Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Blue Latitudes: Boldly Going Where Captain Cook Has Gone Before

"Blue Latitudes" is an amusing chronicle of Captain Cook's long ago travels through the Pacific, with author Tony Horwitz trying to visit many of the key locations visited by the intrepid British navigator, ranging from Tahiti to New Zealand and Australia, then back across Polynesia to Alaska and his final ill-fated landing on Hawaii (which always made me think of Hunter S Thompson's book "The Curse of Lono").

Horwitz seems to be a big fan of the self-made Captain, painting an impressive picture of his accomplishments and character over the course of his career, while giving plenty of airtime to the natives of the places he visited, who by and large aren't enthusiastic about the changes that occurred in the wake of the Captain's discoveries of their homelands.

Horwitz doesn't simply present a history inspired travelogue - there is an element of detective work as he tries to unearth new knowledge about the Captain, and his alcoholic sidekick Roger provides plenty of humour with his witty asides.

From the book - "Cook's concluding passage on aborigines is among the most extraordinary he ever penned:"

They may appear to some to be the most wretched people upon Earth, but in reality they are far happier than we Europeans: being wholly unacquainted not only with the superfluous but the necessary Cinveniences so much sought after in Europe, they are happy in not knowing the use of them. They live in a Tranquility which is not disturb'd by the Inequality of Condition: The Earth and sea of their own accord furnishes hem with all things necessary for life ... They seem'd to set no Value upon any thing we gave them, nor would they ever part with any thing of their own fo any one article we could offer them; this in my opinion argues that they think themselves provided with all the Necessary's of Life.

Looking For Eric

Like Gran Torino, "Looking For Eric" is a political fable, though in this case its a socialist tale rather than a libertarian one.

"Eric" tells the tale of embattled Manchester postie (and United fan) Eric, suffering from depression and with 2 broken marriages behind him and 2 slightly troubled teenage boys to look after on his own.

Eric struggles to keep in control of his life when one of his sons gets into trouble with a local gangster, and finds refuge in a phantom Eric Cantona, who materialises out of thin air from time to time to offer him advice.

The film had a number of flashbacks back to highlights (and lowlights) of Cantona's soccer career which brought back pleasant memories of my first stint in the UK - and overall the tale of worker solidarity helping Eric to put his life back together and overcome his gangster problem was quite an uplifting one.