Showing posts with label MarkTwain. Show all posts
Showing posts with label MarkTwain. Show all posts

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Reviving Robert Ingersoll

‘The Great Agnostic,’ by Susan Jacoby -

Robert Ingersoll, image via

... Jacoby adds her suspicion that Ingersoll might have fared better had a rise in secularism, which he helped bring about, proved to be permanent. But it is wrong, she notes, to allow his stature to diminish as a result of the resurgence of religion that occurred after his death. “Intellectual history is a relay race, not a 100-yard dash,” Jacoby writes, in a nice turn of phrase. Reporting on the irreligion of many of the country’s founding figures, Ingersoll kept the ideals of secularism alive during his own era and passed them on to us. In particular, he championed the memory of Thomas Paine, whose rejection of religion had led to his being forgotten in Ingersoll’s time, despite the considerable role Paine played in turning the American colonies toward revolution. It may be hoped that Jacoby’s book does as much for Ingersoll as Ingersoll did for Paine.
Ashamed to say that if you'd mentioned Ingersoll to me before I'd read this article, I would've drawn a blank. Knowing now in what high regard he was held by the likes of Clemens and Whitman, and having read a little of his work since stumbling across this article, I'm intrigued and ready to read more ...

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Val Kilmer sees Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert in the context of Mark Twain. #SoundsAboutRight

Val Kilmer Really Getting Into This Mark Twain Stuff -- Vulture

Kilmer as Twain Vulture
"In terms of outreach and power and respect, I think Jon Stewart is a worthy comparison because he's got a very specific agenda and he seems to be getting, even gaining, a respect from the conservative community because, like Twain, his stuff is so — you can't really deny him," Kilmer tells The Hollywood Reporter. "Twain was kind of a ridiculous showman and self-promoter, like Stephen Colbert, so that's the kind of American satirist," he says. "There's a lot in comparing that style of presenting yourself as completely absurd but making really valid points along the way."

Friday, March 4, 2011

Restored 1920 version of HUCKLEBERRY FINN to be seen for the first time in nearly 90 years

HUCKLEBERRY FINN to be seen for the first time in nearly 90 years at the 360 / 365 George Eastman House Film Festival | George Eastman House Blog

Mark Twain’s “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” is one of the most famous American novels of the 19th century. First published in 1884, the book has never been out of print. The character of Huck Finn has appeared in over 40 films starting with the 1917 version of TOM SAWYER, and was most notably played by Mickey Rooney and Eddie Hodges in THE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN (1939 and 1960 respectively). But the first film version of HUCKLEBERRY FINN (1920), after its initial released, passed into film history and with the advent of talking pictures in the late 1920’s would be forgotten and almost lost forever.

Via Clusterflock, where there's also a trailer

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Mark Twain and the Fortune-Teller

Mark Twain and the Fortune-Teller -

That Feb. 6, 1861 letter is one of few detailed ones to survive from a pivotal time in Sam Clemens’s life. It casts a strange – perhaps even unearthly – light on the complicated young man who would soon be Mark Twain.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

A Skeptic's Guide to Writers' Houses | Trubek, Anne

A Skeptic's Guide to Writers' Houses | Trubek, Anne:
There are many ways to show our devotion to an author besides reading his or her works. Graves make for popular pilgrimage sites, but far more popular are writers' house museums. What is it we hope to accomplish by trekking to the home of a dead author? We may go in search of the point of inspiration, eager to stand on the very spot where our favorite literary characters first came to life—and find ourselves instead in the house where the author himself was conceived, or where she drew her last breath. Perhaps it is a place through which our writer passed only briefly, or maybe it really was a longtime home—now thoroughly remade as a decorator's show-house.
When I get back to Hartford there are two things I like to do, especially if I'm showing out-of-towners around: Mozzicato's bakery for Italian cookies and espresso, and tour the Mark Twain House. I just can't help but feel if you want to know someone a little better, it helps to spend a few minutes in their library.

The Twain House library.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

McEnroe points out hypocrisy behind some criticism of the bowdlerized Huck Finn.

Strictly for my ... - Colin McEnroe | To Wit

Why it's important kids read at least some Huck. (Image via Zazzle.)

