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Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio?

Posted by Eliot Weinstein on November 8, 2016

My favorite verse from “Mrs. Robinson” (1968), featured in the hit Mike Nichols movie The Graduate (1967), arrives near the end:

Sitting on a sofa on a Sunday afternoon
Going to the candidates’ debate
Laugh about it, shout about it
When you’ve got to choose
Every way you look at it you lose.

The song continues, quite memorably, with the mention of a famous baseball star:

Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio?
A nation turns its lonely eyes to you
What’s that you say, Mrs. Robinson?
Joltin’ Joe has left and gone away

Joe DiMaggio was reportedly somewhat confused when he heard the song, as he was 16 years past his retirement from Major League Baseball but was still well-known for the records he set (including his still-unbroken record of a 56-game hitting streak) and because he had been the second husband of the late Marilyn Monroe. Friends told DiMaggio that the song didn’t seem to be intended as a criticism of him, and an eventual meeting with songwriter Paul Simon allowed Simon to explain that the lines were not meant literally. Rather, that part of the song relates to (among other reasonable interpretations) a metaphorical absence of heroes and role-models in 1967-1968 and to the disillusionment of younger Americans with the ideals and virtues of the older generation that worked, fought, and started their families in the immediate World-War-II-era.

After the death of Joe DiMaggio in 1999, Paul Simon explained his respect for DiMaggio and the purpose of his reference to Joltin’ Joe in the song (especially considering Simon had previously admitted that his first choice for a baseball player to mention in “Mrs. Robinson” was Mickey Mantle, but that name didn’t have the right number of syllables). Simon wrote in the New York Times:

In the 50’s and 60’s, it was fashionable to refer to baseball as a metaphor for America, and DiMaggio represented the values of that America: excellence and fulfillment of duty (he often played in pain), combined with a grace that implied a purity of spirit, an off-the-field dignity and a jealously guarded private life. It was said that he still grieved for his former wife, Marilyn Monroe, and sent fresh flowers to her grave every week. Yet as a man who married one of America’s most famous and famously neurotic women, he never spoke of her in public or in print. He understood the power of silence.
In these days of Presidential transgressions and apologies and prime-time interviews about private sexual matters, we grieve for Joe DiMaggio and mourn the loss of his grace and dignity, his fierce sense of privacy, his fidelity to the memory of his wife and the power of his silence.

For all that has lamentably not been improved about our politics and our national discourse since Simon wrote those words about “Presidential transgressions and apologies and prime-time interviews about private sexual matters” in 1999, we should at least consider ourselves fortunate that we GET to choose, however poor quality the options.

And although we might be dissatisfied, and perhaps with good reason, we should not be so eager to declare our contempt for what is best about our nation. In the face of adequate warnings and the lessons of history, doing so would take us down a dark and dangerous path. The United States would re-create the experience of mid-20th Century Argentina, complete with open, organized violence between political left and political right and the nearly unprecedented self-inflicted destruction of substantial economic prosperity (Argentina was in the top 10 world economies by GDP per capita before the First World War, but lost this status and has experienced nearly a century of minimal net economic growth amid continuing post-dictatorship political turmoil and institutional decay).

Our nation, though flawed like all human endeavors, is already great. Angry extremists of the far-left and (particularly this year) the far-right show they either don’t understand, or actually disagree with, the sources and the nature of that greatness. There will always be those who profit from scaremongering and scapegoating, those who benefit from the creation of dysfunction and disorder, and those who just like to watch things burn. An especially pernicious form of this behavior consists of telling those who are hurting something like, we’ll solve your problems, it’s simple: we can tear everything down, and then everything will be rebuilt, but in the process we can make sure to exclude certain groups of evildoers living among us whose perfidy just so happens to be the cause of your social and economic pain. (Well, what do you know folks, that solution is terrific! It’s great, so simple that our previous leaders, whatever their party or ideology, must have been stupid or crooked for not figuring it out…)

