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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Salvadorian Charm + Paranoia

bahia 300x204 Salvadorian Charm + ParanoiaWe took off from Buenos Aires on a six hour flight to begin the Brazilian segment in our around the world travel adventure. Located in the state of Bahia on the Northeast coast of the country, we began our journey in the city of Salvador, known as the epicenter of African-Brazilian culture and renowned for its architecture, music and cuisine. We had heard great things about the city and were anxious to check it out.

Under the rule of the Portguese, Salvador was once the capital of the country, which left the city with a rich colonial legacy. The Pelourinho, the historic center of the city and once the center of the African slave trade, is lined with beautifully restored candy-colored churches and buildings lining windy cobblestone streets overlooking the beautiful coastline. At night the Pelourinho (often called the Pelo) comes alive. Locals and tourists flock to the historical neighborhood to listen to live music, dance and soak up the Bahian culture so we of course partook. There are a ton of kiosks set up to sell local food and beverages and a stage where groups perform samba and reggae. Along the streets the blocos (large groups of drummers and dancers) conduct their weekly outdoor “rehearsals” for the February Carnival. They parade through the streets singing and dancing while hundreds of us following behind move to the music with caiprainhas and beer in hand. Here we remembered what it is we loved about Brazil.

DSC02315 225x300 Salvadorian Charm + ParanoiaI can´t go, however, without noting the other side of this city. As our guidebook notes: If you are to get mugged in South America, it will likely be in Salvador. Not the best way to warm me up to the city and resulted in a state of paranoia throughout our stay. We had heard an innumberable amount of horror stories of aggressive muggings in broad daylight and were urged to take necessary precautions to ensure our safety (not carrying anything on us but the money we would spend, keep belongings locked up in hotel rooms, stay on main roads, etc.). So bad is the crime that the areas with all the main attractions are lined with armed policemen, serving as a constant reminder of the danger of the city. In the Pelo, for example, there is a specific path of streets tourists are told they should walk down (all lined with police), and we were constantly warned that walking just a block off the delegated path could be detrimental. To add to my paranoid state, even the grocery stores had armed guards standing out front holding what looked like machine guns on steriods.

The threat of danger in this city was constantly on my mind and limited our activities, especially at night. I must admit that my fear greatly hindered our ability to really get to know a city I think that we would love, but really, in my mind, what is the cost? Leaving the colorful Salvador behind, I felt it´s a city of great potential but overrun with so much crime, I couldn´t help but feel relieved to move on to the next destination.

pixel Salvadorian Charm + Paranoia

Comments (3)

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  1. roundwego says:

    It´s a complete shame. We knew the city was a real gem but with all the hoopla around the danger and armed policemen everywhere, it certainly put a damper on discovering all it had to offer. Could definitely have to do with government trying earnestly not to tarnish the image of the city…As for other cities known to have as much crime that we´ll be visiting, possibly Capetown, but hoping there won´t be too many others on our list where the crime will be such a distraction.

  2. Tim Stephans says:

    That fear does seem like it would be distracting. Are you expecting to see any other cities with that much crime in the next year?

  3. That is a real shame about the warnings and all the police. I was there 4 years ago and didn’t hear warnings like that or see hordes of police. I’m not sure if the situation has deteriorated or if it is anxious government officials and tourism boards that don’t want ANY bad incidents to mar the marketability of Salvador or Brazil in general. Especially with the Olympics coming…

    We had a fantastic time, went out at night and did not feel any danger. Lovely people, great beaches. Marvelous time.

    Sorry you didn’t enjoy it more.