Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Documentary Review: Titanic: How It Really Sank

Titanic: How it Really Sank, National Geographic, 2012,
This is a story about many things coming together to cause a tragedy.  It is told with narration to reenactment, (this includes reenactment of a 1912 hearing) interviews with experts, and some original footage.  The Titanic was compromised before it set sail, even though it was called "unsinkable."  A few things were changed about the design.  The bulkheads were lowered, especially those midship.  The bulkhead at the stern of the ship still was full, but the others barely extended above the water line.  The ship was made of steal, a newer and stronger material.  Where the rivets were put in by machine, they were usually steel rivets.  However the machine could not reach everyplace, and men put in pig iron rivets.  It was discovered this rivets were class three, rather than the better quality class four.  The witnesses to the breech, mach those investigating conclude that the steel was not torn, but the rivets gave way and the tear was at the seems.  That the iceberg was so far south was an anomaly.  However the ship had been warned about icebergs being farther south than usual.  An early message reached the Captain, and he delayed turning the boat due west for 20 minutes and as a result, it traveled farther south, and was then headed directly for the iceberg.  Another urgent message never reached the Captain who had left the deck.  A third was ignored.  This would have told them they were headed directly for he iceberg.  The wireless operator was too busy delivering messages of the wealthy on ship to deal with these urgent messages.  The iceberg was this far south as the Gulf Stream was traveling farther south than usual, which allowed the ocean currents form the north to travel farther south.  There was an iceberg watch, however they were hampered because the binoculars were locked away an no one had the key.  A last minute staff changed resulted in the key to the locker with the binoculars being taken off the ship.  Lastly, the boat turned enough to avoid a head on collision, but the glancing blow proved to be more deadly.  Had the Titanic struck head on, chances are it would have survived.  The bulkhead was higher and would have prevented a catastrophic inundation of water.  If the Titanic would have sunk, it would have been slower and allowed rescue.  With the breech along the side, where the bulkheads had been lowered, the water was able to overflow the bulkheads, and flood more compartments.  The finally tragedy was the lack of sufficient life boats.  48 life boats were required for all the passengers.  However, only 16 were required by law.  That is how many there were, because the designer did not think passengers wanted to look at life boats.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Book Review: The Civil War: 1861-1865

The Civil War: 1861-1865: An Interactive Package of Image and Text, by David E. Roth, Smithmark, New York, 1992.
This is a coffee table book with the first third of the book dedicated to text, and then the rest of the book an illustrated history of the Civil War.  The illustrations include actual photographs, sketches, newspaper advertisements and headlines.  It offers a very extensive collection and covers the period of the war, with even some of the period of reconstruction included.  This has been a good read as the descriptions of the pictures provide a great deal of information.  CD rom was included which offers uncopyrighted versions of the pictures for person use.  This include pictures of President Lincoln and Davis, General Lee and Grant (and all the other Union commanders.)  It also has a very nice section of Navy pictures.  This collection is very complete.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Book Review: Looking at Lincoln

Looking at Lincoln, Maira Kalman, Nancy Paulsen Books, New York, 2012.
This is a children’s picture book, consequently the art is part of the story.  At first I thought is wasn’t going to include any history, but just a little girl’s story.  However, it did put some basic ideas in the story.  He was born in log cabin in Kentucky, his mother died when he was young, but he had a good relationship with his stepmother.  She encouraged him to read.  They moved to a log cabin in Illinois, and from there he became a lawyer in Springfield.  One of his friends was the first officer killed in the war, removing a Confederate flag from a boarding house in Alexandria.  He gave the Gettysburg Address, and one of the last speeches he gave included this line, “With malice toward none, with charity for all.”
This book is better viewed as an artistic expression. The art work is fantastic.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Book Review: Sitting Bull

