Showing posts with label actual history. Show all posts
Showing posts with label actual history. Show all posts

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Video for "Closer Than We Think" doc


Closer Than We Think from Clindar on Vimeo.

I was sent this video by pal-Andrew (Jamie's brother's wife's brother), and now I totally want to see this video. It's a documentary being made about Arthur Radebaugh and his sci-fi futurist strip, "Closer Than We Think". This hits so many positive buttons, I sincerely hope this film is made and gets a release.

For more on Radebaugh

The official website
Indiegogo site

a blogspot site
From the Ohio State Library
Paleofuture at Gizmodo




Saturday, July 9, 2016

This Week's Tragedy in Dallas and Beyond


As a record of what occurred this week -

Alton Sterling, an African American man, was killed in Baton Rouge, Louisiana by two police officers during an arrest.  Witnesses and video of the incident indicate that the police were unwarranted in the shooting, that Sterling was upset but not able to resist - and the video definitely shows an immobile Sterling shot at point blank range by the officers.

In Minnesota, Philandro Castile, another African American man, was shot and killed by a police officers while reaching for identification while seated in his car with his girlfriend and a 4 year old child.  Castile's girlfriend live-streamed the video of what occurred to Facebook.  The video is available on YouTube and other locations as of this writing.

Thursday, 7/7, peaceful protests were scheduled in most major population centers, part of what has become known as #blacklivesmatter, a movement intended to draw attention to the unjustly assumed guilt,lives lost to police bullets, and the situation of African Americans in the United States in regards to overly violent responses of police especially in cases involving Black men and women.  

On Thursday evening, as the protest march drew to a close in Dallas, Texas around 8:45 P.M., a sniper began firing from the rooftops, striking 11 officers and killing five.  In the chaos, no civilians were injured, one man was briefly mistaken as a suspect and then cleared, and three wound up in custody and the/ a gunman was killed by police in the early morning hours of 7/8.

The sniper was targeting white officers, and details are still coming out about his background (but less, so far, about the three others held in custody).

To add to the confusion, the police used a remote controlled robotic device mounted with a bomb to approach and kill the gunman and bring the threat to a definite conclusion.

In short, it's been an awful week.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Signal Watch Reads: "The Elephant to Hollywood" a bio of Michael Caine by Michael Caine as read by Michael Caine (audiobook)



Normally this sort of thing isn't my bag, but a while back my pal SimonUK gave me a print copy of this book, and I picked it up and started reading it only to hear Michael Caine's voice reading the book in my head.  "Well," I reasoned to myself, "why not see if he actually did an audio recording of the book."  And, indeed, he had.

I don't know much about Michael Caine and I'm not up on his filmography.  But, you know, who doesn't like Michael Caine?

This was actually his second memoir, and I suspect the first one probably played up a bit more of his exploits and wild, free-wheeling ways in the 60's and 70's.  But this one is more or less Caine's reflections on being a bit of a lad from an area of London called The Elephant and Castle, a down and out neighborhood both during his youth and at the time of the book's writing (circa 2010).  He grew up working class, a father serving the army in WWII, and Caine himself evacuated.  Post-war, he grows up a bit tough, decides on theater and acting as a career, and as a young man pursues the idea with dogged determination, even as misfortune and the challenges of life heap up.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Muhammad Ali Merges With The Infinite



Word has broken that heavy weight champion, social activist and all around personality Muhammad Ali has passed.

Like so many people who leave their mark, Ali was a deeply complicated individual, defiant in a time where he had an opportunity to speak his truth to power in ways that still bristle the sensibilities of the establishment.

Few athletes have come anywhere close to Ali's out-sized persona and had the skill to back it up.

His once unstoppable voice has been silenced for years by disease, but he managed to carry on in public, including lighting the torch at the 96' Olympics.

He'll be missed, but he'll be remembered, now merged with The Infinite at age 74.








Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Signal Watch Reads: Colonel Roosevelt (2010) - audiobook



In college I started reading up a bit on Theodore Roosevelt.  If you're reading American History of the 20th Century, he's a figure that looms incredibly large, and I wasn't the first History major to take an interest.  In fact, my instructor for my "Presidents and the Press" course was a bit of a Roosevelt scholar, and when it came time to write a paper and I was asking him for topics on TR, he told me to forget it - there was nothing new to research, and sent me down the path of researching a minor scandal during the Wilson administration (and that's when I turned on Wilson).  

To Dr. Gould's point, there's a lot of stuff out there both about and by Theodore Roosevelt.  And, no, an undergrad history major who wanted to write about the Panama Canal or Russian/ Japanese peace treaty wasn't going to produce any original scholarship on the matter.  You begin with reading about TR's great deeds and see him as a champion you can't believe has become something of an obscure lost-uncle figure to many Americans in comparison to FDR (or even his niece, Eleanor), but, much like Shaft, TR is a complicated man.

Colonel Roosevelt (2010) is the third in a triptych of biographies by Edmund Morris.  The first to arrive came out in 1979, The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt, but I wouldn't read it until about 2001 on a trip with Jamie's family.  On a personal note - reading that book on the porch of a cabin in Minnesota and taking long breaks to fish, cook fish and eat fish, was maybe some the most pleasant few days I can ever recall.  The second installment, Theodore Rex, arrived in 2002, and really covered the era of Roosevelt's presidency (and for anyone who thinks our current administration is acting with unprecedented imperial-like authority, my friends...  not even close).

The third installment, Colonel Roosevelt, covers the era between Roosevelt departing office until his death.  If you think a post-presidency career for Roosevelt was one of quiet solitude, well... (a) your understanding of 20th Century Presidential Politics needs a refresher, and (b) you are so, so wrong.

One day I will read a Roosevelt biography and reach the descriptions of his death and funeral and not get weepy, but, today is not this day.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

400 Years Since We Lost Billy Shakespeare

Purveyor of dirty jokes for more than 400 years

April 23rd (yesterday) marked the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare.

What an absolutely strange relationship we have with Shakespeare.  And by "we", I mean everyone dwelling the planet who has to wrangle with the English language, and, therefore felt the impact of the man that people in tweed jackets call "The Bard".

What other writer can you say "I got my Masters in X", and people simply nod in understanding?   Who else did every one of us start reading in middle school and carry on reading after college?  What other 17th Century playwrights have you seen lately?  Who else coined more phrases and uses of phrase than Billy Shakes?

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

It's all about The Harriets: Harriet Tubman replaces Andrew Jackson on the Twenty Dollar Bill


Late Edit:  A more full story in the NYT tells me some of what you see below isn't entirely correct.  Looks like MLK, Sojourner Truth, Susie B. and Eleanor Roosevelt all made the cut in their own way.

Though the changes seem to take place infrequently, the US Currency does, in fact, change over time.  Bills don't look the same way they did when I was in college, and I couldn't tell you what's on the back of a quarter, because I don't think they've printed two alike in 10 years as they've been featuring imagery connected with all 50 states.

A couple of years ago, someone noticed that US currency, when it carried a depiction of a human, was adorned almost entirely with the images of old, dead white men.  That's the way its been my whole life, and - as a white guy, I hadn't thought about it a tremendous amount, or any more than I think about why they use yellow in the middle of a road or why Wendy's Hamburgers are square.  That's just a thing that was that way when I showed up.  The only real challenge to this notion has been the Susan B. Anthony dollar coin and the not-much-used Sacagawea coin, which I only get as change from vending machines.  But on our paper currency?  White dudes.  Just like movies starred white dudes and looking at most of Congress?  White.  Dudes.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

This Moment in History: Astronaut Scott Kelly Returns to Earth! and the Impact of Social Media on Space



Here's one of the great things about social media:  Broadcast media and the press in general have done a ludicrously poor job of covering the work of NASA.  I don't know if Broadcast Journalism majors are too thick to get why this is important stuff, or space exploration and science is too unweildy for the public.  But, we no longer rely on that media to get the info our eyeballs and ears.  There are dozens of NASA twitter and facebook outlets.  Many of them twitter and fb accounts held personally by the astronauts themselves.  And its not just limited to NASA.  Want to know what Canadian Astro-hero Chris Hadfield is up to?  Check his twitter!

