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Obituaries have always fascinated me, for the stories they tell.
So when pal of the blog, award-winning novelist and host of History Channel’s Decoded, Brad Meltzer, sent me a link to his new TEDxMIA speech, How To Write Your Own Obituary, I clicked on it immediately.
As with most things Meltzer, it’s worthwhile viewing.
Thanks to a tweet by Reuters Bureau Chief in India, Paul de Bendern, I was made aware of a new New York Times article about writer Christopher Hitchens. As I noted when I first wrote about his announcement that he was battling esophageal cancer, while intellectually I have not agreed with Hitchens since about 2001, I still respect him. I sometimes find it odd that I respect him, considering I believe in a God, and he does not. But what the hey, fortunately as I get older I seem to be getting more open-minded.
Anyways, you should go read the piece. Consider this excerpt.
But in most other respects Mr. Hitchens is undiminished, preferring to see himself as living with cancer, not dying from it. He still holds forth in dazzlingly clever and erudite paragraphs, pausing only to catch a breath or let a punch line resonate, and though he says his legendary productivity has fallen off a little since his illness, he still writes faster than most people talk. Last week he stayed up until 1 in the morning to finish an article for Vanity Fair, working on a laptop on his bedside table.
My thanks to longtime friend, Doug Walker, for making me aware of a Slate article by David Friedman, discussing his project SundayMagazine.org, in which he posts “the most interesting articles from the New York Times Sunday Magazine from exactly 100 years ago, with a little bit of commentary or context.”
I would love to know what the fellow mentioned above from 100 years ago would make of the overeating and excess of today.
When you grow up with a sister who successfully conceived and produced a one-woman play about Dorothy Parker, you tend to take notice of new books that partially examine the Algonquin Round Table. So when writer Ethan Mordden recently released his book, The Guest List: How Manhattan Defined American Sophistication—from the Algonquin Round Table to Truman Capote’s Ball, my pop culture radar was alerted. Mordden’s book is summarized (by its publisher, St. Martin’s Press) as: “From the 1920s to the early 1960s, Manhattan was America’s beacon of sophistication. From the theatres of Broadway to the lobby of the Algonquin Hotel to tables at the Stork Club, intelligence and wit were the twinned coins of the realm. Alexander Woolcott, Irving Berlin, Edna Ferber, Arturo Toscanini, Leonard Bernstein, Cole Porter, Dorothy Parker, Truman Capote, the Lunts and Helen Hayes presided over the town. Their books, plays, performances, speeches, dinner parties, masked balls, loves, hates, likes and dislikes became the aspirations of a nation. If you wanted to be sophisticated, you played by Manhattan’s rules. If you didn’t, you simply weren’t on the guest list. The Heartland rebelled against Manhattan’s dictum, but never prevailed. In this lively cultural history, Mordden chronicles the city’s most powerful and influential era.” Mordden was kind enough to do a brief email interview. To get a better idea of the book’s perspective, make sure to read this excerpt provided by the publisher.
Tim O’Shea: In book loaded with great anecdotes and details, written by an author like yourself with a wealth of knowledge, how do you decide what great stories to include or exclude?
Ethan Mordden: I like stories that illuminate the subject: enjoyable but telling. For example, almost any Dorothy Parker story, however funny, reveals her despair at being too smart and not pretty enough, a real problem in her day, though much has changed since.
The other day I realized how much fun I have just linking to videos here at the blog. To think that I can embed video from TED, the nonprofit entity “devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading”. And one morning in 2007, in the early morning no less, one of my favorite bands, They Might Be Giants, appeared at TED. And now I get to share it with you.
Bonus detail: TED offers subtitles with these videos, which is always great with TMBG songs. At the nine-minute mark, they do one of my favorite songs (several songs in one song actually), Fingertips.