Man in the Gray Flannel Suit

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After watching The Man in Gray, I figured I ought to check out Gregory Peck in The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit. I’d heard of the novel, but thought the story was merely a critique of corporate commuters and life in the suburbs. It’s mentioned in a few textbooks I’ve had to read and it seemed like it was a satire.

Not at all. At least the movie isn’t.

Tom Rath (Peck) has been back from WWII for 10 years. His wife Betsy (Jennifer Jones) wants a bigger home. She’s impatient with Tom exhorting him to strive more. Though he’s satisfied at his non-profit job, he sees that the bills will be easier to pay if he makes more. A fellow commuter lines him up with an interview at an ad agency. Since he resembles the CEO’s son, who died in WWII, he gets the job.

Memories of the war, of killing brutally, of a woman he loved there, haunt Tom. His children are zombies glued to the TV and his wife while not a nag, does complain a lot. All through this Tom navigates the ad business, learning how to read people and tell them what they want to hear. Yet he’s got too much natural integrity to keep up the game. Problems with his new house, the after effects of the war and his job, grow. Yet Tom meets them with heroism.

Peck’s performance is good. Tom Rath isn’t Atticus Finch, but he is a straight-shooter by the end. Thought one daughter had a funny preoccupation with death, the two other children were more or less extras. Childhood in this suburb was pure television addiction and chicken pox.

The film has an interesting realism that made me wonder how autobiographical the novel might be.

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Travel Theme: Purple

Bangkok, Jim Thompson's House

Bangkok, Jim Thompson’s House

Malaysia, mall in K.L.

Malaysia, mall in K.L.

Kaifeng, at a temple

Kaifeng, at a temple

This week Ailsa’s challenging bloggers to share photos that are purple, my favorite color. Here’s one of the light show downtown. It’s one of the highlights of life in Jinan. All ages come by to enjoy the music, lights and dancing water.

To see more purple, click here.

Journey Map Assignment

Introduction

Here’s this week’s homework for my Library UX course. We had to go to a library and write a step by step map including a shorthand method of showing how patrons, i.e. me in this case, felt during each part of the experience.

I was inspired by some of Rachel’s choices for previous assignments so I decided to visit the Newberry Library, an independent private library with a collection featuring lots of rare materials on American Indian (sic)  culture, the Renaissance, local history, genealogy and maps.  Since I’d never done research here, I was a bit nervous but also excited. I expected many of the procedures to be different and I knew that patrons did not have access to the books and materials, but didn’t know how that experience would feel, which is why I chose this library.

Journey Map

 

Conclusion

You can view the full size document here. While it was a bit more intimidating to research at the Newberry than at the Chicago History Museum, the Newberry has primary documents the Chicago History Museum lacks (and vice versa). The Newberry librarians were cordial, but not as helpful as at the Chicago History Museum. Both have rare materials, which are irreplaceable, but the Newberry’s security was tighter.

I think the Newberry should offer more help and show more interest in patron’s research, particularly first time visitors. Since patron’s must state their research area on the request forms, it’s not as though research privacy is a reason why librarians don’t interview patrons more thoroughly.

When a librarian or page delivers a book, she should be warmer and more cordial. Getting a reader’s card form on one floor and having to go to another to submit it seemed inconvenient. After examining the rationale for that arrangement and the functions of each floor, the library should streamline this procedure.

 

Pirates of Penzance

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Northwestern’s offering a fine production of The Pirates of Penzance weekends through August 3rd. The singing, dancing, and costumes equalled a lot of professional theaters in Chicago. Strong performances all around and you can tell the performers loved getting into the spirit of this show.

The drawback for me was the story, which was just silly without well-drawn characters. Perhaps in another era this worked, but I never got into the whimsical story. Yet the pace is fast and the singing was good so there was enough to like. Not enough to keep my mind from seeing implausibilities, but enough to like.

At least now I can check “seeing a Gilbert & Sullivan” show off my list.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Containers

1. Each week, we’ll provide a theme for creative inspiration. You take photographs based on your interpretation of the theme, and post them on your blog (a new post!) anytime before the following Friday when the next photo theme will be announced. 2. To make it easy for others to check out your photos, title your blog post “Weekly Photo Challenge: (theme of the week)” and be sure to use the “postaday″ tag. 3. Follow The Daily Post so that you don’t miss out on weekly challenge announcements, and subscribe to our newsletter – we’ll highlight great photos from each month’s most popular challenge.

Other great photos:

Mr. Peabody & Sherman

Mr. Peabody (r) and Sherman

Mr. Peabody (r) and Sherman (l)

When I was growing up I loved watching Mr. Peabody & Sherman’s cartoons as they traveled to various historical events. Now all the kids who have no idea who this famed pair is can see Mr. Peabody, the genius dog, and his boy Sherman right wrongs throughout time and space. The film, which I saw on a plane, captures the heart and soul of the original. Bravo!

The film moves quickly and is witty enough for adults and offers history with a spoonful of sugar for the young. I’m telling everyone I see that they should check this out whether they have kids or not. It’s just a fun film.

Jazzin’ at the Shedd

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Since it’s so expensive (usually $36 for adults) I haven’t been to Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium in years. Probably 35 years. But a friend enticed me to try the Wednesday night “Jazzin’ at the Shedd” experience, which is just $18.

In the summer the Shedd Aquarium is open evenings from 5 – 10pm and visitors can listen to jazz while exploring the intriguing sea creatures that call the Shedd home. Food stations and bars are located throughout the museum so visitors can enjoy dinner or cocktails. We ate outside by the lake on the terrace where the view was stunning.

