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

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.

Friday, March 13, 2020

In a Time of Virus: People are Terrible in a Crisis

I'm not going to lecture you on COVID-19/ the coronavirus.  You know what it is. 

The plan was not to return to work on Monday (it's Friday, for posterity's sake).  I'd received approval from higher-ups to show some caution and work from home until we had the all-clear.  In the morning as I readied for work, I was checking a news story about our local K-12 school district closing and telling people to deal with their situation, and half-way down the page it mentioned my employer, the University of Texas at Austin, was also closed. 

I checked the emergency page, and it said "all clear", but literally at the same time, my Slack channel for work started popping and I saw that, no, we were closed.  An email had come through and we weren't to come to campus today. 

Saturday, January 11, 2020

War Watch: 1917 (2020)


Watched:  01/11/2020
Format:  Alamo Slaughter Lane
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2020's

If you are planning to see this, see it in the theater.  That is all.

Friday, January 10, 2020

Balloon Watch: The Aeronauts (2019)



Watched:  01/02/2020
Format:  Amazon Streaming
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2010's

This movie never states that it's based on real events - but once it's underway, it's very specific to the point where I finally had to check to see if the character portrayed by Eddie Redmayne in the film existed.  Spoiler - He did!

But.  Half of this movie is real and half is made up, and I am just, honestly, confused why they made this choice - except that I basically get the decision from an optics, casting and audience standpoint.  The film swaps out one of the two people who made the real-life trip with a fictional female balloon pilot (Felicity Jones) who is overcoming serious and dramatic baggage tied to ballooning.  All of which is made up.  Even as she performs feats to save their lives that the real pilot was forced to do.  But here, it's someone else.

But, again, the scientist in the film was real and really did go up in a balloon, but with a less-surprising male balloonist.

I honestly have no idea what I just watched, is what I guess I'm saying.  I've read articles that are more reflective of my "yes, I understand why they did it, but..." perspective, and others that are really surprisingly blase about "facts" and "what occurred" and seem to think that's some old fashioned thinking and casually suggest if you are questioning the choice, you are both racist and sexist.

Look - I get that "based on a true story" movies change facts all the time, combine people into single characters, etc... - and, honestly, it's part of why I often avoid Hollywood's interpretation of history.  But they generally don't swap out one of two main characters with a completely fictional person.

So - I have no idea what I just watched.  It was okay.  But I tend to think history is hard enough to get a grip on without making up fictional characters in their lives as seemingly major players.  So, next time you ask me if I've seen a movie based on a true story and I kinda shrug and say "nope".  You now know why.

I watched this just before Togo, which was also based on true events and changed quite a bit, but the basic facts were generally adhered to. 


Monday, January 6, 2020

101 Years Gone - Theodore Roosevelt


"The old lion is dead."
- cable from Archie Roosevelt to his brothers serving in Europe, 01/06/1919

Theodore Roosevelt passed on January 6, 1919.  He was only 60 years old.

The passing of the famously active and robust Roosevelt could be attributed to a few things.  That bullet he famously took before he gave a speech actually did harm him and left him with ailments that worsened over time.  His tour of the Amazon had left him with malaria and took much of the wind from his sails.  The man of action who had made his reputation in the Spanish-American War, and who believed the manliest thing one could do was go fight in a war, took a post-presidential tour of Europe which forewarned him of the coming conflict and the scale at which is would occur.  When the US finally entered the fray, he encouraged his sons to enlist.  When he and Edith lost Quentin Roosevelt in air-to-air combat in July of 1918, it's said TR began to slide.

TR died before he could once again run for president, which he was, of course, considering.  And which I think would have altered his legacy, win or lose.  We never really saw a feeble TR, and the memory of the uncompromising figure TR was becoming as he aged is mostly forgotten, mixed with the blustery figure of his younger days.  Still, he'd surprised the world at every turn since his youth, so who is to say what an octogenarian Roosevelt might have looked like?

The candle that burns twice as bright burns half as long, and he'd defied death since his childhood as an asthmatic prone to long spells of sickness, been shot at, survived disease and exotic and dangerous adventuring.  Blinded in one eye while boxing (during middle age) and regularly found ways to engage with life in ways I can scarcely imagine.  At only 60, his life and legacy produced more door-stop-heavy books than most anyone in US History. 

If all of us are contradictions, this is one more area where TR lived larger than life.  And I won't dwell on it here - but he did leave a fascinating legacy and history in the multitudes he contained.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Sayles Watch: Matewan (1987)


Watched:  11/02/2019
Format:  Criterion BluRay
Viewing:  4th, I believe
Decade:  1980's

Back in the go-go 1990's, I stumbled across John Sayles, as one was want to do if in film school at the time.  People would name drop him as he had a rep as the same guy who wrote Piranha, Alligator, The Howling and other more mainstream flicks, but was basically funding his ability to also write and direct independent film.  It's something he still does (apparently), but given the number of times I've heard his name or seen it online or in print the past twenty years, he's fallen away from film-nerd discussion, I suppose - which makes me really wonder who else we've forgotten.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Hitch Watch: The Wrong Man (1956)



Watched:  08/21/2019
Format: TCM on DVR
Viewing: First
Decade:  1950's

I had no idea what this movie was about prior to giving it a watch, so real quick:

Directed by none other than Alfred Hitchcock, this is based on a true story (apparently?) of a musician who goes to his insurance company to see if he can take out on a loan his wife's life insurance for some dental work, only to be identified by the clerks as the man who committed two robberies of the company in the prior 9 months or so.  The police pick him up, assuring him that if he didn't do it, there's nothing to worry about, but in a line-up, he's identified by multiple witnesses (the robber also hit a few stores) and even his handwriting sample seems to match.

