Quotes of Note

“After claiming that he’d had eighteen straight whiskies at his favorite New York City watering hole, the White Horse Tavern, [Dylan] Thomas passed out and never woke up for the hangover.” – Alex Palmer, Literary Miscellany: Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Literature

“When I first started acting, and we would all sit down and talk about Shakespeare and how great it was, I thought well, I suppose it is.  It is if you get to play Macbeth or Hamlet.  But who wants to play bloody Lady Macbeth or Ophelia?  And it struck me that most women seem to be required to pit themselves against men in dramatic situations, and men get to pit themselves against ideas or God.” – Australian actress Judy Davis as quoted in David Crystal and Ben Crystal’s The Shakespeare Miscellany

Spoiler Alert: If you still get presents from Santy, stop reading NOW!

“If Santa’s sleigh carried just one Barbie doll and one action figure for every girl and boy on the planet, it would weigh 400,000 tons and need almost 1 billion reindeer to pull it.  To deliver all his presents in one global night time, Santa would have to visit 1,500 homes a second and, allowing for chimney descents and mince pie breaks, he and his reindeer would have to travel at roughly 5,000 times the speed of sound.  The sleigh (and its attendant billion reindeer) would behave like a meteorite and burst into flames at a fraction of that speed and would burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere.” – Jonathan Green, Christmas Miscellany: Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Christmas

“When I was a boy of twelve or thirteen, I happened to acquire—through what a rigid purist might call larceny—a paperback copy of Clifton Fadiman’s The Lifetime Reading Plan.  At the time I had no particular interest in “classics.”  What I liked then—and still like—were stories, tales of mystery and adventure, the kind of entertainment that earlier ages sometimes labeled romance.  In my youthful days, however, I would read almost anything and so discovered that this Fadiman guy made great books sound just as exciting as Green Lantern comics or the latest Tarzan paperback.  Not at all academic in his approach, he simply talked to you—reader to reader—about the Odyssey, the Inferno or Pride and Prejudice

“Over the years I gradually meandered my way through nearly all the works in Fadiman’s “plan.”  Eventually, perhaps inevitably, I majored in English in college, and later received a Ph.D. in comparative literature.” – Michael Dirda, Classics for Pleasure

“One of the countless drawbacks of being in Congress is that I am compelled to receive impertinent letters from a jackass like you in which you say I promised to have the Sierra Madre mountains reforested and I have been in Congress two months and haven’t done it.  Will you please take two running jumps and go to hell.” – Congressman John Steven McGroaty of California responding to a letter from a constituent in 1934

“The bad news is time flies, the good news is you’re the pilot.” – Michael Altshuler

“A person without regrets is a nincompoop.” – Mia Farrow

“It’s a whole lot more satisfying to reach for the stars even if you end up landing only on the moon.” – Kermit the Frog

And here are a few quotes to think about as we enter a brand-spanking new year:

“Tonight’s December thirty-first,
Something is about to burst.
The clock is crouching, dark and small,
Like a time bomb in the hall.
Hark, it’s midnight, children dear.
Duck! Here comes another year!” – Ogden Nash

“Cheers to a new year and another chance for us to get it right.” – Oprah Winfrey

“Just when the caterpillar thought her life was over, she became a butterfly.” – Unknown

“Make New Year’s goals. Dig within and discover what you would like to have happen in your life this year. This helps you do your part. It is an affirmation that you’re interested in fully living life in the year to come.” – Melody Beattie

“I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.” – The Little Engine That Could

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Casablanca Turns 80 and More

“What’s your favorite movie?”  That simple question will produce a variety of responses which will probably, to some extent, depend on the age of the person answering the question.  My answer is Casablanca which premiered in New York City on November 26, 1942, and first appeared in movie theaters across the United States on January 23, 1943.  If, like me, you’re a Casablanca fan, you’ll enjoy Scott Tobias’ appreciation of the film that recently appeared in The Guardian.  You can read it here.

If you explore the history of the film, you’ll be surprised that it ever became a classic.  The story was borrowed from an unproduced stage play called Everybody Comes to Rick’s, its production was rushed in order to take advantage of current events, the script was changed many times during filming, and no one knew how the film would end until the last minute.  Furthermore, the great movie music composer, Max Steiner, made the French national anthem and a seldom heard song from a mediocre 1931 Broadway show the most prominent (and indispensable) melodies in the movie.  And finally, drummer Dooley Wilson, who portrayed the singing pianist Sam in the movie, couldn’t even play a piano.  An off-camera musician actually played the piano while Wilson mimicked the hand movements of the real pianist.

As unlikely as it might seem, Casablanca was nominated for eight Academy Awards and won three: Outstanding Motion Picture, Best Director (Michael Curtiz), and Best Screenplay (Julius J. Epstein, Philip G. Epstein, and Howard Koch).  Humphrey Bogart and Claude Rains were nominated for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor, respectively, but lost. 

So how, you might ask, did Casablanca which was envisioned as a routine love story become a classic?  My answer comes in two parts.  First, the cast was truly stellar consisting of Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Paul Henreid, Claude Rains, Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre, and Conrad Veidt.  In this case when Warner Bros. put those seven actors together under director Michael Curtiz, we got movie magic

Actually, you have to add one more ingredient to really get movie magic.  That ingredient is the subtle but very effective use of a musical score to create a mood that enhances the actions taking place on the screen.  In the case of Casablanca, Max Steiner did just that principally by adapting the French national anthem and “As Time Goes By” to invoke patriotism, and to bring out our romantic sides.  Though he is credited as the composer of the musical score, one of the greatest movie composer who ever lived, used those two songs in various subtle ways rather than creating new music for the film. In fact, he considered “As Time Goes By” to be “the lousiest tune you can imagine,” and only included it in the score because Warner Bros. insisted that he do so. 

Imagine that the composer of over 300 movie music scores, including those for Gone with the Wind; Now, Voyager;  and King Kong was forced to use a song that he despised in Casablanca.  Now, imagine Casablanca without the musical score that Steiner created.  Perhaps you can, but I can’t.  I contend that Steiner’s score was as necessary as the wonderful actors and director Michael Curtiz.  Together these elements combined to lead to the creation of a film that will be revered forever.  That’s movie magic!

By the way, as a result of the inclusion of “the lousiest tune you can imagine” in Casablanca, it became very popular and is ranked by the American Film Institute (AFI) as the second best movie music song of the 20th century.  First place went to “Over the Rainbow” from The Wizard of Oz (1939).

