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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Ancient Angkor Wat, Cambodia’s Crown Jewel

4789270512 819536b656 Ancient Angkor Wat, Cambodia’s Crown Jewel

One of the greatest challenges with long-term travel is allocating time. With more than a year to traverse the globe, it would seem we have all the time in the world. The problem lies, however, in figuring out how best to use that time. We’re constantly struggling to find that balance of really getting to feel and experience the places we visit while fitting in all we want to see. Moving at a more mellow, relaxed speed throughout Asia, it was time to pick up the pace (begrudgingly) to explore Southeast Asia.

After lingering in Laos, we were on to the Kingdom of Cambodia. There is an aura about Cambodia that really grabs you. Perhaps it’s the convergence of its powerful past, tumultuous present and uncertain future. We were about to experience all three.

4789286754 58f0a0f1f1 Ancient Angkor Wat, Cambodia’s Crown Jewel

It was a full day of traveling to reach Cambodia from Bangkok, Thailand. The day of trains, planes and tuk-tuks (the name given to the smoke-bellowing auto-rickshaws throughout Asia) culminated with a cramped four-hour taxi ride from the Thai-Cambodian border. Accompanied by two gregarious Brazilians drowning their sorrows in Angkor Beer from their premature World Cup exit, we were all on our way to Siem Reap, the home of the great temples of Angkor Wat.

4785852121 2084fddb8e Ancient Angkor Wat, Cambodia’s Crown Jewel

Cambodia was once the center of the Khmer Empire, which once ruled much of what is now Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. At the heart of the influential kingdom, stood the temples of Angkor Wat. Built between the 9th and 13th centuries, the temples were constructed to serve as a center of spiritual devotion, but perhaps more importantly, to outshine the ancestors of the Khmer Empire. With the hundreds of temples standing for more than a thousand years, the Khmer Empire displayed their outstanding creative ambition and architectural genius.

4793188022 23371097ef Ancient Angkor Wat, Cambodia’s Crown Jewel

Our first taste of Cambodia, was discovering the charming town of Siem Reap. The town straddles a tree-lined river and is dotted with colorful, old French shophouses. Narrow cobblestone alleyways offer innovative and sophisticated dinging options and welcoming watering holes where we watched many a World Cup matches.

4785769307 09e3d15bf1 Ancient Angkor Wat, Cambodia’s Crown Jewel

We spent a day exploring the temples of Angkor, which are today the pride of all Cambodians. An early morning wakeup call proved well-deserved as we watched the sun rise above the temple of Angkor Wat. The sky lit up in 10 different shades of red as the sun rose out of the jungle. Soaring into the sky like a stone castle and surrounded by a moat of still water, we experienced one of the most inspiring monuments of mankind.

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4785875647 638a4d4282 Ancient Angkor Wat, Cambodia’s Crown Jewel

After sunrise over Cambodia’s crowned jewel, we explored some of the smaller, nearby temples. A visit to the temple of Bayon revealed 216 massive stone faces staring at us and we closed the memorable day wandering through Ta Prohm temple, a mystical temple devoured by the surrounding jungle.

4788697927 8b2a148a49 Ancient Angkor Wat, Cambodia’s Crown Jewel

4793140658 f70f39a1a9 Ancient Angkor Wat, Cambodia’s Crown Jewel

We enjoyed a few more days wandering the streets of Siem Reap and escaping the sweltering heat under the canopies of French-inspired cafes. During this time we were also introduced to another side of Cambodia. Here, we witnessed invalids and children begging on the streets and countless men and women hawking books and sunglasses. This was a foreshadowing for what we were about to experience in Phnom Penh.

pixel Ancient Angkor Wat, Cambodia’s Crown Jewel

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