Monday, January 6, 2020
101 Years Gone - Theodore Roosevelt
"The old lion is dead."
- cable from Archie Roosevelt to his brothers serving in Europe, 01/06/1919
Theodore Roosevelt passed on January 6, 1919. He was only 60 years old.
The passing of the famously active and robust Roosevelt could be attributed to a few things. That bullet he famously took before he gave a speech actually did harm him and left him with ailments that worsened over time. His tour of the Amazon had left him with malaria and took much of the wind from his sails. The man of action who had made his reputation in the Spanish-American War, and who believed the manliest thing one could do was go fight in a war, took a post-presidential tour of Europe which forewarned him of the coming conflict and the scale at which is would occur. When the US finally entered the fray, he encouraged his sons to enlist. When he and Edith lost Quentin Roosevelt in air-to-air combat in July of 1918, it's said TR began to slide.
TR died before he could once again run for president, which he was, of course, considering. And which I think would have altered his legacy, win or lose. We never really saw a feeble TR, and the memory of the uncompromising figure TR was becoming as he aged is mostly forgotten, mixed with the blustery figure of his younger days. Still, he'd surprised the world at every turn since his youth, so who is to say what an octogenarian Roosevelt might have looked like?
The candle that burns twice as bright burns half as long, and he'd defied death since his childhood as an asthmatic prone to long spells of sickness, been shot at, survived disease and exotic and dangerous adventuring. Blinded in one eye while boxing (during middle age) and regularly found ways to engage with life in ways I can scarcely imagine. At only 60, his life and legacy produced more door-stop-heavy books than most anyone in US History.
If all of us are contradictions, this is one more area where TR lived larger than life. And I won't dwell on it here - but he did leave a fascinating legacy and history in the multitudes he contained.
Tuesday, January 22, 2019
Doc Watch: They Shall Not Grow Old (2018)
Format: Fathom Events at Arbor Cinema
It's fascinating to see Peter Jackson turn his eye for detail and technical achievement to the discipline of documentary film-making. In many ways, They Shall Not Grow Old (2018) could herald a new era of popular documentary as important as the narrative innovations of Ken Burns, which have become the de facto mode for serious historical documentary for those of us who watch PBS. Frankly, from an historical/ accuracy perspective, I have a *lot* of quibbles with Jackson's approach - but we'll get to that after praising his achievements.
Tuesday, July 19, 2016
Signal Watch Reads: The Return of Tarzan (by ERB, 1913)
What's most surprising about reading a 1913 Tarzan novel is, really, in many ways how modern it feels. Whether ERB was reflective of a particular brand of cliff-hanger storytelling or whether he shaped a lot of what I think of as a feature of modern adventure entertainment - it's pretty amazing how much you can see of how the adventures of Tarzan work, structurally, in comics and adventure television of all stripes (and probably books, but I don't read that much of this sort of thing).
Tarzan's origin is detailed in the first half of the first book, most of the rest of the book providing the set-up for the ensuing adventures (or, more of the origin, I guess). This second book picks up shortly after the conclusion of the first as Jane takes off with not-Tarzan, aka: William Clayton (but Tarzan's cousin, who is Lord Greystoke as far as the world is concerned).
It's important to point out that ERB's Tarzan is not the "me Tarzan, you Jane" of the Johnny Weissmuller films. He's a hyper-intelligent super human who picks up languages the way I pick up unnecessary action figures. You kind of have to dump everything you've ever read about actual feral-children, maybe one of the saddest things you're likely to read about, and buy into the premise that Tarzan is a really well-adjusted guy in many ways for someone who eats raw flesh and speaks gorilla.
That said - the arc of this second novel is about Tarzan deciding who and what he will be. And, putting up with a shady Russian who keeps turning up like a bad penny.
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