31 January 2011

Monday Blog Love

I see you, and I'm givin' you blogger props, kid.

Thanks to Kathy at Princess Anne County for the "Blog With Substance Award."  Hers is a classic design blog that never ceases to give one great ideas and inspiration.  I pass the Conch Shell on to (her and) the following bloggers who are all Rollin' in my book (and, no, we ain't hatin' if we left anyone off the list!).  Some of these folks are must-reads.  Some are folks that deserve much more foot traffic through the URL doorway of their blog!  Others are just the best, most admirable folks who have made my life better by sharing with the blogosphere their truly extraordinary lives.  So, in no particular order, please come forward to receive your "A Blog With Substance" award from yours truly:

FatScribe passes to you the 2011 "A Blog With Substance" award!

Moveable Feasts
You will gain 20 pounds just visiting this website once.  You have been warned about Barbara's gastronomical wiles. 
Moveable Feasts
Bedlam of Beefy
Uncle Beefy is a great site to read each Saturday morning with my cup o' joe  to see what was posted the week previous.  Good design taste to be found here.

Being Ruby
Fine photography from Down Under.  Julie shares her photography and stories with you from around the world that will make you feel ashamed of your own attempts at a blog post.
Julie from "beingRuby"
My Dog-Eared Pages
Barbara knows a thing or two about design, fashion and otherwise.  Her blog is a great respite from the day's doldrums, plus she's good peeps knee-deep in snow 3 mos. of the year!

Dumbwit Telher
Nobody does a photo feature quite like Ms. Deb.  She brings the best in Houston and the national scene onto one convenient site of aspirational design.  Love DT ... she gets mad FatScribe love.  Plus she's moving up and onward to bigger things!  Visit her to find out.

Emm in London
A "blog of note" is how I became acquainted with Emm.  She was visiting New York, and her site blew up with massive traffic from Blogger.com.  Great fun, she's a South African transplant to London, and her blog covers a bit of everything, well.
Emm in London

Someday this world-traveling, erudite young woman will be running a media company.  Mark my words. I've seen her post from California, New Zealand, New York, and places in between.  And now ... from grad school in NY!

Extraordinary poet from the artist's enclave, aka Ojai.

Wit and wisdom, discovered in one succinct locale.  Delish.

Believer, patriot, extraordinary artist.

Lisa is a working artisan and artist who has such a beautiful blog, with the hippest tunes.  I want her paintings and her light fixtures!

Great teacher and fantastic photographer (and traveler) who knows about life.  Sandy K. shares wonderful adventures with her readers and students.

Another expat from OK (USA) now finding herself in London.  She has such terrific stories to share.  And, as an Anglophile, I'm all ears.

Char is a talented writer and photographer, who never ceases to amaze.  I'm so glad I stumbled upon her website last year!
Char at ramblins ...
Terrific writer and interviewer who chronicles his life as a recent UCI grad who is now seeking his next big adventure, perhaps in film criticism or maybe just a humble law school grad?  Only Caleb knows for sure.

Serendipity - A Mother's Tale
Great sketch artist who puts something on the page each week!  How exactly does Julia have the time?  Dunno, but she has the inspiration from her lovely family, which is all that matters.

My French Country Home
Outstanding, ridiculously cool home and blog, rolled into one lovely website.

If I left anyone off of this list, whose work you know I have admired in the past, please forgive the oversight due to my rushing to put this post out.  Click on one or all of these blog-winners and have a nice visit this fine Monday evening.

(NOTE: Btw, I release you recipients from having to pay this award forward.  Just receive it and put it on your blog (or not!) and rest on your laurels for a moment or two, for tomorrow you blog again!

28 January 2011

Eleven in '11 ... No. 4 (cars)

No. 4.

Some say it's a guy thing, cars.  Probably is.  Maybe not, though.  Speaking in generalities, men view cars as an end-all-be-all commodity, whereas women see them simply as a means to an end.  One is pragmatic; the other is a healthy, red-blooded Americana lusting of Detroit, Teutonic, or Italian steel.  (Btw, it's not that women don't lust, of course they do.  It's just that they don't usually lust after things made of steel. Men, good criminy, don't get me started on what men will lust after.)

When we were young, many of my XY chromosomal brethren would drive muscle cars that matched toned, chiseled physique, filled with loud, lousy music and women we surely didn't deserve.  In middle-age with some hearing loss -- divorced from those women who were now with men they deserved --some of us attempt to project a sense of fitness and virility with the cars we drive (since chances are, we are no longer either).  Sleek Italian lines hide an unhealthy paunch and double-chin (well, the turtleneck sweater also helps with the chin), and German bravura performance under the hood (or bonnet as those lovely Brits say) supplements our wayward testosterone who went out on a beer run in our late-30's but never came back.

