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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Giza and the Great Pyramids

No glossy spread in my elementary school textbook or Discovery Channel special could have prepared me for our visit to the Great Pyramids of Giza. Anticipating a remarkably awe-inspiring experience relishing one of the world’s most outstanding historical sites, we had another thing coming.

Contrary to what most people think the pyramids aren’t in the middle of the desert. Quite the contrary. They are located in the trashy suburb of Giza, 20 minutes outside of Cairo. Yep, Egypt’s three crowned jewels stand guarded behind a wired fence overlooking sprawling Cairo’s polluted skyline.

Hopping in an early morning taxi north to Giza, we arrived just before sunrise. Trash covered the streets and exhaust filled the air as we were greeted by money-hungry Egyptians touting rides on their rib-bearing horses and colorfully ornamented, cheeky camels. Making our way through the congested streets and fighting off the army of aggressive scammers who stood in our way, we caught our first sight of the ancient site. There before us, in the soft light of early morning, the peaks of the Great Pyramids of Giza peeped out behind a massive billboard and skyline dotted with KFC’s and Pizza Huts.

The morning would get worse before it got better. After arguing our way out of a shady scam involving our taxi driver and a stable owner, we found ourselves on the backs of two horses bound for the foothills of the pyramids…or so we thought. Our hour-long, sunrise horseback journey first lead us down littered alleyways teeming with traffic. Hummers, horse-drawn carriages, camels and Range Rovers zig-zagged through the lane-less streets in all directions. People hung out of SUV’s and off the backs of horses spraying hot pink silly string at each other while blaring rap music from their bass-heavy sound systems. The complete chaos had our horses bucking out of control, so bad in fact Ryan was knocked off his horse.

Where the hell were we? Was this really Giza? Or had we wandered onto the set of a Mexican gangster movie? Wherever we were, it was total anarchy and it was only 6 a.m.

Here’s a glimpse at the early morning scene caught on video while holding on to dear life on horseback.

We did arrive to the pyramids and for a brief few minutes enjoyed the views. This was soon interrupted by our guide hounding us for backsheesh (tips) and sending us on our merry way back to the thuggish streets of Giza.

Off the back of the horses and back on our own two feet, we spent a few somewhat peaceful hours walking the grounds of the pyramids. It was here, standing at the base of the ancient monstrosities close enough to touch them, that we really took in their beauty and significance. Looking out across the swelling dunes lined with caravans of camels under a blue sky and puffy white clouds, we began to feel the history and uncover the draw of the Great Pyramids of Giza.

Seeing the ancient pyramids and the wealth of sights that Egypt offers should be an experience you’ll never forget, right? More like something you’re hoping to forget. The touts are ruthless and the experience borders on the traumatic. Yet, still they photograph well with the backdrop the Cairenes have not yet developed.

All that being said, aren’t these photos fantastic? Hopefully not good enough to get you here.

pixel Giza and the Great Pyramids

Comments (6)

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  1. [...] like Tibet for Jack, and the pyramids in Egypt for me (although after reading this post, I’m not so sure anymore). These places have priority in the itinerary because they’re [...]

  2. Dang, all of you guys are making me really anxious about this place. I’ve wanted to see the pyramids for as long as I can remember…:( Any tips at all about how to handle the touts?
    Jill – Jack and Jill Travel The World´s last [type] ..Would We Have Enough Money — October Budget Outlook

  3. roundwego says:

    Jaime – indeed, I think everyone needs to experience a place for themselves. If we listened to everyone else’s opinion of a place we would either go nowhere or everywhere. Go. See. But don’t say we didn’t warn you…

  4. Jaime D. says:

    Awww this was very disappointing to read…lol! Cairo is one of the cities I can not wait to see. I have been dreaming of visiting it since I was a lil kid. Ive always known to expect it was going to be dirty and I have honestly heard all the negative things about it. I think for some reason that intrigues me even more!!!
    Jaime D.´s last [type] ..Is it too soon to start shopping

  5. Clark says:

    Wow, it seems like you really hated Egypt. We are planning on flying from Istanbul to Cairo, tour Egypt, and then travel overland to Petra and Amman.

    Except for the kissing episode in the restaurant, it wasn’t all that bad, right?
    Clark´s last [type] ..People of the Week- Adam and Michael

  6. Cam says:

    Totally get where you guys are coming from. Though we loved our morning at the Pyramids, we couldn’t leave Cairo quick enough. The touts are unbelieveable, unfortunately making the fantastic relics a means to an end for many.
    I almost got pickpocketed by a kid, and Nicole caught it on camera!
    Here’s the photo –
    Cam´s last [type] ..Photo of the Week- Autumn in Veliko Tarnovo- Bulgaria