Sunday, July 06, 2014

X-Men: Days of Future Past

Going for a wider audience with the title reference to a Moody Blues lp. Anyway, Erin and I went to see the spectacle of our longing today.

A mezzo audience, theatres don’t seem to be crowded anymore. Short wait till previews. Only three movies to look forward to, or not. The first was a noisy Scarlett Johansen vehicle. The concept is a little fuzzy, something about her character getting kidnapped, and a bag of something placed surgically in her stomach. Oh, that old plot. The bag ruptures, thereby giving her super powers. Basically you watch to enjoy Scarlett looking like Scarlett, and the gymnastic mayhem her character perpetuates. Luckily I’ve seen enough. I mean, I sort of accept Scarlett as a capable implementation of the usual road, but this movie can’t possibly want anything.

Another movie shows a rascal hoodlum being trained as a government assassin. Look, there’s no balance here at all, it’s mindfuck for violence, with stray jokes to make it all okay. Their lordships Michael Caine and Samuel Jackson cannot make crap like this better. Another fury comes our way but at the moment I cannot recall what misery it releases.

So X-Men. The movie begins in The Matrix, to wit: a dark, dystopian world in which robotic warriors annihilate mutants, and everybody. A stupid, confusing scene of the remnant X-Men fighting off the robots, called Sentinels. It’s a mess. Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan play Dr Xavier and Magneto, now elderly but friends. The only answer is to send someone back in time and prevent um Mystique from killing the inventor of the Sentinels, back in 1973. Yeah, sure. See, Ellen Page has some sort of power that, well it’s like this, um… Okay, it is Matrixy. Wolverine gets the nod because he’s so healthy. She puts him to sleep and his mind goes back to 1973. I guess mine does that occasionally, as well.

Big fail, not to exploit the music and culture of ‘73. The only thing Forrest Gump got right was the tunes of the era.

Wolverine wakes in bed with some 1973 female. He slips naked from the bed so that we can peruse most of the acreage of his jacked body. Hugh Jackedman. He looks like a professional wrestler, ready to explode. It is funny that acting chops emanate from that puddle of improvement. His mission is to find the young Charles Xavier and stop Raven/Mystique. Wolverine finds Xavier and Beast at the now closed school. Xavier is deep in self-pity. Eventually he comes around enough to join Wolverine in trying to get Magneto to help. Magneto is imprisoned under the Pentagon. Not clear why they need Magneto.

Wolverine enlists the help of someone who will eventually become Quicksilver. He’s just a slacker kid but can move faster than the eye can see. The scenes with Quicksilver are played for laughs, a super powered stoner. Pretty easy getting Magneto out. A bunch of guards convene with pistols blazing. Here Quicksilver enters Matrix slo-mo, tipping bullets seemingly motionless in mid-air so that they stray from their targets and so forth. Funny scene. After this, he’s about done.

A problem with the X-Men is that there are so many of them. Most are spear carriers. Several, like Wolverine, Magneto, and Mystique, get to chew the curtains. The rest are stand ins for something eventually to happen. Mystique is played by Jennifer Lawrence, who I glean is Hollywood something. My meager inventory of either sides with Scarlett, if we demand competition. Lawrence looked roped into sentiment.

Mystique fails in her attempt to kill the Sentinel inventor, at the—no kidding—Paris Peace Talks. She and Magneto reveal themselves as mutants, and that sets Richard Nixon to greenlighting the Sentinel program. This Nixon looked like 2nd rate Vegas comedian. For some reason, Magneto lifts a baseball stadium and drops it around the White House, where the Sentinels are displayed. Show off. This is a scene full of… scene.

At this point, Mystique almost kills the Sentinel maker. Thru the good offices of Dr Xavier and Wolverine, she chooses not to pull the trigger. Whew.

