Sunday, June 29, 2014

Apocalypse: The Second World War: Shock

This is the third of six documentary presentations in this series.  These episodes use colorized original footage with narration.  This episode documents the fall of Paris.  It then continues to describe the Battle of Britain.  Germany was anxious for more space, more resources.  As they could not extend through Britain, the direction took was to attack the Soviet Union, an ally.  However, Russia had been an ally of convenience.  They had split Poland, but in this case, the reason for doing this was to keep the Russians closer, so the would be available to be attacked.  The Russians were surprised by the turn of the Germans.  They had heard rumors, but did not believe them.  The result of this surprise is the Germans were able to destroy most of the Russian Air Force while it was still on the ground.  Without air support, the Russians were vulnerable.
Of course the invasion of Russia was not easy.  Russia has much more space, and greater distances, resulting in longer supply lines.  Stalin at first hid himself, but then developed a strategy, a scorched earth strategy.  Fall back, but don't leave anything for the Germans.  This policy kept taking its toll, and there was stiff resistance at the major cities.
The Germans bogged down 30 miles short of Moscow.  A pincer counterattack by the Russians.  drove them back 300 miles before winter set in.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Movie Review: Apocalypse: The Second World War: Crushing Defeat

This movie continues the world war documentary which was originally produced in France using colorized original footage.  It was presented in the U.S. first by The National Geographic Channel.  This second episode takes us through the conquering of Poland, and the destruction of the French army.  The result of the fall of Poland was the creation of Jewish slums in most major cities where the Jews were required to live.  In many communities, such as Warsaw, these were surrounded by fences and food was not allowed into the slums.  I guess the first tactic was hope everyone would starve to death.
The fall of France was very interesting, and admittedly was a strategic success for the Germans.  The French expected the Germans to attack through Belgium as they had done in the first World War.  These was the area least defended.  The French had constructed a very lard defensive barrier which stopped at Belgium, who as a neutral country would not allow it.  Also to attack elsewhere the Germans would have to get through the thick forest Ardennes.
Hitler made an initial move like he was attacking through Belgium, and allowed the French to push him back, and thus exposing their flank.  The major thrust of his attack came through the Ardennes.  They were able to overcome the defenses which were less than adequately manned.  The French and British forces were facing being surrounded.  The British commanded that their expeditionary force be evacuated.  Every vessel available in England was sent to evacuate their forces, as well as French forces.  While other French forces were left to defend Dunkirk, thus becoming an expendable rear guard.
The German forces also had the luxury of  air superiority.  They used their planes to stop fleeing refugees, as well as control supply.  They also used them to attack vessels that were fleeing to England.  Some were sunk, but most did survive.
I had always thought from talk radio that the French did not but up much of a fight.  However it was the force at Dunkirk that allowed many to escape.  As a result of the Battle for France over 100,000 French soldiers killed.  Over a million soldiers were captured, and would rot in German POW camps for the next five years.
This episode shows how the British attacked a French fleet, now under control of the French Vichy government which was a puppet German government.   The reason Churchill would send his force against a former ally was to prevent their being used for a cross channel invasion of England. 
The Battle of Britain began then with Hitler trying to win the battle from the air.  The Royal Air Force was devastated.  The lost almost 500 planes and were about at their end.  However the Nazis lost 1000.  Hitler decided to change tactics, and bomb the British cities into submission.  Although this was tragic, the British citizens made bomb shelters in their gardens, or slept in the subways, but still went to work the next day.  The children where sent away.  Had Hitler continued his fight against the British Air Force, we would have defeated them.  However, in focusing on the cities, he gave the air force a chance to regroup.

Apocalypse: WWII: Aggression

This first part of this six-part series of WWII explains the start of the war and the early moves.  It uses original footage which has been colorized.  It was presented by National Geographic Channel.
In the first part of the series the rise of Hitler to power in the early 1930s is presented.  He was able to use the discontent of the German people to rise to power, first by coup and then by official election. 
Hitler, from the beginning had designs on expansion; as well as designs on minorities, Jews, gypsies, gays etc.  Austria was annexed.  The expansion began in Czechoslovakia where Hitler negotiated a treaty with France and England (Neville Chamberlain) and gained a German populated section, Sudetenland.  Chamberlain thought he had accomplished peace in  his time.  He was wrong. 
Through strong arming the Czech government, and threatening annihilation with his plains, he is able to negotiate a peace which gave him the entire country. 
This movie also presents the invasion of Poland.  At first the invasion was to recover a strip of land which was taken from Germany at the end of WWI.  Hitler plays a risk, thinking England and France will again turn the other way.  However, as a result of this invasion, both England and France declare war against Germany.  This gave Hitler is excuse to go after these countries. 
Germany was dependent on iron ore from Sweden.  They had to protect the supply route, and at one point England had broken this, but as war was declared, the resources needed to block the route called south to defend France.
It may not have made a difference, but indifference, and not accepting the threat was what it was, would have devastating consequences. 

