Saturday, September 13, 2008
I like Alan Alda
True confessions time. I like Alan Alda. And I have for a very long time. Of course it started with M*A*S*H (that was fun to type with the asterisks) which my parents let me watch when I was a kid. They were probably reruns since I was eight when the series ended. I'm not about to let my kids watch a show about drinking, sex and violence even if it is funny. I remember a few Scientific American Frontiers and of course every crossword puzzle fan knows the words "Alan" and "Alda" fit so nicely in those intriguing little boxes. But I didn't like him because of his acting skills, his recognitions, or his comic ability. He is not even particularly good looking (sorry Mr. Alda). The thing that has always drawn me to him is his voice. I just love the timbre of his voice.
This summer I read Alda's two autobiographical books, Never Have Your Dog Stuffed and Things I Overheard While Talking to Myself. I decided I'd like to find out more about the man and not just admire his vocal chords. And you know what? I think I like him even more. The first book covers his life from childhood to the time of writing the book, the second book is a compilation of his favorite bits of speeches he has given over the years, from college graduations to funerals. The second book is a bit drier and does repeat a few stories from the first, but still enjoyable. I hate spoilers, even of biographies, but I will say I admire Alda for his passion to do what he feels is right, his endless curiosity about the world around him and his accomplishment of still being married to his first wife. I don't agree with Alda on every issue he describes in his books, but his enthusiasm is admirable. I also enjoyed his ability to write the way he thinks and speaks. It was easy to hear his voice as I read.
To totally immerse myself in the Alda experience, my dh and I have been borrowing M*A*S*H DVDs from the library. We watch 3 or 4 episodes a night. It's our little evening routine. (Don't tell the kids about the Oreos that are also part of the routine.) Having read the books Alda wrote some 30 years after first playing Hawkeye Pierce, I am amazed at how similar the character of his early career is to the real man of the books. If any of you read these books, tell me if you notice this too. Not the drinking and promiscuous parts, the parts that show empathy, the ability to find humor in dire situations, and to fight against discrimination and inequality.
This week I taught my kids a science unit about zooplankton. Part of the unit was to make little clay and toothpick sculptures of zooplankton. As the kids were racing their creations in a big pitcher of water to see which would sink slower I thought, "Hey, this is combining art and science just like Alan Alda said in his book that people should try to do." Maybe it wasn't really, but that is the thought I had.
So I guess I have strange taste in actors. Sure George Clooney, Johnny Depp, and Matt Damon are fun to look at. But who cares what they say? I'd rather listen to Alan Alda any day.