10 Media

Monday, April 05, 2010

For most of us, it's spring break time. That means that while I should have more time on my hands to do posts, I am too busy screwing around to otherwise yak on our slice of interweb heaven.

That said, because I am lazy, I am ripping this idea off of Cole's Balloon Juice, which ripped it off of some other post from earlier. The subject? Post 10 books that have influenced you and why.

Cole gets into a piece whereby the Top 10 books claimed by some prominent bloggers are analyzed for their erudition, thoughtfulness, uniqueness, etc (and, not to mention, that some of the claims must be bullshit; nobody as a kid read A Brief History of Time). But we don't worry about here. If Dick and Jane Play Doctor had some influence on you, list it. If you're one of the zillion Nietzsche fanboys, that's great too.

I'd like to add a twist. We're mostly all Gen X-ers here, and are influenced beyond books. Thus, let's modify our list to be "10 Media: 10 books, magazine articles, web sites, radio spots, graphic novels, comics, music or movies that influenced you." If you list 10 lies, that's fine. But if you list the Bible, I may punch you. Or Ayn Rand.

FWIW, in no particular order:

1. The Indiana Jones trilogy. I realize there are now 4 parts, but I do not acknowledge the newest movie as a part of that fine trilogy. Even Temple of Doom is a stretch, but is a good move in its own right. These movies were hugely influential on me as a kid. I not only give them credit for my interest in history, but also for breaking me out of my early elementary school shell. A slender nerd could be touch and get the girl. Playing Indiana Jones (I was Indiana Smith and my buddy was Idaho Monroe) during recess made me the bulk of my friends that I carried all the way through life.

2. Cliche' Alert: The Lord of the Rings trilogy, including The Hobbit, JRR Tolkein. My dad read my The Hobbit as a bed-time book in the 1st grade and I fell in love with the drama, the genre, and Tolkein's command of the English language (something I have a looong way to master...just read this blog). Pictures came alive in my head because of it, and that was well before I understood the social underpinnings and WWI/II influenecs the books had on Tolkein, which makes them only the richer.

3. The Universe in a Nutshell, Stephen Hawking. I read this about 6 years ago, and have re-read it several times since. While still a difficult read, it put into one single book all of the various ideas about how the universe works and where it came from and where it's going. Thank heavens it had graphical illustrations on every single page or I would never have grasped it. But I did, and the book continues to influence my thoughts on the subject every day.

4. The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams. At once a spoof of and a substantiation of physics, science and technology. Adams is a great, if not prolific, author and his passion for what he thinks about all things science really shines through in this series of books. So much so that I find it contagious and compelling.

5. Excalibur. Despite how long it had been out of theaters, I finally saw this movie in the early 80s when I was in Middle School. It was the first medieval work that had excited me since LOTR and my first foray into D & D. This knightly, chivalrous code got me interested in looking at the military (funny how young minds think; if I can't be an old-time knight, I can be a new one!). The musical score propelled me into an appreciation for classical music (see below). And the action scenes made sure that I would be disappointed by massive-scale sword battle movies until LOTR came out.

6. Bugs Bunny. My sense of humor came from these shows. Later in life, I understood more about some of the jokes and references, and that makes them even funnier. I cannot listen to certain classical music pieces (see above) now without laughing (Barber of Seville, anyone?) and there are things in every-day life that will make me smile because they remind me of this or that Bugs Bunny cartoon. My favorite character is Daffy Duck; defeated by his own ego every single time.

7. Think On These Things, Jiddu Krishnamurti. Krishnamurti lays out a piercing analysis of culture and emotion that I find myself coming back to time and again when I really get down. How do I face myself? How do I face the world? Why is Sean Hannity such a fucking dickhead? It's all in this book and I love it dearly. I am on my 3rd copy, and regularly give people copies to read as well.

8. The Prophet, Khalil Gibran. I cannot even think about this book without getting verklemmt. We love to babble about how language is so limiting in the way we use it to describe our surroundings or emotions. Not so with Khalil Gibran. Not so.

9. The Power of Myth. This is a 6-part miniseries of an interview between Bill Moyers and mythology scholar Joseph Campbell. The first time I saw it was in a philosophy class at Grand Valley. I have seen it a few times since, and listen to it over and over again on my iPod to the point where I have favorite passages memorized as to where they are in the audiobook. I could write a day-long post about why this has influenced me and in what direction but I will sum it up thusly: we are not alone when it comes to dealing with rights of passage and trial. There are those who have gone there before us and they tell us their stories.

