Friday, June 19, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 06/18/15: Shakespeare and Nixon, *All the President's Men*, The National Arboretum

1. I watched the last segment of the documentary, Watergate:  A Third Rate Burglary.  Nixon's story became Shakespearian to me. Shakespeare builds certain of his tragedies around the growing confinement of his tragic characters. Macbeth comes to think he can secure the throne he has killed for by commissioning more widespread killing and as he has these murders carried out, he comes to see that he is "cabin'd, cribb'd, confined bound in/To saucy doubts and fears". Nixon's world, similarly, grows smaller and smaller as he nears his resignation. Within himself, he is bound in emotionally by paranoia and physically he is confined to the White House. It reminds me of how Othello's world also closed in on him. Once occupied by jealousy, a primary feeling, by the way, of Nixon, Shakespeare shows us that whereas he once traveled the expanse of the world, both the northern and southern hemispheres, now his world is confined to a citadel and within that citadel to a small bedroom where he murders Desdemona, cannot escape,  and kills himself. Exploring and portraying murder, murder prompted by paranoia and jealousy, is a way that Shakespeare magnifies what destroys the soul. It helps us see that a man like Nixon, who politically destroyed rivals with dirty tricks and crimes, confined himself in the futility of covering up these deeds, and used the office of the presidency as an instrument of revenge, was eventually suffocated by the pressure and confining consequences of his actions, making him, to me, a man who can be understood, in part, by these stories of Shakespeare.

2.  I finished the documentary and immediately went to and rented All the President's Men. I first saw this movie toward the end of my senior year at Whitworth in Spokane at the Garland Theater and it riveted me, no doubt because it's a thrilling work of art and because the story was so fresh.  Now, nearly forty years later, the movie thrills me even more. More now than forty years ago, I am thrilled by the cast and the brilliant acting of the entire cast, no one plays a prominent lead role, but all play character roles in scintillating support of one another. Yes, Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman lead the cast, I suppose, but the rest of the cast is equally compelling and memorable whether it's Jane Alexander or Jason Robards, Jack Warden or Lindsay Crouse, Martin Balsam or Hal Holbrook, Stephen Collins or Robert Walden -- for starters. It's among my favorite movies ever made.

3. Earlier in the day, I drove down the Baltimore Washington Parkway and exited onto New York Avenue and entered the gates of the National Arboretum.  I left much unexplored, but I walked to the Grove of State Trees and then to the Fern Trail.  The Fern trail took me into a heavily wooded and shaded area, perfect for a day where the temperatures were rising into the high 80s.  I took pictures at the Arboretum.  Here are a few of them:

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