Monday, June 15, 2009

Xiangqi in Harvard Square

To play Xiangqi (Chinese chess) as earnestly as I have been lately [see, and] is to revisit a  familiar situation, one in which I am at the gateway of another culture, hungry for the experience, but positioned as a junior. That was the case with African drumming and with neurological difference, for example, especially Asperger's Syndrome. I studied and wrote about both (a book pertaining to the former, many pieces about the latter) but could never be full-fledged.

Is it absurd to stake out such positions? Is it a sign of open-mindedness, or of failure and flight from one's own cultural possibilities?

(But wait, I forgot! This peculiar sort of intervention, of sympathetic nosiness, has another name -- anthropology!)

Monday, May 4, 2009

Film Review: Tyson directed by James Toback


Tyson directed by James Toback

At the end of "Tyson," James Toback's movie about him, the ex-heavyweight champ, now 43 years old, breathes heavily and falls silent. He seems talked out, and is certainly, by his own admission, punched out. After his last bout, in 2005, a dull exhibition in which he was defeated by journeyman fighter Ken Mcbride, Tyson caressingly wished his foe a good career, and declared that he would no longer sully a sport he loved by participating in it with nothing in mind but the purse.

It was a graceful departure from boxing by a man whose entry into it was marked by unique fury. There was never a younger heavyweight champ than Tyson, and maybe never -- as clips in the film abundantly argue -- a more dangerous man to encounter in the ring than Tyson was in his late teens and early twenties. The veteran trainer Cus D'amato took in the raw kid, both predator and prey in his Brooklyn neighborhood, broke him down, according to Tyson, and put him back together. D'Amato mentored him, taught him, filled the once insecure fatso, helpless when bullies stole his glasses, with terrific confidence. Tyson, after catching onto D'amato's con game, went along with it completely.