 At 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time on the evening of December 6th Turner Classic Movies (TCM) will premier a documentary titled “Max Steiner: Maestro of Movie Music.”  It will be followed by Casablanca; a re-airing of the Steiner documentary; Now, Voyager; and King Kong.  You can read about the documentary here.

Steiner (1888 – 1971), and Erich Wolfgang Korngold (1897 – 1957) were two of the most important composers in the history of movie music – early movie music or otherwise.  Both composed in a symphonic style as has John Williams (born 1932).  To learn about many of the indispensable movie music composers, I highly recommend that you read Music for the Movies by Tony Thomas.  It contains chapters on 26 movie music composers and is very “readable.”

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Music Notes

Vocal groups come in many different forms, and you may be surprised at just how many forms there are – as well as how they stretch from long ago to the present.  Whether you prefer barbershop quartets or the Beach Boys, an article from udiscovermusic, titled “Pitch Perfect: A History of Vocal Groups” will have something that will appeal to you.

In fact, I plan to use the article during 2023 as a guide to a long segment for Music on the Sunny Side which airs on WBRH every Sunday morning from 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. Central Time.

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The 1954 black-and-white monster horror movie, Creature from the Black Lagoon is one of the classic horror films of the 1950s.  The music for the movie was composed by three people.  One of them was a man who would become one of the most prolific movie music and popular music composers of all time: Henry Mancini.  A few years later he would be composing unforgettable songs like “Days of Wine and Roses,” and “Moon River.”

The film was extra scary because it was shot in 3D (three dimensions).  When you entered the theater, you were given a pair of flimsy paper glasses that had polarized lenses.  Without the glasses, the movie seemed blurry, but with the glasses on you saw things just as you would if they were in front of you.  So, when the gill-man suddenly popped up out of the water, he seemed to be right in front of you.

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In the world of opera there are three works that are considered by many to be the most popular in the world.  These so-called “ABC operas” are Aida, ‘Boheme, and Carmen.  Two of the three operas were very unpopular at the time of their premiers.  Both are on WQXR’s list of five operas that people used to hate.

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What is the longest-running classical music series in the history of radio?  It might surprise you to know that it is the Metropolitan Opera’s Saturday Matinees.  The first broadcast was on Christmas day in 1931 and the first opera aired was Engelbert Humperdinck’s delightful Hansel and Gretel.  The original broadcasts were carried on the NBC radio network.  Now you can hear the performances through the Metropolitan Opera Radio Network, via the internet, and even watch them in select theaters across the globe.  The history of this  wonderful series is worth exploring.

The 2022-23 matinee broadcast “season” will begin on December 10, 2022 with the premier of Kevin Puts’ The Hours and will end with Richard Wagner’s Der Fliegende Holländer on June 10, 2023.  Most of the broadcasts feature the world’s best-loved operas, but there are special broadcasts such as “Met Debuts on the Air” (December 31, 2022), “Celebrating Franco Zeffirelli” (February 11, 2023), and “Listeners’ Choice: Great Met Broadcasts” (March 4, 2023) as well.  You can browse the list of this season’s offerings here.  Each broadcast also includes interesting and informative intermission features as well.  These broadcasts are an excellent way to explore the world of opera. 

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At the end of Georges Bizet’s opera Carmen, Don Jose stabs Carmen with his knife.  In a 2018 feminist production, Carmen shoots Don Jose with her gun.

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It’s time to vote for your five favorite classical music selections as part of the 2022 WQXR Classical Music Countdown.  The winners will be showcased at the end of the year.  You can see a list of countdown winners from previous years here.

WETA in Washington, D.C. also does a yearly countdown, but theirs took place during Thanksgiving week.  Here is the 2022 list of the top 100 classical selections as chosen by WETA listeners.

If you’re interested in exploring classical music, these lists of works chosen by listeners, rather than music critics, are a good place to start.

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There is a very popular classical music orchestra in North Carolina that has made a name for itself by slaughtering the classics.  Excellence is beyond their abilities; they simply hope that the audience can recognize the pieces they play.  All of the musicians are mediocre, and there’s no place in this orchestra for virtuoso musicians.  If you’re good, don’t bother to apply when there’s an opening.  Even its name reflects its lack of talent: the Really Terrible Orchestra of the Triangle (RTOOT).  You can read about RTOOT here, and see a short documentary about it here.  To find more videos of this unique orchestra, go to YouTube and search using the word “RTOOT.”

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Talking About Books. . .

Ian McEwan, one of the most important novelists in Great Britain, has accumulated a great many awards and honors over his long career.  He recently published his somewhat autobiographical seventeenth novel, Lessons, and it has been well received.  A recent article in The Atlantic magazine gives us some insight into McEwan’s life and also discusses his newest book.  After reading this article you can see the author and his beautiful home in the Cotswolds and get a sense of what he is like through a recent CBS Sunday Morning segment.  And finally, you can read an excerpt from Lessons here.

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I remember when Penguin and Random House, two of the big U. S. book publishing firms, merged back in 2013.  There was lots of tongue-in-cheek conjecture about the possible name of the combined companies.  Would it perhaps be called Penguin House, or would it become Random Penguin?  As it turned out, it simply became Penguin Random House.  How boring.

Now Penguin Random House wants to merge with Simon & Schuster, but the Justice Department is opposed to the merger because of antitrust fears.  An Associated Press article explains what’s going on and fills you in on other antitrust actions that the Justice Department is pursuing.

Meanwhile, the workers at Harper Collins are on strike for higher pay and better working conditions. 

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Novelist Cormack McCarthy will have two new books published before the end of the year.  It has been 16 years since his last book was published.  National Public Radio (NPR) has an article about it that you can either listen to or read. The first novel, The Passenger, which was released in October, will be followed in December by Stella Maris which is a prequel to The Passenger.  NPR also has an excerpt from Stella Maris that you can read here.