Or perhaps we rock a car that shouts a little too loudly (and tries a little too hard) a wry, eco-sophistication with us wearing horn-rimmed spectacles and tree-huggin' green cape waving gallantly behind our rotund backsides as we, in our Captain Endeavor tights, try to -- say it with me -- "Save the planet!"  Okay, sure, we occasionally and lamely drive something that bellows a "Why yes, my car does cost more than your home" hubris.  And, when old, the typical American male drives the big-bumpered four-door sedan that backs into every car, thing or person in the parking lot with an I-don't-give-a-Depends adult diaper insouciance -- and don't forget the car trunk, big enough to carry golf clubs, two cases of Ensure, and our second wife's wheelchair.

To borrow a line from James Brown, the male's obdurate lust for cars might be "a man's world, but it would be nothing without a woman or a girl."  Lest I be accused of being a sexist pig (J'accuse! FatScribe, J'accuse!), women love their rides as well, as many of you, Dear Reader, have attested to over the last couple of years in this space.  Los Angeles is the car capitol of the world.  I regularly see Bugattis and Porsche GT's and Lamborghinis which cost in excess of a $1,000,000, $500,000 and $350,000 respectively, being driven by those of the fairer sex (J'accuse, encore! FatScribe!).

Many are the magnificent days when I have ogled, er, appreciated the beautiful, confident starlet in her convertible Porsche (Heather Locklear), or her economy friendly ride (Holly Robinson [before the] Peete) or proudly valeting her eco-warrior white Toyota (TV's Donna Mills when she and I were at MGM at the old campus in Santa Monica).  And, we have all been equally horrified at the horrific horror befalling us L.A. drivers as Paris, and Britney and Halle made their collective and curvaceous ways from Malibu to Beverly Hills leaving collisions, lovers (male and female), and empty retail stores in their wake (nod to TMZ for their photographic and video inculpatory evidence submitted to the court of pubic opinion nightly).
Submitted (infra) for your perusal (and input!), a collection of a half-dozen iconic cars that FatScribe would have little trouble adopting any one (or all) as his own.  Here are my choices for:
  • Best Urban Transpo
  • The People Mover
  • The Foul Weather Friend
  • The American
  • The Classic
  • The Guilty Pleasure
  • Epilogue: The FatMobile

Best Urban Transpo: Mini Cooper (convertible, shown atop the page)
Fiat's Urban Transpo U.S. Entry
City cars are de rigueur throughout Europe and much of Asia.  Streets are narrow, gasoline is hugely expensive, and the thought of a big American-type car with lots of steel wrapped around to protect you and your brood seems gauche to a European sensibility.  However, the US is rapidly adapting to these diminutive pocket rockets.  The classic Mini Cooper, replete in rag top is my choice (why not throw a Union Jack on the roof for a sense of occasion for the hardtop), and don't forget the old-is-new-again Fiat500 hits the states this year thanks to a new CEO installed at Chrysler who (what a coinkidink!) just happens to be the CEO also at Fiat, the Italian Barron of Business, Signore Sergio Marchionne.

There are also offerings from Aston Martin, Mercedes, the Americans, and every Japanese company in this category of small and snappy sub-compacts.  What about your choice for urban transpo car?

The People Mover: Porsche Panamera
Four Door Sports Car?
Sorry, but I love this German sedan sports car.  Every design sensitive fiber in my body screams, "Look at the schnoz, Jg.!  It's huge, humongous, like having a really bad nose day!"  I know all that (you alliterative jerk, Jg.), but I can't help myself.  It calls to me, beckons me with its 0-60 times of near 4 seconds, and its limo-like room in the back, forward thinking front and rear cabins and top speed over 160mph. The Volkswagen Beetle might have been designed as the people's car, but this people mover is the upwardly mobile people's car, and it captures my attention in the worst way whenever I see them on the road in front of me, gobbling up corner after corner in the canyon. If four of you are going to Saturday soccer games, or to the Opera, or to the Academy Awards, you couldn't arrive in anything more perfect.  As U2 said, Achtung, baby! 

Runner up for my people mover?  The Maserati Quattroporte.

The Foul Weather Friend: Range Rover Supercharged  
Best British Babysitter on Wheels
This bad boy chews up the scenery like some ham-fisted, over-paid actor who know he's "all that and a bag of salt-n-vinegar chips" (sorry for the odd American FatScribe idiom).  If I found myself in D.C. or NY or some other two-initial city under 18" of fresh winter snow, I'd have to choose this ride to take me and my kids out of the city and down to their favorite uncle's home in temperate S.D. (San Diego). To choose a back-up SUV or CUV (crossover ute) in this category, the Porsche Cayenne or the Lincoln MKX would suffice nicely.  

If you had to choose a vehicle that you felt protected your brood the best, let us all know what it would be ... can't wait to read your choices.

