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Discussion in 'The Reading Room' started by Lancealot, Aug 13, 2006.
The series is AMAZING. I enjoyed it very much.
This sounds fascinating! Adding it to my MASSIVE TBR list.
Another leave day, disorganized, lazy bastard that I is, just coffee and rolls. And the Lounge.
And Yu Darvish traded to the Padres. Levinson's Reading The Federalist in the 21st Century was
to be the daily grind but YD trade upset the apple cart, ran a bull into the china shop.
In From Russia With Love, Bond is killed. Fleming failed to conceptualize 007 as a literary
franchise so the renewal falls a tad flat. A bit much. And the hokey never took with moi,
but the girls were the drawing card. Lois Maxwell as Moneypenny charmed me if not Bond.
More than one game of Chicago southside alley stick ball ended with Bond girls discussion.
Gladstone's remark that the American Constitution was the finest work struck by the mind of men is correct.
I have Sanford Levinson's An Argument Open to All; Reading The Federalist in the 21st Century now open
atop my desk. Levinson is a law prof at Texas, and, while certainly entitled to his opinion, is more typical
of academe cynicism than erudite reason.
Hamilton's remarks on the Judiciary, #78-83 account Publius at his best.
My sister lent Too Much and Never Enough; How My Family Created The World's Most Dangerous Man,
Mary L Trump, Ph.D.
Victor Hugo is cited as sanctimonious epigram a Les Miserables; predictable window dressing
for this literary hit job but the inside baseball is paternal intestacy with subsequent dissatisfaction,
ira magna admodum perturbatus postquame sedes, so the knife is out.
Levinson's Federalist Papers take is a pedestrian note that falls far short of the mark,
but, this unplanned sabbatical caught me a bit off guard.
David Mamet trumped Mary L Trump, Ph.D. Another loan, jacket featuring a FBI agent leveling
a Thompson without magazine, aimed downrange alley. The agent has a tie, lapel pin,
watch chain charm-probably a fraternity key or regimental shield. A "Leatherheads" cap
tops the look. Definitely not a gangster. And Mamet plays varsity.
But the title grabbed me: Chicago.
The Peanuts Papers: Writers and Cartoonists on Charlie Brown, Snoopy & the Gang, and the Meaning of Life
This has been a fun read - I have about a quarter left to read. It's always interesting to me how different people view popular culture, in this case, the comic Peanuts drawn by Charles Schulz for 50 years. Some takes I agree with, and others I don't. That's what is so wonderful about art: we each takeaway our own interpretation.
High Fidelity by Nick Hornby published in 1995
Some books are good because they accurately capture a moment, a place and a group of people, as Bright Lights Big City did for just-out-of-college kids in NYC in the '80s. I was a kid just out of college living in NYC in the '80s and, while I didn't live the drug culture of that book (I still agonize over taking one aspirin), I still saw its people and culture all around me back then. Was it well written, I don't know, but it was real.
High Fidelity feels like it did the same thing for mid-thirty-year-olds in London in the '90s, capturing that time in life when an ennui sets in as many have to accept, for the first time, that they are in no way young anymore and that all their dreams aren't going to come true. But there's enough humor about bad decisions and life stuck in first gear to keep the book from being a downer. Instead, it's a pretty fast, light read.
College-drop-out Rob is a struggling record-store owner who dwells on every failed relationship that he's had back to the early teen playground stuff that most of us breeze past in reflection if we remember it at all. But it was getting dumped in college that led to his dropping out and, eventually, a DJ gig and record store that turned a passion into, what has presently become, a failing business.
Now in his mid thirties, he still makes lists of his favorite songs and movies - and looks down on anyone with less-nuanced taste with disdain (like in high school) - with his equally directionless friends / store employees. Yet he can't help noticing that his other friends, especially the college grads, have moved on with their careers and relationships. This includes his lawyer girlfriend who has just left him for another guy, thus, sparking an early mid-life crisis.
Rob is so self absorbed that he can remember twenty-year-old conversations with a girl he went out with for a week, but can't see that his obsessing has left his life in a cul-de-sac. With that set up, the rest of the book is Rob half trying to get both his lawyer girlfriend back and his life in order, while also sabotaging both of those efforts with his obsessing, his inability to stop making the same mistakes and his ego that he knows is his enemy, but still can't help.
