Monday, August 31, 2009

we can all be statesmen

We don't all have to be Ted Kennedy.

Or Ronald Reagan.

Or whomever.

But we can all be statesmen.
(Or women -- people).

We can concentrate on, and take pleasure from, doing what we can to make things better for someone.
Instead of how to smart off, tell somebody off, or have "attitude."

I didn't have television for five years. Then -- checked it again. Cable and network alike have descended -- it appears someone somewhere is trying to push pornography to the mainstream, by making mainstream more like pornography.

I'm looking at my TV screen and thinking, "Hmm. Writhing body parts. Whatever."

Have been trying to analyze the change I see in modern life; a friend of mine agreed our current lifestyle has become meaner and stupider but neither he nor I could say Why.

Is one component / factor / influence possibly the "reality - show" phenomenon? All the "trash talk" -- eliminating people, under-cutting people, putting people down? The Simon dude on that one talent show with the judges?
I mean, somehow we've ushered in a tv-following culture where a few people are actually paid to be -- not only rude, but actually obnoxious and cruel.

This result was probably no one's intention when they invented these shows. They were only seeking ratings and coming up with the next edgiest thing.

I perceive the behavior which was created to generate "excitement" and "ratings" has spilled over into the culture, and consequently there's a new generation that thinks that's how you actually behave.

It's not completely generational, though -- let me hasten to add -- some of the worst behavior comes from the over-50 crowd. (They're watching the TV shows, too.)

And it didn't start, I'm realizing, with reality shows. It started with the talk shows going crazy, pushing for ratings, wanting to be shocking. I'm going to contend that it started in the 80s when Geraldo Rivera had some "skinheads" on his show and one broke a chair over someone's head, I think.
And it was big news, at the time. Remember?

Holy Toledo, that's been 20 years ago.
So this yuck-fest has been coming, 20 years. 25 years.

Friday, August 28, 2009

a good and decent man

A few weeks ago I kept trying to think of that phrase -- the man who..."saw wrong and tried to right it, saw suffering and tried to heal it..."

The reason I was thinking of that phrase and that sentiment was because of a situation where I observed somebody who had the ability and the clout to make something better for people, and he did it. He chose to help. He chose to make it better.

And I thought a lot about the POWER FOR GOOD that's in that inclination and willingness to use one's strength, ability, creative thinking, and pure, simple power to Make Things Better.

We talk about those qualities in our statesmen (especially when they pass away, as Ted Kennedy did this week). But it certainly is not only national or state leaders who can apply this power -- everyone can do it, in daily life.

I get inspired thinking about that.

I couldn't remember, earlier this summer, if those phrases -- "saw wrong and tried to right it," etc. -- came from the eulogy for President Kennedy in 1963, or the eulogy for Bobby Kennedy in 1968. Looked it up: Ted gave that eulogy in '68, for RFK.

"My brother need not be idealized, or enlarged in death beyond what he was in life, to be remembered simply as a good and decent man, who saw wrong and tried to right it, saw suffering and tried to heal it, saw war and tried to stop it. Those of us who loved him and who take him to his rest today pray that what he was to us and what he wished for others will someday come to pass for all the world."


Wednesday, August 26, 2009

without cynicism

"He was a man without cynicism."

"He had no hate in his heart."

"He turned adversity into compassion."

(Things said about Ted Kennedy today, at news of his passing.)

Writer Mike Barnacle told an anecdote about when he was having difficulty or scandal (some kind of fuss about 10 years ago, and I can't remember what it was, now -- there was something...) -- & he said this morning that Sen. Ted Kennedy came and talked to him and told Mr. Barnacle to come on over to his place and sit on the porch and just spend some informal social time because, the Senator said, "Nobody knows how to hide out like we do."

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

my novel: comedy noir

The book I am writing is a novel.

working title: "Idiotville"
or, "The Power And The Glory"

Novel, first.
Then, stage.
Then, optioned by a movie studio but they never make the film.

That's the working plan.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Movie based on a play

Thinking about "The Best Man" (1964) starring Henry Fonda, made me think of other movies based upon plays, and also the interesting differences between the art forms.

A movie -- you can do over and edit, to get it right, then you have one finished product.
A book, also -- it's about the finished product, which people then buy and read.

A play -- you attend it. And while it's supposed to be the same every night, the process of ironing out differences and difficulties and tough patches may continue.

Is a play like a blog? If you were writing the same blog every day, and trying to make it better, but essentially discussing the same info & ideas.

Movies based on plays: I guess there may have been many, many. (Were all of the Rodgers & Hammerstein musical movies first produced for the stage? The Sound Of Music; Oklahoma!; South Pacific? Yeah, I think so.)