To those who have been ignored and feel betrayed by the status-quo, this siren song can sound so persuasive that the would-be destroyers don’t even need to be subtle, proclaiming they really do want to “burn it all down”. The proposed remedies of the destructive charlatans are to our body politic, at best, alchemy–of the turn lead-into-gold variety–and at worst, medieval bloodletting. Such “cures” are far worse than the vastly exaggerated disease, and the process of enacting them would cause us to lose something essential and valuable about being the United States of America. For those who don’t like what we are, who promise to lead us back to a greatness they say we lost an undetermined number of decades ago, who relish the chaotic retribution they will get to unleash upon disfavored groups in order to supposedly bring us there, that’s probably the point. We must reject their narcissistic carnival of institutional pyromania, and mock the pretension that they speak for some greater good as boastful foolishness, because that’s what it is.

As Benjamin Franklin was said to have warned, the nation that declared its independence in 1776 and that created its Constitution in 1787 will be, “A Republic, If You Can Keep It”.

Let’s keep it, and work on ways to make it better.

Posted in Arts and literature, Music, Politics | Leave a Comment »

‘Tis not too late to seek a newer world

Posted by Eliot Weinstein on August 31, 2015

Five years ago, I wrote a post marking my “Five-Year Blogaversary”. That five-year mark was measured from August of 2005, when I originally began blogging, posting on politics and current events as part of a now-defunct group blog. (I explain a bit more about this in the Five-Year post and in the About the blog page.) Recognizing that these milestones are dated a bit arbitrarily, I still feel a need to note the passage of another five years.

Calling this post my “Ten-Year Blogaversary”, even with the tongue-in-cheek awareness of what a blogaversary is or might be, strikes me as inappropriate. Two main reasons:

  1. I have not been actively blogging for most of the last four years. I allude to this in my About recent changes page. There are quite a few reasons why I haven’t kept posting, but they fall in to two broad types: the good (e.g., I had some other really important and rewarding things occupying my time) and the bad (e.g., I anticipated being in a very different place with my career–one that would present a natural synergy between me doing my actual work and me blogging about some of my favorite topics). Either way, this reflects a kind of failure, as I like writing on self-imposed deadlines and I would benefit from doing more of it. As I mention a bit mysteriously elsewhere, this will change in the near future (maybe not exactly in the form of more blogging like this, but that’s still a possibility).
  2. My wife and I just had our first wedding anniversary earlier this month (we were married in August of 2014). Going forward, this will continue to be a time of year when I celebrate important anniversaries, but the non-blog one is the more important of the two. Indeed, the difference is so vast, the juxtaposition so staggering, that mentioning a blogaversary (except perhaps briefly in jest) in this context is disrespectful. Not to mention weird. What even is a “blogaversary” anyways? I understand what it means by analogy to “anniversary”, but…did I make up that concept as a joke once and now I’ve been utilizing it for over 5 years?

I’m a bit impressed that anyone still visits this site, because I haven’t posted with discipline and regularity (here or on other sites like Facebook or Twitter) since the primary elections in 2011-2012 that determined Mitt Romney would be the Republican candidate to challenge President Obama in the 2012 US Presidential Election. However, some reflection on the past five years is needed.

My discussion of the political beliefs of William Shatner (the incomparable actor known for his portrayal of Captain Kirk, TJ Hooker, Denny Crane, The Priceline Negotiator, among others) remains by far my most visited and most searched-for post. In this spirit, I promise that to the extent that this blog continues in any fashion whatsoever, I will ensure that it remains a leading source for information on William Shatner’s views on politics. I vow that there will be more discussion of William Shatner, not less.

Yes, I remember the valuable insight of The Simpsons on the nature of promises (especially political campaign promises) embodied in the speeches given by the aliens impersonating politicians:

Tonight I say, we must move forward, not backward; upward, not forward; and always twirling, twirling, twirling towards freedom…

Even so, the people demand more blogging about William Shatner, so that seems like as good a topic as any (especially when it connects the arts, broadly defined, to politics, again broadly defined).