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A PBS News Hour segment that I ran across recently about the 2022 recipients of the “MacArthur Genius Grants” caught my attention and made me smile.  I smiled because John D. MacArthur is one of the least likely people on the face of the planet to be giving money (anywhere from $625,000 to $800,000 this year) to 25 complete strangers with absolutely no strings attached.  He was a horrid human being according to the book The Eccentric Billionaire: John D. MacArthur—Empire Builder, Reluctant Philanthropist, Relentless Adversary by Nancy Kriplen.  How horrid?  Here’s part of the description of the book from the Amazon website:

He was hated, feared, and admired. The country’s second-richest man at the time of his death, John D. MacArthur (1897-1978) also became one of its great benefactors. Every year, some two dozen American writers, artists, intellectuals, and scientists receive as much as a half million dollars in grants known as the “genius awards” from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. But MacArthur was not the benevolent figure you might expect. Stingier than J. Paul Getty, as money-obsessed as Howard Hughes, and as ruthless as Cornelius Vanderbilt, MacArthur was one of the most multi-layered men in business history. Now, in this first full biography of John D. MacArthur as he really was, Nancy Kriplen reveals the man behind the myth—the often vulgar, sometimes unethical, always ambitious rogue who would become one of America’s wealthiest men.

“So, what,” you say, “he set up a foundation that has done a lot of good.”  That’s true, but he set it up because he hated the IRS, not because he wanted to be benevolent.  In fact, if he had known what his vast wealth would be used for, he might have given it to the IRS instead.  But his MacArthur Fellowships, as they’re technically known, have rewarded a lot of accomplished people since the Foundation began granting them in 1981.  And speaking of the recipients, you’ll find a list of them here.

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Many writers dream of one day writing what will be remembered as “the great American novel,” but as far as I know, no one has written it yet.  Retired professor Lawrence Buell has written a book on the subject titled The Dream of the Great American Novel, and he has suggested five books that might be considered for that elusive prize.  You can read about his choices at the Five Books website.

What five novels from around the world would you choose as candidates for the greatest novel ever written?

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The Goodreads Choice Awards for the best books of 2022 are underway.  The eligible books for the first round are listed by category, so if you’re looking for your next read, you might want to browse the lists.  This is the opening round and there are 20 books in each category.

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Have you ever finished a book and then found it difficult or impossible to get interested in another one for a while?  That’s got a name, and the name is “reader’s block.”  Mental Floss offers eight tips for overcoming reader’s block, one of which is “read page 69 before committing to a book.”

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This and That from Here and There

I started the Reading the Classics book club in Baton Rouge, Louisiana back in September 2006.  I’m happy to report that it is still in existence and that we have recently chosen the nine works that we will discuss in 2023.  Thirty-one works were recommended, and the list is so impressive that I want to share it with you.  I’ll place an asterisk (*) at the end of the nine works that we’ve chosen.

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark

The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle

The Quiet American by Graham Greene*

The Waste Land by T. S. Eliot*

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe*

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez*

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather

The Sun Also Rises by Earnest Hemingway

The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka*

Buddenbrooks by Thomas Mann

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy

The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin

The Moon and Sixpence by W. Somerset Maugham*

The Moviegoer by Walker Percy

The Member of the Wedding by Carson McCullers

Don Quixote, Part 1 by Miguel de Cervantes*

Cannery Row by John Steinbeck

The Prince by Nicolo Machiavelli

Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens

Fathers and Sons by Ivan Turgenev

The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner*

Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe*

Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

The Story of My Life by Helen Keller

An Enemy of the People by Henrik Ibsen

I chose the word “works” above because some of the recommendations were not “books.”  The Waste Land by T. S. Eliot is a 434-line poem that I think will be somewhat difficult to understand without lots of background information on some of the things Eliot references in the poem; The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka is a novella; and An Enemy of the People by Henrik Ibsen is a play. 

I have often suggested that you get out of your comfort zone in order to really exercise your mind.  Some of the nine works we selected are great examples of literary works that will challenge you.  The Waste Land is almost impossible to fully understand without assistance from external sources.  One Hundred Years of Solitude is an excellent example of magic realism.  The Metamorphosis is a story about a man who wakes up one morning to discovered that he has been transformed into a giant bug overnight.  Surreal things happen in many of Franz Kafka’s writings, and that’s the origin of the adjective Kafkaesque.  And then there’s The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner.  Part of the novel employs a style of writing referred to as stream of consciousness, but not all of it.  Faulkner was a heavy drinker and I sometimes wonder if he was drunk when he wrote the first three sections, and sober when he wrote the fourth. 

If you’re looking for something interesting to read in 2023, any of the books listed above should be seriously considered.  If you’re interested in attending any of our discussions, email me at geraldlively45@gmail.com.

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Many consider Orson Welles to be one of the most brilliant and influential film makers who ever lived.  He was also well known for his work during the early days of radio especially with his Mercury Theater on the Air troop.  His radio adaptation of H. G. Wells’ War of the Worlds which was broadcast on the night of October 30, 1938, literally caused panic among many who lived along the east coast of the United States.  H. G. Wells’ novel takes place in England while Orson Welles’ radio adaptation takes place in New Jersey.  After an opening announcement that what followed would be a dramatization of H. G. Wells’ novel, the radio adaptation began with music being played live from some remote location – something that was common at the time.  An announcer interrupts the music repeatedly to discuss strange activity on Mars, and eventually announces that Martian crafts have landed in Grover’s Mill, New Jersey.  That’s when the panic began.  Welles and the others involved in the broadcast were totally unaware of the chaos that was taking place.  If you’re interested, you can hear the historic radio broadcast here.

Welles’ is best known as the star, producer, director, and co-author of the script for the 1941 movie Citizen Kane.  Many believe that Citizen Kane is the greatest movie ever made.  The movie was obviously influenced by the life of newspaper magnate William Randolph Hurst – though Welles denied it.  Hurst’s attempts to use legal means to stop production of the movie failed, then he used his influence in an attempt to destroy Welles and RKO, the studio that funded the production.  Some years ago, the American Film Institute (AFI) listed the 100 greatest American films of all time and Citizen Kane was at the top.  The other movies in the top ten list (in order) were The Godfather (1972), Casablanca (1942), Raging Bull (1980), Singin’ in the Rain (1952), Gone with the Wind (1939), Lawrence of Arabia (1962), Schindler’s List (1993), Vertigo (1958), and The Wizard of Oz (1939).

After Citizen Kane, Welles was given full control of future movies, and he made a mess of just about everything.  He had money problems, the studios went behind his back and edited out parts of some of his movies, and he had to take roles in other people’s movies in order to make money to finish some of his own projects.

