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Archive for the ‘History’ Category

Me and Orson Welles

I managed to catch this film in Sacramento while I was visiting. It’s really fantastic. It walks a fine line between depicting Orson Welles as an asshole and a genius. That’s not easy. I also thought Zac Efron was adorable. I can see why all the tweens love him.

The best performance hands down is Christian McKay’s fantastic non-impression of Welles. It’s as accurate as an impression but it’s so full of life and sincerity. There’s no hint of caricature here. James Tupper’s Joseph Cotton wasn’t bad either.

Probably my only disappointment came during the closing credits when I found out it was based on a novel. It seemed so real, I was hoping it was an autobiographical piece.

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One of my favorite English classes at college was 18th-Century English literature. I found I really liked Jonathan Swift, Alexander Pope and other satirists. I guess I just really appreciated a time when people talked about serious things but in no way took themselves seriously. Jeni, if you’re reading this, what was the name of that class? It was something witty like “Sense and Sensuality.” Maybe that’s it.

Seattle has been unbearably rainy for the past 2 weeks. Here’s Jonathan Swift’s “A Description of  City Shower.”

Careful Observers may fortel the Hour
(By sure Prognosticks) when to dread a Show’r:
While Rain depends, the pensive Cat gives o’er
Her Frolicks, and pursues her Tail no more.
Returning Home at Night, you’ll find the Sink
Strike your offended Sense with double Stink.
If you be wise, then go not far to Dine,
You spend in Coach-hire more than save in Wine.
A coming Show’r your shooting Corns presage,
Old Aches throb, your hollow Tooth will rage.
Sauntring in Coffee-house is Dulman seen;
He damns the Climate, and complains of Spleen.

Mean while the South rising with dabbled Wings,
A Sable Cloud a-thwart the Welkin flings,
That swill’d more Liquor than it could contain,
And like a Drunkard gives it up again.
Brisk Susan whips her Linen from the Rope,
While the first drizzling Show’r is born aslope,
Such is that Sprinkling which some careless Quean
Flirts on you from her Mop, but not so clean.
You fly, invoke the Gods; then turning, stop
To rail; she singing, still whirls on her Mop.
Not yet, the Dust had shun’d th’unequal Strife,
But aided by the Wind, fought still for Life;
And wafted with its Foe by violent Gust,
‘Twas doubtful which was Rain, and which was Dust.
Ah! where must needy Poet seek for Aid,
When Dust and Rain at once his Coat invade;
Sole Coat, where Dust cemented by the Rain,
Erects the Nap, and leaves a cloudy Stain.

Now in contiguous Drops the Flood comes down,
Threat’ning with Deloge this Devoted Town.
To Shops in Crouds the dagled Females fly,
Pretend to cheapen Goods, but nothing buy.
The Templer spruce, while ev’ry Spout’s a-broach,
Stays till ’tis fair, yet seems to call a Coach.
The tuck’d-up Sempstress walks with hasty Strides,
While Streams run down her oil’d Umbrella’s Sides.
Here various Kinds by various Fortunes led,
Commence Acquaintance underneath a Shed.
Triumphant Tories, and desponding Whigs,
Forget their Fewds, and join to save their Wigs.
Box’d in a Chair the Beau impatient sits,
While Spouts run clatt’ring o’er the Roof by Fits;
And ever and anon with frightful Din
The Leather sounds, he trembles from within.
So when Troy Chair-men bore the Wooden Steed,
Pregnant with Greeks, impatient to be freed,
(Those Bully Greeks, who, as the Moderns do,
Instead of paying Chair-men, run them thro’.)
Laoco’n struck the Outside with his Spear,
And each imprison’d Hero quak’d for Fear.