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You can touch the starfish, which are simultaneously spiky and slimy. After sundown (8:30 or so) you can see the fireworks from Navy Pier.

I thought the food was mediocre. There were several choices of Cajun fare: chicken, pulled pork sandwiches, jumbalaya, etc. My sandwich was okay. It isn’t the healthiest or tastiest meal you can find. I’d actually bring a bit of food with me if I went back.

All ages were in attendance. It’s great for a families, friends or dates.

You can get a 130 bus from Union Station or a 146 bus from downtown. Cabs were hard to come when you’re leaving.

Parking is available nearby, but it’s gotten pricey.

New Mexico

DSC_0109 Our Lady of Guadalupe Shrine in Albuquerque, New Mexico

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Poem of the Week

Portrait of Alexander Pope

Portrait of Alexander Pope (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Solitude

by Alexander Pope
Happy the man, whose wish and care
A few paternal acres bound,
Content to breathe his native air
In his own ground.

Whose herds with milk, whose fields with bread,
Whose flocks supply him with attire;
Whose trees in summer yield him shade,
In winter, fire.

Blest, who can unconcernedly find
Hours, days, and years slide soft away
In health of body, peace of mind;
Quiet by day.

Sound sleep by night; study and ease
Together mixed, sweet recreation,
And innocence, which most does please
With meditation.

Thus let me live, unseen, unknown;
Thus unlamented let me die,
Steal from the world, and not a stone
Tell where I lie.

That Hamilton Woman

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That Hamilton Woman (1941) opens with a once well-off woman trying to steal a bottle of wine from a shop in Calais. She’s caught and thrown in jail with another woman who joined in the brouhaha that followed her arrest. Starring Vivien Leigh and Lawrence Olivier, That Hamilton Woman is a propaganda movie that Churchill asked the director Alexander Korda to make to appeal to Americans and convince the public that joining the war was the right thing to do.

Based on history, Leigh stars as Emma, who’s frequently changed her name about as frequently as she’s changed lovers. Her last lover, whom she thinks will marry her sent her to Naples to stay with his uncle, an ambassador who has a passion for collecting art — and beautiful women if they come his way. Though she and her mother who’s with her are worldly enough to know better, Emma’s surprised that her “fiancé” is going to marry a rich woman to help him out of financial troubles. He arranged for his uncle to take Emma offer her hands. Jilted, she’s furious at the trickery, but she’s an opportunist and winds up marrying the old uncle and making the most of life as an ambassador’s wife.

The many portraits by Abbott originate from th...

Horatio Nelson by Abbott (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

She meets Horatio Nelson, the famous naval leader who beat Napolean, time and time again. Though their both married, they become intimate. Leigh’s perfect as the coquettish and politically astute Emma. Olivier is commanding as Nelson. We see the couple across many years from when they first meet, to when Nelson returns after 5 years at war. It’s the only movie I’ve seen where the leading man is still dashing despite losing an arm and an eye.

In Naples the couple is fairly open about their love. It maddens Nelson’s son who’s stationed on his ship and he’s the first to refer to Emma as “That Hamilton Woman.” Town gossips soon use that term as well, but it doesn’t bother Emma. She’s got chutzpah galore. I read the history and this was a woman who used to dance naked on tables in her early days in “show business.” So the late 18th century wasn’t as straight-laced as you might think.

The Ambassador Hamilton enjoys Emma more as an ornament than anything else. While he asks Emma to be discreet, he isn’t all that hurt by her affair. Nelson’s wife is another story. She’s been waiting for him for 7 years and has gotten wind of “that Hamilton woman.” The stern and upright, Mrs. Nelson meets her husband in London when he returns after defeating Napolean’s navy at Trafalgar, in a battle scene that’s wonderfully shot. She’s a plain woman who’s strict and old fashioned. I’m not sure whether the real Lady Nelson was like this and think the film would be stronger if she were actually a rather attractive nice woman. This choice makes it easy to side with Nelson. I prefer more complexity and reality.

Emma Hamilton, in a 1782–84 portrait by George...

The real Emma Hamilton, in a 1782–84 portrait by G. Romney,                (Source: Wikipedia)

Be that as it may, the film is dramatic and it was fun to watch Vivien Leigh in a role other than Scarlett O’Hara. Since we see in the first scene that Emma ends up on the skids, I’m not spoiling anything by discussing that. I felt sorry that she ended up like that. It didn’t seem right that her husband, who never insisted she end her affair, died penniless and then she got no money from Nelson. According to the Criterion Collection bonus feature with the director’s nephew, history’s unclear about what happened to Emma, but the moral code of the day required that to show an adulterous couple, you would have to show that dire consequences follow that sort of life choice.

All in all, That Hamilton Woman, was an entertaining way to learn about 18th and early 19th century British history. Nelson’s military acumen and self-sacrifice are laudable and though I doubt the film would succeed in convincing Americans it’s time to jump into WWII.

Again, the Criterion Collection’s bonus features were worth seeing. Michael Korda, whose uncle directed the film and whose father was the art director, provided lots on insights into its making and the collaboration between his father and uncle. He also described Vivien Leigh’s tempestuous relationship with Olivier whose personality favored more even-keel people.

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Dear Fellows, The State Department has requested that any Fellows who maintain their own blog or website please post the following disclaimer on your site: "This website is not an official U.S. Department of State website. The views and information presented are the English Language Fellows' own and do not represent the English Language Fellow Program or the U.S. Department of State." We appreciate your cooperation. Site Meter
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