The American: Chrysler 300
Chrysler300 -- 5 mins. from Neptune's Net!
I have given myself the luxury of adding this category because the parvenu Americans have truly turned around their car building prowess: from design to craftsmanship, from sales to resale value. True car-loving aficionados have been aware of this development the past five years.  Really quite a nice development for a homer (I said "homer") like yours truly.  I love when the home team does well, and I don't mind saying that even though I love the Italians and Brits and Germans as well.  But, when the US auto companies do well, it means more cars sold in China (where now, GM sells more cars than here in the US) and abroad and better days for average Americans and their companies, and we all benefit down the line.
Rolls Royce looking in rear view mirror for upstart Americans!
There are quite a lot of lovely American cars to choose from here (Corvette, Taurus, F150, MKX), but I nominate the Bentley and Rolls Royce killer, the businessman's Chrysler 300.  Can you tell the difference between the two photographs above? One features a car that will cost about $250,000 more than the other, but it does have a set of snooty rear doors that open back-asswards.

Sidebar: the Chrysler above is pictured about 5 mins from a favorite place that my kids and family and friends love to eat at on PCH, Neptune's Net.  Decent food, and great location.  My nephew was recently in a surf competition across the street last weekend (sorry to rub it in, East Coast!).

Do you dare, Dear Reader, to nominate any Americans here? C'mon, I double-dog dare you!

The Classic: 1951 Ford Pickup
Classic Ford Pickup
There are some things that don't seem to tarnish with age, in fact, they appear to improve with time.  Off the top of my head: Sophia Loren, your first kiss, and classic pickup trucks.  Now if all three were rolled into one lovely night in 1964, you'd be one heck of a lucky man indeed.  'Nuff said, n'est pas?

The Guilty Pleasure:  Hyundai Genesis
Hyundai Genesis Sedan 
Here is a car (sedan and coupe) that, pound for British pound, dollar for American dollar, kicks the competition's tuchas.  I love that this car can rock the worlds of both Lexus and Mercedes in the class they have traditionally owned like two stuffy-shirted bankers who don't like to share their good fortune with the rest of the class.  Hyundai has gone from perennial joke to the auto manufacturer with strongest growth of sales in the North American market, winning even insurance industry awards for safest in class.  This car is luxurious, fast, and yes, it can even hand the Chrysler 300 its lunch as well. There is an after-market rear nameplate that can replace the Hyundai "H" with a very cool, Aston Martin-like wing badge.  Most of Genesis drivers in L.A. choose this option.  Like I said, a guilty pleasure.  We Angelino's are a shameful lot.

Up next?
No. 5
the grand gesture.

The FatMobile: Lincoln MKX
Epilogue: The Lincoln MKX (FatMobile)

Shelley from Shelley's House thought this piece might be about the cars I've owned before.  Hmm, I'm not really the Willie Nelson/Julio Iglesias sort of guy to peck out some sad/fond/cocksure prose about cars I've loved, mistreated, and left, literally, in a field before. (this needs some clarification: there was a very admirable family car -- not really mine, but the story's worth the telling -- a Fiat Sport 124 coupe, that my brothers used a tractor to bury on the large ranch of Buddy Ebsen. Still there to this day. Great car.)  That would be a terrific idea if I had actually owned any decent cars, but someday I might write about them, Ms. Shelley, but I'd really like to read your post on the subject.  Here though, is my car (supra) and its quick story.  

It was a God thing (literally) when I bought it a couple of years ago.  It has been bullet-proof in its delivery of performance and protection for my two sons.  It's all-wheel drive, and has been to Mammoth (Sierra Nevadas) and San Diego, carrying snowboards, surfboards, skateboards and two boys with their personal gameplayers, music devices, novels, In-n-Out grub-fest and movie-playing laptops.  Plus, it does really look great at night, all shiny with its LED rear panel and very nice, toothy grill upfront (notice, I didn't say toothy girl).  It's certainly not my dream car, but I'm so thankful to have it.

24 January 2011

Eleven in '11 ... No. 3 (film)