In the future, a gazillion Sentinels locate the remnant X-Men in their Chinese Fortress of Solitude. This brought to mind the scene in the Star Wars Thrillogy when the Jedi are killed off Godfather-style. X-Men as a rule hold their hand palm forward to exert their power. Pity the poor actors hung upon these pegs. Halle Berry looked like exerted Hollywood featurette, star power being a mere visual. A lot of yelling and vague ministrations as the Forces of Good flex their steroids. Good Lord, it is the inside of a chocolate éclair!

The Manichean bullshit here is American dream. Mutant Republicans and/or Democrats get to save their party platform by being right. Murder is right for the right reason. Everything is good if you’re right. Wolverine wakes up and the world is okay again.

Look, we don’t need physics, it just holds us back. And we don’t need empathy, where’s the thrill in that? Accusations that the director committed sexual assault on a teen kind of adds to the privilege of righteous mode. Look, there is no moral basis to this movie. It is just flickering electrons with commercial intent. How could we even ask those electrons to care for the endeavour? We are intent to blink as hard as we can.

I think it is time that Marvel start eating its own entrails, and not ours.

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Saturday, June 28, 2014

Why “Roadrunner” is the Greatest Song Ever

Song by Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers

The count down is magical extra two steps: Richman counts 1, 2 , 3 , 4 , 5 , 6, to start the song. And he means it. Paul McCartney's fully directed countdown to “I Saw Her Standing There” is a sprinter's call in the moment. I remember the insistence.

Modern Lovers, oh my god! Could we all, could we all reach that sanctum?

Richman has been to town at Stop & Shop.

“Going faster miles an hour”, grand vista of language faster than intent.

AM was a real creature then, and he knew. The scamp district ekes a vantage and sight. No Longer Exists As Such. Precursorian remnant.

“I'm in love with modern moonlight”. The precinct of sincere dispatch, in the cuddling grasp of how the night embraces the treasure.

Chunka chunka persistence, drums, bass, and guitar. Organ floats atop, a voice, a vowel.

“The factories and the auto signs got the power of moderns sounds”. ALRIGHT!

The highway is your girlfriend as you go by quick
Suburban trees, suburban speed
And it smells like heaven (thunder)

Splashy/crunchy guitar chords, oozing/running organ runs.

Modern is a town with taste.

* * * * *

Roadrunner by Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers is a personal obsession. When I saw Phish my 2nd time, the opened with this song. It was in the running for Mass State Song. Beaten out, naturally, by The Standells and "Dirty Water". Fair enough, but they were from LA and knew little enough of the Charles River. I think Richman knew Stop & Shop and Rt 128. Modern Lovers were eventual drummer for The Cars and eventual keyboardist for Talking Heads. Other song obsession: "Omaha" by Moby Grape ("Listen my friends").

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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Good Morning America Announces the End of the World

The tv was on when I arrived at the gym, so I watched the already chosen show, Good Morning America. If we need immutable evidence that we're up Shit Creek, shows like this provide it.

Fatuous comes quickly to mind when one reaches for descriptors. Fatuity is alive and well within the precincts of this show. GMA banks on your short attention span. I know the show aims for an audience readying to launch out the door, so yes, things are short and sweet (minus the sweet). But the smirky smarm of the microbits of information and entertainment of every segment should be seen as oppressive. Given the ratings magic of these morning shows, I guess people see oppressive smarm as a positive.

In the old days of these shows, sturdy desks and serious expressions made the chop suey being offered seem mildly consequential, even if the report were on the latest trend in wearable rutabagas. Celebrities were kept to a minimum, which is where they belong.

Nowadays, the word celebrity is big and flexible. It's not just film stars and bestseller writers, it's also the guy who split his pants in the Youtube video. That means there exists an awful lot of celebrities to celebrate. The panel itself is a congealed mass of celebrities, tho I cannot name them all.

Four women and a man form the panel. I suppose there are substitutions at times. I recognize three as first teamers: George Stephanopoulos, Robin Roberts, and Lara Spencer. The other two were properly lively and attractive (as well), whatever that might mean.

