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Andrew McLuhan Offers an Enhanced Version of Media Literacy That He Calls ‘Macro Media Literacy’

Macro Media Literacy By Andrew McLuhan Media Literacy, or Critical Media Literacy as it’s sometimes called, is a part of the media studies world …

Andrew McLuhan Offers an Enhanced Version of Media Literacy That He Calls ‘Macro Media Literacy’
 
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Posted by on May 3, 2021 in fiction

 

Bambi vs. Godzilla

recommended

I enjoy books that go behind the scenes of Hollywood and explain show business and David Mamet’s Bambi vs. Godzilla: On the Nature, Purpose, and Practice of the Movie Business. does that beautifully. Writer, director Mamet, as you’d expect, provides trenchant on a variety of movie making topics including auditions, producers, corruption, writing for women. 

Like William Goldman’s Adventures in the Screen Trade, this book should be required for reading for anyone interested in working in Hollywood. Not only do you get information, and stories of experiences, but you get Mamet’s wisdom. 

 
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Posted by on May 3, 2021 in non-fiction

 

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The Sky over the Louvre

Graphic novel, The Sky over Louvre by Bernar Yslaire and Jean-Claude Carriere covers the Reign of Terror when Robespierre and the Jacobins maintained power through terrorism.  Revolutionary and artist Jacques-Louis David is looking for a model for his polemic painting. Jules Stern, a young man from Khazaria, comes to Paris in search of his mother and to meet with David. David is struck by Stern’s looks and believes he’ll be perfect for his painting of Bara.

David and Stern

The book’s illustrations include sumptuous images from the Louvre’s art collection and drawings of 18th century France in the midst of the Reign of Terror, which followed the French Revolution. While I know about Robespierre, the Jacobins and their purge and violence to achieve ideological purity, I wasn’t clear on all the players. At times I had to reread The Sky over Louvre to stay clear on the meaning or to make sure I understood what was going on. Nonetheless, I enjoyed the book and would read another in this series of books set in the Louvre. 

 
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Posted by on April 22, 2021 in graphic novel

 

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The Warden

At first I didn’t think I’d ever get into The Warden’s story. Whether a clergyman in Victorian England kept his £800 stipend or not seemed insignificant, but Trollope did get to me and when Mr. Harding is attacked by the press thanks to John Bold, I was won over. I suppose I have a soft spot for anyone who’s bullied, though I also kept wondering about this money. 

Anthony Trollope’s novel The Warden centers on a dilemma over the money the Warden, a clergyman who’s in charge of the welfare of a dozen bedesmen (also spelled beadsmen), to whom a wealthy man bequeathed money to support in their old age, is accused of getting too much money himself. The mild mannered Mr. Harding isn’t prepared for a scandal. He wasn’t taking a farthing more than allotted but John Bold, who’s sweet on Harding’s daughter feels the whole agreement is a major injustice.

Should more go to the bedesmen? How much? I did find the story to be an effective tug-of-war because Harding’s Archdeacon son-in-law seemed to be a personification of what can go wrong with the clergy.

When I found out that £800 is over $100,000 in today’s economy, I did see John Bold’s side better. I will say Trollope succeeded in creating realistic tension between the characters and added to it by making Harding’s daughter Eleanor in love with Bold and his other daughter Susan the Archdeacon’s wife.

I was at a disadvantage not knowing all these titles: Warden, Archdeacon, bedesmen, but soon enough I got the gist. 

By the novel’s end, Mr. Harding did impress me with his willingness to abandon his stipend, his home and comfort, though it cost him the esteem of those in his circle who thought he was crazy. 

I mentioned earlier that like many English books, films or television programs, even members of the clergy don’t seem particularly religious. It’s like this society just sees religion as an organization that has a code for a good life. Mr. Harding could work for the Boy Scouts. I think C.S. Lewis, Evelyn Waugh and Graham Green’s books show more spirituality. These writers wonderfully approach spiritual topics using flawed characters. (I suppose a modern version of this could show Green Peace or another organization. Human nature doesn’t change much. Mr. Harding did know and befriend the bedesmen and they got what they are do.)

A young and brash, John Bold was a surgeon, who knew how to take things apart and not how to heal or put things together.  He had a valid point, but never thought through how to best handle it and ran off to the press, to a sensationalizing journalist who writes anonymously. I could see this updated by cutting out the middleman (journalist) and just typing away on the internet and things getting way out of hand. His passion reminds me of what Eric Hoeffer refers to in The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements, which I read at the same time as The Warden, coincidentally. Bold is dogmatic and rushes to a lawyer and the press, which I think we’ve learned can make things worse, while Harding, whom I preferred, questioned himself a lot, sometimes too much, and truly knew these bedesmen and shared friendship, though maybe not on equal social terms, while I don’t believe Bold visited them. (I may have forgotten if he did.) 

Trollope’s satire worked in how he crafted the Archdeacon, Bold and the rest of the characters. Because Mr. Harding describes his thoughts and understanding of his duty so well, I came to like him.

