Edited to add: LAT obit. Not sure why I didn’t link this one this morning; I want to say that the obit I saw when I was doing my morning rounds was a crappy AP one.
Archive for the ‘Books’ Category
Not much going on, but I wanted to drop this in.
The head of the U.S. Border Patrol announced new rules Friday to limit agents from shooting at moving vehicles or people throwing rocks or other objects at agents, reversing a controversial policy that has led to at least 19 deaths.
This is why I love the Alamo Drafthouse so much. I was sitting in my seat watching the closing credits. The usher/waiter came over and asked me, “Was everything okay? Did you have any issues?” And I told him, kind of jokingly, “The only issue I had is that I can’t get these darn pens to write.” (There’s pens at each seat that you use to write down your order.)
And the guy smiles at me, says “Here. Go see a movie on me.” and hands me a free pass. When was the last time this happened to you?
I liked “American Hustle” a little better than “The Wolf of Wall Street” for two reasons. Namely, these two:
Ms. Adams is wonderful. As are her costumes. I could stare at her all day long (or at least until she said “Stop staring at my cleavage”) and would happily take her out for the usual cheeseburger and house red.
Christian Bale completely disappears into the role of an overweight balding scam artist, and Bradley Cooper is fine as his FBI handler. “Hustle” is a perfectly fine way to spend a little over two hours. (At least it is fairly efficient in its storytelling, with no digressions about Quaaludes.) It even has a redemptive arc. So why don’t I have warmer feelings about the movie? Idiosyncratic personal reasons, which you can agree or disagree with.
There is a school of criticism that says you should judge the movie based on what’s on the screen, not the background or the subtext or even how closely it sticks to real events, even if it claims to be “based on a true story”. I mostly agree with this school of thought, but as I get older and Hollywood turns out more “based on a true story” movies, I start to think that it is fair to judge a movie that makes that claim, at least in part, on how closely it sticks to the facts. I don’t think that should be the only factor, but I do believe it is fair to say, “Look, the people behind this movie changed X, Y, and Z, their reasons for doing so aren’t convincing, and I think these changes make the movie weaker.”
“American Hustle”, to be fair, does not claim to be “based on a true story”. David O. Russell states up front that “Some of this actually happened”. And it is arguably fair for him and for the writers to deviate some from the real story behind Abscam.
My problem is that I read Robert Greene’s The Sting Man: Inside Abscam last week (in addition to having lived through Abscam) so the real story is fresh in my mind. And I had problems with the choices Russell made.
Specifically, I didn’t buy into the whole love triangle between Richie DiMaso (the FBI agent), Irving Rosenfeld (the Bale character) Sydney Prosser (the Amy Adams character, who starts out as Rosenfeld’s mistress). Other than Sydney wearing dresses slit down to waist level, what is the reason for the engaged DiMaso to fall so hard for her, hard enough to endanger his career? (In the real world, the Rosenfeld character’s mistress was nowhere near as heavily involved in Abscam as “Prosser” was; the Rosenfeld character got her off the hook as a condition for participating in the operation.)
What happens between the three of them sets up a nice twist ending that gives us catharsis; but the catharsis wouldn’t have been needed without that peculiar choice, which seems to have been motivated primarily by the desire to show off Amy Adams’ cleavage. (I won’t give away the twist in case you haven’t seen the movie, but in reality? Nothing even remotely close to it happened.)
Maybe I’m wrong, or maybe I’m being unfair to the movie. But I think Russell could have made just as good a movie by sticking closer to the true story, while still working in Ms. Adams and her spectacular cleavage.
And thus we slog to the end of another NFL season, and the end of another TMQ season. Surprisingly (at least to us) TMQ avoids any discussion of unrealistic television shows, but there’s a lot of discussion of books. Speaking of which, did you know TMQ had a new book out?
After the jump, the last TMQ for the 2013 NFL season…
Our great and good friend Borepatch has a post up about all the folks who died on January 30th, including Gandhi, Sir Everard Digby, and that guy who crossed the 47 Ronin.
Borepatch’s post, and an email from Chartwell Booksellers, reminded me: Winston Churchill died on January 24th, 1965, but his funeral was
today er, on this date in 1965.
A couple of years ago, I read John Keegan’s Winston Churchill: A Life, and there was something in it that I found striking and moving:
Queen Elizabeth II attended his funeral.
I know that sounds like something you’d expect for Churchill, and I doubt there was any question about her going. But the royal family almost never attends the funeral of a commoner: they only go to funerals of other members of the royal family. I have this mental image of Elizabeth arguing with her people: “I’m going. I don’t care about tradition. He won the war, you…” Well, I doubt Elizabeth would say “assholes” but she might think it. I know it is fashionable to sniff at England and wonder what they need with the royal family, but it does seem like Elizabeth II is the class act of the bunch.
