Tuesday, January 31, 2006

the week that is

It’s media roundup time for the week, Shelfers. We'll try and give you a heads up on stuff being released in stores every week with our Shelf Picks of the Week. Buckle up, it’s going to be a bumpy ride! Oh, Bette – you slay me.

The Pink Panther Classic Cartoon Collection:
The pink one himself is dropping in stores today. A great collection that includes not only the Pink Panther shorts, but also – all of the animated opening sequences from the Pink Panther movies. This was set to hit the streets back in ’05, but as with all things Hollywood, marketing caused a delay. The DVD set and the DVD movie collection were set to be released about the time of the new Pink Panther movie starring Steve Martin and Kevin Kline. The movie was pushed up to this February, hence the delay in the DVD set. Marketing believes in coordination. No matter what you think of what’s hitting the theater, be sure to pick this set up. And me? Well, I love the Pink Panther show with the Inspector and the Anteater and the Ant cartoons, but they are not in this collection Also recommended: As a companion piece, Jerry Beck’s Pink Panther: The Ultimate Guide.

Also this week, some Oscar-winning films hitting the shelves on DVD:
Captains Courageous: 1937 flick featuring Spencer Tracy and Lionel Barrymore.
Lust for Life: Vincent Minnelli’s lush biopic, starring Kirk Douglas as Vincent Van Gogh and Anthony Quinn in an Academy Award winning supporting role as Paul Gaugain.
The Champ: Oh, man- talk about an original. We’ve seen the story repeated in other movies dozens of times in different ways. This father and son tearjerker was remade in 1979 with Jon Voight and Ricky Schroder, but Director King Vidor pulled a performance out of Wallace Beery and Jackie Cooper in this 1931 original that can’t be beat. You’ve seen it on the late, late show- now own it in your classics library. Nominated for 4 Oscars, with Wallace Beery winning a Best Actor statue (actually tied with Fredric March for Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde) .
Other Oscar winners from Warner’s hitting the street this week: Cimmaron, Kitty Foyle, Johnny Belina, and The Good Earth.

Television DVD sets:
The Rat Patrol: The Complete First Season. Great action adventure series set during the North Africa campaign of World War II.
Avatar: The Last Airbender : Book 1, Volume 1. Many have been surprised by how well done this Nickelodeon animated series has been. An involved storyline, excellent animation (very light touches of anime – of which I am not a fan) and some excellent brushes with Japanese mythology, this excellent series is one of those rare intelligent and engaging finds for adults and kids alike. Our only complaint is that rather than release the series in a Season set- they have chosen to break them up into multi-episode single DVDs.

David “Fathead” Newman: Cityscape. A wonderful disc by a tenor sax legend. Newman, as many know, was once a sideman in Ray Charles’ band and became the man you wanted in your crew. He heads his own band and his sound is distinctive. This album features a great jazz version of Goldfinger, one of my favorite James Bond themes. Also recommended: If you like what you hear, you’ll love last year’s disc: I Remember Brother Ray, a tribute to Ray Charles. It has one of the most haunting renditions of Georgia on My Mind I’ve heard.

On the Telly:
Turner Classic Movies has some can’t miss favorites this week that are not yet on DVD:
Tuesday Jan. 31st: Ball of Fire with Barbara Stanwyck and Gary Cooper. Barbara is a favorite here at the Shelf, and is at her best in Noir or in comedy, as she is here in this screwball comedy twist on Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.
Wednesday Feb. 1st.: African Queen. Why this movie, starring Bogart and Katherine Hepburn is not out on a special edition DVD is beyond me. Warner’s- get off your duff and get to work on it!
Friday Feb.3rd: I Married a Witch- great comedy featuring Veronica Lake and Fredric March that does Bewitched did more than two decades before. And it's got Veronica Lake. Some rumblings on IMDB indicate there is a remake in the works (of course). Maybe, at least, we’ll get a nice DVD treatment if it does. Did I mention it's got Veronica Lake?
On the Web:
Greenbriar has continued to be a Shelf Favortite. This week John has added some links in a post to some other cinema buff blogs and sites out there. Our favorites include:
In the Balcony (check out the "News" page for upcoming Classic film DVDs), Libertas, and The Third Banana. Check 'em out. You'll easily spend several hours reading the great posts, reviews, and checking out the images. We will probably add these to the Shelf Community soon.

