Grits and Tamales

Life in the Deep South, by Gabriel Aguilera

September 11, 2014

The last decade was bookended by a terrorist strike on the homeland and a financial crisis that spawned a great recession. In between, the politicians thoroughly bungled one war, erroneously waged another, and came dangerously close to massively expanding the one we had bungled in the first place. (Hillary Rodham Clinton, btw, was on the side of massive expansion of said war). In the wake of Sept. 11, 2001 we made many dreadful economic and strategic mistakes. Only by keeping these in mind can we sensibly grieve for losses and sacrifices of those who died that day and all who have sacrificed since as a consequence of the global war on terror.

My Favorite Books and Why

Below are my favorite 10 books of all time, chosen on three criteria: gravitas, fun, and poetry. I first list them according to category and assign points for placement. Next I do a tally and list according to points earned in each (un-weighted) category.

Finally, I list my favorites in order. Interestingly, only Melville does not crack the top five on any of the lists. Perhaps I should only have a top nine? Only Shakespeare and Homer make the top five on every single category. Proust takes a big climb on subjective criteria. I have read the first volume recently and look forward to the rest. Dante takes a dive only because it’s not one I have studied with vigor.

All in all, these books are wondrous. They are to me indispensable and, in a few cases (The Bible, Shakespeare, and Cervantes) proved thoroughly life-altering. But I love them all, more than I am capable expressing in words {see my terrible poem below as proof of this}. Here is a random bullet on each that jumps in mind:

  • Hamlet tells Horatio that there is a special providence in the fall of a sparrow
  • Jesus chases the tax collectors from the temple…and a herd of swine into the sea.
  • Don Quixote in love.
  • Proust explains why he loves Bergotte.
  • Achilles comforts Priam.
  • Foote peerlessly portrays Lincoln’s kindliness — and his Machiavellian vigor.
  • Machiavelli instructs us to seek wisdom in literature, biography if one is an aspiring prince.
  • Virgil chides Dante for being slothy and prods him along with the memory of Beatriz.
  • Whitman reminds us that the powerful play goes on.
  • Ishmael realizes that he’d rather be in bed with sober pagan than a drunk Christian.

 

The Lists:

Gravitas: Moral instruction and philosophical insight

  1. The Bible (10)
  2. Shakespeare, Tragedies and Henriad (9)
  3. Cervantes, Don Quixote (8)
  4. Homer, The Odyssey & Iliad (7)
  5. Machievelli, The Prince and Discourses (6)
  6. Dante, the Divine Comedy (5)
  7. Foote, The Civil War (4)
  8. Proust, Remembrance of Things Past (3)
  9. Whitman, Leaves of Grass (2)
  10. Melville, Moby Dick (1)

Fun: The most joyous to read

  1. Cervantes, Don Quixote (10)
  2. Shakespeare, Tragedies and Henriad (9)
  3. Homer, The Odyssey & Iliad (8)
  4. Foote, The Civil War (7)
  5. Machievelli, The Prince and Discourses (6)
  6. The Bible (5)
  7. Dante, the Divine Comedy (4)
  8. Melville, Moby Dick (3)
  9. Whitman, Leaves of Grass (2)
  10. Proust, Remembrance of Things Past (1)

Poetry: Because in fifty years I think I would love to be able to recite it all by heart

  1. Shakespeare, Tragedies and Henriad (10)
  2. Homer, The Odyssey & Iliad (9)
  3. Dante, the Divine Comedy (8)
  4. Whitman, Leaves of Grass (7)
  5. Proust, Remembrance of Things Past (6)
  6. The Bible (5)
  7. Melville, Moby Dick (4)
  8. Foote, The Civil War (3)
  9. Cervantes, Don Quixote (2)
  10. Machievelli, The Prince and Discourses (1)

 

Overall according to the point system:

  1. Shakespeare, Tragedies and Henriad (28 points)
  2. Homer, The Odyssey & Iliad (24)
  3. The Bible (20)
  4. Cervantes, Don Quixote (20)
  5. Dante, the Divine Comedy (17)
  6. Foote, The Civil War (14)
  7. Machievelli, The Prince and Discourses (13)
  8. Whitman, Leaves of Grass (11)
  9. Proust, Remembrances of Things Past (10)
  10. Melville, Moby Dick (8)

 