(And he got a state funeral, too. According to Keegan, the last commoner to get one of those was the Duke Of Wellington. In 1852.)
While I was working on this post, I found that the BBC has a nice archive devoted to remembering Churchill. I haven’t had time to go through it all yet, but I’m bookmarking it here.
The NYT has a feature on the “industrial musical”.
The 1956 Chevy show cost $3 million, while “My Fair Lady” opened on Broadway with a budget of $500,000. Big budgets attracted top-drawer talent. “Go Fly a Kite” was written by John Kander and Fred Ebb, the team behind “Cabaret” and “Chicago.” Sheldon Harnick and Jerry Bock wrote “Ford-i-fy Your Future” for the tractor and implement division of Ford, as well as the songs for “Fiorello!” and “Fiddler on the Roof.” Bob Fosse was already at work on “The Pajama Game” when he toured with “The Mighty ‘O’,” a 1953 Oldsmobile show.
$3 million in 1956 money works out to about $25,700,000 in 2013 money. Or about a third of the cost of “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark”. The NYT piece seems to be mostly promotion for a new book: Everything’s Coming Up Profits: The Golden Age of Industrial Musicals. But I’ll admit: I’m intrigued by the book, and will probably purchase it at Half-Price when it shows up there.
Apparently, there was a serious proposal last year to add bass fishing to the list of high school sports which are approved and regulated by the Texas University Interscholastic League. It did not pass. And honestly, I’m a little weirded out by the idea; where would students practice? How? How often? In boats or from the shore? Can you practice bass fishing in Midland? What would the bass fishing championship look like? Would it be televised on one of cable’s many outdoor channels?
(Not making fun of bass fishermen at all. I realize there’s an active bass tournament scene, and if that’s your thing, God bless you. I just think the logistics of doing this at the high school level are strange. Especially since if you’re a high school bass fisherman, you can probably compete in professional tournaments for real money; it isn’t like professional bass fishing is subject to the same sort of size and weight issue that high school football is.)
We were wrong, wrong, wrongity wrong! This is appropriate, as part of TMQ’s column this week is the “bad predictions review”.
Why were we wrong? We predicted last week that TMQ would use this week’s column for lots of gratuitous TV bashing. Instead, there’s pretty much…none.
So how does TMQ fill column space in this, the most boring week in football? After the jump, this week’s TMQ…
I’m currently reading Richard Miles’s Carthage Must Be Destroyed: The Rise and Fall of an Ancient Civilization (a Christmas gift from my beloved and indulgent sister).
One thing I’ve noticed is that Carthage suffered from a severe shortage of names. You would not believe the number of Hamilcars, Hannos, Hasdrubals, and Hannibals in the pages of this book.
(I owned a Hamilcar once. Couldn’t keep a clutch in it.)
Miles makes a good point: what we know about Carthage mostly comes from the works of Roman historians, who (N.S. Sherlock) had their own set of biases and assumptions, and those should be taken into consideration. (That’s the reason for the question mark in the title.) But there’s an interesting quote from Livy, by way of Miles:
Reckless in courting danger, he showed superb tactical ability once it was upon him. Indefatigable both physically and mentally, he could endure with equal ease excessive heat or cold; he ate and drank not to flatter his appetites but only so much as would sustain his body strength; waking and sleeping he made no distinction between night and day; what time his duties left him he gave to sleep, nor did he seek it on a soft bed or in silence, for he was often to be seen, wrapped in an army cloak, asleep on the ground amid common soldiers on sentry or picket duties. His clothing in no way distinguished him from other young men of his age; but his accoutrements and horses were eye-catching. Mounted or unmounted he was unequaled as a fighting man, always the first to attack, always the last to leave the field.
So. Shared the hardships of his men, never asked them to do anything he wasn’t willing to do himself, first to fight, last to retreat. Where have we heard this before?
Oh, yeah: pretty much every great military commander in history shares those characteristics. I just find it kind of interesting to see how far back this goes…
The playoffs have not been good to us. Our Saints are out. Our Packers are out. San Francisco is still standing. On the other hand, San Diego is gone, which means an end to the stupid “San Diego is destined to win the Super Bowl because they played Philadelphia in the opening game” meme. And our Patriots are still standing.
But enough about us. After the jump, this week’s TMQ…
Neal Barrett, Jr., one of the great Texas SF writers.
Madeline Arakawa Gins, of Arakawa and Gins fame.
Their work was underpinned by a philosophy they called Reversible Destiny. Its chief tenet, as the catalog of a 1997 joint exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum SoHo put it, was, “Reversible Destiny: We Have Decided Not to Die.”
Gins was 72. Arakawa passed away in 2010 at the age of 73.
Edited to add: the Statesman published an obituary for Mr. Barrett. Bad news: it is behind the paywall and thus unlinkable.