Thursday, March 24, 2011

Heavy and Light

It's spring break and so we're all moving differently. I happened upon this scene this morning (Iris: Magic Tree House; Oliver: Eldest) and just stood transfixed.  They're older now: it's really happening.  Reading, interiority, knowledge: Iris warning Mac about cobras in India; Oliver playing out moral dilemmas presented by the book.  I love to watch them deep into their books, and then also to see them re-emerge into the busy world they create for themselves.  They move between heaviness and light so much more easily than we do.

Fragonard. Girl Reading.1770
Hmmm - I'm not the only one who loves to linger on images of kids reading.  It's been a productive day what with being at home with the three kids, (two articles and half a book read, 9 out of 17 essays graded, and I hope to do the short answers of a midterm before bed), but I couldn't wrap my mind around any writing. Partly, I've undoubtedly doomed myself to a bit of writer's block by inviting my future Kalamazoo audience to spend our time together between the "heaviness of matter and the indeterminacy of meaning" in considering stained glass (but that's exactly where I want to be, as I'd like to work with Chaucer's wild stained glass window in the Book of the Duchess, and the struggles for meaning that the pilgrims have before the Canterbury windows in the Tale of Beryn).  Partly, with more time to think it through, the world is rushing in, and I am reeling at news of a bus bombing in Jerusalem (already at the end of a string of explosive exchanges), and I wonder how to even think about Libya.
Lion of the Desert (1981)
Enter Mac and his splendiferous Netflix queue. Lion of the Desert starring (incredible) Anthony Quinn, Oliver Reed, John Gielgud and a cast of thousands from Libya itself.  It's splendid to see Anthony Quinn inhabit the role of Omar Mukhtar - the opening scene has him teaching the Quran and you feel like surely you're just seeing him at home, relaxed, natural. Everything else is really hard to watch: another chapter of colonial history complete with concentration camps, rape, barbed wire walls, and all of the other "civilizing" enterprises of occupation.  Mussolini is played by Rod Steiger and is portrayed with manic, dogged rage.  Oliver Reed plays General Rodolfo Graziani, the 6th governor sent by Mussolini in 1922 to take care of the Libyan "problem" that had been on-going since the 1911 invasion.  It would be September 11, 1931 before they would hang Omar Mukhtar; and 1981 before Gaddafi invested $35 million into the movie.  The director was Moustapha Akkad (Syrian-American, known for the Halloween movies, and getting ready to film a movie about the Crusades and Saladin starring Sean Connery when he was killed by a suicide bomber in Jordan in 2005).  So it looks like people held the Gaddafi funding against the film - and Italy itself banned the movie, showing it one a cable TV show one day that Gaddafi was visiting Rome in 2009.  The movie's really surprising as I think about it: splicing footage (devastating footage of the miles and miles of tents that made up the concentration camps tightly bound in barbed wire) with filming, scenes staged from photographs (reading the Wikipedia article while watching the movie was downright weird) and giving full eloquent reign to Omar Mukhtar.  Does it make thinking about what's happening in Libya today any easier? Not at all. But I love Mac for this.

And so back to light somehow - a butterfly and a pirate outside in 72 degree Farenheit weather; finding out that Mac most likely won't sustain any hearing loss from his ruptured eardrum of last week (and being so grateful the pain is receding); the kids coming up with elaborate rituals to say goodbye to the old, dying tree we had to take down in the front yard today (the very phrase "stump grinder" had Iris fascinated (and repeating it) for hours); finding myself unable to think through Chaucer as author except through the lens of his blogger; getting ready to celebrate my Dad's 91st birthday tomorrow.

The best part of this is Iris's deep, delighted chuckle at the end after having so laboriously loaded her arrow. Ok, and the way Oliver reveals his true identity by ripping off that tiny white sailor hat. Oliver deployed the old "we are sailors in need of help" trick to fool the captain of the British Navy into falling into his pirate clutches. Mac really gave it his all. Huzzah for spring break!

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