If you have a friend like Rob in your life - kinda self destructive, but also charming in his or her enthusiasm and silliness - you can feel the authenticity in High Fidelity. Plus it's pretty darn funny at capturing the small craziness that goes on in everyone's life, loves, jobs and family.
And it's equally good at capturing the cultural zeitgeist of that final pre-internet moment when making mixed tapes to impress a girl was still a thing or when stapling paper flyers to telephone poles was how people promoted everything from garage bands to new magazines. It's a good, fun and fast read to breeze through while you're deciding what you really want to read next.
N.B. The book was made into a movie that I think I enjoyed, but my only real memory of it is that Rob's girlfriend in the film was insanely pretty. I'm sure the book is better, but I'll be looking out for the movie to see it again just to compare.
Seeing 'the vulgarity of reality,' Blake Ursch, Creighton Fall 2020
Covid-19 pandemic bioethical issues and Jesuit philosophy.
High Fidelity awesome review^
Richard J. Evans The Third Reich in Power. It's a trilogy and I started with the middle one, but that's okay!
Also going to start reading Ginger Rogers' autobiography.
I saw her at Chicago's Water Tower Place. High School sometime. And I was getting up my nerve
to ask for an autograph. A small circle of women encircled her but an opening presented and I almost,
well, one of the ladies asked her if she had slept with Fred Astaire. Ms Rogers demurred, crimson faced,
laughed. And I got the hell outta there fast.
Just finished "Wrapped In the Flag," by Claire Connor -- a personal account of growing up in the John Birch Society.
I was interested to read this because I have a friend who had a similar upbringing, and still bears the marks of it, but I wasn't prepared for the sheer cultiness of Ms. Connor's childhood. Her father was a high-ranking operative in the JBS, in charge of much of the Midwest during the group's peak years in the early 1960s, and her mother was a key figure in the JBS drive to censor school textbooks to follow the Birch line, and she herself was forced to join the organization at the age of fourteen -- and remained, increasingly against her will, until she managed to work her way out during her years in college. Her parents remained devoted to the Bircher philosophy until their deaths, leading to a very fraught situation for the family, and Ms. Connor spares little in discussing those tensions and the impact they had on her own life.
But more interesting are the people who passed thru the Connor home during her teen years. There is "Dr." Revilo Oliver, a pseudo-intellectual anti-Semite who went on to be a key figure in Willis Carto's "Liberty Lobby" organization, who turned the Connors into Holocaust-deniers, there is John G. Schmitz, a crusader for moral propriety and member of the US House of Representatives who was taken down by a particularly gamy sex scandal, and there is JBS founder Robert Welch himself -- a rather tedious, unexciting man whose two great accomplishments in life were inventing the Sugar Daddy and injecting a mainline dose of conspiracist paranoia into the 1960s Republican Party. Oh, and coming up with "documented proof that President Dwight D. Eisenhower is an active and conscious agent of the Soviet Union." Ms. Connor grew up practically worshiping all of them, until, finally, she didn't.
There's a lot of sadness here as Ms. Connor, bit by bit, sees the "certainties" and "fundamental beliefs" she was raised with for what they really are, only to see those beliefs and attitudes mutating into new guises in the 21st Century. There's a lot to be gotten from this book -- which, it turns out, is more than just one kid's story.
"Liberty does not exist in the absence of morality."
"let your reason serve
To make the truth appear where it seems hid.
And hide the false seems true."
Certitude and fundamental beliefs are subject to trial and Truth is no less real for hardship and sacrifice.
Nihilism or solipsistic hold fails the test of human experience.
I listen to NPR quite often, and, recent events are typically described as a coup d'état instead of a rabble
of discontents consumed by angry rage. A rage analogous to apparent vindictive parliamentary move
to retaliate under constitutional guise bereft of legal veracity.
"And coming events cast their shadows before.
I tell thee Culloden's dread echoes shall ring,
With the bloodhounds that bark for thy fugitive king."
-- Thomas Campbell.
Well, the World Series window has closed on the Cubs, but Jed has hammered nails so glass winder shut.
Darvish, our fugitive king has been banished to the Left Coast where the southpaws reign.
I saw all this foretold when Chili Davis cast out to the Big Apple.