NASA - an organization that has felt the government squeeze more than any that I've seen in the past decade - has had to rethink and refocus their outreach approach.  Since the 1990's, the internet  has made the world more aware of the successes of both manned space flight and our rover missions to Mars.  Television can't seem to be bothered with much more than a 30 second puff-piece about landing a robot on Mars or the final flight of an American space shuttle, but there are lots of us huddled around laptops or abusing our office projectors and killing a few minutes to watch a rocket launch.  I don't know how SpaceX would have evolved without the internet (and it's a work stoppage at my office almost every time Musk's company has a launch or landing).

Through the various channels I follow, I became aware of the Scott Kelly story a while before the launch.  I was aware that Mark Kelly, husband to Congresswoman Gabby Giffords of Arizona, was an astronaut - and vaguely aware he had a twin brother.  But, yes, when I heard an American was going to follow in Russia's footsteps and place one of our own in space for a year, I got very excited.  Russia does an amazing job with its Cosmonaut program, and even in years of faultering economy has remembered the national pride they can have in engineering, science and rocketry if they keep their program going.

Former First Lady Nancy Reagan Merges With The Infinite


Former First Lady, 80's fixture, anti-drug advocate, Mr. T snuggler, astrology enthusiast and spouse to President Ronald Reagan - Nancy Reagan - has passed at the age of 94.

The kids will never understand what it was like having Nancy Reagan as First Lady in the White House.  We haven't since had a First Lady who demanded the same sort of attention and her piece of the spotlight as Nancy, in a sort of WASPy, 20th Century social-rules, imperious sort of way.  The Ronald and Nancy Reagan relationship was one of true mutual adoration, but you sort of got the feeling President Reagan was more than happy to let Nancy dress him and tell him how to cut his hair, and it worked out well for both of them.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Space Watch: Apollo 13 (1995)



Here's the thing.  I don't think Ron Howard is much of a director.

When I watch his movies, I can almost feel the focus groups and studio notes taken as wisdom.  I shouldn't be able to pause in your movie and say "this scene was written this way because they think I'm a moron".  But, in a Ron Howard movie, that's generally my take away.  He wants to make movies that will be both semi critic-pleasing and still sell a boat load of tickets, and that's a tough balancing act, but one he's made work for years.

Monday, February 15, 2016

President's Day: Warren Gamaliel Harding, America's 29th President

Ol' Number 29
I've been trying to use President's Day to spend some time at least Wikipedia-ing the non-All Star Presidents of the United States.  As in any period, the pool of folks in play trying to be President and who actually win out (and what they do when in office) can tell us a lot about the times in which they lived.  So, with the batch of cartoon characters we've currently got gunning for Leader of the Free World, I really look forward to books written about this era, which will be called America's "WTF? Era".

In the wake of World War I and the iffy conclusion of the Woodrow Wilson presidency,* an unlikely Republican took the nomination on the 10th ballot of the GOP convention in the summer of 1920.  back then, party folks showed up at a real convention and really placed ballots.  The convention was not a televised advertisement.  A lot of dirty laundry got aired and political fortunes were won and lost overnight, and if I could reduce the election cycle to four months, I would gladly opt for the old-style form of corrupt politics over today's corrupt politics.

Once selected, Warren G. stayed home and ran a "front porch campaign", something I think 99% of America would fully back if it would mean the news cycle would stop shouting at us.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Having a Rough Valentine's Day? You Got Nothing on Theodore Roosevelt

Just a few years out of Harvard, Theodore Roosevelt was living in New York City in the Roosevelt family home with his mother, his father having had passed just a few years before.  He was an incredibly young, brash and vocal member of the New York State Assembly and so was in Albany when he received word his wife had gone into labor with their first child.