As for topics other than Shatner, I feel that I had a good run of reasonable and interesting posts in the year or so immediately following the five-year blogaversary. I’m fond of my two-posts series, “How terribly strange to be seventy” celebrating the 70th birthday of pioneering musician Bob Dylan, and then the 70th birthday of his slightly younger peer and sometime-rival musician Paul Simon. In hindsight, I think the one about Dylan is too dry and terse, while the one about Simon is too personal and discursive. I also feel that my post about the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War was very timely and necessary, and while I’m proud of it, I appear to have written it with the wrong tone, in that I sounded much more hesitant that my knowledge of the subject necessitated and more casual than the gravity of the situation deserved.

Objectivity regarding one’s own writing is difficult (understatement of the year, nominee). However, combining the metrics of: 1) how important was the information I conveyed, 2) how useful was the analysis I presented around that information, and 3) how well did I express myself via the written word, I would say that the best blogging I did in past five years would be found in my posts about prominent economic commentators weighing in on the second “Quantitative Easing” debate and about Arnold Kling’s thoughts on the solvency of Social Security. Please note that Arnold Kling blogs at a different site now from when I was quoting him then.

While I’m sorry for the mistakes I made that reduced my potential blogging time and output over the past few years, I’m not ashamed of what I did get to write, and I’m very glad that I have the chance to do even better going forward.

There will be new and interesting things coming to this site (or equivalent) soon. Thanks for your patience, and please stay tuned! Some of the pseudo-mysterious ways that I’m hinting at changes (mainly to this blog) will only make sense with some time.

And because important milestones in my life always seem to connect to the works of Tennyson somehow (although fortunately not The Charge of the Light Brigade, in this instance), here’s the inspiration for the title of the post, from the famous final third (public domain, via Wikisource) of Tennyson’s Ulysses:

   There lies the port; the vessel puffs her sail:
There gloom the dark broad seas. My mariners,
Souls that have toil’d, and wrought, and thought with me—
That ever with a frolic welcome took
The thunder and the sunshine, and opposed
Free hearts, free foreheads—you and I are old;
Old age hath yet his honour and his toil;
Death closes all: but something ere the end,
Some work of noble note, may yet be done,
Not unbecoming men that strove with Gods.
The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks:
The long day wanes: the slow moon climbs: the deep
Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends,
‘Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down:
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

Posted in Announcements, Arts and literature, Personal | Leave a Comment »

In front of the screen: Roger Ebert dies at 70

Posted by Eliot Weinstein on April 4, 2013

The Chicago Sun-Times has reported that Roger Ebert has died. Ebert, the world’s most prolific film critic, and the first ever to win a Pulitzer Prize for film criticism, had only two days ago announced that the cancer he courageously fought for years had returned.

Although I have been taking a (self-imposed) hiatus from blogging for the past year-plus, I would be remiss not to mark the passing of Roger Ebert. The very first actual blog post that I ever wrote, originally posted on Mankind Minus One way back in 2005, was a short piece marking the unveiling of a star for Ebert on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame. At that time, I lauded his genius, declaring that, “there are many movie reviewers, but only one Ebert.”

Ebert published two books containing the least favorable movie reviews he ever wrote, I Hated, Hated, Hated This Movie and Your Movie Sucks. The latter, which still sits proudly on my shelf, contains some of the most entertaining writing I have ever had the privilege of reading. The highlights of that compilation are Ebert’s zero-star review of Freddie Got Fingered, as well as Ebert’s review of Wet Hot American Summer, which is written entirely in verse.

For anyone who didn’t grow up reading Ebert’s film reviews every week, or for anyone who wants a more thorough overview of this amazing man’s work, I strongly recommend the collection Awake in the Dark: The Best of Roger Ebert, published by the University of Chicago Press (hardcover in 2006 and paperback in 2008).

Here is a collection of some of Ebert’s most famous and amusing quotes.

