Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Wondering Aloud

Does anyone else but me miss the wonderfulness that was the Spice Girls? One of them was in the news the other day, which jogged me memory of the long-lost quintet. I was a big Posh Spice fan! Ah, what might have been! …Watched the PBS piece on Eugene O’Neill. I couldn’t help feeling that the Ken Burns doc should have been better than it was. Of course, the bar has been set high for anything Ken Burns does. But the main problem I had with this one was twofold: it did a lot more telling than showing the first hour, and because 90 plus percent of the audience, a guess obviously, really did not know that his true masterpieces – Iceman, Journey – came at the very end of his long career; and because of that, Burns et al felt the need to establish this point first before going in-depth on the works themselves. In his other films, because of an assumed familiarity with at least the rudiments of the narrative (Civil War, Baseball, etc) Burns had the luxury to meander his way thru a subject, which made the journey feel all the more relaxed & definitive. That said, the roots behind some of the most emotionally harrowing and wrenching scenes in the history of theater are established in ways that are unexpected and unforgettable … You should hunt down the version of Iceman Cometh from around 1960 that was produced for TV starring Jason Robards as Hickey and a very young Robert Redford. That was when television had not yet become so cynical that it had altogether given up on appealing to people’s better natures. Channel 25 was running it about a year ago … Finally got around to Monster’s Ball last week when I took it out of the library. It is an incredibly human film, where the absolute sympathy for the plight of every character drips through every frame in a not un-O’Neill-ian way. it reminded me of Requiem for a Dream in that way -- a film which also leaves you emotionally drained by the level of hopeless despair to which its characters sink. As good as Billie Bob and Haile are, and the poor little fat black kid who, well, plays that poor little fat black kid, how feeble is Peter Boyle's attempt at a southern accent? Yikes. Something like that can sometimes ruin a movie for you … Just finished one book, started another. The one I finished was The Last Voyage of Columbus, about his 4th & final little jaunt across the sea. Let's say this one went even worse than the other three. It's amazing to consider that Columbus' exploits in the new world were exclipsed by other explorers even in his lifetime. Also impressive was just how fearless and driven Columbus and the explorers who followed him are, the astronauts of their time and then some. Of course the Spaniards and other Europeans exploited the natives they encountered and were guilty of crimes against humanity, but what I took away from the book was that a day honoring Columbus is about right, even if he didn't know exactly where he was a good deal of the time ... Started a book called Great Riots of New York, featuring eyewitness accounts of massive 19th century civil disturbances and popular revolts like the draft riots of 1863 and the so-called negro riots of 1741. The book was written in 1873 and is wholly sympathetic to the law enforcement and police personnel who put down the riots, which is put in context by a great introduction by Pete Hamill and an even greater afterword by two scholars that I read before starting the actual book by JT Headley. I wan-na be ... an-ar-chy! ... Can't remember the last piece of fiction I was able to finish. That's why I've been reading history and biography; if you don't finish the whole book at least you've still learned something. Not so with a novel. I started a 600 page book recently and got halfway thru before it was due back to the library. It was The Cold Six Thousand by James Ellroy and get this, it was about, at least tangentially, the JFK assassination, the Bay of Pigs, etc. I mean, it was right up my alley and featured characters based on real FBI guys, mobsters, CIA guys, J Edgar is in there, Jack Ruby. But as I said only got halfway thru. I guess it's still there in the library if I need it, but as I said, I'm sticking with nonfiction for a while. Thought you'd like to know.

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