 
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Posted by on April 18, 2021 in 19th Century, fiction

 

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Journey into the Whirlwind

The best book, definitely the best memoir, that I’ve read in years, The Journey into the Whirlwind by Eugenia Semyonovna Ginzburg chronicles her experience of imprisonment in USSR during the Stalin era. Since she saw no evidence against her colleague, Ginzburg refused to wrongly condemn him as a Trotskyite. Thus she was imprisoned for over a decade.

A poet and writer, Ginzburg writes of how she was torn from her husband and two young children and imprisoned in 1937 for over a decade. Ginzburg was a faithful Communist, but that didn’t matter. Stalin’s henchmen would imprison millions, many of whom agreed with him.  

I was astonished by Ginzburg’s bravery. She stood her ground when pressured with the threat of torture unless she signed documents that falsely charged her with terrorism and other crimes. Her refusal saved her life since admitting to those crimes would allow the Soviet government to execute her. Even when interrogated in marathon sessions, Ginzburg stuck to her principles. 

To communicate, Ginzburg and her fellow prisoners ingeniously devised codes consisting of taps on the walls and songs. This was how they shared news of the outside and changes in the  prison. Prisoners were allowed to write home, but their letters were censored. Ginzburg eventually developed a code with her mother so rather than using her own name or her family members’ names, using fictitious names of imaginary children. So rather than asking about her husband, she’d make up a little boy’s name and ask if he’s back from camp to find out if her husband had been released from prison. The codes were quite clever and worked. 

Conditions in the prison, train to the work camp and work camp were horrific and Ginzburg described them vividly, but the dignity and bravery she showed throughout the book, elevated her writing so that I could keep reading. She also provided astute observations about the people she was imprisoned with. Some retained their haughty airs, while others banded together and sacrificed to help a sick woman who needed food or who needed information on how the system worked. 

This was a period that knew about at a textbook level of generalities and read Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, which I now want to reread. Ginzburg’s book made this chapter of history crystal clear. There is a 2009 movie but I doubt I could watch it. If the torture and injustice are accurately depicted, it’s probably too much for me and if they aren’t I’d be upset by the cherry-coating.

 
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Posted by on April 13, 2021 in book review, memoir, non-fiction

 

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Bosses in Lusty Chicago

No Fixed Plans

We all know that Chicago has a history of corruption, but do you know the chief actors: Bathhouse John and Hinky Dink Kenna?

In the Gilded Age till Al Capone gained power, aldermen Bathhouse John and Hinky Dink Kenna dominated Chicago’s city council. Lloyd Wendt and Herman Kogan’s Bosses in Lusty Chicago, takes readers back to the late 1890s to tell the rags to riches (and power) story of John Coughlin and Michael Kenna who came to determine mayoral races, city services like transportation rights and contracts, the spread of prostitution and gambling.

Both were characters. Bathhouse strove to take men’s fashion in a new direction by wearing flamboyant colors. He became a national sensation for his emerald green jackets, chartreuse vests and patent leather shoes. Coughlin also dabbled in poetry for which he was best known for Dear Midnight of Love, renowned doggerel if ever there was such…

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Posted by on April 7, 2021 in fiction

 

Poem of the Week

For St. Paddy’s Day some Irish poetry

No Fixed Plans

March

By Patrick Kavanaugh

There’s a wind blowing
Cold through the corridors,
A ghost-wind,
The flapping of defeated wings,
A hell-fantasy
From meadows damned
To eternal April

And listening, listening
To the wind
I hear
The throat-rattle of dying men,
From whose ears oozes
Foamy blood,
Throttled in a brothel.

I see brightly
In the wind vacancies
Saint Thomas Aquinas
And
Poetry blossoms
Excitingly
As the first flower of truth.

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Posted by on March 17, 2021 in fiction

 

The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles

The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles tells the story of a man who lives on a coast far from anyone else. His mission is to find and fetch bottles from the ocean that contain messages and deliver them. One day he gets a bottle but he can’t figure out who it’s for. The hero’s journey is to figure out who it’s for.

The strength of this simple story is it’s muted illustrations which capture the wistful story.

Because the tone is melancholy and there isn’t much exposition about why the hero’s life is so sad, I’m not sure many children would enjoy it, but it’s a quick read with nice illustrations.

 
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Posted by on March 13, 2021 in Children's Lit

 

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On Dr Seuss’ Controversy

 
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Posted by on March 6, 2021 in fiction

 

Too Cool to be Forgotten

I thought Alex Robinson’s Too Cool to be Forgotten would be a quick read. For me it wasn’t. It never grabbed me so it took a couple weeks to finish.

In Too Cool to be Forgotten a middle aged man who’s getting cancer treatment undergoes hypnosis and is transported back to his sophomore year of high school. He sees this as weird, but also a chance to refuse an offer of a cigarette at a party and thus possibly undo his lung cancer. While back in time, he often tries to share his adult insights with his peers, but his pearls of wisdom are ignored.

While there were some interesting parts, the book was too gloomy for me, but many enjoy that vibe. I’m not that interested in high school anymore so the book left me cold.

 
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Posted by on March 4, 2021 in graphic novel

 

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