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

Saturday, September 11, 2021

9-11 Twenty Years On




It's been a while since I posted even an image to mention 9/11 on this blog.  

I was 26 when the planes flew into the World Trade Center and Pentagon and a plane fell in Pennsylvania, headed for somewhere else.  I saw online today that they now believe that plane was supposed to target the US Capitol.  As devastating as it was to see the towers fall and the footage of a plane slamming into the Pentagon, I can't imagine where we'd be had that plane headed into DC airspace, let alone reached its target.

At the exact time of the crash, Jamie and I were in a hotel room in Las Vegas.  She'd been laid-off, and I was still just figuring out a new job, and we were married for a year and a half. 

You can't really explain to young people, without sounding naive, that in the years before 9/11, the people on the news weren't always insane, and that they used to do actual, fact-based reporting.  Or that we knew our political systems was divided and a little broken, but we could agree on some list of fundamentals someone had to carry with them when they went to Washington on our behalf.  

It's hard to say that didn't fall with the towers.  

A lot of other things happened, then, too.  It wasn't just the endless cycling of footage of burning buildings and plumes of debris and ash filling New York's avenues.  

Sunday, July 4, 2021

Fourth of July


July 4, 1776 is the date that the Second Continental Congress voted to adopt the Declaration of Independence.  A vote had been held on July 2, 1776 to agree to seek independence from Britain in the form of the Lee Resolution.  However, a formal Declaration of Independence did not appear until July 4th.

Perhaps the date we observe has as much to do with the stirring text of the Declaration as anything - and it is the formal document eventually signed by most of the delegates to the Congress. 

While not a document which laid down the manner in which the government would be run, which would not arrive for over a decade in the form of the Constitution of the United States, the Declaration of Independence does lay down the moral reasoning for our separation from England.  The Preamble, often memorized by school children over the years, and familiar to most Americans, formed the ethos of America as a state which required the consent of the governed, and that the government would serve the needs of the people.  But also that government not be changed on a whim - but when the government no longer responded to the needs of the governed.  

Saturday, March 13, 2021

Goin' Home - 1 Year Later


A year ago today marks the day the pandemic toppled our lives.  In the morning, I saw a message that my employing institution was closed and we were to not come to campus.  We spent the day scrambling, setting up impromptu work stations with our laptops we'd been instructed to take home nightly for weeks at that point.  

By late in the evening, Jamie had gone to bed and I was left with myself, sorting through the erupting confusion and fear, and then I saw the video of  famed cellist Yo-Yo Ma playing the familiar tune by Dvořák.  I won't lie - I sat here in this same spot on my sofa watching the recording on this same laptop and I sobbed.

Exhaustion, crippling uncertainty...   After a day of scrolling endlessly through stories of what was coming, what we didn't know, and the posts and communications between friends and family offering what we could in support and all feeling the same darkness closing in, Ma reached for kindness - a prescient kindness - with his simple recording. 

In a year that has seen horror and cruelty, that seemed to set the world ablaze over again each morning, I'm still stunned by how he seemed to know and know what to do.

"Goin' Home" is a sentimental song even without lyrics - it had some retroactively applied years after the song was originally penned.  And even with all of us stuck in our houses, "Goin' Home" - returning to a place of comfort, to a time when we can see our parents without masks, share a meal with friends - is something that made sense then as we peered into the unknown, and all the more a year later.   

Today Ma received his vaccine injection, and in the fifteen minute wait/ observation window, he brought out the cello and played some favorites.  

At the outset of the pandemic, celebrities tried to read stories or write poems and stay in touch with their audience.  Patrick Stewart gamely read Sonnets.  Ma partnered with painist Kathryn Stott and put out an album - the proceeds of which will support musicians struggling to make ends meet during the pandemic.


Friday, March 12, 2021

In a Time of Virus: One Year Later


29.3 million cases of COVID.   Now over 530,000 dead as of 11:37 PM on 03/11/2021.

