Indoor Adventure Got a little downtime? These new releases take the viewer, reader and listener from the Colorado Rockies to the heart of Africa to the bubbly surf of the North Shore

May 11, 2003

Front Range Freaks
directed by Peter Mortimer
Axolotl Productions, $29.95

Hollywood needs to put Timmy O'Neill (left), a.k.a. the Urban
Ape, in a big-budget action movie. The guy climbs walls like
Spiderman, and without special effects--or equipment. In the
documentary Front Range Freaks you see him scramble up the walls
of shops and office buildings, even 12 stories up the side of a
University of Colorado dormitory, pausing at windows to razz
startled students.

O'Neill's shtick is the most entertaining part of Front Range
Freaks, a low-budget, free-spirited hodgepodge of vignettes
showcasing the characters of the Colorado climbing community.
Some segments follow specific climbs, others specific climbers.
You get a few minutes on Biscuit the Climbing Canine, and you can
follow Hank Caylor and friends as they scale a 400-foot
smokestack then parachute from the top. The most memorable
segment tells the story of Derek Hersey, an accomplished climber
who often worked alone and without ropes, and who died in a fall
in 1993, at age 36. His climbing footage is eye-popping, and his
personal story compelling--he lived in near destitution,
eschewing the workaday world for one in which he could climb as
often as possible.

O'Neill, though, remains Front Range Freaks's most delightful
freak. Here's an idea for Hollywood: In the next XXX movie,
couldn't Vin Diesel use a fun-loving, wall-hopping Urban Ape for
a sidekick? --Bill Syken

Into Africa: The Epic Adventures of Stanley and Livingstone
by Martin Dugard
Doubleday, 340 pages, $24.95

Explorer David Livingstone was already world-famous for his many
surveys of Africa when he left England in 1865 to find the source
of the Nile. Then he disappeared. He had been missing for five
years when American explorer Henry Morton Stanley--sent to Africa
by New York Herald editor J.G. Bennett, who thought locating
Livingstone would make a great story--set out on a 975-mile trek
to rescue him. Along the way Stanley suffered malaria so severe
that he went temporarily mad, took part in a war, put down a
mutiny and watched his closest companion die. But on Nov. 10,
1871, in Ujiji (in what is now Tanzania), he found a toothless,
emaciated white man, to whom he uttered the immortal greeting,
"Dr. Livingstone, I presume?"

Some may ask, Who cares? African explorers are now regarded in
some circles as arrogant colonialists who laid waste to
wilderness and oppressed indigenous people. Stanley fit that
description, but Livingstone did not. And while Dugard provides
little new material in his retelling of one of history's most
famous adventures, he does great service in showing that
Livingstone is worth remembering.

Livingstone was no saint; he slept with a number of African women
and fathered at least one child out of wedlock. But his
explorations were motivated by a sincere love of the continent
and its people. He fought tirelessly against the slave trade, and
it is a testament to his character that his African staff
followed him over thousands of miles, often for no pay, refusing
to desert him.

Stanley, by contrast, whipped his porters when they grew
exhausted; when they took ill, he provided no medicine. But
meeting the gentle Livingstone made Stanley ashamed of himself,
especially when Livingstone refused to leave his beloved Africa.
In 1872 Stanley journeyed to Zanzibar to buy fresh supplies for
Livingstone. He sent his porters back to Ujiji with the goods,
assuring them that Livingstone was "a good man [with] a kind
heart. He is different from me." Then he shook hands with each
one. Anyone who could so alter a man like Stanley may have
something to teach us yet. --Charles Hirshberg

On and On
by Jack Johnson
Moonshine Conspiracy, $18.98

On first listen Johnson's new album, On and On, doesn't sound
that far removed from his 2001 platinum debut, Brushfire
Fairytales, which is a good thing indeed. The former pro surfer
and surf filmmaker again blends bluesy beats with ethereal vocals
to produce a collection of playful tunes that dare you not to hum
along.

But listen a second time--and you most certainly will--and
Johnson's growth as a songwriter and musician is clear. He still
does carefree uplift with the best of them. But, turning to his
earliest musical influence, Bob Dylan, Johnson also indulges the
social commentator behind his flip-flopped, no-worries persona.
On Gone, Johnson asks, "What about your soul/Is it straight from
the mold/And ready to be sold?" Never has conservationist
preaching and railing against consumer excesses sounded so good.

And sound good it does. Johnson's vocals--smooth as a freshly
sanded longboard--are still the main attraction, but his singing
is more assured. Johnson has always loved the hip-hop artist in
Dylan, and it's exciting to see him evolving similarly. When
Johnson sings, on The Horizon Has Been Defeated, "People are
lonely and/Only animals/In fancy shoes," the sting is as vicious
as it is sweet. Carrie Bradshaw wouldn't care for this album--if
only she could stop listening to it. You won't be able to
either. --Josh Elliott

COLOR PHOTO: PETER MORTIMER COLOR PHOTO: DOUBLEDAY COLOR PHOTO: FRESH AND CLEAN MEDIA

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