January was a great month for classic film fans. Looks like Feburary might hold some surprises as well. In a later post, we'll feature a preview of classic film Box Sets to come this quarter, that will make you save your hard-earned dollars to purchase.

Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read.

It's OK. He fell out of the window.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

"welcome back.your dreams were your ticket out..."

Shelfers! Stay tuned for the triumphant return of Wolf Flywheel coming to you this weekend after a brief hiatus due to some busy days and lots of daydreaming. Hopefully, I'll make it worth your while. Check back this weekend.

I never forget a face, but in your case I'll make an exception

To accomplish great things, we must dream as well as act.

it's all about the "O"

Kiss the hand...

***Brief Note***
This is a brief update to yesterday's post. If you haven't read it, please skip down to yesterday's post first

***We now rejoin our program already in progress***

Well, it seems that Oprah's fans are also upset at her equivication when confronted with Frey's lies. She said today that she now regrets supporting Frey: "I left the impression that the truth is not important," she stated. And in turn confronted Frey by saying "I really feel duped ... but more importantly I feel that you betrayed millions of readers."

Well, well. The cynic in me would remind you that those involved with all this are worried about cash. Oprah, on the other hand, is more concerned about her reputation and at least the integrity of her fan base and/or book club: which in it's simplest form translates to money.

Frey, for his part, apologized and (surprise, surprise) blamed his "demons" for the fraud. I notice that the publisher is not pulling the book anytime soon, and it appears sales have not slowed down. Give it a month- it's too early to tell from sales figures yet. It'll happen. What's significant is that what we discussed yesterday is relevant- but it seems that where Oprah is concern all four points matter. She's not about to let some gloryhound opportunist take her down with him. You kissed the ring finger once, James. Seems like more people are giving you the other one now.

I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.

Well, why don't you come and see me some time when you have no class.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

it's all about the "L"

PT Barnum and his conscience
Things brewing in the realm of books have left me a bit perplexed lately. Book clubs run by famous "O"s - as in Oprah and apparently Osama- have dominated headlines. No doubt, by now, you know about James Frey and his little deconstructionist attempt at fiction disguised as I bet even the beard is falsenon-fiction. There have been others: a Native American memoirist, who, as it turns out, was not much of a memoirist and may not have been Native American. Not even Indian or from Indiana. It turns out that all he is- is mad and sick. And not "I've got a cold" sick either. Then there is J.T. LeRoy -who defies description. Leave us say that perhaps even Rick James would be aghast. Nonetheless his memoir of his days of pimpin' and other unmentionable acts has been exposed as well as the persona he adopted. It seems as if we live in another age of the charlatans. With so many authors and info-mmercial personalities, and promoters of pyramid and get rich schemes, and sue-happy opportunists and criminals running around, PT Barnum must seem to be a quaint relic of the past- if he is remembered or known at all. It's one thing for all these liars and con-men to be perpetuating their frauds on the public. What is more disturbing is the defense being mounted on behalf of these people and the sympathy and genuine "who cares?" attitude.

I don't consider myself a cultural prude per se, but something really bothers me with the underlining meaning of these different events. We say it is wrong to lie, but in reality- we think it is alright in certain situations, viz: situations that don't affect us. Now before you start bemoaning "cultural relativism" Shelfers, let me suggest this: our popular culture as well as out political culture has always had a elite section that considers itself above and beyond the rest and therefore, possessed of the right to tell everyone else what is and what isn't worthy of attention. I will never forget, years ago, watching a special on PBS - hosted by McNeil or Lahrer- about the Kennedy assassination. Several panelists, including a historian, discussed the implications of the tragedy and what meaning it has for us today. Someone on the panel lamented that the famous Zapruder film, which most documented the assassination, was made accessible in some forms to the public. He contended that it should be archived under lock and key and made available only to authorized officials and scholars who knew what to make of it. The public, he commented, couldn't be trusted to "interpret it correctly." Of course the Zapruder film was the subject of a court case, in which the government sought to seize the original on claims of the public interest. The Zapruder family beat them to the punch and it was eventually made more accessible in the form of DVD. Technology and capitalism can trump elitism.
The point is, for every event, no matter what you and I think- there will be someone on TV to tell us what to think.
Repeat the Shelf mantra, Think for yourself.
Logical Captian. Look do I have to explain it to you idiots again? No life signs on the planet means ain't nobody down there. Sheesh!
Some talking elites (especially the book publishers) are defending the publications of these books and in essence validating the fraud. Frey defended his own work on Larry King, stating that the book was "the essential truth of my life." See that? The key word is essential. You see, the rest of the lies or exaggerations are warranted because the illustrate an "essential truth." It has been a while since logic class, but lies do not support or buildup truth. They undercut the truth. A truism cannot logically be supported by false propositions...Captain.

