Michael Wolraich's picture

    Ken Burns and the Myth of Theodore Roosevelt

    The Roosevelts, a new PBS documentary by director Ken Burns, presents President Theodore Roosevelt as a political superhero. In photo after photo, Burns’s famous pan-and-zoom effect magnifies Roosevelt’s flashing teeth and upraised fist. The reverential narrator hails his fighting spirit and credits him with transforming the role of American government through sheer willpower. “I attack,” an actor blusters, imitating Roosevelt’s patrician cadence, “I attack iniquities.”

    Though exciting to watch, Burns’s cinematic homage muddles the history. Roosevelt was a great president and brilliant politician, but he was not the progressive visionary and fearless warrior that Burns lionizes. He governed as a pragmatic centrist and a mediator who preferred backroom deal-making to open warfare. At the time, many of his progressive contemporaries criticized him for excessive caution. The “I attack” quote, for example, came from a 1915 interview in which Roosevelt defended himself from accusations that he had been too conciliatory.

    Read the full article at New York Magazine's culture website, Vulture.com

    Michael Maiello's picture

    Book Review: Sharp Knives, Sharp Stories

    When I read really great fiction or watch a really good play or movie, whether it’s new or years old, I find that the work speaks to whatever is going on in the world.  That’s When The Knives Come Down, the debut collection of short stories by Dolan Morgan, certainly fits the bill.  Though the dozen story collection is diverse in narratives and tone, the common theme in all the stories is the relationship of people to place.  The w

    Doctor Cleveland's picture

    Robin Williams and Making Live Comedy Live

    Robin Williams was funny, lightning fast, and a gifted improviser, but what really set him apart as a comic was that he let his audiences share the experience of what doing standup comedy feels like. He didn't do that explicitly. It probably can't be done explicitly. But he did it, maybe better than anyone else ever has. It was the core of his gift, because a great comedian is not merely funny. A great comedian creates a relationship with the audience, and the relationship Williams created with his live audiences was something fundamental and profound.

    Ramona's picture

    North Carolina’s Gov picks a Poet-you know-Laureate

    A bit of a stink going on in North Carolina this week.  Nothing so serious that lives are at risk, but serious enough, in a state that prides itself on its ability to nurture and grow literary giants, that the story moved all the way up the Looky Here ladder to the New York Times.

    Ramona's picture

    Harper Lee: You Don’t Know Me

     More than 50 years ago Nelle Harper Lee wrote a book called “To Kill a Mockingbird”.   It was her one and only book and it is a masterpiece, but the story behind it has always been a tantalizing enigma.

    Through the years there have been rumors that her best friend and neighbor, Truman Capote, edited her writing so much, by rights he actually wrote it.

     

    Doctor Cleveland's picture

    Jaws and Climate Denial

    There is no better Fourth of July movie for my money than Jaws. I would watch it at least twice every Independence Day weekend if that wouldn't bore and annoy my spouse. It was designed and filmed so carefully that time has transformed it into a beautifully accurate period piece, capturing the New England beaches of my 1970s childhood in loving detail. Time has also turned it into something else it was not originally meant to be: a parable about the dangers of denying climate change.

    Ramona's picture

    Thank You, Maya Angelou, for Your Magical Words. And for Being You.

     

    We got word that Maya Angelou died today.  When her picture flashed on the TV this morning I held my breath, hoping it wasn't bad news.  When they announced that she was gone, I shouldn't have been shocked, considering her age (86) and ill health, but it took me a few minutes because it never occurred to me that she might someday leave this earth.
     

    Ramona's picture

    Detroit's Rivera Murals are now a Historic Landmark. Bloch and Dimitroff Would be So Proud

    Great news today:  The Diego Rivera "Industry" murals at the Detroit Institute of Arts have been designated a National Historic Landmark.  Before we get too excited and actually think this will allow us to breathe easier about the ridiculous but real threat of a forced sale of certain treasures at the DIA, this is an honor more honorary than it is concrete.

    Doctor Cleveland's picture

    The Shakespeare Silly Season

    This week marks Shakespeare's 450th birthday, leading to many celebrations. We don't know exactly which day he was born (because we only have a record of his baptism, not of his birth), but it was sometime before April 26, and the April 23 has become the "official" birthday. (Why? 1. Shakespeare died on April 23, so wouldn't that be cool? and 2. April 23rd is an English national holiday, so wouldn't that be lovely and patriotic?)  But because it's a big round-number birthday, it's also attracting scammers and hucksters.

    Doctor Cleveland's picture

    Copyright vs. Truth

    The family of the poet Ted Hughes has just "withdrawn permission" for Hughes's biographer to quote from his papers and letters, including papers and letters that the family has already sold to the British Library. The biographer, who's been working on this book for years, has already read those papers. He knows what's in them. But he is no longer allowed to tell us what he knows. How can this be? Copyright law.
     