And yet, he made one more movie that stands out: Touch of Evil (1958).  In fact, many movie aficionados consider Touch of Evil the last of the great film noir movies.  Once again, we have Welles in many major roles:  one of the stars, the director, and the screenwriter.  To better appreciate the movie, I direct you to a Turner Classic Movies (TCM) short feature that describes the somewhat unorthodox way that Welles chose to film the movie.  If you simply watch the clip with the sound turned down, you’ll miss a lot of what Welles did to make the movie interesting and unique.  Touch of Evil will be broadcast on TCM on Monday, November 14, 2022 at 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time.

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If you intended to commit a murder in which the weapon used would not be easily detectable, how would you go about it?  Lynne Truss, the author of an article about this subject and the author of the bestseller Eats, Shoots & Leaves, tells us about some unusual murder weapons she ran across during her research for the article.  She speaks favorably about Roald Dahl’s short story “Lamb to the Slaughter” which you can read here.

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The Guardian featured an article about the people who narrate the audiobooks that many of us love.  Contrary to what you may think, narrating a book is difficult, sometimes painful work.  Furthermore, not everyone can do it.  For instance, Finty Williams, who was told in drama class that she didn’t have a good radio voice, has been recording audiobooks successfully for over 20 years.  Her mother, on the other hand, tried narrating but gave up after only one day.  Who is her mother?  Read the article and prepare to be surprised.

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In The Little Brown Book of Anecdotes Clifton Fadiman includes hundreds of stories – true and apocryphal – about all sorts of people.  One is a very funny story about a doctor, Richard Gordon (1921 – 2017), who left medicine to become a successful author of “Doctor” books including Doctor in the House (1952), Doctor at Sea (1953), Doctor at Large (1955), and Doctor in Love (1957).  In the first paragraph Fadiman provides some background for the entry.  After that Gordon describes an embarrassing experience that happened to him at the viva voce [oral] examination during his gynecology finals.  He describes his examiner as “a red-faced fellow in tweeds and a striped tie.”

“‘Well, my boy,’ started the jovial professor amiably, pushing a bottle towards me. ‘What do you think that is?’

“‘Fibroids, sir,’ I replied proudly.

“He frowned.  I was puzzled.  My answer, impregnably correct, had not gone over too well…

“‘How would you treat a case of endometriosis?’

“‘Progestogens, sir.  But if I may say, sir, the results are often disappointing.’

“My examiner glared…

“‘Have I said something wrong, sir?’ I asked.

“‘Not professionally,’ my tweedy examiner snapped. ‘But I don’t think you have much future as a gynecologist.’

“My shamed eyes looked down in confusion.  They encountered a pair of brogues, stout stockings, the hem of a tweed skirt.  It frightened me off gynecology for the rest of my career, and off medical women for life.”

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This and That from Here and There

I’ve been listening to Fiasco: The AIDS Crisis, an excellent podcast that has to do with the history of the AIDS epidemic in the United States.  AIDS first appeared in the 1980s, so it’s easy for us to forget in this time of COVID-19 that this was a viral epidemic which was 100% fatal and still would be except for a cocktail of medications that keep those who have it asymptomatic.  The podcast is in eight parts and features many sound clips from those who have experience it and those who have fought mightily to find the cause of it and to convince certain groups of people to take actions to limit the infections – the gay men who utilized the baths in San Francisco, the United States Government, the blood banks with tainted blood that killed thousands of hemophiliacs and others who required transfusions to live, and religious groups that look at AIDS as a punishment from God for homosexuality.  The series (which is available to Audible members) is worth your time.

I also recommend the 1987 book And the Band Played On by Randy Shilts and the 1993 HBO docudrama based on Shilts’ book.  The book is much more detailed than either the podcast or the HBO movie.  It also documents the bitter battle between researchers to identify the cause of the disease and to receive the fame and honors due the winner. 

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I want to briefly list a few of the excellent books I’ve read over the last few months.  They aren’t in any particular order, but all earned four or five stars on my rating system from one to five stars.

Creatures of the Kingdom: Stories of Animals and Nature by James Michener – Each chapter of this 1993 book is a story about an animal that appeared in different Michener novels.  I was amazed at the amount of research he had to do to come up with these delightful, informative pieces.  Keep in mind that they were only a very small part of novels like Hawaii, but you might think that he was primarily a naturalist rather than a novelist when you read them.  My favorite chapter is about Nerka the salmon.

Trent’s Last Case (in England and The Woman in Black in the U.S.) by E. C. (Clerihew) Bentley – This is a 1913 murder mystery in which Philip Trent, a very clever, very successful detective, seems to have solved the case about halfway through the book.  The trouble is, he’s wrong.  So, he comes up with another solution and he’s wrong again.  Trent is so disgusted that he vows never to take on another case.  Bentley’s novel was a send-up of all the cocky detective who always get it right the first time, and it’s a fun book to read. 

You may have noticed that I gave Bentley’s complete middle name above.  That’s because he invented a type of poem called a Clerihew.  In fact, I made one up myself and will share it with you:

The well-known writer E. C. Bentley

Worked on Trent’s Last Case intently

And when at last his work was through

He said, “it’s good, but not as good as a Clerihew”

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I, Asimov: A Memoir by Isaac Asimov – This was Asimov’s third and final memoir, and it was published posthumously.  The title alludes to one of his most popular books I, Robot.  It’s a long book with many short chapters.  Each is about a different person or event in his life.  He begins by stating that many people consider him arrogant, but he feels that he’s only being honest about his abilities.  In fact, it would be difficult to not be a little arrogant if you wrote over 400 books, thousands of magazine articles, and gave numerous lectures on diverse subjects.  Furthermore, Isaac Asimov is one of the fathers of science fiction – especially when it comes to robots.  There are three recognized “laws of robotics,” and Asimov came up with them.  He also wrote numerous nonfiction books on subjects as diverse as science, mathematics, the plays of Shakespeare, the Bible, and an annotated guide to the operettas of Gilbert and Sullivan.  He loved for someone to suggest a book on anything that he hadn’t written about.  With what he referred to as a near-photographic memory and boundless curiosity, he could retrieve information on almost any subject imaginable and quickly produce a book that was accurate and a money-maker.  By the way, he had triple bypass heart surgery in 1983 and died (supposedly) from heart and kidney failure in 1992.  Ten years later his widow, Janet, and his daughter, Robyn, announced that he had actually died from AIDS – the result of contaminated blood that he received during his heart bypass surgery in 1983.