So why do people like Oprah, for one, and other so called commentators defend this "new" type of nonfiction. (One defender stated, in reference to one the lies told, that it only "slightly matters", and doesn't matter to him, because his voice is "powerful and original." Book Publishers have gone as far as to state they don't fact check their books. Why are words like "embellishments" and "exaggerations" or "added essence" used instead of what they really are: lies? In the words of Professor Farnsworth, "Huh, Whaaaa?" The irony is that it's the same Whaaaa?mainstream media that is attacking President Bush for lying, although that has not been established, despite how much others want to say it. Again, to them it's OK, unless you are someone they disapprove of. Sure politics and war are mighty important things, more so than lil' James Frey. However, the underlining current of acceptance in our culture is great cause for concern. How long before we don't mind politicians lying to us?

Why are there people willing to condone or even support these lies?
Well here are the down and dirty reasons:
1. No one likes to lose money
2. No likes to be made a fool.
3. Ego overtakes truth
4. Exposed lies make us feel vulnerable.

Let's take them one by one for a second.
1. I think the book publishers and Oprah to some degree fall in this category. These books, Frey's in particular, made m-o-n-e-y. Why? Well, in short, victimhood and sensationalism sells. Victimhood has made inroads into popular culture has themes in books and movies and in our own language. It seems as if we feed on it, partly because if everyone is a victim then no one, perhaps save a faceless corporation or government, is responsible for our failings. When Let's ask this guy. I think he might know something or two about lies.somebody like Frey publishes his supposed "life of crime and addiction" memoir- we celebrate that someone has the courage to be responsible for his acts - and still we rob him of that by casting addiction as the villain. It makes us feel better about ourselves in so many ways. In fact, that is the exact point that most of the public apologists make for Frey, LeRoy and others - the "message" made them feel ___. You fill in the blank. Nonetheless- the means big money- certainly for book publishers. They do not like to lose that...uh, investment.
2. Oprah, and other commentators I think, fall into this category. Oprah's reputation with her friends are fairly ironclad- but this could (and does to me) make her look bad in the media. Frey's appearance and Oprah bookclub pick are well known. However, I don't think that it will really hurt her in the long run. Unless, of course she decides to pick another book with dubious contents. Oh, wait. Commentators (usually reviewers) are more recalcitrant. They hyped and supported the book. Now they have to support why they supported the book. Not a good position to be in.
3. Egos of authors, publishers, reviewers, and fans alike are bound to be somewhat bruised. How often do we, in everyday life, stuff the truth about ourselves deep down inside, lest someone discover who we think we really are? In reality, everyone has problems, but our egos suppress our growth.
4. Exposed lies that we once accepted as truth, expose our beliefs, our notions about our judgment, and leaves us vulnerable. No one likes that. It's easier to deny it happened than to be vulnerable and grow from it. These books were presented and sold as memoirs. The fact is, within publishing, memoirs playing fast and loose with the truth are an understood fact. However, they present, advertise, and sell them as non-fiction or biography. Would you buy a memoir of an individual if the cover proclaimed: "The true (although in some spots made-up) account of a incredible life ( with some embellishments and exaggerations)." I think not. We ask no less from other works of non-fiction: history books for example. Not too long ago, Historians Stephan Ambrose and Doris Kearnes Goodwin were lambasted for inserting words that were not their own in their books. They included, word for word, some passages they had taken from another work without citing the source. In school we call that plagiarism. The historians claim that it was unintentional, a mistake, and that they meant to cite the source. They were nonetheless raked over the coals. Professor Ambrose died around that time, and Ms. Goodwin has survived the ordeal, somewhat intact, although her TV appearances have diminished. To give you a clear picture of the double standard, a Professor that I know, who railed on Ambrose at length about his crimes, recently referred to Frey as a "brave man wronged." I see. So class let's summarize: Possible inadvertent plagiarism= execution worthy crime. Lies published as non-fiction= hero.