Farewell, Roger Ebert. Whenever I see a movie that is truly outstanding, like The Social Network, or a movie that is profoundly disappointing, like Pearl Harbor, I’ll think of you and your lifetime of wisdom.

Rest in peace.

Posted in Arts and literature | 1 Comment »

Festival of Links: The Best of March

Posted by Eliot Weinstein on March 31, 2011

The top stories from this past month that you probably didn’t hear about from your other blogs:

1. The King James Version of the Bible turns 400.

2. Will Wilkinson gives “A Scornful Review” to the new David Brooks novel The Social Animal.

3. “Illinois has 11 working nuclear reactors at six sites, more than any other state [in the USA]…”

4. Soon there will be no hiding place for Jacques Chirac.

5. Megan McArdle argues that “We Don’t Need More Stigma for Overweight Kids“. Excerpt:

But it seems to me that we frequently mix “healthy” up with “thin”.  Most people who switch to eating an actual healthy diet–little processed food, a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables, less salt and sugar–won’t end up thin.  Most people who exercise won’t lose much, if any weight without calorie restriction.  And most people who try to restrict their calories below what their body wants fail over the long term–eventually, their appetite wins.

6. A study released by a think-tank affiliated with the German Social Democratic Party (Germany’s large center-left party) reveals that nearly half of Germans believe that Israel is attempting to exterminate the Palestinians, and a slightly larger proportion of Germans agree with the statement “Jews try to take advantage of having been victims during the Nazi era”. As Tyler Cowen would say, “Yikes!”

7. Scott Adams gives his assessment of Charlie Sheen. That’s all the Charlie Sheen blogging you will get from me.

8. Rabbi Richard Jacobs is elected as the next president of the Union for Reform Judaism.

9. Economist Steven Horwitz, whose writings on cell phones I have previous blogged, cites telephone service as an example of an industry where cost has fallen and quality has risen (both dramatically). In other words, there is no great stagnation.

10. Vanity Fair’s offbeat interview with Paul Simon.

11. Very short Newsweek interview with Larry Summers. As some other bloggers have noted, the best line from Summers is, “I’m one of the few people who went to Washington to get out of politics.”

Posted in Arts and literature, Economics, Festival of Links, Music, Politics, Religion, Technology | Comments Off on Festival of Links: The Best of March

Remark of the Week: Opera Edition

Posted by Eliot Weinstein on July 4, 2010

This week’s Remark of the Week comes from John von Rhein, the classical music critic for the Chicago Tribune, reviewing a Chicago Symphony Orchestra concert of Wagner highlights at the Ravinia summer music festival:

One’s pleasure in hearing one of the world’s great Wagnerian “pit” bands playing this glorious music from center stage, along with the full-throated singing of the soloists, was mingled with dismay at the smallish audience. Wagner remains a tough sell on the North Shore [of Chicago]. The “Ringheads” in attendance cheered lustily, as if to compensate for the acres of empty seats.

I can offer only speculation as to why “Wager remains a tough sell” for the people of the northern suburbs of Chicago. That speculation is twofold: 1) The North Shore of Chicago is known for its substantially above-average prevalence of Jews, as well as high levels of social and political support for tolerance and diversity among the general population (although there are some areas, such as ultra-wealthy Kenilworth, that reliably vote Republican). 2) The music of Richard Wagner is still tainted by its associated with Nazi Germany–where it was highly popular with Hitler and other Nazi leaders–as well as the perceived anti-Semitism of Wagner himself (note the controversy caused by Daniel Barenboim’s performance of Wagner in Israel). Putting together 1) and 2) leads me to conjecture that the North Shore has a higher-than-average number of people who consider Wagner distasteful for political reasons, leading to a below-average popularity of Wagner’s music among the population in that area.

Also, I didn’t know that fans of Wagner’s Ring Cycle had a special name (“Ringheads”), although a quick Google search demonstrates at least two different instances of using “Ringheads” to denote Wagner fanatics.