Then -- "Hello, Dolly!"; "Chicago"; and "The Best Man," the political play we discussed Saturday.

Oh, and "Play It again Sam" -- Woody Allen's very funny film predecessor to his '70s Major Treats, "Annie Hall" and "Manhattan" -- "Play - Sam" was a play, first.

When I think of what actors go through, to put on a play -- the repetition -- the idea of it blows my mind. The physical and mental involvement with the material night after night, with the audience right there. It would have to be a whole different experience from filming -- not to say better or worse, just different.

Plays I've seen: "Bring In Da Noise, Bring In Da Funk": Broadway, New York, New York.
"The King And I" Boston
"Fiddler On The Roof" -- college production.
And more. Those are main ones.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

"The Best Man" Henry Fonda

"The Best Man" is a movie made in 1964, starring Henry Fonda. Based upon a play written by Gore Vidal.

(How is it that my interests include literature and politics and history, yet I have never read anything written by Gore Vidal? May have to get on that.)

I just discovered "The Best Man" a couple of weeks ago: had never even heard of it. It was on Turner Classic Movies channel in a day-long series of Henry Fonda movies. (He had such a diffident way about him.)

The couple of minutes I caught looked really good.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Notebook of books and movies

One of my favorite things is a small notebook I have. Found it at a bookstore. It's about 4 x 6, hard-cover, with solid metal double-rings down the left-hand side.

On the front: a picture of a book by Marcel Proust; on top of the book is a white cup & saucer, a spoon resting on the saucer, and a small amount of coffee still left in the cup.
On the back: on the left-hand portion of the back cover, someone's white bookcase with books; to the right, bare wall above, and at the lower-right corner, a shelf or mantlepiece corner, with an ornamental horse & jockey on top.

The pages are lined, and good quality. What I use the notebook for is to write in the title every time there's a book I want to read, or a movie I want to see. (I thought at first I would use up all the pages in the notebook fast, but I have had it for several years now & and it's not full. I have learned to be more discerning about what I want to read and watch. Life is short.)

Also, I don't write down every book and movie I'm going to experience -- some, I just go read it or see it -- but I note the ones I think I'd like to do sometime, and cannot now, and don't want to forget....

What's in my "Booknotes" notebook?

All The President's Men
(book by Woodward and Bernstein) + movie

The Beat Generation, by Jack Kerouac

The Voices Of Silence, by André Malraux

The Age Of Reason ((turns out there's one by Sartre and one by Thomas Paine -- I think I want the Paine one, but not sure)

Grace And Power, by Sally Bedell Smith

The Greek Way, by Edith Hamilton

Democracy, by Henry Adams

by Reinhold Niebuhr: Moral Man And Immoral Society; and Christianity and Power Politics

Remembrance Of Things Past, by Marcel Proust

Nixon And Kissinger, by Robert Dallek

The Reagan Diaries

by Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr.:
A Thousand Days
The Imperial Presidency
Journals: 1952 - 2000

CHILDREN'S BOOKS which I would like to review and have in my modest "library":
the "Madeleine" books
the Winnie-the-Pooh books (A.A. Milne)
the "Babaar" books
Adventure at Black Rock Cave (out of print, have to find)

The Power of Myth, by Joseph Campbell, Bill Moyers, & Betty Sue Flowers

books by Samuel Johnson

The Duchess, by Amanda Foreman
+ the movie

[on democracy, recommended by Pres. Obama]
The Declaration Of Independence
The Federalist Papers
The Constitution

The Sting
The Queen

My Life So Far, by Jane Fonda

by Malcolm Gladwell:
Outliers: The Story Of Success
The Tipping Point

I'm Not There
No Direction Home
Julie & Julia

essays by Ralph Waldo Emerson

Civil Disobedience, by Henry David Thoreau

The Decoration Of Houses, by Edith Wharton

The Decoration Of Houses, by Alexandra Stoddard

movie: "Milk"

The Life of Samuel Johnson, by James Boswell

Slaughterhouse-5, by Kurt Vonnegut

The Ugly American, by Eugene Burdick and William Lederer

Bob Dylan's autobiography

A Theft, by Saul Bellow

The Best Man (1964) -- Henry Fonda
the one about Woodstock (the original Woodstock movie + the new one)
Big Night (on the strength of Anthony Bourdain's recommendation)

have a great weekend; use your time well

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The idea of democracy: three things to read

President Barack Obama suggests reading the following three documents, to understand the original concepts of democracy in America:

The Declaration of Independence;

the Federalist Papers; and

the Constitution.