Either this guy is lying or he has a seriously painful transmitted diseaseIn the end, this too shall pass. It's the legacy that we should worry about. Lies have become more and more acceptable in our society, and unlike PT Barnum, the hoaxers are not "showman"- they are now celebrated as heroes. That's not good for any society. Thankfully, there are as many deriding this latest round of chicanery as there are supporting it. Maybe more. But what will it be like next time? Truth matters Shelfers. It should matter to you. Cultural and moral relativism are dangerous things, they prop up an existence on lies, like thin toothpicks, than upon the concrete of truth. Truth is hard, and as R.E.M. said, truth hurts.

As always, we welcome and encourage your comments.

I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.

It is only out of sheer morbid curiosity that I am allowing this freak show to continue.

Monday, January 23, 2006

wun'erful, won'erful...

I have just one thing to say to you this morning....Direct yourselves to the newest link in the Shelf Community: Greenbriar Picture Shows.If you love classic cinema, you will lose yourself in reading and looking at the wonderful new website and blog created by John McElwee. I first discovered GPS (HA!) while having my daily dose of Amid and Beck's Cartoon Brew last week. This morning's entry concerns some lovely glamour shots of actress and Hollywood's first scream queen, Fay Wray. (Although our above picture came from another wonderful site: Dr. Macro's. Thanks to blogger Pita for the tip. And Pita, although I don't speak French, I think the graphics and image scans on your site are lovely.)

I can't say enough about GPS- it's my new favorite daily dose. It's rare when I encounter a website/blog where all of the entries have captured my attention, but this is one of those rare cases. The past few days I have read about Buster Keaton, Tippy Hedren and Hitch (you know we love the Hitch here at the Shelf), D.W. Griffith, and others. I have lingered over stunning photos of Clara Bow, Ingrid Bergman, and the aforemention Ms. Wray from GPS's collection. McElwee writes with a cinema lover's passion, but also with a keen eye on the business of filmmaking as well. His entries on the deals that brought Looney Tunes, Popeye and other cartoons and shorts to television through AAP. If you have ever watched cartoons on your local "Bozo" show or afternoon TV- you know of which I speak. It's combined with incredible images from the promotional literature and industry ads that accompanied the transtition of those great shorts onto television in the 50's. It's these posts that caught Jerry Beck's attention at the Brew.

I have to say it was the scrapbook pictures of the original Hollywood "It" girl, Clara Bow that sealed the deal for me. Greenbriar Picture Shows is the Shelf web pick of the week. Do yourself a favor - stop reading this and get over there!

As always- your comments are welcome.

I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.

Some big hard-boiled egg gets a look at a pretty face and bang - he cracks up and goes sappy.

Friday, January 20, 2006

communication, what a show

You know what they say. Give a monkey a typewriter and enough time...and eventually they will have a blog.

Forgive me if I sound somewhat harsh- I know you didn't expect a Spanish Inquisition. But I think if we are going to advance communication, we should just try to be better at it as well.
There is an old saying (stop if you've heard this one before).... Alright- we at the Shelf like old Nobody expects the Spanish...oh, never mind.sayings. Sure, it may save some money to use young sayings and they work harder - but they have less experience. And although foreign sayings work on the cheap, they usually come with a lot of friends and they are hard to understand. What I wouldn't give for a straight forward old saying instead of some ten -stanza foreign ditty that never makes sense. Support America - use old sayings!

Ahem. Satire, you old dog you. Anyway - you are no doubt familiar with the phrase: "Jack of all trades, master of none." Yes? Well- its seems that one of the thing throughout time that the human race in general has yet to master is communication. We dabble and do well in many things - but a lot of the important stuff we don't seem to master. It is somewhat understandable, what with so many languages and idioms around the world. One thing that always strikes me about some sci-fi movies is how when earthling encounter other planets- that whole planet has like one language. Or in the case of Sci-Fi Empires - several planets all speak one language. Klingons- I'm looking at you.... Why doesn't Starfleet or the Federation or whoever, ever visit a planet and find a bunch of inhabitants at the equivalent of a bar or stock Like, Zoinks!exchange (pick your fancy) and hear several different languages or accents going? When they ask one of the inhabitants to translate - why can't they say, (in their best Shaggy voice) "Sorry - that dude is like, from another country man. Like, way out on the other side of the planet, man. Like, what did you think? Just because we live on the same planet, we, like, speak the same language?"

