Thursday, November 13, 2014

Reading (E-Reader): "Playboy Interviews - The Essentials" - Playboy Magazine

I'm quite enjoying "The Playboy Interviews" - Playboy magazine does have a history of doing topical, groundbreaking interviews.  Collecting them gives a nice in situ  peek at the life and times of various folks over the past 50 years or so.
I am not reading them in any particular order - I find an interesting interview, read it, and find another.

As of now, I've covered Martin Luther King Jr., which is right in the middle of his historic marches in the south, prior to the "I have a dream" speech in Washington.  Offers a nice reminder of how recently things were clearly race-divided in the U.S., and how strong the anti-integration movement was.

The Beatles, and John Lennon-Yoko Ono offer compelling reads as well.  The Beatles were pretty early in their fame, so much of the interview provides insight into how problematic "instant fame" is, and how long it takes to become "instantly famous".  The Lennon-Ono interview was very close to John's death (not sure of the interview date, but the publication date is 1 month post his murder by Chapman).  The interview was related to the John coming back to recording for "Double Fantasy".  It does talk about the Beatles years, the odds of getting back together (virtually nill by John), the fact that the individual Beatles members still kept in touch (i.e. weren't enemies) but had drifted as their lives diverged from the "always together" early days.  John expresses some resentment toward George, who he felt has slighted John's involvement in George's career growth in the Beatles years, and toward Paul who didn't seem to understand why John and Yoko were tied at the hips.

I am a big SNL fan, so there is an interview from the early years (late '70's) with the entire SNL staff, probably 2nd or 3rd year (Chevy had left, Bill Murray on staff, reference to their fight behind the scenes, which I believe was 2nd year of the show).  A later interview with Lorne Michaels is a nice read as well - he had just returned to SNL after leaving, and was dealing with cancellation (which was rescinded through begging) and was experiencing the highest ratings of their tenure up to that time.  He talked about how difficult it was to deal with the cast leaving, some lingering tension as SNL became a "star maker", a stop-point to better things, instead of a destination in and of itself. Steve Martin garnered two interviews, one as the stand-up guy and one as the later writer/director of movies and retired stand-up guy.  I find Steve Martin endlessly interesting as well - I remember him at his peak of stand-up fame (though didn't realize how odd and difficult making a stand-up career was before widespread local comedy clubs became the norm), I really liked his movies (particularly "the Jerk", "Roxanne" and "Parenthood").  I also like his banjo playing and music career.  I find him to be interesting because he is basically a "meta performer" - he designs his input by understanding the media in an academic manner, and he understands what he can bring to the table to make a unique contribution.  His plan from the early days was to use the stand-up to drive the movies, and use the initial movies to transition his stand-up to celluloid and use that experience to move toward different and complex (e.g. less one-dimensional) roles.  Tina Fey is interviewed on her own as well, in her post SNL 30 Rock period - also a very interesting person who discusses her transition from writer to SNL Update performer to star of a TV series (and the associated angst and discussion points of each).

Animation creators come into the fore as well - Seth McFarlane, Parker and Stone of South Park both captured at the height of their animated fame (just reading Seth now, Groening is next).

All in all, these interveiws are well done, and certainly lead to pick and choose reading - most are 20 min to 1/2 hour reads, though MLK seemed to take an hour or so.  I hope this comes out as an audiobook, as most seem to have been tape recorded at source - it would be intersting to hear John Lennon talk about the Beatles history, and MLK talk about the struggles in the south.

Finished (Audiobooks) - "Kissenger: A Biography"- Isaacson and "The Nixon Defense: What He Knew and When He Knew It" - John Dean

I must say, I'm finally glad to be done listening to both "Kissenger" and "The Nixon Defense" - both of which are fine if you are interested in the Nixon years (Kissenger goes a  little farther, through Ford, and then post-White House years), however, as both are long, listening to them back to back was a little too much "Kissenger".
I have a basic interest in this particular era, as I remember these events when I was a kid - I was 8 when the Watergate break-ins occurred in 1972, and 10 when Nixon resigned in 1974.  I certainly didn't know (or maybe even care) what the events were about, I remember thinking in 1974 that 1972 was "so long ago" that I was surprised anybody cared about it.  This sounds odd, but seems to be the window that Fox News operates in now - forget the past, blame the closest Democrat right now.

Though I'm far from the right politically, I do find the Nixon event such a loss - he did open China and the Soviet Union and did some really good international work.  The whole Watergate thing is so petty in comparison, though it did reveal the lack of respect for process and branches of gov't in the Nixon years (and I'd content in Reagan and Bush Jr. as many of the same background folks were operating).

Kissenger, who's still considered brilliant, really didn't do much in Vietnam, delaying an earlier solution for political reasons and extending the war unnecessarily.  I  think the handwriting was on the wall that the U.S. was leaving, it might have been done a year or two earlier, with fewer deaths.
The need to keep score and take credit for the international events, traits of both Nixon and Kissenger, demean both to a degree.  Seems childish in hindsight.  Kissenger's willingness to skip over the state department in making plans and large scale treaties seems to be a much bigger "issue" than the shoddy break-ins of Watergate.

All in all, I'm glad to be moving off this section of history.  I find it full of "what ifs" - what if Nixon was less paranoid - would that have avoided the "leftist media" image that is still pervasive in the U.S.?  Would a full-disclosure of Watergate before the 1972  election have provided the clean slate needed for a complete 2nd term?  If the Kissenger-Nixon deals with China and the U.S.S.R. had been handled "normally' thorough normal state department processes, could a more lasting set of treaties be in place, reductions in nuclear arms and maybe a more stable world here in the post 2000's?