He raced home, and en route received word his wife was gravely ill.  By the time he arrived home, the child was born and his wife was comatose.  She passed on the 14th.

At the same time in the same house, his mother also died of typhoid.

This is the entry from Roosevelt's diary on that terrible day.

goddamn, that's heartbreaking

Roosevelt responded to all this by quitting politics, buying a ranch in South Dakota and becoming a cowboy.  That is, until the call to New York politics became too much and he went on to become the TR we all know and love (and fear).

The baby survived, becoming the completely out-of-control Alice Roosevelt, about which TR, as President, once said "I can either run the country or I can control Alice, but I cannot possibly do both."

So, as you throw your pity party for yourself that you're not having a good Valentine's Day, remember - you could have gotten on Tinder today and resolved your issue.  And, you're certainly not responding to any of this in ways that are generally recognized as totally bad-ass, a la President Roosevelt and his cowboy-solution.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Doc Watch: The American Experience - Murder of a President (2016, PBS Doc)

James A. Garfield.  He wore his beard honestly.


I don't watch as much of American Experience as I once did.  I actually go to sleep from time to time these days, so that leaves less time watching TV, I guess.  But when I heard The American Experience, PBS's long running documentary series on key events in American history, was making a doc based on Candice Millard's book, Destiny of the Republic (I believe suggested to me by Picky Girl), I had to check it out.

This week's episode, Murder of a President, covers the assassination of President James Garfield.

Yes, it's a case of "the book was better than the movie", but there was never any way a 2 hour doc was going to convey all the story Millard was able to get on the page.  And, while the doc does try to capture the true tragedy of the murder, I didn't feel hollowed out in the same way that I did by the time I finished Millard's book.  In fact, I teared up a few times getting through the book. Pretty remarkable for a non-fiction accounting of a President nobody talks about anymore.

Nonetheless, the doc is terrific and does a good job of understanding and translating Millard's work, and that of other historians and archivists detailing the story.  You can watch it now on the PBS website.  

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Happy Birthday, Ida Lupino


Today is the birthday of Ida Lupino, born this day in 1918.

If you've never heard of Lupino, now is the time to look her up.  An actress from toddlerhood, Lupino appeared in dozens of movies and TV shows, alongside Bogart (High Sierra) and a host of other notables, and was wildly talented, but somehow never passed into modern ideas of classic-film royalty.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Today Marks the Passage of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and JP "The Big Bopper" Richardson into The Infinite

We've written before about our appreciation of Buddy Holly, Texas native and pioneer of Rock n' Roll.  I know far less of the work of Ritchie Valens and JP "The Big Bopper" Richardson, but they're still household names in 2016, which is remarkable.

Even if you don't know their names, if you grew up in the U.S. outside of Amish country, you should know their music.

Today marks the day when Holly, Valens and Richardson died in a plane crash in the snowy fields of the Midwest, way back in 1959.





Thursday, January 28, 2016

Challenger - 30 Years On

(Back, L-R) Mission Specialist Ellison S. Onizuka, Teacher-in-Space participant Sharon Christa McAuliffe, Payload Specialist Greg Jarvis and mission specialist Judy Resnick. (Front, L-R) Pilot Mike Smith, commander Dick Scobee and mission specialist Ron McNair. (Photo by NASA/Getty Images)

Today is the 30th anniversary of the Challenger Disaster.

You're going to see a lot of stories out there from those of us who were kids when the Challenger exploded.  As much as 9/11, the Challenger Disaster sticks out there for a lot of us privileged suburban kids, not just as our first exposure to real-life horror and an event that dominated the public consciousness for a week, but - I'd argue - possibly the turning point that ended an era of American Enterprise and Exploration that well preceded the space race, but had its roots in Lewis and Clark.

For Gen X'er's who saw space exploration as maybe the only thing the government did that we found of interest (aside from getting the mail), the next decade became a constant argument against accountants and weak-knee'd politicos that NASA was worth it, even as the military budget continued to balloon with stealth fighters, bunker busters and all sorts of innovative ways of killing people.

