Thursday, February 16, 2017

Book Review: Determination: The Story of Jackie Robinson

Determination: The Story of Jackie Robinson, by Deborah Woodworth, illustrated by Robin Lawrie, The Child's World, North Mankota, Minnesota, 1999.
This is a very interesting story about the opening of Major League Baseball to African American players.  Jackie Robinson lived in an era of racial strife.  Even in Pasadena, California he was discriminated against at a lunch counter.  When he started playing baseball he had to put up with the most vile insults.  He had agreed not to respond for the first couple years, to assure that he would be able to continue to play.  He kept his agreement, but it was hard.  He had to often stay in a separate hotel than the rest of the players.  However he let his play do the talking.  His was got at all facets of the game, fielding, base running, and hitting.  His first year he was rookie of the year.  A couple years later he was MVP.  After his career he became a member of the Hall of Fame.  His ability to stick with the Dodgers lead to other African Americans being able to play.  He would call them and offer support.  Many players had a friend and mentor in Robinson.  My only complaint is one illustration has the wrong hand on top on the bat.  It is just strange.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Mining Museum: New Almaden

The Mining Museum is located in Casa Grande.  The mining f mercury was very interesting.  Mining the ore was not dangerous.  The mercury is in a solid state and poses no threat.  however in the process of mercury it had to be evaporated, and the gas collected.  this did pose a risk, so the workers could only work one day per month in the processing of the ore.  They gave me a large rock of cinnebar to heft and it was very heavy for its size.
old washboard
Chinese plate made of Cinnebar (mercury ore)

Native Americans used cinnebar for body painting

Friday, February 10, 2017

Native American Stories: The Rough-Face Girl (2004)

This story is very much like Cinderella.  In fact the rough face girl is burnt by the ashes, as Cinderella's name means ashes, although she wasn't burned caring for the fire, she was dirty as a result.  In the story the Rough-Face Girl has two older sisters, who think themselves beautiful and above tending for the fire.  The both want to Mary the invisible man, but they have not seen him.  However the Rough-Face Girl has seen him, because here heart is pure.  This is a good story to remind us of what really is important.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Documentary Review: What Was Ours

"What Was Ours" is a documentary from Indie Lens released January 17 on PBS.  I enjoyed this.  It is about the Shoshone and Arapaho from Wyoming, Wind River Reservation.  When the economic foundation of the Native Americans changed, many sold their artifacts to museums, or in one case to a Deacon of the Episcopal Church, and the items were lost to the tribe.
This documentary tells three stories, two young Arapaho, one a young woman, Mikala, a high school senior.  She was princess of a Denver March Pow Wow.  Her family is important to hear, going back through generations.  He tells the story of her grandfather who was a previous keeper of artifacts.   A young man, Jordan, interested in bringing the items back to the reservation.  He is interested in the storytelling of his paper, which tells you are part of a bigger picture.   Lastly an elderly Shoshone, Philbert, who served in the Viet Nam War as a helicopter gunner.  He always carried his talisman as a good luck charm.  All three are trying to maintain their Indian ways in a modern way.  Some of the items which have left the reservation were sacred objects.
There had been a museum on the reservation,  but the items were removed when there was no longer anyone to care for them.  Philbert works for the casino, and a space in the casino set aside for a museum.
These three are part of a group which traveled to Chicago to see items stored or displayed there.  However the focus on the film is the return of items owned by the Episcopalian Church; those which had been at the museum.  In the end, there is a cooperation between the reservation, the church and the casino which lead to the items being returned and displayed on the reservation.
This documentary is fascinating.  It shows a people trying to tight rope two cultures.  This struggle for their artifacts is just one part of that struggle.  The colors and the artwork in some of the pieces is just fascinating.  They also talk about the history behind some of the pieces they are creating contemporarily.  There is also insight given on how some of the ancient pieces were used.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

The Witness: A documentary about Kitty Genovese (2015)

The Witness is a fascinating story.  It tells a story that has haunted America for half a century.  Kitty is the woman who was murdered in New York in 1964, reportedly as 64 people heard her screams and watched the murder but did nothing.  She has been the study of sociology books, what motivates us to act?  The brother of Kitty, who was 16 at the time of her murder, tells the family story and takes another look at the report behind this case.
The brother found out that the report of 38 witnesses was rather arbitrary.  Police however did interview 38 people.  Some heard a scream, some heard a scream and got up (it was 3 in the morning), looked out the window, didn't see or hear anything more, and went back to bed.  One man yelled down to  the perpetrator, get out of here, and he fled.  Initially Kitty was stabbed twice.  She had dropped to her knees, and struggled to her feet.  She then went around the corner and into a stairwell of her apartment.  The people then could not see her.  The perpetrator returned, and attacked her again.  He raped her and stabbed her more times.  She screamed, and on of her neighbors came to her aid after the deed had been done, when she realized what was happening.  Kitty, although mortally wounded, did not die alone, but in the arms of a friend.  In many regards the story is different than reported.  In fact, some of the witnesses said they called police.  However, the police did not respond.  They thought it was the  result of bar room shenanigans as there was a bar close by.  Even her  roommate (lover) was not awoken by the screams, and didn't know anything until the police woke her up.  She was called upon to identify the body.  This movie shows this story from many more angles that what had been represented, and the subject of many books and articles.  It is a story about mass media failure.  Many witnesses felt they were misquoted, and so stopped talking to the media.  There was not a 9-11 system at the time, and the few who called were not taken seriously.  there was only one recorded call from the night.  
One of the things this movie presents is the effect the murder had on people; the effect on the two families.  The genovese family was really torn, and coped by not talking about Kitty.  Bill, who is the narrator and teller of the story, joined the Marines, served in Viet Nam and there lost his legs.  Other siblings had their own struggles to put the events behind them.  Bill even interviewed the murderer's son, and then the effect on his family, wife and two children, was manifested.
Very good film which combats many misconceptions I had of these events.  They have an actress act out the screams, which was very eerie and brought the night home.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Book Review: Woman of Colonial America

