Monthly Archives: December 2010

Why I Love the Library of Congress: Marx Brothers

New York Tribune; April 10, 1921
April 1921 Marx Brothers Item

Every once and awhile I write a post that suggests ways to appreciate where our (if you’re U.S. based like myself) taxes go. The Library of Congress is a fine example of our taxes being used in a delightful (to me, at least) manner.

On New Year’s Eve, TCM aired a Marx Brothers marathon. For whatever reason, seeing the films again (I grew up in the 1970s in a family that made you respect the Marx Brothers from birth) made me wonder: “What kind of documents does the Library of Congress have on the Marx Brothers?”

A quick search turned up this collection of Library of Congress details. What really caught my attention, though, was an April 10, 1921 New York Tribune piece covering the Marx Brothers first film (which was lost seemingly forever, after only one public screening), Humor Risk. As noted by IMDb, the silent film was written by Jo Swerling, who would go on to write Pennies from Heaven, The Pride of the Yankees, and It’s A Wonderful Life. The Marx Brothers would not make another film until 1929’s The Cocoanuts.

NY Times Book Review: Why Criticism Matters

I am gonna miss the New York Times goes the behind a paywall, but until then I will link to it when they garner my attention. This week the New York Times Book Review considers the very nature of criticism in a brief editorial.

“We live in the age of opinion­ — offered instantly, effusively and in increasingly strident tones. Much of it goes by the name of criticism, and in the most superficial sense this is accurate. We do not lack for contentious assertion — of ‘love it’ or ‘hate it’, of ‘wet kisses’ and ‘takedowns’, of flattery versus snark, and assorted other verbal equivalents of the thumb held up or pointed down. This ‘conversation’ is often lively. Sometimes it is fun. Occasionally it is informed by genuine understanding as opposed to ideological presumption.”

Sports Illustrated: Richard Deitsch’s Media Awards for 2010

News junkie that I am, I cannot believe I missed this until today. Go read Richard Deitsch’s Media Awards for 2010 from Sports Illustrated. This is just one of many gems:

“Longtime sports writer Dave Kindred, expressing severe criticism with the Associated Press Sports Editors after the organization awarded Mitch Albom with the Red Smith Award, the APSE’s highest honor (July 16): ‘That meant Albom had written as fact on Friday a Sunday column leading with events of Saturday that never happened. Note to journalism students: This is known as fiction. It can get you expelled.'”

End of Year Lists: The Casual Optimist

Once again I am indebted to The Second Pass for informing me of multiple “best of” literary lists that I need to reference in the next few weeks.

First up in the lists that caught my eye was The Casual Optimist‘s A Year in Reading 2010. Consider the following nitro (to a sampling of books that included items that may have not been published in 2010 :

“2010 was a year of losing battles and one of the first casualties was time for personal reading. The moments I did have were snatched on the subway and, if I could keep my eyes open, last thing at night. I often found myself unwittingly rereading chapters I had read the previous day, or worse, that very morning. The difficulty this week of compiling a list of my favourite books of the year — and the predictability of that list (to be posted soon) — made it very clear that not only did I read less than previous years, I rarely strayed off the beaten path.”

Anybody that exhibits such a great level of candor is someone I want to pay attention to more in the future.

Amy Petty on House of Doors

Amy Petty's House of Doors
Amy Petty's House of Doors

Singer/songwriter Amy Petty describes her music as weaving together “a lush tapestry of folk, pop, rock and blues ballad“. As noted in her bio, she is often “compared to Sarah McLachlan, Eva Cassidy, Alanis Morrisette and Jonatha Brooke”. Last month (November 2010) saw the release of Petty’s latest CD, House of Doors. We discuss the new CD, as well as what it took to get where she is today musically. For a review of her CD, be sure to check out this one by PopDose’s Ken Shane. My thanks to Petty for the interview.

Tim O’Shea: You recently overcame a major fear and cleared a professional/personal hurdle by flying in a plane, despite your fear of flight. How liberating and satisfying was it to tackle that fear?