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Book Review: Miwok

Miwok by Barbara A. Gray-Kanatiiosh, ABDO Publishing Company, North Mankato, MN, 2002.
This is a child’s book, and gives an introduction to the Miwok.  However it is even thin for a children’s book.  The part I liked were the creation story as told by the Miwok.  Old Man Coyote wanted to make people but needed land where they could live.  He made lad from some mud he found on Frog’s feet.  He then set sticks into the land, waved his blanket over the sticks and turned them into people. 
The parts where I learned something new is that the Miwok had three basic areas they inhabited, by different groups which spoke the same language.  Coastal Miwok lived in the North Bay area, Lake Miwok in the clear lake area, and Eastern Miwok from Mount Diablo to Yosemite.  Each population had different types of dwellings based on the resources available.  They Lake and Coastal used more tule in their housing.  Acorn was a staple in their diet, along with what they could gather and hunt.  The men and women had tattoo markings on their chins, and sometimes down onto their chests.  They did not wear a lot of clothes, especially in the summer.  Boys fashioned rabbit sticks, which they used to hit small animals.  They also used snares, arrows and nets in hunting.
With the coming of gold, the Miwok were forced off their land.  Chief Tenaya lead a revolt.  He wanted to live in Yosemite valley.  After many Native Americans were killed, Tenaya called for a truce.  However he was killed by ambush. 
The part is disliked is the current condition of the Miwok was very sketchy.  Some live on Rancherias.  There are about 3500 Miwok today. 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Book Review: The Ute Indians

The Ute Indians of Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico, by: Virginia McConnell Simmons, University Press of Colorado, Boulder, CO, 2000.
This is a fairly extensive history.  It starts from the earliest history of the Ute, what were their origins? Etc.  How do they relate to the Anasazi or the Fremont Indians. 
The original territory of the Ute was quite extensive.  They lived from Western Utah through Colorado to Denver and into New Mexico.  Their hunting grounds extended further than this.  They were quite war like and their traditional enemies included the Cheyenne, Navajo and Arapaho.  The tradition was that if a tribe killed one of yours, then you had to kill one of theirs and so on.  This also included raids to steal possessions.  When the horse became prevalent this was a coveted item, but also made raids much more efficient and possible. 
The first contact of the Ute with whites was with the Spanish and then Mexican.  This included the Dominguez Escalante exploration.  Relations with the Mexican government where generally quite cool.  This because of the raiding like nature of the Ute.  However, transition to American government only made things worse.
This history relates who the traditional territories of the Ute were slowly eroded.  In Colorado, The Uncompagre were removed to Utah.  The Southern reservations remained, but most of the original native American land was removed, including that that was given by treaty. 
Chief Ouray was an important figure in this history.  He was selected to be the head chief, by the government rather than his fellow Indians.  He negotiated several treaties, giving away land for annuity subsidies. 
This book gives a fairly good account of the affair at the Meeker massacre, in which the White River Utes killed the BIA agent Nathan Meeker, and several of his staff, and took the women hostages.  Ouray intervened and ordered the hostages be released and they stop fighting.  The Indians were expected to subsist with farming and education.  Farming was always a hard sell because of the poor lands given.  Cattle grazing was a much more viable option.  Education also was a bit of a hard sell for a time, but many tribal members have taken advantage of free tuition and other incentives to get an education.
I missed more detail as to why everyone was moved to Utah.  It seemed to skip over this other than saying it happened.  However, this book is failry good reading.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Biography: Lizzie Borden

Lizzie Borden
Lizzie Borden is well known to most Americans, base on the thyme about her.
Lizzie Borden took an axe
And gave her mother forty whacks,
When she saw what she had done,
She gave her father forty-one.
Talk about being tried in the media.  Lizzie Borden did go to trial for the murder of her father and stepmother.  However she was acquitted.  However she remained guilty in the minds of millions of Americans.  She inherited a couple hundred thousand dollars from her father.  She had argued with her stepmother.  However the judge, and the community, and the jury, were convinced such a petite young woman, with such gracious manners, could not have committed such a crime.
Taken from "The Good, the Bad and the Mad" by 

