Monday, November 30, 2009

pod - identities

Saturday there were good movies on Turner Classic Movie channel all day long. In anticipation of "Casablanca" coming on at 5pm our time, turned on the channel in the a.m.: watched one I had always heard of but had not seen -- "Invasion of the Body Snatchers."

Quite amazing. "Losing our humanity" was the concern. I actually came in about half-way through, so should say watched only half.

Apparently somebody gives you these pods -- you get stuck with them, basically the way many folks have got stuck with Amway products over the succeeding decades!

You have a pod -- one for each person, I guess. And somehow the pod absorbs your thoughts & memories and then you are gone and there's a new you whose eyes are sort of unnaturally wide open and calm, and people don't get psyched up about anything.

"Love, desire, ambition, faith" --
those were the things the pod-people are free of. And once they become like that, they think it's better. And they want the people who still are human to get their pods and be like them -- free of human feeling, and sort of robotic.

It seemed to me this film was made post-WWII (late 1940s or 1950s). That's how it looked. And it had the pared-down, black-and-white, almost simplistic shooting style and plain, simple musical effects, used sparingly. Reminded me of Hitchcock's "Psycho" in that way.

I think the pods represented people's literal fear, at the time, of losing their humanity. I think this was brought on by issues current at the time:

reaction against communism -- creeping McCarthyism
modern technology
atomic bomb

Now I've organized my own thoughts (guesses) about what the movie's alluding to -- and next (tomorrow) will look it up at library, to see if I'm right or not.


Friday, November 27, 2009

I'm grateful for...


Thought about things I'm grateful for:

boiled it down to Top 5,

then Central 2.


the music of Bob Dylan


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Casablanca blog

Anticipating watching "Casablanca" this Saturday on Turner Classic Movies channel.

That movie is so good, I thought, Maybe someone could have a blog that is only about the movie "Casablanca" and nothing else.


It could just be the "Casablanca" blog -- and a person could post daily and have something different to comment upon every day and never run out - !

You could have more than one person -- a lot of people posting on the Casablanca blog.

Kiss me. Kiss me as if it were for the last time.

Play it, Sam.

Louie, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine.

I stick my neck out for nobody.

Play it, Sam. Play "As Time goes by."


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

an excellent Saturday!

November 28

on Turner Classic Movies,
a string of excellent films
(no commercials -- yay!!)

(times listed are Eastern)

6:00 am "Singing In The Rain"

8:00 am "That's Entertainment!"

12:00 noon "The Thin Man"

2:00 pm "The Man Who Knew Too Much"

6:00 pm "Casablanca"


"Casablanca" is my favorite. Here's lookin' at you, kid. A perfect film. A diamond. A star. The best thing in the world.

"The Man Who Knew Too Much" -- Alfred Hitchcock directed. In his SUSPENSE phase. (The HORROR-leaning phase came later, in the 60s, with The Birds and Psycho. Psycho's good. I can't deal with The Birds. I LOVE his suspense films of the 40s and 50s.) Man Who -- James Stewart, Doris Day; mystery; beautiful cinematography; great psychological shadings in the story.

"The Thin Man" -- William Powell and Myrna Loy make one of those fabulous classic-movie couples. Witty repartee (sp?). Yay. A mystery / comedy. Black-and-white. Gorgeous.

"That's Entertainment!" -- Have only seen this once, on network TV when I was a teenager -- I don't remember the details of the program, but remember the title and the impression it made on me. Will watch again this Saturday.

"Singing In The Rain" -- I'm the last person in the free world who hasn't seen this movie. Friday the 27th I work until 10pm. Will I be able to wake up to watch "Singing In The Rain" at 5:00 am central time?? Wait and see; the suspense is endless.

Granted, I could rent it or buy it, or probably borrow a copy of it from a friend -- but there's something about watching the commercial-free classic film when it's on. It's like -- if Ted Turner's going to offer it to me, then I want to accept and enjoy.

Knew billionaires were good for something.

Thanks Ted.


Monday, November 23, 2009

The appeal of Peale

The first time I ever heard of Norman Vincent Peale and his impactful book, The Power Of Positive Thinking, I think I was in sixth or seventh grade.

There was a big book full of cartoons which had appeared in The New Yorker magazine. Somehow the book was at our house -- picked up second-hand, or borrowed from the library.

One cartoon showed a man and woman walking along. The man is ahead, the (one assumed) wife was coming along behind, deeply involved in reading a book she's carrying, while walking.