Amy Petty: I’ve been avoiding airplanes my entire adult life. I love travel though and have a bit of the wanderlust…I’ve driven from New Hampshire to Michigan to Philadelphia to St. Louis to New York multiple times a year for a decade. But the thought of being in a plane was just more than I could bear.

Continue reading Amy Petty on House of Doors

Folks I Should Have Respected More: Denis Dutton

News broke in the past day or so that Denis Dutton, founder of Arts & Letters Daily, had died. I’ve never mentioned Dutton or Arts & Letters Daily at the blog before. And that was an oversight on my part.

As The New Yorker’s Blake Eskin notes in his tribute to Dutton:

“Denis was the intellectual’s Matt Drudge. Like the Drudge Report, has a retrograde design that has barely evolved over the years; Denis said he modelled it on the eighteenth-century broadsheet. Nevertheless, it became the home page of professors, students, editors. To be featured on Arts & Letters Daily meant your work would be read and discussed, whether you were Christopher Hitchens or a struggling neophyte, whether your piece appeared in The New Yorker or an obscure site with six regular readers. …”

I’m happy to know that the site will continue. And I hope that in the future I will be smart enough to visit it more and link to it periodically.

Dutton seemed like the kind of thinker I could have learned a great deal from, and thanks to the site’s archive, with any luck I will learn from him still in a sense.

Thanks to the LA Times book blog, Jacket Copy (as well as , for making me aware of Dutton’s passing.

Shows to Watch: Framed (Masterpiece Contemporary)

Thanks to Netflix, awhile back I found out about the British TV series, Waking the Dead, which is aptly described (by Netflix) as “a British version of CSI”. The show stars Trevor Eve, as Detective Superintendent Peter Boyd. My wife and I are fans of Eve’s acting,  so I was bummed to realize I missed the most recent installment of Masterpiece Contemporary, starring Eve. Depending on your PBS affiliate, Framed, may be rebroadcast in the next week or so.  If not, fortunately you can watch the film (in which “London’s National Gallery stores its entire art collection in a Welsh village mine”) online. Below is the first chapter of the 90-minute show.

Watch the full episode. See more Masterpiece.

Thanks to Ron Hogan for making me aware of this particular Masterpiece Contemporary episode and that it was available online.

Site to Visit: Bully Says Comics Oughta Be Fun!

Bully the Stuffed Bull

I cover comics infrequently here at Talking with Tim, due to my work at Robot 6. In 2011, I may be boosting coverage of comics up a smidge, as it is something I am considering. I still aim to cover all aspects of pop culture, don’t worry.

But today, I want to pay tribute to Bully Says Comics Oughta Be Fun!, a comics blog run by a stuffed bull, named Bully (and his friend John). Bully and John track down panels that strike their fancy, tickle their funny bone or otherwise catch their attention.

Every year, Bully pays tribute to a comic character by finding panels of a certain character, in a series called “365 Days with …”. Last year, it was Ben Grimm. This year, the focus is on Hank McCoy. What always impresses me about the site is the level of attention that the Bully team pays to each and every graphic. There’s the graphic itself, then the caption (typically with spectacular detail), and my favorite part, Bully always has written hilarious content for the alternate text he builds into the graphic code (the text that pops up when you hover your mouse cursor over the graphic).

I love how you can make the graphics talk to folks!
Hank: Day 321

Consider for example, the Hank McCoy post from Day 321, sporting a graphic of Hank looking out the window to find an unconscious giant-sized fellow Avenger, Yellowjacket. In his shock, Hank exclaims absurdly (as has been his character’s tendency over the years): “Holy Hannibal, Missouri!” In this instance, the alternate graphic text provided is: “…No, that’s still not right. Let’s see…HOLY DUBUQUE IOWA! Hmmm. Not quite there. OH MY STARS AND EGGNOG! Hmmm, close. I’ll keep working on it. Oh, hey, Yellowjacket’s outside.'”

From my perspective, Bully’s entertainment value has the potential to click with folks, even if you are not a comic book fan.  Do yourself a favor and check out the site.