As always, thank you for reading my random musings on subjects like the relative popularity of Wagnerian opera. For my friends, family, and other American readers, Happy July 4th! Here’s to an excellent rest of 2010!

Posted in Arts and literature, Music, Random Thoughts | Comments Off on Remark of the Week: Opera Edition

The finale of LOST

Posted by Eliot Weinstein on May 27, 2010

LOST, the television show that became a cultural phenomenon–watched at its peak by over 20 million viewers in the United States alone–concluded with its final episode this past Sunday. As I will now discuss that episode, and the sixth season more generally, this post contains MAJOR SPOILERS. Follow along after the jump…

Read the rest of this entry »

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Remark of the week

Posted by Eliot Weinstein on February 28, 2010

This week’s “Remark of the week” is for fans of ABC’s hit TV show Lost. As E! Online’s Kristin Dos Santos reports, last night the cast and crew of Lost answered many fan questions at the William S. Paley Television Festival in Los Angeles. Lost co-creator and executive producer Damon Lindelof responded to a question about a possible Lost-themed ride at Disney World. Lindelof said that to create such a ride it would be unnecessary to build a replica of the show’s mysterious Island:

Just put people in a black room, spin them around and punch them in the face and tell them “You just had the Lost experience.”

Posted in Arts and literature, Random Thoughts | 3 Comments »

William Shatner on politics

Posted by Eliot Weinstein on January 17, 2009

In an interview with Glenn Beck on May 16, 2008 the inimitable actor William Shatner made many thoughtful if offbeat remarks about politics.

Early in the interview, Beck asked the former Captain Kirk about the zany obstreperousness of Star Trek fans. Shatner responded, “I mean, it was a fantasy, wasn’t it? It was just a television show.”

When pressed, Shatner assented to holding the belief that “almost every problem we have right now is due to overpopulation”. Shatner said that  “…nature eventually will take care of that problem like they did, like nature does with animals.” He elaborated,

…how do we stop the overpopulation? I guess it’s by education and saying you’ve got to have less children, you can’t have all the children you want anymore. There’s a difference in the world now. Or nature will take care of it.

Shatner ascribes his views on the subject to a reading (40 years ago) of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Arts and literature, Politics | 3 Comments »

The man ain’t got no culture

Posted by Eliot Weinstein on September 8, 2008

And by “the man”, I mean search engines.

Earlier today, I was searching the online archives of The Economist (the British newsweekly) to see if they printed an obituary for Welsh poet Ronald Stuart Thomas, who died a few months before I began reading that publication. The Economist now allows users to search the archives either via Google Custom Search or via their own internal search. Using Google for “Ronald Stuart Thomas” only returns a dozen or so unrelated results (or zero, searching for exact wording). Much to my surprise, using their internal search gives me either zero or one result, but also this:

No further comments, except that it turns out they did not run an obituary for R.S. Thomas in The Economist.

Posted in Arts and literature, Random Thoughts | Comments Off on The man ain’t got no culture

Remark of the Week

Posted by Eliot Weinstein on August 10, 2008

The clear winner of the Remark of the Week for August 4 through August 10 is Roger Ebert.

The [“Sex and the City”] ladies should fill their flasks with cosmopolitans, go to see “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2” and cry their hearts out with futile regret for their misspent lives.

That’s from Ebert’s movie review for “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2”. He gave that film 3 Stars, while rating the “Sex and the City” movie from earlier this year at 2 Stars.

Yes, I often read Ebert’s reviews of movies that I would never actually be interested in seeing. In my own estimation, I have two clear reasons for this behavior: 1) Ebert is the mainstream movie critic whose recommendations closest match my own tastes, and 2) He is an exceptional writer, the first ever to win a Pulitzer Prize for film criticism, who frequently deploys clever and memorable phrases to share the highlights and lowlights of his movie-viewing. While he certainly has “off days”–reviews where he is clearly uninterested and forcing himself to write, oversimplifying in the process–and has had more since his recent illness, Ebert’s reviews of excellent or “classic” movies as well as those of movies he greatly dislikes are works of art. He even wrote a review of “Wet Hot American Summer” in verse, which can be sung to the tune of “Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah”.