Today's Courant editorial concludes:
"Let's hope this spate of political correctness stops short of, say, Broadway. We'd hate to go to 'Showboat,' which evokes the same period and place, and hear someone sing, 'Elderly Man River.'"
Cute, but wrong.
Here is how 'Show Boat' -- as originally written by Hammerstein and staged in 1927 -- begins (in a verse leading into 'Ol Man River'):
'Niggers all work on the Mississippi
Niggers all work while the white folks play.'
I'm guessing you have never heard that verse sung, even if you have seen 'Show Boat' a few times. Most productions have struggled with what to do with the word, which appears elsewhere throughout the score and script. It's usually cut or changed. Sometimes that whole opening chorus is omitted. 'Show Boat' will play at the Goodspeed Opera House next season. Somehow, I doubt that the first word sung will be 'niggers' or that the Courant will be loudly attacking Michael Price and director Rob Ruggiero and demanding that the word be restored.
I'm not sure I like the idea of anyone tinkering with The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, but before we get too worked up about it, let's remember we've seen condensed novels in Reader's Digest, versions of the classics for children (everything from Shakespeare to the Bible), and been censoring pop music for radio play for a long, long time. The thing that, I think, keeps this from being as a big a deal as some would make it, is the editions aren't disguising what they are, nor are they supplanting the original in a government effort to censor all versions. Are any of these modifications to the original material ever warranted? You could argue they aren't and I'll probably agree with you.

When my kids read Twain, I intend for them to read the originals. However, if bowdlerized Twain gets some kids into Twain whose parents otherwise wouldn't have let them, then the originals are still out there for them a few years down the line. It's better they have some exposure than none at all.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Reputations of Mark Twain

OUPblog | Blog Archive | The Reputations of Mark Twain:

How can we go on seeing Twain as “the quintessential American” once we know that he had echoed Johnson’s comment that “patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel”? How can we see him as about “deep friendship and loyalty” when he conceived intense enmities for so many of his closest associates? It turns out that the Twain we had known was, as the New York Times put it, a “scrubbed and sanitized version,” and here in the autobiography was the truth. Similarly the Daily Telegraph assured its readers that the autobiography was “likely to shatter the myth that America’s great writer and humorist was a cheerful old man.”
There was a myth that he was a "cheerful old man"? Really? Because I don't see how anybody who read anything Twain wrote in his later years could mistake his disposition as cheery.  Even the Autobiography we've had up to the most recent release makes it pretty clear he was anything but cheerful those last years. The dark streak in his personality is evident early. Tragedy hounded Twain throughout his life. His younger brother Henry died in 1858 working on steamboat, a job Twain had encouraged him to take. His son Langdon died before turning two. He lived to see the wife and three daughters he adored all die, sending him into a well-documented depression. His anti-imperialist writings clearly show his deep and abiding disgust for the depths of evil to which humanity so regularly sinks. No, I really don't think there are many people even passing familiar with his writing, or even his aphorisms, that thought Twain was a jolly in the end.

Twain's disgust, depression, and despair do nothing to change the fact that he was quintessentially American. If being derisive of ignorant and hypocritical patriotism, and condemning barbaric cruelty are un-American traits, then the problem is with what you think it means to be American, not with Twain.

Mr. Stonely, the author of the linked post, is a Twain Scholar and editor of one edition of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer so I have to assume he is well aware of all the above and perhaps taking on a straw man for dramatic effect. As for challenging the idea we can reconcile Twain's "dark side" with the quintessential American-ness, I trust he's doing so to be provocative, otherwise I suspect he's just bogged down in some brand of jingoist, reactionary politics.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Twain's advice to young writers.

Twain letter to aspiring Canadian writer set for auction:

Sample Twain correspondence

'You make a conclusive argument against your book: first, when you mention your age; second, when you state what your life has been,' Clemens, pulling no punches, wrote to Munro from his home in Hartford, Conn., on Oct. 21, 1881.
The young Munro was undaunted. I've been taking Twain's advice as if it were written to me across the years; however, can start thinking about my own ambitions again more seriously after I turn 40 ... soon.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

"Incredible, marvelous, exiting back of mind ..."

Oswald Backyard Photos | Iconic Photos:

Oswald. Via Iconic photos.

Never before or since had a series of photograph been this throughly analyzed. From the day they were discovered as the police raided Lee Harvey Oswald’s home, the photos of Oswald posing with a rifle and two communist newspapers were subjected to intense scrutiny and subsequently provided enough fodder for conspiracy theorists.

Every time I see these photos, I hear Mark E. Smith singing:

Oswald Defense Lawyer
Embraces the scruffed corpse of Walt Whitman
Cheap rifle photo touched up
Drawn on sky
Oswald's head added on a commie tie
While Oswald Defense Lawyer
Embraces the scuffed corpse of Mark Twain

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Twain for Fey.

The Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize for Humor:

Tina Fey accepted the Mark Twain Prize For American Humor last night from the Kennedy Center. Well deserved, IMO.

