Podcasts of the Week Ending March 17

HUB History ::  The Curious Case of Phineas Gage

The fascinating story of the most famous brain injury.

Planet Money :: Rigging the Economy

Liberal-tarians agree!  The economy is rigged.

Planet Money ::  XXX-XX-XXX

The history of the Social Security number.

Afropop Worldwide :: Roots and Future: A History of UK Dance

Caribbean music traditions and US dance beats come together in the only place they can: the United Kingdom.  A history of jungle, garage, drum & bass, and grime.  This made very nostalgic for the dance tracks of yore.

Have You Heard? :: Strong: Lessons from the West Virginia Teachers Strike

Reporting from the West Virginia teachers strike, featuring interviews with many, many teachers.

Invisibilia :: The Other Real World

Using a reality talent show to counter Islamist extremism in Somalia.

BackStory :: Wherever Green is Worn: The Irish in America

Archbishop “Dagger” John Hughes, the Molly Maguires, and other Irish Americans of lore.

Re:sound :: Analog

When I was a kid I recorded myself as the DJ of a “tape radio” station called WLTS, so I feel a kinship with Mark Talbot. Also a repeat of the Ways of Seeing story I highlighted last summer.



Movie Review: Hidden Figures (2016)

TitleHidden Figures
Release Date: December 25, 2016
Director: Theodore Melfi
Production Company: Fox 2000 Pictures

This historical drama tells the story of 3 of the 20 or so African-American women who worked at NASA’s Langley Research Center in the 1960s as “computers,” mathematicians who performed vital calculations during the early days of the space race.  Katherine Goble Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), considered “the brain” even among her peers, is assigned to the all-white, overwhelmingly male Space Task Group to use her skills in analytical geometry to calculate flight trajectories for the Mercury program.  Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe), who has the talent to become an engineer, goes to court in order to fight the Jim Crow laws that prevent her from attending a University of Virginia engineering program at a local whites-only high school.  And Dorothy Vaughn (Octavia Spencer) is the de facto manager of the women in the human computers group without the title or the pay.  When she learns that an IBM mainframe will eventually replace her group, she sees it as an opportunity to to teach herself FORTRAN and retrains her colleagues as programmers, eventually being officially promoted to supervisor of the Programming Department.

Like many historical dramas, a number of supporting characters are fictional or composites, but in Hidden Figures that helps keep the focus on our three leads. Similarly, historical facts are fudged with a lot of details compressed or presented out of order, but again for a movie its more dramatic to have John Glenn request that Katherine Johnson verify the IBM’s calculations while he’s heading to the launch pad rather than a few days earlier.  As a humanities person, I’m also grateful that they dumbed down all the mathematics in a way I could understand, while simultaneously realizing that the best minds at NASA would not have been discussing such basic issues at Langley.

All three leads are well-acted and I appreciate that they show three very different ways that these women responded to the hurdles placed before them and achieved their goals.  Kevin Costner puts in a decent performance as the leader of the Space Task Group, who seems motivated to desegregate Langley less out of a sense of justice, and more due to it causing delays.  Kirsten Dunst plays Vaughn’s casually racist supervisor who eventually grows to respect her, kind of a stock character, but keeps it subtle enough.

A fun part of this movie is how much it parallels one of my all-time favorite movies, The Right Stuff, with some scenes and dialogue being exactly the same but from different perspectives. Hidden Figures is also a great historical film that I think I’ll enjoy revisiting, and especially important for making the story of Johnson, Jackson, Vaughn, and others at NASA so well known.

Rating: ****


Podcasts of the Week Ending February 24

Twenty Thousand Hertz :: Emergency Alert System

I’ve always had an fascination for those tests of the Emergency Broadcast System. I taped one off the radio as a kid, I actually did them as a college radio DJ, and about 20 years ago I heard one that was NOT a test (warning for intense thunderstorms, which was both a relief and a bit underwhelming).  Here is the story behind how they work.

Planet Money :: The Blue Pallet

Pallets are ubiquitous, overlooked, and seemingly hard to improve.  This is the story of how CHEP pallets revolutionized the industry.  My wife writes about pallets and her enthusiasm is infectious, so I loved this story.

