Jul 31

Books, Movies and More—Part 3

In Brief— A further continuation of the author’s lists of some of the books, movies and even music that have helped shape the person he is. Has this series put your mind into high gear and kept you awake at night yet? It might.

You Are the Sum Total of All Your Experiences—

Film & NotesI have said that a film is able to shape the viewer’s character in the same way as a book, but whereas a reader can picture the characters and environment, a film takes away that ability and substitutes the director’s vision. Sometimes that’s better, sometimes not. Moreover, music can make or break a film. In any case, here are some additional films and even music that have shaped me. Others may follow as my sleepless nights bring them to mind.


Groundhog Day directed by Harold Ramis. The film’s theme of repetition until you get it right stuck with me. My friend Lionel’s favorite line was, “I’m only going to show you this one more time.”

Seven directed by David Fincher. Two cops, one an old timer and the other an arrogant newcomer, match wits with a mass murderer who kills his victims based on the seven deadly sins. I believed this film to be filled with violence only to find that that the violence was in my head. The film raises the question of what you would do.

Patton directed by Franklin Schaffner. George C. Scott, masterfully portraying Gen. George Patton, is at his best in front of a huge American flag. A monumental figure made bigger by the performance. The echoing trumpets behind Patton’s musing over past lives shows how music can make a film.

Amadeus directed Miloš Forman. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, his incomparable music and his death. If music makes a film, as it does here, then this is the film for you. Powerful images. Powerful music. Which brings me to my next subject.


Playwright William Congreve said that music has charms to soothe a savage breast. I don’t know about the savage breast, but certainly music can make or break a film. The last two of the films above use music in different ways. Patton uses music to create a mood while Amadeus is built around the music of Mozart.

I’ve chosen here to include music that reaches me and is illustrative of not only the eclecticism of my interests but the times and phases of my life. Your comments can tell us of the music that appeals to you.

Gregorian Chants—Unaccompanied sacred male choral singing found in the Catholic Church. Emotionally moving and powerful.

Joan Baez—Folk and protest songs sung by Ms. Baez playing the guitar. Beautiful voice. Committed person.

Luciano Pavarotti—Probably the best tenor in opera. He filled the hall with his incomparable voice. He made opera live.

Janis Joplin—The raw, uninhibited voice of my hippie days. She made the blues live for me. Her Cheap Thrills is on my iPod.

Ella Fitzgerald—A voice like silk. With an ability to improvise, she blew me away me as I listened entranced in the wings.

Eva Cassidy—Gone too early, she sang blues, gospel and more. Play her “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” at my funeral.

Andrés Segovia, Julian Bream, Manitas de Plata—Show me a talented guitar player, whether classical or flamenco, and I’ll show you an aficionado.

Jaqueline du Pré—a classical cellist, her ability to make that cello talk was celebrated worldwide. It’s on my iPod.

The Bagpipes—The skirl of the pipes lives inside me. Must be my Scottish heritage showing.

Hair—The song “Hair” and that stage play got me through law school. I saw it seven times during my transition to hippiedom.

Riverdance—It was a stage show, I know, but that staccato, precise stepdancing set to Irish music gets my toes to tapping.

Swan Lake—Sublime music. Lovely ballet.  Nureyev and Fonteyn. Watching them was like watching art in motion.

This is just a sampling of my wide-ranging musical interests. It’s a good way to close this series about the influences that helped shape me. I could go on with stage plays, dancers, artists, teachers and more, but I’ll stick with this as a way to tell you a bit about me.

Although this is just a partial list of my interests, it is important to always remember that everything a person experiences from those final days in the womb to our death adds to the person we are…to the person we are becoming.

You are invited to share your interests. You will not only reveal some of what you are, but your revelations can inspire the rest of us.


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    • Dave Meyers on July 31, 2016 at 17:09

    I must admit, with some level of shame, that I am not a reader. My Mother was a reader (non-stop), my sister is a reader, my brother is a reader, and my significant other, Marilyn, is a reader. I read rather slowly and find it somewhat arduous to read a long book. I have read recommended books from time to time….but it’s rare. Please don’t judge me.
    I do, however watch lots of movies. Marilyn and I receive NetFlix in the mail and stream from a number of services as well. We are sort of picky when it comes to movies and will spend hours running down the list of titles until we find something that we think will interest us. No horror, no action adventure, no half-assed comedies, rarely a sci-fi, but rather smart independent films, documentaries, period films, good mystery dramas, slice-of-life films, and the occasional comedy.

    Several films have stuck with me over the years. One in particular: Red Sky At Morning (1971)

    This film was not available on VHS or DVD for many years. I now see that it can be purchased, but no streaming service seems to have it available.

    It Stars a young Richard Thomas, Claire Bloom, Richard Crenna, Catherine Burns, Desi Arnaz Jr.

    Before going off to World War II, Frank Arnold (Richard Crenna) relocates his wife, Ann (Claire Bloom), and son, Josh (Richard Thomas), to faraway Corazon Sagrado, New Mexico. Josha has a difficult time fitting in, finding himself a minority in a predominantly Latino community, and his mother doesn’t fare much better, treating her loneliness with increasing quantities of alcohol while entertaining a perennial family houseguest. At length, Joshua makes friends, finds young love, and begins to adjust to this strange and colorful culture. But bad news from the outside world threatens to capsize everything Josh has come to know. A beloved film based upon the beloved novel by Richard Bradford.

    This is a coming-of-age film that some how really struck me. Perhaps if I watched it now it wouldn’t be so poignant. And perhaps I found it so appealing because of the time frame depicted in the movie and because of the anxt of the main character which was so much like my own at that time, I really loved this movie, but have no interest in seeing it again….I fear that it might disappoint my now cynical self.

      • Don Bay on July 31, 2016 at 17:42

      As you know and as I have said, there is no judgment regarding any of this. I simply listed the books, films and music that made me what I am. I recognize that not everybody reads, goes to the movies or listens to the music of their choice. What you are seeing is peculiar to me…and I emphasize the word “peculiar.” Each person is unique. Each person has individual tastes. It’s an opportunity to share an interest, not a mandate.

      Many thanks for sharing “Red Sky at Morning.” This is a tip for others to act on or not. You are perfect just the way you are. Stick with Netflix. You will find some real gems there. And they will add to the person you are.

  1. Hi Don
    Why the 3d person phrasing? Maybe Swenglish?

    I too am giving some thought to the books that changed my life at various stages of my life. One of them was Schrödinger’s What Is Life and for that reason I object to the NYT Verified Schrodinger using that name.

    I list my blog but I devote so much time every day to writing New York Times comments that my blog is dormant. Today, for example, I had to write a reply to a trolll who used the same wild assertion used by a different troll in replying to me the other day. The assertion is “Sweden is the rape capital of the world” and has become so because Muslims have come to Sweden. The Times comment manager removed the first case at my request but today I have told him and Public Editor to leave the one today to show the depths to which the Times Review Board allows commenters to sink, as long as the comment is about Muslims.

      • Don Bay on July 31, 2016 at 19:15

      To the extent I use third person address it’s because I am dealing with readers. In this case, I am letting readers know some of the things that influenced me, that made me the person I am. It’s there in the heading…we are the sum total of everything we experience in life.

      Unfortunately, my Swedish is not as fluent as I would wish despite the years that I have lived here. That’s what you get when you are fluent in one language and take on a second at an advanced age. My children are fluent in two languages. Alas, I am not, but I get by.

      Come visit again, Larry.

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