Episode 20: A Visit With Tom Velasco

You, dear listener, are in for a treat when you tune in to Episode 20 of the Donnybrook Podcast. Our special guest on the show this week is Tom Velasco who we’ve dubbed The Most Interesting Man in the Treasure Valley. In this wide-ranging episode, we rabbit-trail with breathtaking velocity, talking about quality movies, dystopian fiction, the proper pronunciation of Augustine, friendship and isolation in today’s society, and Tom Cruise’s bizarre middle tooth.

Show notes:
George Orwell (not Orson Wells) on That Hideous Strength
Trailer for Ordet (1955)

Amanda’s 2019 YA Reading List

In Episode 17 of the podcast, Amanda agreed to add 20 Young Adult books to her reading list for 2019. John and David have put their heads together and come up with a proposed list of their favorites.*

We also recognize that we have a lot more than 20 books (40 actually) represented here because of series. So, to be clear, the expectation is that Amanda HAS TO at least read one book in the series and then can determine if it’s “good enough” to continue on her own…(we have every confidence that she will).

A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.

Jack Lewis

1. Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander
Tolkien-lite, this story line follows the adventures of young Taran, the Assistant Pig Keeper. This fantasy novel can be silly, which undermines its status as epic-fantasy, but is also beautifully told from a heavily Welsh-influenced mythology. ( John)

2. The Wingfeather Saga by Andrew Peterson
This fantasy series starts out a little rough (first time author) but builds to something really special. Are we cheating by putting in two series for the first two entries? Probably. Do we care? Nope! (David, John)

3. The Wrinkle In Time Quintet by Madeline L’Engle
We assume you have read the title-track, so if you only read one of the remaining in the series, start with A Swiftly Tilting Planet. In Tilting, two children have the opportunity to travel through time to incrementally change the past. If you want to read past that, Many Waters is about two siblings pulled back to the pre-diluvian world who find themselves caught up in the story of Noah. (David)

4. Robin Hood (or Men of Iron) by Howard Pyle
Part of the famous Brandywine school of art (N.C. Wyeth), Pyle was also an author. Both The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood and Men of Iron are medieval adventure classics. (John)

5. The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
One of those books that stretched the genres of the day and was just self-aware enough to pull it off. Puns, lots of puns. (John’s 15-year-old Ethan made this contribution.)

6. Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes or 
The Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare
Both coming of age stories. Both grade-school reading level chapter books. Both recommended over and over again to aspiring young readers. (David, John)

7. Beauty by Robin McKinley
A retelling of the story of Beauty and the Beast, my girls have loved this book to death and are constantly recommending it to their friends. (John)

8. The Age of Dragons series by James A. Owen
Premise: Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and Charles Williams are the wardens of the magical portal between this world and fairy-land… enough said. (John: while excited about this one, I have NOT read it yet and will do so with Amanda!)

9. The Ordinary Princess by M.M. Kaye
A fairy-tale princess story where the protagonist isn’t so “makes-you-puke over-the-top lets-break-out-and-dance, I’m-hopeless-without-prince-charming, Disney-fied”. (John)

10. Water-Babies/Westward Ho! by Charles Kinglsey:
Victorian literature, both books have fallen somewhat out of favor as they deal with complex moral questions on race, religion, and evolution. Kinglsey wasn’t messing around with his children’s lit. (Brent, John)

11. The White People by Francis Hodges Burnett
By the popular author of The Little Princess and The Secret Garden, here’s a novella length ghost story! (John)

12. The Scottish Chiefs by Miss Jane Porter
The exciting exploits of William Wallace. If you think you know his story from watching Braveheart, you don’t know anything. The book is 10x better than the movie. (David, John)

13. The Jungle Book by Ruyard Kipling. 
Yes, we are aware that Kipling’s imperialism is gross, but the man could tell a story. If nothing else, Riki-Tiki-Tavi has to be one of our all-time favorite shorts! (John)

14. Gone Away Lake by Elizabeth Enright
A pair of children discover a hidden lake and community during their summer vacation. (David)

15. Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome
Four siblings learn to sail and lay claim to an island in the middle of an English lake. Now they must defend their island against the former claimants. (David)

16. Mrs. Frisbee and the Rats of N.I.M.H. by Robert C. O’Brien
A widow mouse is helped by the super-intelligent genetically modified rats of N.I.M.H. (David, John)

