Wednesday, February 04, 2004
Citypages has a parallel review of The Fog of War, one of which portrays Robert McNamara as someone akin to Sophocles' Ajax:
In Sophocles' Ajax, the hero, one of the most valiant of Greek leaders to have served at Troy, is denied the promotion he deserves and deceived by the goddess Athena's "darkening of his mind" into believing that the Greek army's livestock are, in fact, his political enemies. One of the most shocking moments in Greek drama occurs when we discover Ajax sitting stunned amid the carcasses of slaughtered sheep. The terror of the play comes in Ajax's slow-dawning realization of what he has done, and the alternately candid, defiant, and deluded tactics he uses to deal with the knowledge. Ajax finally falls on his sword, and the devastating irony of the play comes in its long duration after his death, as those unworthy to judge him--many of them superior in rank--consider what to do with his legacy.
Robert S. McNamara's 1996 book In Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam provokes some of the same emotions as Ajax. In it, we discover a McNamara who's relentlessly, pitilessly rational: the efficiency expert who became president of the Ford Motor Company and transplanted his devotion to quantifiable performance improvements from the world of sales to the theater of war. In my youth, the conventional wisdom was that McNamara was an establishment wonk leading the easily gulled LBJ down a blind alley, a white-shoe number-cruncher who couldn't admit he had made a mistake. And there is no doubt that McNamara is that character--but from the evidence offered in In Retrospect, McNamara is a latter-day Ajax as well. The book's McNamara is a complex admixture of idealism, ambition, and willful blindness who tells himself that if he quits or offends Johnson, he'll be replaced by a hard-liner (or an intellectual inferior). He contents himself with dreams that Bobby Kennedy will be president in '68 and that history will then remember McNamara as an architect of peace. His wife and children suffer as old women confront him in restaurants and spit in his face. And for decades, McNamara, who knew better, held his tongue--until, like Sophocles' noble antihero, the guilt surrounded him like a family of ghosts. [more]
(P)REVIEW: ClassCon and CanCon ...
It warms the rogueclassicist's liver whenever he can squeeze ClassCon, CanCon, and his like of bizarre movies out of one article, although this one might be a bit too bizarre. Citypages gives a huge chunk of space over to some upcoming performances of films by 'avant-garde' Canadian director Guy Maddin:
Few artists are as underappreciated in their home countries as Canadian filmmaker Guy Maddin, and few underappreciated artists are at greater risk than he is of being overexposed. The start of 2004 finds three very different Maddin films in circulation: the stupendous silent-movie ballet Dracula: Pages from a Virgin's Diary; the wild mix of autobiography, hockey, and Euripides' Electra known as Cowards Bend the Knee; and a musical with Isabella Rossellini called The Saddest Music in the World.
Of course, what we're interested in is Cowards Bend the Knee, which is described later:
Cowards, the director's "autobiographical" follow-up, might be a Feuillade serial run through a blender. Designed as an installation for Toronto's Power Plant gallery, where it could be seen only if the spectator crouched down and gazed through peepholes, Cowards is jam-packed with kinetically photographed action. The mythomaniacal director casts "Guy Maddin" (Darcy Fehr) as a hockey sniper made lily-livered by mother and daughter femme fatales, and resurrects his dead father as both the team's broadcaster and his own romantic rival. The plot verily drips with Grecian formula, as sordid family secrets spawn unintentional murders. Maddin fixates on his characters' uncontrollable desires, providing room for alternately poignant and explosive slo-mo replays. Frenzied moments of impulsive violence and sexuality lend the movie the sublime naughtiness of a hand-cranked skin flick. After all, the whole thing takes place within a single drop of sperm.
More on Cowards at MovieMartyr ... it's really difficult to get much Elektraish out of it ...
AUDIO: Father Foster
Father Foster's latest is about an ancient Roman murder (with appropriate vocabulary, of course), specifically that of Larcius Macedo (although Father Foster doesn't seem to name him specifically) and an unnamed suicide (?) from Nero's time, who appears to have been Seneca.
Here's a translation of the Macedo story from Pliny the Younger ... and a translation of Tacitus' account of Seneca's demise.
THIS DAY IN ANCIENT HISTORY
pridie nonas februarias
AWOTV: On TV Today
6.00 p.m. |HINT| The Odyssey of Troy
What is it about the legendary city that 3,200 years after its fall,
we still try to unravel Troy's mysteries? Scholars attempt to answer
the question by researching the Greek poet Homer, possibly one of the
greatest poets in Western Europe's history, and his epic tale of love
and war, and comparing his text to archaeological sites.
7.00 p.m. |HINT| The Sunken City
The ancient Roman City of Ostia was once a vital seaport. Yet it
died a slow, painful death. This documentary explores the reasons for
its demise and looks at the abandoned wasteland today.
8.00 p.m. |DISCU| The Real Disciples of Jesus
Experts investigate the disciples of Jesus, examining new
information about their backgrounds and their relationships to each
other and to Jesus. Find out what Judas' role was among the Twelve;
was he truly a traitor, or just a scapegoat?
9.00 p.m. |HINT| Lost Civilizations: Rome: The Ultimate Empire
Sam Waterston narrates this Emmy Award-winning series that sweeps
through 7,000 years of history--from Ancient Mesopotamia to modern-
day Tibet--and transports viewers across the ages using dramatic
reenactments, location footage from 25 countries, and recent
archaeological discoveries to reconstruct the ancient past. In this
episode, we explore the glory of Rome--from founding to its zenith--
and march along as the Romans conquer the then-known world.
10.00 p.m. |HINT| Time Team: Papcastle, Cumbria
When Ray and Helen Buckingham started building work on an extension
to their Cumbrian house in Papcastle, England, they found what looked
like Roman pottery and building stone fragments. Puzzled, they
contacted Time Team--actor Tony Robinson (Baldrick in "Blackadder")
and his team of archaeologists, historians and other experts. Was the
couple's garden part of a Roman settlement or military staging post?
Time Team has just three days to piece together the surprising story.
11.00 p.m. |HINT| How Did They Build That?: Arches
British engineer Scott Steedman views three stunning examples of one
of the most reliable and enduring structural forms--the arch. In
France, he visits the Pont du Gard near Nimes, the highest Roman
aqueduct in the world, with its tiers of round arches. Then in Koln,
Germany, he investigates the largest Gothic cathedral in the world
for which medieval masons used two types of arch--the pointed and
flat. And at the Lufthansa Tecknik Jumbo Hangar in Hamburg, he
examines a modern use of the double arch.
HINT = History International
DISCU = Discovery Channel (US)
late update today ...
We're off to a funeral, so I'll have to update things a little later than usual ... sorry for the inconvenience ...