Sitting Bull: American Biographies by: Ann Weil, Heinemann Library, Chicago, Ill, 2013.
This book is interesting because it has little boxes of fact vs. fiction.  Some of these challenge what I previously felt I knew about Sitting Bull.  This book is written from a native American angle, and also seems to be dependent on a biography written of Sitting Bull by his great-great-grandson based on oral history.  I must admit I am a little suspect about some of the things it says.  However, some things I learned.  Sitting Bull was the third name.  Prior names included “Jumpng Badger” and “Slow”.  In this case slow refers to Sitting Bull’s habit of taking his time and thinking things through.  The naming of Sitting Bull, I had read in a book growing up was from making a buffalo bull calf sit.  This book contends it was through a religious visitation to his father.  Sitting Bull showed the Lakota virtues, generosity, wisdom, bravery and fortitude.  He proved himself in battle and in counting coup.  He was also a Sun Dance participant, which took great bravery and fortitude.  He had a vision of the Battle of Little Big Horn before it took place, however he did not actually participate in the battle, leaving this to younger warriors.  Crazy Horse actually lead this battle.
After this battle, they were pursued greatly by the American forces.  (This book uses an Indian term for white people, Wasichu, which basically means greedy.)  Sitting Bull escaped with about 1000 followers to Canada rather than become an agency Indian or reservation Indian.  However this life was hard and he returned. 
He was allowed to travel with the Buffalo Bill Wild West show.  He would give his money to poor children.
However he missed his land and people and returned.  He again saw his vision his own death, by the hand of his own people.  There was conflict with regards to the ghost dance.  (This book says Sitting Bull did not believe however previous research says he was studying the religion and Sitting Bull had been participating in the ghost dance either as participant or spectator.  However his arrest was ordered, and in the struggle Sitting Bull was killed, as well as about six members of his family and friends, as well as six native American police who had been sent to arrest him.
Many who had been at the ghost dance fled.  However the government pursued them, which resulted in the Battle of Wounded Knee.  The ghost shirts did not protect them from bullets. 

Monday, September 22, 2014

Book Review: Navajo People

Navajo People: Native American Tribes by Mary Null Boule, Merryant Publishers Inc., 2003.
This is the second of her series I have looked at.  I am disappointed in them both and am not going to look at her books anymore.  Over half the book is taken by a description of Native Americans in general.  She concludes this saying how the Native Americans lived in peace and harmony for thousands of years and then the White man came who rarely even asked permission to take over the land.  I think the author is propagandizing.  These books are not fit for schools.  It appears their production is geared to take advantage of required school reporting on native Americans.  The author’s bias should be left to herself and it was a sad day these books were published.  
I was wondering if I learned anything new.  I liked the description of the hogan and how they are made.  However the author didn't even talk about the matriarchal society nor the clans.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Documentary Review: Evita: The Woman Behind the Myth

Evita: The Woman Behind the Myth: A&E Biography Channel, 1996.
You can always learn a little more about a subject.  For example Eva's hair was not naturally blonde but was dyed.
This video presentation offered considerable information with regards to Eva's foundation.  The foundation was established as an answer to a snub from the Argentine aristocracy.  The Society of Beneficence handles most charitable giving to the poor.  The first lady was always called to be the foundation chair.  Contribution to the fund was mandatory.  Every Argentine worker contributed one to three day's pay towards the fund every year.  In addition to this all Argentine industries were expected to contribute.  This was a way to keep governmental inspectors away. There were also taxes on gambling, casinos, lottery and horse racing and other taxes which also supported the fund.
The fund contributed up to $45 million a years towards the poor.  However, the fund kept no records.  It was impossible to tell how much of the fund was siphoned off into private accounts. 
One of the projects funded by the Fund was Evita City.  This was a city established with government sponsored housing.  The houses, with furniture and clothing, were given to those selected to be recipients.  The documentary interviewed one woman whose family moved into one of these homes.  Before there was no possibility of the family to rise out of poverty.  The children had not even been able to attend school until this charity.
This presentation also explores the efforts of Evita to become vice president when Juan Peron was running for reelection.  She had originally accepted the nomination; but had to rescind due to pressure from the military.
One of the interesting things about Evita is the preservation of her body after she passed away.  She succumbed to uteran cancer at the age of 33.  She did not want to be forgotten.  Her husband had her body embalmed, with the hopes of fulfilling this request.  He had hoped to build a large memorial for her, however this never happened.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Book Review: Pocahontas, American Biographies