On a somewhat-related note, prolific musician Isaac Hayes–the original “Soul Man”–died earlier today.

On a unrelated note, I apologize for the gap in posting. I haven’t been feeling well the past three weeks due to an injury I sustained right around the time of the Modus Operandi show described in the July 17 post (which went awesomely, at least from this bass player’s viewpoint). Fortunately, I am almost completely better, and I am returning to a more normal schedule, which will include more time providing my readers (whoever you are) with links and commentary.

Only 12 weeks (and change) until Election Day!

Posted in Arts and literature, Music, Random Thoughts | Comments Off on Remark of the Week

Regarding Charlie Wilson’s War

Posted by Eliot Weinstein on December 28, 2007

I strongly recommend the movie Charlie Wilson’s War, in general US release as of a week ago. Although it wasn’t as moving or artistic as Atonement, which I saw a few days earlier week, I found plenty to think about (and many good laughs) from this based-on-a-true-story movie. It also has the unusual property of being fun and educational (i.e., illustrative of historical facts) without being “wholesome” or a “feel-good movie” (it is definitely neither of those). For those lukewarm on the subject matter, Charlie Wilson’s War includes first-rate acting from Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts, an off-the-charts performance by Phillip Seymour Hoffman, clever directing by Mike Nichols, and an excellent screenplay by Aaron Sorkin (writer of The American President and A Few Good Men, creator of The West Wing).

More discussion and minor spoilers after the jump…

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Posted in Arts and literature, Politics | Comments Off on Regarding Charlie Wilson’s War

Remark of the Week

Posted by Eliot Weinstein on December 9, 2007

Catholics used to complain that anti-Catholicism was the anti-semitism of the intellectuals, but this was before the intellectuals went back to anti-semitism.

The Right Coast blogger Tom Smith, while arguing that The Golden Compass (the newly-released movie based on Philip Pullman’s fantasy trilogy) is anti-Christian and anti-Catholic.

Here is Roger Ebert’s review of the movie. Ebert, who is himself Roman Catholic (albeit one who is theologically agnostic about he existence of God), does not find either the movie or the book trilogy to be objectionable.

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R for Ron

Posted by Eliot Weinstein on November 6, 2007

Over $4 million was donated yesterday to the Ron Paul presidential campaign, in spirit of celebrating liberty and “resisting tyranny” on the Fifth of November. Although his campaign did not coordinate the “money-bomb” (individual supporters thought it up and did the legwork), the Texas Congressman has set a record for the most money raised on the Internet by a political candidate in a single day. Paul’s Internet legions openly (and somewhat awesomely, says this Alan Moore fan) evoked imagery from the movie V for Vendetta to sell their groundbreaking project.

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Torture of Terrorist Suspects Harms the US

Posted by Eliot Weinstein on October 1, 2007

That proposition is argued (very cogently, I believe) by Denzel Washington’s character in the shockingly prescient 1998 movie The Siege. The show-stopping critique of torture from that movie is available on YouTube. (Link from Andrew Sullivan.)

I saw The Siege for the first time this past summer. Although the movie does not substantively comment on many important issues (such as how to deal with military officers who are Abu Ghraib-ly overzealous, negligent, or cruel in their treatment of prisoners), it does illustrate the dangers of giving up liberty to improve security. The movie also demonstrates that despite the apparent weaknesses of a “law enforcement” approach to counter-terrorism (relying mainly on the FBI, CIA, and local police to arrest suspects and give them criminal trials), such a method possesses many subtle advantages–particularly in PR and appearances–compared to using military prisons, closed tribunals, and missile strikes to kill, neutralize, or detain “enemy combatants”.

The acting in The Siege is also first-rate, with solid performances from Washington and Bruce Willis. Tony Shalhoub (aka Adrian Monk) dominates his scenes as a conflicted Arab-American FBI agent. Although the content is too dark and serious to justify the adjective “entertaining”, few big-budget Hollywood movies provide as much food for thought as The Siege. If you haven’t seen it, add it to your DVD wish list/Netflix queue.

