What are You Watching and/or Reading?

Discuss whatever you want here ... movies, books, recipes, politics, beer, wine, TV ... everything except classical music.

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Febnyc
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Post by Febnyc » Sun Jun 17, 2007 2:47 pm

Watching - A two-DVD set, originally made for television, called "The Long Way Round." Two British movie stars chronicle a motorcycle trip from London, across Asia (Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Russia) to New York. Great fun!

Just watched - a revisit to "A Man for all Seasons." They don't make 'em like this anymore.

Reading - Well, sort of reading - "Foucault's Pendulum." I'd had it on the shelf for years and could not avoid it any longer. The first 100 pages are self-serving bilious nonsense, but I have hopes!

Just finished - "Men of War," a compendium of stories about the major Navy officers of WWII - American, British, German and Japanese. Excellent.

Just finished - "The Boxer," a second novel by the author of "Jacob the Liar." A small, understated story of a holocaust survivor and the son he lost and then finds again.

Haydnseek
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Post by Haydnseek » Sun Jun 17, 2007 10:20 pm

Today I finished The Alhambra by Washington Irving which was first published in 1832. Irving served for a time as a diplomat in Spain and had an opportunity to reside in the Alhambra palace for several months. The book is travel literature intermingled with retellings (spiced with Irving's own brand of humor) of folk tales about the Almambra. It's a charming book available still in the Library of America series.
"The law isn't justice. It's a very imperfect mechanism. If you press exactly the right buttons and are also lucky, justice may show up in the answer. A mechanism is all the law was ever intended to be." - Raymond Chandler

BC
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Post by BC » Mon Jun 18, 2007 8:52 am

I've just finished reading Cormac McCarthy's "The Road", a book I believe will come to be seen as the most extravagantly overpraised work of fiction in recent years. Also Philip Roth's "Portnoy's Complaint " -- for some reason I've put off reading this, despite being a Roth fan. I liked it very much. I've just started Siri Hustvedt's "What I Loved". I had some reservations about starting this, I'm not a fan of her husband (Paul Auster), and some reviewers have suggested that she will appeal to the same kind of reader. However, a hundred or so pages in I am enjoying it so far.

I'm also reading Elizabeth Wilson's "Shostakovich: A Life Remembered", which a few people recommended on the other board, and I'm liking this very much too. It's not only good on Shostakovich, it is very good on life in the Soviet Union in the 20th century, something I feel I should know more about.

Perhaps the best novel I have read by a new writer this year was Olga Grushin's "The Dream Life of Sukhanov” also good on the life of an artist in the Soviet Union. Heavily influenced by Bulgakov, but with a lighter touch, this is an astonishingly good debut, and although it is by no means flawless I really can't recommend it highly enough.

I've been somewhat belatedly watching the first season of "The West Wing" on DVD. Very well written and entertaining, although it offers a somewhat idealised view of politics, and particularly the character of the President: I have no doubt that a British equivalent would be much more cynical.

karlhenning
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Post by karlhenning » Mon Jun 18, 2007 8:55 am

Haydnseek wrote:Today I finished The Alhambra by Washington Irving which was first published in 1832. Irving served for a time as a diplomat in Spain and had an opportunity to reside in the Alhambra palace for several months. The book is travel literature intermingled with retellings (spiced with Irving's own brand of humor) of folk tales about the Almambra. It's a charming book available still in the Library of America series.
All of Irving I have found charming, and well worthy of literary visitation!

Cheers,
~Karl
Karl Henning, PhD
Composer & Clarinetist
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http://members.tripod.com/~Karl_P_Henning/
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Cyril Ignatius
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Post by Cyril Ignatius » Mon Jun 18, 2007 4:01 pm

Lately I began a rereading of "The Cardinal" (Simon and Schuster, NY, 1950) by Henry Morton Robinson (1898-1961).

The Cardinal is a fabulous 579 page novel following the life of Stephen Fermoyle from parish priest fresh out of the North American College of Rome through his rise to Cardinal. The story is said to be partly inluenced by the life of Cardinal Spellman of New York. Whatever its connections to real life figures, it is clearly a powerful and moving portrait of Catholicism as well as being a profound reflection on life and culture.
Cyril Ignatius

Brendan

Post by Brendan » Tue Jun 19, 2007 1:39 am

2/3rds through Norman Russell's The Doctrine of Deification in the Greek Patristic Tradition [Oxford Early Christian Studies, 2004].