It's raining, in the cartoon: the rain is pounding down all around the husband and wife. Lines of rain are all over the square; it's raining on the man, soaking him.

But the rain disappears just above the wife's head; it comes down from the sky above her, then just goes away before reaching her.

They're walking along like that, one getting soaked, the other not.

The husband is speaking, with a grumpy, impatient expression on his face.

Caption says, "All right, stop reading The Power of Positive Thinking!"

Had to ask my parents what that cartoon meant.

One or both of them told me there was this book about thinking positively. That was the title, and the author was Norman Vincent Peale, a minister at the Marble Collegiate Church in New York City.

It sounded very grand, to me.

I didn't read The Power-Positive until years later, as an adult.
It really provided a blueprint for how I think about things.


Saturday, November 21, 2009















I want to enthusiastically recommend this book to Everyone.


Friday, November 20, 2009

stayin' alive

Listen to this paragraph

[from Woody Allen: A Biography
by Eric Lax
1991 Da Capo Press]

> > > > "I was at an early age attracted to a certain type of woman physically," Woody said some years ago. "It's very hard to crystallize exactly the look that turned me on so much, but generally it was almost what you'd call a Jules Feiffer type of girl, the kind that appear in his cartoons with long black hair, no makeup, kind of black-clothed, leather-purse-carrying, silver earrings -- almost a joke in terms of women today. But at the time I thought they were all beautiful.

And I found out so frequently when I used to chase after those girls that they were almost invariably wanting to leave Brooklyn and move to Greenwich Village and study art, study music, get into literature -- or blow up an office building. When I also found they weren't interested in me because I was a lowlife culturally and intellectually, I had to start trying to make some sort of effort to explore interests that they had; all I knew about was baseball.

I used to take them out and they'd say, 'Where I'd really like to go tonight is to hear Andrés Segovia.' And I'd say, 'Who?' Or they'd say, 'Did you read this Faulkner novel?' And I'd say, 'I read COMIC BOOKS. I've never read a book in my life.' And so in order to keep pace, I had to read. And I found I liked what I read. It wasn't a chore for me after a while.

I found I liked Faulkner and Hemingway, although not Fitzgerald so much. Then I started reading plays. The things those women read and liked led them inevitably to Nietzsche and Trotsky and Beethoven, and I had to struggle to stay alive in that kind of company."


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

thanks, babe

TODAY, read a book review in The New York Times Review of Books:

the book -- The Gift Of Thanks: The Roots and Rituals of Gratitude, by Margaret Visser

the title of the review: "Gratitude's Grace Can Be Itself a Gift," by Dwight Garner (NY Times book critic)

This thoughtful and entertaining piece made me think some thoughts.

(the first paragraph):
> > > > "It is a fact of life that people give dinner parties, and when they invite you, you have to turn around and invite them back," Laurie Colwin wrote in her bite-size masterpiece, "Home Cooking," published in 1988. "Often they retaliate by inviting you again, and you must then extend another invitation. Back and forth you go, like Ping-Pong balls, and what you end up with is called social life." < < < <

@@@ They "retaliate" by inviting you -- that's funny!

@@@ I remember when I was in 4th grade, I talked my parents (who rarely entertained) into inviting my teacher, Miss Marek, and her fiance to dinner at our house at the end of the school year. It seems funny, now. It was a miscellaneous impulse. It was nice of my mother to do it.

@@@ Someone told me year ago that a family in the little farming community where I spent my high school years had an Open House when they finished building their new house. The whole town was invited and no one came. (!) Good grief.

@@@ Recently I was in a conversation with someone about the business enterprises people get into where they can sell to their friends -- Mary Kay, Tupperware, etc. etc. -- I said, back in the 60s when "housewives" wanted reasons to "get out of the house" those businesses enjoyed a certain popularity -- a [pick-the-brand] party was a treat, an opportunity to socialize. Now that everyone works outside the home, most women are not looking for reasons to "get out of the house." People don't have time.

The woman I was talking with said, "Yes, now no one wants to go anywhere, and they don't want anyone to come over."


[from Garner's NYTimes review]
> > > > Colwin wasn't complaining, exactly. She liked dinner parties. But she would also have liked Margaret Visser's observation, in her new book, "The Gift of Thanks," that the word "host" is related through Indo-European roots to the words "hostile" and "hostage." Dinner parties are complicated things, where obligation and gratitude collide and overlap -- and sometimes crash and burn. < < < <

----------------------------------- A friend of mine, Sarah, began the practice of writing and mailing a Thank-You note to each person who gave her a gift, at birthdays and Christmas. I copied her -- I liked that tradition! I mailed Thank-You notes for each "gift-y" occasion, and I felt like Princess Diana because I read that she was a great Thank-You note writer, also.