The Nation – Start Making Sense :: It’s Time to Break Up Amazon

Reporting on the dangers of Amazon’s monopoly powers, as well as how mandatory non-compete agreements have helped corporations keep low-wage workers from getting better jobs.

Slate’s Hit Parade :: The Year Rap Music Broke

1986 is a significant year in rap music history, mainly due to RUN-DMC’s crossover hit “Walk this Way” which inadvertently helped revive the fortunes of the rock band Aerosmith (I was one of the kids who knew RUN-DMC well, but never heard of Aerosmith before their collaboration).  Chris Molanphy tells the story of Def Jam Recordings, founded by Rick Rubin and Russell Simmons, and how in 1986 they unleashed not only RUN-DMC’s hit album Raising Hell, but also Radio by one of rap’s first solo acts with wide appeal, LL Cool J, and Licensed to Ill by the bratty white kids the Beastie Boys.  Molanphy doesn’t end the story in 1986 though, but follows the ongoing careers of all four acts.


Book Review: Siege by Roxane Orgill

AuthorRoxane Orgill
TitleSiege: How General Washington Kicked the British Out of Boston and Launched a Revolution
Publication Info: Candlewick (2018)

I received a free advance reading copy of this book through the Library Thing Early Reviewers program.

Siege is a book that tells the story of the Siege of Boston in 1775-1776 from multiple perspectives and entirely in verse.  It’s a spectacular way of presenting how the Continental Army was able to fortify the hills surrounding Boston and force the British Army to evacuate the city. And while there’s poetic license, almost all of this book is based on historical fact.  The characters include familiar names like George and Martha Washington, Colonel Henry Knox, Sir William Howe, and Abigail Adams, but also Washington’s aide-de-camp Joseph Reed, Washington’s enslaved manservant William Lee, and rank-and-file Continental Army privates Caleb Haskell and Samuel Haws.  Orgill also versifies Washington’s daily orders and the news from Boston.  This is a wonderful approach to presenting a moment in history and highly recommend it.

Favorite Passages:

“Funerals – three, four, five a day
General Gage has ceased
The pealing of church bells
They cast too melancholy a mood
They do not bring back the dead” – p. 31

“I believe it
from the jetsam
washed ashore
tables without legs
splintered drawers
carved backs of Chippendale chairs

they’re leaving the town intact
but nothing to sit upon.” – p. 171

Recommended books:

Bunker Hill: A City, a Siege, a Revolution by Nathaniel Philbrick, A Few Bloody Noses: The Realities and Mythologies of the American Revolution by Robert Harvey, and 1776 by David McCullough

Rating: ****1/2

Movie Review: Secrets of Underground London (2014)

TitleSecrets of Underground London
Release Date: 21 May 2014
Director: Vicky Matthews and Gareth Sacala
Production Company:

Not secrets of the London Underground (although there are some) but of 2000+ years of history hidden beneath the surface of England’s capital.  There’s a lot of nifty bits of subterranean trivia in this admittedly corny and sensationalist documentary, including:

  • ruins of the Roman amphitheater
  • Black Death plague pits
  • the labyrinthine Chislehurst Caves where miners extracted chalk for rebuilding London after the Great Fire
  • the innovative Victorian-era engineering of the Thames Tunnel
  • London Underground stations used both as air raid stations and to hide treasures from the British Museum during World War II
  • Churchill’s War Cabinet rooms
  • the lost Fleet River
  • the construction of an expansion of the British Museum into a new space four stories undergroun

Rating: **1/2

TV Review: American Experience: Into the Amazon (2018)

TitleInto the Amazon
Release Date: 9 January 2018
Director: John Maggio
Production Company: An ARK media and John Maggio Productions film for American Experience.

The American Experience documentary tells the story of the 1913-14 expedition to explore Brazil’s remote River of Doubt accompanied by former U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt and his son Kermit Roosevelt.  I’m familiar with the story from reading Candace Millard’s River of Doubt, so I was eager to see the documentary;s approach to the history.