Halfway through Donald Fairbairn's Grace and Christology in the Early Church [Oxford Early Christian Studies, 2003]. The topics are closely related. It is also a superb follow-up to Gavrilyuk's The Suffering of the Impassible God – The Dialectics of Patristic Thought [Oxford Early Christian Studies, 2004]

After that it'll be Daniel A. Keating's The Appropriation of Divine Life in Cyril of Alexandria [Oxford Theological Monographs, 2004], unless Bartos' Deification in Eastern Orthodox Theology [paternoster theological Monographs, 2007] arrives first.

Deadwood, seasons 1, 2 & 3, are slowly being viewed, as relief if nothing else. Must pick up Rome sometime on disc.

Gary
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Post by Gary » Mon Jul 16, 2007 1:29 am

Does God Play Dice? The Mathematics of Chaos
Ian Stewart

Image

Brendan

Post by Brendan » Mon Jul 16, 2007 1:45 am

Chaos is a bit old-hat these days, I would have thought, but Dice is an old classic on the topic. I always found Stewart's works on symmetry more interesting.

Just received Hofstadter's latest: I am a Strange Loop (comments not required!)

Gary
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Post by Gary » Mon Jul 16, 2007 1:56 am

Brendan wrote:Chaos is a bit old-hat these days, I would have thought...
Yes, but I read slow. :)
I bought the book fourteen years ago.
Brendan wrote: I always found Stewart's works on symmetry more interesting.
Which book is that?

Since we're on the subject, are you familiar with Martin Gardner's The New Ambidextrous Universe (another relatively old book)? If so, what did you think about that?

Wallingford
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Post by Wallingford » Mon Jul 16, 2007 2:35 pm

Am currently borrowing from the library this DVD of great Russian animation, always welcome on a summer evening:
http://www.amazon.com/Masters-Russian-A ... 169&sr=1-1

In this day & age of CGI (as well as--ecch--Japanese Anime), it's great to see some older films using the "dated" hand-drawn & stop-motion techniques. I may just buy my own copy of this one.
If I could tell my mom and dad
That the things we never had
Never mattered we were always ok
Getting ready for Christmas day
--Paul Simon

BWV 1080
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Post by BWV 1080 » Mon Jul 16, 2007 2:50 pm

BC wrote:I've just finished reading Cormac McCarthy's "The Road", a book I believe will come to be seen as the most extravagantly overpraised work of fiction in recent years.
Have you read anything else of McCarthy? I liked the book, would compare it to his early Outer Dark - an enjoyable sort of naturalistic horror, but not on the level of Blood Meridian or the Border Trilogy


Currently reading Salman Rushdie's Haroun and the Sea of Stories to my 7 year old daughter.

slofstra
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Post by slofstra » Mon Jul 16, 2007 3:19 pm

I'm working through:

Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy

To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf

Joseph and his Brothers by Thomas Mann (I might not make it).

karlhenning
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Post by karlhenning » Mon Jul 16, 2007 3:25 pm

BWV 1080 wrote:Currently reading Salman Rushdie's Haroun and the Sea of Stories to my 7 year old daughter.
How do you both like it, Steve?
Karl Henning, PhD
Composer & Clarinetist
Boston, Massachusetts
http://members.tripod.com/~Karl_P_Henning/
http://henningmusick.blogspot.com/
Published by Lux Nova Press
http://www.luxnova.com/

BWV 1080
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Post by BWV 1080 » Mon Jul 16, 2007 3:31 pm

karlhenning wrote:
BWV 1080 wrote:Currently reading Salman Rushdie's Haroun and the Sea of Stories to my 7 year old daughter.
How do you both like it, Steve?
Its a great book. I read it myself about 5 years ago and thought then I would read it to my kids when they were old enough. Have you read it, or just seen it through the Wuorinen opera?

karlhenning
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Post by karlhenning » Mon Jul 16, 2007 3:34 pm

BWV 1080 wrote:
karlhenning wrote:
BWV 1080 wrote:Currently reading Salman Rushdie's Haroun and the Sea of Stories to my 7 year old daughter.
How do you both like it, Steve?
Its a great book. I read it myself about 5 years ago and thought then I would read it to my kids when they were old enough. Have you read it, or just seen it through the Wuorinen opera?
An indirect version of the latter, via the Haroun Song Book.
Karl Henning, PhD
Composer & Clarinetist
Boston, Massachusetts
http://members.tripod.com/~Karl_P_Henning/
http://henningmusick.blogspot.com/
Published by Lux Nova Press
http://www.luxnova.com/

Brendan

Post by Brendan » Mon Jul 16, 2007 4:54 pm

Gary wrote:
Brendan wrote: I always found Stewart's works on symmetry more interesting.
Which book is that?

Since we're on the subject, are you familiar with Martin Gardner's The New Ambidextrous Universe (another relatively old book)? If so, what did you think about that?
I've loved Gardiner's works for many years now, but have to admit I don't have that book. Stewart's Fearful Symmetry: Is God a Geometer? and his latest Why Beauty is Truth: A History of Symmetry are the one's I had in mind. I just thought a few others covered Chaos Theory as well or better.

