Coincidentally, I watched two Gary Oldman movies in quick succession. In Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, he plays the subdued but heroic George Smiley. More recently, I watched The Contender. The multi-talented Oldman also produced the film.
Oldman’s character, this time, is the polar opposite of Smiley. Congressman Shelley Runyon, is malevolently and unappetizingly evil. Even the way he eats bloody steaks (and talks with his mouth full) is disgusting.
He abuses his power as the head of the judiciary committee with a ruthless relish. Hearings to confirm a vice presidential nominee (Joan Allen) serve as a vehicle for Runyon to retaliate against the president and, if the career of Senator Laine Hanson (Allen) is ruined, that’s just collateral damage. This is a darker, more disturbing version of The American President. However, a marvelously inspirational closing speech by the president (Jeff Bridges) provides catharsis and hope.
If you cared to, you could do a total immersion TTSS (Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy) experience using library materials.
Prompted by the recent movie starring Gary Oldman as George Smiley, I went back to the BBC version on DVD, in which Alec Guinness plays the recently retired spy. At the same time, I listened to the BBC radio play as an audiobook. Like the funhouse mirror world of espionage, each iteration was faithful to the original source material of the book in some aspects, and each one edited parts of the narrative, as well as completely changing essential plot points.
For example, the catalyst for the investigation of a mole in the 1980 miniseries is a night time chase in the dark woods, while the 2011 movie accomplishes the same end with a shootout in an outdoor cafe.
The TV version is more thorough and straightforward in its storytelling, while the movie, is, of course, abridged and cinematic. Because it is more elliptical, it is helpful to have read or listened to a more unedited version.
I won’t spoil the ending; suffice it to say, the recent movie rivals The Godfather in it’s elegiac yet violent ending.
I Want My MTV is a dauntingly large book, but it’s easy to dip into at random. The only problem is, once you do, it’s hard to put it down. The compulsively readable book is made up almost entirely of interviews with rock stars, producers and early MTV promoters, talking about themselves and each other. And they don’t pull any punches, going into detail about the hard-living, hard-playing lifestyles of the day.
The beginnings of MTV were chaotic and anarchic – it was a new medium and there were no rules and no experts. Everyone felt free to “put on a show,” acting out the lyrics of the song or indulging in their creative, inner artist. The name of the game was speed, not quality control. Careers were made when their videos went into heavy rotation (Tears for Fears, Duran Duran, Culture Club, Men at Work to name a few) and, simultaneously, some artists thrived only in radio. This phenomenon was described in the Buggles’ Video Killed the Radio Star – August 1, 1981.
If you lived through the ’70’s, you’ll love this movie about a group of kids making a movie in the summer of 1979 who inadvertently uncover a government conspiracy when a train they were filming spectacularly derails and reveals an incredible secret. It’s fun to spot the things that are really specific to the era ( 8-track tapes, giant tv’s with small screens and the very straight, limp hair styles) or spotting things that weren’t common, at least around here (wearing backpacks and saying, “Totally!)
The kids are charming and their movie-filming sequences are a riot. (Super 8 is a bit of an homage by J.J. Abrams to Steven Spielberg, who also produced the film).The plot about a government conspiracy is secondary to the setting and the whole vibe of the time. The kids seem very independent compared to today; they run around the town and into the countryside at night, on their own. They take their movie craft very seriously, but the ongoing squabbling amongst themselves is typically juvenile.
A visit to 1979 for a couple hours; far out.
May is “Get Caught Reading” Month. How does one celebrate? Well, you could read, or take a picture of a friend or co-worker reading and post it on a bulletin board. (You can email firstname.lastname@example.org to get the logo to make your own “celebrity” poster).
You can order an actual celebrity poster on www.getcaughtreading.org. Rob Lowe anyone? Supported by the Association of American Publishers, other celebs are Iowa’s own Shawn Johnson, Sebastian Junger and Emma Roberts.
Some schools and libraries are designating a spot for kids (and adults) to read for fun during the day. Can you think of a better way to take a break?