It’s a well-produced but unimaginative take on the history documentary format with talking heads, archival photos shown with the “Ken Burns effect” (and curiously also making the figures in the photos appear 3-D against the background), and film of actors recreating the expedition in the Amazon.  Another curious decision is to have the recreations in black & white, matching them with the archival footage, but denying the audience a glimpse of the vibrant colors of the rainforest that the men on the this journey would’ve seen.

I was slightly disappointed, but I expect if you were completely unfamiliar with this historical event that this documentary would be a good introduction.

Rating: **1/2

Book Review: A Life in Leadership by John C. Whitehead

Author: John C. Whitehead
Title: A Life in Leadership: From D-Day to Ground Zero
Publication Info: Basic Books (2005)

I read this book for research at work.  Whitehead tells his life story which involves commanding landing vehicles on D-Day, rising to Co-Chair of Goldman Sachs, serving as Deputy Secretary of State to George Shultz, leading numerous nonprofit organizations, and guiding the redevelopment of Lower Manhattan after the September 11th attacks.  His style of writing has a bit of a humblebrag to it, but I suppose he’s earned it he spins the yarns of the many significant historical events and trends of the 20th and 21st century he was directly involved in.

Rating: ***

Podcasts of the Week Ending December 2

The Story Collider :: The Bats and the Bees

A reluctant field researcher finds purpose in showing drunk 17-year-olds how to tag bats with microchips, and a bee researcher who is allergic to bees.  Science!

Radiolab :: Stereothreat

Research into the effects of negative stereotypes and the difficulty of replicating that research.

Hit Parade :: The Queen of Disco Edition

Things I learned about Boston’s own Donna Summer: 1. she got her start in the Munich production of Hair where she became fluent in German, 2. she wrote or co-wrote most of her songs, 3. she and her producers basically invented electronic dance music, and 4. she continued to have club hits into the 2010s.

Afropop Worldwide :: A Brief History of Funk

A brief but beautiful story of funk with many funky classics and interviews with Bobby Byrd and George Clinton.

Slow Burn: A Podcast About Watergate

A new podcast that tells the story of the Watergate scandal with an as-it’s-happening approach focusing on long-forgotten key players in the scandal.

30 for 30 Podcasts :: The Lights of Wrigleyville

The story of the contentious battle between theChicago Cubs and their residential neighbors to install lights in Wrigley Field in the 1980s.

More Perfect :: Mr. Graham and the Reasonable Man

The story of a legal case that underlies our current crises in policing in America, and the legal fiction of the “Reasonable Man.”

Book Review: The Harlem Hellfighters by Max Brooks, Caanan White

Author: Max Brooks, Caanan White (Illustrator)
Title: The Harlem Hellfighters
Publication Info: Broadway Books, 2014

In graphic novel form, Max Brooks (curiously enough, the son of filmmaker Mel Brooks) tells the oft-overlooked story of 369th Infantry Regiment of the New York Army National Guard.  The largely African-American infantry regiment was among the first American troops to be sent to the front lines in France in 1919 during World War I, where they became known for their toughness and valor and earned their nickname “The Harlem Hellfighters” from their German opponents.  It’s an interesting story although Brooks relies on a familiar story of racial discrimination at home and the horrors of war abroad.  While the story is told from the point of view of a soldier named Mark, there isn’t much to distinguish the characters and personalize the story.  White’s illustrations seem to revel in depictions of gore that would fit in with The Walking Dead, but it’s actually difficult to distinguish the characters – black, white, French, and German – from one another.  One nice touch is that Brooks includes fragments of contemporary songs and poems to accompany scenes of the war.  It’s very cinematic, in fact, which is not surprising since Brooks originally intended to write a screenplay.  The graphic novel has it’s flaws but overall it’s a good introduction to the story of the Harlem Hellfighters.
Rating: ***

Book Review: Democracy in Chains by Nancy MacLean

AuthorNancy MacLean
TitleDemocracy in Chains
Narrator: Bernadette Dunne
Publication Info: Penguin Audio, 2017

