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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Our Travel ABC’s

Our friends the Siracusas tagged us to continue the thread of Travel ABC’s, where travel writers and bloggers answer “A to Z” questions about their travels and then tag other writers to do the same. Fun project, we thought, hopefully you will, too.

Salar de Uyuni Bolivia Our Travel ABCsA: Age you went on your first international trip:

Ryan: I am somewhat ashamed to admit that going to Mexico for Spring Break when I was 19 was my first international trip. Even that immature version of myself enjoyed being out of my comfort zone. This was not, however, the trip that sparked my interest in travel.

Laura: I was 16 when I left to go to Costa Rica for 3 weeks as part of a high school class trip.

B: Best (foreign) beer you’ve had and where:

Ryan: I love trying local beers wherever I go so this is tough. But if I had to choose one, it has to be Guinness. I can drink it for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and the best pints seemed to be poured at The Great Southern Hotel bar in Galway.

Laura: Little Creatures Pale Ale in Melbourne, Australia.

C: Cuisine (favorite):

Radjhani Restaurant Mumbai India Our Travel ABCsThis answer is going to get old: India. Absolutely zero question any cuisine in the world is more flavorful. That’s not an opinion; it’s a fact.

D: Destinations, favorite, least favorite and why:

Favorite: India (I told you it will get old), because nowhere made us feel and think so much.

Least favorite: Probably Egypt. I’m coming around to it with time and would actually like to return, but I still feel there are very fundamental ideological differences between us that I found difficult to bridge.

E: Event you experienced abroad that made you say “wow”:

Gay Mardi Gras in Sydney Our Travel ABCsRyan: First one that springs to mind at the moment is Gay Mardi Gras in Sydney. I said “wow” a lot taking in the festivities there.

Laura: Carnaval in Rio is a month-long non-stop event. Spending 10 days in Rio leading up to Carnaval with all the neighborhood festivals was an incredible event to experience.

F: Favorite mode of transportation:

Pensive Scooter Rider in Santorini Priceless Our Travel ABCsRyan: I am big, big fan of walking. But, nothing beats renting a bike/scooter in a foreign country. The feeling of independence I felt in Cambodia, Thailand and Greece on motorbikes was thrilling.

Laura: Can’t beat transport that doubles as a home. I loved our camper in NZ and our huge 4×4 truck with the tent pitched on top in southern Africa.

G: Greatest feeling while traveling:

4x4 Self Drive Safari Moremi Game Reserve Botswana Our Travel ABCsRyan: The times of total independence. In New Zealand in our camper and in Botswana in our 4×4 jeep with flip-top tent.

Laura: Not thinking about work and waking up thinking, “I wonder what we’ll do today!”

H: Hottest place you’ve traveled to:

4-way tie: Luxor, Egypt; Jaisalmer, India; Mandalay, Burma; Kerala, India. All were over 100, some 115 dry heat and the others 100 with 100 percent humidity.

I: Incredible service you’ve experienced and where:

These places I’ve taken note of and recommended countless times for their thoughtful service: Pousada Xama in Pipa, Brazil; Thongbay Guest House in Luang Prabang, Laos; Baan Orapin Hotel in Chiang Mai, Thailand; DeviGarh Palace outside of Udaipur, India; Kankarwa Haveli in Udaipur, India; Radjhani Restaurant in Mumbai, India.

J: Journey that took the longest:

62 hour bus from Arequipa, Peru to Buenos Aires, Argentina.

K: Keepsake from your travels:

IMG 5240 1024x682 Our Travel ABCsGreatest are photos and videos we have of our time with the kids at Mazabuka Orphanage

L: Let-down sight, why and where:

Giza Pyramids Our Travel ABCsPyramids in Giza, because we don’t like incessantly pushy people or KFC.

M: Moment where you fell in love with travel:

Ryan: Backpacking through Europe for 3 weeks with a college buddy before studying abroad in Galway, Ireland. Those 3 weeks introduced me, way too quickly, to so many different cultures, peoples and ideas that, as an experiential learner, I knew travel was going to be the greatest drain on income for the rest of my life.

Laura: First trip outside the U.S. to Costa Rica.

N: Nicest hotel you’ve stayed in:

Chedi Club Ubud Bali Our Travel ABCsChedi Club at Tanah Gajah in Ubud, Bali. We can’t even talk about it.

O: Obsession—what are you obsessed with taking pictures of while traveling?:

Ryan: Food.

Laura: People, especially in colorful India.

P: Passport stamps, how many and from where?

Not sure and not enough.

Q: Quirkiest attraction you’ve visited and where:

Probably somewhere in Wisconsin and involving a big plaster version of an animal.

R: Recommended sight, event or experience:

Taj Mahal India Our Travel ABCsSight: Taj Mahal is really, really impressive; Event: Carnaval in Rio ; Experience: Campervanning in New Zealand.

Carnaval in Rio de Janeiro Brazil Our Travel ABCsS: Splurge; something you have no problem forking over money for while traveling:

Ryan: Food, beer and opting out of tours.

Laura: A nice place to lay my head after traveling “hard” for several days or weeks.

T: Touristy thing you’ve done:

Lots of things. Some places everyone should visit, even it if means having to with a hundred others.

U: Unforgettable travel memory:

Elephants at Sunset in Moremi Game Reserve Our Travel ABCsDriving back to our camp in Moremi Game Reserve in Botswana when we came across 40 elephants walking together with the sun setting behind them. It was the most beautiful thing we’d ever seen.

V: Visas, how many and for where?

Not sure, but wish we could skip past the applications and do more of the traveling.

W: Wine, best glass of wine while traveling and where?

Medoc Marathon France Our Travel ABCsA damn good question and fun to answer! For pleasure purposes, best glasses of wine were after getting engaged and running and drinking our way through the Medoc Marathon in France.

X: eXcellent view and from where?:

Matterhorn Trail Switzerland Our Travel ABCs10,000 feet skydiving out of a plane in Lake Taupo, New Zealand or anywhere in Switzerland.

Y: Years spent traveling?:

Ryan: 3

Laura: 3

Z: Zealous sports fans and where?:

La Boca and River Plate fans in Buenos Aires.

There are a lot of terrible travel blogs out there. These travel blogs are anything but. Always informative and enjoyable to read, here are some great travel blogs we’d like to see create their Travel ABC’s:

Two Go Round the World
Go Backpacking
Uncornered Market

pixel Our Travel ABCs

Comments (2)

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  1. roundwego says:

    @Romana – Indeed, we do. Now, one thing I’ve never done is to mix the two. Guinness and Indian food could be an interesting pair!

  2. Romana says:

    Hey guys, really enjoyed reading your ABC. I see we have few things in common: our love for Guinness and for Indian food :)