Women of Colonial America (We the People) by Jana Voelke Studelska, Compass Point Books, North Mankato, Minnesota, 2007.
This book presents a fascinating picture of women.  I did not know women volunteered to be sold as slaves in Jamestown.  Several boatloads of women arrived and were sold as brides.  These women suffered the same hardships as the men, and many died from the elements, disease and starvation.  However, if a true settlement was to be made, women and wives were a necessary part.  These women were remarkable in the hardships they faced.  Some would survive, and families were raised.  These women were also hard working.  The economy eventually thrived with raising tobacco.  More laborer were needed, who came in the form of African slaves and indentured servants.
In Massachusetts Pilgrim women arrived with their husbands.  They were escaping religious oppression.  This society was focused on the Bible, and religion ruled.  The women were known as "Goodwife."  They made almost everything they needed.  They ground corn, barley and wheat.  They butchered pigs.  The made soap and candles from fat.  They dried fruit.  Mothers taught their skills to daughters.  Some learned midwifery.  A woman was the legal property of her husband.  The woman who did they work and obeyed her husband was respected in this society.  There were times when men and women who did not conform were kicked out of the community.  This was often for being outspoken.  Mary Dyer was banished from Boston, but kept coming back.  On the fourth occasion she was executed.
Salem is of particular note in the history of women, in the trying and execution of several as witches.  This was all based on false testimony of a few girls.  20 people and two dogs were executed.
Some women thrived outside the traditional roles of women.  Some opened boarding houses, stores or schools.  Eliza Lucas took over her fathers plantation after her mother died and her father returned to military as a British army officer.  She studied indigo, a new crop.  This was popular as a dye for clothing.  It became a source of great wealth to many farmers in the area.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Documentary Review: World War Two: 1941 and the Man of Steel (2011)

This is an interesting look at WWII from the other side, the Soviet Union side.  Joseph Stalin, whose name means steel, as a Communist dictator was a brutal murderer, killing 10 million peasants in his own country.  When the peasants would not go along with the plan to develop communal farms,  many of them killed their own cattle.  A a result Stalin transported them to remote areas, and let them starve.  He was also a master manipulator, instilling fear in his people and fellow politicians.  Many were carted off to prisons or concentration camps, or executed.  He even killed the wife of his person secretary.  No one was immune.  No one was immune.  However when the Nazis attacked the Soviet Union, many things changed.  Stalin was incredulous, and consequently the Russian  reaction was slow.  Stalin's forces were near defeat, and with them would have gone Stalin's ability to lead.  Stalin appealed to national Russian pride, rather than the benefits of communism.  In this way he rallied the people and his own position.  He determine not to abandon Moscow to the Germans, and over time this decision was born out.  When the snow hit, Russians were at a disadvantage, in terms of not having proper equipment.  Even their tanks would take hours to start in the freezing weather.  A counter attack pushed them back.  However Stalin was too greedy.  He pushed his generals into a trap, and almost a million men were captured.
In 1842 Stalin was forced to reach out to the West.  He was also forced to trust his generals.  he removed communist oversight, and let his generals lead.  He also supported them by allowing reserves to move forward.  This time around Stalingrad (which if it fell would have opened the way to Persia and the British oil reserves) the Russians were again able to push back the Germans.  However this time they were more cautious in their advance.
Behind all of this was the relationship between Stalin and Churchill.  Churchill had previously sworn to stamp out communism.  Now they were allies.  However they were allies with differences.  Russia insisted on the Balkans and Poland be given to them.  However England did not give in. Stalin insisted on a second front to relieve pressure on Russia.  Churchill agreed to opening a front in Africa.  Situations were tense, but the allegiance prevailed.  Russia and England needed each other.
After the war, Stalin went back to his old tactics, arresting generals and ruling with an iron hand.  And in truth the Soviet Union gained more territory than the had asked, as many countries, included much of Germany, were behind the iron curtain and under communist oversight.
This is a BBC production with David reynolds narrating and Russell Barnes directing.