August 20, 2007

The Three B's: Boccaccio, Beruit, Bourdain

I am not a fan of Anthony Bourdain. You know, the chef extraordinaire so full of smug arrogance it is hard to believe he has room in his lungs for breathe. He is currently travelling around the world for the Travel Channel making shows about eatteries in various countries. However, my view of him is changing given his most recent show, Anthony Bourdain in Beirut. This was an amazing show cataloging his stay in a country sliding sidewise into the horrific chaos of a war zone. This show, though, marks a watershed for me in my view of him. I am surprised at his candour and his fury at how slipshod the American rescue attempt was for those stuck in Beruit during the latest war between Israel and Lebanon. No doubt, because of my background in Humanities, he reminded me a lot of Boccaccio's Decameron. For those wishing a refreshing dip into the classics is Fordham University's link. For those just needing a gloss, the Decameron is a story about rich Florentines who fled to their country estates to escape the black death. The parallel for me, was when Bourdain and his filming crew helpers wind up stuck at an extremely beautiful hotel where they cannot flee until their local "fixer" sets things up for them to move to the shore. And that is dependent on the U.S. Marines/Navy finally getting around to picking up refugees at the harbor. Bourdain finds this dicotomy of being safe poolside at a resort hotel while watching other peoples' lives being destroyed upsetting enough to comment on it. It was chilling. No matter what side of the war you supported or believe was justified, this documentary deserves as much play as possible in the U.S. It shows better than words how fragile life is, how easy it is to lose, how reality and comfort can vanish in the space of a breathe, of a sentence, in a heartbeat. Is there safety in the world? Real safety? Not possible. I believe that safety is the illusion of the uninformed. Life is a precarious business made much more so by the expectation that a good life, a comfortable life, will never go away. Maintaining a mindful attitude toward possessions, toward waking the next morning, really is essential for me to maintain my balance in a seriously skewed world which feels the need to attack, counter-attack, endlessly. Jean Dixon, the psychic phenomena of the 60s, said the end of the world would start in the 1990s in the Middle East. Watching Bourdain's show cements that view in my mind. By all means try to find a copy of it to watch. Soon. Until then, peace.

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