Three Years of Hell to Become the Devil: Outgeeking Bainbridge

« Getting Ready for Hong Kong | Main | Idealist? You must be joking »

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.

Post a comment

(If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting.)

NOTICE TO SPAMMERS, COMMENT ROBOTS, TRACKBACK SPAMMERS AND OTHER NON-HUMAN VISITORS: No comment or trackback left via a robot is ever welcome at Three Years of Hell. Your interference imposes significant costs upon me and my legitimate users. The owner, user or affiliate who advertises using non-human visitors and leaves a comment or trackback on this site therefore agrees to the following: (a) they will pay fifty cents (US$0.50) to Anthony Rickey (hereinafter, the "Host") for every spam trackback or comment processed through any blogs hosted on, or, irrespective of whether that comment or trackback is actually posted on the publicly-accessible site, such fees to cover Host's costs of hosting and bandwidth, time in tending to your comment or trackback and costs of enforcement; (b) if such comment or trackback is published on the publicly-accessible site, an additional fee of one dollar (US$1.00) per day per URL included in the comment or trackback for every day the comment or trackback remains publicly available, such fee to represent the value of publicity and search-engine placement advantages.

Giving The Devil His Due

And like that... he is gone (8)
Bateleur wrote: I tip my hat to you - not only for ... [more]

Law Firm Technology (5)
Len Cleavelin wrote: I find it extremely difficult to be... [more]

Post Exam Rant (9)
Tony the Pony wrote: Humbug. Allowing computers already... [more]

Symbols, Shame, and A Number of Reasons that Billy Idol is Wrong (11)
Adam wrote: Well, here's a spin on the theory o... [more]

I've Always Wanted to Say This: What Do You Want? (14)
gcr wrote: a nice cozy victorian in west phill... [more]

Choose Stylesheet

What I'm Reading

D.C. Noir

My city. But darker.
A Clockwork Orange

About time I read this...


Projects I've Been Involved With

A Round-the-World Travel Blog: Devil May Care (A new round-the-world travel blog, co-written with my wife)
Parents for Inclusive Education (From my Clinic)

Syndicated from other sites

The Columbia Continuum
Other Blogs by CLS students

A Namibian Odyssey

First stop on our Southern African 4×4 safari was the otherworldly and postcard-worthy sand dunes of Sossusvlei. Like many others I had begun to associate the entire country of Namibia with these impossibly beautiful giant dunes and the neighboring “Dead Vlei,” a crazy Dali-like formation of petrified trees creeping their way out of a salt flat in the middle of absolutely nowhere. When I picture Hell, this is what I see.

Here is a photographic run-down of our trip to Namibia’s finest attraction.


The drive to Sesriem (car problems withstanding) was incredible. Nowhere in the world had we driven so many miles without seeing a single person, not another vehicle, nor home, nor even a sign of life. The final stretch into Sesriem Canyon with the sun setting over the mountainous sand dunes was a picture of the reason why we came to Namibia. We arrived to our campsite after dark, which is when we discovered a very important problem with the vehicle: the lights didn’t work. Now, not only is it dangerous to drive at night but it’s extremely dangerous to drive at night with no lights!

We settled in quickly and set up camp. We broke bread (PB&J, really) and grabbed a hot shower to wash away the first day’s troubles. Then it was onto our mobile home and bed on the roof of the Land Rover. Camping out under the stars on our tent atop our car, in the middle of the desert, helped to assuage any misgivings I had about opting to travel independently.

Our second day in Sesriem we headed to the famous Sesriem Canyon, a narrow gorge splitting open the earth and running for a mile. The day was scorching hot and we would need plenty of water. The good news is that when you travel with your home your kitchen is never far away. We hiked through the canyon, taking in the desert views and appreciating the crazy rock formations. More interesting is the birdlife and many insects that can inhabit such a forbidding place.

In the late afternoon we headed to Elim Dune to watch the sunset over the Namibian valley. Watching the sun set over the valley floor atop the massive red dune was a serene sight. All around us were mountains of yellow sand glowing red in the fading light of just another day gone by. This was an image that had captured my curiosity from across the world and had drawn me right here to this very spot.