Pocahontas, American Biographies, by Gail Fay, Heinemann Library, Chicago, Il, 2013.
This book clarified for me some false ideas I had about Pocahontas.  I guess most of my information came from the Disney movie.  This book indicates that Pocahontas and John Smith were not romantically involved as Pocahontas was only 10 or 11 at the time.  However it is certain Pocahontas was instrumental in the Jamestown settlement surviving.  The story of Pocahontas saving John Smith was told by John Smith, but he is the only source of this story.  The relationship between the Powhatans and the settlement at Jamestown varied from being helpful to being at war.  There were periods the people of Jamestown could not hunt for fear of being killed, and this lead to starvation.  The winter 1609-1610 was particularly bad for the settlers at Jamestown.  Many died of starvation.  They were ready to abandon the settlement when three boat loads of setters arrived. 
This book indicates Pocahontas married Kocoum in 1610 at the age of 15.  At age 18 Pocahontas was tricked by the new governor of Virginia and held captive at Jamestown and then Henrico a more defensible settlement.  The settlers tried to use Pocahontas as leverage.  The insisted her father, Chief Powhatan, the leader of the Powhatan Indians return weapons they had stolen, and provide them with food.  As he refused to return weapons, Pocahontas remained prisoner.  During this time, she lived in the settlement, wore European clothes and was “Christianized.”  She was baptized.  She was taught to read and read from the Bible.  One of her teachers was John Rolfe.  John Rolfe’s wife had passed away shortly after he had arrived in North America.  He fell in love with Pocahontas and they were married.  Pocahontas traveled with him to England.  They had one son. Thomas Rolfe.  While in England Pocohantas became sick and she died, perhaps of tuberculosis.  She was only twenty-two.
However her son reached adulthood.  Her son returned to America where his grandfather, Chief Powhatan had left him lands where he grew tobacco. 
Pocahontas was a peace giver.  She gave the people in Jamestown peace after they first arrived.  She was able to influence her father to provide them with food.  After her marriage to John Rolfe there was also a time of peace.  She had provided peace once again to her peoples.  However, after her death in England, there was no reason for the Powhatan people to maintain peace.  After Chief Powhatan passed away, his brother became the head chief.  His brother did not like the settlers, and a period of conflict resulted with many deaths.
The Powhatan people still live in this area.  There are two reservations.  Pocahontas also has descendants through her son.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Book Review: Frederick Douglass: Truth is of No Color