Doctors from Hell: The Horrific Account of Nazi Experiments on Humans by Vivien Spitz – Most people have heard of the Nuremberg Trials, but few are familiar with the medical trials that took place in Nuremberg after them.  All of the accused were involved in medical experiments that were performed on Jews and other Nazi prisoners against their will during World War II.  Spitz was a young woman who got a job as a court stenographer at many of the medical trials and what she learned changed her life.  It’s an unpleasant book to read, but it shows, I believe, how easily ordinary people can dehumanize other people under certain conditions.  This book has nothing to do with the infamous Dr. Josef Mengele, but those on trial were every bit a vile as he was.

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Tuesday, May 3, 2022 we will discuss William Shakespeare’s Othello in my Reading the Classics book club at the Bluebonnet Library here in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  We meet from 12:30 p.m. until 2:00 p.m.  I started the book club in 2006 and it’s still well attended.  Here is a list of the books we have scheduled through the remainder of this year:

May 3, 2022 – Othello by William Shakespeare

June 7, 2022 – I, Robot by Isaac Asimov

August 2, 2022 – The Virginian by Owen Wister

September 6, 2022 – Hiroshima by John Hersey

November 1, 2022 – Innocent Blood by P. D. James

December 6, 2022 – The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie

As you can see, we have a diverse reading list.  I highly recommend Agatha Christie’s The Murder of Roger Ackroyd to those of you who enjoy mysteries.  Like Trent’s Last Case, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd is unique.

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Every Monday night during May 2022, Turner Classic Movies (TCM) will present some of the wonderful Warner Brothers Busby Berkeley movies.  (You can read a TCM Magazine article about him here.)  Berkeley choreographed many of the 1930s musicals that offered a brief reprieve from the relentless hardships of the Great Depression.  He is most famous for his synchronized, kaleidoscopic dance routines that were shot from overhead.  For instance, in one movie the gorgeous women had feather fan and they simulated a flower opening and closing.  Every Monday beginning at 8:00 p.m. Eastern time TCM will broadcast Busby Berkeley’s movies through the night.  Watch them or record them, but don’t miss them!

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Beginning at 8:00 a.m. Central time on Sunday, May 8th I will host the three hour long big band era program Music on the Sunny Side on WBRH.  The following Sunday, May 15th we will present another rebroadcast of Pete Soderbergh’s Swingin’ Sunday Morning during the same time period.  Pete’s upcoming show originally aired on May 18, 1997 – almost exactly 25 years ago.  You can listen to the shows at the WBRH website or you can simply tell your Amazon Echo device to “play WBRH.”  You can listen to previous broadcasts of these and other programs at the WBRH website by clicking on “Show Archive” at the top of the page.

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The Return of Pete Soderbergh

Pete Soderbergh During One of His Shows at WBRH
(All Photographs by Katherine Soderbergh)

One of the unique aspects of LSU College of Education professor Pete Soderbergh was that he invariably stood at the door of his classroom ready to greet his students as they filed in.  In fact, he told his students that if the day ever came when he wasn’t at the door when they arrived, one of two things had happened: they had shown up for class on the wrong day or he was dead.  On Monday, February 16, 1998, he wasn’t at the door and his students knew that something was terribly wrong.  In fact, Pete had suffered a stroke the day before and was in a coma in a local hospital.  He died on Tuesday, February 17, 1998 at the age of 69.

There are many interesting components that made up the whole of Pete Soderbergh.  He was a native of Brooklyn, a decorated Marine who served during the Korean War, a published author of books on diverse subjects, a professor and administrator at a number of universities, and the father of six children including moviemaker Steven Soderbergh.  But I want to concentrate on his time as a “disc jockey” at WBRH, a public radio station at Baton Rouge Magnet High School in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. 

Pete hosted a three hour program that he called Pete’s Swingin’ Sunday Morning every Sunday between July 3, 1994 and February 15, 1998 – the fateful day of his stroke.  The songs were predominantly but not exclusively from the big band era. This was back in the days when turntables were common in radio stations, and CD players were just catching on.  That was fine with Pete because he had a huge collection of records – 78s, 45s, and LPs.  I should also note that he was a big fan of movies, including musicals.  He combined his love for music and movies with a smattering of history to create an absolutely novel radio show.  And he had a talent for coming up with dialogs between make-believe people that served as “song cues” for his upcoming numbers.  Some of the song cues were funny, such as the one between Rhett Butler and Scarlett O’Hara who was worried about paying the rent on Tara, while others, such as those between Dad and Son, were often poignant.  Some of the funniest dialogs took place between Pete and the Old Timer, the crotchety weekend custodian who seemed to hang around the radio station on Sunday mornings just to aggravate Pete.  In all cases the voices we heard were those of Pete Soderbergh.  Pete enjoyed the dialogs he created and the music that followed. His frequent laughter let us know that he was having a wonderful time.

Pete also greeted his listeners by their first names at intervals throughout each show.  In case you aren’t aware, most people enjoy hearing their names mentioned on the radio, so that’s an excellent way to keep them listening.  I mentioned above that he greeted his students at the classroom door – something my wife and I never encountered during our many years at universities.  Why did he do it?  I suspect that he was letting them know that they were important to him.  And when you think about it, reading the names of his listeners on his show was probably meant to sent the same message.  Pete didn’t miss a trick.

I had the opportunity to join Pete on his show during a number of membership drives.  After Pete’s death another LSU professor, Fritz McCameron, took Pete’s place, renaming the show Music on the Sunny Side, and I had the pleasure of occasionally filling in for him.  Over the years I did more and more shows, and we added a third person to the lineup, Winston Day, the former Dean of the LSU Law School. 

A few months ago Winston told me that he found part of one of Pete’s shows while looking through some old cassette tapes he had recorded man years ago.  I asked him for a copy of it, and he gave me a CD from Sunday, December 7, 1997 (the anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941) that was about 50 minutes long.  The sound quality was so-so, but the music and stories about World War II brought back lots of wonderful memories of Pete’s programs from long ago.

As I listened to that tape I remembered Pete once saying that someone was taping his show for him.  I had no idea who that “someone” was or where the tapes were – or even if they still existed – but I knew that his daughter, Mary Soderbergh, who lived in the Baton Rouge area at the time of Pete’s death, would know – if anyone did.  But I had no idea how to contact her.