Made a note of these on one page of my small notebook where I write in the titles of books I want to read and movies I want to see.
(Some I've read or seen before & want to re-....most, haven't read or seen yet, but want to.)

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

First Lady Michelle Obama: shorts on vacation

The people in the media who fussed today about Mrs. Obama wearing shorts seemed so silly, and their non-conversation about this non-news non-event served as a reminder to me of why so many people say, "I never watch the news anymore."

Mrs. Obama was in Arizona.
In August.
On vacation.

The non-talk also reminded me of something I read in a biography about Jacqueline Kennedy; some people wrote letters to the White House to complain that Mrs. Kennedy wore a two-piece bathing suit while water-skiing.

And - ?

I read last winter at Inauguration time when the pressure was on as to what the First Lady would wear to the various events, Mrs. Obama said, "No matter what you wear, there are going to be some people who don't like it."
That's a wise observation which we could apply to all areas in life, not fashion only.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

White House Tour

By the way, speaking of Mrs. Kennedy's "restoration" of The White House, we can all view the Tour of the White House, featuring Jacqueline Kennedy being interviewed by television journalist Charles Collingwood, aired on two networks in 1962, NOW on YOU TUBE.

What a treat.

There may be a couple of different versions of the tour. When I first checked it, there was a film on there which was very indistinct, and sort of distorted or something -- old film. But now if you type in


you will see one version (probably at the top) that says "high quality" -- click on that, up in the right-hand corner it will say "David Von Pein" and there's a small picture of Mr. Von Pein, looking down, thoughtfully.
That is the best quality version of the film on You Tube, to kno knowledge -- in part 3, or 4, or maybe 5, the picture becomes somewhat dark but don't be discouraged -- you can still hear, and the darkness goes away after a while, & you can see just fine.

In the earlier, harder-to-see version of this film footage, viewers had texted in -- as Mrs. Kennedy spoke, in her elegant style, on the historical significance of the various objects, peppering it with anecdotes, one text (I picture it being typed by a 17- or 18-year-old guy) read,

She knows lots of shit.
Quote, end quote.

I appreciated that.

Monday, August 17, 2009

restoration of things

TIME Magazine's 40th anniversary issue about the year 1969 featured an article about Kurt Vonnegut (novelist): "God damn it you got to be kind," read the sign Vonnegut put up on the wall of his study in that busy and overheated year.

TIME's story on him goes on --
That command, TIME declared on reviewing his 1969 novel, Slaughterhouse-Five, was the core message of Vonnegut's work, however obscured by sci-fi fantasies, absurdist philosophizing and shockingly bleak humor. "For all his roundhouse swinging at punch-card culture," TIME noted, "his satiric forays are really an appeal for a return to Christ-like behavior in a world never conspicuously able to follow Christ's example...."

Reading that the first time, I thought, "a RETURN to Christ-like behavior??" Maybe we humans could just TRY that, once... I didn't see any precedent for that, which we could really "return" to.

That question / realization made me think of Jacqueline Kennedy's "restoration" of The White House. She made a huge and admirable project of collecting and placing in The White House pieces of furniture and artwork which had been in the house in the past, during various administrations.
[From Donald Spoto's biography of Mrs. Kennedy]:
Margaret Truman...much admired Jackie' s achievements...She also recognized Jackie's brilliance in using the word RESTORATION rather than REDECORATION, for the former term suggested disinterested authenticity rendering the project immune to criticism. As Miss Truman noted, there was, of course, "no previous perfect White House in the past which diligence and research could restore. For most of its long career, the place had been an unnerving mixture of the elegant and the shabby...[But] Jackie hurled herself into her task with a passion that swept away obstacles and enlisted enthusiasts everywhere."

Similar to the era, or example, of Christ-like behavior -- there was really no previous thing to "return" to, or to "restore" --
word-wise, "restoring" something or "returning" to something, seems less scary and more conservative, more something We Ought To Be Doing if we can imagine that it's been done before. Even if it hasn't. Instead of breaking new ground, we seem to be getting off of a bad track & "back" onto the road we should never have left in the first place. We are "returning." "Restoring."

Rationale. Rhetoric that works.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Starting my blog 8/15/09

Saturday, August 15, 2009

God damn it you got to be kind.

TIME magazine published their booklet telling us about the year 1969, from a distance of 40 years; I bought it, looked at it; on the last page there's a story about Kurt Vonnegut, author of the novel "Slaughterhouse 5" -- the article begins by telling us that in 1969 Mr. Vonnegut put up a sign on the wall of his study at home: the sign read "God damn it you got to be kind."

I concur.

I'm going to get a sign like that. Or a person could have it put on a T-shirt.