No. 3.
I'm loath to admit this -- for fear of being adjudged correctly the shallow beast that I am -- but film genuinely has made my life better ... well, as far as any sort of entertainment or hobby can add value to one's life, better. I'm not suggesting that film or the movies can substitute as a raison d'etre, let alone fulfill the half-lived life, but, film has indeed provided yours truly with a healthy dash of interesting distraction and a lagniappe of flavorful joy to a somewhat dull, yet fairly-centered existence (though some would challenge my being centered, whatever that means).
I still get excited when I go to the movies, especially if I get to share the experience with someone I love.  The chocolate almonds (for my kids) and gummies.  The popcorn (of which I take a small amount).  The bottled water (my seriously large man-gut can't take Coke anymore) or a  latte for me and a date.
I can remember my first "event" film that my mom took me and my younger brother, Chad, to see. I was 4 1/2 and he was probably 3 yrs old.  There we were, my brother and I, holding hands in our PJs and robes, queued up outside the small neighborhood Fox Theater in the dark, waiting to get in.  It was Disney's The Artisocats, and I (ever the critic) remember being disappointed that it wasn't as good as 101 Dalmatians, or some of the other Disney fare that I had seen aplenty. 
When we share the films that we love with others, we are necessarily sharing insight into ourselves and into what makes us tick. How many times have we been out having a nice cocktail with a person of the opposite sex and play the get-to-know-ya game of "so, what're your favorite films?" If your dreamboat/hunk o' desire on a first date tells you that his favorite movie is Taxi Driver, and that he can't imagine his life without it, you should rightfully be concerned and not go out on a second date with dreamy mcsteamy. (You talkin' to me? You talkin' to me? Er, no, dude, I'm not talkin' to you. You frighten me.). If you tell me that Woody Allen is your man, then I predict you love New York, have an above-average IQ, and are likely to be a hypochondriac, or at least find short, balding, Jewish hypochondriacs funny. If I tell you that I like films that are ... well, let's beg off because I'm about to share that in a jiff, n'est pas?
It's fairly axiomatic that in today's America, film plays a hugely important part in our culture. Water cooler conversations are oft peppered with the movies we saw over the weekend -- and don't forget the office pool for who'll win Best Picture or Best Actress for this year's Golden Globed Oscar Thingys. Just look at all of the (quite good, really) film criticism readily available for us at the click of a mouse or local paper. We all of us are critics, cinephiles and champions of our favorite movies. Pastors routinely draw analogies using films present and past in their sermons. Movies themselves use classic film lines to make dialog snappy (yes, you Mr. Tarantino). Film is ubiquitous ... and most of it is total shite. Rare is the truly great film, can I get a witness?
When I was about 9, I came down with chickenpox for the 3rd time (not a typo) and my little brother Chad for the first. So, mom being the great lady she was, took us down to the Cinerama Dome in Hollywood to see the wholly age inappropriate "Freebie and the Bean" in full geodesic and graphic glory.   I can remember during certain raunchy scenes with shoot-outs, or transvestites, or cars crashing through bedroom walls, she would lean over and remind us, "this is just a movie, and these people aren't really dead," or "that man really isn't a man dressing like a woman in real life. Okay, wait a minute, maybe he is on second thought." Lovely mom. And, even though I have rarely taken my kids to see an age-inappropro movie, still I have given my two sons similar warnings of when to cover eyes, or as Vince Vaughn would warn his little one, "ear muffs."
This week, as my 13 yr-old son had his own version of the chickenpox (a virus with accompanying nasty sore throat), he called me two or three times mid-day to tell me, "Dad, I just finished watching the best movie!" He watched this week: The Book of Eli, Reign of Fire, and Blackhawk Down. He loved being able, in spite of his "dad, I'm dying" dramaturgy, to just chill and enjoy a film by himself.  We all know the feeling, son, and I'm glad you do too.
So, here are eleven films that I'm not saying are the best in cinematic history, but that are films that I've enjoyed immensely or have influenced me profoundly each in their own small way, and I'm happy to share these with you, Dear Reader:
Everyone Says I Love You (Woody Allen, director) is one of those films that always makes me happy when I see it.  Roger Ebert said a similar thing, if memory serves, about his having a smile on his face throughout the screening of this movie.  My favorite scene occurs between the former spouses (Woody and Goldie Hawn) as they reminisce and sing and dance magically along the Seine at midnight.  Yes, it is a musical; I own my very hetero appreciation of the musical.

Fatscribe's cinematic predictive algorithm suggests these other Woody Allen films for your viewing pleasure:
Manhattan Murder Mysteries
Hannah and Her Sisters
Purple Rose of Cairo

Citizen Kane (director, Orson Welles) rocked my world when I was in middle school.  Black and white, amazing lighting with crude but effective special effects and makeup and a great story (how do you like your roman a clef served, Mr. Hearst?).  Best movie of all time?  Top Ten for sure.

Fatscribe's cinematic predictive algorithm suggests these other Orson Welles films for your viewing pleasure:
The Third Man
Touch of Evil
Jane Eyre

Lawrence of Arabia (director, David Lean) was lovingly restored when I was in college.  My best bud (now professor) from UCLA dragged me down (actually, I was skipping several steps in front of him) to the old Shubert Theatre in Century City to see this amazing film on the big screen as God intended (David Lean did have a god-complex).  The vast vistas. The deep colors that drench the screen with their hue-rific mesmerizing effects on the retinas.  The score that today is recognizable within the first few notes. Can't get much better than this film.