Biography: Ambrose Bierce: “Nobody will find my old bones”

Ambrose Bierce: “Nobody will find my old bones”
This is a brief review of a chapter from the book “The Good, the Bad and the Mad” by E. Randall Floyd.  This individual’s claim to fame is basically that his prophecy came true, and that he was a pessimistic old fart.  Oh, and he was a writer.
Bierce had served in the Civil war fighting for the Union at Shiloh; and being wounded at the Battle for Kennesaw Mountain.  He would later be commended for his war essays.  His outlook on life was effected by the horror of war, and it was this outlook that earned him the nickname “Bitter Bierce.”  “His acidic dislike for and lack of patience with the human race stains the pages of most of his writing.”  So he took his bitterness to Mexico during the revolution  saying “To be a gringo in Mexico—ah, that is euthanasia!”  Apparently he got his wish.
"An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" is one of his works made into a movie.  "Old Gringo" is a movie based on his life.

Documentary Movie Review: The Brothers Warner

The Brothers Warner a film by Cass Warner Sterling, The Warner Sisters, 2008.
Talk about your functional dysfunctional family.  These brothers, Harry, Albert, Sam, Jack, started small.  Because of their Jewish heritage, (Warner is not their birth name) they found it difficult to get an education, so they went to work.  They eventually fell upon a movie theater and showing films.  However, they had difficulty getting new films, so started making some of their own, with a ware house and a sheet for a backdrop.  They started during the time of silent films, but pioneered talking movies.  A real break-through for them was the movie Jazz Singer with Al Jolsen.  This was the first film with talking and music.  It actually had synchronized talking and lip movement for the first time.  However, the success of this film was marred by the unexpected death of Sam, who had been the biggest promoter of sound, and had basically worked himself to death on the project. 
The other three had long careers in theater, however at times they had squabbles with each other, and sometimes would not talk to each other, but still they provided creative and innovative movies.  They took a lead in trying to confront Nazism, and publicize the concentration camps (before they were acknowledged by the government.)  The were suppressed in several attempts.  They were able to produce a couple of movies based on actual cases of Nazi spying.  However when the war did involve the U.S. they were given greater leeway.  Casa Blanca was a Warner Brothers film.  It won the best picture.  Jack accepted for the family, because he got to the microphone first, even though he was not as involved in this film as his brothers.
One of the more interesting aspects of the studio was how Jack took control.  He convinced his brothers to sell, while making plans to rebuy the studio.  After they all sold, he rebought the studio after only one day, and basically took over operations as president while kicking his brothers out.  Of course his brothers were financially secure, but they always felt wronged. 
Communication was strained even more than previous, and they all passed away eventually without resolving their conflict.
This move was made by Cass Warner Sterling, who is the granddaughter of Harry Warner.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Book Review: Gettysburg

Gettysburg: Bringing History to Life by Josh Gregory, Children’s Press, Sholastic, New York, 2012.
This appears to be a book published for children for the sesquicentennial of the Civil War.  It is actually quite well done.  It explains succinctly Joshua Chamberlains heroics, Lee’s failure with Pickett’s Charge, and Meade’s failure with not following up after the battle was over.  However, it does relate this battle to future events including the Gettysburg Address and the end of the war.
It has one factually inaccuracy which is makes twice.  It says the Confederacy never sent troops into Union territory after this.  They forget Jubal Early and the Calvary invasion which almost made it to Washington through Maryland (a northern state) in 1864.  

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Book Review: The Iroquois

The Iroquois: Watts Library, by Liz Sonneborn, Scholastic, New York, 2002.
The Iroquois were an interesting people.  They are not a particular tribe, but rather a confederation of tribes, initially five and eventually six tribes—The Mohawk, Seneca, Cayuga, Onondaga, Oneida and Tuscarora.  These groups had been subject to wars against each other, but came together as a result of the Peacemaker.  He recruited Hiawatha to help him, and together they brought peace to the Iroquois Nations, who as a result had a time of great prosperity as well as conquest over other nations, because they were peaceful towards each other.  However they were finally defeated,  They made peace, but this did not last.  They were drawn into the French and Indian War—most of the nations fighting with the French, while the Mohawk fought with the British.  The Tuscarora joined the confederacy of tribes later, when they were defeated by settlers in the south and were forced to move North into the territory of the Iroquois. 
The revolutionary war also saw the people divided, with most fighting with the British and the Oneida and Tuscarora with the Americans.  As a result, after they war many of the traditional tribal lands were forfeited through forced treaty, or sold to settlers.  The people were continually forced west into what was known as Indian territory.  Some also migrated to Canada. 