Subjective: In order, what I today would pick to have with me in the dungeon

  1. Shakespeare, Tragedies and Henriad (27 points)
  2. The Bible (20)
  3. Proust, Remembrances of Things Past (10)
  4. Cervantes, Don Quixote (20)
  5. Foote, The Civil War (14)
  6. Homer, The Odyssey & Iliad (25)
  7. Machievelli, The Prince and Discourses (13)
  8. Dante, the Divine Comedy (17)
  9. Whitman, Leaves of Grass (11)
  10. Melville, Moby Dick (8)

 

An awful poem from the heart:

Abandoned down below for fifty years alone,

From these forced I to choose just one

I’d pick for gravitas, for rhyme, for fun.

The last shall not be under sold, by me or time;

For this explains why Russians fail to shine,

Why Proust and Foote and Melville are sublime.

For fifty years alone all huddled in my cell,

For each itself there is no deeper well.

The Real and Lasting Importance of Robin Williams

They say that over a lifetime only a short list of books give us anything of real and lasting importance. One might say the same thing about films. Dead Poet’s Society mattered a lot to me when I was a young man, a senior in college to be exact, and probably something to do with why I became a teacher. I was at the time suffering from some real bad depression that runs in my family. The movie cheered me up and I was not the same person after seeing it because it distilled down into a pretty tale the importance of the literature and poetry that was keeping me sane. Thanks big guy for your excellent performance in that film. RIP.

Arkangel now on Audible.com

Happiness is when you notice that all of Arkangel’s Shakespeare collection has been added to Audible.com. I really enjoyed the ones I have heard. I think the Henriad is astonishingly good as is Julius Caesar. Almost all of the performers are Royal Shakespeare peeps. These performances are real treasures. The text for all the plays can be found at MIT’s Shakespeare Collection.

Arkangel Shakespeare

 

A Hoary Electrical Post

image

 

There is an electrical post across the street from Cafe Louisa, right in front of the Capri Theatre. It is a sad-looking dour old post, weathered by so many storms and the sultry Alabama sun. Like an old hapless arm a street light juts out askance from it right beneath three cylindrical tanks that appear to be essential for the task of lighting up the local establishments. These include El Rey Burrito, fresh Alabama-Mex cuisine; the unpretentious Stonehedge Art Gallery; and Sinclair’s restaurant, which has graced Cloverdale for more than twenty years. At the top of the post two proud Ts bear wires as do several knotted nodes. The latter feed fuel to the businesses on either side of the street, including Cafe Luisa where I sat procrastinating yesterday morning admiring the view.

 

Proust on memory

“But when from a long-distant past nothing subsists, after the people are dead, after the things are broken and scattered, still, alone, more fragile, but with more vitality, more unsubstantial, more persistent, more faithful, the smell and taste of things remain poised a long time, like souls, ready to remind us, waiting and hoping for their moment, amid the ruins of all the rest; and bear unfaltering, in the tiny and almost impalpable drop of their essence, the vast structure of recollection.”

“Old Walt…” by Langston Hughes “…went seeking and finding.”

I so so loved this poem.

“OLD WALT” by Langston Hughes

Old Walt Whitman
Went finding and seeking,
Finding less than sought
Seeking more than found,
Every detail minding
Of the seeking or the finding.

Pleasured equally
In seeking as in finding,
Each detail minding,
Old Walt went seeking
And finding.

LikeLike ·  · 

On Movies — Update

This is an old post I update periodically. Don’t have time to maintain it, but I do use it to keep track of films I need to see at some point. Lately, my time has gone to the many great epic TV series.

Here is a list of great movie adaptations

I love films but I have not watched as many as I should have over the years.  Going forward I want to both keep up with and revisit the excellent ones.  Below is a list of films recommended to my by some friends that I mean to see.

If there is something you believe I absolutely must see let me know and I’ll add it to the list.  The films that I have seen have asterisks and are in bold.   Of course, there are many excellent films that I have seen that I have not yet listed. I’ll add these along as I go along.  There are a few classics that I have seen that are not in asterisk because I was either too young or too immature to fully appreciate them and wish to see them again.