This book documents the history of the political and economic ideology that has come to dominate the Republican party today. A lot of the familiar figures are here from Friedrich Hayek to Milton Friedman to Charles and David Koch.  But the central figure of this narrative is James Buchanan, founder of the “Virginia school” of political economy – teaching and training economists at University of Virginia, Virginia Tech, and George Mason University – and a major figure in the Mont Pelerin Society and Cato Institute.  Buchanan put forward the public choice theory which introduced many familiar ideas of limited government, anti-regulation, anti-taxation, and rewarding the “job creators” into the public debate. He also came up with long-term strategies of eroding the public’s trust in the government and using the proximity to Washington, DC to keep close ties with right wing leaders while economists trained in his methods went through a revolving door between academia, lobbying, and government positions. MacLean’s writing is obviously biased and I doubt that many of her most conspiratorial implications are 100% accurate.  Nevertheless it is clear that this particular form of right-wing/libertarian ideology has taken hold of at least one major party and the wealthy individuals and corporations who support it, and that it is due to a many decade effort to influence hearts and minds by Buchanan and his cohort.

Recommended booksFree Lunch by David Cay Johnston, The Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein, and The Price of Inequality by Joseph E. Stiglitz
Rating: ***

Book Review: Granite, fire, and fog : the natural and cultural history of Acadia by Tom Wessels

Author: Tom Wessels
TitleGranite, fire, and fog : the natural and cultural history of Acadia
Publication Info: Hanover : University Press of New England, 2017.

This book integrates the natural and cultural history of Acadia National Park in an intriguing way.  Wessels describes the geological processes that created Mount Desert Island’s unique formations and how the location of the island brings together fauna and flora not found together anywhere else.  For a short book, it can be quite detailed, as almost an entire chapter is dedicated to the different types of lichen that grow on the island’s rocks (don’t step on them!) and nearly as much as space to how fogs provide hydration and nutrients to the island’s plants.  The Fire of 1947 is also described as a cataclysmic event that unexpectedly shaped the national park that we know today.  This is a fascinating introduction to the wonders of Acadia, and a good field guide for visitors there.

Rating: ****

Book Review: River of Doubt by Candice Millard

AuthorCandice Millard
TitleRiver of Doubt
Narrator: Paul Michael
Publication Info: Books on Tape (2005)

The River of Doubt, or Rio da Dúvida, was the actual, dramatic name of a river in Brazil’s Amazon region that is now called the Roosevelt River.  Fresh off his failed attempt to return to the Presidency as the Progressive “Bull Moose” Party candidate, Theodore Roosevelt conducted a scientific expedition for the American Museum of Natural History to explore this remote river in 1913-14.   Brazil’s greatest explorer Cândido Rondon joined Roosevelt as  leader and were accompanied as Roosevelt’s son Kermit, a naturalist, and 15 porters.  This book describes the adventure along the river that was plagued by waterfalls and rapids that required frequent portages, disease, loss of food and supplies, and the threat of the indigenous peoples, the Cinta Larga, tracking the expedition.  One member of the party drowned, one was murdered, and the murderer was abandoned by the party in the jungle.  Roosevelt himself suffered injuries and illness that brought him close to death and expressed the wish to be left behind.  It’s a harrowing story that despite happening in modern times seems to be from a more distant era.

Rating: ***1/2

Podcasts of the Week: August 26-September 8

This (two) weeks in podcasts.

All Songs Considered: All Songs +1: The Weird World Of ‘Feature’ Credits

Ever wondered what has lead to the great increase in songs with a “feat.” artist in the title over the past couple of decades? Or why the featured artists appears in the song title rather than the performer? Or what the difference between “feat.” and “with” or even “x” and “vs” all means?  Apparently, it’s all about metadata.

HUB History: Perambulating the Bounds

Local law requires Boston City Councilors or their designees to walk the boundaries of the city every five years, a practice that was often a boozy ceremony in the past, but has been ignored since the 1980s.  If the city is looking for citizens to take up perambulating the bounds again, I put my foot forward.

