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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 Spiderman again.

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 punish'd."

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 soap?

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 told you.

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.


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