This mission was as important as any during the shuttle era, a practice that seemed so routine by the time I was 10 (having started just five years before) that, like the Apollo missions, eventually the public wasn't dropping everything to watch a launch.  The idea had become - it was too difficult to become an astronaut, and that meant folks were growing detached.  So, some superhumans got to go - what did that mean for us?

To get us paying attention, NASA recruited a public school teacher, Christa McAuliffe, a citizen with no flight experience, to give a window of the "everyman" into space travel.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Happy Birthday, Uncle Walt


Today marks the 114th Birthday of Walter Elias Disney.  Maybe you've heard of him?

Since the 90's it's been both fair game and fun for the internet to point out Disney's many flaws from a modern context.  Yup.  The man was a product of his times, both in the best and worst ways, and his influence on the world magnified those traits considerably.  Also, if you think Walt was somehow unique in those questionable opinions, it's both a testament to the progress of American culture that we've reached a point where the documentable sexism, classism and racism seems weird, and - if that surprises you - maybe a sign you're not much of a non-fiction reader.

I recently watched the American Experience doc on Walt Disney, so you can probably pick up my opinions from that.

In the meantime, as we consider the absolutely gigantic multimedia empire Disney has become (TV networks, cable carriers, movies, innumerable TV shows, print and web, Amusement parks, cruise ships, private islands, that Frozen Freefall game Jamie plays non-stop)...  it all started with a Mouse, and one I have a lot of affection for.





Thursday, November 19, 2015

On Current Political Situations




Ads like this used to run in Superman comics quite often in post-WWII America.

And, you know, lil' Kal-El was a refugee, too.

Thanks to SW for the image.

Update - I am told this is from World’s Finest #111, which would be about August 1960
Script: Jack Schiff
Pencils: Curt Swan

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Signal Watch Reads: Isaac's Storm by Erik Larson (audiobook)

I'd been intending to read Isaac's Storm for years, probably since its initial publication in 2000, 100 years after the actual storm in question.



If you've not heard of the 1900 Storm, it was the Katrina of its time.  In September of 1900, a hurricane passed through the Gulf of Mexico, gaining energy and striking the boomtown of Galveston, Texas, then considered to be a growing metropolis.  Estimates of casualties are always well into the thousands, from 6-8000.   When you consider that the census had just been taken, estimating the entire population of the island at 37,000 - it could have been even worse had Galveston continued to grow.

Isaac's Storm uses meteorologist Isaac Cline as a fulcrum to explore the state of the infant science of meteorology in 1900, the why's and wherefore's of the early national efforts on this front, the growth of Galveston in the late 19th Century and the culture of the town, and the hurricane and its aftermath.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Hanks Watch: Bridge of Spies (2015)


Normally when I want to get out to see a movie like this, work and life get in the way, and I never get around to making time to see them.  Ask me about any Oscar-nominated film of the past ten years and I'll give you a blank stare, because getting out to see a grown-up type movie during the months of November and December is usually not in the cards if I also want to catch superheroes and whatnot.

But, as we were leaving Bond the other night, SimonUK, Jamie and I decided to catch Bridge of Spies (2015) on Saturday morning.

Yes, it's Spielberg, and yes, I know you feel very clever pointing out that Spielberg is emotionally manipulative.  Well, kids, that's sort of the point of telling a story and making a movie, so, kudos to you for noticing that Spielberg is pretty effective at making you feel something other than generating a modest chuckle.

I am utterly unfamiliar with the real-life story upon which the movie is based.  Outside of hearing once that a U2 was shot down over Soviet airspace, I have no recollection of anything else which occurs in the movie, and - you know, one day I will, and I'm sure the movie will have gotten it wrong.  In the meantime, it's a pretty solid screenplay by Joel and Ethan Coen (yeah, who knew?), about an attorney who takes up the challenge of defending a Soviet spy at the height of the Cold War.