Maybe. Something that stands out in the study of history - especially when one studies wars or politics and governments- is how many things have hinged, failed, or turned on communication or the lack thereof. Battles have been lost because of late dispatches informing generals of troop movements, or intercepted communications with vital instructions. Before the 20th century, it was virtually impossible to have instant communication between generals in different areas of the field. Runners or riders were sent with instructions or messages and sometimes they didn't make it. Remember the end of the movie Gallipoli with Mel Gibson? At the end, Mel was sent as a runner to communicate the situation to the superior officer that the Australian troops in the trenches were facing certain death if the rushed the Turks. Wave after wave were cut down. The officer demanded his orders be carried out. When he returned, Mel was sent to go over the Right. You want me to run where? And say what? Dude- just call him on his cell phone! Sheessh.officer's head to the General who then decided to hold off on the attack while they "reconsider." In the meantime, communication lines which had been down were restored and the officer, oblivious of the General's new orders to Mel, demanded the troops attack. Mel rushed back for all he was worth, but in the end, he didn't make it. A very dramatic example of what I'm talking about.

Today, communication can be instantaneous - around the world, and yet we still can make the same mistakes. For example, news in the past was never "as it happened." I remember in elementary school listening to a recording from an old radio show of "You Were There." The show dramatized the events surrounding the sinking of the Titanic. Very dramatic- and somewhat fictionalized. But it clearly succeeded in presenting a tragic event as if you were there. Today news agencies have the ability to report news as it happens. Reporters, and sometimes anchors, are sent to hot spots or to areas in advance of anticipated event so they can bring it into our living rooms. Not too long ago, we were amazed at watching a war as it happened- The first Gulf War. Its more expected now. And yet the reporting and the stories don't always come across as if we were there in other ways. Not only do politicians apologize and backtrack for comments made without thinking, in an effort to be first, media ends up backtracking and (rarely) apologizing for getting things wrong. The competition to hold our attention and to beat the other 24-hr guys in the rating is intense and therefore sometimes the accuracy and reporting suffers. Sensationalism rules the day.

Sometimes these things are a double-edged sword. Advances in technology means that entertainment and access to information is also instantaneous. I can carry a bunch of music, a movie, and a game on my PSP, with photos and access to the web to boot. It's probably more entertainment than I realistically can handle for a day, but it's great to have it on the go for downtime or waiting time. I, unlike many others in this day and age, haven't bought into the notion that every minute of the day must be occupied. But I must admit that I have nonetheless acted as if I do sometimes. Being uploaded, downloaded, and plugged in 24/7 rules some people's lives. Yes, instant and the ultimate in communication is at our fingertips- but have we mastered it as well? All these things are great, in moderation. We need to get a handle on it before we overload. Are people talking to each other, as much as they are emailing each other? I don't know- I don't tend to worry about that as much- I'm not an alarmist.... While some view these things as the downfall of civilized society- I would remind you that has been a common argument at many stages of human civilization. I'm sure that you can see it now-

The Shelf players present: You Are THERE!
Narrator: Throughout the echoes of time, man has strived to improve his lot in the world and to fight and overcome the harsh mistress that is nature.Deep in the recesses of a cave we listen into a conversation and witness the birth of the first "Alarmist". And YOU ARE THEREEEE!

Caveman Charlie: Hiya Sid. What's shakin?
Caveman Sid: Nothing much Charlie- you know, just chewing up berries and twigs and then putting my hand on the wall and spitting all over 'em. I got a show at the gallery next week.
Caveman Charlie: That's groovy Sid. Your "Stick Men and Stick Animals" show just killed last month!
Caveman Sid: Thanks. Bad thing about wall art is you can't sell them. I can only get Ugh. You kids get off my dirt and stop playing your new fangled drums so load. Wait a minute- let me see one of those drum things anyway.commissions.
Caveman Charlie: Hey, I was down at the local greasy bone, and guess what I heard? Some nutty kid took some rounded rocks and spent all week grinding holes in 'em. Calls them - get this- "wheels." Ha! What a wackjob!
Caveman Sid: Heh- yeah, it sure takes all kinds. What was he doing that for?
Caveman Charlie: Says he stuck a tree branch in the holes and rolled them around for a while. Says next week he's thinking of putting some more branches across the middle like some kind of floor.
Caveman Sid: What for?
Caveman Charlie: Says he's gonna load his bones on it and drag them with it instead of carrying it on his back!
Caveman Sid: Man, I tell ya, these "modern people" and their gadgets. First it was the pointy rock on the spear, then the Jones kid down the valley with his "fire." I tell you Charlie this new generation baffles me! All their rush, rush, rush, with all their "tools" and walking "erect." And what's it gonna get them! They're gonna rush right into the ceremonial death hole, that's what. A premature death. What's wrong with living a slow, regular life? You live longer! My grandpa made it to 25 years and never had a tool or firestick his whole long life!
Caveman Charlie: Sid- you're preaching to the choir man! I betcha that Jones kid won't make it past 15!

