Saturday, July 18, 2009

Depp, Disappointment, and Some Frenchmen

Let's begin with the Depp Report this picture from a friend who recently attended a big car wing-ding in Iola, Wisconsin. This car was used in the movie "Public Enemies." The display board includes photos from the film, and a certificate of authenticity, stating that the car was driven by Johnny Depp in several scenes. I haven't seen the movie yet, and despite the middle of the road reviews, four people reporting in so far have given thumbs up. However, all have been troubled by the fact that they left the theatre with empathy for the bad guys.
"My Trade Show"... in 50 words more or less...left Manty at 7:50...arrived at McCormick Place 11:00...paid outrageous $20.00 parking fee...excited to see publisher exhibits and place orders...learned that library reps can't sell to bookstores...considered lunch at M-Place but the pizza slices at $11.00 each looked old and greenish...left at 2:00.

Basically, I got free passes to the American Library Association show from a sales rep. He failed to tell me that publishers have different reps, and sales programs for libraries and I got to look at all the pretty book displays, and that's about it.

Here's Judy Blume signing at the Harper Collins booth.

Heading home, I discovered that Milwaukee was celebrating Bastille days near the MSOE campus, so I stopped and walked through this modest, but oh-so-neat, street festival. There's a charm about these small events that cannot be captured in the mega festivals. The rhythms are more relaxed, the music is hip, but less frantic, no one pushes; there are seldom lines deeper than four or five people. Never fear though, the evil port-a-potties stand waiting for all to enjoy. My summer event exit cue is always initiated by a choice between heading home, or attempting to get out of a p-a-p without a communicable disease. I was home by 10:30 that night!

If that falls into the too much info category, let's move on. At times, I tend to be a thematic reader, and the little French festival prompted me to read some French literature, something I have not done much of. My fave musician, Jimmy Buffett, references Flaubert in one of his fresher songs called "Love in the Library." Inspired by that, and by "Reading with my Twin", the blog written by my friend Justin-Justin and his Jon, I read Madame Bovary a while ago. I do know that there are many renowned French playwrights, Moliere being one of my favorites. I made my way through "Le Malade Imaginaire" (The Imaginary Invalid) with a minimal knowledge of French, because I could guess at bits of the plot from reading his other plays in English. His works were the inspiration for what we now call bedroom farces, or British door slammers....your know, those mistaken identity plots, filled with close encounters, and ending with the near lovers discovering they were separated at birth after drifting at sea in different directions as the result of a hurricane. One raised by slaves, the other by have the idea, right?

Then there's Jean-Paul Sarte with his cheery little philosophy in "No Exit" - hell is other people. Wow. I wonder what happened to make thay guy so cranky.

I thought about reading some poetry by Charles Baudelaire. He was an interesting guy, living a life of literary and artistic decadence...and delusion! Upon meeting Edgar Allen Poe, Baudelaire told the American writer that many of his plots had actually been churning in his own head for years, and had no idea how Poe had extricated them from his brain all they across the ocean. Oh, that wacky Frenchman! His work didn't suit me, although a couple of his lines have stuck with me including "...the supreme delight lies in the certainty of doing evil." I wonder, was he the inspiration for one of the three characters stuck in hell in Sarte's "No Exit"?

Eventually, I decided to re-read The Little Prince, by French aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupery. This tiny book packs a wallop. The chameleon nature allows kids to read it as a gentle fairy tale, while adults, looking deeper, may decide to adjust their priorities.

A pilot, stranded in the Sahara, meets a little boy from another planet who tells stories of his life, and his search for meaning. He knows a man who drinks to forget, a businessman who wants to own as many stars a possible so he has the leverage to buy more. He tells the pilot about a map maker who is so tied to his job that he never leaves his desk to visit the places he charts, and a lamplighter stuck in the rat lamps at night, extinguishing them at dawn, and watching the world go round as he does so, never relaxing.

On the other hand, the little prince owns three volcanoes, and a rose, all of which he visits, and cares for with generosity and devotion. He teaches the pilot that responsibility creates connections, and connections create wealth. The pilot, although saddened by final events, has a renewed outlook, realizing that he has been encumbered by the demands of adulthood, sacrificing his curiosity, and by-passing valuable opportunities to make connections.

French playwright, Samuel Beckett offers a thesis opposite of the little prince. Beckett asserts that we are totally free to do and be as we see fit. However, he contends that humans are innately responsible creatures, and that our need to be accountable for our choices kills our freedom. Bummer! That's why his main characters in "Waiting for Godot", Didi and Gogo, choose to spend their days sitting on dung heap, rather than doing something. What if they do the wrong thing, or make the wrong move, or pick the wrong direction? They are a mess. Heck, better to do nothing than to make a mistake. You know, on some days, that might not be a bad idea, except for the dung heap part.

So, that was my little trip to France via Chicago, Milwaukee, the Sahara Desert and a planet with three volcanoes and a rose.

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