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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Thailand: The Ultimate Holiday

Looking South Thailand: The Ultimate Holiday

Our time in Asia was coming to a close. Our journey had taken us from incredible India to the breathtaking heights of Nepal. We witnessed the natural splendor of tragic Tibet and grew wildly fascinated with Big Brother China. We lingered in lackadaisical Laos and had our hearts broken in Burma and Cambodia. We’d survived countless overnight journeys on rickety buses, blackened our lungs on one too many rickshaws and even shared a train car with rats.

After five months in Asia, only one thing was certain: this continent had blown us away!

Packing so much into the past few months, we’d saved our last ten days for pure indulgence. On a flight from Bangkok headed south we were bound for the islands of southern Thailand.

It’s not so often in life that you have the chance to sit with a map in hand and ponder over which of thirty idyllic islands has your slice of heaven written all over it. Sitting at home on our living room floor mulling over atlases and guidebooks, these were the moments we’d dreamt about. This is why we stayed in all those Friday nights, why we scoped out drink deals and routinely cooked in. This is why we got rid of TV and cable bills and laughed off all the bad jokes that came our way for those antiquated cell phones we were hanging on to. Flying over the palm-fringed beaches of this tropical paradise, I realized we were now living our dream.

After strong recommendations from several traveling friends we’d met along the way, we settled on spending all our time on the island of Koh Pha Ngan. The island is notorious for hosting the famed full moon parties, which draw nearly 10,000 visitors to the island each month to partake in every hedonistic pleasure imaginable. Looking for nothing more than sun, surf and sand, this was clearly not our draw. We had our hearts set on a secluded area of the island, along the white, sandy, remote beach of Thong Nai Pan Noi.

One flight, one bus ride, one ferry and one rickshaw ride later, and we finally arrived to our destination. Here we found a stark, white beach with piles of white ‘pillowy’ sand. The beach sits at the shores of a bay with mint-colored water and surrounded by lush forests. Ode to our new home sweet home!

We’d booked ourselves a basic beachside bungalow. The wooden hut was plain and simple, offering all the amenities two beach bums might need. We were equipped with the simple pleasures: a blossoming tree of frangipani outside our front door to shade our little haven from the sun, a bucket of water to wash the beach off our salt-water sticky feet and a ceiling fan to cool down our sun-kissed bods at night. What else could ya need?

In the life of a traveler, our days are consumed with decisions. Where will we sleep tonight? Where are we going next? How many days will we stay there? Will we need a visa? Where will we eat for breakfast? How will we get there? How much does the metro cost? Which bus do we need to take? Is this guy ripping us off? Will anyone speak English? How much do we need to tip? Where’s the closest ATM?

Our goal in southern Thailand was to take every question, every decision, out of the equation. And that’s just what we did. Our greatest challenge each day was deciding when to flip our bronzing bodies and which beachside joint served up the strongest cocktails.

When I think back on the fondest memories of my twenty eight years of life, I tend to remember the moments not days. Thinking back on our time in our Thailand paradise, these moments are so vivid…

Beginning each day lingering over heaping plates of fresh fruit…Kayaking out in the open sea over turquoise waters…Burying myself in a book while waves lapped up against me on the water’s edge. Snorkeling with schools of brightly colored fish…Runs up the cliff for breathtaking views of the bay…The smooth, citrusy taste of banana and mango shakes – my afternoon thirst quencher…Endless cocktail hours at sunset over one too many mojitos…Indulging in spicy coconut curries and king prawns the size of your head…Feet in the sand under a blanket of stars…Swimming in the ocean as monsoon rains crashed down all around me…Reminding myself over and over how lucky I am to be living this life…

Yes, this is exactly why I stayed in all those Friday nights.

pixel Thailand: The Ultimate Holiday

Comments (3)

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  1. Becky says:

    Wait a second. You’re trying to tell me, Asia is better than going to McFadden’s on a Friday night? You’re nuts! No way beautiful beaches, sun-kissed bodies, and beachside bungalows beat frat guys, drink deals, and over crowded bars. By the way, whose watching your cell phone while your gone? I’d like to use that vintage technology if its available.

  2. roundwego says:

    @Jaime – Seems like yesterday we were in your shoes, planning away and dreaming of our departure for our RTW trip. It’s surreal it’s actually happening and yes, worth every single sacrifice and then some. Actually, jealous you still have it all ahead of you. We are in Italy now, on the last stop of our time in Europe before three months in Africa. Let us know if we can be of any help as you finalize details for your journey. Happy trails!

  3. Jaime D. says:

    Wow sounds like yall have had great time so far. This is great motivation for me as I prepare for my RTW trip. I still have 11 months to go but I keep telling my self all these weekends I stay in are going to payoff in the end. Well after reading this NOW I KNOW they WILL!!! Congrats on completing Asia! Where yall going to next???