The popularity of Suzanne Collin’s Hunger Games, got me thinking about apocalyptic books I’ve read. Alas, Babylonby Pat Frank was on school reading lists- years ago. Originally published in 1959, the novel is about the survival of a community in Florida after the United States has been hit by nuclear missiles.
What is satisfying about this books is how the extended family of Randy Bragg gets back to nature in order to survive – using local plants, fruits and trees to eat and to re-build. And eventually they thrive and learn to appreciate their new-found lifestyle.
The story has alot in common with that of Swiss Family Robinson. Like the Pat Frank book, the characters respond to adversity with ingenuity. Both books take place in tropical settings, which give the families a definite advantage. They don’t have to cope with cold weather and are surrounded by abundant sources of food and fuel.
Shipwrecks, nuclear war and other disasters have always been catalysts to the imaginations of novelists. How do you think you would fare in those circumstances?
Choosing Civility by P.M. Forni is the basis for initiatives by cities and libraries across the county. A slim volume, it has concrete ideas for individuals and for the community at large.
The author talks about the difference between manners and civility, and makes the case that good manners are the tools to promote civility. Manners have gotten a reputation as something that are phony and ineffectual, but, in fact, the purpose of good manners is to show that you think the best of those you encounter and you assume they have only the best motives. You can’t control the rude and callous behavior of those around you, but you can choose to do everything you can, large and small, to make the world a more positive place. This philosophy, in fact, has been shown to increase one’s own happiness.
Being able to have some control over one’s daily interactions is a powerful idea.
The website of the American Library Association promotes Civility & Diversity: “When it comes to finding information and instruction for how to become more civil, there is probably no better source … than Emily Post’s Etiquette. ” In the workplace, a civil atmosphere promotes customer satisfaction “when co-workers work together, they work better, enriching our users’ experiences.”
According to Chase’s Calendar of Events, March is International Ideas Month – dedicated to all ideas – large or small, great, and not-so-great.
I used to have a colleague at Davenport Library who was known for her enthusiasm for “ideas.” It was infectious and fun – sometimes they worked and sometimes they didn’t get very far at all.
What’s the best idea you ever had – at work or in your personal life? Maybe an idea for a patent? The Davenport Public Library is now the official Patent & Trademark Resource Center for the state of Iowa. If you have an idea for a revolutionary mousetrap, or toothbrush, you may want to check out Davenport Library’s patent resources.
It is inevitable that librarians would jump on Quiet by Susan Cain. This bestseller traces the role of introverts in American society. Having a good character and reputation was once the highest goal one could aspire to. That is, until the cult of personality gradually began to take over – with the rise of Dale Carnegie and commercial advertisements.
The book (and audiobook) is an empowering treatise for those who have grown up with teachers, relatives and strangers criticizing the natural tendencies of the non-extrovert.
Cain says their reserve and solitary nature are qualities that brand them as those possessing “a second-class personality trait, somewhere between a disappointment and a pathology.” It turns out that these are actually strengths, and they should be celebrated, rather than be regarded with suspician. Introverts have the ability to concentrate for long periods of time, making them good inventors, researchers, musicians, scientists and writers.
The American Library Association blog, Shelf Renewal, blogged about Cain recently. In the post, Introverts Rising, they categorize literature’s most famous characters as either introverts or extroverts. (Howard Roark is an introvert; Tom Sawyer is the ultimate extrovert).
The audiobook version of Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson is, for me, the ideal audiobook. It’s easy to pick up the narrative’s thread after a day or a week if you just listen to it in your car. Isaacson writes in a straightforward, journalistic style, accessible for listeners as well as readers.
It’s both fascinating in terms of the story of Steve Jobs as a person and as a genius of electronic aesthetics. You learn a lot about computers, design theory, and how to pull extremely clever pranks and practical jokes.
Isaacson presents a picture of a man with great flaws and immense talents. At the end of book, the listener is still not able to draw a pat conclusion about his character. The last part is, of course, painful to hear – as Isaacson tells the story of a life and spirit cut tragically short.