TINA [HBO Max]

Directed by Dan Lindsay and T.J. Martin, this HBO documentary shows Tina Turner’s early fame while dealing with the Tina’s private torments chiefly her husband, Ike, physically abusing her. The incredible part of Tina’s story is her return to the world stage as a global phenomenon in the 1980s after struggling with multiple professional problems.

What I liked best about this documentary, was the inclusion of in-depth interviews with Angela Bassett, Oprah Winfrey, journalist Kurt Loder, playwright Katori Hall, and Tina’s husband Erwin Bach. I’ve been a fan of Tina Turner’s music since the 1960s. I witnessed her amazing climb from obscurity in the 1970s to superstardom in the 1980s and beyond.

Never-before-seen footage and plenty of music segments make Tina a must-see event if you’re a fan. GRADE: A

THE POLYMATH: A CULTURAL HISTORY FROM LEONARDO da VINCI TO SUSAN SONTAG By Peter Burke

Peter Burke defines a polymath as “someone who is interested in and learning about many subjects.” Burke also invokes Isaiah Berlin’s famous remark about scholars that he called “foxes” who know “many things” and “hedgehogs” who know “one important thing.” Essentially, this is a book about people who are good at many things (think Sherlock Holmes and Elon Musk) rather than those who specialize and concentrate on one area (think Einstein and Dr. Fauci).

Burke generates a list of 500 polymaths from history. He discusses how culture can encourage the development of polymaths. And Burke shows that polymaths, like Leibniz and Francis Bacon, impact their countries with their far-reaching discoveries.

When I was a college professor, I had the choice of concentrating on a single area of Business (like teaching multiple sections of ACCOUNTING like some of my colleagues did) or teach a variety of courses (MARKETING, MANAGEMENT, ORGANIZATIONAL BEHAVIOR, etc.). I chose variety so perhaps there’s a little polymath in me. Are you a polymath? GRADE: B+

TABLE OF CONTENTS:

List of Plates viii

Preface and Acknowledgements x

Introduction: What is a Polymath? – 1

1 East and West – 10

2 The Age of the ‘Renaissance Man’, 1400-1600 – 26

3 The Age of ‘Monsters of Erudition’, 1600-1700 – 47

4 The Age of the ‘Man of Letters’, 1700-1850 – 83

5 The Age of Territoriality, 1850-2000 – 127

6 A Group Portrait – 170

7 Habitats – 191

8 The Age of Interdisciplinarity – 213

Coda: Towards a Third Crisis – 240

Appendix: 500 Western Polymaths – 247

Notes – 278

Further Reading – 316

Index – 318

THE BLESSING & THE CURSE: THE JEWISH PEOPLE AND THEIR BOOKS IN THE TWENTIETH CENTURY By Adam Kirsch

Adam Kirsch’s ambitious goal in The Blessing & The Curse is to identify and analyze the best books written by Jews in the 20th Century. I’ve read 22 of the books Krisch writes about–by Kafka, Roth, Cynthia Ozick, Isaac Bashevis Singer, Elie Wiesel, Anne Frank, Hannah Arendt, Bellow, Grace Paley, and Bernard Malamud. Of course, there’s about a 100 books Krisch writes about that I haven’t read so I’ve added a dozen or more books to my Want List.

If you’re interested in excellent historical literary criticism, Adam Kirsch’s The Blessing & The Curse is first-rate. Have you read any of these books? GRADE: A