Then I remembered that on Sunday, February 18, 2018 twenty years and a day after Pete’s sudden death, many members of his family contributed in his memory during a membership drive that I hosted.  Mary was one of those contributors, so I asked our music director, Rob Payer, if he had a phone number for her.  Wonder of wonders, he did.  As soon as I got the phone number I contacted her in Los Angeles where she now lives and was astounded to learn that she had Pete’s old tapes – all of them now an average of 25 years old.  I approached her about using one or more of the shows for Music on the Sunny Side if the tapes were of sufficient quality, and she sent me a box that contained over 30 complete shows.  The shows (all were on high quality Maxell XL II tapes) sounded all right, and after a little tweaking sounded excellent. 

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is peter-soderbergh-at-wbrh.jpg

My next step was to see if Rob Payer would be interested in rerunning the old shows – perhaps one a month.  Rob, who knew Pete and loved his show, was very enthusiastic about doing so.  He could not have been more supportive.

I’ve digitized all of the old tapes, and we will rebroadcast parts of two of his old shows this coming Sunday morning, August 15, 2021 from 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. central time.  We plan to rebroadcast additional shows on the third Sunday of each month.  You can hear the show locally at 90.3 FM or at wbrh.org on the internet.  If you have an Amazon Echo device, simply tell it to play WBRH.  If you miss the program you can go to wbrh.org, click on “Show Archive,” go down the list of archived programs and click on “Music on the Sunny Side.”  There you’ll find past programs featuring Pete, Fritz, Winston, and me.

Both Pete and his show were unique, and I’m delighted that we’re able to welcome him back to WBRH 23 years after his death.  That sort of thing doesn’t happen every day.

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Readings I’ve Enjoyed

The Good Earth (1931) – Pearl S. Buck Buck, the daughter of missionaries, spent much of her life in China and many of her novels are about China and its people.  The Good Earth, her best known novel is about Wang Lung, a peasant farmer who, with the help of his wife,  O-Lan, becomes wealthy.  They struggle through famine, warfare, and other challenges along the way.  And along the way wealth brings about changes in Wang Lung, though he never loses his love for the soil.  To me, O-Lan, though not pretty or particularly intelligent, is the heroic figure in this novel.  Wang Lung and O-Lan have a number of children including a daughter who is developmentally disabled.  Despite her handicap, Wang Lung has a special bond with her.  Buck had a daughter who had a similar handicap, and it is obvious that Wang Lung’s daughter, “the poor fool,” is modeled on Buck’s own child.

Music as a Mirror of History (2016) – Professor Robert Greenberg This is an offering from The Great Courses.  Most of the courses are available in either audio or video formats.  This is one that works well in the audio-only format because it’s all about the music and the history.  Video would be nice perhaps, but it wouldn’t add much to your understanding.  Professor Greenberg is often irreverent and occasionally a bit crude, but he’s always entertaining and informative.  Most of his courses focus almost totally on the music he has chosen, but this course is, I think, more history than music.  You’ll want to  listen to this course more than once if you expect to absorb all of the interesting information contained in it.  I highly recommend any and all of his courses.  He is a natural performer, and his ability to grab and hold your attention makes his lectures memorable.

The Theory of Everything: The Quest to Explain All Reality (2017) – Don Lincoln This Great Courses course must be seen and well as heard.  It is a deep dive into the world of quantum physics by a teacher who is excellent at making complex science accessible to those of us who aren’t physicists.  That being said, you will probably get lost at times if you’re not a physicist.  What I’m saying is that the course is worthwhile even though you probably won’t understand it all.  After watching and listening to Lincoln’s lectures, you’ll have an idea of just how complex but fascinating subatomic physics is.  And those articles you see about quarks and the newest subatomic particle that’s just been discovered will make more sense to you. The visuals in this course are superb.  As an alternative to The Theory of Everything I suggest Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Astrophysics for People in a Hurry.  It’s not as in-depth, but it’s much easier to understand.

The Illustrated Man (1951) – Ray Bradbury The Illustrated Man in Ray Bradbury’s novel of the same name has tattoos (or illustrations) all over his body. Each one has the ability to magically “come to life” so you can watch the story associated with the tattoo.  Though I’m not particularly interested in science fiction about travel to other planets and such, I was captivated by Bradbury’s ability to take a vague idea and develop it into a fascinating story.  For instance, he envisioned a spaceship blowing up in outer space and leaving the astronauts floating in different directions, and wondered what might happen to them.  He didn’t know, so he wrote a short story to find out.  Of course his imagination took over and gave us a very good story – one I would never have imagined.  There are 18 stories all of which, except for one, had previously been published.  When some of the stories ended, I thought, “Is that all there is?  What’s the point?”  But some of the stories like “Marionettes, Inc.” had a good storyline with an ending that would have made O. Henry proud.

Sinatra’s Century: One Hundred Notes on the Man and His World (2015) – David Lehman Frank Sinatra was arguably the greatest male vocalist in the history of popular music.  He was also a very complex human being.  David Lehman discusses it all in this excellent profile of “the chairman of the board.”  My takeaway from Lehman’s book is that Sinatra the man could be kind and thoughtful one minute and angry and violent the next.  We know that he sometimes trashed the furniture in his hotel rooms, but he also aided many people financially when they were down and out – and often did it anonymously.  He didn’t read music, but he would study every song before he sang it and develop specific ideas about how to approach it.  In effect, he developed a game plan for everything he sang.  He seldom did more than one take and became very upset if he was forced to record a song more than once.  A great singer? Always.  A good human? Sometimes. 

The Only Woman in the Room: A Novel (2019) – Marie Benedict The beautiful and talented Viennese-born actress Hedwig “Hedy” Lamar was much more than an actress.  She was also an inventor.  This biographical novel is about both aspects of her life.  She was not trained in science, but seemed to have a natural knack for scientific thinking.  She married a German businessman who seemed like a nice, thoughtful guy.  After their marriage, she learned how brutal he could be.  She also learned that he was doing business with the Nazis.  Eventually she got away from him, ended up in the U.S., and became a well-known actress.  During World War II the U.S. used torpedoes that could be guided to their targets by remote control.  The problem was that the enemy learned how to detect the guidance signal and its frequency and then interrupted the communication.  Lamar had the idea that multiple frequencies could be used with both the transmitter and the receiver in the torpedoes knowing what the sequence of the frequencies would be and when the switches from one to another would occur.  Since the enemy would not know what the ever-changing frequencies would be, they would be unable to divert the torpedoes.  Unfortunately, Lamar never received credit for her brilliant idea – in part because no one could believe that a beautiful actress could be capable of such complex thought.  Benedict’s novel is based on Lamar’s life, but includes dialogue, etc. that he (by necessity) made up. 