Since I quit writing posts we had an election, and Trump was shown the door.  But then we had an attempt at a violent overthrow of the US Congress as they moved to certify the electoral college on January 6th of this year.  You can look it up - it was very bad.  In the wake of the election loss, the GOP has more or less dropped the final bits of illusion suggesting they give a shit about democracy or decency.  Meanwhile, the Democrats remain the same spineless twits they've always been.  

Vaccines started appearing at the beginning of the year, and as of this writing, Jamie has her first shot, my parents and my brother have both of theirs, as well as my father-in-law and cousin.  The way they've rolled it out is intended to first serve the most vulnerable as the disease tends to hit, so first take care of older people and people with medical conditions.  But even as I write this, the picture is changing on a daily basis.  The White House is working on its plan to get vaccines available, and it seems to be actually working.  Meanwhile, the governor of Texas decided he's done with COVID and we're opening everything back up.  So, look for our numbers to spike uncontrollably for a while.  

Sunday, February 28, 2021

Noir Watch: Native Son (1951)




Watched:  02/28/2021
Format:  Noir Alley on TCM
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1950's
Director:  Pierre Chenal

Look, there's easily a book to be written about this movie, not a blog post.  It's a remarkable bit of cinema for a multitude of reasons.  

Based on a novel by celebrated author Richard Wright, and *starring* Richard Wright(!), the movie is maybe the most surprisingly frank depiction of the world a Black American lived within in mid-20th Century America captured on film at the time that I've seen.  Now - let me also say: it is very true I watch studio movies of the era, and have not had access to, and am not aware of, much of the independent Black cinema of the the 1940's and 50's, which I am sure had plenty to say and show.

But, look, this movie was never, ever going to get made in America at a studio - at least until the 1960's.  And so it wasn't.  Shot in Argentina to get around the Hayes Code, the movie does feature a good number of American actors, but not all of them are... the best.  And there's some serious ADR work happening over some of the rest of the talent that must have been local.  But - just imagine in 2021 hearing "we had to leave the country because telling this story was so controversial, the US just couldn't handle it".  I mean - that is not a great thing to have to say in a supposedly free society.

Sunday, January 3, 2021

Inspirational Watch: Eddie the Eagle (2015)


Watched:  01/02/2021
Viewing: First
Decade:  2010's
Format:  Disney+
Director:   Dexter Fletcher

"Based on a true story" is more or less Hollywood speak for "we got the three things you remember about this event right, and everything else doesn't bear up to a quick Wikipedia check".  It doesn't mean this or others movies aren't worth watching, but always always always Google the subjects of "true story" movies after finishing a film.  It's inevitably more interesting than what's in the movie.

I do not remember the 1988 Calgary Olympics at all.  I was 13 and lived in Texas where none of the sports existed, and didn't watch much TV at that time in my life.  Jamie was actually at those Olympics, so she remembers the actual events and guy.   I think I vaguely remember watching hockey.  

Eddie the Eagle (2015) is a fine movie - a decent one for kids and adults.  Unlikely guy goes to the Olympics to compete - and the glory is in trying.  I've spoiled nothing - you can still watch.  Everything is very color-by-numbers and has the edges removed.  I mean, it's fine - I enjoyed it for what it was.  





Monday, December 7, 2020

Chuck Yeager has merged with The Infinite



When I was eight years old, my dad took the family to see The Right Stuff.  I was a spacey little kid interested in Star Wars and fantasy, but we also were read stories of real-life heroes, from Jackie Robinson to Benjamin Franklin to Louis Pasteur.  I couldn't remember a time when I hadn't known about my father's interest in aviation and NASA.  We lived less than 90 minutes from the Johnson Space Center, and visited frequently.  

But by 1983, the names of the Mercury mission crew were no longer household names.  Let alone Chuck Yeager.  But as much as I admired those Mercury astronauts, and somehow got my head around what the movie was doing at age 8 - I think the person my brother and I asked about the most afterward was Chuck Yeager.  

