Damon Draws Bubbling Tributes

Article excerpt

The December Vanity Fair cruises on the rim of the cutting edge. The cover goes to Matt Damon in a bubble bath; he's getting the kind of career breaks of which all young actors dream but that few achieve.

He is starring in "The Rainmaker," based on the John Grisham book, which opened last week at movie theaters and won him dandy plaudits for his acting. This week, "Good Will Hunting," a movie that Mr. Damon co-wrote (with longtime pal Ben Affleck) and in which he stars, is getting advance reviews right off the wall. The Variety reviewer calls his performance "towering" and "charismatic" and talks of his "catapulting to stardom" with Oscars in his future. Steven Spielberg (directing him in the new film "Saving Private Ryan"), Francis Coppola (who directed him in "The Rainmaker") and Gus Van Sant (who directed him in "Good Will Hunting") are all quoted in Vanity Fair heaping virtual bushels of roses on the young man from Boston.

The same issue gives you a most interesting piece of a quite different nature. Howard Blum's "The Trail of the Dragon" reads like a potential script for the next James Bond flick. Mr. Blum recounts a daring undercover sting, Operation Dragon Fire, in which Treasury agents made the largest seizure of automatic weapons in U.S. history. The agents are still wondering whether certain Washington-Chinese connections may have prevented Stage 2: capturing the Chinese princelings (children of Red China's elite) behind the deadly shipment. It makes for a compelling and tantalizing read.

The issue rounds off with a nifty photo album by resident photographer Annie Leibovitz of the magazine's 1997 Hall of Fame. The 35 people "who made the year" range from Ellen DeGeneres to the late Diana, Princess of Wales. The deceased royal clotheshorse's "last love" comes under close examination by Sally Bedell Smith, who did such a devastating job on the late Pamela Harriman in her biography earlier this year.

What with all the talk of women in the military and in combat these days, scholar Lawrence Osborne in the December/January issue of Lingua Franca has tackled the issue. He takes a lively look at how female archaeologists are trying to make a case for a matriarchy - complete with real female warriors lost somewhere back in the mists of the Neolithic age.

A professor of archaeology at UCLA, Marija Gimbutas, expounded a theory that held sway only among radical feminist scholars like herself that ancient Europe was inhabited by a culture that was "probably matrilineal, agricultural and sedentary, egalitarian and peaceful," until some "patriarchal villains" came along and destroyed this female Eden.

Mr. Osborne quotes Mary Lefkowitz, a professor of classics at Wellesley College and an authority on women in ancient Greece, who concludes: "Patriarchy is not a conspiracy to which you can ascribe dates and generalizations. You cannot say: `Patriarchy brought in the Iron Age and oppression.' " The article gives you lots of informative, meaty details about ancient civilizations and modern feminist notions about them. Given the evidence so far, archaeology doesn't seem to offer the feminists much support for their case. …