Something Wonderful: Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Broadway Revolution (2018) – Todd S. Purdum Composer Richard Rodgers and lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II both had very successful careers before they teamed up.  Rodgers had a very fruitful partnership with Lorenz “Larry” Hart until Hart’s heavy drinking made it impossible for Rodgers to depend on him.  Hammerstein wrote lyrics for operetta greats Sigmund Romberg and Rudolf Friml, as well as the great Jerome Kern (especially notable was 1927’s Show Boat).  But the Broadway musicals they created together were and are truly unforgettable.  Their first collaboration in 1943 was Oklahoma! which, for the first time, fully integrated the musical numbers into the storyline.  Something Wonderful is the story behind their collaborations – from Oklahoma! in 1943 through their most beloved collaboration The Sound of Music in 1959.  Purdum had lots of stories to tell along the way, and anyone interested in Broadway will quickly devour Something Wonderful.

The Scientist in the Crib: What Early Learning Tells Us about the Mind (1999) – Alison Gopnik, Andrew N. Meltzoff,  Patricia K. Kuhl There is some debate about whether or not the human brain in newborns is a blank slate.  That debate will probably never be settled, but this book shows through numerous experiments that babies are capable of thought far earlier than many people imagined. For instance, if a young child sees a toy car go behind a piece of cardboard and come out at the other end, it will quickly learn to expect the car to do so every time it goes behind the cardboard.  It gets confused if the car does not come out where and when it is expected.  The authors site numerous experiments like this to show just how much babies can think.  One of the interesting takeaways for me was the realization that even babies get bored and look for new experiences.  If you give a baby a toy it will play with it for a while, then discard it.  Give the baby a new toy and the sequence of events will be repeated.  I never tired of learning about the ingenious way researchers found to test their ideas about the intelligence of babies, and I was constantly delighted to realize how much their young minds function.

Henrietta  & Eleanor: A Retelling of Jekyl and Hyde (2018) – Libby Spurrier As the title indicates, this book is a retelling of Robert Louis Stevenson’s 1886 novella The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde but the setting is modern-day London and Jekyl is a woman, not a man.  It is an Audible Original with a full cast, music, and sound effects.  It’s 2 hours 50 minutes long, and  once you start listening to it, you won’t want to stop.  I’m a fan of old-time radio and I assure you that it’s as good as anything produced during radio’s golden age.  The audio book is only available through Audible and Amazon since it  is an Audible Original.

Weird Things Customers Say in Book Stores (2016) – Jen Campbell Jen Campbell works in a bookstore in London.  She has had customers say some very weird things.  Her first experience with this concerned a woman who entered the store when Campbell works.  The woman said she had just finished The Diary of Anne Frank and wanted to know if Frank ever wrote a sequel. At first Campbell thought she was perhaps the only one who ran across odd people, but she soon found out that many, many booksellers had had similar – and sometimes even weirder – experiences.  So she gathered tales from booksellers in many countries and published Weird Things.  I must say that some of the stories in the book made me laugh, while others made me shudder at the thought of the customers mentioned ever getting their hands on the nuclear codes – or even a driver’s license and an automobile.  Here are a few examples:

Customer: Do you have a book on the Enlightenment?

Bookseller: Sure.

Customer: Excellent.  My son’s just about to start studying it at school.  It’s all about the light bulb being invented, right?

            (At a university bookstore)

Customer: I’m looking for a book for my Northern Anthropology Class.

Bookseller: I’m afraid I’m not familiar with that class. Do you know the title, or have your syllabus with you?

Customer: No.

Bookseller: Right. What’s your overall course in?

Customer: Literature.

Bookseller: Oh. (pause) So, not anthropology?

Customer: No.

Bookseller: Right. Are you looking for the Norton Anthology?

Customer: Yes, that’s it!

Customer: Do you have any Willa Catheter?

            (A child is playing with a book on the floor and rips it.)

Child’s mother: Oh, Stephen (she tuts in a non-serious way).  Do be careful.  (She takes the book off the child and puts it back on the shelf)

Bookseller: Excuse me?

Child’s mother: Yes?

Bookseller: Your son just ripped the head off the tiger who came to tea.

Child’s mother: I know. Children, eh?

Bookseller: Yes, but we can’t sell that book now. It’s damaged.

Child’s mother: Well, I don’t know what you expect me to do about it.

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Reading and the Human Brain

My six-year-old grandson speaks English well.  He uses nouns, pronouns, verbs, adjectives and all the rest with complete ease.  He speaks in the present tense, past tense, and future tense without ever thinking about it, and his vocabulary includes the hard-to-pronounce names of numerous dinosaurs.  His five-year-old sister is right behind him.  Now think about this: neither child has ever had a language lesson.  They don’t need them because we are genetically programmed for speech at birth.  All we need to trigger that ability is a few years of life and exposure to other people speaking.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of reading.  We have to be taught to read because that ability is not built into our genes.  Reading is foreign to the human brain.  In fact, writing and reading are only about 3,000 years old.  The Greeks only starting writing after borrowing an alphabet from the Phoenicians over 2,500 years ago. Before then, they had to memorize everything – including Homer’s epic poems The Iliad and The Odyssey.  Many people believe that they actually sang the poems and that seems plausible to me since we seem to have the ability to remember better when our words are put to music.  Think about it:  how many poems do you remember?  How many song lyrics do you remember?  I can’t recite many poems, but I remember the lyrics to songs I sang as a kid, and that was a long, long time ago.

So if reading is foreign to the human brain, how did we ever learn to do it?  Well, according to Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain by researcher Maryanne Wolf, we owe it all to the adaptability of the human brain.  She contends that our brains learned to recognize written symbols as representatives for the words we normally only heard.  Using something referred to as a fMRI researches can even tell you what part (or parts) of our brains are modified for reading. 

I’m being noncommittal about the exact parts of our brains that are activated when we read for two reasons: I’m leaving the technical stuff for Dr. Wolf to tell you, and I’m doing it because more than one location in the brain can be responsible for our ability to read.  She claims that if you learn to read English, and then try to learn to read using the 2,000 or so Chinese symbols, your brains has to start from scratch in a location different from where your ability to read English is stored! 

