Uncle Orson Reviews Everything
May 13, 2002
First appeared in print in The Rhinoceros Times
, Greensboro, NC.
Spiders, Rainbows, Bones, and Soap
During a Monday matinee, my eight-year-old discovered that Spiderman
was too scary for her to enjoy, so she and my wife spent the last forty-five
minutes in the lobby of the Carousel while the rest of us, heartless as we were,
continued to watch.
We saw a terrific movie, and contrary to the opinions of comix fanatix I've
heard from, not only is Toby McGuire the perfect actor to play Spiderman, but
also the mushy bits are the best aspect of the film.
Because McGuire was in it, I found myself actually caring what
happened to him, which never happens to me with superhero stories. And with
James Franko set up as the antagonist in the next one, I'm even looking
forward to the sequel.
I just hope Toby McGuire learns from the stupid decisions of Alec
Baldwin (he was the first Jack Ryan, remember?) and Michael Keaton (the first
Batman) and doesn't decide he has too much "artistic integrity" to play
Come on, Toby, your independent-movie credentials are secure. Do a
Spiderman every couple of years, and we'll still respect you in the morning!
Meanwhile, though, our eight-year-old and her mother got a different
kind of show -- a full-fledged frog-strangler, the rain came down so hard.
Fortunately, it had let up by the time the movie ended, so I didn't have to swim
to the car as I braved the elements so the others didn't have to walk.
Then the greatest show of all: As we pulled into the parking lot at Revival
Grill, we saw the most incredible rainbow, one of those rare ones that extends
from horizon to the other, unbroken, dazzling, with bright, rich colors.
Not only that, but another rainbow was half formed outside the first, so it
was a double. So cool that this Brad guy on one of the radio stations was
bragging about how his fiancee called him up and told him to go outside and
look, almost as if she did it just for him.
One of our party immediately remembered seeing another double
rainbow just as good near Cedar City, Utah, a few years back. So of course we
beat him up.
Michael Connelly, one of the best of the new generation of mystery
writers -- the writers who care as much about character as about the puzzle --
has just come out with a new novel, and it may be his best.
In City of Bones, set in L.A., Harry Bosch of the LAPD is drawn into the
investigation of the body of a child killed 22 years before. Nothing seems in
Bosch's control as cops and the press keep doing stupid things that get people
killed -- people who didn't deserve to die.
By the end, the mystery is solved, but there's no one to arrest. A
graveside service left me gasping for a glimpse of love that lasts and is kind, of
a person whose life is not shaped almost entirely by regret and remorse. I
could only think of the prince's last lines in Romeo and Juliet: "All are
Steven Saylor's A Mist of Prophecies is also a mystery -- but it is so
much more. Nine books into this series about Gordianus the Finder, who
makes his living solving mysteries in the Rome of Cicero, Pompey, and Caesar,
it is clear that Saylor is also giving us the saga of Rome during its confusing
transition from Republic to Empire -- and a view of some compelling,
complicated people, some of them fictional, and some of them historical.
You can begin reading Saylor's series with any of the books, since he
does a good job of catching you up, but it's more fun to read them all in order,
starting with Roman Blood.
Have you tried Dial Complete handwashing soap yet?
It looks like just another liquid soap, except the container is pink and a
little more squat-looking. But it's quite different -- it foams itself.
That's right, it comes out of the spout pre-lathered.
Now, how lazy do you have to be, that you can't even lather up your own
But the fact is, few people are really good at lathering. Glops of
unlathered soap are always falling into the sink, completely wasted.
With Dial Complete, that doesn't happen. Everything you get out of the
bottle is usable. No waste.
It's also lightly perfumed, which I didn't love, but soon got used to.
I have no idea whether it saves you money or time. I don't actually care.
I just think it feels good and works well, and when I use our previous favorites I
find myself irritated that they aren't Dial Complete.
OK, so maybe I'm a complete sucker who falls for every weird marketing
ploy that comes along. But maybe I'm a perspicacious "early adopter" who can
lead you to strange and beautiful experiences at the bathroom sink.
There's really only one way to find out, isn't there?
I was reading It Ain't No Sin to Be Glad You're Alive: The Promise of
Bruce Springsteen, by Eric Alterman -- a first-rate biographical sketch and
exploration of Springsteen's music.
The book was enlightening, but in the end, frustrating. Because, of
course, Alterman ended up just like everybody else. He wanted Springsteen to
be one thing, and criticized him when he turned out to be something else.
This came to a head when Alterman panned the "Human Touch" album
while praising "Lucky Town," which Springsteen released simultaneously.
What a bonehead! thought I. And how could he think that just because "Born
to Run" sold a lot of copies it was somehow his masterpiece when everybody
knows the real masterpieces were "The Wild, the Innocent, and the E-Street
Shuffle" and "The River."
OK, well, maybe not everybody knows it. But you know it now, because I
After all, I'm the guy who reviews rainbows, for heaven's sake.
And so what if "The Ghost of Tom Joad" was a disappointment. Themed
albums usually are, because the songs aren't true to themselves, they're just
bricks in a wall.
What Alterman and I do agree on is that Springsteen is one of the great
singer-songwriters, right up there with Joni Mitchell, Bruce Cockburn, Janis
Ian, Tom Waits, Carole King, and Gordon Lightfoot.
If all you ever heard of Springsteen's was the music from his "Born in the
USA" album, pick up "The River" or, yeah, sure, "Born to Run" -- or even
"Human Touch" and get some idea of his range, his depth, his power.