My friend Sarah thanked me once, for the nice Thank-You note I had written to her; and I said Thank you, and then we laughed, realizing this could go on and on and on if we started thanking each other for each kind thank-you note.

[Garner's review] > > > > ..."The Gift of Thanks" is a scholarly, many-angled examination of what gratitude is and how it functions in our lives.

Gratitude is a moral emotion of sorts, Ms. Visser writes, one that is more complicated and more vital than we think.

English speakers are obsessed with the terms "thanks" or "thank you." We often say these words more than 100 times a day, she writes, in a flurry that many other cultures find baffling. < < < <

"Thanks fah-yuh help."
I will never forget Mary McDonough. She was my boss at one of my first jobs after college -- First National Bank of Boston. When Mary asked me to do something, she would say when, and (if necessary) how, to do it, & take questions if I had them, and then she would finish our interaction with the phrase "Thanks for your help" only with her Boston accent it came out, "Thanks fah-yuh help."

I used to think, "I'm not technically helping her -- I'm doing my job in the form of following her directions." But I'll tell ya, "Thanks fah-yuh help" made every day smooth, pleasant, and productive.

Think Mary was genius.

[Garner review] > > > > Ms. Visser acknowledges that simple politeness is the grease that keeps society running and, conversely, how much hostility can build up among people when words like "thanks" are not spoken. < < < <

During the years when I worked as a lobbyist I always noticed (and enjoyed) how, during floor debate, senators and representatives would refer to each other as "my good friend." Larry Gabriel would get up to oppose a bill that had been introduced by Ed Olson and begin by saying, "I know my good friend Ed Olson has done a lot of research on this subject, and..."

It was, not always but often, "my friend so-and-so" or "my good friend so-and-so" as you laid the groundwork for opposing or even killing the other guy's bill.


And now it's like, I'm onto the subject of Good Manners more than Gratitude.
But they go together.
Or, one leads to the other.

Vast subject.
More thoughts / observations another day.

Thank you.

And thank you.

Thank you, too!

OK that's it.


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

400 pages










Monday, November 16, 2009


I think we should all resist the
Sound Bite Culture
which 24-7 cable news inaugurated and has perpetuated.

Sound Bites (or sight-bites, with the photographs and film footage)
are not necessarily (some would probably say are Rarely)
legitimate News.

Bites (sound / sight) are just a seconds-long thing-ie
to "grab" our attention
(so tired of word "grab")

and --

sell us

or etc.

What's the antidote?
I like to read something that says "analysis"


Friday, November 13, 2009

A Bully Pulpit

"The presidency [of the United States] is a bully pulpit."

Someone said that, think it was Teddy Roosevelt.

"Bully" used in the old-fashioned way does not mean what it means today, i.e., horrible (and probably incompetent) person badgering, berating, threatening you.

Back then it meant, sort of, terrific, strong, effective.

So when he said "bully" he meant "excellent" (or/and terrific, strong, effective...)

The presidency, he was saying, was a great opportunity to make points, put ideas in people's minds, and SET A POSITIVE EXAMPLE.
The Bully Pulpit.

At Easter last spring, the spectacle of President Obama reading aloud to a group of children on the White House lawn was a good case in point. Setting the example of reading to your children would be great if it was the mother; in this case, the father reading to the children....Wow. Can't put a price on that.

(The book he was reading was "Where The Wild Things Are" -- ['have you ever had a wild rumpus?']...!)

It might still be up on YouTube -- it was great.

Jackie Kennedy.
Not, of course, President, but as First Lady she set a terrific example, with her historical restoration of the White House and her prioritization of cultural experiences: artists, musicians, writers / poets, etc. were invited to the White House, 1961-63.

Pres. Reagan.
He set an example of optimism, and tempered his strength in conviction and leadership with a lightness of spirit -- sense of humor, appreciation of life experience, and people, which I thought complemented and enhanced the classic American brand of Optimism which he seemed to not only promote, but more importantly, reflect.

Can a guy who acted in a movie with a gentle chimpanzee as a co-star be President of the U.S.?
Yes, he can.



Thursday, November 12, 2009


A senior in high school told me earlier this week that the reason American workers' real wages have flatlined since the 1970s is because women went to work.

I said, "You're crazy, come on."