Note, the more endorsements a movie gets the more likely I am to see it.  Also, no documentaries, anime, or TV epic dramas are listed below (i.e. The Sopranos).  Just movies.\

1920s

**SHERLOCK, JR. (Buster Keaton, 1924) [Recommended here] Seen 4/2013**  Netflix

1930s

All’s Quiet on the Western Front (Lewis Milestown, 1930)  [Recommended by Christopher Carr]

Top Hat (Mark Sandrich, 1935) [Recommended by Christopher Carr]

Robin Hood (Michael Curtiz and William Keighely, 1938) [Recommended by Megan Maxwell]

Bringing up Baby (Howard Hawks, 1938) [Recommended by Megan Maxwell]

1940s

Citizen Kane (Orson Welles, 1941) [Recommended by Christopher Carr and Bert Johnson]

Casablanca (Michael Curtiz, 1943) [Recommended by Megan Maxwell] {Saw a long time ago}

Double Indemnity (Billy Wilder, 1944) [Recommended by Christopher Carr and Bert Johnson]

Lady from Shanhai (Orson Welles, 1947) [Recommended by Chiara]

The Bicycle Thief (Vittorio De Sica, 1948) [Recommended by Christopher Carr] Nextflix

Twelve O’clock High (Henry King, 1949) [Recommended by Christopher Carr and Colonel Balls] Netflix

**The Third Man (Carol Reed, 1949) [Recommended by Thomas Aguilera, Bert Johnson, and Chris Brooke]** Seen 2/2013**

1950s

Sunset Blvd (Billy Wilder, 1950) [Recommended by Christopher Carr and Chiara]

Orpheus (Jean Cocteau, 1950) [Recommended by Christopher Carr]

Ace in the Hole ( Billy Wilder, 1951) [Recommended by Vincent Aguilera]

Appointment in London (Philip Leacock, 1952) [Recommended by Christopher Carr]

Singing in the Rain (Stanley Donen & Gene Kelly, 1952) [Recommended by Christopher Carr]

High Noon (Fred Zinneman, 1952) [Recommended by Christopher Carr and Kristen Fehlhaber]

Viva Zapata (Elia Kazan, 1952) [Recommended by Christopher Carr]

**African Queen (John Huston, 1952) [Recommended by Megan Maxwell] Netflix** Seen Spring 2013

On the Waterfront (Elia Kazan, 1954) [Recommended by Christopher Carr]

La Strada (Federico Fellini, 1954) [Recommended by Thomas Aguilera]

Seven Samurai (Akira Kurosawa, 1954) [Recommended by Christopher Carr]

Glen Miller Story (Anthony Mann, 1954) [Recommended by Christopher Carr]

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (Stanley Donen,1954) [Recommended by Christopher Carr]

Rear Window (Alfred Hitchcock, 1954)  [Recommended by Bert Johnson and Megan Maxwell]

Love Me or Leave Me (Charles Vidor, 1955) [Recommended by Christopher Carr]

East of Eden (Elia Kazan, 1955) [Recommended by Lindsay Kennedy]

Marty (Delbert Mann, 1955) [Recommended by Vincent Aguilera]

Forbidden Planet (Fred M. Wilcox, 1956)  [Recommended by Sam Williford]

Giant (George Stevens, 1956) [Recommended by Christopher Carr]

Bridge on the River Kwai (David Lean, 1957) [Recommended by Christopher Carr]

Wild Strawberries (Ingmar Bergman, 1957) [Recommended by Christopher Carr]

Paths of Glory (Stanley Kubrik, 1957) [Recommended by Christopher Carr]

The Big Country (William Wyler, 1958) [Recommended by Christopher Carr]

Separate Tables (Delbert Mann, 1958) [Recommended by Christopher Carr]

Touch of Evil (Orson Welles, 1958)  [Recommended by Chiara and Steve Burgess]

Vertigo (Alfred Hitchcock, 1958) [Recommended by Bert Johnson and Megan Maxwell]

**North by Northwest (Alfred Hitchcock, 1959) [Recommended by Christopher Carr and Megan Maxwell]** Seen on 2/2013

Our Man in Havana (Carol Read, 1959) [Recommended by Christopher Carr]

1960s

Plein Soleil (Rene Clement, 1960) [Recommended by Christopher Carr]

Sparticus (Stanley Kubrick, 1960) [Recommended by Christopher Carr]

Shoot the Piano Player (Francois Truffaut, 1960) [Recommended by Christopher Carr]

Breakfast at Tiffany’s (Blake Edwards, 1961) [Recommended by Christopher Carr] Netflix

Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (Karel Reisz, 1961) [Recommended by Christopher Carr]

Splendor in the Grass (Elia Kazan, 1961) [Recommended by Lindsay Kennedy]

Breathless (Jean-Luc Godard, 1961) {Recommended by Lindsay Kennedy]

Manchurian Candidate (John Frankenheimer, 1962) [Recommended by Christopher Carr and Chris Brooke]

Lonely are the Brave (David Miller, 1962) [Recommended by Christopher Carr]

To Kill a Mockingbird (Robert Mulligan, 1962) [Recommended by Dolores Bozovic]

HMS Defiant (Lewis Gilbert, 1962) [Recommended by Christopher Carr]

JULES AND JIM (Francois Truffaut, 1962) [Recommended here]

Charade (Stanley Donen, 1963) [Recommended by Christopher Carr] Netflix

Billy Liar (John Schlesinger, 1963)  [Recommended by Chris Brooke]

Dr. Strangelove (Stanley Kubrick, 1964) [Recommended by Chelsea Scevers]

Seven Days in May (John Frankenheimer, 1964) [Recommended by Christopher Carr]

My Fair Lady (George Cukor, 1964) [Recommended by Christopher Carr]

The Train (John Frankenheimer, 1965) [Recommended by Christopher Carr]

** Chimes at Midnight (Orson Welles, 1965)**  Seen 12/13

**Dr. Zhivago (David Lean, 1965)** Seen 12/13 

Ipcress Files (Sidney J. Furie, 1965) [Recommended by Christopher Carr]

Darling (John Schlesinger, 1965) [Recommended by Christopher Carr]

The Professionals (Richard Brooks, 1966) [Recommended by Christopher Carr]

Man  for all Seasons (Fred Zinneman, 1966) [Recommended by Christopher Carr]

Two for the Road (Stanley Donen, 1967) [Recommended by Christopher Carr]

Point Blank (John Boorman, 1967) [Recommended by Christopher Carr]

Bonnie & Clyde (Arthur Penn, 1967) [Recommended by Christopher Carr]

In Cold Blood (Richard Brooks, 1967)   [Recommended by Cabron R. Mickey]

2001 A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick 1968)  [Recommended by Vincent Aguilera]

Planet of the Apes (Franklin Schaffner, 1968) [Recommended by Vincent Aguilera]

Easy Rider (Dennis Hopper, 1969) [Recommended by Bert Johnson and Megan Maxwell]

**The Wild Bunch (Sam Peckinpah, 1969) [Recommended by Christopher Carr]** Seen 1/13.

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (Peter R. Hunt, 1969) [Recommended by Christopher Carr]

Take the Money and Run (Woody Allen, 1969) [Recommended by Christopher Carr and Chris Brooke]

1970s

The Garden of the Fintzi Contini (Vittorio De Sica, 1970) [Recommended by Christopher Carr]

Cromwell (Ken Hughes, 1970) [Recommended by Christopher Carr]

FOUR NIGHTS OF A DREAMER (Robert Bresson 1971) [Recommended here]

Clockwork Orange (Stanley Kubrik, 1971) [Recommended by Christopher Carr]

French Connection (William Friedkin, 1971) [Recommended by Christopher Carr]

Klute (Alan J. Pakula, 1971) [Recommended by Christopher Carr]

Harold and Maude (Hal Ashby, 1971) [Recommended by Bert Johnson]

Duck you Sucker (Sergio Leone, 1971) [Recommended by Chiara]

Deliverance (John Boorman, 1972) [Recommended by Christopher Carr]

**The Godfather Part I (Francis Ford Copolla, 1972)**

Mean Streets (Martin Scorsese, 1973) [Recommended by Christopher Carr]

Don’t Look now (Nicolas Roeg, 1973) [Recommended by Christopher Carr]

**The Godfather Part II (Francis Ford Copolla, 1974)**

**Chinatown (Roman Polanski, 1974)**

Annie Hall (Woody Allen, 1977) [Recommended by Christopher Carr]

Manhattan (Woody Allen, 1979) [Recommended by Christopher Carr and Chiara]

1980s

FANNY AND ALEXANDER (Ingmar Bergman, 1982) [Recommended here]

Ordinary People (Robert Redford)  [Recommended by Ernesto Barron]