Now from all Parts the swelling Kennels flow,
And bear their Trophies with them as they go:
Filth of all Hues and Odours seem to tell
What Streets they sail’d from, by the Sight and Smell.
They, as each Torrent drives, with rapid Force
From Smithfield, or St.Pulchre’s shape their Course,
And in huge Confluent join at Snow-Hill Ridge,
Fall from the Conduit prone to Holborn-Bridge.
Sweepings from Butchers Stalls, Dung, Guts, and Blood,
Drown’d Puppies, stinking Sprats, all drench’d in Mud,
Dead Cats and Turnips-Tops come tumbling down the Flood.

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The Great Wall

With Obama’s trip to the Great Wall of China, I thought this would be an appropriate time to recycle and old post about Nixon’s visit to the wall.


From my sister:

I had to send you this quotation, which I got from the book I am teaching tomorrow, a book of poems by Yunte Huang called _Cribs_. It appears in a footnote to the poem. “Note–When Richard Nixon went to China in 1972, his Chinese hosts took him to see the Great Wall. The first thing Nixon said upon arrival was: ‘What a great wall.”

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Remember the Maine

Remember how two newspapers spurred the country to war by reporting wild speculation just so they could sell some papers. I wish I could say we have progressed as a nation since then.

The explosion of the American battleship Maine in Havana harbor on February 15, 1898, ensured that the U.S. would not be content to watch the Cuban spectacle from the bleacher seats any more. Two hundred and sixty crew members died in the blast, and a Navy board of inquiry examined the cause of the explosion. Many New York newspapers, including the Times, Tribune, Herald and Evening Post, counseled patience and peace for the time being. However, both the World and the Journal jumped on the jingo bandwagon, concurrently publishing a “suppressed cable” that said the explosion was not an accident. 26 The cable was later discovered to have been manufactured. 27

The effect of the rabble rousing by the two largest newspapers in New York cannot be underestimated. The World claimed to have sold five million copies the week after the Maine disaster. 28 The public clamor for President McKinley to declare war was enormous as a result of the tainted reports in the papers. And though the Spanish-American War proved “splendid” from a military standpoint, it did not hold up to contemporary moral scrutiny.

Unfortunately, the World would be linked forever in history with Hearst’s Journal under the banner of “yellow journalism” for the role it played in exacerbating the conflict. However, the conscious disregard for the facts was an aberration for Pulitzer, and his later correspondence revealed that the episode haunted him for the rest of his life. (See appendix for Hearst photo and example of sensational World front page.)

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There’s the popular adage that those who never learn from history are destined to repeat it. But that’s really all it is. An adage. Something to put on a t-shirt, but certainly not something to practice apparantly.

I was listening to NPR yesterday and I heard Bob Edwards Robert Siegel interview Errol Morris the filmmaker of The Fog of War featuring Robert McNamara. As you may know McNamara, considered the architect of the Vietnam War, died yesterday. At two points in this interview Morris brings up what an interesting time it was making a film about learning lessons from war with Robert McNamara and have the Iraq War happen simultaneously. Twice, Bob Edwards Robert Siegel ignored Morris’ comments and moved on to perhaps more comfortable topics safely residing in far away history. Like the Cuban Missile Crisis. God forbid we compare what happened in Vietnam to a current event. Here’s the transcript:

Morris: To him it was an ongoing investigation trying to figure out what had gone wrong, what he had been thinking and moreover how we could learn lessons from history and perhaps prevent the same things from happening all over again. Very very sad because the same things were happening all over again.

Siegel: In Iraq, your saying?

Errol Morris: Yes.

Siegel: I want to play something that McNamara told you in the documentary about working in World War II…

Opportunity lost. Then at the end of the interview, this bombshell happens.

Morris: Another fantastically interesting story that I heard from this man. Why didn’t he speak out? Here’s another question for you, why didn’t he speak out against the Iraq war when he expressed to me on so many occasions his opposition to what was happening.

Siegel: Errol Morris, filmmaker. Thank you very much for talking to us.

I don’t know about you, but I too find that extremely fascinating. What, you say? Robert McNamara was making a film about learning lessons from his experience in the Vietnam War, found correlation with the Iraq war and never said anything either while making the film or elsewhere on record about his opinion. What, you say Errol? Tell me more about that! I want to hear more about his opinion on that.