Gary
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Post by Gary » Tue Jul 17, 2007 1:09 am

Thanks, Brendan.

BWV 1080
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Post by BWV 1080 » Tue Jul 17, 2007 11:40 am

I just finished another good WW2 book - Max Hasting's Armageddon. He does an admiral job of discussing the last year of the war in Europe (from the end of Bagration and Normandy to the fall of Berlin) from both the Eastern and Western sides. Gives the Russians the credit they deserve for destroying the German army - he convincingly illustrates how the Russians by 1944 had the most effective ground army in the war, contrasted to the politically motivated and timid maneuvers of the Western allies after the breakout from Normandy. No allied comander above division level aside from Patton comes out well in the book. What was particularly interesting is how Eisenhower facilitated and shared the almost irrational fear of the German army and exposing flanks well past the point where the Wehrmacht had any ability to damage the allies. But with the Russians willing to fight aggressively and take casualties, perhaps the West decided they could take it slow.

The book also spotlights little known areas of the Western conflict, such as Holland's Hunger Winter and the fighting by Canadian troops to clear out the estuaries into Antwerp. it documents and balances the reality of Russian atrocities in Germany, notably East Prussia with those committed in Russia by the Germans.

Wallingford
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Post by Wallingford » Tue Aug 07, 2007 1:29 am

Having recently taken in Milos Forman's latest film, I've decided to catch up on two other auteurs whose work I admire above all others': ROBERT BENTON and ANG LEE.

One library DVD apiece, with more on hold: from the former, I've got Benton's last theatrical effort, Nadine (from 2 years back); from Lee, Crouching Tiger (yep, I haven't seen it yet).

I've been ever so cautious in further exploring Lee's work, for even though I much admire him, it's hard to reconcile the director of a pair of fine, humane movies like Eat Drink Man Woman and Brokeback Mountain, with the person who agreed to do the first Spiderman movie (again, haven't seen it).

ALSO: I recently borrowed a DVD of a '76 Cat Stevens concert, Majikat.....the present Yusuf Islam had always been a rock/pop musician I admired above most others, particularly in his dual capacity as guitarist & keyboardist: he mastered both better than nearly all others. To say nothing of his frequently disarming and imaginative way with a melody. Being a pianist, watching this DVD I was rather struck (I believe I always was) by those clever little filigree passages he had at the top of the keyboard. I may eventually get my own copy of this one.
If I could tell my mom and dad
That the things we never had
Never mattered we were always ok
Getting ready for Christmas day
--Paul Simon

Teresa B
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Post by Teresa B » Tue Aug 07, 2007 6:17 am

Brendan wrote: Just received Hofstadter's latest: I am a Strange Loop (comments not required!)
I read most of Hofstadter's "Strange Loop" and here's my comment (sorry): I think Hofstadter is brilliant and amazingly facile at coming up with clever and creative ways to present his ideas. But it ends up being difficult to glean the general theme.

He does show his vulnerable side when he talks about losing his beloved wife--He even admits to wondering whether his contemplations about the "soul" or "I" of an individual existing in the minds of others are due to his yearning to keep his wife with him.

Anyway, good luck.

I am reading the new bio of Einstein (well-written!) and another oldie-but-goodie, Diamond's "Third Chimpanzee". (And I watched "The Devil Wears Prada". Fun flick!)

Teresa
"We're all mad here. I'm mad. You're mad." ~ The Cheshire Cat

Author of the novel "Creating Will"

Haydnseek
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Post by Haydnseek » Tue Aug 07, 2007 11:25 am

Recently I read Fitzgerald's The Beautiful and Damned and Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises. Fitzgerald was, in my opinion, the more insightful writer, though this is probably his weakest novel, while The Sun was certainly one of Hemingway's very best efforts. I tried to reread For Whom the Bell Tolls and couldn't go on much past the "Did you feel the earth move?" scenes which struck me as quite silly. Maybe I'll pick it up again but there are better books to read.
"The law isn't justice. It's a very imperfect mechanism. If you press exactly the right buttons and are also lucky, justice may show up in the answer. A mechanism is all the law was ever intended to be." - Raymond Chandler

Brendan

Post by Brendan » Tue Aug 07, 2007 4:59 pm

Teresa B wrote: I read most of Hofstadter's "Strange Loop" and here's my comment (sorry): I think Hofstadter is brilliant and amazingly facile at coming up with clever and creative ways to present his ideas. But it ends up being difficult to glean the general theme.