Narrator: And thus the first Alarmist was born. Join us next week when you will witness the advancement of the communication age:

Customer: Thanks for showing me around the shop, Gutenberg. Hey, what do you call that thing there?
Gutenberg: It's a "Printing Press." But I've modified it with movable type so I can print more books and faster. I just got an order to print some Bibles this week!
Customer: Man! Isn't that the way? Outsourcing already! I tell you those monks will be out of a job yet! Soon these machines will have me out of a job. My boss is already looking into ways of speeding up shoveling dung.

Narrator: And you will know because, YOU ARE THERE!

Think about it! In it's basic form, the book as a communications medium as been good for centuries and with little change in basic design. We still read them - and perhaps have more access to them than in any other time in history. Do we take full advantage of it? I wonder. Don't get me wrong - I think that the gains in technology are great. I just think that if we could learn to master them or master ourselves better, we would be taking full advantage of it. I don't lament that technology has made us cold and lifeless. I just contend that for all our advances we still have the same basic problems we have always had. And I guess that comes with being human. So the hope is, Shelfers, that we will stop to take inventory of ourselves and the way we communicate. I hope to see more bloggers out there, and more people accessing books online from a library around the world, and I hope to hear people talking about news stories that happened this morning from around the world. I just hope that we will be responsible with it- responsible in what we write, in the information we share, and in cross checking and getting the facts right. And always remember the Shelf mantra: "Think for yourself." We can become better at communication. The technology and ability is there- are we willing to become masters over it or become mastered by it?

Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read.

And of course, with the birth of the artist came the inevitable afterbirth - the critic.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

communication, here we go...

We know you're wishin' we would come up with better puns!

Several recent happenings have caused me to ponder over a little something we call communication. Just plain crazy!

First off- a recent brouhaha occurred when a CNN translator “misinterpreted” a speech by recently elected Iranian President “Wacky”. One brief excerpt where the President supposedly said that nations had a “right to nuclear energy” was mistranslated as “right to nuclear weapons.” CNN ran the subtitles, but they were quickly fixed and CNN apologized profusely. CNN stated that the interpreter was a usually reliable independent contractor, but his services were terminated. No word on whether or not the interpreter will be able to fall back on his other degree in Freudian slips. Um- small note to CNN: to some people, including power mad dictators...er, politicians, the terms “power” and “weapons” are usually synonymous.

Don't...worry...just...bad... burrito!Second - Pat Robertson said last week that Ariel Sharon had a stroke, because God was punishing him for giving up land to the Palestinians. The media practically tripped over themselves trying to nail this guy to the wall. It was a very stupid thing to say. I don’t think God is going to give Sharon a coronary over real estate- I think nothing can frustrate what God wants to accomplish. Our weakness and general stupidity gets in the way. However, I don’t think it warranted the media having a TVgasm at the chance to rake Robertson over the coals again. They made it worse by over-hyping it.

Third- Our favorite “Ragin’ Cajin Mayor” Nagin made a comment on MLK Jr. day this week, when he opined that God must be angry at America and sent the Hurricanes to punish us. Well, well. I looked everywhere for 8.9 outrage on the Richter scale on the media, but the crickets’ chirping kept distracting me. Apparently it is OK if you say God is punishing America or individual because of the war or other political reasons… and NOT if : (please pick the right answer to finish the statement)
A) you are a religious leader a speaking for religious reasons
B) you are a conservative and are speaking without thinking
C) you are anyone the media disapproves of.
D) all of the above.
That’s correct, the answer is of course D. Five bonus points if you answered “Anyone who voted for Bush or supports the war.” Thanks for playing,
The statement Nagin made is asinine. The reasons he stated are even worse. But the statement he really screwed up with was “New Orleans will be chocolate again.” That's right! I said chocolate! And I don't mean M&M's neither!
OK. We’ve mentioned before how Nagin has made stupid and sometimes racist statements, and is in general a moron- but New Orleans if you elect Nagin again that honorary title passes on to you. Lest you get all wobbly on this subject, Shelfers, let us remind you that stating a city or town should be predominantly or completely one race is discriminatory, and.. uh, racist. Apparently Mayor Nagin didn’t get the memo. In the words of Napoleon Dynamite: “Idiot!”