Frederick Douglass: Truth is of No Color, by: Michael A. Schuman, Easlow Publisher Inc., Berkeley Heights, NJ, 2009.
Frederick Douglass was an interesting man.  He was born a slave, and in his early life received some mistreatment, as well as some care.  His mother was really never able to care for him, as she worked long hours.  As a toddler he was in the care of his grandmother.  His mother would have to walk 12 miles from the fields to see her son.  At age six Frederick was sent to work.  At this time he met his older siblings who had previously been sent to the same plantation to work. 
At eight years old, Frederick’s master passed away.  He and the entire family were lined up and distributed amongst the inheritors.  He went to Thomas and Sophia Auld.  Sophia would read the bible to Frederick and her own son, when Frederick was not working.  He became fascinating with the idea of letters forming words.  He asked her to teach him, and she did.   This is unusual as it was against the law to teach a slave to read.  When Sophia bragged to Thomas about Fredericks’s reading, the lessons stopped.  However Frederick continued to learn.  At this time he worked as an errand boy in the shipyard in Baltimore.  He would play reading games with other boys, testing who could read best.  Frederick used these games to improve his reading. 
As a teen, Frederick was assigned to work for others.  In this he was beaten, and required to do tasks he had not been trained to perform.  He finally determined he must escape.  He escape using the Maritime Papers of a friend.  These identified him as a veteran sailor who had won his freedom through his service.  This came in handy as questioning was much less for those who were veterans.  He traveled by ship and train, until he made it to Philadelphia.
He changed his name to make it harder for others to track him.  He lived in several communities which he had heard that they were positive to African Americans.  However he still found prejudice.  In the church the Black people were asked to sit in the back and spoken down to.  They formed their own church.  Blacks were not allowed in school, so Frederick took upon himself their education.
Douglass became and abolitionist speaker.  He published an autobiography, and then began publishing his own abolitionist paper.  He traveled in England, for his own safety.  He was still subject to capture and return to slavery in the United States.  However, we was married and had children and missed them, so he returned.  Douglass was a correspondent of John Brown.  When Brown was arrested and hung for treason, these letters were found and a finger pointed at Douglass.  Even though Douglass had cautioned him against his rash plan, there was still the air of conspiracy.  Douglass fled to England again.  However, the nation did not want to pursue anyone else about this affair, especially after the commencement of the Civil War.
Douglass returned, and advised the president to free the slaves and recruit them for military service.  After the emancipation proclamation they were accepted for service, and Douglass worked with recruitment.  He also worked for African American soldiers to receive equal pay.
At Lincoln’s second inauguration he visited the White House, but guards would not let him enter.  African Americans had never before been invited to a social occasion at the White House.  However, President Lincoln saw him, and invited him in, said there is my good friend Frederick Douglass.  He asked for his critique of his inaugural address.  This may have been the first time an African American had been invited into the White House for such an occasion.
Douglass fulfilled many government positions by appointment after this.  His wife died after 44 years of marriage, and he went into a period of melancholy before being able to return to work.  Douglass did another thing that was unheard of at that time.  He married a White woman, Helen Pitts, who had been his clerk. 
Frederick Douglass did a great deal towards the emancipation of the slaves, and then towards the advancement of African Americans.  He likely did more in this regard than anyone, at least until the fight for Civil Rights.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Eva Peron's Glamor and Juan Peron's Rise

This is from a couple of articles I saved over the years.  I would like to credit the source, but do not have this available.  It is interesting how Juan Peron identified himself as the savior of the poor people, while he himself and his wife lived in opulence.  Juan Peron and Eva (Evita) Duarte met in 1943 and were married in 1945. 
In a Movie, "The Encaged Cat of the Circus

The Actress
The Boxer

Shortly after the wed

Minister of Defense 1943

The Glamour

Before 1946 Presidential Inauguation

They Take of their jackets to show unity with the poor.  "We are all shirtless now"

Evita's audience with the Pope

City decked to honor Evita's death
Evita's funeral viewing

Animated Docudrama: Rich Studios: President Abraham Lincoln

 This short animated feature tells the life of Abraham Lincoln from the time of his leaving Springfield. Illinois and traveling to Washington.  It is short, so gleans over much of his life.  However it does show the death of his son to a fever while he was in the White House. 
The emancipation was presented with much cheering.  This may have been true in pockets, but there were also places where people were very much opposed to the proclamation.
The part I liked bests was the Gettysburg Address.  They presented the entire speech, with animation of the conflict portrayed to this.  It was very moving.
The presentation goes from there, almost immediately to the funeral procession and the train carrying Lincoln's body back to Springfield.  While he travels, this song is sung; written by Carol Lynn Pearson and Lex de Azevedo.
One LifeOne life
Lived with courage and care
One life
Yes, that’s all that it takes
One hand
That will never be halted
One back
That the World cannot break

One Life
Lived by heavenly faith
One Life
Shining clear in the dark
One Life seeing visions of morning
One word
Igniting the spark
See how it glows
See how it grows
Changing the world
Rearranging the world
Giving hope that will stand firm and fast
When that one life is ended and past
Oh that light will burn bright and will last
One life
Given up for cause
One soul
Oh how it will soar
One day
That will not be forgotten
One name
That will live evermore

One life
Lived with courage and care
One life
Yes, that’s all that it takes
One hand
That will never be halted
One back
That the World cannot break

See how it glows
See how it grows
Changing the world
Rearranging the world
Giving hope that will stand firm and fast
When that one life is ended and past
Oh that light will burn bright and will last