Table of Contents

Introduction ix

I Europe: The Future Disappears

The Road into the Open by Arthur Schnitzler and The Trial Franz Kafka 3

Red Cavalry Isaac Babel 15

Satan in Goray Isaac Bashevis Singer 22

The Diary of Victor Klemperer 29

The Diary of Anne Frank 38

Night Elie Wiesel 46

Survival in Auschwitz Primo Levi 54

Eichmann in Jerusalem Hannah Arendt 62

II America: At Home in Exile

The Rise of David Levinsky Abraham Cahan 73

Bread Givers Anzia Yezierska 81

Stories by Delmore Schwartz and A Walker in the City Alfred Kazin 87

The Adventures of Augie March and The Victim Saul Bellow 96

Stories Bernard Malamud 105

Goodbye, Columbus and Portnoy’s Complaint Philip Roth 112

Stories Grace Paley 123

Stories Cynthia Ozick 129

Angels in America Tony Kushner 138

III Israel: Life in a Dream

Only Yesterday S. Y. Agnon 147

The Diary of Hannah Senesh 156

Khirbet Khizeh S. Yizhar 162

Where the Jackals Howl Amos Oz 169

See Under: Love David Grossman 179

Mr Mani A. B. Yehoshua 188

Dolly City Orly Castel-Bloom 194

Poems Yehuda Amichai 198

IV Making Judaism Modern

Three Addresses on Judaism Martin Buber 205

Religion of Reason out of the Sources of Judaism Hermann Cohen 211

Judaism as a Civilization Mordecai Kaplan 220

Halakhic Man Joseph Soloveitchik 229

God in Search of Man Abraham Joshua Heschel 237

To Mend the World Emil Fackenheim 245

Standing Again at Sinai Judith Plaskow 253

Select Bibliography 259

Index 263

FRIDAY’S FORGOTTEN BOOKS #634: FULL DARK HOUSE By Christopher Fowler

Full Dark House (2003) is the only book I can remember encountering where the detectives both solve their first case…and their last case in the same book. Yes, there is a bit of shifting the story from the Present to the Past and back again, but Christopher Fowler manages to pull it off.

Full Dark House is the first book in The Peculiar Crimes Unit Series (aka, Bryant & May Series) which now has 19 volumes in it. The action jumps from 1940 and The Blitz to the present. Bryant and May investigate a series of murders at a London theater as the Nazi bombs wreck havoc and devastation around the city. In the present, a bomb ends the life of one of the detectives leaving the survivor to seek clues from the past to solve the case.

If you’re looking for a change-of-pace mystery that leisurely moves from red herring to red herring, Full Dark House will take you on a winding trip in two different time-lines. GRADE: B+

BAEZ SINGS DYLAN

This compilation CD from 1997 features several Bob Dylan songs that are rarely played like “Dear Landlord,” “Walls of Redwing,” and “Drifter’s Escape.” Some listeners–like me–will find some of Joan Baez’s renditions of some of these Dylan songs a little too pretty, a little to precious. For example, I struggled to listen to “I Dream I Saw St. Augustine” because of the slow pacing that seemed negate Baez’s crystalline voice. Some reviewers have complained that the recording quality is substandard. I found the sound quality varies from song to song.

If you’re a fan of Joan Baez and/or Bob Dylan, you’ll find a lot to like on Baez Sings Dylan. GRADE: B+

Tracklist

1Love Minus Zero/No Limit2:43
2It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue3:26
3You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere3:01
4It Ain’t Me Babe3:21
5I Pity The Poor Immigrant3:48
6Tears Of Rage4:22
7Love Is Just A Four-Letter Word4:28
8I Dream I Saw St. Augustine3:17
9Farewell, Angelina3:15
10Dear Landlord3:00
11One Too Many Mornings3:13
12I Shall Be Released3:57
13Boots Of Spanish Leather4:34
14Daddy, You Been On My Mind2:20
15Restless Farewell5:50
16Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright3:13
17Walls Of Red Wing3:52
18Drifter’s Escape2:56
19Walkin’ Down The Line3:23
20North Country Blues5:02

XyliMelts

Since the beginning of 2021, I found myself waking up at night with a dry mouth. At first, I thought my dry mouth was caused by our furnace running during the night because of the cold temperatures. But when milder weather arrived in March, my dry mouth problem persisted. Fortunately, I had my bi-annual dentist appoint in mid-March and I asked my dentist what I should do.

He recommended XyliMelts and gave me some free samples. I tried the XyliMelts tablets and they banished my dry mouth at night and made my mouth feel normal again. I questioned my dentist on the cause of my dry mouth problem. He said, “Dry mouth can be caused by the aging process and by medications you might be taking. Or both.”

