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Thomas Fleming

Thomas Fleming is president of the Fleming Foundation. He is the author of six books, including The Morality of Everyday Life and The Politics of Human Nature, as well as many articles and columns for newspapers, magazines,and learned journals. He holds a Ph.D. in Classics from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and a B.A. in Greek from the College of Charleston. He served as editor of Chronicles: a Magazine of American Culture from 1984 to 2015 and president of The Rockford Institute from 1997-2014. In a previous life he taught classics at several colleges and served as a school headmaster in South Carolina

22 Responses

  1. Patrick Kinnell says:

    I have never heard of Mr. Casadesus so I look forward to listening at the very least to the Mozart piano concertos. Thanks Dr. Fleming and Rex.
    Very entertaining.

  2. Harry Colin says:

    Do we now to need to switch from, “leave the gun, take the cannoli,” to “leave the gun, take the toilet paper?”

  3. Ken Rosenberger says:

    Dr Fleming, one of your Rockford neighbors (albeit, on the other side of the river) recently told me that Francis Coppola has lately been seen thereabouts. That he was in the process of constructing a boutique hotel in downtown Rockford, a hotel to match the one he built in Italy (Bari, I think). Can you confirm? Why Rockford? Why now? And is the town ready for a boutique hotel? Are the Cliffbreakers’ days numbered?

    Any day you can find the opportunity to quote the great WC Fields is not a complete disaster.

  4. Robert Reavis says:

    There was an article about this project in Travel Weekly :

    “Why Rockford? There’s a film connection. Rockford was home of the Rockford Peaches. [A founding team of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, the Peaches were the inspiration for the film “A League of Their Own.”] Rockford is a cradle of baseball.”
    And evidently from the same interview Ricky Nielson is considering building one in Rockford to store his guitar collection.

    Hopefully these two boutique additions if actually true would only supplement and not replace the Cliff Breakers that has such a rich history of its own.

  5. Allen Wilson says:

    Speaking of eastern religion, I have heard that Yoga is actually based on early 19th century British army calisthenics, not on any ancient Indian tradition. I have not been able to find out anything about it one way or the other. For that matter, it’s hard to discover the origin of calisthenics.

    Thank you for bringing up Casadesus. I had never heard of him that I can recall. Listening to him on You Tube right now, playing the Mozart piano concerto no. 21.

  6. Steven Lakoff says:

    Mr. Wilson, it has been known or at least discussed, that what passes for Yoga here is quite different than yoga in India, and that the physical aspect was probably influenced by other traditions, western and eastern. The British connection, the Swedish connection and others probably had some influence on physical yoga based on some history and looking at some texts on western gymnastics. On the other hand, I believe the Chinese influence may have been greater in intelligently organizing the physical aspect. On the other hand..that is, the third hand of Shiva..I don’t think India or any country would want to claim credit for the current yoga craze of the past 20 years, which has nothing to do with health and everything to do with narcissism. In the end, its all nearly impossible to know for sure and ruling out development from Indian sources wouldn’t be wise either.

    I do find it strange how in the US, the “western” Buddhist community–aka white Buddhist movement– seems so separate from the asian Buddhist community here. I’ve noticed the two don’t often seem to have much in common. No surprise really. The exceptions usually comes in the form of asian con men who are trying to separate some lost souls from their money. I knew a few of these when I lived in the white Buddha capital of the US: Boulder (25 square miles surrounded by reality).

  7. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    Mark B lives on the snob side of town–I’d call it Snob Hill, but it’s flat. Significantly, it used to be part or just adjacent to a Union Army post, Camp Grant. That pretty much says it all. Of course, that is where a guy who made two good movies and lots of stinkers almost as bad as the rotten wine he puts his name on would live. No one knows why he chose Rockford. Perhaps it is because this is strictly a mob town controlled by the sort of people Coppola made famous in movies, though not all of them are Sicilian. Lots of Micks have joined the clan, so to speak. As a lover of Sicily and Sicilians, I am speaking without disrespect or prejudice.

  8. Ken Rosenberger says:

    I assume you meant WITHOUT disrespect or prejudice?

