Archive for the ‘History’ Category

Four Powerful Documentary Recommendations

January 18, 2009

Dark Days: “Near Penn Station, next to the Amtrak tracks, squatters have been living for years. Marc Singer goes underground to live with them, and films this “family.” A dozen or so men and one woman talk about their lives: horrors of childhood, jail time, losing children, being coke-heads. They scavenge, they’ve built themselves sturdy one-room shacks; they have pets, cook, chat, argue, give each other haircuts. A bucket is their toilet. Leaky overhead pipes are a source of water for showers. They live in virtual darkness. During the filming, Amtrak gives a 30-day eviction notice. I caught Dark Days in a documentary film class as the last example of the semester, and it’s by far one of the best I’ve ever seen. The first-time filmmaker shot in black & white due to his inexperience, but I can’t imagine this as strong if it were in color.

Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room: “Enron dives from the seventh largest US company to bankruptcy in less than a year in this tale told chronologically. The emphasis is on human drama, from suicide to 20,000 people sacked: the personalities of Ken Lay (with Falwellesque rectitude), Jeff Skilling (he of big ideas), Lou Pai (gone with $250 M), and Andy Fastow (the dark prince) dominate. Along the way, we watch Enron game California’s deregulated electricity market, get a free pass from Arthur Andersen (which okays the dubious mark-to-market accounting), use greed to manipulate banks and brokerages (Merrill Lynch fires the analyst who questions Enron’s rise), and hear from both Presidents Bush what great guys these are.” To say I was shocked by this film would probably be a slight understatement, moreso by my own naivity about the far reaches of Coporate America. An especially enlightening moment comes when you see a few market analysis controlling the rolling blackouts in California. Unbelievable.

Why We Fight (2005): “He may have been the ultimate icon of 1950s conformity and postwar complacency, but Dwight D. Eisenhower was an iconoclast, visionary, and the Cassandra of the New World Order. Upon departing his presidency, Eisenhower issued a stern, cogent warning about the burgeoning ‘military industrial complex,’ foretelling with ominous clarity the state of the world in 2004 with its incestuous entanglement of political, corporate, and Defense Department interests.” Having studied war as a focus in my history education, it’s no question why I was drawn to this film. The subject matter struck me early on, and by the end, I was a bit upset – mostly due to how much the American people were taken for fools.

Harlan County, USA: “This film documents the coal miners’ strike against the Brookside Mine of the Eastover Mining Company in Harlan County, Kentucky in June, 1973. Eastover’s refusal to sign a contract (when the miners joined with the United Mine Workers of America) led to the strike, which lasted more than a year and included violent battles between gun-toting company thugs/scabs and the picketing miners and their supportive women-folk. Director Barbara Kopple puts the strike into perspective by giving us some background on the historical plight of the miners and some history of the UMWA.” This is gritty and raw, looking into a world of blue collar America I really didn’t know to much about. I personally was left still conflicted.

[all summaries via the users of IMDb]

The Christmas Truce

December 5, 2008

I would normally not repost, but I was reminded the other day of this story (possibly the only I enjoyed from my class on the Great War/WWI) I originally posted back in Sept 2004. It’s pretty interesting.


In 1914, World War I, the “Great War”, was originally thought to be a quickie conflict that would be over in a few weeks. Then, over by Christmas. However, as the Christmas of 1914 approached, the two sides (Germany on one, Britain/France/Russia/Belgium on the other) began to realize this was going to last much longer than they thought. They had reached a stalmate. Both sides were entrenched into the ground, waiting for something to happen.

On Christmas Eve, temperatures dropped below freezing, and in some places, it even snowed. Lights started to fill the German side (which were candles erected into Christmas trees, a German custom), which the British thought was the Germans planning to attack. Instead of preparing for battle, the British soldiers began singing “Silent Night”, in German. The Germans heard this and returned with British holiday carols. Come Christmas Day, a British officer shouts out that they “don’t want to fight today” and that they will bring over some beer. The officer gets up and heads into No Man’s Land (central field they were fighting between.. no one survived on this field during fighting) towards the German side. A German officer does the same, and they meet in the middle for the first time. They shook hands, a few photographs were taken, and they make a truce. During this day, they will no fire upon each other, but instead bury their dead, have funerals (many which were mixed of both sides), and celebrate the holiday.

the two officers

Late Christmas night, early the next morning, the British fired 3 shots and held up a flag that said, “Merry Christmas”. The Germans fired 2 shots and held up a sheet with the words, “Thank You”. And with that, the truce was over and the war began again.

