Saturday, September 27, 2003

Edward Said and George Plimpton died this week

Edward Said and George Plimpton died this week...

I first met Edward Said in 1980, I believe it was, when he was giving a talk at Duke University on Orientalism. Sadly I didn't know who he was at the time, but was deeply moved by his depth and passion. Since that time, I have often thought about him and his work, and often look back on that intimate meeting with a sort of reverence. He was a light illuminating much that is even still kept in the dark. May his work and spirit live on...

All Things Considered: September 25, 2003

Also this week, another monumental personality passes from us.
George Plimpton, among other things, was a great fan of pyrotechnics...and it was in this context that I first made my acquaintance with the lofty old soul.

It was in the early 1980s in Boston, and Mr. Plimpton was to host an international fireworks festival. George introduced each country's firework presentation, describing the subtleties and techniques employed. And while the display was taking place, an orchestra would feature that country's music.

The French were really good with pastels; the English were good at causing the fireworks to sort of park themselves in the air, then branch off in different directions, then repeat the process. The Japanese fireworks were most similar to viewing a computer screen, and the fireworks seemed to be directed at the stationary viewer. Palimpsests were also quite excellent. The Chinese had perhaps the strangest. A dozen strings of glowing red apples that slowly drifted across the sky, in time with the music. Very subtle. Very different from the American fireworks that finished off the evening...and, by the way, won the competition. To me they merely looked like a battleship had pulled up to the shore and just starting opening fire on the crowd. Huge white fireballs.
Goodness gracious!

For his myriad interests which he shared with the world, George Plimpton will be missed and remembered. I don't expect to have a more scintillating experience of the world of pyrotechnics.

Goodbye to two great gentlemen.