99% Invisible: The Age of the Algorithm

How algorithms, purportedly designed to replace subjective judgments with objective measurements, have been used as a cover for discrimination and  marketed for purposes they’re not designed for.

Have You HeardEducation Can’t Fix Poverty. So Why Keep Insisting that It Can?

The history of the most misguided myth about education, that it will resolve poverty with no other interventions required, and how it has set up schools to fail.

Finally, there are two podcasts that actually replayed episodes made by another podcast this week:

Code Switch: An Advertising Revolution: “Black People Are Not Dark-Skinned White People”  originally from Planet Money

An interesting story of the first African-American advertisement executive who showed how supposed free market capitalists were losing out on money due to white supremacy.

99% Invisible: Notes on an Imagined Plaque originally from The Memory Place

Nate Dimeo’s thoughts on what should be placed on a plaque on a Memphis statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest to mark the reasons why the statue exists.

Book Review: Boston’s South End by Russ Lopez

AuthorRuss Lopez
TitleBoston’s South End, The Clash of Ideas in a Historic Neighborhood
Publication Info: Boston, MA : Shawmut Peninsula Press, [2015]

I read this book while researching for a walking tour of the SoWa District.  While only a portion of the book was relevant to my research, I found the entire book an engaging and comprehensive history of the Boston neighborhood.  It’s particularly revealing if you know today’s South End – a prosperous, upscale urban area – and compare it to the near past when it was a home to working class people of color and considered for complete demolition under urban renewal.  Lopez is good at telling a bottom-up story using quotes and stories to tell the life of ordinary South Enders.

Rating: ****

Podcasts of the Week (s) (August 12-25)

Once again, I’ve gone two weeks without posting the must-hear podcasts.  But lucky for you, podcasts are asynchronous so you can listen to them any time!

First, I want to promote a couple of podcasts I recently started listening to that I think are worth subscribing to:

  • Five Questions With Betsy Rosenblatt Rosso – This is the first podcast I’ve heard created by someone I know, an old friend from college.  As the title aptly applies, Betsy interviews everyday people, asking them not just five questions but also providing five facts and asking to list five items on topic.  The answers are always insightful and I seriously want to get to know and become friends with every single person interviewed in these podcasts.
  • Slate’s Hit Parade – This podcast is actually part of a larger anthology podcast called the Slate Culture Gabfest and appears once per month in that feed.  Host Chris Molanphy dedicates about an hour each episode to investigating where art and commerce intersect on the popular music charts by delving into the background of how certain songs become #1 hits.  So far the podcast has told the story of UB40’s “Red Red Wine,” the circumstances behind The Beatles occupying all of the top five spots in 1964, the Elton John & George Michael’s “imperial periods” when they ruled the charts, and how “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” and “We Are the World” made big hits out of charity megasingles.  Every episode is detailed and absolutely fascinating.

And some other podcast episodes you should listen too:

  • Politically Re-Active with W. Kamau Bell and Hari Kondabolu – this podcast remains a go to source for insights on our political climate, and the three most recent episodes deal with removing Confederate monuments, Charlottesville and the aftermath.
  • The GistThe Politics of Police Unions – I’m extremely supportive of labor organizations but equally troubled by how police unions have become vehicles for racism, right wing politics, and protecting the most violent and corrupt in their ranks.  The interview with former Boston cop Tom Nolan gives some background.
  • Hub History Canoes and Canoodling on the Charles – this Boston history podcast introduced to me the history of the late nineteenth century recreational canoe craze and how kids used it to perform scandalous behavior.


Podcasts of the Week (s) (July 22-August 11)

I’m way behind on posting anything to this blog.  Here are some podcasts from the past few weeks that are worth your while:

BackStory – Are We There Yet?: Americans On Vacation

An interesting history of how Americans made use of their leisure time in the past.  Oh and try not to get fumed about the idea that people who worked with their brains needed vacations while manual laborers did not, an idea still well ingrained in labor policy today.