Stephanopoulos looks a little crunchy at this point. No longer the wunderkind on the big political stage, with his dark hair and dark suit, and especially as the women dress brightly, he looks grave and heavy. Not that he doesn't chum up with the banter, as the show requires. His effort at playful fun is unsettling, might even physically hurt, but he’s a game competitor.

Robin Roberts actually carries some gravitas herself. I imagine she was an athlete of note, in college. Well yeah, and a star pitcher for the Philadelphia Phillies, back in the 50s. She really knew what she was talking about as an ESPN anchor, or whatever she was. Stepping up to GMA represents a step down to frivolity, but at least now she can afford to buy stately Wayne Manor.

I first saw Lara Spencer on Antiques Roadshow. She looked the part, cool and efficient. She presented the right tone of sedate professionalism, as must be on PBS. On GMA, she matches all the others in cackle and smirk.

Amy Robach—I had to look her name up—--is whoever she is, I didn't see enough. Was there someone else sitting cross-legged on the panel or did I imagine it? The set, I should note, entirely lacks desks, the troupe lounges in swivel chairs as they blurt cheap hilarity at each other. Another guy was outside in the crowd looking for insipid people. Who were never far away.

And that's the dynamo producing moolah for some corporate entity. That's the product, that's the thing people are buying. Spencer got to introduce a Youtube video that showed animals in stop-motion that made them look as if they danced. Isn't that sad? That's where the billion dollar corporation goes for content. There's a bottom line here folks: let's don't overspend. Any crap will do.

Spencer also got to do a spot with a Youtube phenomenon dog. I don't know what the dog did in the video but on the live set it properly looked around and ignored Spencer. Great tv.

Don't worry, there's still news on the show, which means the word Benghazi was pronounced, etc. The show cuts away briefly for local weather. Apparently we'll be having some.

I've heard, like maybe from one of the People magazines collected at the gym, that bad blood exists between I guess it would be Spencer and Robach. I should hope so. Not that that would interfere with the prime bantering. Small talk and guffaws, that's a job and these stalwarts are determined to do it right. Good Morning, America!

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Saturday, June 14, 2014

Memorial Service

The three of us attended a memorial service for Leslie McLeod-Warwick. No, you don’t know her. She produced Shakespeare plays for the homeschool cooperative that Erin attended. We saw 6 or 7 seven of her productions, and Erin appeared in Romeo and Juliette.

Beth and Erin had more interaction with her but I had enough to say she was a rare and embracing person. Pictures on the order of service showed the same smile, when she was a teenager, and on thru her life. Too consistent to be imposed, she radiated a sense of warm acceptance.

Her productions found a place for everyone. That means a 6 year might play king to a 16 year old playing queen. It worked. She found a place for every child. This actually stirred up controversy among the Balkanizing forces of parents with superiour children, or whatever. Homeschooling attempts to avoid the plangency of hierarchy, allowing children to find their own means and interest and ability. It is supposed to take the blunt certifications away, football hero/cheerleader success stories. Ah, parents saw outsiders, children who didn’t fit, and squawked that Leslie allowed them in. Leslie, thank you.

A sudden remission of remission and she died last week. We never somehow got notice of her last production, King Lear.

The memorial service was thoroughly attended, to the degree that a second room was opened, with video transport of the service. She touched many people.

The best part of the service, for me, was when four of her former actors read comments about her that were posted on a Facebook page. I remember one of these readers when he was more than a foot shorter and 2 octaves higher. These comments were not undersigned: it was about what was said not who said it. Family members could be inferred. Thus it was painful to the point of tears to hear the testament of the youngest, who at 14 would have to remember the warmth of her mother. All of the children provided glimpses that were incisive yet funny. One wrote: Many people thought my mother was crazy. Well she was, she married my father. And a lot more of that.

