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    All Work and No Play …

    It’s been a long, cold winter here in Chicago.  Seems like when it wasn’t snowing we had those wonderful “Alberta Clippers” that the local weather forecasters enjoy so much because they get to brush up on their wind chill calculation skills.  Seriously, once it gets below -10 degrees does it really matter?  No one’s going outside anyway.

    So what do you do when it’s too cold to do anything else and you need a break from worrying about the solvency and relevance of the fraternal system and the sanctity of our tax-exempt status?  (Please don’t suggest Sudoku.  My wife can do these for hours, but I am not a “puzzle guy” – especially when they involve numbers and not words.)  That leaves books and movies.  I’ve been doing a lot of both since that first snowfall in early December when the gardening (golf) season officially ended.  Here are some thoughts on the best of what I’ve read and seen.

    Non-Fiction

    The Worst Hard Time – An absolutely gripping story of the root causes and long term impact of the “Dust Bowl” of the 1930s as told by the people who stayed through what can only be described as the greatest environmental catastrophe in U.S. history.  After reading it I wanted to jump in my car and drive to the Oklahoma and Texas panhandles to see the scars on the earth that still exist from that era.

    One Minute to Midnight – A minute by minute account of the Cuban missle crisis based on new information made available through the Freedom of Information Act.  Great insights into the minds of Khrushchev, Kennedy, and Castro as the world stood on the brink of nuclear war.

    Fiction

    City of Thieves – Set during the siege of Leningrad (St. Petersburg) in World War II.  A Russian army deserter and a Jewish resident of the city are thrown together in jail and face almost certain execution.  Their only hope?  Find a dozen eggs in a city on the brink of starvation for the General in charge of defeating the Nazi’s before his daughter gets married the following week.  At times grizzly; at others hysterical.  A great read.

    The Book Thief – Another novel with a World War II backdrop.  An incredible story of young orphan girl growing up in Germany and the war’s impact on her and her family.  I read the last pages of this book on an airplane and was openly sobbing.  The woman sitting next to me was pretty sure she was sitting next to a nut case.  I gave her the book and my card and told her to read it and let me know what she thought.  I received an e-mail from her this morning that said, “I understand now.”  One of the best novels I’ve read in years.

    Film

    Valkyrie – You know how the story turns out, but it’s still worth watching.

    Doubt – Incredible performances by Meryl Streep (my choice for “Best Actress”) and Philip Seymour Hoffman.  If you grew up Catholic, you will recognize many of your classmates and teachers in the characters.  Streep’s rant on the paganistic qualities of “Frosty the Snowman” is worth the price of admission.

    The Wrestler – Dark, brooding and violent.  Unique look into the soft, white underbelly of a culture we only know from television.  Mickey Rourke is compelling in his portrayal of an individual who wants to change, but just can’t get all the way there.

    Slumdog Millionare – My choice for “Best Picture.”  Lots of ups and downs in a love story that you couldn’t imagine.  It’s the way the story is told that makes it so unique.  The guided tours of the Taj Mahal scene is split-your-sides funny. 

     

    Frost/Nixon – Loved it.  Wonderful insights into one of the most complex politicians of our generation.  Frank Langella gets my vote for “Best Actor.”

    My next posting will be “back to business.”  Hope to see many of you at upcoming Section Mid-Year Meetings.  Click here to get more information on each meeting and to register online.

    One Response

    1. Thanks for the reviews of books and movies. If you haven’t read Three Cups of Tea, it’s a great story about Greg Mortenson, written by David Relin and Greg Mortenson. It’s about Greg’s mission to build schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

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