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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Introducing Burma, the Golden Land

Click on the video below to get a taste of what it’s like to travel through Burma.

I wake up in a pool of sweat at 6:30 a.m. It feels to be a sizzling 90 degrees yet the fan has powered out. It’s the daily electricity shut-off by the government to save them money…I hop on a rickety bus for our next destination. On the main highway, connecting two of Burma’s largest cities, we travel down the dirt road, sharing the one lane with ox carts, bikes and cows. The man next to me dressed in his lungyi (the traditional ankle-length skirt) vomits in a plastic bag as we wind around the mountainous roads. The journey of 30 miles takes seven hours…Upon arrival dreams of a cold drink to quench my thirst quickly fade. All the ice has melted for the day. As I sip my lukewarm water, I attempt to cool myself with a fan made of mulberry bark…It’s dinner time. I peruse the food stalls lining the streets. I eye meats covered in flies next to pickled fish and fish paste. My stomach grumbles…I wonder how the Burmese do it, what it would be like to live this way, always.

What’s in a Name

4782843844 1a61fd3be4 Introducing Burma, the Golden Land

Most people, myself included, would have a hard time pointing out where Burma is on the map, let alone Myanmar. They are of course, the same country. So what’s the deal? Is it Burma or is it Myanmar?

When the British colonized the country in the mid-19th century they called their newly conquered empire Burma after the Barma people, the largest ethnic group inhabiting the land. Fast-forward a hundred and fifty years and the current ruling party, an oppressive military regime, changed the name to Myanmar.

Ask any local and you’ll learn the official name of the country, Myanmar, has stuck. But outside of Southeast Asia, however, it’s still better known as Burma. Most refuse to respect the demands of an illegally-elected government. Even Burma’s democracy movement prefers the form ‘Burma’ because they do not accept the legitimacy of the unelected military regime to change the official name of the country.

Where is and Who is Burma

4782192543 610588a10a Introducing Burma, the Golden Land

The country of roughly 55 million people borders Thailand on the east, India and Bangladesh in the northeast and China and Laos in the northwest region of the country. With more than 135 ethnic groups, it’s one of the most diverse countries in the world with a large percentage of the population still living in hill tribe communities in the mountains of central and northern Burma. Adding to the diversity, Chinese and Indians were brought in by the thousands for cheap labor under British colonization in the mid-19th century.

Our Journey

4782196355 b144fa389a Introducing Burma, the Golden Land

On the road, we’ve met some veteran travelers whose adventures would make you scoff at our mere 14-month journey around the world. We’re talking travelers who’ve been on the road for two, three and, in one case, seven years. We thoroughly enjoy swapping travel stories with these folks, but most importantly, we appreciate getting advice from them on those undiscovered, less-traveled gems that most of us don’t have the knowledge about or time to discover.

What we’ve heard time and time again from these experienced travelers: “Make Burma a priority.”

So as not to let our travel gurus down, we did make Burma a priority. It earned a coveted, two-week spot on our Southeast Asia itinerary.

Our visit to Burma was many things. It was taking a step back 75 years in time. It was a grueling, emotional journey that fueled my emotions and stimulated my senses. It left me physically and mentally drained, yet I found it eye-opening and equally rewarding. Let me share the good, bad and ugly truth.

pixel Introducing Burma, the Golden Land

Comments (4)

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  1. roundwego says:

    Super envious that you and yours have a whole RTW trip ahead of you. You will have a blast. Yes, I highly, highly recommend making a trip to Burma. It’s very different than the rest of SE Asia and the people and culture are beautiful, even if the military dictatorship is not. Don’t subscribe to the travelers that tell you you’re supporting the dictatorship. The people there need tourists and will very much appreciate you making the effort to visit their country.

  2. Vicky says:

    I just came across your website and think you’ve done an awesome job. My boyfriend and I are planning a rtw trip to start sometime next year. We are planning on starting out in South East Asia and are considering the idea of going to Burma. Would you recommend it, based on your time spent there?

  3. Patrick Shuff says:

    We’re they playing Burma Idol on the TV.

  4. Wendy says:

    I’m really looking forward to reading about your time in Burma! This was a great intro!