Sunday, July 18, 2010

Breakfast of Champions

Hagler and Hearns, Gatti and Ward, Frazier and Ali, Foreman and Ali—great fighters and epic bouts always suggest the iconic power of the dyad. Schlink and Garga, Brecht’s two heroic protagonists in Jungle of Cities, embody the mythic power of the head-on clash between two wills—in this case in the urban setting of early-twentieth-century Chicago. Ludwig Wittgenstein threatened his fellow philosopher Karl Popper with a poker at Cambridge, but who is the classics scholar with the greatest understanding of Antonioni—the deceased William Arrowsmith of the University of Texas or the Canadian poet Anne Carson? (And what would attract classics scholars to the work of a neo-realist Italian director anyway?) The Bloods and the Crips have had a long and violent rivalry, while East Coast and West Coast rappers’ long simmering hostility resulted in the murders of the Notorious B.I.G and Tupac Shakur. The United States and Russia were the two great rivals of the twentieth century, and the jury is still out about who will take the spotlight in the 21st. Could it be India and China fighting for the heavyweight title, with the United States watching from the VIP box as a venerated former champ? Pepsi has never been able to take the crown from Coke. Microsoft and Apple are the big rivals in the world of computers, while Google knocked out Yahoo in the first round, and Facebook took down My Space. The verdict is still out on who will win the war between AMD and Intel over microprocessors. And who was the winner between these pairs of contenders: Hemingway and Fitzgerald, Jane Mansfield and Marilyn Monroe, Truffaut and Godard, Strindberg and Ibsen? Naturally the Empire State building won out over the Chrysler (until the World Trade Center came along), as did The Museum of Modern Art over The Whitney when it came down to who would be the Maecenas of modernism. Protestant versus Catholic, Shiite versus Sunni, the Empire, the Rebel Alliance, Lenin, Trotsky, Pound, Eliot, real versus surreal—who will carry the victory torch?

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