It occurs to me that I have recommended a few things to people in passing, but have completely failed to follow up with details of them. Far too often when recommendations come the other way, I just forget about them, or forget some pertinent detail that would make the book or the movie or the song easy to find. So, for anyone who I recommended these things to, this is your handy aide memoire. For anyone I didn’t, check these things out! They are awesome.
There is a reason I do not like The Big Bang Theory. It feels very much like laughing at smart people instead of laughing with. “Ha! Look at Sheldon! He knows so much about flags and yet exhibits tendencies that border on sociopathy!” Hilarious.
Real Genius is the solution to the Big Bang Theory problem. It’s an entertaining, funny, and clever movie that depicts very, very smart people as actual human beings. Val Kilmer’s Chris Knight is handsome, smug, irreverent, ridiculously brainy and never suffers for any of it. Knight and the idealistic undergraduate Mitch are caught in the trap of closed-door research: they are working in the lab without ever thinking about the world beyond it. That they are building military tech is clear to the viewer from the get-go. In a world where faceless lab rats tinker away on death rays in every movie and comic book going, Real Genius makes the point that the people building the next generation of weapons can be blinkered by their own idealism – and broken by the moral weight.
It’s such a good film, and if the crappy trailer doesn’t get you excited, then how about this: the character Jordan in the film was cited as the inspiration for Gadget Hackwrench. That, my friends, is awesome.
First and the Last
The war memoir of World War II German ace Adolf Galland keeps coming up. I reviewed it over on Floor to Ceiling Books a while back and it is still worth hunting out. The brutal clash between the idealistic domain of a pilot who believes that he and his kind represent the last vestige of true chivalry and the realities of a modern war machine is a stunning and absorbing read.
I would put a purchase link at the top but it’s out of print and the only copy I could see from a brief search was $41. With a little digging I’m sure you can find it much cheaper than that.
BONUS SIDE MISSION: If you can get your hands on A Frozen Hell: The Russo-Finnish Winter War of 1939-1940 by William Trotter, that is absolutely worth reading as well. The Talvisota was my inspiration for the Halloween short story, In the Wolf’s Glen and – again – it is an absorbing and fascinating read into one of the lesser-known conflicts of WWII.
The Brothers Lionheart
Astrid Lindgren is probably most well-known as the creator of Pippi Longstocking. The Brothers Lionheart, however, was one of her most controversial books. Published in 1973, it is the story of Karl and Jonatan, two brothers. Karl is sick – sick enough that he may soon die – and his brother tells him not to worry, because when you die you go to Nangijala, a place where you can have adventures from morning until evening, and even through the night; because Nangijala is where stories come from.
It’s one of those books that you try to describe and fail, because really it’s about everything. It deals with life and death in the most part and in the process goes to some dark places. It’s a stunning example of how deep and affecting children’s writing can be.
It was made into a movie in the late 70’s, but is apparently being remade by Tomas Alfredson. I look forward to seeing it.