Sadly we get nothing from Siegel. Like I said, learning from history is something you put on a t-shirt. Something you tell a classroom full of children. Just like those signs outside the holocaust museum: “Never again.” But genocide does happen again and again and again and we do nothing. And we willfully ignore history. I swear I heard a chuckle from Morris at the end of the interview at the ridiculousness of it all.

Update: I may have confused Bob Edwards with Robert Siegel. While I listened to the interview last night on the radio, the segment posted online did not have an introduction of the interviewer. After looking at the hosts for All Things Considered, I’m willing to make the change to my post without confirmation of the speaker to Robert Siegel because I’m thinking that the interviewer is most likely Robert Siegel.

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Today we hear another case of random yet targeted violence in the shooting at the Holocaust Museum in D.C. Random, because the perpetrator didn’t know the museum security guard who he killed. But targeted, because the perpetrator, a white supremacist, chose to kill someone at a museum which documents the genocide of millions of Jews during World War II.

And once again I am reminded of the poem “The Hangman” by Maurice Ogden. In the poem the hangman comes to town and at first he hangs a man from outside the town. The town breathes a sigh of relief. But the next day the hangman hangs someone from the town. Then another and another. Sometimes the hangman comes up with justifications like calling one of his victims an infidel. At the end there is no one left to save the narrator of the poem when he too is chosen by the hangman for death.

Should you worry about these crazy right-wing radicals who if not directly responsible for the violence are at least lending moral and financial support to the ones who are. If Operation Rescue were a Muslim charity, their accounts would have been seized a while ago.

Should you worry?

I’m not an abortion provider you might say. I’m not a Jew. I’m not gay. I’m not a black man running for president of the United States. I’m not a Latina woman nominated for the Supreme Court. I don’t need to worry.

Well you should.

Who was killed? A security guard who was just doing his job. Think of Naveed Haq who permanently wounded a 23-year old receptionist at the Jewish Federation in Seattle. Layla Bush was not Jewish. She too just needed a job. John Lotter and Marvin Thomas Nissen, in order to enact revenge on transsexual Brandon Teena, also killed 24-year-old Lisa Lambert and 19-year-old Phillip DeVine. Gay city supervisor Harvey Milk was shot along with mayor George Moscone.

You should care. You should really care.

THE HANGMAN

By Maurice Ogden

Into our town the hangman came,
smelling of gold and blood and flame.
He paced our bricks with a different air,
and built his frame on the courthouse square.

(more…)

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Although historical reenactments are by no means exclusive to the United States (for example, the Earl of Eglinton in Scotland sponsored a large tournament as early as 1839)[4], the Renaissance Fair is, arguably, a uniquely American variation on the theme, having as much the flavor of an amusement park combined with a shopping mall as of a historical reenactment. European historical fairs, on the other hand, seem more on the living history museum model, where an actual historic site is peopled by re-enactors whose job it is to explain historical life to modern visitors.[5] American Renaissance fair patrons may be as interested in drinking, eating, shopping, and watching farce as they are in an educational experience. Since the mid-1990s, American-style Renaissance fairs have been spreading into Canada.

The first American fair, The Renaissance Pleasure Faire (Agoura, CA) was originally designed by the Living History Center to resemble an actual spring market fair of the period.[6] Many of the original booths were no-charge reenactments of historical activities such as printing presses, and blacksmiths. The first commercial vendors were mostly artisans and food merchants and were required to demonstrate historical accuracy or plausibility for their wares. Whole groups of volunteers were organized into “guilds” to focus on specific reenactment duties (musicians, military, celtic clans, peasants, etc). Both actors and vendors were required to successfully complete workshops in period language/accents, costuming and culture and to stay “in character” while working. Fairs that copied the original frequently did not attempt such historical accuracy and in 1995 new management and economic pressures negatively altered the original fair’s historical quality as well.

More at Wikipedia.

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