Now, realistically speaking we probably should approach this from the angle of “How to Disguise your True Thoughts and Win Friends Through Political Communication” but I think that the real problem here is that, despite all the technological advancements in communication we have achieved in the last century… we still don’t know how to truly communicate with one another. Now guys, before your “we need to talk” radar goes off- relax and stick with me here.

Now if we could just add a frig and micro, communication central would be complete. Oh... don't forget the toilet!Where has all the chat rooms, 24 hour news cycles, sound bites, emails, and instant messaging gotten us? Well- pretty far actually. I’m not even coming close to suggesting that “instant worldwide communication” is a bad thing, or even the collapse of civilization. I think the advances in communication are a phenomenal boon to humanity. I wouldn’t be running a commentary blog if I thought otherwise. However- I think for all our advances we have yet to master them. In fact, I believe we have yet to master how we speak to each other. And it’s not just that we aren’t polite.- it’s that we don’t think before we speak, transmit, fax, email, or even –gasp- blog. How many times have seen stories like the ones mentioned above; or anyone who, in an effort to be first with the story or sound the smartest or hippest, made a very big mistake with the facts? Too many times, and the media coverage of Katrina was perhaps the most prevalent example. Tune in next time for part II. Ruminate over these things and we'll see you then. Same Shelf-time, same Shelf-channel.

Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read.

Boy, when you die at the palace, you really DIE at the palace!

Thursday, January 12, 2006

mmm, mmm, good...

While I am recovering from a bad head cold (darn Pinky and his germs) I thought I might share my home remedy for combating such illness...
Three easy steps.
1. Chicken Noodle Soup ( I prefer Campbell's Creamy Chicken Noodle- but who is quibbling?)
2. Plenty of water, perhaps interspersed with the occasional glass of O.J. or Ginger Ale.
3. Looney Tunes Golden Collection, Vol.3

What's that you say? You've never heard of that last step? Well- I just added it. Oh, Vol.1 & Vol.2 will do as well, but there is something about the particular irreverence of Vol.3 that hits the spot. This one has so many shorts that fans have been waiting for - many of them restored and uncut. (There is even a featurette on the restoration process that WB undertook) Shorts like "Robin Hood Daffy", "Rocket Squad", "A Hare Grows in Brooklyn", " Duck, Rabbit, Duck" (Finally- the last of Chuck Jones "Rabbit Season" trilogy to be collected. Why couldn't they all be in one volume so we could watch back to back? Again, I quibble) "Swooner Crooner", "The Last Hungry Cat" (Oh Yeah- Hitch done all Sylvester and Tweety style) and many many more. The 4 disc set is crammed with more features and goodies than Grandma's cookie jar, so there is plenty to love. Perhaps my favorite unexpected treat is the presence of the wonderfully talented June Foray on the interviews and commentary. Wun'erful, wun'erful. (That' s an oblique Stan Freberg reference there, oh casual purveyor of pop culture.)

So whilist I decontaminate - you may want to pick Vol. 3 up, sick or not, and enjoy to your heart's content. You will notice that it remains the "What's on the Shelf" pick of the week for this week. With good reason. It's that good.

Patience, Shelfers- we shall return next week with more Shelf goodness from Wolf and myself- in the meantime chew on the recent musings of VDH. Review and discuss.

I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.

Ah, conscience, shmonshience! That bird doesn't even enter my mind.

