June 2008


It has indeed been a very fine birthday. Thank you to all who sent cards and presents. And a special thank you to all of the Beck family for the very generous present of a new camera. Pictures of Thomas can return to the blog! Further, individual thank you’s will be coming soon via snail mail. In the meantime, enjoy the new pictures!

Thomas and Veronica at work

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When the Modern Library released their list of The 100 Greatest English Language Novels of the 20th Century in 1998, I was a bit surprised I hadn’t read more, even though I was way ahead of anyone else I knew. I had read 33 at the time and decided, first, that a lot of the list didn’t belong, and second, that if I was going to criticize it, I needed to know it. So over the course of the following two years I read the other 67. With their list completed, I set to work writing my own.

I have spent the last several years reworking my own list. I follow the same criteria as the Modern Library: written in English (except Darkness at Noon, which was on their list, so I put it on mine), novels, published in the 20th Century. This eliminates a lot of great fiction of course, including all foreign novels (The Stranger, 100 Years of Solitude, The Trial, The Wind Up Bird Chronicle), all 19th Century works (although outside of the Russians the only novels I love from the 19th Century are A Tale of Two Cities and The Red and the Black) and short story collections (Dubliners, Interpreter of Maladies, Stories of John Cheever, Where I’m Calling From). Also, of course, we also have a new group of fantastic novels it eliminates: those from the current century (Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, Jonathan Strange and Mr Norell, Bel Canto). These may all be the subject of future lists.

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it doesn't get any better than thisThe problem with AFI’s lists isn’t the final lists. It’s with the ballots they send out. Their recent top 10 genre lists had ballots of 50 films each from which to select their top 10. And for some reason, those ballots included mediocre recent Disney films like Pocahontas and Mulan rather than Lilo and Stitch, the best Disney film since Aladdin. They also, for some reason, even though it was eligible, didn’t include Ratatouille. Or Watership Down, a film I have always loved.

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joydivision Many of the key scenes in the film seem familiar, like you’ve seen them somewhere before.  Ian Curtis calling Tony Wilson a cunt for not having them on his show.  Tony signing Joy Division to a contract with his own blood.  Ian collapsing on stage in an epileptic fit kicking off the Derbyshire Riot.  Ian watching Herzog’s Strozeck before hanging himself.  They seem similar, yet somehow different.
Of course you have seen them before, if you’ve seen 24 Hour Party People.  But that was a comedy and Control is not a comedy.  It’s a straight forward musical biopic.  And I do mean straight forward.  Photographed in black and white, with musical highlights of a career spread throughout the home story of the musician, this is very much the kind of biographical picture Warner Bros was so famous for in the late 30’s and early 40’s, except they never would have made a film that was so god awful depressing. (more…)

Thomas had his four year check-up today. It was with a new doctor (his fourth!) so a lot of it was her getting  to know him. She had seen him briefly in the winter about a cough, but even so she commented that he seemed to have much more verbal capacity than he did at their first meeting. And much to my surprise he weighs 39 1/2 pounds!

Unfortunately, since I broke our digital camera, there are no pictures yet from Thomas’ birthday on Friday. We did take a bunch with a disposable camera, but have not yet had them developed. Anyways, Thomas had a great fourth birthday – although he’s a little confused as to how old he is now. We had just got him responded to questions about his age with “I’m three years old” and he hasn’t quite got the “four years old” part yet. In fact when we correct him he tries to jump ahead and says “I’m five years old.

We spent the day at the Boston Children’s Museum. Following Erik and Thomas’ trip in for the Celtics parade, he’s spent a lot of time on buses and trains lately, and he’s done a really good job with it. (We quietly sing The Wheels on the Bus.) After an exhausting day in town we came home to open presents and eat his birthday cake which was shaped like the Very Hungry Caterpillar. Thank you to all the relatives who sent him some truly wonderful presents–formal thanks coming soon.

We also measured him on his Sprout Stick and he’s currently 3 ft 5 in, a growth of about 3 inches from last year.

How do you go from this...

How do you go from this . . .

How did it go so wrong? There’s an old Dilbert strip where Dogbert is doing a seance and says he is going to talk to Jackie Mason. When Dilbert points out that Jackie Mason is still alive, Dogbert replies “Then I’ll be talking to his career.” I feel this way about Rob Reiner.

Reiner is on my initial list of Great Directors, the handwritten list in my old Powell’s notebook that began my five year project. And at the time, it looked like he still belonged there. But sadly, after watching The Bucket List last night, he’s finally been eliminated.

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