Sunday, February 24, 2008

American beauty

I finished this book last week -- it was absolutely wonderful. It's the journey of a man who somewhat accidentally joined the circus when he hopped a train in the early 1930s. The story is rich and somewhat founded in truth, the characters are compelling, it's a rare well-written man's voice from a woman author, and there are elephants. What's not to love?

What makes it even better are the pictures that accompany each chapter -- amazing black and whites of various aspects of the circus at that time (the picture above is from here). It's hard to imagine when seeing these pictures that these were real people -- mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, friends, enemies. It wasn't even 100 years ago but they feel so distantly removed. The men are stone faced and stern, with handlebar mustaches. The woman have short curled hair and are equally stern, despite wearing sequence and showing more skin that what would otherwise be acceptable. They are handsome at times and lovely at others, but these extraordinary people were the object of fascination, lust and envy for all the "rubes", the men and women who followed the circus parade through town to the big top.

The Oscars are on tonight. I'm really looking forward to the show -- for the first time in a long time I've seen all of the Best Picture nominees and several of the others (one of the perks of having a flexed schedule that includes being done at noon on Thursdays). I'm also looking forward to seeing what everyone looks like -- the absolute beauty of our celebrities is almost overwhelming at times. They are the objects of fascination, lust, and envy for we rubes who follow them to whatever they're doing, whether its an epic film or attending a Hollywood party or just running into Starbucks.

I imagine that people 100 years from now will look back on our US Weeklys and In Touchs and feel as far removed from our standard of beauty as I do from the girls who rode the elephants and performed the high wire acts.

Enjoy the Oscars -- here's an SNL sketch from last night about the film I'm rooting for:

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