    What?? Don’t tell me you didn’t like Tucker or the unforgettable Peggy Sue Got Married?

    Does this mean the Summer Symposium could be changing venues? Be alert for that offer you just can’t refuse.

  9. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    I liked Peggy Sue got married, but Coppola didn’t. He more or less got hired to save the picture. Nicholas Cage was actually bearable and Kathleen Turner was charming. Some reviewers complained that she looked 40–how could she be in high school? Can anyone be that dumb? I’ve had very similar dreams. I thoroughly enjoyed her unsuccessful visit to her grandfather’s obviously Masonic lodge, which had preserved a ritual for sending stranded time-travelers back to their own time. Iamblichus and Hermes Trismegistus would have been delighted, and Anterus Smith would have understood immediately.

  10. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    PS Of course I wrote “without.” You must be losing your eyesight.

  11. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    Power means never having to say “I goofed.” It even means I could rewrite your comment. Imagine, if we were Bill Gates, what we could do…

  12. Ken Rosenberger says:

    Mea culpa. When (I thought) I saw an error, I could only imagine the reaction of a particular Syracusan (NY). He reads these comments frequently, and his mercurial emotions, as you know, are on a hair trigger. Otherwise, a good fellow.

    PS: Your memory of the details in Peggy Sue are impressive. I recall that it came out at roughly the same time as another time travel movie, Back To The Future. I thought PSGM was at least superior to that mega-blockbuster.

  13. Raymond Olson says:

    Hey, I don’t like even Godfather 1 & 2. Some good acting, but otherwise, meh and also feh. Coppola spoiled Fred Astaire’s last musical by not hewing to Astaire’s insistence that dancers should be completely seen, head to toe, when they are dancing. Since the musical in question was Finian’s Rainbow, which has unusually strong music and lyrics, Coppola managed to show how hamhanded editing even more than clueless direction can ruin the best material.

  14. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    You are referring to the hereditary water-bottler? I only wish I knew the scion of the Ricasoli or Antinori clans–but, wait, they’re Tuscan and not Calabrian.

    Ray is one-upping everyone!

    I liked Back to the Future when it came out. Trying to watch it 20 years later, I found it tedious. On the other hand, Ghostbusters, as a piece of silliness, is still funny. After our conversation–note the complete transparency–I discovered that Ms Turner couldn’t stand Nicholas Cage and accused him of two drunk driving episodes and one stolen chihuahua dog. She later was forced to recant on the dog. She did concede that his performance made her desire to divorce him explicable. She wanted him to drop the nasal intonation, but naturally, uncle Frank backed up little Nick. It turns out that the original director was Jonathan Demme, who quarreled with the writers, who then got Penny Marshall who hired Debbie Winger, and, fortunately, when Marshall quarreled with the writers and left, Debbie went with her. I am guessing that the film worked out as coherently as it did, because FFC was not interested enough to screw it up.

    Coppola was apparently so bored that he complied with the stipulation that if he did not finish on time, he would lose the privilege of the final cut. I suppose everyone has seen the old SNL parody of the filming of Apocalypse Now, with Martin Sheen going into the jungle to find a mad film director who has gone wildly over budget?

  15. Ken Rosenberger says:

    Yes, SNL got it right in that parody. I recall a short film from around that time called Pork Lips Now, the premise of which was that the Meat Growers Association has sent the Willard-type on a mission up to Chinatown to find the renegade butcher Fred Mertz, who has drastically slashed prices (e.g.,Pork Lips Now 2 cents a pound) way below the acceptable retail level, “…and once you find Mertz, ah, get him (cough) under control, and then (throat-clearing), you know…” Not a great short film, but I liked the skateboarders led by a would-be Robert Duvall, with “Death from the Sides,” painted on one’s helmet.

    I thought Back to the Future was extremely tedious, mainly because, after Marty (?) discovers he’s gone back in time, most of the remaining plot gets taken up with the problem of how to return to the future. There follows too much movie science mumbo-jumbo and and special effects. Worse, there’s a time constraint on when things have to occur, so they can turn plot into a race-against-time cliffhanger. Whereas, Peggy Sue, as I recall, just accepts and enjoys the whole experience of getting to live the past over again. Just goes with it. I’d forgotten the Masonic bit, but that was a nice touch. I do hope you liked that other time-bending gem Groundhog Day.

