Friday, June 29, 2007

Maddux, an appreciation

Here is a quick post about my favorite pitcher. Growing up in a culture dominated by two superstations, TBS and WGN, I feel the summer of my formative years were spent learning the fine art of hurling a little ball 60'6'' from a true master. My only regret is I've yet to see him live. If he pitches for one more season, I'm gonna do my best, including engaging in illegal activities, to see him. Check out his lifetime stats here.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Conspiracy Theory of Dunces

Recently I re-watched a classic of paranoia from the early 1990s, Oliver Stone’s JFK. It recalls the resulting confluence of conspiracy that seeped out of the sixties following the assassination of the thirty-fifth President (as well as the subsequent deaths of important U.S. leaders). As a movie, it really is a brilliant piece of propaganda as art, willing to go for broke in an attempt to evoke the feeling of an era that somehow lost its way. In the times I’d watched it prior, I simply let the movie envelope me with it’s multiple angles and styles and its menagerie of colorful characters. I really didn’t pay too much attention to the details of what was being presented.

Now certainly I am aware that when it first appeared fifteen years ago, Stone’s telling of the conspiracy that killed Kennedy was met with the harshest of rebuffs from a variety of media sources. For the most part I dismissed those critics as not quite grasping that this, after all, was only a movie. Stone was simply providing an alternative myth to what he considered to be the myth of the Warren Report. Yet when I recently watched it, I think I started to understand what the pundits were complaining about. Stone’s use of insinuation as “fact” and his lifting up of Jim Garrison as the ultimate hero for seeking the “truth” behind what really went on that day in Dallas in some sense is a careless use of the medium. In other words, despite the flashiness and the brilliance of the filmmaking, the story itself is simply bunk. Yet the conspiracy endures.

I recognize I’m treading on some thin ice, especially given that to some degree an artist should always be free to display his or her art however he or she sees fit. That does not mean it is immune from criticism or even the occasional all out attack. But oddly, all of this exposition really isn’t about the film. As a result of my most recent viewing I decided actually to do a little research regarding the conspiracy. Using Google as my guide I searched terms such as JFK, Lee Harvey Oswald, Jack Ruby, Oswald in Mexico, JFK Conspiracy, etc. What resulted was an astonishing array of claims and counter claims and counter counter claims. Certainly I am no more an expert now than I was a week ago, but I do feel I have more of a grasp of the resulting paranoia. And perhaps that is what ultimately the truth of the conspiracy really is, the reshuffling of our own consciousness to willfully accept an alternate reality so that others in charge can do what they want. It sorta reminds me of a snipe hunt, only with a more seditious intent. Has such profundity ever been wrought?

But I digress. Right now I’m reading Delillo’s Libra, another alternative to the alternative which was equally derided as being delusional and irresponsible. But, just as the filmmaking was so good, so to is the writing. And so I continue on despite my apprehensions and complaints, knowing that there are grander, more elaborate scheming going on around me as I continue searching for answers to things right in front of me.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Cormac, We Still Hardly Know Ye

Updated 5/8

On June 5, Oprah displayed a veritable literary coup d'├ętat with her televised interview of noted recluse and genius wordsmith Cormac McCarthy. His book The Road had been chosen as an Oprah Book Club selection, and she was allowed an hour long chat with Mr. McCarthy. For a few days leading up to the show I had wondered how in-depth the interview would be. Would he reveal all his deep dark secrets regarding his own writing process? Would he detail the intricate and multi-layered symbolism sprinkled throughout the sparse The Road, thus not allowing readers to draw their own conclusions? Or would he simply sound like an idiot, full of sound and fury but signifying nothing? Certainly I enjoy a good interview or article on authors, though I can't stand audience Q&A's due to the high likliness of stupid questions. However, I was concerned that my image of Cormac would forever be tainted, given his past refusals to foster a public image.

Fortunately, despite Oprah's attempts, Cormac revealed little and maintained a properly reclusive demeanor throughout. By revealing nothing he preserved his integrity. That is not to say that those who do go on Oprah are somehow sellouts to her minions. Quite the contrary. Those authors who can maintain an appropriate public persona which allows for the occassional foray into pop culture without diminishing his or her work should be commended. And sometimes the interviews are quite interesting. In this case, because McCarthy demonstrated an interesting ability to remain aloof of Oprah's profile, yet did so without appearing to be condenscending, he and Oprah deserve kudo's.

However, it was disappointing to see that her next Oprah book will be Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides. Having read it a few years ago and recommended it to any number of people, I do think in the back of my mind I was grateful that the book had escaped Oprah's claws. At least my copy won't have the Oprah Book Club sticker. Which makes me wonder, why do I get upset over Oprah's Book Club?
Update 5/8: Check out this review of the interview by people who apparently do these sort of things for a living.