Re: the photo above, I can hear Peter O'Toole saying to Omar Sharif, "Aqaba!"  Exactly so, TE. Btw nod to Toad (of his blog To The Manner Born) for his suggestion of our reading "Hero" (biography of TE Lawrence) from a previous FatScribe post.
Fatscribe's cinematic predictive algorithm suggests these other epic films for your viewing pleasure:
Last Emperor
The Right Stuff
The Great Escape

The Royal Tenenbaums (director, Wes Anderson) is Wes Anderson at his sui generis best (though Wes does acknowledge a passing resemblence to Welles's The Magnificent Ambersons).  Wes Anderson is one of the few director/auteurs today that I'll go see whatever he puts out.  Love Gene Hackman, Danny Glover (misguided friend of misunderstood communist dictators), and Bill Murry in this.
Fatscribe's cinematic predictive algorithm suggests these other Wes Anderson films for your viewing pleasure:
The Darjeeling Limited
Fantastic Mr. Fox
Star Wars (director, George Lucas).  Not much to add here.  I can say, though, that I have a huge admiration crush on Mr. Lucas for what he built up at Skywalker Ranch (including the amazing private library) and at the Presidio with LucasFilm, LucasArts, THX, and ILM.  That's one hard-working dude from Northern Cal, and it all started with a humble yarn about a hero's transformational journey across the galaxy with good friends at his side.  Isn't that all of us, Dear Reader?

Fatscribe's cinematic predictive algorithm suggests these other Lucas films for your viewing pleasure:
American Grafitti
Tucker: The Man and His Dream
Raiders of the Lost Ark
Howard the Duck (Just kidding ... making sure you're paying attn.)
Close Encounters of the Third Kind (director, Steven Spielberg) is my favorite Spielberg film.  I guess I'd have to confirm a previous posting by yours truly and say that Spielberg is our greatest living filmmaker.  Not bad for a Long Beach State grad.  Go Cal State system.  You gave us Eva Mendez, Andy Summers (The Police) and Steven Spielberg! (and ... FatScribe? You poor, dumb bastardos.) This film freaked me out when the little boy kept trying to go outside and play with E.T., with him squirming in his mum's arms, pointing up to the sky saying, "toys."  I especially love the scene when he's in the middle of the desolate road at midnight and he looks up at yells "Ice cream!" to the passing UFOs.  Classic Spielberg, no?  
Fatscribe's cinematic predictive algorithm suggests these other Spielberg films for your viewing pleasure:
Empire of the Sun
Enchanted April (director, Mike Newell) is one of those movies I've seen over a half-dozen times.  There is not a sour note to be found in the entire film.  All of your favorite Brits are here: Joan Plowright, Alfred Molina, Polly Walker, Michael Kitchen, et. al.  If you haven't seen this enchanting film (sorry, I had to), you owe it to yourself.

Fatscribe's cinematic predictive algorithm suggests these other Newell films for your viewing pleasure:
Four Weddings and a Funeral
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
It's a Wonderful Life (director, Frank Capra) has been seen by my family almost every year for the last 35 years or so.  It's a holiday classic and I have yet to tire of Capra's masterpiece.  I mean, who can ever tire of Donna Reed?  Hulloh!
Fatscribe's cinematic predictive algorithm suggests these other Capra films for your viewing pleasure:
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
It Happened One Night
Chariots of Fire (director, Hugh Hudson) is my favorite film about faith and overcoming religious snobbery.  Great true stories make the best films in my humble opinion.  David Puttnam (producer/studio exec) has no idea how many young, impressionable folks like me he inspired to think about or aspire to get into the business.

Fatscribe's cinematic predictive algorithm suggests these other foreign films for your viewing pleasure:
Room with a View
Cinema Paradiso
Hope and Glory
Trois Couleurs (three separate films Blue, White and Red) (director, Kieslowski) should be on everyone's list of trilogy films that have been seen, appreciated, and then shared with others.  I honestly was dumbfounded the first month or so after I had seen them all, finding myself in quiet moments thinking about these films, and the acting, and the monumental task of directing them all.  If memory serves correctly, Kieslowski put this troika together as an homage to France (he's Polish, but worked quite a bit in France or they funded his films), hence the three colors of the French flag.  Sidebar: I always found it interesting or evocative that their colors are opposite the American flag.  The Enlightened of the Salon v. the Law of Nature and Nature's God crowd and their manifest destiny.   
White (Julie Delpy) is my least favorite, though still excellent and recommended.  Blue is the saddest of the bunch, and most crushing to watch.  Juliette Binoche plays the survivor of a family tragedy, who tries to honor her famous and talented and revered husband by completing an attempt at an EU anthem.  And, Red brings it all home with a mash-up of the previous stories that don't all necessarily connect accurately or with any real effort at continuity.  It's more of a reference to the previous material that's nice to notice or spot.  Irene Jacob completes the murderers row here of the French beauties.  Gawd, she just kills in this role of a young woman, struggling with some personal things, and then an acquaintance by happenstance (a retired French magistrate) decides to take things into his own hands to push "fate" along for her, perhaps righting some past wrong of his in the process.  The ending (which is the shot above) will take your breath away.  A masterwork by a master. (is that a tautology?)