Five children that she homeschooled. Plus these serious yet playful productions of Shakespeare. I mean, costumes and production, and not the easiest of venues. And no one was shamed or excluded.

Later, a reception at the home. People stood in every nook of the ramshackle farmhouse, many people touched. Books were everywhere.

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Sunday, June 08, 2014

A Poetics, Sort Of

I do not read much poetry nowadays. This does not reflect my opinion of the poetry written today, or in the past. Instead, it speaks to the machinery of my interest.

I began writing poetry in high school. Poetry didn't seem to be clearly defined, once we got past the rhyme and metre logjam (thanks mr cummings). Poetry, then proved a good place to start. In typical youthful spree, I wrote a lot of poetry in high school, but I also had the quantum of smarts to want to read the work of other writers of poetry. Didn't so much get it, but I tried.

My second, and last, year at Franconia College, I enjoyed the benefits of Robert Grenier's scope and curiosity, and read with more formal directive the poets who would most influence my writing. Charles Olson and William Carlos Williams were the main excitement, but Stevens, Dickinson and Whitman folded in, as well. And so on.

I continued to read, study, after college. I found that Charles Olson, whose work intrigued me, also provided a useful path. That path included writers important to him as well as writers provoked by him. These writers gave me a solid footing, I am willing to believe. They were not all poets, as the term is used.

I credit Olson as the one who made reading history a poetic program. That statement sounds inflated. I mean it's in his poetry: What the hell is the U S of A, historically speaking? And what are the words that make it so?

I don't want to read poetry for effects. I think when Gertrude Stein writes about Americans, she embraces something larger than and just exactly poetry. Not just an instance of exhaust, but an active participation in the society that says words. I mean, how can you read Karl Marx and not say he's a poet? William Blake no kidding was, so too dear Emily, etc.

Robert Grenier published a breakthru poem of mine in This 3, which almost but not really gives me historical context. Twenty plus years later, Stephen Ellis, an Internet acquaintance, published a broadside of my poems. I had completely botched the publication part of being a poet. I had sent work out, in those long years, but it seemed always to be the wrong bugle, and probably “not my best stuff”.

The Internet gave me promise. I could backchannel someone on a listserv—Buffalo Poetics, for one—and meet poets, Stephen Ellis for one. And wow plus too: I could place my writing in public view. So could everyone else.

I don't decry the abundance served on the web. I don't think I am decrying anything. Okay maybe I decry the produce market called Attention. The Internet is big, including big with poetry's writers. Big, alas, means Facebook scale dynamics. Lick me on Facebook.

In my younger days, I read poetry to learn. Poems are intricate machines. The Olson course I took proved fruitful but I didn't, and haven't, read enough Stein. I was late to reading John Wieners, and even later to Joanne Kieger. It is kind of a random selection, how one finds one's way. I never cottoned to Eliot, and never read Auden. This isn't rocket science, but I am sure neither is rocket science.

My point resides in what we must do as human beings. I assume I am human, and that you are too. We must care. Caring may mean 17 syllables in reference to the reality of cherry blossoms or finding meaning words about the fuck all of misery in Afghanistan. I'm not here to decree. I believe that the poem is a mechanism of expansion and embrace. I also, let's get loopy, believe that there is only one poem. That poem is a human participle and it lets us say time filled by colours. Those colours are individual and well met. We will always need them, sooner than soon.

So I find history is a sheering event that can mean something. I'm not a scholar, I just want facts to smell like lemons, like Jack Spicer's own lemons, delivered by Lorca, on a Wednesday in collusion.

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Friday, June 06, 2014

Reality Shows

Reality programs have been around a long time. They've become a broadcast mainstay, in these days of desert winds. I get the seamy appeal, but the plethora of realities would seem to stifle audience interest. Bachelorettes, for heaven's sake, or lovebird publicity dynamos, Kim and Kanye.