Unfortunately not all brains are wired so that they can learn to read efficiently.  The condition is termed dyslexia, and Dr. Wolf is researching the topic in part because one of her children is dyslexic. Her discussion  of dyslexia will interest anyone who is dyslexic or knows someone who is.  She also talks about the stigma that dyslexic students face because they can’t read like the other kids.  Unfortunately, teachers have not always recognized the problem and have at times accused the students with dyslexia of just being lazy.

Wolf recounts in detail the fascinating story of how reading developed, and points out which area of our brain are used in the process of reading.  Most of her book is very readable, but it gets a bit more technical at times than I could appreciate.  Overall, the book is well constructed and I highly recommend it.

An additional concern – which she discusses in Reader, Come Home: The Reading Brain in a Digital Age – is the effect that reading on digital devices is having on our brains.  Early research seems to shows that reading an actual book and reading the same book in the form of an ebook are not equivalent.  A term she often uses is “deep reading,” and it seems that we may not be able to read a physical book and an identical ebook with the same depth of understanding.  Since this is a relatively new technology we don’t have enough evidence from studies to show how the different reading techniques compare.

Another problem she discusses is the difficulty of finding something you’ve read in an ebook versus a physical book.  I lead the discussions in my Reading the Classics Book Club, and over the years I’ve increasingly read ebook versions of the assigned works.  I’m about to go back to actual books because I find it very difficult to quickly find information in ebooks.  According to Wolf, research seems to indicate that I’m not the only one facing this problem.  The research on this and other matters is inconclusive right now because this is a relatively recent research field, but Wolf is quite concerned, and she may be right to feel the way she does.  The ability to read is a precious gift to me, and I hate to think that my beloved grandchildren and their children might inadvertently be doing something that would imperil their hard-earned ability to read. 

Wolf is also concerned that the internet is having an adverse effect on us.  We are becoming so dependent on the internet that we aren’t bothering to remember things the way we used to.  Also, many people (including my grandson) are spending many hours each day playing mindless, repetitive, and addictive games rather than interacting with other people or reading.

Let me leave you with five quotes from Reader, Come Home that summarize Wolf’s fears about the dangers of moving from print books to ebooks, and our ever increasing interest in the internet and all that is enticing about it.

“What concerns me as a scientist is whether expert readers like us, after multiple hours (and years) of daily screen reading, are subtly changing the allocation of our attention to key processes when reading longer, more demanding texts. Will our quality of attention in reading — the basis of the quality of our thought — change inexorably as our culture transitions away from a print–based culture toward a digital one? What are the cognitive threats to and the promises of such a transition ?”

“Tristan Harris is a Silicon Valley technology expert whose knowledge about the ‘persuasion design’ principles in various apps and devices led him to become an outspoken critic of how features based on these principles are intentionally selected to addict users. Josh Elman, another Silicon Valley expert who applauds Harris’s efforts, compares the use of the addictive features of various devices to the tobacco industry’s use of addiction-forming nicotine before the link with cancer was discovered. The founder of the advocacy initiative Time Well Spent, Harris recently stated in interviews with PBS and The Atlantic, ‘Never before in history have the decisions of a handful of designers (mostly men, white, living in San Francisco, aged 25–35) working at three companies’ — Google, Apple, and Facebook — ‘had so much impact on how millions of people around the world spend their attention . . . . We should feel an enormous responsibility to get this right.’”

“A fascinating study by Julie Coiro looked at preferences for reading by seventh-graders. Her most thought-provoking result was that the highest-performing print readers were often the lowest-performing online readers, and the converse.”

“No self-respecting internal review board at any university would allow a researcher to do what our culture has already done with no adjudication or previous evidence: introduce a complete, quasi-addictive set of attention-compelling devices without knowing the possible side effects and ramifications for the subjects (our kids).”

“We need to ensure that human beings do not fall into the trap that Edward Tenner described when he said, ‘It would be a shame if brilliant technology were to end up threatening the kind of intellect that produced it.’”

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Quiz of the Month

It seems that I haven’t published a “Quiz of the Month” since August 2018.  Sorry about that.  But now it’s back!

This quiz has to do with books and movies.  You may find that you’ve seen some of this information in past posts.  As always, you can find the answers here.

  1. What was the setting for Daphne du Maurier’s short story “The Birds”?
  1. This well-known 1947 Broadway play and the 1951 movie that was based on it take place in New Orleans and feature a woman who has “always depended on the kindness of strangers.”  Name the play and its author as well as the famous male actor who had the leading role in both the Broadway play and the movie.
  1. Name the first book that featured Hannibal Lecter.  Who was the author?
  1. Robert Block’s best-known book is based on the real-life 1950s murderer Ed Gein.  Name the book and name the character who represents Gein in the 1960 movie that was based on Block’s novel.
  1. Who wrote The Stepford Wives?  What well-known author penned the screenplay?
  1. What was the setting for H. G. Wells’ 1898 novel The War of the Worlds?
  1. What Nobel prize winning southern author wrote movie scripts in Hollywood for a while due to his need for money?
  1. What was the first name of the second Mrs. de Winter in Daphne Du Maurier’s novel Rebecca?
  1. The first movie based on Ian Fleming’s James Bond character was Dr. No in 1962.  Name the first James Bond novel to be published. 
  1. The Philadelphia Story, written by Philip Barry, began as a romantic comedy on Broadway in 1939.  The 1940 film, which was based on the play, starred Katherine Hepburn in the same role she had in the Broadway play.  In 1956 it was re-imagined as a musical comedy film.  What was the name of the film, who composed the music and lyrics for it, and who took the Hepburn role in the movie musical?
  1. Both the Broadway musical and the film, The Sound of Music, were based on what book?  Who was the author?
  1. This 1910 novel by French writer Gaston Leroux has been filmed many times – beginning with a silent movie in 1925 – and was the basis for a well-known 1986 musical.  Name the book and the composer of the music for the musical.
  1. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? is a 1968 science fiction novel by Philip K. Dick.  What is the name of the movie that was made from this book?
  1. This 1939 novel about a family of “Okies” who travel to California to flee the dust bowl was made into a 1940 movie starring Henry Fonda.  Name the book and its author and, for extra credit, cite the source for the book’s title.
  1. Name the famous British actress who won her only Best Actress Academy Awards for her starring roles in two movies set in the Southern United States.
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