    There goes Ray, out-elite-ing the elite again. I hope he will write at least one column on the beloved classics that do get his seal of approval. I should say that Ray has introduced me to more than a few hidden treasures that were all but buried for all time. Esoteric Pictures indeed!

  16. Vince Cornell says:

    I don’t know – I really enjoy Crispin Glover’s off-the-wall performance in Back to the Future. It’s so goofy it makes me laugh every time. I understand he is or was an interesting fellow in real life, so perhaps there’s not much acting going on. Still funny.

  17. Raymond Olson says:

    Hey, who you callin’ elitist? (Thanks.) So I don’t dig prep-school phonies like Brando and guys who’ve never made a movie that didn’t irk or bore me. OK, his Dracula had its moments (but also Keanu Reeves), and I’m committed to watching as much as I can tolerate of some of his movies I’ve missed since concluding he was never going to do much for me. Coppola’s just never rung my chimes.

  18. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    Well, Ray…. I mostly agree with you. Godfather I and II have great stuff in them, and even more, the so-called Saga they stitched together with some very interesting material cut out. But, I would argue, the best qualities were the product of Mario Puzo. Of the actors, Duval was the best and then the execrable De Niro. Still, it is one of those films, like them or not, which like Gone With the Wind shape imagination and conversation–they become reference points. The only moments I recall in Dracula made want to turn it off. The whole thing was an exercise in bad taste–to go from Tod Browning to Coppola is a good way of marking the decline of American film.

  19. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    I didn’t know who Crispin Glover was, so I looked him up. Yes, his performance as the young George McFly was entertaining. I have always remembered him rehearsing and finally delivering his line, “Take your damn hands off her” or something like that, and from time to time I wondered what happened to so obviously talented an actor. Thanks for reminding me. He certainly is a relief from Michael J. “I eat babies to extend my life” Fox. The big disappointment in the film is Christopher Lloyd, who can be very funny, but in these movies he delivers an over-the-top caricature he might have learned from the Jerry Lewis School of dramatic comedy.

  20. Vince Cornell says:

    I have to confess, I didn’t remember the actor’s name either and had to look him up. But that’s one of the primary reasons the internet was invented, I think. I remember hearing he was dropped from the sequel because he wanted more money and they replaced him with someone whose name I won’t look up, but the interesting part was he filed some sort of lawsuit against the studio for trying to make another actor look like him, claiming he held the rights to what his own face looked like. I don’t remember the outcome (I assume he lost big as I can’t imagine the studio not winning), but in the current day and age where studios are digitally recreating and even de-aging actors, even ones who have long been dead, it’s an interesting footnote in cinematic history. Probably about the only interesting thing about the sequel other than it predicting how horrendous fashions would be by the year 2015.

  21. Harry Colin says:

    I remember once reading that Coppola worked on the screenplay of “Is Paris Burning” together with Gore Vidal and a couple of French writers. That would have to be one of the most interesting rosters in cinema history.

  22. Raymond Olson says:

    Mr. Colin–The two French writers of the Is Paris Burning? screenplay were two of the biggest names in French studio filmmaking, Pierre Bost and Jean Aurench. The latter’s career stretched 56 years, 1933 to 1989, and Bost was a frequent collaborator in the latter part of it. The films he wrote that I best like of those I’ve seen are Douce (1942), a rather dour romance; Sylvie et le fantome (1946). a romantic ghost comedy; and Coup de torchon (1981), which moves Jim Thompson’s outrageous Pop. 1280 to French West Africa in the Thirties. Bost worked with Aurenche from 1942 to his (Bost’s) death in 1975. Either of them wrote more for the movies than Gore Vidal did by a large margin. But Vidal didn’t have to write for the movies, and he was a vastly superior raconteur, apparently, though given to self-aggrandizement and superciliousness.