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Biographical Documentary Review: Thurgood Marshall Justice For All

Thurgood Marshall Justice For All, 2010. A&E Biography
This film was produced for the biography series.  Contrary to Martin Luther King, Thurgood Marshall was a champion of civil rights in the courts.  He had attended black schools throughout his life, including law school.  He attended Howard University Law School and graduated top of his class. 
After graduating he became associated with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.  He represented them as their lawyer.  In this role, he was able to influence the courts to rule against segregation.  One of his major goals was to end segregation in schools, arguing there is no such thing as “separate but equal.”  He did eventually accomplish this.  However, after the adoption of desegregation he had to convince people to obey the law.  Eventually President Eisenhower had to call out the National Guard to help in this regard. 
President Kennedy nominated Marshall for appointment as a federal judge.  President Johnson would nominate him as the first African American Justice on the Supreme Court.  His nomination was supported broadly, however he was a very liberal voice on the court, believing the constitution to be a living and faulty document with need of amendment to promote civil rights and the freedoms first envisioned.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Movie Biography: Martin Luther King Jr., The Man and the Dream

Martin Luther King 

This movie does not present martin Luther King as the perfect man.  However it does paint a very good picture of the things he was able to do for human rights.  Martin Luther King entered a dangerous business; that of advocating for change and rights and dignity.  It seems the human rights movie picked him, rather than him picking it.  However, after it picked him, Martin Luther King was able to rise to the occasion.  He was jailed for his views and his work.  For a while it seemed he would not get out, but he did get the Kennedys to intervene in his behalf.  This is part of the reason the Black populace switched from the Republican party to the Democrat. 
There are two memorable speeches that stand out more than some of his others.  This first is “I have a Dream.”  Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.
And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today!
I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of "interposition" and "nullification" -- one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.
I have a dream today!
I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; "and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together."2
This is our hope, and this is the faith that I go back to the South with.
With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.
And this will be the day -- this will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with new meaning:
My country 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing.
Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrim's pride,
From every mountainside, let freedom ring!
And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true.
And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire.
Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.
Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.
Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado.
Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.
But not only that:
Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.
Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.
Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi.
From every mountainside, let freedom ring.
And when this happens, and when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:
                Free at last! Free at last!
                Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!3

And the speech given the day before he was shot:
Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!
And so I'm happy, tonight.
I'm not worried about anything.
I'm not fearing any man.
Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.
 Martin Luther King Jr. was killed April 4 at the age of 39.  He was shot by a sniper. 

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Movie Biography: Clint Eastwood: The Man From Malpaso (1994)

This is a very interesting movie.  It tells the story of Clint Eastwood in the movies.  His dad thought he shouldn't try acting but get a real job.  However Eastwood stuck with it.  This tells the story of his early days in film, when he contracted to a studio and had bit parts.  However the studio day was done, and he was left unemployed.  However t.v. was coming on and he hit a break with "Rawhide."  This was regular work for seven years.
Clint then goes back and tells his childhood.  He was raised in a good family, but was born during the depression.  The family moved considerable, but was considered middle class.
Eastwood first rose to stardom with the spaghetti westerns.  "A Fist Full of Dollars" was the first.  He did not always play the most likeable characters.  After this run, he portrayed police men in mystery shows, "Coogan's Bluff" and then the popular "Dirty Harry" movies followed; and the success just kept rolling. 
He next, after studying several directors, took to the other side of the camera as a directory himself.  First first venture was "Play Misty for Me."  Eastwood ventured into many projects that weren't your normal type of movie, "Bronco Billy," "Firefox," and "Honkytonk" man to name a few.
This documentary ends with his film success in 1992.  "Unforgiven" won best picture and best director.  Malpaso is his production company, and a river close to his home in Carmel.
The documentary uses autobiographical interviews with Eastwood.  It includes interviews with some of his directors and co actors.  It also includes numerous clips of different scenes to illustrate some of the points the make.  Some of the people included are: Ted Post, Marsha Mason and Gene Hackman.