My idea of who Yeager is will forever be enmeshed with the portrayal of Yeager by Sam Shepard on the big screen (oddly and sadly, Shepard died before Yeager, passing a few years back).  When I think of the heroes of post-WWII America, it's hard for me to not to put the idea of Chuck Yeager strapping himself into jet after jet and surviving, including that day when he got in the Bell X1.  Ignoring the very real possibility of death, he pushed boundaries willingly - gladly, in fact.  In a small, strange rocket with his wife's name painted on the nose.

 I've read articles about him, seen him interviewed, and followed him on social media when he participated for a while.  The first thing I look for at the Smithsonian is always the X1.  The carefully crafted myth-making of cinema is just that  - it's not who the man was, even when it is very much what he was and what he did.  

I'm glad he lived long enough to see himself become a legend, and a hallmark of American grit and courage.  I'm fine with Yeager being more myth than real in my mind. 



Sunday, August 23, 2020

PODCAST: "The Straight Story" (1999) - featuring an interview with screenwriter John Roach! Disney History w/ NathanC and Ryan!


Watched:  08/08/2020
Format:  Disney+
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1990's
Director:  David Lynch

For more ways to listen


NathanC returns for more Disney History - and this time he brings an interview with screenwriter John Roach! We're discussing the only G-Rated entry in the filmography of David Lynch, bringing his brilliance to a completely different kind of story. And - we have an interview with one of the key storytellers! Get some insight into this remarkable film courtesy a screenwriter who was there from start to finish! It's a very different (and special!) episode of The Signal Watch.





Music:  
Laurens Walking - Angelo Badalamenti, The Straight Story OST
Country Theme - Angelo Badalamenti, The Straight Story OST


Playlist - Disney History w/ NathanC:



Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Doc Watch: Howard (2018)



Watched:  08/10/2020
Format:  Disney+
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2010's
Director:  Don Hahn

Let me start by saying: in a lot of ways Disney+ is much better than I ever expected.  I've enjoyed the Disney "from the vaults" content, catching new material, behind the scenes at parks, movies, etc... with One Day at Disney and two series - one on the making of The Mandalorian and an exceptional doc series on the making of Frozen 2

And, of course, then the release of Hamilton.  I haven't watched Black is King yet, but that's a pretty big line in the sand for the Disney brand to put out on their flagship, no-doubt-this-is-Disney streaming service when Disney has usually just avoided anything that invites cultural critique.*

But Disney+ putting a doc about Howard Ashman, a gay man who died of complications from AIDs at the height of the epidemic, and being honest and open about his sexuality and struggle with the disease, is... kind of mind-blowing.  There's something about the platform of their own streaming service and that you've already paid your money to have it that seems to have freed up the Disney Corp to tell some stories well worth telling I don't know we'd see if they didn't have this avenue.

The doc, itself, is the life story of Howard Ashman who - paired with Alan Menken - wrote the musical numbers for Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin.  He also wrote and originally produced Little Shop of Horrors - which was his big breakout hit off-Broadway. 

It's really a pretty great story, well told, and has the heart-breaking knowledge of what happened to Ashman in the back of your head.  And, sadly, the fact he was the musical partner of Menken and that he died of AIDS was all I'd known about him until watching the doc. 

I don't want to get into details too much, but as loving as it is, it isn't shy about who Howard Ashman was and doesn't make him into a saint - while illustrating pretty clearly what sort of mind he had that helped push the Disney cartoon back into prestige territory (and why Disney was flailing at the time he showed up).

For fans of animation, musical theater, or Disney-history - well worth the viewing. 




*Disney tends to get lambasted no matter what they do, and I've stood there and listened to lines of people parrot back the criticisms of Aladdin, Lion King and Little Mermaid during 3 summers at The Disney Store.  I would invariably listen and then say "well, I make $4.50 an hour working here and while I'll tell my manager...  really, your best bet is writing the studio in California."



Monday, July 20, 2020

Musical Watch: Hamilton (2020)



Watched:  July 3, 2020
Format:  Disney+
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2020/ 2010
Director:  Thomas Kail

Certainly the most discussed musical in decades - and with far better reason than most (whether you like it or not) - Hamilton had become a cultural event well before Disney+ released a recorded version of the show on the platform on July 3rd.  This was not a film adaptation like we've seen in the last few years - like Les Miserables or even Cats.  Movie stars who can carry a tune were not swapped out for the Broadway cast, and we're not decades away from shows debuting, making a splash, touring and becoming so ubiquitous, you might as well make a movie because why not?