Fatscribe's cinematic predictive algorithm suggests these other French films for your viewing pleasure:
Jean de Florette
My Father's Glory
My Mother's Castle
La Femme Nikita
Alien (director, Ridley Scott) was the quintessential film that scared the living hell out of me when I was a boy.    I can remember nights when my older brothers couldn't sleep because they saw some movie called "The Exorcist," and I thought what's the big deal.  Just a movie.  Until when I was 12 and I saw this.  I literally spent 90% of this movie watching through my fingers and hands and jacket pulled over my head.
Each summer, my sons and I head down to San Diego to surf and skateboard and just hang out with cousins and uncles and do nottin' right after we do nada.  Each night we always watch a movie that my brothers and I watched as boys to pass the cinematic baton so to speak.  This last summer my boys (then 12 and 10) and a nephew (13) finally got to experience Alien.  "Dad, we don't wanna watch that one!  Uncle John, it won't be scary!"  Ten minutes into the film (shown at 10 pm, of course), the big couch was packed with five people with several heads under blankets.  After the movie, we took a midnight stroll around Banker's Hill over a rather bouncy footbridge spanning a 90 ft. ravine.  The kids were amply freaked out and screaming good and loud.  We then hiked it back home for 1am leftover pizza and then up at 7am for more of the same.
Fatscribe's cinematic predictive algorithm suggests these other Ridley Scott films for your viewing pleasure:
A Good Year
Blackhawk Down
So, there you are.  What are your favorite films that impacted and entertained and scared you?
Up next?
No. 4.

18 January 2011

Eleven in '11 ... No. 2 (books)