    Ramona's picture

    A Writer asks a Famous Writer to Stop Writing Because–Why Again?

     

    Every writer is jealous of other writers.  Whether it’s fame or fortune or talent, we can’t help but snivel a little when they become Them and we’re still just us.
     

    Most of us do it in silence or in the midst of a narrow group of co-commiserators.  Not many (Okay, a few, but they’re gone now) do it as publicly as a writer named Lynn Shepherd did recently when she wrote a blog post on HuffPo UK telling J.K. Rowling she’s had her turn and if she had any decency at all she’d hang it up and give someone else a chance.

    Doctor Cleveland's picture

    Ask Me About Shakespeare

    Last summer, in a comment thread that was originally about something else, some of the dagbloggers got me into a side conversation about Shakespeare and linguistics. In that conversation, Orlando wished that I would blog about Shakespeare more often since, you know, I actually work on him for a living.

    Michael Maiello's picture

    Woody Allen's Movies, Career and Me

    I'd love it if we could keep discussions of, um, current events to the other thread.  This one is about the movies...

    You can condition your tastes.  I believe that.  But what I love most about art, high and low, is that it gives us an opportunity to be honest about our reactions to things without the stakes getting too high.  What I love most about comedy is that as an audience member, you can't fake it.  Watching comedy is like having sex.  You can try to be polite but if the other person is paying attention they know whether or not they got a laugh.

    Doctor Cleveland's picture

    J. K. Rowling Is Wrong About Her Own Books

    So, J. K. Rowling has told an interviewer (the actress Emma Watson), that she paired off the wrong characters at the end of her Harry Potter series. Instead of marrying Harry's right-hand girl Hermione off to his left-hand boy Ron, Rowling has decided that she should have married Hermione to Harry himself. So, Rowling concludes, she was wrong when she wrote the books. In fact, she's wrong now.

    Ramona's picture

    Farewell, Pete Seeger. Peace Be With You.

     
    I woke up this morning to the sad news that Pete Seeger, America's folk singer and man of peace, has died.

    He was 94 years old, so we should be grateful that we had him with us for so long.  He was a man whose presence was timeless and inspiring, and the truth is, we needed him.  We need him still.
    Ramona's picture

    Ted Nugent: Obama is Still President. I've Let The Country Down

     

    Let's face it, there is no shaming that bad boy, Teddy "The Nuge" Nugent, the "Motor City Madman",  proud

    Ramona's picture

    On Drunks and Skunks And Why It’s Good That Mickey Spillane Isn’t Here To See This

    by 

    You may or may not have heard about the new show on CMT called “Party Down South”(originally called “The Dirty South”, or so the rumors go), a purposely stupid, sexy, boozy 10-week series about a group of 20-something southern rednecks, strangers to one another, thrown together in a house near Myrtle Beach for a month just to see what happens.  The booze, provided by the production company, flows freely with no danger of running out, and the participants are encouraged (I hope that’s it) to out-dumb each other. The program is produced by the same folks who gave us the equally stupid, sexy, boozy–but popular– “Jersey Shore”.

    Michael Maiello's picture

    Writing Prompts For 2014

    When the political news of the day is about whether or not the governor of New Jersey caused a traffic jam to punish a political rival, I can finally tune out and think about the important stuff like art.

    Doctor Cleveland's picture

    Your New Year's Public Domain Report, 2014

    It's January 1 again, the day when works enter the public domain because their copyright expired at last year's end. And yet again, because of repeated extensions to the length of copyright, nothing at all entered the public domain in the United States. Almost nothing has since January 1, 1979.

    Doctor Cleveland's picture

    Inflation and the Dragon

    One of the hardest things for many people to grasp during the Great Recession has been the idea that inflation is too low. We generally talk about inflation as pure economic evil, something that could never possibly be too low. But it is.

    If you say inflation is too low, some people will bring up the high inflation of the 1970s or, more hysterically, the hyper-inflation in Weimar Germany during the rise of the Nazis as proof that Inflation Is Bad. But that doesn't really make sense. Inflation is bad when it gets too high, but that doesn't make a modest amount of inflation bad. The sun is bad in Death Valley when it's 130 degrees, but that doesn't make sunshine a universal menace. 15% inflation would be a very bad thing, but that doesn't mean 1.5% inflation is a good thing. 130 degrees Fahrenheit is murderous, but so 13 degrees is also a killer. A lot of our public debate about inflation is like trying to treat a case of frostbite while people keep shouting that heat is a terrible thing and then angrily tell you a long story about forest fires.

    Pages

    Latest Comments