Monday, June 16, 2014

Philo Farnsworth: Inventor of Television

Philo Farnsworth

Rigby High School
A play being presented in Mountain View is "The Farnsworth Invention" written by Aaron Sorkin.  I found this article which deals with the history of the the play.  In so doing it gives us Philo Farnsworth's history.  Here is a young man, who before he was in the ninth grade at Rigby High School, came up with what became his idea for television.  He shared this with his science teacher.  At a very young age he took out a patent for his idea, and began working in a lab perfecting his invention.  He was given the original patent of television, although and earlier patent had been applied for.  However, that idea was deemed unworkable. 
Here is a scene by scene account of the play and the history; which are not the same.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Book Review: Life on the Oregon Trail

Life on the Oregon Trail: The Way People Live, by: Gary L. Blackwood, Lucent Books, San Diego, CA, 1999.
This is a brief review of encounters along the Oregon Trail.  The chapters include Why they went west, what they took, how they got there, how they coped, how they interacted with Indians, how they came to grief and what they found to enjoy.  The chapters dealing with grief point out that the biggest cause of death was disease, particularly cholera.  However there were losses due to accident, drowning, Indian attack and murder.  IN the section on what they enjoyed, it gives information on the forts along the trail, which were resting places, dancing and music, and some special places, like soda springs and ice slough. 
This book is more an introduction than an in depth study.

Book Review: Making Freedom: The Underground Railroad and the Politics of Slavery

Making Freedom: The Underground Railroad and the Politics of Slavery, by R.J.M. Blackett, The University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, 2013.
This is an interesting addition to the story of the underground railroad.  It reviews slavery, mostly in the state of Pennsylvania, and the results of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850.  It tells a few stories, but in much greater detail than other books I have read.  There are two topics which intrigued me.
Commissioner Richard McAllister was appointed by Supreme Court Justice Robert Grier.  The law of 1850 required a review before someone could be returned using the Fugitive Slave Act.  However, McAllister  deliberately tried to thwart any semblance of judicial review.  He would hold courts early in the morning or late at night so defense lawyers would not know of the proceedings, he would not recognize lawyers defending accused slaves.  He would not let people speak, or consider their statements.  He held hearing in uncomfortable small rooms to avoid large crowds, and to make things inconvenient.  In the end, he always sent accused slaves back to bondage.  His was a kangaroo hearing, and it became such he was eventually forced to resign, and no one took his place.  Hearings had to travel to Philadelphia. 
The other issue covered extensively was the deliberate kidnapping of free blacks by conniving men.  The goal was to quickly get those kidnapped out of Pennsylvania, and into Maryland and whisked south on a train.  They were quickly sold at market, and lost their liberty.  This happened many times, and it was difficult to prosecute those involved, however there were some prosecutions that slowed the practice.  However many free blacks lost their freedom in this way.
This book has the underground railroad playing a large role in slave escapes, often sponsoring people to live in the South and encourage slaves to seek their freedom, provide assistance.  However at the same time, the book warns against downplaying the role of the slaves their selves in seeking their own freedom. 
Very good review of these issues.  The argument was made by someone at the time that it was the underground railroad which created dissatisfaction, and slaves would have been happy with their lot if left alone.  They almost forced them to runaway, and then abandoned them where they could be protected by their master.  However the arguments against this idea are overwhelming.  People seek out freedom, and many of the slaves were willing to die for that opportunity.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Book Review: Squanto and the Miracle of Thanksgving

Squanto and the Miracle of Thanksgiving by Eric Metaxas illustrated by Shannon Stirnweis, Thomas Nelson, 1999.
This is a children’s story, but it is an incredible story I had never heard before.  I was not aware of the relationship of Squanto to Thanksgiving.  He was taken slave by Spanish profiteers, and taken back to Spain to be sold.  However, a group of monks purchased him.  In helping him return home, he was sent to England with a family, waiting for a ship.  It took him ten years to finally make it back home.  When he finally did, all of his people had passed away from disease.  He lived with a neighboring village for a time, and then grew depressed and went to live on his own in the wilderness.  While there, the pilgrims arrived, and Built a village where his own people formerly had a village.   He decided to help them, teaching them where to hunt, how to gather crab, and how to plant corn.  After a profitable summer, he joined them, along with members of his adopted village, for a large feast of Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Jane Addams: The Most Dangerous Woman in America?

