Surfing the New York Times before departing on a trip (don’t expect too many updates until my return on June 7), this article on blogs mentioned my 2nd cousin Eric Alterman, who appears to have his own blog on MSNBC (kind of ironic because he styles himself a figure of the official counterculture yet his writings are surrounded by constant flashing ads that remind us that one can never escape the corporate voice in American media). I haven’t seen Eric for at least 10 years but thanks to his blog I’m learning some things about him. He seems to be an expert on contemporary music (our side of the family typically concentrates on the Bach to Bartok/Stravinsky period, which requires a lot less effort to maintain because you don’t run the risk of some punk laughing at you for having BeeGees albums; classical music nerds today listen to the same stuff that I listened to in the 1970s). I’ve never heard of most of the people mentioned in Eric’s blog, though the implication is that they’re somehow important, which can make it tough to read for someone as ignorant as myself. Still it is worthwhile because he finds fun links such as this BBC story.
~ Archive for May 17, 2003 ~
Today’s theme is nostalgia. We start by renting the 1955 Picnic, starring William Holden and Kim Novak. This provides a fascinating portrait of early 1950s small-town Midwestern life as a backdrop to some ageless tensions (rich/poor, intellectual/ignorant, natural/stuffy). Move next to the 1996 When We Were Kings, which documents the 1974 fight between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman in the then-new nation of Zaire (now back to its old name of “Congo”). The subjects of the documentary can’t foresee that the new leader, Mobutu, will become one of the 20th century’s most notorious kleptocrats (though as discussed in the Israel Essay, he actually did not steal as much from his countrymen as the average Fortune 500 executive team steals from its shareholders). Nor can they foresee that many of the dancing and singing children among them will be dead of AIDS by 2003. At some level the movie is about two guys who hit each other really hard but the innocence of the time and optimism about Africa’s future is what really touched me. Some favorite lines: “I’m so mean, last week I murdered a stone–I killed a rock”; “No Vietcong ever called me ‘nigger'” (Ali served a prison sentence rather than be drafted into the Vietnam War).
[Warnings This film’s clips of Ali’s efforts to influence his fellow Americans may make you see our current crop of leaders, black and white, as intellectual and spiritual midgets. When We Were Kings is also marred by a few minutes of interviews with Spike Lee, the movie director, who tries to sound profound while stating the obvious.]