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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Gearing up for our around the world trip, we’ve been bombarded with an innumerable amount of questions. People wanting to know where we’re headed, why we’re going and how we’re pulling this off. We’d like to share a list of the most common questions that have come our way to give you a little more background on our preparations and what the journey entails.

Swiss FAQ

Where are you most excited to visit?
We are really looking forward to traveling through Africa and Southeast Asia, and although we hear it’s the marathon of travel destinations, India tops our list.

How many countries will you be visiting?
Our itinerary includes visiting around 25 countries.

When did you decide to make this trip?
He says: 2003. While backpacking through Ireland, I met loads of Aussies traveling the world, seemingly living an itinerant lifestyle through their 20’s before settling down. I envied that and wanted to do the same. She says: While traveling in Italy, I met a woman who talked of just having spent three months in Africa and was making her rounds in Europe before heading to South America. I decided we would pull this trip off someday. We had the feeling that it’s now or never so we set a date and made it happen.

How did you decide on your itinerary?
When planning our route, we vetted each destination against the following criteria:
1) Places that will be hard to get to later in our life (that threw out most of Western Europe)
2) Destinations that won’t bust the budget (that got rid of places like Tokyo and Scandinavian countries)
3) Good weather. When else do you have the opportunity to follow summer for a year?!

How will you get around?
Planes, trains and automobiles! We opt for overland travel whenever possible. It’s cheaper, and, we feel, a better way to get to know the people and places. To cover large distances, we’d originally planned to purchase an around the world ticket. These tickets are sold at a static price based on the amount of mileage you fly or on the amount of continents you visit. When we began mapping out our trip in greater detail, however, we compared the prices of buying one-way flights with the around the world ticket and found one-way flights were just a few hundred dollars more. Because it was nominal and would offer us greater flexibility, we’ve opted to buy one-way tickets as we go. This is the best decision we made as our itinerary has changed considerably on the road and, with proper planning, we’ve scored some great deals on flights.

What does your family think?
Would you believe this is one of the most common questions we’ve gotten? We are extremely lucky to have a very supportive family. Although not all of them share our adventurous spirit, everyone has been excited for us and seemingly not too surprised we’re embarking on another adventure.

IMG 1148 2 e1293808181667 FAQWhat did you do about your jobs?
We had to make sacrifices to make this trip happen, which meant putting our careers on hold. We expected mixed reviews from colleagues on our upcoming travel plans; however, we were both pleasantly surprised at the overwhelming amount of support we received.

How do you pack for a trip like this?
In one word: sparingly. Basically, you bring what you might expect to wear over the course of a week or so and be ready to wear and re-wear those items for the duration of the journey (of course with a bit of laundry in between!). Deciding exactly what to pack has taken a great deal of research. Lucky for us, we strategically planned our route to follow summer so all the bulky winter coats, hats and gloves are out. We’re sticking to light-weight, moisture-wicking materials to get the most wear for our buck and plan to give things away if we don’t need them and purchase those things along the way we might be lacking. We plan to include a specific packing list once it’s all been finalized.

What did you do with all your belongings?
Everything is stored away in a storage unit awaiting our homecoming.

Have you traveled like this before?
We’ve traveled extensively through Europe and South America, however, often had a home base for extensive periods of time. This will be the first time we will be on the road for more than a few months.

How much planning and preparing does a trip like this entail?
Quite a bit. Initially, we imagined all we’d have to do was pack up our belongings, throw a few things in a pack, buy a few plane tickets and voila – we’d be off. No such luck. We spent countless hours pondering over maps and guidebooks, researching visas and vaccines, managing finances and insurance, setting up our taxes, narrowing down the best camera and computer options and working diligently to tighten up our to do list. We dreamed about this trip for years and spent nearly an entire year planning to make this happen.

What is your advice for people planning a round the world trip?
Make it happen. There are a million and one reasons why the timing isn’t right, why next year or the year after will be better and why you should put it off. Stop making excuses. Set reasonable goals. Make it a daily priority. You are going to have to make sacrifices, but I can assure you it will be one of the best decisions of your life.