London Library Reading Room

No. 2.
What can I say here? Like so many of you, Dear Reader, I am a bibliophile. Books on architecture or apologetics. Poetry or politics. History or mystery. Fiction and non. Quirky books elaborating on the minutiae of the moment, or irreverent volumes making mathematics simple. If a writer cranks out a book done well, is well-reviewed, inspiring, particularly helpful or simply has a nice hook (or a different take on things) -- especially if it can be found in the discount bin -- chances are I'll read it. As I like to say, two books a week is all we ask. And, if a friend writes a book, well, dang it!, I'll buy several copies.
When I watched the PSA for literacy.org showing youngsters getting ready to embark on journeys to new worlds and their books stamped like a passport from the engineer who was boarding passengers, and then as the young lad begins to read the words on the page, the landscape around him -- reflected in the train window -- reveals itself as the Emerald City ... chills.
Imagine if everyone read two books a week. Real books, too. Weighty books. Let's make a deal, you and I. Or, at least you can just placate with a polite nod of "okay" over there on your side of the Internet's conjoined computer screen. How about we agree to read at least one book a month? That is doable. If modern Presidents of the United States have time to read a book or two occasionally, then why not us? I've seen the pictures of Bush and Obama and Reagan and Clinton strutting from Air Force One to an awaiting limo toting said tome.
President Obama Note to Y. Martel (author Life of Pi)
One of the reasons I put up with Oprah (she's not my fave, but I truly respect the hell out of what she's built, her empire. My ex-father in law worked with her in Nashville years ago. They ran into each other at the Oscars, and she remembered him well.), is that she has had such an amazing impact on encouraging us to be the highest and best us, and that definitely includes her book club. I also love that she is who she is, and she doesn't confuse herself or others with trying to be someone else that some a-hole like yours truly might want her to be. She's real, er, real rich, but genuine to boot.
London Library
Okay, so yes, as the big No.2 above indicates, I am a reader of books. But, a true bibliophile holds a special place in the dusty racks and stacks of their heart for the setting that is the library. The London Library for me is the literary locus of the printed media and book culture and erudition all festooned with a lovely British lilt. The staff exceeds all professional standards, and one can obtain with aplomb great research there. Just ask the fictional American research assistant, Roland Michell, from the novel (and movie) Possession: A Romance, by A.S. Byatt, both of which I highly recommend you read and view.
When money's tight (which is usually the past couple of years), I'll get my fix from the library or via a free eReader or will gladly take a book second-hand from a friend. You can obtain all the public domain classics on Google's free reader (or some other eReader), and we'd be busy, you and I, with a book a month for years. And, we'd be so much better for it. And, society would be better for having better versions of ourselves coursing through and over its causeways and byways and by the way, and not to mention, we'd be able to answer a lot more of those pesky questions on Jeopardy! And, now, hundreds and hundreds of books later, I love crushing Alex Trebek's puny questions. Books is brainfood, y'all!!!
Before I list some favorite books, here are some favorite authors. I say "some" because, well, almost all of my books are in storage right now, and this is off the top of my head. It's a little Wordle that I put together especially; adds to the sense of occasion, dontcha think? (oh, and pardon a misspelling of an author or two.)
FatScribe Wordle of Authors
These aren't necessarily the big eleven in my (very) humble little existence. Just eleven I thought represented certain aspects of my life well. Btw, there is one important book that is obviously missing (really a collection of 66 separate books, old and new) that we can discuss a bit later.
The Catcher in the Rye was it for me when I read it in high school (three times) because Jerome David Salinger helped me finally to recognize what a writer's voice sounded like (I know, I know ... many of you Eastern elites were ingesting The New Yorker when you were in junior high school and understood this sophisticated patois, but for us indolent Angelinos, it was revelatory.) Franny and Zooey, however, really placed a hand with lighted cigarette on my shoulder and said with cocktail breath, "you wanna try this? You should try this, this writing thing ole boy." I was hooked on the story of the family Glass as it took little (to me) surprising turns, with drinks at sophisticated joints, and college sports, and all the swells rocking sweaters and overcoats and pearls, featuring rooms in NY city apartments where one could take a melancholy-induced nap. It had trains and cabs and older brothers and family drama and young person angst. Perhaps it's trite to say that Salinger is one of those writers that influenced me the most over the last 25 years to be sure, but sometimes trite is true. For the first time I thought that it might be nice to sit and think and create a story with fountain pen and blank page, and to set in motion ex nihilo some wonderful characters of my creation the way Salinger does.
Harold Berman was quoted by so many of my law school professors that I went out and purchased the book. However, it wasn't until a couple of years later that I could actually read the book with some free time. The tome is a masterpiece, a magnum opus without peer. When I think of the biggies here in this little category, it goes: Blackstone. Berman. Bork. If you practice law, you owe it to yourself to read this wonderful contribution to the canon. If you don't (as I do not), you can show-up all of those lawyers who've never read a single book since law school (and there are MANY) by taking a few months to get through Law and Revolution.
Michael Chabon, in my humble opinion, is the greatest American writer of the last fifty years. His plots and characters are masterful. His use of language nonpareil. I was given his first book (his master's thesis for the UCI writer's program) when I was an undergrad, The Mysteries of Pittsburgh. His book Summerland, I read to my boys when they were small, and then my eldest read it sua sponte when he was eleven (genius, sheer genius, said his dad ... and how appropriate in light of, you know, the big play on the "eleven" theme). Chabon won the Pulitzer for his Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. But, my favorite book of his has to be Wonder Boys. Steve Kloves adapted this book masterfully (as he has done almost all of the Harry Potter books for the big screen), and I put his script for Wonder Boys up as a perfect pitched game for anyone looking to see a great script. Anyway, The Yiddish Policemen's Union is a great way for you to understand the brilliance of this writer. And, as you might imagine, Dear Reader, he and I have absolutely zero in common when it comes to politics. But, I love the guy anyway, er, not love love, but you get my meaning.
This book by Allan Bloom made me decide to go to graduate school and get a master's in public policy. I became fascinated with Bloom in undergrad and (his professor) Leo Strauss and a few other more conservative Chicago intellectuals. Bloom's erudition and grasp of history and the negative implications of the wont of academia and media to practice historicism when it fits their needs, to twist it for their own expedient ends, have informed the way I view all of post-modern American politics. Bloom took an amazing amount of heat from his fellow academicians for The Closing of the American Mind, being labeled and confirmed a neocon (a word I love, btw) for his effort. An older friend of mine from church, who was one of ABC's political editors, had recently introduced the phrase real politik to me after a discussion we had on Bloom. I would later name the first Internet website I developed (a very successful, student-run public policy journal) called NeoPolitique in honor of Bloom. Highly suggested reading ... even 25 years later.
No one can equal this dandy and his skill with the roman a clef. I appreciate his white suits and wonderful stories and his conservative bent. Where I loathe pretensionist novelists like Norman Mailer (RIP) and John Irving telling everyone how to live, I can stand proud that a novelist of Tom Wolfe's caliber can tell them and other Eastern sophisticates (in my stead) exactly where to get off. My good friend (best man at my wedding) and I were in South Carolina helping his parents move into their lovely new home sitting on the 17th fairway. My friend's dad was dying from a blood cancer, and he wanted me to take any books I wanted. I took many good ones, but this A Man in Full was my favorite. I read it in like two or three days, sitting late nights in the Charleston heat on the back patio, drinking sweet tea and smoking an occasional cigar. My friend's dad also had an amazing pen collection. He was, truly, a man in full, who rebounded from borderline bankruptcy, who called his 30 yr-old son "sweetie" and who never ceased to provide for his family, even when he was at death's door.
I personally owe, and I believe the country also owes, a debt of gratitude to Shelby Steele for this work. The Content of Our Character is THE book on race-relations. As a father of two boys with a black mother and white dad, I am very sensitive to this issue. Have been since I was a boy and witnessed the event that was Alex Haley's "Roots" on ABC network television (that used to be a big deal back then). When I was a boy, I can remember exactly where I was the first and only time I used the "N" word (and, no, it's not a sequel show to Showtime's The "L" Word ). I was with the son of a Cy Young and MVP winner (a Dodger great, the second black-American to be admitted to play in the Majors), and he and I were playing a basketball game called "tip-in." We were in junior high school, and I had just beaten him out for the scholar athlete award, and we were killing time before the bus was supposed to pick us up. I missed a crucial shot and out of nowhere, I used the word as curse word, not as a racial epithet directed at anyone. Don't know why I said it. I'd never said the word before in my life, and right there in front of the son of a racial pioneer I uttered it. He chased me around A.E. Wright Middle School for a full ten minutes before he finally said, "Goot, I'll make you a deal. You stop running and I'll only hit you once. Then we can go finish our game." I stopped and he hit and we played. We played football and basketball on our high school teams (he would later play at Stanford) and neither ever mentioned it again. Coda: LuxeMont, the Internet company I founded a few year's back, was asked to play in an LPGA event by one of our advertisers, a company that was the official LPGA provider of private jets. I had no idea, but it was owned by my childhood friend. Yes, the same.
Milton Friedman's introduction to F.A. Hayek's The Road to Serfdom was the first time I was able to read his words of economic wisdom. After reading Hayek's book in grad school, I went on to devour everything I could get my hands on by Friedman, including any YouTube videos I could watch. Genius, as all Nobel Prize winners are. Well, most prize winners are.

