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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Once Again, Melbourne is Marvelous

Melbourne Australia 65 e1267532649980 Once Again, Melbourne is Marvelous

Melbourne's Yarra River cuts through the city skyline

Melbourne can empathize with Rodney Dangerfield. Once deemed “Marvelous Melbourne” in the gold-boom days of the 1840’s, it has since been relegated to Australia’s second city. It just can’t seem to “get any respect.” But silver in size is where the city’s runner-up status ends. With its sophisticated style, haute cuisine and cosmopolitan flair, it‘s hard to argue; world-class Melbourne has never been more marvelous.

We allowed ourselves 4 nights, 3 days in Melbourne which was simply not enough. With a population of 3.4 million Melbourne was much bigger and had more to offer than we expected. The city is divided by the Yarra River. Once a dirty eyesore running through the city center, it is now a Melbournian playground, where crew teams work the waterway and pedestrians stroll the esplanade that runs along the river.

The North
We used our first day to explore north of the river. To the north is the Central Business District (CBD) and, traditionally, the city’s working-class neighborhoods. The CBD proved a wonderful mix of past and future, with a combination of sleek new architecture contrasted with Victorian-era edifices. The rectangular CBD has the fortune to be buffered by gardens on all of its four sides, giving the city an open, airy feel. The city turns eastward, literally and figuratively, to the goldmine-era Chinatown, which is a vital part of the city’s dining and commercial scene.

Melbourne Australia 47 e1267533273512 Once Again, Melbourne is Marvelous

Hustle and bustle of Melbourne's arcades

The best part of the city is its meandering arcades and “Little Streets.” Each East-West running street has a “little” street, or an alleyway-like offshoot of its parent. The best are Little Collins and Little Bourke. These are home to Melbourne’s ubiquitous cafes. Degraves St. is the center of the CBD’s café scene, where espresso flows like water and everyone dines alfresco. We followed Degraves St. to Flinders Way, an alley so tiny it could easily be missed were it “not to be missed.” If the CBD has an arty, hipster scene, it’s here. Bohemian coffee shop and funky restaurant workers hang out and smoke on colorful egg crates in the tightly-wound alley decorated with graffiti, giving you pause to wonder you’re not in some Oriental locale.

Melbourne Australia 73 e1267534383842 Once Again, Melbourne is Marvelous

Victorian architecture of Melbourne

Northern Melbourne also lays claim to the hippest neighborhood, Fitzroy, where Brunswick St. offers a plethora of great restaurants, boutique shops and bookstores. We worked up an appetite wandering around neighboring Collingwood’s main drag, Smith St., not too unlike Brunswick St. but providing more off-beat entertainment. We explored the grounds of Melbourne University and Carlton’s gardens before window-shopping the gelato stands, bakeries and the Italian fare Lygon Street’s “Little Italy” had to offer. We circled back to Fitzroy where a decision on where to eat was almost impossible with all the temptations Fitzroy St. threw at us. Very unlike my carnivorous self, we ended up at a place called Vegie Bar. The place was packed for a Wednesday night and we had fun imbibing in Australia’s micro-brews in the garden outback before enjoying an incredible veggie pizza at one of the restaurant’s communal tables.

The South
Melbournians, proudly punching above their weight, will tell you that before Sydney’s 2000 came their ‘56 and their city is second to none. The south side of the city is a testament to Melbourne’s love of sport. Just south of the Yarra is the Melbourne Cricket Ground, or the “G” as locals call it, where the 1956 Summer Olympics were held. It’s still home to some fierce competition with MCG playing host numerous sporting events including the Australian Football League’s Aussie rule footbal Grand Final and the well-attended Boxing Day Test Match for the ever-popular cricket.

Melbourne Australia 71 e1267533968412 Once Again, Melbourne is Marvelous

The Royal Botanic Gardens of Melbourne

As if Melbourne and Sydney needed more fuel for their fiery rivalry, the Royal Botanic Gardens near South Yarra are superior even to Sydney’s. We wandered around the gardens for hours and only saw a tenth of their foliage. We walked through dense rainforest to alpine surroundings in the course of a mile.

Melbourne’s more affluent half is to the south. There, we walked down Chapel St. and Toorak Rd, home to upscale boutiques, name-brand fashion outposts and trendy bars and restaurants. From there, we walked all the way to St. Kilda, the seedy-meets-upscale beach area of Melbourne. Acland St. is the center of the action and we enjoyed an Aussie favorite – fish ‘n chips – while watching everyone pre-game before hitting up the dance clubs. The beach itself is a far cry from Australia’s finest but is a great repose for anyone looking to get out of the city.

Melbourne never really stopped being the wonderful metropolis that it is today; it’s not marvelous once again. Some people just need a little reminding. For those, once again, Melbourne is marvelous.

pixel Once Again, Melbourne is Marvelous

Comments (2)

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  1. roundwego says:

    The lack of Fernet in this part of the world is quite disparaging ({Philistines…), but I’m making due. Would have loved to see the Boxing Day test match. Unfortunately, we were not able to catch one while we were there, AFL tampoco.

  2. Greg says:

    The MCG is sweet. Ashley was bored to death during our Boxing Day cricket experience, but now I find myself checking test results while on the road. They don’t serve fernet and coke, so I suppose Ryan would protest the place altogether.