I honestly don't know why these shows continue. They press dull and drab as heroic function. They represent Republicanism at its base value of zero. Anyway, they seem so faked up that one would expect them to flicker away. Well, faked up is the sort of ingenue we seem to favour, the mass appeal of not so much. Rather than flicker, they flock.

Long ago, public television followed a “real” family, the Louds. I didn't watch much of it, but it represented significant tv. I know, oxymoron. One of the sons came out during the filming, which was regarded as a bombshell at the time. Otherwise, what I saw of the show was dry and dispatched, a plucky attempt at relevance.

Empty Vee's Real World had its juicy moments for the first few years. Reality? I think not. Let's gather a handful of patently unmatchable personalities and let them go freefall. The show had a place where every Fussy Buttons could exhale in huge smallness about their housemates. Whoa: gossip, gripe: the human core.

That element, the whingeing, seems to be what has made this genre so widespread. Every pout, snipe, and gripe is ratings magic. I found that the initial lascivious jolt wore off quickly. The public testifies otherwise. When the show came to Boston, the Lifers were regarded as celebs, which clearly blows the Reality bit apart. Real or not, folks wanted to come home from work and settle in to a bunch of nobodies complaining about their housemates. Better than Gilligan and the Brady Bunch.

My attention strayed elsewhere last night but I saw some of a couple of realities, first a cooking one. Looked like 15-20 contestants who apparently feel they are awesome cooks. That seems like quite a crowd to handle, speaking television logistics. Hard to sort out love/hate among so many.

Celebrity cook Gordon Something leads the proceedings. He's known for acerbity, a la that jackboot who thronged American Idol, Simon Colwell. Two others joined him in overlordship: a critically serious fellow, presumably a restaurateur, and a plump Model Celebrity, who wore outre white glasses as a sign that he can wear outre white glasses in public. Outre means cred.

I dunno.

Attention kept shifting to various participants declaring that they are great cooks and this is their chance. I mean, their day job may be cleaning subways or talking to pianos, but in reality (a caustic factoid), they are chefs supreme.

In this episode—and don't we all live in episodes?—a woman won, by some presumption, the opportunity to have her meat balls, meatloaf, etc, be the standard for the others to attempt. You know this is stupid cooking, but you're excited, admit it. I witnessed no more of this splat. Competitive cooking doesn't register for me.

THEN, American Ninja. I actually have watched the Japanese version of this. It is an obstacle course of curious display. Contestants try. I aint saying it aint entertaining.,

The promo asserted: History will be made!!! History of two years, maybe. The thing about the 100 yard dash, or the mile run: we have a standard, a history. With this obstacle course, it's a once. One sees the difficulty of it, but it owns a short history of attempts.

The course begins with slanted perches that one leaps to. You could screw this up thru inattention but it should be an easy par.

Next comes a keg ride. What looks like a keg hangs on a line above a pool. One must attach oneself bearhug style, legs and arms. It then slides down the line. Midway, the line drops sharply. If you haven't the tightest of grip on the keg, you fall into the water hazard, the end. Many lost it at this point. One contestant nearly made it but the keg, which swung heavily, knocked him with a rebound as he tried to gain the far side.

The next, if I remember aright, is a dash across a bridge. This bridge pivots horizontally. Your first step will tilt it to the side, but if you can manage a second step, you can leap to the platform. I'm not sure how you can look at it and think you have a path. Seems like you just blast forward and hope you can extend to the platform.

Next a swing that you stand on, hung over the ubiquitous pool. The point is to launch yourself toward netting, which you must climb to reach the next platform. Otherwise, water hazard, and the end.

A sort of monkey bars follows. You have two rings, which you use to negotiate a series of pegs. You hang on the pegs by way of the rings, and move along by moving the rings to the next peg. That's a fairly straightforward tester.

