A few people have suggested that, since professionally, I have a background in speech arts (now we call it communications and when you interview anyone for a job they say they are ‘good with people’), I should comment on the President’s ‘Not a State of the Union’ speech rather than on the people who were using their Blackberrys. It was a wonderful presentation, full of hope and flourishes with a goodly amount of no nonsense and “We are the World”. And I mean that in the nicest possible way. It was a speech that if not predictable was at least not unexpected – well crafted, clear, crisp, punctuated with words that trigger positive emotion and I dare say inspiration. While he didn’t say much about how we are going to recover from this economic disaster, he did say “yes we can”, and “yes we will.” I love that he mentioned the First Lady and he identified people who were determined to overcome their difficulties. I thought that the fact that he didn’t pause for applause or a standing ovation – any number of times, was both charming and an example of his determination not to pause for the obvious. But what’s the difference what I thought about the speech. The stock market is still falling and it doesn’t look like recovery is eminent. But there are always surprises and that’s what makes life worth living.
Take for example, the fact that David Burnett was recognized by the people who select Photographer of the Year, as one of the top three Photographers in the world. In the world! We who know that he is always among the best, were not surprised, but he was.
Like the President of the United States not waiting for kudos, there is a certain charm in David’s surprise. What I found most interesting about the contest, and for that matter, so many of these important contests, is that the awards usually go to people who are covering wars. The people who are just terrifically talented and make something out of nothing stories have a much harder time winning recognition. Somehow, the idea of a journalist covering a story where their life isn’t in eminent danger has less value. This is not something I understand, maybe because when you see what David can do with a little light and often not much cooperation, is so staggeringly amazing.
And speaking of surprises, last night we went to see the revival of “Blithe Spirit” in previews. I usually like to go to previews because they are a bit raw and truthfully, much cheaper – unless there is a bad review and then they are finished. Anyway, the performance, despite the talent (Angela Lansbury, Rupert Everett and Christine Ebersol) was a little rough. The lighting needs work, the script needs to be polished, and there were a few problems with the dialogue. But in previews there are more likely to be surprises. Like at one point last night, in the heat of a monologue about séances, Rupert got so excited he yelled something about the ‘fucking’ situation. This is not a word Noel Coward would have used in any of his parlor comedies, and the other actors on stage just stopped dead and broke up. It took a few minutes before the play got back on track, but it was a delightful few minutes. This is not something that happens once the show opens.
This afternoon we went to see “The American Plan”. Again, an incredibly talented cast but it has already opened so everything is polished and flows. I thought it was going to be about a relationship between a mother and daughter and while, in part, it was, there were a few surprises that made it so much more. And aren’t surprises, even challenging ones, often so much better than predictability.
My friend, The Amazing Kreskin, (and yes we do call him Amazing instead of using any other first name) leads a life of surprises. He is a mentalist and makes the most astounding predictions about everything. Tom Hanks is doing a movie based on his life.
Like he predicted (in a sealed well-protected and guarded envelope), about a year before the primaries ended, that Obama would be the President. Where so many of us were surprised by these results, Amazing was not surprised. I asked him once if not being surprised takes some of the joy out life. He just laughed and told me that he didn’t know everything, just enough to make a living and make things more interesting. But he was not going to give away any secrets. And that was no surprise. We're just sayin'...Iris