Instead, Hamilton (2020) as released is the version shot on stage roughly four years ago, starring mostly the original cast, which - since 2016 - has since scattered to the four winds, seeking their Hamilton-derived fortunes (I actually like Leslie Odom Jr's new record, Mr., for whatever that is worth to you).  The film existing is a wonderful change for Broadway, who has told themselves lots of stories about the need for the immediacy of theater's live experience and has usually only dropped original cast recordings as documents of how a show was conceived and presented.  Directed by the show's actual director, Thomas Kail, the "film" of Hamilton is thoughtfully, and, indeed, artfully shot.  Heck, last week "One Perfect Shot", a twitter account with the best in cinematography, included a shot from Hamilton.

Friday, July 17, 2020

John Lewis, American Hero, Has Passed


I can't begin to sum up the importance and achievements of John Lewis, and what he has meant to this country.  He has passed at the age of 80, still calling for a better way, every day, to the end.

#goodtrouble

From the New York Times

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Doc Watch: Becoming (2020)


Watched:  06/26/2020
Format:  Netflix
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2020's
Director:  Nadia Hallgren

I'm aware Michelle Obama is a polarizing figure, what with encouraging kids to eat healthy and being an interesting, intelligent counterpart to her husband.  But, hoo boy, in a period of American journalism which seems distant and we can hope is on the ash-heap, the press sure tried to find ways to make her a villain. 

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

In a Time of Virus: The Dams Break


It started with protests in several cities in the wake of the George Floyd murder.  George Floyd was a Black man apprehended by police under suspicion he'd floated a bogus $20 bill.  For this, he was pinned to the ground by his throat beneath the knee of a man with a gun, who was supported by three of his fellow officers, as the suspect begged for air.  This went on for almost 9 minutes.

The murder, and it was murder, occurred in broad daylight and on camera, carried out by a police officer in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  A lot of people will try to call what occurred as a police officer pinned a man's neck to the ground with his knee for 9 minutes something else.  Maybe they'll say it was unintentional (the video suggests otherwise), or just breaking some eggs to make an omelet.  But in the era of cameras everywhere, the past fifteen years taught us how to pay attention to how people are policed and how police do their work.  And how police officers do not police each other.

Monday, May 18, 2020

In a Time of Virus: Everything Out of a Can

People went crazy the last few weeks.

I don't really know how else to interpret the furious wrath of church ladies in JC Penny tops screaming about wearing life-saving facemasks.  People told their lives depend on distance and patience rushed to state capitols with rifles to stand elbow to elbow with strangers, their faces bared to cameras and virus particles, screaming hysterically about their right to...  expose themselves and others to illness and death, I guess.

It's now been going on long enough that we're getting reports of these people catching COVID-19, the occasional ironic/ cautionary tale of people's last facebook posts rants about the "hoax" of the virus before the person winds up dead.  70-odd people who went to an "open" rally in Wisconsin are believed to have contracted the virus at the event.  And today I saw something about a church in California that held Mother's Day services exposed over 180 people.

Monday, April 27, 2020

In a Time of Virus: Sunlight and Bleach

No amount of parody or nihilistic social commentary could have prepared me for what it's actually like to see the virus that's taken over the United States.

On Thursday (04/23/20) the President of the United States, who has taken to a podium on a near daily basis for weeks - blathering at length/ incoherently, and showing genuine signs of mental decline (pick your poison as to why) - stood in front of a room of journalists and said scientists should look into shining UV lights or very bright lights on or into people to combat COVID-19.  He also said we should be looking at injecting people with disinfectants containing bleach, I believe.  That bleach clears the lungs right out.  Which, in a way, is true.  You'll certainly be beyond caring about your COVID-cough when you are dead because you've got 20 oz of Clorox filling your lungs.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

In a Time of Virus: Within Our Four Walls

From October of 2017 to August of 2019, I worked from home for, technically, Northwestern University in Chicago.  Really I was working for a larger open source software coalition 50%, and for a sub-group of that coalition 50%.  It was a weird and cool job, and I will always look back on it fondly.

