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Stateside with Rosalea: Finally Last Sunday

Stateside with Rosalea

Finally Last Sunday

Three things came to fruition last Sunday:

1) The peace march in San Francisco.

It was originally scheduled for Saturday, the same day as the rest of the world held theirs, but out of deference to the organisers of the long-established Chinese New Year Parade, the anti-war folks moved their march to the next day, and the official Year of the Ram parade website got a little pop-up to that effect. I usually watch the CNY parade on the telly, because you get the best views and explanatory comments as well, but my telly was banished to the closet six weeks ago, so this year I missed the parade.

I wasn't going to go to the peace march but early in the morning I heard a radio broadcast of the speech Arundhati Roy made in Brazil a couple of weeks ago. Roy is an Indian writer who won the 2002 Lannan Prize for Cultural Freedom, and who has said she will donate the $350,000 prize money to 50 people's movements, publications, educational institutions, theater groups, and individuals in India. The Lannan organisation praises cultural freedom as "the right of individuals and communities to define and protect valued and diverse ways of life currently threatened by globalisation."

Roy's speech in Brazil was largely about how the Indian government, in its rush to the riches that globalisation seems to offer developing nations, is becoming a repressive, hardline, Hindu nationalist regime. When she described the atrocities visited upon some Muslim women in Gujarat recently, I decided to take up the mailing-list invitation I'd received from the Women of Color Resource Center and Racial Justice 911 and join their contigent in Sunday's peace march.

Going on a march is not an end in itself, though it has the wonderful effect of making visible the invisible. (And for a creative way of making the inaudible audible, in 1978 in Teheran people protested the military curfew by going on to the roof of their houses at midnight to cry out "God is great". They weren't in the streets and they were simply saying something that was said five times a day in prayers, but by the strength of the voices they could tell how strong the movement was. The military, of course, said it was all being done with cassette players.)

Let's not allow the peace march to be just another Sunday (or Saturday) stroll. Impending war with Iraq may very well be the least of the world's problems, and even the smallest of those problems may seem insurmountable. But as Roy once told a friend, "The only dream worth having is to dream that you will live while you're alive and die only when you are dead." When her friend asked her to explain, Roy said she meant: "To never simplify what is complicated or complicate what is simple. To respect strength, never power. Above all, to watch. To try and understand. To never look away."

2) I went to see 'Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers'.

Now that it's three months into its season, the movie is showing in one of the smaller plexes in the local multi. In fact, the theatre was uncannily like a hobbit-scale Embassy Theatre in Wellington, and sitting in the front row with my feet on the balcony railing I was about as far away from the screen as the colour grader must've been when the film was in post-production.

Suffice to say I had eyes only for the Gollum, which was so realistic even at such a close range that I could almost feel the cold exuding from his clammy skin. As one of Peter Jackson's puppets in 'Meet the Feebles' was nominated for an acting award in the NZ Film Awards one year, I don't understand why Smeagol wasn't nominated for an Oscar in one of the acting categories. He was the only character I cared about, even if all the other actors played the full gamut of emotions from w to w: wide-eyed, winsome, wicked, wizardly, warlike, watery-eyed, wistful, wretched, war-weary and waggish.

Bravo for starting the film with the battle scene that seemed to finish off the only character I cared about in the first episode - Gandalf - and a twinkle-eyed "tsk-a-tsk" for obliterating the entire city of Christchurch as seen from the hill up above Sumner and replacing it with a bog full of dead people. This is an incredibly difficult story to turn into a movie - with everyone getting split up and going every which (and wizard) way - but still I was so engrossed in it that I was sorry it ended when it did. I'm just somewhat peeved that the humans couldn't have figured out how to be dam busters and the trees had to do it for them.

3) I finished reading 'This Just In'.

One of the reasons it was easy to banish my telly to the closet was that it was football season and my favourite Sunday morning political show had been replaced by sports talking heads guessing how the day's games would go. The show I missed was 'Face the Nation' on CBS. Its host, Bob Schieffer - whose brother Tom (a Democrat) co-owned the Texas Rangers baseball team with George W. Bush and was appointed by him as ambassador to Australia in 2002 - has just published a memoir that is fascinating reading.

Like Flick the Little Fire Engine, Bob Schieffer was the rookie back at the newspaper office he worked in at Fort Worth, Texas, when the phone rang and a lady asked if someone could drive her to Dallas to see her son, who'd just been accused of shooting John F. Kennedy. Schieffer's book is full of tales like that - of the opportunities that just fell into his lap and the ones he had to work hard for - over the span of his 40 years as a reporter.

For an outsider like me trying to fathom the US political system and its relationship to the media it is a goldmine of information. Because he has covered every major story from JFK's assassination to 911 and has the background information we don't always hear about, it is also a fascinating mirror against which to hold up what we have received officially and compare the two views.

The book is subtitled 'What I couldn't tell you on television', and though that title has already been lampooned by a local newspaper columnist I still think the book is essential reading for people outside the States. The worst thing about the book is that now I'm having a Smeagol moment as I battle the urge to take "Precious" back out of the closet just so I can watch the Sunday shows again.


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