Just finished Northanger Abbey and now well into Mansfield Park as I once again do a turn about Austen as one of her characters would say.
Jane Austen, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and Emily Dickinson are fascinating ladies to spend time with.
Austen and Dickinson are enigmatic reclusive mystics , while Browning is more flirtatious,
Poe dedicated his Raven to EBB and her coquettish reply to the despondent scribe is delightful to read.
Inside Warner Brothers (1935-1951) by Rudy Behlmer originally published in 1985
The majority of Inside Warner Brothers is an incredible treasure of business memos and letters sent to and from the Warner Brothers themselves, top executives, producers, directors, agents and the studio's famous stars from the titular years of 1935-1951 (with a few from the pre-code era of '30-'34).
These letters and memos provide such a direct view into the workings of the studio that you feel like you're a Warner Brothers' exec getting cc'd on the major movie and business events happening at the company. Helpfully augmented by author Rudy Behlmer's periodic commentary that provides context or follow up, it's hard to imagine a better way to see how a major studio operated during the peak years of the studio system, which also overlaps with Hollywood's putative Golden Era.
You quickly learn how much of a business making movies really is as budgets, personalities, power struggles, egos and worrying about what the customer (the ticket-buying audience) wants dominates the memo flow. While artist considerations pop up, the real drive is to create, at the lowest cost possible, movie after movie that the public wants to see.
Inside Warner Bros. shows why "the studio system" is a good description for how the company operated. It broke the business of making movies down into its component parts and tried to standardize each one while maximizing efficiency by doing things like utilizing the same sets and props across many movies, limiting location shots and reusing the heck out of stories it had already paid for.
While that's neat stuff, the real fun of the book comes from the window into how some of your favorite movies got made or its reveals of the stars' personalities and foibles. Yes, the silliness is here, like Errol Flynn, who comes across as a pretty nice guy, hating the part in his long-hair wig in The Adventures of Robin Hood enough to write a wordy but thoughtful letter to Hal Wallis, the number two man at Warner Brothers (the wig got changed).
But you also see that actresses such as Bette Davis wrote intelligent and nuanced letters directly to studio head Jack Warner (stardom does have its privileges) on serious subjects ranging from whether a part was right for her to why she is willing to be "suspended" (not paid her salary because she refused to do a movie) owing to the unfairness of her contract.
However, star Humphrey Bogart comes across as an insecure cry baby who's vain and emotional. And while studio-head Jack Warner was, oftentimes, brutal, manipulative and dishonest, you wonder if you wouldn't start to pick up some of those traits if you had his insanely demanding job to do with many loudly complaining stars, directors, producers, censors and others firing missiles at you every single day.
Most enjoyably, we see those memo missiles flying around the making of classics like Jezebel, where there was much worry at the studio that it was too similar to Gone With the Wind. Now Voyager pops up, where it seems every actress was considered before Bette Davis (who killed it in the role). Even the noir classic The Big Sleep's confusing story was fretted over, but those concerns were put aside as Warner's movie-makers understood that good scenes and actor chemistry matter more to movie-going audiences than the story itself (see Hitchcock films for the apotheosis of this view).
Finally, when reading all the memos about the uber-classic Casablanca, you almost get nervous that they are going to screw it up as they consider other actors for the roles: George Raft for Rick, Hedy Lamar for Ilsa, Dean Jagger for Lazlo. They are all fine actors, but you don't change one brushstroke in the Mona Lisa.
The Casablanca angst ramps up more when you learn that executive producer Hal Wallis wasn't in love with Dooley Wilson for the part of Sam as all you want to do is scream "shut up Wallis, no one asked you." He also wanted the role of Sam changed to a woman, again, "shut up, Wallis."
While some of the memos can be tedious, overall, it's a heck of a trip through Golden Era Hollywood. It's not the book for a newbie, but for those reasonably familiar with the movies and stars of the period, it's an incredible insider's view of one of the defining studios of the day.
Ingrid Bergman and Bogie. The perennial timeless question. Rick struggled and came to the only correct
conclusion, all things considered. Fated love, heartbreak, Paris. Ilsa. What a woman.
Thankfully, Warner Bros made this flick.
I doubt it would have been the same movie with George Raft telling Hedy Lamarr to get on the plane with Dean Jagger.