It's been heartbreaking to see what has happened to Muhammad Ali.
The greatest boxer of our time, a figure of almost magical charisma, he now drifts through the days like a ghost haunting his own life. Too many blows to the head have resulted in Parkinson's disease.
In the June Esquire, Pete Hamill describes a dinner party of prizefighters and celebrities at which "everybody tried to avoid looking" at Ali. But Hamill could not tear his eyes away: He saw the 54-year-old Ali unable to move a piece of chicken 2 inches to his mouth, "the once lithe and powerful body sagging all of him shaking with the Parkinson's disease, with the damage caused by the fierce trade he once honored."
To Hamill, boxing is now a sport without honor -- or much reason for being. To explain why he's forsaking the sport he chronicled so well for so long, Hamill sifts through the human wreckage: Ali; former heavyweight contender Jerry Quarry, his mind lost to dementia pugilistica, also known as punch-drunk syndrome; welterweight Wilfredo Benitez, who got knocked out once too often and now sits in a darkened room.
Hamill suggests some reforms that might protect boxers from permanent injury, but admits that he now believes "boxing is one of those leftovers from a more primitive past that should be finished off and killed. I don't love it anymore."
Bland and brief
Bill Gates plays pinup boy on the cover of the June Wired, wearing nothing but a smug look and a bathing suit. It is not a sight for the squeamish. Neither is Denise Caruso's story about Microsoft's attempt to transform itself into a media company, at least if you're among those who think the software giant is already too powerful.
But then the propellerheads are going to rule the world, aren't they?
What it means for the rest of us is made bleakly clear by Paul Roberts in Harper's for June. Roberts spent two years in the belly of the beast, working as a multimedia "writer" for computer companies that need "content" for interactive CD-ROMS and on-line services. As he churned out screen after screen of info-nuggets on history and science, Roberts got the sinking feeling that "brevity and blandness" will be the "elements of the next literary style." In other words, reading and writing will be among the chief casualties of the digital revolution.
Who wants to read "Moby-Dick" on a computer screen?
Report on reporter
Robert Sam Anson is as tough on Bob Woodward in the June-July George as Woodward has often been on his subjects. Anson portrays the legendary investigative reporter as capable of deceit and manipulation in pursuit of a story (Judy Belushi, Richard Darman and Marilyn Quayle are three who consider themselves victims) and says he has on occasion burned sources by using material given to him off the record (a major no-no in this trade).
But no reporter will read this piece without a pang of envy at comments like this one from political guru James Carville, who admits thinking during an interview: "By God, Bob Woodward is zTC listening to me. Maybe I ought to tell him more." Now that's clout, when the fish feels duty-bound to leap onto the hook.
To any journalist nourished on the Woodstein legend, Anson's piece contains eye-opening details. He writes that Carl Bernstein contributed so little to "The Final Days" that Woodward wanted to take Bernstein's name off the book; that it was Robert Redford who suggested the narrative approach to the book version of "All the President's Men"; that Deep Throat was scarcely mentioned in the original manuscript but was inflated to a major character in the final version.
So just when Anson's piece had me finally starting to take George seriously (despite the presence of Demi Moore -- again! -- the cover), I turned to the back of the magazine and found an entire page given over to the political musings of Gloria Estefan.
If she were president, Estefan tells us, she would declare a National Massage Day, when "people would exchange massages -- or just neck rubs. I believe we'd have fewer conflicts if we all experienced a loving human touch every now and then," she writes. Memo to the Pentagon: Commence parachuting masseurs into Bosnia immediately.
Right, left, right
Todd Gitlin argues in the American Prospect that although today's right-wingers believe the '60s were the root of all modern evil, the Gingrichistas actually have much in common with the "counterculture McGoverniks" they despise. Gitlin points out that the 1990s right, like the 1960s left, "relish[es] polarization and wildness," practices an "unbridled individualism" and tosses around the word "revolution" like confetti. Moreover, the right spews raw venom at Bill Clinton in a fashion not seen since the left demonized LBJ and Nixon. "People pick and choose their particular '60s to savage or defend, but in either event are fatally marked by the '60s," Gitlin writes. Grim news for those of us who got sick of hearing about the '60s, oh, about 26 years ago.
By the beautiful sea
Did you have a pleasant Memorial Day weekend at the beach? That's nice. Now it's safe to go back to the newsstand and pick up Men's Journal, which will give you a case of retroactive willies with a piece on shark attacks. It seems there's been a 135 percent increase in shark attacks off American shores since 1991.
Pub Date: 6/02/96