Finalement, a dash up a curved surface similar to but steeper than what skateboarders work on. It is 13' high. You try to run up the curve so that you can reach the top and climb up. You then press the button to signify your accomplishment. Few succeeded. I wonder if there is room for cheating, like applications of adhesive to the soles of shoes. Stakes are high, after all.

The slanted perches claimed no one, but everything else was dicey. I will admit, it was entertaining to watch people compete. The attached blahblah thrilled less.

You would think Oprah Winfrey produced this show, the stream of feel good slogans never waned. Work hard, believe in yourself, believe in yourself working hard to believe in yourself, etc. It was an unrepressed banter of ended words, the way I heard it. I have to go on television to feel good about myself.

One contestant had watched the show and decided to believe in herself and work hard. She had been overweight but believing in working hard and working to believe in herself, to work hard in belief, she lost weight and got in shape. As she was introduced, she kissed her biceps. She wasn't that buff. All the intros were pro wrestling style. She failed, I forget where. Even tho she believed that if you work hard, believe in yourself, and work to believe in working hard for yourself, you will succeeded in believing that you worked hard, for yourself.

No woman had ever scaled the curved ramp (I didn't mench that woman and men compete equally). A couple of women had supposedly done it in training but with all the build up did not succeed in scaling the heights. This was a subplot that had yet to avail itself of plump interest. The best chance women did not, in this episode, make it up the ramp, whether failing at the ramp itself or earlier on.

Confidence is a great bundle but the show swarmed with solid slogan. That's all you really need.

An ex-Olympian competed, gymnast gold medal winner. I recognize the Olympics as the best versus the best, albeit with slogans. This dog and pony show doesn't match up. At all. Surprisingly, he lost it on the rings, Mr Iron Cross, he misplayed the rings.

A prob we meet here is where does one train? The answer (except see below), build your best replica. More importantly, believe in yourself.

It is absolutely true that the human body can do many things. The Boston Marathon has accumulated a cult who cry, I can run a mediocre marathon!!! Somehow, this show has made it a virtue for contestants to assert: I'm not as good as I claim to be. Which strikes an especially American note, I am sad to say.

A refugee from Cambodia came to Amerikay for the new life, trains suckers who want to compete in American Ninja. Yes, if you go thru all the exercises, you have a workout. But to learn the intricacies of leaping from one slanted platform to another seems crowded with misdirection. Child of the killing fields failed to complete the course. Somehow, the inspiration of that story didn't take hold.

Everyone has a reason to be Select. In this Reality World, growing up in Pol Pot's regime equals exactly being overweight, or just that your high school team failed to recognize your eminence. We all have startled stories to tell.

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Monday, June 02, 2014

Into the Silence by Wade Davis (more Mt Everest rambling)

Just finished rereading Into the Silence by Wade Davis. It recounts the first attempts to climb Mount Everest. Davis wrote a formidable book. He provides exacting context. Most of the participants in the three British expeditions in the 20s were veterans—survivours—of World War I. That fact plus the machinations of British empire-building in Asia weighs heavily on the story of these assaults on the mountain. I knew, as I read the book the first time, that I couldn’t digest all the details in one reading.

I stumbled on the book in the new books shelf at the library. Anything re Everest will get my attention but as I read the first time, I realized I had to purchase the book. Its breadth demands study.

National Geographic sorts of accounts of Everest expeditions always interested me. Possibly the first book about Everest that I read would have been Four Against the Mountain.. That book had local interest. Woodrow Wilson Sayre, President Wilson's grandson, who wrote of his bumbling attempt to climb the mountain, lived near where I grew up.

The book tells how Wilson and three friends snuck into Nepal and tried to climb the hill. They lacked experience, skill, and an army of porters. Additionally, they eschewed bottled oxygen. They were lucky to return alive. It was an almost happy-go-lucky jaunt, except for the serious privations and danger that they faced. The book introduced the concept of anti-belaying, which can be translated as barely controlled falling. Their attempt was almost a satire on the military assaults that attempted and scaled the summit the previous 40 years. Their attempt also foretold the jaunty amateur ascensions that have crowded Everest in recent years.