10. Dune, Frank Herbert. Herbert just understood human interaction, dogma, treachery, resource wars and philosophy and he put it all in one book. I'd list this book equally with Asimov's Foundation books, just a shade weirder.

On Great Books: I have read a lot of the Great Books, and I even like a few of them! Be they in highschool AP Lit courses, college courses, or just on my own for the sake of reading these things that American Society has agreed are Great Books, I have read or Cliffs Notes'ed a ton of them. But to call them influential, to me, was misleading. Sure they helped me understand how we think in Western Society, or where Democracy comes from or what-have-you. But that's not influential. Nothing in me changed when I read them and they're not something I keep referring to in my life. I read them, I know them, I took fucking essay tests on them, and I am onward. That's not to say nobody can list them or that they will be misleading if they are; this is just my experience. Like most everyone, I read Republic. I just don't list it under "influences."

Whip it out in the comments, or Hell, even just post your own post.

8 comments:

steves 8:35 PM  

I make rip off a few of yours. The problem with these kinds of lists is that if I do one and wait a few days, I would probably think of a whole new list.

1. Jaws. Back when I was a kid, parents really didn't care what their kids watched and the idea that certain movies may be harmful was mostly unknown. Yeah, there were some weirdo hippy parents that may have worried, but most of them didn't. I saw this movie when I was 8 or 9 and it scared the shit out of me. My grandparents had a camp that was on a lake and I was convinced that a shark was going to attack me. I was smart enough to know that sharks didn't populate inland lakes in Northern Michigan, but this fear was completely irrational.

2. Bugs Bunny. Best cartoon ever. Even as a kid, I understood that this was well written. I was proud when my 7 year old was running around the house singing "spear and magic helmet."

3. The Foundation Trilogy. This was the first real sci-fi series I ever read. Despite the fact that some of the technology seems corny, it is still a great series.

4. Tonio Kroger by Thomas Mann. I needed a class for graduation requirements and took one on German Literature. I got way more than I expected in that the professor genuinely loved what he was teaching and had dynamic and interesting ways to encourage students. I am not what you would call an artistic person and this novella helped me understand the kinds of people that have that gift.

5. God of War. I don't know if this was all that influential, but it was a fantastic video game. I got it when I was in the middle of studying for the bar exam and needed a stress reliever. It was everything I wanted. Over the top violence and Greek mythology.

I will continue this in another post.

For most of us, it's spring break time.

Are you in High School?

Smitty 9:04 PM  

Are you in High School?

Ha! No thanks... but many schools around here are on break, so if you have kids, you may be on break. Or if you influence big kids (i.e. work in the legislature), you are on spring break too!

Smitty 9:05 PM  

Nice list so far Steve. I have not played the God of War series yet, but it's on my list when I am done murdering zombies in post apocalyptic Washington DC (Fallout 3).

steves 9:09 PM  

Do you have a PS3? If so, then you can borrow the series from me. My wife and daughter are on break, but not me.

I was going to put the Bible and Atlas Shrugged just to piss you off. I do the consider the Bible to be very influential, but it is kind of cliche. Atlas Shrugged was painful to read.

Smitty 9:16 PM  

Do you have a PS3?

X-Box 360.

I was going to put the Bible and Atlas Shrugged just to piss you off

Obviously, you know I was being tongue-in-cheek. Of course the Bible is influential...that's its point!

Atlas Shrugged and her follow-up drivel simply pisses me off. That whole philosophy of charity-is-bad makes me nuts. It lends itself to false, pseudo-intellectual contrarianism we get in cons like Hannity. At least when you are contrarian, you have a fucking point and can back it up. You don't do it for the sake of intellectual exercise, which it never is.

[/rant]

steves 9:33 PM  

I think some of her essays aren't that bad, especially in response to communism and marxism, but her fiction was absolute crap.

Monk-in-Training 5:01 AM  

Indiana Jones - "It's time to ask you, Mr Jones, What do you REALLY believe" love that!

Dune- It really is an amazing work, got weird in the later books, but seriously great in the main one.

Bugs Bunny - Two things, for YEARS I thought New England was rocky and barren, and when challenged by a native, and found out it is lush and green (summer) I realized it was a Bugs Bunny cartoon that I got that idea from (wow). And I still use "Delay, delay, always delay!" as a quote.

Jaws "We need a bigger boat". Very formative. ;)

I will have to compile a list of my own to add later today :)

Mr Furious 12:46 AM  

Jaws will definitely appear on my list. It's impact was huge—but think less "influential" and more "traumatic."

I'll get to this on the weekend...

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