Archive for December, 2011

2011 Film Registry

Every year at the end of December, the Library of Congress announces 25 films that have been added to the National Film Registry to be preserved as cultural, artistic and historical treasures.

Crisis: Behind a Presidential Commitment (my most watched DVD)

This year I learned the news first-hand from the Director of the Library of Congress’s Packard Campus facility where much of the Library’s audio visual material is stored and preserved. We met briefly in the Motion Picture and Television reading room in the Madison Building. It was Wednesday, December 28, and I had taken the day off to view television news programs as part of my research for the Katzenbach biography. My original plan was to watch Katzenbach on Meet the Press in 1965, but instead I ended up watching Alabama Governor George Wallace on Meet the Press in 1963, just days before his infamous stand in the Schoolhouse Door (see my blog post on June 11, 2011).

Little did I know when the Director of the Packard Campus, with his camera crew in tow, asked my permission to be filmed for a story about the film registry that one of the 25 titles to make this year’s list was “Crisis: Behind a Presidential Commitment.” This is actually one of the few films I own, and by far the DVD I have watched most. It is heralded as one of the first cinema verite films and broke new ground for documentaries on so many levels. Filmmaker Robert Drew and his crew transport you behind the scenes as decisions are made, and action taken, related to the integration of the University of Alabama. Drew is there on the steps of the University of Alabama when Katzenbach confronts Wallace. He is there during prep meetings with the students, and he is even in the oval office with President Kennedy.

I have to admit I think Crisis is a great choice by the Library.  Other titles that made the National Film Registry this year, and stole the spotlight, included Bambi and Forrest Gump (I liked those too).

Now that this blog is officially posted, it’s time to go celebrate the new year!


The Nook

When it comes to reading I always viewed myself as a traditionalist. A book is a book is a book. But now there is a Nook. And on cyber Monday I broke down and bought one. It arrived two days later. My justification for purchasing this new gadget (besides the $25 gift certificate) was in the name of research.

I’m knee deep writing a biography of former Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach and having books at my beck and call are essential. I thought how much easier it would be if all this knowledge was in the palm of my hand. Not to mention I was curious about the changing nature of reading. It didn’t take long to gain a better understanding of this new reading landscape.

When my biography of Millicent Fenwick was published in 2003, there were no e-readers. The Kindle was introduced into the marketplace four years later and it only took another four years before e-books sales skyrocketed into the billions. The medium for reading is changing, and now I’m on board (but that doesn’t mean I will be purging books from my collection).

I bought a Nook over a Kindle for no other reason then to try and support one of the last staples of a physical bookstore. Here in Washington, DC, one of the most literate and well-read cities in the world, the Barnes & Noble in Georgetown is going out of business on December 31. So much attention is focused on preserving independent bookstores like Politics & Prose and Kramer Books that I never imagined we would be fighting for big box bookstores to survive.  Borders already lost that battle and closed its doors earlier in the year. I hope Barnes & Noble doesn’t succumb to the same fate.

As to my Nook, I admit, I like it more than I thought. I’m not sure if it’s the Nook or my first e-book, Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand, a great read!

For all those last minute shoppers, I hope you buy books or nooks so that book stores do not become part of a dying breed.

Happy shopping and happy holidays!

Christopher Hitchens

Tonight in front of the local Rite Aid, not far from where Christopher Hitchens lived, there was an array of books on the sidewalk that were up for grabs. The titles reflected books one imagines lined Hitchens’s library. It was only when I came home that I learned he passed away. I couldn’t help but wonder if the books were his or if it was merely a timely coincidence?

What do you think? Here’s a sample of the books in need of a new home:

The Almanac of American History by Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.

Contemporary Political Philosophy: An Introduction by Will Hymlicka

The Triumph of Politics: Why the Reagan Revolution Failed by David A. Stockman

God in the White House: A History by Randall Balmer