Strictly arm chair mountaineer, I've read many mountaineering books. I harbour no inclination to get myself into that kind of trouble, I guess I like the second hand frisson of these adventures. When I read, long after it was 'news', Jon Krakauer's Into Thin Air, I became focused on Everest. Say, did you know the mountain's namesake pronounced his name EE-ver-est?

Including Krakauer's, I've read some six accounts of participants in the events of the disastrous 1996 season on Everest. I've reread most of them, tho no scholar do I be. Hard to explain the fascination but the tug is sure.

Anyway, Davis' book, perforce, begins with the horrors experienced by those who fought in World War I. This is the context, the mindset of the participants. I guess it is an existential gestalt, tho heaven knows I never expected to use such a phrase in my life. How can one embrace the notion of such slaughter? The war brought changes: horses faced tanks, infantry met machine guns and mustard gas. A generation slapped with ultra-force, producing a brand new deadening future. The War to End All Wars, Part 1.

Davis powerfully dilates on the wholesale human loss. Those who survived, who walked on thru, still had a world to see. A blackened, desperate world that one can no more comprehend anymore than the leveling peak of Everest. Almost all who participated in the three Everest attempts in the 20s were veterans of the trenches.

And that's not all. British interest, Chinese interest, empire interest:: the desolate place where lively tectonic plates still push mountains higher becomes an opulent pawn in the growing misgivings of civilization. One can hardly understand the necessity of such strident need, yet it seems so familiar.

About 80 pages in, iconic George Mallory appears. In other chronicles, he would be the sole star. His generation saw him as second only to Rupert Brooks in masculine perfection. That's a commodity, by the way. Physically beautiful, intellectually brilliant, gracefully athletic, and even upper crusty, despite not actually having the means, son of a vicar as he was.

Mallory was certainly of his time, as are we all. Tho progressive of thought, he still remained camped in the class warfare of British Empire. British Empire, however, had lost its shoes, its feet, and finally its heaven. World War I was an open spigot of loss, and by the way, World War II awaited.

The expeditions to conquer—a boding but correct word—Everest were emblems of relief for a pragmatically lost nation. Britain was lost by the nature of loss, as too the whole of Europe. The many maimed veterans who found their way to these attempts on Everest's summit seem to be trying to make sense. Function and purpose join forces: the mountain must be climbed.

In 1921, an expedition of discovery. This required a mapping of a vast, vast, vast unknown. A military sensibility built a logical and logistical tally of the problem and its solution. Sahib and coolies worked together in the task of finding a way to the mountain, then to its peak. Touching the crown hardly played into the exercise for this first expedition. Folks learned to bicker themselves into a (fairly) united purpose.

The reconnaissance recognized human strengths and weaknesses.Empirical steps to reach the driven conclusion. For instance, the air gets mighty thin as altitude climbs. For George Mallory and Sandy Irvine,finally, death, which don't have no mercy. But that's later on, let the story unfold.

The second expedition more firmly saw the summit as its goal. Supplemental oxygen? Not yet, wouldn't be sporting. No fixed ropes or permanent ladders across crevasses, either. Looking for a possible route. Outlanders from Canada and Aus-bloody-tralian looked down upon, let us sigh.

Empire is a clock, which is to say, it runs down. A generation of best and brightest entered the European soil in a display of ridiculous proportions. Davis states that none of the British high command visited the front. Thus could be ordered measured marches into strafing machine gun fire, the idea being that order must be maintained.

When Mallory was asked why climb the mountain, he replied famously, Because it is there. That could have been a flip remark but it follows such egregious whimsy as the bloody battles over and into bloody turf. Why march into machine gun fire? Because the ocular command, with no firsthand understanding of the front, says so. At least the mountain offers a sense of accomplishment.