Going through social work school I was taught that Jane Adams was the founder of social work.  She established Hull House in Chicago as a settlement house.  Hull House was like a university for women which provided services to recent immigrants.  They had free lectures and concerts, and classes on different topics of interests.  They advocated for those who were disadvantaged, and in doing this Addams pioneered a whole new profession for women, that of social advocacy or social work.  By 920 there were 500 settlement houses around the nation, some with a secular tradition like Hull House, and others with Christian sponsorship.
However, in the book "The Good, The Bad and the Mad" by E. Randall Floyd, the title refers to Jane Addams as the most dangerous woman in America.  How could this be. J. Edgar Hoover pronounced this label on Jane Addams.  After all, she sought solidarity with those who were down trodden, poor, and of a different race.  She looked to all humanity as being equal.  This article points out that Addams was also an activist and a pacifist.  As the United States entered WWI, she was for staying out of the war, and acted on her beliefs.  Add this to her personal success as a result of her efforts in community organizing and working for the poor, and you have a "dangerous woman."  People went so far as to call her Red or Communist.  She claimed she had no ties to subversive groups.  Over time, and after the war, these things were forgotten.  She is remembered for her contribution to society, and her skill with working with the poor and needy.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Book Review: Fugitive Slaves and the Underground Railroad

Fugitive Slaves and the Underground Railroad in the Kentucky Borderland by J. Blain Hudson, McFarland and Company, Jefferson, NC, 2002.
This person really did their homework.  There are so many stories about slave escapes, and those who assisted the slaves that my head is spinning.  There are a couple of chapters that rely mostly on reports in the newspapers.  This includes ads from a slave holder offering reward for the return of a runaway slave.  It also includes some information from court reports or just stories of interest.  There is a chapter and the likely routes, focusing on the places where crossing were made of the Ohio.  It also talks about those that escaped via the river on river boats.  The most interesting chapter is when the author goes into greater detail talking about a few people, fugitives and helpers.
The conclusion of the author:  The slave escape routes often mirrored where there were large populations of free African Americans.  The underground railroad was not always an organized situation, in fact it very much wasn’t until the 1850s, when the Fugitive Slave Act required it to be more organized.  Not all fugitive slaves received assistance.  Those giving assistance were primarily African Americans, with also assistance from some white abolitionists.  Sometimes both fugitives and helpers paid consequences.  Several people were imprisoned for helping slaves.  There was an instance where three fugitive slaves were executed for insurrection as the result of a mass escape.
The courage of those on both sides of this issue must have truly amazing—to stand up against a law, even if you know it is a poor law, is difficult to do.  When standing up against it could result in incarceration, or death, it takes even more courage.  It wasn’t until much later that these people were recognized as heroes. 

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Historical Movie Review: Thomas Edison and the Electric Light

This is an animated movie from Nest Entertainment and Rich Studios.  It tells the story of Mr. Edison, and the discovery of the light bulb.  It includes some famous Edison quotes, "I have not failed.  I have just 10,000 ways that won't work."  and when asked are you a genius.  "Invention is one per cent inspiration and ninety-nine per cent perspiration.  What you may say sir is I am a genius of perspiration."
This shows the struggle to invent the light bulb, and creating an environment where it will work, and then a filament that will burn and not burn up.  They try any number of different things, including horse hair.  It is finally ordinary thread that works for a filament.
This is an enjoyable history, although dramatized.

ESPN Documentary Review: Shawn Bradley: Postarized
This is a very interesting look at Shawn Bradley, his NBA career, and his accomplishments off the court.  Shawn Bradley is 7' 6".  He was selected second in the NBA draft after playing one year (setting a record for a Freshman in shot blocks) and then served a two-year mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  He did not live up to the hype, but he did enjoy a 12-year career in the NBA, and is number 16 on the all time blocks list.  From his NBA career he became financially independent and has been able to provide a contribution to the world.  He is currently employed at a school in Salt Lake for "troubled" youth.