Ben Franklin’s World – Rosemarie Zagarri, Mercy Otis Warren and the American Revolution

Mercy Otis Warren – writer and revolutionary activist – is a remarkable women of her time and someone you should know more about.

Decode DC – Should Historians Be Pundits?

Doing a better job of comparing our present political situation with the past, and finding what in the past brought about the political climate of the present.

LeVar Burton Reads“The Second Bakery Attack” by Haruki Murakami

I’m really enjoying this new podcast series, which is basically Reading Rainbow for grownups.  In addition to LeVar Burton’s great reading voice, the production values are really strong.  This was the story that introduced me to Murakami over 20 years ago, and coincidentally I first heard it read aloud on a radio program.

99% InvisibleWays of Hearing

This podcast introduces a new series exploring the changes in sound between analaog and digital audio.  As an added bonus, there’s an appearance by Red Sox announce Joe Castiglione.

Politically Re-Active – Is this what democracy looks like? Jake Tapper & Jessica Byrd give their take

I enjoyed learning about Jessica Byrd who helps underrepresented communities engage in the political process.

The Story Collider Epidemics: Stories of Medical Crises

The first story by Ken Haller is a particularly powerful reminiscence of his personal experience of the first signs of the AIDS epidemic.

Twenty Thousand Hertz – Sound Firsts

Some of the oldest surviving recordings provide a jaw-dropping window into the past.  Check out FirstSounds.Org for more.


Podcasts of the Week Ending July 7

Podcast of the Week returns!  Here are five podcasts from the past week that I think are worth listening to.

The Memory Palace :: The Taking of Tom Sawyer Island

That time when the counterculture Yippies attempted a hostile takeover of the land.  Disneyland to be specific.  Except only about 200 of them showed and half of them were there for a goof. What a long strange monorail trip it’s been.

Smithsonian Sidedoor :: red, white, and brew

Home brewing is a big thing these days, among a stereotypical group of white men, but has a long history in the United States among women, enslaved people, and immigrants.

WBUR The Artery :: Stacks Of Books, But Short On Cash: New England’s Public Libraries Face Funding Troubles

Libraries are used to tightening the belt financially, but in these days of Federal and state cuts they are facing unprecedented struggles.

DecodeDC :: DC History 101, Swamps and Scandals Then and Now

The history of Washington, DC, built on an actual swamp, and how the development of the city reflects the views of the ruling parties over time.

ESPN 30 for 30Yankees Suck

Here’s a new podcast based on ESPN’s successful television sports documentaries.  This episode covers the history of the notorious Red Sox fan chant and how a bunch of hardcore punks made a profitable business out of selling t-shirts emblazoned “Yankees Suck!”  Brings back good memories of late 90s Red Sox games.


Book Review: The Thinking Fan’s Guide to Walt Disney World: Magic Kingdom by Aaron Wallace

Author: Aaron Wallace
TitleThe Thinking Fan’s Guide to Walt Disney World: Magic Kingdom
Publication Info: Branford, CT : Intrepid Traveler, [2013]

This will be the last in the trio of books about Disney theme parks I’ve read recently, but it’s also the best of the bunch.  The author takes us on a tour of the Magic Kingdom and fills us in on the history, artistry, and hidden features of each attraction.  Wallace knows a lot about the thinking that went behind creating the attractions and offers insight into how people respond to them.  He also pairs each attraction with a movie to watch, and not always the most obvious one.  Some of the films aren’t even by Disney!  This is a great book on how Disney theme parks work as cultural artifacts.
Recommended books: The Disneyland Story: The Unofficial Guide to the Evolution of Walt Disney’s Dream by Sam Gennawey, The Hidden Magic of Walt Disney World by Susan Veness, Inside the Mouse: Work and Play at Disney World by The Project on Disney
Rating: ****

Book Review: I Survived the Shark Attacks of 1916 by Lauren Tarshis

Author:Lauren Tarshis
TitleI Survived the Shark Attacks of 1916 by
NarratorP. J. Ochlan
Publication Info: Scholastic on Brilliance Audio (2017)

I listened to this gripping audiobook with my son.  It’s based on the real events of a shark attacking and killing 4 people and injuring one on the Jersey Shore, including a more inland attack on the Matawan Creek.   The book though is a fictional novel about a 10-year-old boy Chet who is living with his uncle and trying to fit in with the kids in his new community.  The story a child just trying to make friends and not succeeding in a series of pranks leading up to the actual shark attacks is actually well-told and relatable.  The shark attacks are hard to believe, but as noted, they’re the actual true story!

