We have a caffeine-fueled discussion of Life of Pi, the book and movie. Skip to the 28:34 mark to avoid spoilers. We name drop of a few other book-to-movie adaptions worth your time, and we tell you what is tickling our fancy this month. Welcome guest podcaster, Mike! We try not to be too mean to him.
Popmatic crew shares our Oscar picks and a whole lot of recommendations of things for you to watch, read, and listen to while you wait for the DVDs of the winners to come in. Crystal was so disappointed with this year’s nominees that she called in sick. We give you the skinny on a whole lot of programming the library is doing for African American History Month. We cover so many things in this episode, I’m going to stop typing now.
If cable TV has a rock star, it is not a music network, but ESPN. It keeps behaving badly and just keeps getting more popular. Those Guys Have All the Fun is an oral history of ESPN’s rise to “world domination.” The book could have been titled how to make a television network from scratch, warts and all, completely uncensored. For those of you who hate sports, I should have said upfront that the story of ESPN is a compelling American odyssey involving all sorts of people and from all walks of life. It is a story that transcends the knocking of balls and cracking of skulls. It is the American dream realized. It is our collective nightmare. Maybe that’s hyperbole. It is a story of big personalities, big money, sex, and TV.
ESPN started as a family business made possible by intra-family loans. The network grew as cable grew – truly home grown in the nowheresville town of Bristol, Connecticut. Eventually, real money gets involved – Mickey Mouse money. Yes, Disney bought ESPN. You’ll learn why your cable costs so much. Hint: it has something to do with Hank Williams and Monday night. Miller and Shales don’t turn a blind eye to the entrenched culture of sexual harassment at the network. Think Mad Men but as a qualification to get hired at this agency you have to be a sports fanatic. Yeah, it was bad. Racial tensions within the network were a microcosm of racial tensions in our culture at large. This continues to this day. With matters of race and sport tied so closely together, how could it not?
Some have criticized the book for letting ESPN off the hook. If Those Guys Have All the Fun handled its subject with kid gloves, I’m afraid of what a more rigorous examination would look like. Differing points of view on controversial subjects were all given a chance to make their case. I listened to the book on Playaway. The weight of its length is lessened by multiple narrators. With different male and female voices, it feels like you are in the room while the interviews are happening.
I stopped paying for cable years ago but can enjoy much of ESPN’s programming via their Podcenter. There you can find streaming and downloadable versions of their radio and TV talk shows. I still unwind most work days by listening to Around the Horn featuring my favorite sports writer Kevin Blackistone. He was the only commentator on the show brave enough to call out the press for making such a fuss over the “death” of an imaginary woman whenever there was a real death at Notre Dame that went conspicuously under reported.
Oh, and the Super Bowl? I’m rooting for coach Harbaugh.
This Machine Kills Secrets charts the rise and fall of Wikileaks. The word “Wikileaks” is no longer the boogeyman it once was. The current public debate about online privacy might indicate that the philosophical roots behind Wikileaks has gained traction with the general populace. This book is a history of said philosophy. The ideological manifestation of this philosophy is a belief in the right to privacy. The pragmatic manifestation of this philosophy is encryption, or the ability to scramble data so only you and those you choose can unscramble it. Those ideologically motivated enough to take pragmatic action wrote encryption software. Of course, encryption and related technologies can be used for anonymous whistle-blowing too. The people who wrote encryption software are either freedom fighters or paranoid wackjobs depending on your perspective. Pick your poison. It makes for great reading. It also makes for strange bedfellows. I was left wondering what gun nuts in Idaho think of Julian Assange. Greenberg works in a biography of Assange, a history of digital encryption, a (sort of) history of hacker collective Anonymous, and how this all led to a quiet revolution in Iceland. I couldn’t put it down.
If this book tickles your fancy, the author recently participated in an “ask me anything” session on Reddit where he answered user questions in depth and revealed more personal opinions about Wikileaks. Check it, and his book, out.
Whew! We made it through another one: another year, another podcast, another apocalyptic cult. In celebration, we tell you about the things we are most looking forward to in 2013. The library will have them or already has things by their creators so you can pregame. First, some events we are looking forward to:
Legends of Film is proud to present an interview with Director of Photography Adam Holender. Mr. Holender has photographed Midnight Cowboy, Smoke, Fresh, and Man on a Swing. Man on a Swing will be showing January 12, 2013 at 2:00 p.m. at the Main Library downtown.
Drawn Together is the collected collaborative work of underground comics superstar team Aline and Robert Crumb. Married for over thirty-five years, they have shared their personal relationship through uncensored autobiographical comics. Covering 1974 to 2010, it charts their critical and financial rise from (literally) a trailer in California to a chateau in France. Individual vignettes are hit or miss, but overall we are given a portrait of a successful, long term, non-traditional relationship. They have an open marriage. The entire volume is evidence that the strongest couples are those in which the constituent personalities are complementary, as opposed to clones, of one another.
What’s lacking is the narrative arc of Aline’s underrated mixed media biography Need More Love. That book is a life affirming exploration of being damaged and the journey we are all on to fix it. It is an antidote to the negative portrayal of Aline found in Terry Zwigoff’s biopic of her neurotic husband, simply titled Crumb. If Need More Love is about the ability of people to change, Crumb is about one artist’s psychodynamics trapping their owner in an obsessional loop. Its vision may not be hopeful, but is it shockingly honest and simultaneously enlightening like turning a light on in a darkened room. The room being Robert Crumb’s bizarre childhood.
Though Crumb ranks as of the best films of the 1990s, Robert’s actual comics have never spoken much to me. I don’t possess his self-loathing nor his sexual obsessions. In this regard, Robert’s influence on other comics auteurs has been negative. Artists like Chris Ware, Daniel Clowes, and Chester Brown share his technical excellence but also his misanthropy and confessional self-indulgence. The library owns numerous examples of Crumb’s work in this, for him, classic mode, but if you wanted an alternative you could check out his illustrated version of The Book of Genesis. I couldn’t think of anything more boring than Robert Crumb illustrating the Bible but it was a bonafide event when it was published a few years back.
I would be remiss not to mention the Crumbs’ daughter Sophie’s recently published notebooks Sophie Crumb: Evolution of a Crazy Artist. The aesthetic relevance vs. cash cow status of that particular artifact is up to the reader. I would call out the haters who say the same thing about Need More Love. My opinions deserve the same scrutiny.
Crumb, Need More Love, and Drawn Together intimately document one couple’s decades long artistic and romantic life. It’s one for the history books. I feel privileged to have been witness. It has filled me with fascination and joy.
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