17. The Land of Elyon series by Patrick Carman
Really delightful fantasy series. Because its strong female protagonist we give it an extra bump because we are always looking for ways to encourage our daughters to be brave! Pre-Trump, pre-GOT “shield-wall” fantasy. (John, David)

18. Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink
Another strong female protagonist, it’s younger fiction, but the kind of thing we think you would have loved as a child. So read it now. (David)

19. Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson
My favorite childhood coming-of-age adventure. Preferred above Robinson Crusoe, this book explores some complex political polarities between the Scottish highlands and lowlands by a naive and moderate protagonist. (John)

20. The Scarlet Plague by Jack London
Okay, we are cheating because this one isn’t a REAL children’s book. It’s not great literature. It’s not even a great story. It is just fun to see a post-apocalyptic world from Jack London’s pre-nuclear perspective. (John, David)

*This is certainly not an exhaustive list of our favorites since we intentionally didn’t include books that we know Amanda has already read. Otherwise, we’d be including books like The Chronicles of Narnia (in the proper publication order, of course), 100 Cupboards, At The Back of the North Wind, and Watership Down.

10 Black & White Movies Every Graduate Should See

Here’s David and my premise.

Black and white movies that have stood the test of time are especially good because they CANNOT rely on special effects to keep the viewer’s attention. Because of this, the PRIMARY means of keeping the viewers attention is STORYTELLING which is a facet of ART that is sometimes lost on a generation looking for the next CGI special effect. With that in mind, here’s 10 black and white movies to challenge your graduate to watch before they head off to college. 

  1. 12 Angry Men (1957): This movie is used in many classrooms, since it explores the challenge of being part of a jury and working together to understand evidence in arriving at a verdict. The interesting this is that the majority of the movie is shot from the room where the jury convenes, and explores the different personalities and emotions of the men involved.  Just writing this makes me want to go and re-watch the original with my 15-year-old. 
  2. Casablanca (1942): High cinematic art. There is a reason why this is on many “Greatest-Ever” lists.  Interesting to go back and watch a movie where the lead role is not played by someone as handsome as he was stylish. Also starring young Ingrid Bergman, I especially appreciate how this film explores the affects of war, without needing the explosions and trenches. 
  3. High Noon (1952): Gary Cooper plays a retiring sheriff who is faced by the return of an outlaw gang who he put in prison a few years earlier. Will the town he cleaned-up, the friends he made along the way, or his newlywed wife stand with him as he decides what and how to do the right thing? This is an ethics class in 90 minutes, and asks the right questions… you’ll have to decide if you like it’s answers. 
  4. Arsenic and Old Lace (1944): Comedy with the class of Cary Grant. If we told you the plot, you wouldn’t believe that it was a comedy, which is part of its charm. 
  5. It’s A Wonderful Life (1946): Blah, blah, blah, probably everyone has seen it, but just in case, it is included here as a reminder that we can all make a difference. So many cultural references in this film, it is a “must-see” just to understand catch phrases still used today. 
  6. Stagecoach (1939): John Wayne’s first starring role, this movie features the baby-faced version of Wayne before he signature bellicose machismo. While some might miss that side of Wayne’s personality, it does allow the story to be about something besides John Wayne, since the story is really archetypal rather than individualistic. I know, I know, a Western that is not all about the lone man facing the world (see High Noon!), can it be?   
  7. The Philadelphia Story (1940): This is the story of a socialite (Katherine Hepburn) on the eve of her second marriage. Cary Grant is husband #1 who wants her back. He unexpectedly shows up at the same time as a bashful reporter (Jimmy Stewart) trying to get a story. This film is so witty that at times it makes my head spin and I can’t keep up with the dialogue. Incredibly clever.
  8. Four Feathers (1939):  This was the film that the 2002 Heath Ledger movie was based off (there is also a book, which ironically I have never read). This movie explores the idea of what is cowardice and made such an impact on me that I vividly can recall at least two scenes from it over a decade later.  I gotta buy this book.
  9. The Sea Hawk (1940): Errol Flynn in a swash-buckling adventure that isn’t Robin Hood.  This actually WAS considering special effects back in the day! It’s cheesy, but good cheesy.
  10. The Quiet Man (1952): John Wayne is an American boxer who retires to Ireland and falls in love with Maureen O’Hara. It’s a simple, complicated story that features the most classic donnybrook you’ll ever see, including the obligatory break in the pub, mid-fight.