But it also meant I got used to the rhythms of working from home long before all this mess started.  Waking up, showering and having a ten second commute is not uncharted territory.  But, man, the days of just sitting in the same chair all day can get to be a bit much.  Especially as it's all-screens all day, tied to video conferencing with colleagues.

Since getting sent home, I have not been getting up early to walk the dog, as my preference is to do it to unwind after work if I've been sitting in my chair all day.  Scout is an easy walker, and doesn't pull toward other dogs.  She just wants to stay within 4 feet of me as we go about our business.  We talk to neighbors from about 15-20 feet away.  Sometimes I linger, sometimes I keep on going after waving hello.

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

In a Time of Virus: Days With No Meaning

I'm not writing these posts so much for all of us going through this *now*.   When this is over, I'd like to remember what...  happened.  Because, like any trauma, we're going to collectively want to block this out.  And what there is to remember will be so vague and weird, and our timelines will be skewed.

We all kind of laugh about how days lose all meaning in that period between Christmas and New Year.  At least once a day, someone will ask "what day is it?" and sometimes you may have to think about it.  With nowhere to be, no one looking for you and the weekends looking like a weekday, it takes no time at all.  And while we have weekends, when you're looking at the same walls and people, days do sort of lose their meaning.  Last week on Friday, I had to be told at least once it wasn't Thursday.

Monday, March 30, 2020

In a Time of Virus: That First Week in Lockdown

We've been in some form of lockdown since March 13th.

In some ways, this hasn't been entirely different from the nearly two years when I worked from home when I was at Northwestern University.  I wake up, I shower, make coffee, eat something and sit down and get to work.  I use my office, which is also my "collection room", ie: The Fortress, which I had decommissioned for work when I went back to UT.

When we were sent home from work, the home office was full of "stuff" all over the floor, making the room unusable.  We'd recently had a remodel of our bathroom, and to make room for the contractors, I'd cleared things and just dumped them in my office and shut the door.  Out of sight, out of mind.  Honestly, what I piled in there was sitting on top of things I hadn't yet cleared away from Christmas, waiting for some time when I'd have some downtime and clean up, which I usually do when we're set to have company.

The first weekend, starting on the 13th, we just sort of blanked out.  There was a run to HEB Saturday morning, buying food for a full week or more.  The store was busy, but not hectic.  Jamie and I put on nitrile gloves before going in - and I never saw anyone else with them on.  No masks.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

In a Time of Virus: Start of Lockdown

The first thing I remember hearing was that people were hoarding toilet paper.

It had a "man bites dog" element to the news - for whatever reason, they'd realized they might run out of toilet paper, something they'd never previously considered, I suppose.  And, so, people were buying mass amounts of the stuff, leaving those super market shelves empty.  That was early, during the week of the 9th, before the employers sent anyone home .

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

In a Time of Virus: Not Seen In Generations

Sometimes you read about World War I or II and you wonder what you'd have been like in those circumstances.  What would it be like to be sitting in Austin, Texas one day and boarding a boat to cross the English Channel a year later, pretty sure you were being used for cannon fodder?  Or being ordered over the wall and into No Man's Land?  Over and over?  Day after day?  Could I get back in a B-17 and fly back over Germany and drop bombs *again*, uncertain if *this* was the time I was shot down?

It doesn't need to be the threat of war and violence.  We've had plenty of other creeping horrors around mankind in recent and living memory.

But my generation, maybe the one before, maybe those that have come after... we sat in classrooms and heard how the Commies wanted to drop nuclear bombs on us because they hated our Capitalist ways.  But mostly that's an existential threat - if it was going to happen, it was going to happen.  And I wasn't old enough to be part of the AIDS crisis, but am old enough to get cross-eyed hearing about "dating" apps as someone who came of age just after Magic Johnson taught us suburban kids about how we *all* needed to be careful.