My healthcare provider, Independent Health, “encouraged” (by saying they wouldn’t pay anymore) me to change from Invokana to JARDIANCE. My dry mouth problem started around the time I started taking JARDIANCE, but I don’t have enough evidence to prove JARDIANCE is the culprit. No matter, the XyliMelts solved my dry mouth problem. If you have a dry mouth problem like I did, XyliMelts might help you, too.

THE FALCON AND THE WINTER SOLDIER [Disney+]

My favorite part (so far) of MARVEL’s six-episode series, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, is a scene in a banker’s office where the Falcon (aka, Sam Wilson; played by Anthony Mackie) and his sister (played by Adepero Oduye) are turned down for a small business loan because of their low income. The Falcon, an Avenger, discovers being a super-hero does not pay very well. Racism and economic inequity proves to be systemic even in the MARVEL Universe.

I’ve only watched two episodes of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier but I can safely say the production values are high. The fight scenes are well choreographed and eye-popping. There’s friction between the Falcon and the Winter Soldier (aka, Bucky Barnes; played by Sebastian Stan). Bucky Barnes, who was brainwashed by HYDRA into becoming a killing machine, is dealing with extreme PTSD and trying to integrate into “normal” society. But, both men are drawn into an attempt to stop a group of Super Soldiers who plan to level society into “One World.” So far, so good. Tentative GRADE: B

COMPARING THE LITERATURES: LITERARY STUDIES IN A GLOBAL AGE By David Damrosch

The 1956 edition of The Norton Anthology of World Masterpieces had NO women among its 73 authors. Only in the 1976 Third Edition did the editors finally include a woman writer: Sappho–two whole pages. Even though I found David Damrosch’s Comparing the Literatures: Literary Studies in a Global Age a bit of a hodgepodge, it had its entertaining moments. I particularly liked Damrosch’s chapter on “Politics” where he devotes many pages to one of my favorite literary critics, Northrop Frye. Frye consistently promoted Canadian writers and the close reading of Literature.

Damrosch jumps around from writer to writer. Nabokov to Tolkien. Joseph Conrad to Boris Akunin. No matter. Damrosch manages to come up with interesting stories and obscure facts about writers around the world. I found Comparing the Literatures compelling and entertaining. Are you interested in World Literature? GRADE: B

TABLE OF CONTENTS:

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations vii

Acknowledgments ix

Introduction 1

1 Origins 12

2 Emigrations 50

3 Politics 84

4 Theories 122

5 Languages 165

6 Literatures 207

7 Worlds 253

8 Comparisons 303

Conclusion: Rebirth of a Discipline 334

Bibliography 349

Index 375

GENIUS: ARETHA [National Geographic Channel]

Genius: Aretha consists of eight episodes that capture the life of Aretha Franklin. The series follows Franklin, played by Cynthia Erivo, from her early days in Detroit to global stardom with plenty of problems and drama to overcome along the way.

Diane was surprised to learn that Aretha Franklin gave birth to her first child at age 12. Franklin’s father was a charismatic preacher who travelled the country–and had relationships with many women other than his wife. Aretha Franklin’s father grooms young Aretha (played by Shaian Jordan) an early age to sing during his church events. But Aretha wants to be more than a gospel singer.

Cynthia Erivo delivers a terrific performance as Aretha Franklin, both acting and singing. Courtney B. Vance as Aretha’s father, C.L. Franklin, captures the complexity and talent of the preacher. I really liked David Cross as record producer Jerry Wexler who saves Aretha Franklin’s career.

I have been a Aretha Franklin fan since the 1960s. When I first heard “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” I was completely blown away. Of course, Aretha Franklin produced 20 Number One hits and was the first woman to be inducted into The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. If you’re a fan of Aretha Franklin, you’ll love this series! Even if you’re a casual Aretha Franklin fan, Genius: Aretha has plenty to keep you entertained. GRADE: A