As political & military authorities on both sides were upset by this “truce”, it has never happened again during a time of war. But I think it’s interesting to see that war itself is hard on both sides of the line. Both sides are (hopefully) fighting for what they believe is right, and in this way are very much the same. They have families back home, jobs, possessions, favorite tv/radio programs. It’s nice to know that for at least one day in the history of war that two sides could celebrate the holidays together without thinking about killing. It’s nice to know that, though I may lose more faith in humanity as time goes on, there is a shread still left somewhere.

Read more about The Christmas Truce..

Tell us who killed JFK

February 12, 2007

This is rather old, but just in case you hadn’t read it, check out the Notice of Revocation of Independence (15-point version, for extra fun). Contrary to popular belief, it wasn’t written by one of the Pythons, however it makes a pretty good case. I wonder, if actually put forth, if Britain would succeed in revoking our independence…

News Wrap

November 22, 2006

More than 140 bodies turn up in Baghdad streets on Wednesday.
-In October, more than 3700 Iraqi lost their lives due to the war.
-UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said Wednesday the US is trapped in Iraq.
-And finally, on Sunday, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger (of the latter Vietnam years) says that victory is no longer possible in Iraq.

And in the Washington Post’s report on Religion and Thanksgiving, one writer believes it’s the ultimate Equal Opportunity holiday. “A no-brainer: Thanksgiving is for all Americans, of all races, ethnic backgrounds, religious beliefs, or nonreligious beliefs.” Unless you’re Native American. And this whole “On Faith” segment is complemented by the forum thread, “Should Non-Believers Celebrate Thanksgiving?”

That’s a lot to be thankful for right there, folks.

March 24, 2006

I’m sitting outside a Starbucks on the north side of Scottsdale. Foolishly, I made the wrong navigational decision on the way to the Phoenix Film Festival and missed my first movie. Killing time, I just finished reading an article in Rolling Stone on Heath Ledger, and though I want to continue on to the piece on Bush’s (lack of) promised international aid, I feel compelled to write myself. Since I haven’t in awhile, I better take advantage of the opportunity. I’m back to drinking iced americanos – no fat, no sugar, no fluff. Just espresso, ice, and water. Alissa’s wedding is only 7 weeks away and I better fit into that bridesmaid’s dress. Ideally, it would need to be taken in a bit, but that’s neither here nor there.

Actually, what makes me want (& not want) to update is a discussion we were having in my history class this week. Memoirs – why do people write them? One girl fiercely argues it’s because of self-interest. Others provide a variety of plausible answers: attention, duty, money. I think some people publish their memoirs for just that – memory. When the world keeps telling you to be somebody, it’s probably one of the easiest ways, aside from reality tv. But then there’s “these blogs,” my professor says. She’s never read one and doesn’t know much about them. (Honestly, I’ve found that this is typical to the history field – wonderful with print, not knowledgable with technology.) As much as I hate the word, I guess this is one. Or a journal. Or a website with a bunch of words. Of course, this gets me thinking.. why do I write & publish this stuff on the internet? In Vancouver, I wanted to keep a record of my trip and keep friends back home updated. Now, well.. I guess now I simply have something to say. I’ve learned to care less if anyone’s reading; it’s no longer the point. I’d rather people look at my photos, anyway (despite the fact that I’m hardly shooting right now). Still, I’m feeling less comfortable with the diary aspect. Why put my life out there when I’m becoming more private?

I guess I’m changing this up a bit, or not. But I will say this: last night at work, I made it “Jackie Wilson Night”. Every thing a different playlist would come on, I ran to the back and put on one of the few Jackie Wilson Opus playlists. Randy, Fred, & I had quite a lot of fun with that. Jackie Wilson is dancing music, my friends!