Image via NPR

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Site Quarters

New quarters.
Learned a moment ago via Friendfeed's Jimminy there's a new series of quarters being released celebrating "America the Beautiful" by honoring specific sites in each state and territory.  Nothing against Weir, but I think the Wadsworth Atheneum, Mark Twain House, Nathan Hale Homestead, or Gillette Castle would've been better choices for Connecticut. (Oh, I see, it has to be a National Park to qualify. Slim pickings on that front in CT.)

North Carolina's will be the Blue Ridge Parkway. I haven't been there yet but have heard it's a great drive and plan to take the family out there when the kids are a bit older.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

"Fossilized Vehicle" Or Not, I'm Interested

Mark Twain's long-lost play, Is He Dead?, at Deep Dish | Theater | Independent Weekly:

via IndyWeek

Ives and Clemens' wordplay is as decidedly old-school as the plot. When a character comments on how polite another painter seemed, Millet rejoins, 'Of course he made a good impression. He's an Impressionist.' Ba-dum-bum. And repeatedly, Marc Williams' direction seems to invite audience response. Thom Gradisher's all-but-mustache-twirling version of bad guy Bastien Andre did have Saturday's audience members hissing at his early asides that, literally, ended in the trademark mwah-hah-hahs of the Villain's Laugh.
I'm ardently Twain-o-philic, but this review was meh enough to put me off the idea making this a must-see. It'll have to be one of those if-I-luck-into-free-ticket-for-a-night-the-missus-isn't-working deals.  

Friday, September 24, 2010

Great Clemens's Ghost!

Vonnegut looked more like Samuel Clemens than ever when he was sitting on the porch of his (Clemens's) house:
Vonnegut at the Mark Twain House, Hartford, CT
Part of an album of celebrity visits on the Mark Twain House Facebook page.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Personal Recollections of Samuel L. Clemens

Mark Twain's 100 Year-old Autobiography Features 'Vibrating Sex Toy':

"A section of the memoir will detail his little-known but scandalous relationship with Isabel Van Kleek Lyon, who became his secretary after the death of his wife Olivia in 1904. Twain was so close to Lyon that she once bought him an electric vibrating sex toy. But she was abruptly sacked in 1909, after the author claimed she had 'hypnotised' him into giving her power of attorney over his estate.
Their ill-fated relationship will be recounted in full in a 400-page addendum, which Twain wrote during the last year of his life."

I was not aware Clemens had left 5,000 pages of memoirs with instructions not to publish until 100 years after his death.  I think the appropriate scholarly response based on the quote above may be the Spock eyebrow.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Non-Random Book, Non-Random Passage #2

For the last twenty plus years, Kim Stanley Robinson has been my favorite writer. Prior to that, it was either Robert A. Heinlein or Mark Twain. I already hit Twain in the random series, so I'll pick a Heinlein passage to take me back to the those heady high-school days when reasonably bright (I'll be haughty here and put myself in that category) kids' brains are soaking up knowledge like sponges, awash in destabilizing hormones, and still, for having ten or more years of schooling, remarkably empty.

Heinlein is like crack for teen geeks with a sci-fi bent. All that machismo, science, solipsism, and wacky libertarianism: Danger, Will Robinson! I shudder to think some of the stuff I thought back then, but I still treasure these old books, and there are lots of them. The juveniles, the classics, and even the ones near the end where (To Sail Beyond the Sunset, I'm looking at you) things were just getting plain weird.

Since Starship Troopers is first Heinlein that leaps to mind, I've got go with Major Reid and Johnny Rico in History and Moral Philosopy class.
"Are a thousand unreleased prisoners sufficient reason to start or resume a war? Bear in mind that millions of innocent people may die, almost certainly will die, if war is started or resumed."

I didn't hesitate. "Yes, sir! More than enough reason."

"'More than enough.' Very well, is one prisoner unreleased by the enemy, enough reason to start or resume a war?"

I hesitated. I knew the M.I. answer -- but I didn't think that was the one he wanted. He said sharply, "Come, come, Mister! We have an upper limit of one thousand; I invited you to consider a lower limit of one. But you can't pay a promissory note which reads 'somewhere between one and one thousand pounds' -- and starting a war is much more serious than paying a trifle of money. Wouldn't it be criminal to endanger a country -- two countries, in fact -- to save one man? Especially as he may not deserve it? Or may die in the meantime? Thousands of people get killed every day in accidents ... so why hesitate over one man? Answer! Answer yes, or answer no -- you're holding up the class."