Salvador (Oliver Stone, 1986) [Recommended by Christopher Carr] {Saw a while back…}

**THE PURPLE ROSE OF CAIRO (Woody Allen, 1985 )** [Recommended here]

Wings of Desire (Wim Wnders, 1987)

Red Sorghum (Zhang Yimou, 1988)

**Henry V (Kenneth Branagh, 1989)**

Crimes and Misdemeanors (Woody Allen, 1989) [Recommended by Chiara]

1990s

**Goodfellas (Martin Scorcese, 1990)**

**Pulp Fiction (Quentin Tarantino, 1994)** [Recommended here]

**Casino (Martin Scorcese, 1995)**

**Othello (Oliver Parker, 1996)**

**Twelfth Night (Trevor Nunn, 1996)**

**Hamlet (Kenneth Branagh, 1996)**

**American Beauty (Sam Mendes, 1999)**

Titus Andronicus (Julie Taymor, 1999) [Recommended by Chelsea Scevers]

**Fargo (Coen Brothers, 1996)**

2000s

Quills (Philip Kaufman 2000) [Recommended by Dolores Bozovic] Netflix

Hedwig and the Angry Inch (John Cameron Mitchell, 2001) [Recommended by Chelsea Scevers]

Minority Report (Stephen Spielberg, 2002)  [Recommended by Sam Williford]

Shaun of the Dead (Edgar Wright, 2004) [Recommended by Sam Williford]

**Capote (Bennett Miller, 2005) [Recommended by Jeff Frieden]** Seen, Spring 2013

**Little Ms. Sunshine (Valerie Faris and Jonathon Dayton, 2006)**

**No Country for Old Men (Coen Brothers, 2007)**

Children of Men (Alfonso Cuaron, 2007) [Recommended by Sam Williford]

**The Dark Knight (Christopher Nolan, 2008)**

**The Reader (Steven Daldry, 2008)**

**The Road (John Hillcoat, 2009)**

**The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Niels Arden Oplev, 2009)** Seen 4/2013 Netflix

District 9 (Neill Blomkamp, 2009) [Recommended by Sam Williford]

2010s

**True Grit (Coen Brothers, 2007)**

Death at a Funeral (Neil LaBute, 2010) [Recommended by Chelsea Scevers]

Melancholia (Lars von Trier, 2011)

**Lincoln (Spielberg, 2012)**

Proust Quote for Mother’s Day

And so I must set forth without viaticum; must climb each step of the staircase ‘against my heart,’ as the saying is, climbing in opposition to my heart’s desire , which was to return to my mother, since she had not, by her kiss, given my heart leave to accompany me forth. That hateful staircase, up which I always passed with such dismay, gave out a smell of varnish which had to some extent absorbed, made definite and fixed the special quality of sorrow that I felt each evening, and made it perhaps even more cruel to my sensibility because, when it assumed this olfactory guise, my intellect was powerless to resist it. When we have gone to sleep with a maddening toothache and are conscious of it only as a little girl whom we attempt, time after time, to pull out of the water, or as a line of Molière which we repeat incessantly to ourselves, it is a great relief to wake up , so that our intelligence can disentangle the idea of toothache from any artificial semblance of heroism or rhythmic cadence.

Proust, Marcel (2012-05-17). Swann’s Way (p. 22). . Kindle Edition.

On Clevinger: “Don’t be a dope…”

Joseph Heller well describes what we can call the academic’s paradox: all intelligence and no brains.

“Everyone agreed that Clevinger was certain to go far in the academic world. In short, Clevinger was one of those people with lots of intelligence and no brains and everyone knew it except those who soon found it out.

In short, he was a dope. He often looked to Yossarian like one of those people hanging around modern museums with both eyes together on one side of a face. It was an illusion, of course, generated by Clevinger’s predilection for staring fixedly at one side of a question and never seeing the other side at all…[Clevinger] was constantly defending his Communist friends to his right-wing enemies and his right-wing friends to his Communist enemies, and he was thoroughly detested by both groups…because they thought he was a dope.”

“He was a very serious, very earnest and very conscientious dope…[H]e was a militant idealist who crusaded against racial bigotry by growing faint in its presence. He knew everything about literature except how to enjoy it.”

“Yossarian tried to help him. ‘Don’t be a dope,’ he had counseled….”

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

%d bloggers like this: