Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Book Review: Halloween

Halloween: A True Book by Dana Meachen Rau, Children's Press, NY, 2001.
This book mostly goes over some of the same stuff, but I think I understand more about the name "Jack" as related to Halloween.  This book is good at pointing out the progression.  The Celts, who lived a 2500 -2000 years ago and inhabited much of Europe, had October 31 as the last day of the year.  They believed it was the day spirits could come back o life==both bad and good spirits.  They would trick the spirits by dousing their fire at home.  The would big a large communal bonfire.  They would wear masks to trick thee spirits into thinking they were also spirits.  In the morning, everyone would take some embers to restart the fire in their home.
The Romans entered the mix when they conquered the Celts.  They had a holiday at about the same time of year which honored the goddess of fruit.  They would eat nuts and fruits.  The game of apple bobbing comes from the Romans.
The Catholic Church also had an influence.  They tried to do away with the holiday, and where unsuccessful.  They combined it with all Saints day followed by All Souls day.  Latin culture honors their dead with day of the dea, where they take cakes to their deceased relations. 
Finally the Irish give us the Jack o' lantern.  Jack was a cunning man, but also not a good man.  WHen the Devil came for him, he tricked the devil.  When he eventually died, he couldn't go to heave.  He wasn't a good man.  The devil would not have him either.  So he was left to wander.  They devil did give him a charcoal for his lantern, which he made from a hallow turnip.  Today we hallow pumpkin which work better than turnips. 

Movie Review: Death Valley

Death Valley: National Geographic: National Parks Collection
I wanted to get some incredible views of Death Valley.  Instead I got a global warming lesson.  What would happen if Death Valley rose two degrees.  Its species of plants are already on the brink of endurance.   When will we ever learn?  This lesson was reiterated in talking of sand dunes, plants and the Devil's Hole Pup Fish, which lives in the aquifer underneath the dessert. 
Some cool things shown, crystals in caves, the exploration of the aquifer, the moaning sand dunes.  Apparently sound waves get trapped in the upper level of sand, and is echoed and reverberated.  It was pretty cool.  The sand dunes also move and change location. 
Information about scorpions.  I didn't realize some are cold blooded and some hot blooded.  Change in temperature may change the balance. 
This movie seemed to be an agrandizement of scientist, who are better than the rest of us who don't care about global warming.  If the National Geographic series is all like this, I will have to leave them on the shelf.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Book Review: Horrible Hauntings

Horrible Hauntings by Shirin Yim Bridges, illustrated by William Maughan, Goosebottom Books, Foster City, CA., 2012.
This is basically a ghost story book.  It is interesting to read about ghosts, many of whom were prominent people.  These include Abraham Lincoln.  He has haunted the White House, and among those who have seen him are Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands, who fainted; and Winston Churchill while dressing who responded, “You have me at a disadvantage, Sir!”
Prince Edward and his younger brother, who were killed by their uncle King Richard.  (Actually Edward was the king, but deemed too young to rule, and Richard was ruling in his stead, and didn’t want to relinquish the throne.  They haunt the Tower of London.
Whalley Abbey is haunted by a whole abbey of priests, with their Abbot Paslew who was executed for treason.  They haunt the old abandoned abbey.
There are several different headless horsemen.  Of course the most famous is he of Sleepy Hollow, he did away with Ichabod Crane with the use of his pumpkin head.  There are several others, someof whom carry their head under their arm.
Katherine Howard, the fifth wife of King Henry VIII haunts the gallery of Hamptom Palace.  She met the same fate as her cousin Anne Boleyn, who was the King’s second wife.  Being a wife of King Henry the VIII must have been risky business.  In her haunt she is seeking the King, who denies her.  She was taken to the tower and then met her fate on the chopping block.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Book Review: Pocahontas: A Life in Two Worlds

Pocahontas: A Life in Two Worlds by Victoria Garret Jones, Sterling Publishing, New York, 2010.
This is a fascinating book telling the life of Pocahontas, but also the history of Jamestown, Captain John Smith and well as her father Powhatan and his people.  The relationship between the Native Americans and the people at Jamestown varies from year to year.  It is very likely the settlement would not have taken hold without the help of the Native Americans.  However there were times when they were at open war. 
Pocahontas befriended John Smith and the people at Jamestown.  She intervened on several occasions in their behalf, saving John Smith’s life at least a couple of times.  She once saved his head from being bashed in, and another time warned him and his men of Powhatan’s intent to kill them so they could escape.  Even so, John Smith was made an adoptive son, and adoptive brother of Pocahontas.  However, he returned to England after being badly burned by gun powder.  For her part, Pocahontas thought he had been killed.
Pocahontas was tricked and taken hostage.  This was to manipulate her father into trading with the Jamestown settlers, as they relied on food from the American Indians.  During this time, Pocahontas converted to Christianity.  However, if she had her gull choice, one has to wonder if she would have converted.  She married John Rolfe.  With him she traveled to England, and was honored as a princess. 
However, the moist weather wasn’t good for her health.  They decided to return, but her health failed her.  They began their journey, but took to land in Gravesend because of the health of Pocahontas.  Here she would pass away.  Her son Thomas was also ill, but he would survive.  He would become a tobacco farmer like his father, using lands inherited form his grandfather Powhatan.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Escapers: Jan Baalsrud; Norway

This is a chapter in the book Incredible Journey by Readers Digest.  Jan Baalsrud was a member of a group of four men, who were of Norwegian descent.  They were places in Norway by the British in hopes of disrupting Nazi occupied Norway.  Instead, they were confronted upon landing, and all but Baalsrud were killed.  Baalsrud was able to escape up a draw in the snow away from the ocean, by killing a Nazi officer and wounding another man.  This was the start of a harrowing journey of escape, which endangered the lives of all those who helped him; but they still did help him. He was forced to swim from island to isand, until he came upon a situation where they could take him in.   He finally made the mainland.  He had been given a pair of skies to move more quickly.  His goal was to cross the Lyngen Alps.  However he was unsuccessful and was found delirious by Marius Gonnvold, who nursed him back to health.  He was placed in a hidden hut, which the nazis did not know of, to recuperate.  However a hut trapped him in the hut, without assistance for several days, and he almost died.  His goal was to make Sweden.  He had to cross a plain, and he set out with the promise of men meeting him.  However a bad storm trapped him.  He was placed behind a rock which provided some protection form the storm.  The men left him, thinking the men would come to get him.  However they did not come, they were delayed by the Nazis who were looking for Ballsrud.  he was buried in the snow.  All of his toes froze.  He did self amputations with his knife and brandy as anesthetic.  He was able to breath under the snow because it was fresh and not compacted.  Groonvold again found him where he had been left.  Baalsrud could not travel of his own accord.  He was placed in a sled and taken across the field to Sweden.  They had to cross a dangerous lake (ice not thick enough) as they were chased by Nazis.  They eventually made it to the men they were looking for who were to take him to Sweden as the migrated their herd of reindeer. 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Book Review: Harriet Tubman: Hero of the Underground Railroad

Harriet Tubman: Hero of the Underground Railroad, by Lori Mortensen, illustrated by Frances Moore, Picture Window Books, Minneapolis, MN, 2007.
I enjoyed this brief history of Harriet Tubman in picture book format.  The artwork added something to the story as many of the illustrations had a fabric pattern.  Harriet Tubman did not have a good time as a slave.  She was taken from her mother.  She had to tend a baby, and was beaten if the baby cried.  She was disciplined for stealing sugar.  She did not prevent another man escaping, and her master through an iron at her, hitting her in the head.  This caused her to have headaches the rest of her life.
Tubman hated being a slave, and as a young woman, when she heard of intentions to sell her, she escaped.  Using referrals for the underground railroad she was able to make it to Philadelphia, free territory.  However. Tubman’s efforts did not stop there.  She made at least 19 trips back to slave territory, and brought about 300 people back with her in total.  She acted as a conductor for the underground railroad.  She helped her parents and other family members escape. 
With the commencement of the war, she still made trips to slave country, to serve as a nurse, and to help the Union effort as a spy.  She was able to conduct and direct an expedition to clear torpedo mines.  She knew where they were because of her spying efforts. 
Harriet Tubman was an interesting woman, who lived a long life.  When she passed away at age 93 she was buried with military honors, based on her service to many through the underground railroad and the Civil War. 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Book Review: The Story of Halloween

The Story of Halloween by: Carol Greene, illustrated by: Linda Bronson, Harper Collins Publishers, 2004.
This book is a good historical review of where our Halloween traditions get their origin.  Halloween was the combination of several different holidays, from several different cultures.  The Celt tradition of October 31 being the last day of the year, when ghosts of those who had died in the past year, as well as elves and fairies and scary creatures roamed.  They would make big bonfires to scare the creatures away.  From this tradition we have a feeling of spooks in the night this day.  The Romans added their traditional day of honoring the goddess of fruits.  This is likely where we get the apple dunking tradition.  From Christians we get honoring all Saints day, and the day before being Halloween, or all Hallows Eve.  But Britain still held some of their believes in Spirits wondering the night.  SO they would still build bonfires and tell scary stories.  England also had a tradition of going door to door begging for soul-cakes, or a penny.  Some of those going around started the tradition of playing tricks, boarding up doors, or chimneys.  “The spirits did it.”  From Latin countries we get the honoring of the Day of the Dead.
From Ireland we got the first jack o’ lanterns, originally made of turnips or rutabagas and potatoes.  These were carved out with ugly faces.  When many of the Irish immigrated to the United States, they brought this tradition with them.  However, pumpkins were more readily available, and easier to carve, so became the fruit of choice. 
By the end of the 1800s, celebration of Halloween was firmly entrenched into our society.  Our Holiday includes parts of many different celebrations, and has evolved over time.  It took a turn for the worse, when excessive tricking threatened to take away the safe play of young people on this day.  Building fires, slashing tires, and excessive vandalism, along with older boys bullying younger, threatening to take candy, threatened the safety of all.  Now there are more community and organized events, and parents supervising children, especially younger children.  It is a good day to meet your neighbors.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Jungle of Death: Stephen Brookes

This story is taken from the book Incredible Journeys But together by Readers Digest.  Stephen was eleven years old when he lived with his family in Burma, which was a part of India at the time.  The Japanese invaded Burma, and swept through the country so quickly everyone was taken by suprise, and many were left refugees.  The Japanese planes flying overhead were the first Stephen had ever seen.  His family was slow in leaving, not believing the disaster, and so had to leave quickly.  The headed north, away from the Japanese, into China.  In China they were held up, and finally were released to travel cross the country on foot to India.  They had to travel through 250 miles of jungle known as the Hukawng Valey.  50,000 refugees would try the same trip, only 25,000 would survive the ordeal, thee others would die in the jungle.  This included Stephen's father. 
This trip resulted in the break up of the family.  Stephen remained in India, and eventually traveled to England.  His mother, who was Burmese, returned to Burma after the war with his sister and brother. 

Movie Review: Island of Lemurs: Madagascar

This is a look at lemurs.  On thing I didn't know, lemur only live on Madagascar.  The evolved in Africa, traveled to Madagascar, and all those left behind somehow passed away.  Morgan Freeman narrates this tail of an interesting animal.  They are so cute the way they hop.  This movie is presented by Warner Brothers and IMAX.  This movie follows the work of Patricia Wright.  The Lemur is endangered due to excessive land clearing.  Fire is the most common tool to clear land, and these fires often burn out of control.  There is a process of reeducating farmers about the dangers of their indiscriminate burns. 
This is a good educational movie, and talks of practical things being done to help the lemur.   It is available only in IMAX theaters.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Documentary Review: Civil War Journal: Stonewall Jackson
This is an intriguing documentary about Stonewall Jackson.  This video portrays him as an eccentric, rigid man, with a genius streak which would serve him well in battle.  He was perseverant.  He had had only a minimal education when he went to West Point.  His initial year he was at the bottom of the class.  However, by the time he graduated, he was in the upper third.  He distinguished himself in the Mexican War, rising to the top of his class. 
He then took a position at VMI.  As a lecturer he was a failure, having to memorize his lectures and give them verbatim.  However he was a very good professor or artillery.  Many of his students were convinced he was a hard teacher, but if there were war they would want to follow him.  Some of Jackson's oddities including eating food he didn't like, which he felt would benefit him, feeling his body was off balance, so sometimes holding his hand over his head trying to regain his balance.  He was also a religious, and very strict in his observance. 
Jackson earned the name Stonewall at the Battle of Bull Run.  However it was the campaign of the Shenandoah Valley were he earned his fame.  His men would march excessive miles, and then be ready to battle.  He defeated three armies, who had almost four times his number of total men.  He used his knowledge of the land, the screen of the mountains and the movement of his own troops.  Jackson also always gave credit to God. 
This short film goes from the Valley to Chancellorsville.  This is likely one of Lee and Jackson's greatest victories.  However friendly fire, and pneumonia took Jackson's life.  "Let us cross over the river, and rest in the shade of the trees."  Jackson lead the way. 
Jackson's death leads to the what if question, which still is dominant today.  It was a blow to the Confederate morale.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Movie Review: Encounters at the End of the World (Werner Herzog)

Encounters at the End of the World: Go Someplace Cool; A Werner Herzog Film, Discovery Films, 2008.
There are two disks with this this movie.  I put in the second first by accident.  It was a boring interview.  I realized my mistake and put in the second, which presented a story of Antarctica.  I was hoping to see strange sea animals, like a Jacque Cousteau movie.  And I wasn't disappointed, there was some of that.  The divers had to drill, and then blast a hole in the iceberg they were on, and under the iceberg was a new world.  No there wasn't a lot of wildlife, but what there was was beautiful.  There were clams, and creatures that looked like the developed to open clam shells, and a strange light under the ice.  It was pretty cool. 
Thee were even one cell creatures, which seemed to have intelligence, and attracted elements to itself, which would then become a part of the whole.  People were studying the DNA looking for the foundations of life.
The looked at penguins, and the penguin scientist would not confirm that there were homosexual penguins, he did confirm that sometimes penguins go off kilter.  Sometime they go the wrong direction, and no matter what you do, you can't turn them around.  They wonder into the mountains and die. 
This was also a study of the people that go to Antarctica.  What would drive a person to go to the end of the world.  Of course some go for the science, but others are just drawn to travel, or to adventure, and leave their careers to take up something else so as to travel that far south.
There was a neat look at a volcano, with a molten lake.  I guess it is one of three in the world, but the other two, due to political reasons, aren't really open to research, while this one is.  Research there can be scary at times, because it spits molten lave from time to time.

Book Review: The Tongva of California

The Tongva of California: The Library of Native Americans by Jack S. Williams, PowerKids Press, New York, 2003.
The Tongva, also known as the Gabrielinos, inhabited the area where Los Angeles is now.  They also inhabited the Catalina Islands, and their native lands also extended inward as well.  They were a coastal people, and crafted canoes from logs, as well as larger blank boats.  They spoke a dialect similar to Shoshone. 
This book gives an adequate history of the people, since the appearance of Europeans in about 1542.  However it wasn't until about 1769 that the Spanish decided to colonize the area.  The decided to do this using the Mission method.  They hoped to recruit the native population of California to defend the area for Spain and against other influences.  Father Junipero Serra was instrumetal in this.  The Spanish Monks saw this method as a way to Christianize the Natives, but also as a service to the poor.  The book points out they may not have wanted help. 
This effort however divided the people into two groups, the neophytes, or new converts to Christianity, who generally lived and supported the missions; and the gentiles.  Threats to the mission system came from the non religious Spanish settlements claiming some converts, and raids from the Native Americans from the Mojave area.
When the Mexican government took control form the Spanish, they secularized the missions, telling the natives they would now control their own resources.  However, rich Europeans moved in and took control of the mission properties.  Some of the Native peoples were able to find work in the European communities, but for the Tongva the effect was devastating as they lost their identity, culture and language. 
Today the Tongva are coming back together ass a community.  They are not a federally recognized tribe and do not have a reservation.  It is hard to know how many Tongva there are. 

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Movie Review: Antietam
This documentary film is posted as the film played at the visitor's center at Antietam Battlefield.  It was made in cooperation with Civil War Trust and Historical Films Group.  It is narrated by James Earl Jones.  It gives a fantastic view of this battle, starting with the lead up to the a battle, the lost orders, the attack at Harper's Ferry ad the attacks through the mountain.  It was fun to view a portrayal, using historians, historical reenactments, maps and views of the battleground.  There were some parts of the battle I did not realize, including a flanking attack against the Confederates in the early battle on the North, followed by counter attack, artillery fire, the attack more towards the center, into the sunken road, which provide good defense, until it was flanked; and then became a death trap.  and then finally the attack in the south, across Burnside's Bridge.  It explained why this attack took so long to be effective, against only 400 Confederates.  It concluded with the timely charge of A.P. Hill, which hit the Union flank as they come up, having marched 17 miles that day from Harper's Ferry. 

Friday, October 10, 2014

Civil War Journal - Pickett's Charge

This short presentation is very interesting.  It does use some docudrama, but also using historians recounting the battle, including one who worked at the battle site. Also many pictures, included of corpses on the field.  Danny Glover narrates.  The presentation quickly tells of the first two days, where the Union had been attacked on botgh flanks.  On the third day, Lee proposed to strike the center. 
General George Picket's division had three brigades who were all engaged, pretty much without support.  (Others were assigned to the attack, but never arrived.)  Two Brigade commanders were killed and the other wounded.
One of the most poignant stories is that of the friendship of brigade commander General Lewis Armistead of the Confederacy and General Winfield Scott Hancock of the Union.  They had served together in California, and returned east to fight in the war, one for each side.  They faced each other this day.  Armistead lead his men into the angle of the stone wall and over, where they were engaged in fierce hand to hand combat.  Armistead was fatally wounded.  Hancock was also wounded, shot in the thigh, but not taken from the battlefield.  Armistead died a few yards from where Hancock was being attended to.  He as the men who attended to him to tell Hancock he was sorry.  It appears he felt one of his men likely wounded Hancock. 
Half of Picket's 12,000 men were lost this day, wounded or killed or captured.  General Lee took responsibility for having ordered the attack, which was over open territory of at least a mile, into cannon from all sides, and then into the reinforced Union defense.  This was a disaster, but it was carried out with good style, men marching shoulder to shoulder as the faced the hail of shell.

Movie Review: Biography: Paul Revere

Movie Review: Biography: Paul Revere, A&E Biography Channel, 1995.
Paul Revere is an interesting man.  However, the poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, presents a sketch of his midnight ride, which is influenced by truth and fable.  SO to look at this aspect of Paul Revere’s life first.  Revere was very much interested in the independence movement, and met often with those planning how to carry this about.  He was actively involved in the Boston Tea Party.  His major function was that of a messenger.  He would work his regular job and duties during the day, and then ride all night to deliver message.  His most frequent route was the Boston to New York and back.  He also visited Philadelphia.  He was also called upon to report on news from one city to another, about what efforts were being made towards independence. 
When there was trouble brewing in Boston, Paul Revere came up with the idea of a friend of his, across the bay, would let him know if the British Regulars were on the move.  Truly they used one or two lanterns to distinguish from where the trouble was coming.  Paul Revere did ride to warn those cities outside of Boston.  There was word the British military wanted to destroy a cache of arms they had heard about.  However, Paul Revere was not the only rider.  He did not say, “The British are coming.”  At that time all the residents were subjects of Britain.  However he did have a conversation with someone and said “The regulars are coming.”  He took his trip at night, as expressed.  However, he did stop and have a rest for a half hour with a friend, and letting his horse rest, before moving on to Concord.  He was not riding all out like depicted.  Such a ride would have killed his horse.  He was captured by the British, and threatened to tell what he knew.  He decided to play a bluff, and said there were 500 men expected to face the regulars.  This drew alarm, and he was allowed to leave, but withut his horse.
The story is well known.  The British first attacked local in Lexington, and routed them.  However, in Concord the situation was different.  The first fired from the North Bridge, and a volley was returned resulting the first British fatality of the war.  The British were forced to retreat, and as they did so, the local farmers and militia would fire from the trees, and then run forward and fire again.  A day that started out as a British victory, did not end that way.
As for Paul Revere, he never had an active part in the Revolutionary War.  He was expecting an officer’s commission, which did not come.  He did have command of a small garrison group in Boston.  His only real action was taking a group of men North to Maine, to clear out a British inhabited fort.  This was the largest maritime assault by Americans up to that time.  It did not go well.  There was bickering between the officers, and finally Revere ordered his men back to Boston without achieving their goal.  There was a court martial, and Revere was exonerated saying that the men were out of control, and would not have headed any command anyway. 
Revere was a very successful man.  Although he did not run for political office, he was active in civic duties, including local clubs and Free Masons.  He was one of the first industrialist.  He had trained as a silversmith, but branched out into other areas.  He and his suns established a bell making foundry.  This was at a period of religious revival, and many people needed bells for their churches.  He then expanded into copper, and made copper sheeting.  Many state houses are covered ith his copper, as well as the sides of many ships. 
789. Paul Revere’s Ride

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882)

LISTEN, my children, and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-five;
Hardly a man is now alive
Who remembers that famous day and year.
He said to his friend, ‘If the British march
By land or sea from the town to-night,
Hang a lantern aloft in the belfry arch
Of the North Church tower as a signal light,—
One, if by land, and two, if by sea;
And I on the opposite shore will be,
Ready to ride and spread the alarm
Through every Middlesex village and farm,
For the country folk to be up and to arm.’

So through the night rode Paul Revere;
And so through the night went his cry of alarm
To every Middlesex village and farm,—
A cry of defiance and not of fear,
A voice in the darkness, a knock at the door
And a word that shall echo forevermore!
For, borne on the night-wind of the Past,
Through all our history, to the last,
In the hour of darkness and peril and need,
The people will waken and listen to hear
The hurrying hoof-beats of that steed,
And the midnight message of Paul Revere.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Movie Review: Civil War Life: Shot to Pieces
This You Tube documentary and docudrama presented by Janson Media tells the life of William Francis Bartlett. It starts with perhaps his most heroic moment, the Battle of Ball's Bluff.  He served as a Captain.  His men were ordered to attack, but soon found themselves overwhelmed by the number of Confederates, and after a couple hours of hard shooting, were forced to pull back.  They suffered heavy loses, and made their way back to the Potomac River, where those who could swim made there way to Harrison Island.  Those who could not swim made a stiff defense, until they were able to make there way up river where they found a skiff, and under direction of the Captain and his pistol, made there way across to the island four men at a time.
Bartlett had served at First Bull Run as a Private.  He left his studies at Harvard to enlist.  He was 21 at the time.  He served is 90-day commitment.  
Bartlett's later military involvement was more difficult and costly to his own health.  In the Peninsular campaign he was shot in the knee, which shattered his bone.  His leg was removed three inches above the knee.  He was sent home to recuperate.
He returned to military service with a prosthetic, but as colonel of a different unit, new volunteers.  He trained them and when they were ready he lead them into battle being stationed in New Orleans.  There they were involved in siege of Port Hudson.  This was an attempt to control the Mississippi.  Colonel Bartlett was shot twice while doing reconnaissance.  He took a bullet to the hand and a pellet to his foot.  For a time it was feared he would lose his arm, but his medical care was able to help him preserve it.  After going home for a time, he reenlisted again.  This time he organized a regiment of veteran soldiers who had already completed one enlistment.  They joined Lee in time for the Battle of the Wilderness, and Colonel Bartlett was again wounded, this time shot in the head.  The blow was a grazing blow, and although he again was forced to take some time off, he returned again.
This time he was at the head of a division.  His unit was instrumental in the Battle of the Crater.  The charged into the crater, and found that coming up the other side was difficulty.  Bartlett was laid flat by an exploding mortar shell, in which he lost his prosthetic leg.  He was unable to retreat with others of his unit, and was taken prisoner. 
He ended up in Libby Prison, and suffered terribly for poor nutrition and illness.  He was exchanged after two months, and again went home to recuperate.  The war would end before he would return to service.  However he did return, and helped organize troops to defend Washington.  He now served as a brevet general.
He left military service in 1866.  We was successful at business, working in iron works.  However he never regained full health.  He had married his love, Agnes Pomeroy.  She felt he had done enough, but Bartlett always thought he could provide more service to his country.  He and his wife had four children.  However Bartlett passed away at age 36, succumbing to the after effects of his injuries, and tuberculosis. 

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Movie Documentary Review: JFK: The Lost Bullet

JFK: The Lost Bullet, National Geographic, 2013.
This documentary takes a new look at the assassination of John F. Kennedy using the various home movies taken that day, and also talking again with eye witnesses as well as using laser evidence to examine the route of the three shots people heard.  The first shot is the lost bullet. 
They first examine the last two bullets.  Bullet two is often referred to the magic bullet.  Using laser, and getting the car in the exact position of when this shot takes place using the Zapruder film (famous home video of the assassination) they demonstrate that the course was strait through the presidents back, out his neck and then into the Governor's back.  
The issue with bullet three is that the president's head whipped back instead of forward.  There are two conspiracy theories surrounding this shot.   The first, the driver shot him.  Digital enhancement clarifies this.  The driver did turn around and look at the president.  However he has nothing in his hand.  The second, the theory of a shooter on the grassy knoll.  They use other films from a different angle to refute this argument as nothing is seen on the hill.  Also the shot would have been fired form the side, and had to of hit the president in the side of the head, and then possibly hitting Jacklyn Kennedy.  The digital enhancement of the film does show a puff of moisture going forward after the president is struck.  Then his head jerks back in a reverse reaction effect.
Then the lost bullet, or the first bullet.  The contention here is that first, the Zapruder film does not record this bullet; the camera had been turned off for a few seconds to save film.  They say it took  six seconds between the first shot and the other two shots.  This is confirmed by two eye witnesses.  Then when they tried to reenact the scene using the laxer, they discovered a stop light would have obstructed the shot.  Looking back at pictures of the light, there was a mark which could have been the result of the bullet.  The bullet may have ricocheted and been lost in the street.  One woman was injured when she was struck by concrete form the curb. 
This is the conclusion of this film.  This uses high tech lasers to confirm the Warren Report.

Movie Review: Benjamin Franklin: Scienist and Inventor

Benjamin Franklin: Scienist and Inventor, Nest Hero Classics, Living History Productions Inc.
This is Ben Franklin a the inventor, who worked with electricity.  There was much we didn't know about electricity.  Study of electricity started as a way to do some tricks.  But Franklin was sure there was something useful that wold result form his studies.  His big realization came when he determined that lightning was electricity.  There were many fires as a result of lightning. 
However there must be opposition to every bit of progress.  Those who felt that lightning was God's way of giving out punishment thought such an idea was heresy.  Franklin, after realizing the link, next became determined that he could control the electricity to prevent house fires.  However he still needed proof to back up his theory.  This is where we see Franklin with the kite, trying to prove there was electricity in the lightning.  His son helped him.
His test was a success.  The result was the lightning rod.  This allowed tall buildings to be relatively safe as the lightning would strike the rod, and the electricity would be channeled away form the home or building and into the ground. 

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Book Review: The Long Road to Antietam

The Long Road to Antietam: How the Civil War Became a Revolution, by Richard Slotkin, Liveright Publishing Corp.,2012.

I thoroughly enjoyed this historical novel, which added the political environment to the Battle of Antietam.  President Lincoln was determined to issue the Emancipation Proclamation, but his cabinet convinced him he needed a military victory on which to hand his announcement of the proclamation. Coming off the Battle of Second Bull Run, the Confederacy was emboldened to attack north, into Maryland.  In this battle, the forces under General John Pope.  General George McClellan's men had been withdrawn off the Peninsula, and could have moved forward to change the tide of battle, but McClellan was no so inclined,as he was more interested in destroying Pope than the Confederates. 
President Lincoln had no choice that appoint McClellan over the Army of the Potomac, and McClellan  was always seeking more power, more influence.  This quest for power always tainted what he did and how he lead his men.  However, when the battle plans of General Lee  were found, and given to McClellan, he had the tool to destroy Lee's army.
The Confederate Army had taken refuge behind South Mountain, where there were only a couple of passes, while General Stonewall Jackson took his Crop to capture Harper's Ferry, and the federal arsenal there.  McClellan for once had the ability to get over his habitual slows, and attack the Confederates through South Mountain. The drove them back, and they took up position aaeound the town of Sharpsburg.
Even though capturing took longer than expected, Jackson had most of his men back into the defense around Sharpsburg, although tired.  One division under A.P. Hill was left behind to coordinate the capture of supplies and the surrender and pardon of the over 12,000 men. 
The federal attack started on Lee's left, where Joe Hooker's Corp attacked Stonewall Jackson's Corp.  The where able to stop them initially, but eventually three corp would attack on that wing, and drive them back.  Also there was attack in the center, where the federal came up against a sunken road, which was a natural defense.  It took some time before they could drive the Confederates from the road, but the Confederates finally had to reform around Sharpsburg, and their lines were very thin.
In the meantime, General Burnside was expected to attack on the Confederate right, where he had to attack over a bridge.  There was also a ford, but it took the troops too long to find the ford.  When this flank of Lee's was finally being overrun by superior numbers, A.P. Hill finally arrived and hit the flank of the attack and drove them back. 
Lee survived the day.  McClellan could have continued the attack, and finished of Lee's army, or at least inflicted unrecoverable damage.  However McClellan always over estimagted Lee's forces, or just didn't want an out and out victory which would have pleased the Republicans, and did not pursue his advantage. 
Lee stayed the next day, but there was no attack, and he crossed over the fords back into Virginia the next day. 
The repulse of the Confederates in Maryland gave Lincoln the victory he needed to support his announcement of the Emancipation Proclamation.  They would use the war powers act to emancipate the slaves in the rebellious states as war contraband.  With this decision, the war took on a new meaning.  We had put down on paper what the war was about, the freedom for the slaves.  In addition African Americans could now serve in the military, and almost 200,000 would serve.  This was about ten percent of the total fighting for the North, but represented almost 20 percent of those that fought in the last two years, when the African Americans were allowed to enlist.
On side note is the wealth involved in slavery.  Slavery is an evil, and the South should not have built their economy based on slavery.  At the time of the emancipation, slaves represented an investment of $3.5 billion.  The total net worth of the property in the United States at the time was $16 billion.