Friday, January 06, 2006

a good thing (has ended)

Thanks for the music Lou

Legendary crooner (and Shelf Fave) Lou Rawls passed away Friday Jan. 6, 2006 at the age of 72. He had been battling brain cancer and lung cancer. Not only an icon as a velvet-voiced baritone singer- but his voice will always be remembered by kids who grew up watching Garfield specials and cartoons. He sang on quite a few of those shows, and just as Charlie Brown specials wouldn't be right without the jazz of Vince Guaraldi, Garfield wasn't right without Lou Rawls belting out a tune. Rawls also did voice work on "The Rugrats Movie" and was a regular on the animated, Bill Cosby-produced, prime-time show "Fatherhood" on Nick at Nite. Lady Love and You'll Never Find (Another Love Like Mine) are just two of his hits that will endure. Lou was friends with and sang with the legendary Sam Cooke and had a similar start in the business. He was also (get this) a paratrooper in the 101st Airborne during his stint in the army in the 50s. Though he recorded in various genres, his voice was unmistakeable. Sinatra once said that Lou had "the classiest singing and silkiest chops in the singing game." Rawls even began his own recording label, Rawls and Brokaw Records, in the 90s. What he was thinking in getting Tom Brokaw to help him produce records is anyone's guess. (Please forgive the lame attempt at mild mood-lifting humor. Mr. Brokaw is certainly capable of various activities)
For some great tunes check out :

Lou Rawls: Love Songs

Lou Rawls: Love Songs

Love Songs serves up a great selection (18 tracks) of Lou Rawls from his decades-spanning career. It was released just last year- so it shouldn't be to difficult to find. (Wolf and I had a hard time trying to find his Christmas CD in stores. Just criminal.) Our question is: Where is the box set? R.I.P. Lou-

I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.

One thing I'm not is a scardy cat.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

the price we pay in an uneducated world

I have railed at length, ad nauseam, about the dearth of historical (and let me expand that to classical liberal) education in our modern world before. No need to repeat such missives here, if you are a Shelf regular. However, in sum, many feel that history, literature, philosophy, art, etc. and dead people like Shakespeare, Tolstoy, Plato,Thucydides, Locke, Rousseau, Pope, Wheatley, Browning, Cassett, or Sun Tzu have no place in the modern computer-rendered world (If you had to look up more than three of those names, you are making my point). "These are things of the past that are no longer relevant to our 'enlightened, politically correct' world", some argue, "they are relics that drudge up shadows of racism, sexism, and all the other ism's we have consigned to the dustbin of the past."

I have news for those who make such claims: the modern world has no such exclusive claim to "enlightenment", complexity or modernism (pre, post or otherwise)for that matter. The human story is complex and full of highs and lows, victories and defeats. There is wisdom in learning from the past and present, as well as cultures past and present. Without learning from what has come before, we become as a simple computer; only full of the knowledge it is fed, without any wisdom to guide or direct such knowledge or gain more.

I would like to direct your attention to a recent article by Victor Davis Hanson concerning this very subject placed within the context of the current war on terrorism and terrorists and what we expect in terms of victory and who to blame for defeat. No matter what your feelings on the war, I believe his points to be valid, correct and instructive. Just a smidgen:

"What explains this paradox of public disappointment over things that turn out better than anticipated? Why are we like children who damn their parents for not providing yet another new toy when the present one is neither paid for nor yet out of the wrapper?

One cause is the demise of history. The past is either not taught enough, or presented wrongly as a therapeutic exercise to excise our purported sins.

Either way the result is the same: a historically ignorant populace who knows nothing about past American wars and their disappointments - and has absolutely no frame of reference to make sense of the present other than its own mercurial emotional state in any given news cycle.

Few Americans remember that nearly 750 Americans were killed in a single day in a training exercise for D-Day, or that during the bloody American retreat back from the Yalu River in late 1950 thousands of our frozen dead were sent back stacked in trucks like firewood. Our grandparents in the recent past endured things that would make the present ordeal in Iraq seem almost pedestrian - and did all that with the result that a free Germany could now release terrorists or prosperous South Korean youth could damn the United States between their video games." (VDH - The Plague of Success, December 29th, 2005- bold emphasis added)

Please read the entire article and then ask your kids what they learned about art, literature, or history in school recently. You may be shocked to discover that beyond the subject of current censorship or modern writers- very little. Not that modern works or current events have no place- it's that they have no place without the past to frame it. This isn't political - this is personal. A country, or world, that is ignorant of or deliberately ignores the past, is like someone with amnesia- lost, alone, and afraid without knowing why.

I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.

Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.

Happy New Year!

Hope your holidays were warm and memorable.

I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.

Those ears!


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