Thursday, August 8, 2019

In the wake of two mass shootings

This weekend saw two mass shootings.

You don't need for me to tell you why those shootings happened, or describe the tragedy of what occurred and what was taken from families, friends and communities. Or that it didn't always used to be this way.

But it sure is now.

The pair of shootings seemed to have stemmed from the politics of the shooters, one far right, the other far left, each running to extremes.  At some point those divergent points of view seem so far apart they, in fact, curve back toward the same point.  (Look, the El Paso shooter left a manifesto and was taken into custody, and is far less of a mystery to me than the misogynist antifa fan in Ohio who was dead within a minute of opening fire.  But "making sense" is not usually something I associate with mass murder).    It leaves us with some common traits between the shooters, not the least of which is the ability of anyone off the street to arm themselves like they're storming Baghdad and pop off if they're having a bad day and feel misunderstood.

I'm tired of men who can't handle their shit or that life wasn't what they expected turning their self-loathing on others, their shame metastasizing into a need to prove their place in the world with juvenile fits and the tools of a soldier.

Once again, a lot of politicians made bland statements, the media conglomerates handled it within their brand standards, and the paid spokespeople took to cable.  Horrified and mourning people were treated like exotic animals on safari by national news.

I had a whole lot more written, but I deleted it.  I'm just done.  This is impossible to write.

We're exhausted.  Exhausted from knowing something could be done and, for some reason, won't be.  And exhausted because every time you open your mouth about how obvious it is that this situation is insane, there's someone there who cares more about middle-school debate club needling and badly reading a single sentence than they care about piles of dead people.  And there's no other way of looking at it anymore.

I'm tired of knowing people want to run for office and tell people how to live who don't care if the people they're supposed to represent live at all.

We can do better, if we want to.  But I don't see anyone who wants to do better, and I can't begin to understand why.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Apollo 11 - 50th Anniversary and PBS's "American Experience: Chasing the Moon"



The past couple of weeks marked the 50th anniversary of the first manned lunar landing, thanks to the crew of Apollo 11, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins.  Plus, the might of NASA, contractors to NASA, government bureaucrats, politicians and, us, the voting and tax-paying public.

From July 16th to July 24th, 1969, three brave people hurled through the void of space, two walked the face of an alien landscape, and then all returned, safely, to Earth.  All of this just sixty-six years after the Kitty Hawk Flyer took to the sky and 27 years after the first V2 rocket.  The scope of progress and achievement during this window was unprecedented in human history as two nations threw down the gauntlet to see who could place a boot onto lunar soil. 

Monday, July 22, 2019

NASA Legend Christopher Kraft Merges With The Infinite



If you ever get a chance, read up on the amazing history of NASA.  It's fascinating today to see some of the unknown stories of the agency's history come to the fore in recent years, bringing to the fore luminaries like Margaret Hamilton and Katherine Johnson.  One name we did grow up with was Christopher Kraft.

Truly, no one was more "there at the beginning" than Kraft, who had been a NACA employee before the creation of NASA, and who helped build and shape NASA from the inside up.

Kraft served as Flight Director at NASA during Mercury and Gemini and as a manager of flight operations during Apollo.  Kraft's attention to detail and leadership were key to keeping all the moving parts together before, during and after each mission, keeping people alive as they hurled through space in experimental machines strapped to ballistic missiles.

He would go on to run the Manned Spacecraft Center into the early 80's, when he retired from NASA.  In the 1990's, he participated in a review of the shuttle program and published an autobiography in 2001.

Mr. Kraft passed this week at the age of 95, having pushed humanity higher, further and farther than anyone ever dreamed.  He deserves to be remembered alongside the astronauts and heroes who, themselves, went into space and those new legends of engineering, math and science.  The role he took on wasn't the one with the personal glory (although his name did become quite well known), but without the Christopher Krafts out there, you don't get the Apollo missions, either.

A statement from NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine on Kraft's passing.




Tuesday, July 9, 2019

A Picture Tour of Locations from "Anatomy of a Murder" - my vacation pics from the U.P. - Part 2


The week of the 4th of July, I was in Michigan's Upper Peninsula to visit some old family stomping grounds.  The Marquette/ Ishpeming/ Negaunee area is where my mom's people landed after arriving from Finland.  My grandfather worked in iron ore mines for forty years while my grandmother cleaned houses and other odd jobs.  And, when my mom arrived as a surprise when they were in their 40's, then raised the sparkplug that is the lady we call "Mom".

This area is also the setting for the novel Anatomy of a Murder.  When Otto Preminger decided to adapt the book circa 1958, he brought the entire production up to this remote area.




You can read more about it in Part 1 of this photo tour.

A Picture Tour of Locations from "Anatomy of a Murder" - my vacation pics from the U.P. - Part 1



This year marks the 60th anniversary of the release of Otto Preminger's Anatomy of a Murder.  If you've never seen it, it's a terrific film and holds up far better than you'd expect considering the changing mores, attitudes, laws and and more since 1959.  In some ways, it's covering territory we seem to cover over and over as a society and may be more relevant now than ever.  A legal drama, it should be a bit out of my wheelhouse, but instead it's been one of my favorite films since college.

Starring Jimmy Stewart, it has a terrific cast of well-known and lesser known actors.  Eve Arden, a very young George C. Scott, Lee Remick, Ben Gazzarra, Arthur O'Connell, and Kathryn Grant (a University of Texas alumnus and, at the time, just married to Bing Crosby).  And, a bit bizarre for the time and place, Duke Ellington.

The movie, however, was based on a novel written by Robert Traver.  Traver was the pen name for attorney John Voelker, who lived in Ishpeming, Michigan and served as the city prosecutor, ran for other public office and was generally highly involved in public life in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.