The true gem, however, and reason that so many people from around the world are drawn to this part of Africa is the area of Sossusvlei, 60km away from Sesriem. The massive sand dunes of Sossusvlei are best viewed at sunrise or sunset. We decided against our body clocks to start off our day at dawn the following morning.

We woke up early, packed up our rooftop tent in the dark, and headed to Dune 45, a magnificent-looking but poorly-named dune, you guessed it, 45km from Sesriem on the road to Sossusvlei. Hands down, this was one of the highlights of our year. When we arrived to the dune, the rising sun had split the dune in two: the eastern facing half basked in the morning sunlight and the western half cloaked in shadows, still awaiting its share of the sun.

We started up the dune ridge and were instantly entranced by the desert’s dual personality. On the dark side, the sand was cool and felt like I was putting my foot into a pool of cold water. On the bright side, the sand was scorching, even this early in the morning. This felt like my bare feet were being put into a frying pan. The trek to the top took about 40 minutes but the views were absolutely worth it. Taking in the opposite views from the sunset before from atop another sand dune, Laura and I couldn’t help but appreciate the ying and yang dichotomy that takes place here each day. We sat up there for almost an hour, watching the sun creep its way northward and begin to warm the day before we decided the time was right to slalom our way down the dune and head to Sossusvlei’s other otherworldly landmark – Dead Vlei.

We drove 15km to the Dead Vlei entrance. It was here that we’d first get to put our 4×4 gears to work. It’s a 5km drive through some seriously thick sand to get to Dead Vlei. All the 2×4 vehicles had to park their cars and 4×4 taxi their way there, but not us. Laura was rightly nervous, as I had no previous experience driving a 4×4 nor any vehicle through thick sand, but I was determined. We had rented a Land Rover for a reason I said.

So, I popped the newly-named Sand Lover into 4×4 and put it in second and began to wade the car through the sand. I say wading because that’s exactly what the car does. You give the car some gas and the momentum creates a quasi-wave that carries you through the sand. Several times I felt the vehicle begin to lose momentum and sputter so I had to throw it in first for a jolt and then back into second. This was nerve-racking but the sense of accomplishment a man feels when he reaches his destination is indescribable.

We made it to the entrance of Dead Vlei and began the arduous trek through already searing temps to Hell on Earth. The pictures here will do better than any description. We’ve been to many surreal destinations on this trip, but truly none more so than this place.

The experience of visiting Sossusvlei certainly met our insanely-hyped expectations and, alone, merited our visit to Namibia.

It was then onward and upward to the German town of Swakopmund where we would begin a legendary credit card dispute with our 4×4 rental company and find out the importance of being earnest.

pixel A Namibian Odyssey

Comments (3)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Such stunning photos! My husband (Tim) and I have Namibia in our sights right now, and your description definitely makes me want to go sooner rather than later. :)

    Also – hi! I came across your blog a few weeks ago and have been really enjoying your stories. I’m looking forward to starting from the beginning of your trip and reading up until now.

    I wanted to mention that I completely identify with Laura’s most recent post, Homeward Bound. Tim and I went on an 18-month RTW trip in 2005/06, and I remember all too well experiencing the emotions Laura described. We found our “re-entry” into home life again a bit difficult, but what really snapped us out of our post-travel funk was just beginning to travel again. Even if it’s just a weekend or a week away, it helps our bodies/minds remember that traveling doesn’t have to be a one-time thing.

    If it’s helpful, I wrote a bit about our experience in a post back in July. It’s a story called Coming Home After Your RTW Trip. Maybe there’ll be something there that will help you guys too. :)

    I wish you guys well on the last few days of your RTW trip! And again, I’m so so happy I found your blog! :)
    Jessica the hedgehog´s last [type] ..Nine Inconsequential Observations about Germany

  2. Cam says:

    Looks incredible! Great photos and well written post – I feel like I’m there with you. ;-)

    Namibia and Botswana are huge on my list, so is trekking Kilmanjaro… so reading your blog right now is a mild form of punishment! Cheers guy.
    Cam´s last [type] ..Photo Essay- Discover Antwerp- Belgium’s Other City

  3. Wendy says:

    These photos are gorgeous! I’ll be heading to your Flickr to see more!
    Wendy´s last [type] ..The Setting Sun