The big mountain was not next door to anything, so science and survey needed to secure its place and size on the map. This is where glamour gets lost, but it impresses one, the effort to get the picture straight.

As mentioned, Mallory himself doesn't really appear till page 80. He's the hero because we need heroes. Seemingly, anyway. A breathless span of pages offers reviews, let us say, of Mallory's physical beauty. Everyone in the Bloomsbury crowd as well as others wax poetic about his beauty. From a young age he scurried up myriad mountains of Europe, enough to become famous. Otherwise he is a teacher at some stifling school. He survives the war largely unmaimed, tho the vision of slaughter cannot go away, can it?

The second expedition, one year later, seeks possible routes to the top. So much remains unknown about the mountain. Also of the people living within its shadow. With largely colonial zest, the expedition marches in again. Someone is mapping the land, a few others are cataloguing the local flora and flora of the land, even getting to know the native people themselves. Mostly, tho, the British trundle in and over. Glory is the goal.

Several climbers reach the so-called death zone some 2000 feet from the summit. The thin air barely supplies enough oxygen for the climbers. A one last attempt on the summit ended when an avalanche sweeps seven porters to their death. A serious pall and the now familiar why not me?

It boggles the mind what these climbers wore on the mountain. Wool waistcoats and scarves seem better suited for jaunts on the moors than the sub-zero blizzards common to Everest. Nails in shoes sufficed for crampons. Lacking the fixed ropes and ladders that have since been installed, climbers had to cut steps in ice and snow with their ice axes.

With the pall of death from this second expedition, and not wanting to part from his beloved wife and family, Mallory hardly wants to go again. Yet 1924, he relents to join the third expedition. By now, he is convinced on the necessity of supplemental oxygen.

Mallory has become a national hero by now due to his exploits and his personal glamour.. The third expedition brings young Sandy Irvine. Irvine is somewhat a younger version of Mallory. At 21, he's a star athlete and mechanical genius. He brings no mountaineering experience, however.

Finally the day that Irvine and Mallory leave the highest camp for the summit. Typical of Mallory, he forgets his flashlight and his compass. An observer at base camp sees them on a ridge. They are seen alive no more.

Seventy five years later, Mallory, as corpse, is rediscovered. You can join the speculation whether the duo made it to the top or not. As Edmund Hillary—namesake of a Ms Clinton—said, getting down alive is part of the challenge. But that's not to discredit the effort, of Mallory and Irvine, or the entire expedition. They charted new territory, no matter their intentions and concerns. And Mallory was a sort of pillar or prop for a fading empire.

What war isn't ugly, but World War I brought empire to a standstill, stalling in the bloody mud horror of battlefields. All glamour and glory disappeared, which seems to be what made Mallory so appealing a hero: he seemed a knight from a more flowering age.

I would put these early attempts on Everest alongside, say, the space program. The grand goals of reaching the moon, or Everest's summit, only to leave soon after, do not themselves bring the reward. But the galvanizing effect on the respective nations, and most especially the knowledge gained, prove the true value. National glory simply chastens the human value of curiosity and development. Think of the disputed land of Alsace-Lorraine, where iron for the pounding guns of WWI could be gouged in fantastic proportion from our only earth.

British command ordered infantry not just to walk toward machine gun emplacements, during one assault, but by god to maintain ranks. The nutbank sees everyone but themselves as pawns. Sound familiar? Like maybe hedge fund managers and corporate maximizing? The war remains at our heels.

Everest is a playground now, tho fresh corpses still make it real. The summit presents a muted glory to attain now, not to say an easy climb. It's just there, no longer a program, just a badge. Had I the courage and stamina, and the dough-re-mi, I'd take a stride up. But it is hard to get past the exponential bloodbath of the Somme and all those other insensate abbreviations of human life. Empires still consume the people, tho now done with money in hand. To renege on promise is to own the world.

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