He got my goat. I gave him the cap trooper's answer. "Yes, sir!"

"'Yes' what?"

"It doesn't matter if it's a thousand -- or just one, sir. You fight."

"Aha! The number of prisoners is irrelevant. Good. Now prove your answer."

I was stuck. I knew it was the right answer. But I didn't know why. He kept hounding me. "Speak up, Mr. Rico. This is an exact science. You have made a mathematical statement; you must give proof. Someone may claim that you have asserted, by analogy, that one potato is worth the same price, no more, no less, as a thousand potatoes. No?"

"No, sir!"

"Why not? Prove it."

"Men are not potatoes."
What I still enjoy in Heinlein is captured here.  What I outgrew is as well.  He's very directly challenging his reader to tackle questions of ethics and morality.  And he's strident about it.  All those italics and exclamation points, I didn't add those.  I don't mind that so much, sure it's a bit florid but I think that's a great approach to go after a young reader.  Pose the questions, demand an answer, then demand a justification.  The problem is he's sloppy.  Where he has Reid say they've established an "upper limit" of one thousand, no, that's not what they did at all.  That's saying up to one thousand prisoners are enough to go to war over, more than that is not sufficient reason.  I know what he was trying to say but you can't have a character say they're being held to mathematical standards of proof and morality is an exact science and be so careless with your words.  The whole situation is the kind of overwrought there's-a-terrorist-who-knows-where-the-bomb-is-do-you-torture-him-for-the-information scenario.  Obviously, a nation should not just forget about a P.O.W. still behind enemy lines.  But, neither do we need to suppose that immediately after the last signature is on the armistice document, the presence of P.O.W.s behind enemy lines means lobbing a nuke or immediately picking the rifles back up.  (Demand their safety, work out the logistics of their return, explain the consequences of failure to comply or discuss in good faith, then act accordingly.)  At heart, Reid and Rico are right, you risk more than one life to gain the release of a prisoner -- if need be -- because saying, "Well, it's just one prisoner, screw him," would clearly be wrong.  Just like torture is wrong.   The problem is Heinlein's bluster obscures the real process of how you reason through a dilemma like the one discussed.

I'm glad I read Heinlein when I was young, I'm not sure I could stomach him now if I hadn't.  I'm glad because even though the prose and ideology are dodgier than I realized as a teen, the lesson that it's important to get to the right answer, that you arrive at it by reasoning, that there is a science to answering the hard questions (no appeals to mumbo-jumbo and mystical bullshit) -- as long as a kid comes away with that, that kid's going in the right direction.  I hope my kids read this stuff when they get older.  I also hope they don't stop with Heinlein.

And, I never did outgrow Twain.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Random Book, Random Passage #1

Now that all my books are within arm's reach, I can play grab, flip, and share. I have a lot Mark Twain, so it's fitting that when I lurched towards the left-most bookcase and grabbed a book it turned out to be The Innocents Abroad. It's a Signet Classic edition from 1966. Obviously a used bookstore purchase as it's got "J. Borell" scrawled in ink along the bottom (the part that sits on the bookshelf) but I don't remember when or where I picked it up. Probably while in high school or college, so the off-campus bookstore in Storrs or the great used bookstore in Manchester (the name of which frustratingly escapes me right now Books & Birds) are likely candidates. Flipping and stopping at pg. 120 I let my eye drift to the first paragraph break and read:
I only meant to write about the churches, but I keep wandering from the subject. I could say that the Church of the Annunciation is a wilderness of beautiful columns, of statues, gilded moldings, and pictures almost countless, but that would give no one an entirely perfect idea of the thing, and so where is the use? One family built the whole edifice and have got money left. There is where the mystery lies. We had an idea at first that only a mint could have survived the expense.
I love it. Note where the mystery doesn't lie. It warms my atheist heart.  As with all expenditure of resources and time for religious purposes, I wonder how much better the world might be already if yesterday and today's wealthy elites decided to pour that wasted energy into building quality public schools or other infrastructure improvements for the common good instead.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Get My Drift?

If “Mark Twain Said It,” He Probably Didn’t | GOOD: Twain cited as America's leading recipient of Churchillian Drift.

I wonder if even us non-famous folk have a similar effect with our name on it. Like, C-Dogian Drift might be when you think you know somebody who has a copy of that book, and whether it's c-dog or not, that's who you cite as having it? I hope it's something that mildly endearing. More likely, it's someone got drunk, hurled, was thrown out of the bar, and eventually passed out someplace in Storrs, CT. "Oh, I think that was c-dog."
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