somewhere i have never travelled,gladly beyond
any experience,your eyes have their silence:
in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,
or which i cannot touch because they are too near

your slightest look easily will unclose me
though i have closed myself as fingers,
you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens
(touching skilfully,mysteriously)her first rose

or if your wish be to close me, i and
my life will shut very beautifully ,suddenly,
as when the heart of this flower imagines
the snow carefully everywhere descending;

nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals
the power of your intense fragility:whose texture
compels me with the color of its countries,
rendering death and forever with each breathing

(i do not know what it is about you that closes
and opens;only something in me understands
the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)
nobody,not even the rain,has such small hands
Frederick Douglass, to me, represents one of the greatest bootstrapping stories in Western history. From slave to publisher, from beaten chattel to feted White House guest. After his first wife passed away, Douglass would marry a white woman (to the consternation of some), and die at a ripe old age. Douglass would hold several political and bureaucratic positions of power in DC. Talk about your real Horatio Alger story.
I hope you read State of Fear because it blows the claims of those insipid, anthropogenic-preaching, lie-disseminating and fear-mongering miscreants out of the water who want to re-engineer the capitalistic West in their radical leftist Utopian image. I never knew Michael Crichton to be conservative, but when I read this latest tome, I had one of the most surprising aha moments in my reading life. Regardless, the prescient Michael Crichton has always been a fave. A take-me-to-the-beach sort of fave, who nonetheless was a terrific spinner of yarns fave in terms of his techno-drenched SciFi thrillers. His oeuvre routinely presaged the headlines of tomorrow. With degrees from Harvard (including Harvard medical) he decided to write novels during his time in medical school. Renaissance man he (the bastard), Crichton would break new ground throughout his life, becoming the first to have a top-selling novel, hit movie, and television show concurrently, simultaneously, and famously (he created the medical drama, ER). His home in the Pacific Palisades was filled with art that even Steve Martin would covet and lovely comfy furnishings for his family (and to hold his 6'9" frame) as well as two unpublished novels. After his recent death at an early age, his family discovered that Crichton had produced two more novels (one completely finished and self-edited, and the other almost so). I can't tell you how much I respect a writer of his caliber. Here's what Crichton said in Architectural Digest about his home and his love of books:
“All the bedrooms are stacked—there are books piled in the garage, and there are books in boxes in the basement,” he says. “The paperbacks are yellow and cracked, but I won’t give them up. I can’t—I annotate as I read. At one point I calculated that half the weight and volume of what we own is books." A house with room for books and a family—and one of the most spectacular careers on record—are more than a writer dares to hope for. Though Michael Crichton is not one to hype his domestic pleasures, he can’t deny his good fortune. “This has been,” he says, with measured bliss, “a very happy, very positive house.
Last but most important, The Federalist Papers. Here is the book (another important anthology of 85 essays) that each and every one of you, Dear Readers, should read (I know, that's obnoxious, my encouraging you to read a rather old, yet important book). The Federalist Papers informs everything about our Constitutional Republic and its formation, and the role of the Constitution in each and every one of our lives today. TFP is a collection from three giants who decided to publish their writings with a pseudonym of Publius, mostly to keep the reader's focus on what they were writing, not on who was writing these essays.

So, there you go.
Up next?
No. 3.