean, green and easy to navigate. We can speak the language, drink the tap water, have hot showers and all the meals we enjoy back home. I am anxious, however, to get on the road again as this journey for me is more about facing the ups and downs and frustrations that come with immersing yourself in a completely foreign culture. It’s there, when faced with those daily challenges, that I find to be the most difficult yet the most rewarding.

pixel A Sydney Side of Life

Comments (2)

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  1. roundwego says:

    Glad to hear our post on Sydney has you excited for your upcoming trip to Australia! Sydney was definitely one of our favorite cities. Freezing back home now, we’re missing the city beaches and world’s best cafe scene. Enjoy your visit back to Oz!

  2. Amy says:

    Thank you for reminding me what a wonderful country I come from. I haven’t been back to Australia in almost 5 years but will be going back in May 2011 and, to be honest, I wasn’t looking forward to it that much. But after reading your post, I cannot wait to get back onto Aussie soil and enjoy all the wonders that my amazing country will show me and my husband (who has never been).