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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The Southern Belles of New Zealand

While the North Island of New Zealand has a bit more of the action as home to the country’s largest cities and towns, the South Island gets all the well-deserved hype. It’s here where you find those postcard-perfect landscapes: the turquoise lakes at the foothills of soaring snow-capped mountains, enchanted forests draped in blankets of green moss, streams jetting out of mountainsides and crashing hundreds of feet into a riverbed dotted with rainbow trout. It’s a land whose remoteness is other-worldly, where you can drive for an entire day without seeing any sign of life, besides the fluffy, white sheep grazing on the endless, rolling fields.

And so with our campervan Bertha as our dutiful guide, we set out for two weeks of exploring the beauty of the South Island. Here’s a look at some of the memorable roads we traversed:


Fiordland National Park NZ 27 e1265592557637 The Southern Belles of New ZealandThe cream of the bountiful crop of New Zealand’s attractions is, undoubtedly, Fiordland National Park. Tucked into the remote southern corner of the island, it’s here where you experience the awe-inspiring fiord of Milford Sound. Fiords are long, narrow inlets of the sea that lie between steep slopes, and the fiord found at Milford Sound’s has attracted international tourists for over one hundred years. We took in the majestic experience aboard a boat that brought us face-to-face with the towering mountains and some fantastic wildlife. We also cruised by colonies of penguins and watched a school of dolphins jump and flip for our cameras. Photos barely do justice to the beauty of this land, but any NZ visitor can attest, it’s a must-see for any traveler.

Vineyard Hopping

Marlborough NZ 48 e1265593826430 The Southern Belles of New ZealandHome to New Zealand’s Sauvignon Blancs, we spent a day sipping our way through the Marlborough region. We made it to some of the big guys, like Cloudy Bay and Scott Family Wineries, and to the ‘cellar doors’ of some of the lesser-known boutique wineries like Bladen and Seresin. Here we got a chance not only to sample the best of the region’s viticultural offerings, but we also got to know the faces and stories of the people behind them.

Southern Lakes

Fiordland National Park NZ 121 e1265596739739 The Southern Belles of New ZealandDeep in the South Island are a handful of pristine lakes. Some are a seemingly bottomless deep blue and others are a refreshingly, clear green hue. And all are set against the unrivaled backdrop of the Southern Alps. Most of the lakes are accompanied by quaint villages lined with a few cafes offering strong brew and the catch of the day. Many of the locales are an adventure-seeker’s dream, with outfitters ready to take you jumping, gliding or climbing up, down and around all corners of the area. To keep the pocketbook in check (or at least pretend we were), we opted for taking in the sights on some fantastic hikes and from the charming towns. A true highlight of the area was our hike up to Mount Cook, New Zealand’s highest mountain, for some of the most dramatic views in the country.

Rainy Tasman

Abel Tasman NZ 10 e1265595795505 The Southern Belles of New ZealandWe heard fabulous things about the waters and hikes through Abel Tasman National Park so our next adventure brought us there. Regrettably, recent rains clouded the typically turquoise waters , but with our sunny day ahead Ryan signed us up for (another!) 15 mile day hike. We hopped on a jet boat they call a water taxi that dropped us off in the middle of the park. Our plan was to spend the day hiking back, however, half-way through the trek we experienced torrential downpours. Ill-prepared for the rapid change in weather, we had no choice but to hitchhike back ‘boat-style.’ Drenched, sore and freezing cold, a piping hot plate of New Zealand’s famed green-lipped mussels did more than ease our discomfort.

pixel The Southern Belles of New Zealand

Comments (7)

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  1. roundwego says:

    @Kim – Sorry for extreme delay in responding. Internet in Africa is tough to come by so now at home have more time to thoroughly answer your NZ questions! Going to shoot you an email with our recommendations and highlights from NZ. Hope you’re getting excited for your upcoming trip.

  2. Kim wells says:

    Thanks for your photo’s- looking into what to do(renting a campervan too), best roads to travel from Christ Church, best State parks to stay at, and what to bring to wear before we leave for a trip to NZ end of Feb – and 1st 2 wks in March 2011. We can’t wait- my dream vacation….

  3. roundwego says:

    I am so glad to hear you enjoyed NZ as much as we did! We are still dreaming about our days there, specifically deep in the South Island, months later. We too our already plotting our return back.

  4. carol says:

    We have just returned from New Zealand,our first visit. We went to visit our son and family in The North Island, which is very beautiful, lush green and scenic. We then drove to Wellington, over the Interislander Ferry to Picton, where we picked up a Campervan,and drove 3000 kms around South Island. I agree with your comments, it is the most beautiful country we have ever visited. I also agree, that my favourite day was Lake Tekapo and Mount Cook……with Milford Sounds…although it was raining the day we went to Milford Sounds……the gushing of the 53kms waterfalls was truly amazing.
    There arent enough adjectives to describe the beauty of this truly beautiful amazing country. We shall return.

  5. roundwego says:

    All agreed. Will be hard to find a spot that rivals the S. Island. The search is on.

  6. Garrett says:

    I couldn’t agree more! I’ve been to the South Island as well (I’m American) and I frequently say it’s my favorite place on earth.

    No where is so much beauty so seemingly accessible and varied.

    Great photos. Thanks!

  7. Mom Keller says:

    Your pictures are amazing !!! Glad you survived all the cold and rain but I’m sure the mussels were worth it. LOL