Recommended books:
Rating: ***

Book Review: The Disneyland Story by Sam Gennawey

Author: Sam Gennawey
TitleThe Disneyland Story
Publication Info: Birmingham, AL : Keen Communications, LLC 2014.

This book caught my eye when I was looking for guide books for our Walt Disney World trip and since I’ve long had a fascination with amusement park history, I decided to read it.  The story documents the origins of Disneyland in California from Walt Disney’s fascination with model trains and miniature villages and the desire to give something for fans of Disney films to do when they requested to visit the studios in Burbank.  It eventually grew to be the theme park built in an orange grove near the then remote town of Anaheim.  Disney’s monomaniacal commitment to building and then tinkering with Disneyland over the last 15 years of his life makes one wonder how he found time to work on the studio’s film and television project. This is doubly true since he was bringing a lot of the talent from the studios to work on Disneyland, becoming the first imagineers.  For all the artifice of Disneyland it is fascinating how many real things – from train engines to architectural details – were salvaged to build the park.

The book is basically in two parts.  The 1950s and 1960s are more intricately covered with the focus on Disney’s dream and the projects completed and started in his lifetime.  From the 1970s to the present, the book is more of a listing of annual changes to the park, and the sense that Disneyland is getting neglected due to the company’s focus on new parks in Florida, Japan, France, and China.  The Michael Eisner era seems to be wrapped up in red tape and bad ideas as the company continually fails to expand Disneyland and the initial disappointment of the Disney California Adventure when it finally opens in 2001.  This period is also marked by the Disney company seemingly doing everything in their power to avoid ever paying any taxes to the city of Anaheim.   Nevertheless, while the book is rightly critical it also celebrates the imagination that went into creating and changing Disneyland and the joyous role it plays in American culture.
Favorite Passages:

Disney archivist Dave Smith said, “Disneyland’s true appeal, we admit now, is to adults. Children don’t need it. Their imaginations are enough. For them, Disneyland is only another kind of reality, somewhat less marvelous than their own fantasies.”

According to architect Robert A. M. Stern, “Ironically, Main Street and the very way the theme parks are designed would probably be, much to Walt Disney’s surprise, the actual genius of American Urbanism captured at a time when it had no value to most people, certainly in the architecture and planning profession.”

According to Crump, when he started working on the project, Ken Anderson took him aside and said, “Now you guys remember that when you’re designing anything for Disneyland, you’re the gods! You tell them what you want, and you make sure that they do it your way no matter what!” Then Crump met with Walt, who told him, “You gotta remember that there are electricians, there are plumbers, there’s air conditioning … you’ve got to work around that … they’re just as important as you are.”

At lunch with Walt one day, Ray Bradbury asked, “Walt, why don’t you hire me to come in and help you with ideas to rebuild Tomorrowland?” Walt replied, “Ray, it’s no use … you’re a genius and I’m a genius … after two weeks we’d kill each other!” Bradbury was flattered, “That’s the nicest turndown I’ve ever had, having Walt Disney call me a genius.”

Ray Bradbury recalled a time when Walt told him “Nothing has to die.” He wrote, “Walt was right. Nothing has to die. Just rebuild it. Steamboat America, lost? Carve a river bottom, flood it, and send your Mark Twain paddle wheel down the riverway. Victorian train travel, gone? Nail up a rococo scrimshaw station, steam in the 19th-century locomotive, carry passengers from Civil War territories through African jungles into AD 2000.” Disneyland was a way to live forever.

Recommended booksInside the Mouse by The Project on Disney, Mouse Tales by David Koenig, and Amusing the Million by John F. Kasson
Rating: ****