He says in the 1960s most households had one wage earner and by the 80s most households had two wage earners. He said doubling (approximately) the number of people working held wages at a lower level -- "supply and demand."

I earned my B.A. in English literature, while my young friend is majoring in some type of Economics starting next year, so I didn't dare argue with him. He made it sound good, but surely that can't be the reason. There's got to be some caveat which neither one of us could see.

Just what I need.


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

View through Book Review

Figured this out: the reason (or, one of the reasons) why I like to read The New York Times Review Of Books each Monday:

it gives me the news and current events THROUGH the filter created by looking specifically at What People Are Writing Books About. It's a filtered view of the world.

[excerpt] > > > > > "The Queen Mother" is a labor of love, both for the author and for anyone who tries reading it from cover to cover. The authorized biography of a woman who was born as the 20th century was beginning and died about a year after it ended, it is a linear, you-are-there chronicle of the events of her life. Mostly this means lunches, balls, charity events, shooting parties. She cut cakes, she cut ribbons, she cut the rug. She was a royal. She read the job description, first issued in 1689.

...Her brother-in-law Edward, who lied about his net worth at the time of his abdication and was seemingly being groomed by the Nazis to replace his brother should things break nicely for the Third Reich, threatened to slit his throat if Mrs. Simpson deserted him.

Unlike the patriotic, public-spirited, good-hearted queen mother, Edward was basically a worthless human being. < < < < <

"She cut cakes, she cut ribbons, she cut the rug."
"...should things break nicely for the Third Reich..."
"basically a worthless human being"

I can't resist prose like that, so why try?
However, I won't ever get time to read that whole book; reading just the entertaining review gives me enough info to enjoy and continue formulating my concept of things.

That's another thing book reviews are good for: you never get time to read all books, but you can mine a lot of riches from just the reviews.

Reviews I liked this week besides the one about the Queen Mother:
"Under The Dome" by Stephen King
"Samuel Johnson: A Life" reviewed by Harold Bloom
"Robert Altman: The Oral Biography"
"Postcards from the Edge: Tocqueville's Letters Home"
"At The Morgan: The Jane Austen her Family Knew"
(haven't read yet -- saving for "dessert" but expect to enjoy:'
"Books about the Obama Campaign" - !

Back to "The Queen Mother": the banal along with the glorious and inspiring -- like every life, perhaps.

You have --
> > > > > Back at the house there was tea to be taken in the drawing room, which featured an ancient gramophone with long-playing records of such old favorites as the Crazy Gang, and an equally aged television set for watching videos (rarely if ever the news). < < < < <

but also --

> > > > The immense affection the public felt for her antedates the central event in her life, when she and her husband refused to flee London during the Battle of Britain, a heroic, enormously symbolic act that helped pull her equally heroic countrymen through one of the darkest moments in their history.

No one alive at the time ever forgot her courage, nor should anyone alive today. < < < < <

Evil's presence in the world requires Heroism.

Now -- what, for lunch??


Monday, November 9, 2009

two thoughts / questions

I had two thoughts today.
(More than that, I guess, but two I'll "blog.")

1. In life, there are big, major items, and small details, both of which require decisions.

While a person would, off the top of one's head, assume that the big choices and decisions would take large amounts of a person's focus and consideration while smaller details of life would consume smaller amounts of attention -- it hit me today that it's possibly the other way around:

it could be argued, that the decisions and choices of a huge nature in our lives consume small amounts of time and attention while, weirdly, the smaller issues get more attention, effort, and focus.

(This could be because the big stuff evolves naturally from circumstance and opportunity, while we have more control over the small items so we luxuriate in options when it comes to which color sweater or which brand of bicycle to buy. --

Is it a case of -- God makes the big decisions but leaves the lipstick shade to us?)

2. "Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely."

A quote most of us have heard.

Experience working in politics made me wonder if in many cases it's a corrupt person seeking power who runs for office in the first place.

So -- perhaps it's the other way around:
instead of "power corrupts" the truth may be:

Corrupt persons seek power.


Friday, November 6, 2009

Interior Design

I'm interested in interior decoration

(think now we are supposed to say "space design")

but really don't know anything about it.

Must try to educate myself.


A blog called Design Sponge.

Edith Wharton's book: The Decoration of Houses

Alexandra Stoddard's book: The Decoration of Houses

Next effort.


Thursday, November 5, 2009

Churchill book

A beautiful,
aesthetically beautiful
for children,
about Winston Churchill.

At workplace, someone was selling children's books; you select from a catalog.

is the brand.