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Salman Rushdie: Talk Show Host?

Posted by Eliot Weinstein on May 26, 2006

Apparently, TV journalist Charlie Rose became ill in late March and was forced to undergo open-heart surgery. During his recovery, his interview show has been hosted twice (on April 27 and May 12) by Salman Rushdie. Yes, that Salman Rushdie, the notoriously reclusive author whose controversial novel The Satanic Verses has brought him death threats, as well as a fatwa by the late Ayotolla Khomeini calling for his assassination. Rushdie is known for ducking even loyal fans and allies, mannerisms that have been parodied on an episode of Seinfeld in which Kramer believes he saw Rushdie in the sauna. Rushdie and Rose became friends after Rushdie appeared on Rose’s program in the mid-1990s, so Rushdie volunteered to be a guest host when he learned that Rose was having surgery.

The episodes of the Charlie Rose Show hosted by Rushdie are available on Google Video here and here. The interviews are interesting (particularly the May 12 show) but I find the novelty of Salman Rushdie as a talk show host to be fascinating (as well as amusing and/or unsettling) in its own right.

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Proof is the bottom line for everyone

Posted by Eliot Weinstein on October 5, 2005

I have a confession: I haven’t seen ‘Serenity’ yet. I’ll get to it, I promise. But at the University of Chicago, everyone is excited about the movie ‘Proof’. In case you haven’t heard, it’s about an earth-shatteringly brilliant but mentally ill University of Chicago mathematician (Anthony Hopkins), who in his final years is cared for by his daughter (Gweyneth Paltrow), herself a would-be mathematical theorist. The title has multiple meanings, but one of them refers to the discovery of what may or may not be an extremely important mathematical proof, completed by the Hopkins character during a period of mental clarity. On Tuesday night, I saw a special screening of ‘Proof’ at the campus cinema. The theater was packed to capacity, and the management actually delayed the start of the film by fifteen minutes so they could fill the last few seats. In addition to being set at the University of Chicago, the exterior shots were actually filmed in Chicago. Because it was the home-town crowd, there was some unnecessary but expected cheering upon viewing familiar locations or hearing some of the characters’ particularly Chicago-centric banter (including the obligatory potshots at Northwestern). However, the movie was excellent. In addition to agreeing with Roger Ebert’s four-star review, I have my own comments and analysis.

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Posted in Arts and literature, Mathematics, Religion, Science | 1 Comment »

The Quills Awards

Posted by Eliot Weinstein on September 12, 2005

As I was reminded by Stephen Dubner at the Freakonomics Blog, online voting is almost over for this year’s Quills Awards. A concise and impartial explanation of the awards from the Boston Globe can be found here. Voting ends at 11:59 PM EST on September 15. Vote here.

For some reason, the overall “popular” literary crop seems somewhat lackluster this year. However, “popular” books that fascinated me (and that earned my vote in their respective categories) include 1776, The Plot Against America, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, and Freakonomics. Whether you agree with me or think I’m crazy, there’s still time to let the folks at the Quills Literary Society and NBC Universal know what you think.

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The Genius of Roger Ebert

Posted by Eliot Weinstein on June 23, 2005

I read Roger Ebert’s movie reviews every week. I read the reviews of many movies that I never intend to see, because there are many movie reviewers, but only one Ebert. His formidable writing skills never cease to impress me, whether he is feeling spiritual or vindictive. In addition to his superbly-styled prose, his movie recommendations and his understanding of Hollywood and modern American culture are unequaled.

If anyone needs additional testament as to the genius of Roger Ebert, read his review of Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo.

Now, for the purposes of comparison (and to prove that he is not mean-spirited), read his review of a good movie, such as Raging Bull or Dr. Strangelove.

The man truly deserves his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Posted in Arts and literature | 2 Comments »