Sunday, 31 January 2010
A review for Amazon: 'I give the DVD set five stars'
Our son recently sent to my wife and I a present of the Ken Burns boxed DVD set devoted to the National Parks and, short of an actual visit (or a repeat visit in some cases), he could not have chosen a nicer or more enjoyable a gift. 720 minutes is exactly twelve hours of viewing pleasure and every minute of Mr Burns's astonishingly good work is worth a viewing - and then a re-viewing (and I don't mean a reviewing, which this is), for no one in his or her right mind could conceivably grow bored with or tired of such beauty. The actual parks, some of which we have seen ourselves, are marvellous, but the photography and commentary that make this set so marvellous remind me of Mr Burns's other and earlier triumph, the set on America's tragic 'Civil War,' which we also possess.
Watching the DVDs and imagining that we were with our son, a few more thoughts came to mind and they all relate to seeming contradictions in popular perceptions of the U.S.
First, there is the seeming contradiction between what most American people are said to think and to practise - the acquisition and possession of private property, whereas the National Parks are the opposite, for they are mostly the Government's property, they are in public ownership.
Second, there is the seeming contradiction between what most American people are said to think and to practise - the pursuits of commerce and commercialism, whereas the National Parks are the opposite of commerce and commercialism, for they are not there for profit, except the public 'profit' of the people's good feeling about them.
And, third, there is the seeming contradiction between what most American people are said to think and to practise - the 'sport' of hunting in all its forms. I once asked a very good North Carolinian friend why he shot a black bear. His reply was two-fold in that he said that his pa and he 'had always hunted bear' and then, when pressed again by me as to why, he said, 'To eat, of course.' And it was true: he and his family had eaten some of the best bits of the bear. This old custom and practice is off-limits in the National Parks, thank goodness - and the U.S. Government.
My wife and I have visited the U.S. many times and I am still uncertain as to whether I understand the American people and what makes them 'tick.' Having so enjoyed Ken Burns's magnificent work - again - I have come to the conclusion that it is the very contradictions of life inherent and possible in a very great country that are more of its attractions.
I give the DVD set five stars with pleasure and gratitude to our son for selecting so suitable and appreciated a present.