Monday, October 05, 2009

Inside, Outside

Is it over? Has Ken Burns' The National Parks: America's Greatest Idea finally ended? I think I saw about three episodes, or perhaps one episode three times. When Burns was pimping it on every talk show except Prime Minister Question Time, I suspected it would be a dog, and I was right. Old photographs? Check. Narration by Famous Actors? Check. The same wan fiddle-and-guitar music Burns has been using since The Civil War? Spectacular nature film indistinguishable from the spectacular nature film on two dozen other channels and programs? Check and double check.

I know, other people were rapt. I am not an outdoor person, I admit that freely. I don't like heat, bugs, unpaved paths, sleeping on the ground, or even standing on the ground. I descend in an unbroken line from people who lived in Wales and Cornwall and spent most of their time in mines. All the melanin was bred out of us by the end of the Stuart era. I have to put on sunblock to watch Lawrence of Arabia. As for eating outdoors, a hot dog at the ballgame will cover it for me. When someone tried to induce my father to cook outdoors, he invariably replied that it took thousands of years for humanity to reach the point of preparing food in the house, and he was not about to reverse all that progress. A wise man. Why do you think the weather report always describes today's principal air pollutant ("fine particulates," whatever that means)? So, OK, I gave it a shot, and one waterfall looks much like another. I'm glad the parks are there and all, but don't expect me at Yosemite anytime soon.

I also confess to a certain lack of affect over the location of the Olympics seven years from now. A lot can happen in seven years; I may not be the only person who doesn't give a damn, especially if the Mayans are right -- yes, I got bored and took a couple of peeks at the "History" Channel -- and the world will end on September 21, 2012. (Of course, if the Mayans were such ace prophets, why didn't they anticipate the sudden disappearance of their whole civilization?) I thought President Obama was badly advised to schlep all the way -- what? Schlep, it's a good Welsh word. To schlep all the way to Denmark to make a pitch for the games. He's the President of the United States, not the Chicago Chamber of Commerce. Better he should fix the current Kafkaesque nightmare of obtaining a visa to come here, which is the real reason they picked Brazil. And I have to admit, I'm intrigued by the possibilities of the opening ceremony in Rio, with fifty thousand people all dancing the samba.

Anyway, challenged by the title of the Burns extravaganza, I composed a list of ideas I consider to be at least as great as national parks:

The First Amendment, polio vaccine, the blues, free public libraries, Louis Armstrong, the GI Bill of Rights, Astaire and Rogers, archy and mehitabel, Social Security, musical comedy, synthetic rubber, pizza delivery, the music of Aaron Copland, and the phonograph. I am open to suggestions.



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