He does show his vulnerable side when he talks about losing his beloved wife--He even admits to wondering whether his contemplations about the "soul" or "I" of an individual existing in the minds of others are due to his yearning to keep his wife with him.

Anyway, good luck.
Hofstadter has been working on the general theme of how consciousness arises from unconscious structures (AI in particular) and processes through 'strange loops' his entire career - and with a title like that I'll be very disappointed if it is about something else! As a bit-head interested in consciousness studies and the experience of the Self and how that comes about, Hofstadter is pure gold (or has been so far). I'm going to re-read GEB before starting on it, though. Marot was also very touching as a love-letter to his departed wife.

I cannot watch anything with Meryl Streep's wretched over-acting as a feature. I can't even watch The Deer Hunter because she is in it.

Just finished watching Canivale - shame it only lasted 2 seasons.

I also finally tracked down the Joseph Conrad story The Duel, the basis for the classic movie The Duellists, which had been renamed by publishers The Point of Honor. My next Amazon order will probably melt my card.

Gary
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Post by Gary » Wed Aug 08, 2007 3:01 am

Wallingford wrote:Crouching Tiger (yep, I haven't seen it yet).
That makes two of us. :)

Currently reading Viruses by Arnold J. Levine. Published by Scientific American Library. Amazing yet scary little critters!

Wallingford
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Post by Wallingford » Wed Aug 22, 2007 12:34 am

I've just read live-action director Richard Fleischer's biography of his dad--animator Max Fleischer. It's titled Out Of The Inkwell.

A loving tribute, even if a tad too flowery & prejudiced (very little attention's given to Uncle Dave Fleischer, Max's sibling with whom he had a longstanding feud & from whom Max took a great deal of the credit for several of their astounding inventions....see Leslie Cabarga's latest edition of The Fleischer Story for a fuller picture on the whole issue).

Nevertheless, a touching tribute to a man who still didn't get the breaks he deserved.
If I could tell my mom and dad
That the things we never had
Never mattered we were always ok
Getting ready for Christmas day
--Paul Simon

Corlyss_D
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Post by Corlyss_D » Wed Aug 22, 2007 2:26 am

I just finished watching 4 seasons of 24, the Kiefer Sutherland vehicle, back to back for hours on end. In typical fashion, I waited till it was an established series to "discover" it, based mostly on high praise it received from the assembled ears here.

No question the series maintains the tension at a high-level, perhaps better than any TV series I've seen, and a lot of the political dialog is of high caliber. Some of it is pure crap, but that's to be expected where a lot of real political dialog is pure crap, too. By about 3/4 of the way thru the first season I was anticipating dialog and plot developments, which says a lot about the ability of the writers to maintain consistency among diverse developed characters. I really enjoyed Dennis Haysbert, Sarah Clarke, and Penny Johnson in their roles. Dennis Haysbert remarked in an interview that he molded his President Palmer on three public figures he greatly admired: Carter, Clinton, and Powell. He reallly shone in Season 4. I was sorry to see Clarke's and Johnson's characters written out of the series. I don't think there are any strong women to equal them since they left the show. I loved Louis Lombardi's Edgar Stiles - he is Everyman as Civil Servant.

After a certain point in the show, I started making lists of the likely and unlikely politics about the plots. Some of the politics is BS of a low order; some are BS of a higher order; and some are pretty believable. I would like to know who their political adivsors are; I know some pretty high-vis political operatives worked as consultants to West Wing, a show I could never watch because I don't find Martin Sheen credible in anything he's done since Apocalypse Now. I used to like him much better when he was a nobody. If anyone knows who the political advisors for 24 are, clue me in.

And that's how I spent my summer vacation.
Corlyss
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Gary
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Post by Gary » Wed Aug 22, 2007 4:19 am

Corlyss_D wrote:
And that's how I spent my summer vacation.
Welcome back!

Corlyss_D
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Post by Corlyss_D » Wed Aug 22, 2007 4:21 am

Gary wrote:
Corlyss_D wrote:
And that's how I spent my summer vacation.
Welcome back!
Thanks, Gary. I missed the ol' gang somewhere in the middle of Season 2. :wink:
Corlyss
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slofstra
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Post by slofstra » Thu Aug 23, 2007 6:15 pm

Corlyss_D wrote:
And that's how I spent my summer vacation.
Wait a minute. You're retired, and then you take a vacation? Pretty nice gig...

Corlyss_D
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Post by Corlyss_D » Fri Aug 24, 2007 2:19 am

slofstra wrote:
Corlyss_D wrote:
And that's how I spent my summer vacation.
Wait a minute. You're retired, and then you take a vacation? Pretty nice gig...
Routine is routine. Sometimes you have to break the routine, even when you are retired.
Corlyss
Contessa d'EM, a carbon-based life form

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