Only purchased the book because the co-worker with the catalog is nice to me -- one of those -- OK, I can buy something.

So -- I ordered; paid; the book was delivered to me today.
I had it in mind to give it to one or another of my friends who has children, but first I looked it over myself.

What a beautiful book!
I'm not doing a "commercial" for this Usborne company, but I simply have to say how impressed I am.

Excellent story of Churchill's life, and the look of the book just knocks me out.

Since it is for children there are pictures on just about every page. And the colors are rich and luscious.

Every page is a feast for the eye, and it's bound to instill in a youngster a thrilling sense of the majesty of history.

Now I must figure out whom to give it to.


Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Betsy Lerner -- Norman Mailer

Finished reading The Forest For The Trees, by Betsy Lerner (NY agent and editor), and am now taking notes from it.

She writes, in Chapter 4 -- "The Self-Promoter":

> > > > How does a writer negotiate a capricious world that would just as soon destroy him as praise him?

[Norman] Mailer, who is clearly going to go out kicking and screaming, reveals the high cost and anguish involved in continuing to produce: "If I am going to go on saying what my anger tells me it is true to say, I must get better at overriding the indifference which comes from the snobs, arbiters, managers and conforming maniacs who manipulate most of the world of letters....

There may have been too many fights for me...too much brain-blasting rage at the minuscule frustrations of a most loathsome literary world, necrophilic to the core -- they murder their writers, and then decorate their graves."

Whether you throw a long shadow or hide within its dark fold, never leaving home but through the tapping out of your own Morse code, as Emily Dickinson did through the long winters of her life, or run for mayor, punch out people twice your size, and stab your wife, as Norman Mailer did while producing some of his generation's most influential prose, you will ultimately live or die by your line. < < < <


Earlier in my life, reading only a brief sampling of Norman Mailer's writing was off-putting to me: harsh, disgusting, violent -- I was like, "Aaaauuggghhh!!!"

Needed a Jane Austen paragraph as antidote.

But I liked the above Mailer quote:
"brain-blasting rage"
"conforming maniacs"
"a most loathsome literary world."


And when he writes, "I must get better at overriding the indifference..." -- I could relate to that; often resolve in my mind to "get better at" something....


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

excerpts: Project Journal

> > > > Friday, September 25, 2009
Today, for my Project Journal, I will do the following:
1) Type up Current Notes, with 8 or 9 items.
2) Write in this notebook about the Current Notes meshed with the Outline Thoughts. And then stop, for today.

Sunday, September 27, 2009
For my Monday 9/28 Project Journal work, I will --
1. Take the current notes and make a List/(Outline) for what to write about next, and
2) Write about it, in this notebook.

9/28/09 Mon.
I love the double rings of these notebooks. Excellent.
Through my notes: The current notes on what to write about next, focus on noticing the importance of narrative -- the significance of What You Say About Something.

The official line. Propaganda. Whatever ya got.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

What to write next:
List of 9.
It's in Grace's "Notes": free associate, and flow -- "Dylanize" it.

Wed. 9/30/09
Plots. Woody Allen's movies.

They're about Process. Love and disappointment. And how you keep living and how you look at things (attitudes). What you choose to learn, from things. And showing -- (exploring) -- the process of going ahead and investigating other options.

("What do you want? It was my first play.")

Thursday, October 1, 2009
Jane Austen plots. Characters reveal who they are, by whom they marry. Backdrop: human and social commentary and observation. < < < <


Monday, November 2, 2009

Cary Grant (Mmmmhh...)

On Saturday, was watching the movie "Charade" (1963, Cary Grant, Audrey Hepburn) on YouTube.

When a CIA dude played by (I think) Walter Mathau explains some things to Audrey Hepburn, she asks questions with the word "spy" in them; he corrects her with the word "agent."



Cool exchange:
Audrey Hepburn (to Cary Grant): "You know what's wrong with you?"
Cary Grant: "No. What?"
Audrey Hepburn: "Nothing."

So many of the best movies have Cary Grant in them:
"Arsenic And Old Lace"
"Bringing Up Baby"
"His Girl Friday"
"To Catch A Thief"

Something one keeps noticing in "Charade" -- both Hepburn and Grant have accents -- and they are very individual accents. Audrey H. was from (I think) Belgium (a unique accent) and Cary Grant's accent was all his own; read somewhere that he developed it on purpose, to replace his native Cockney accent, indicative of being in one of the lower ("low-ah") classes, in England.

That's called inventing oneself.
Kind of like the rappers of today, who give themselves names that are spelled creatively.