While listening to a music list from your mobile phone, any streaming service, terrestrial or satellite radio, a familiar tune can suddenly transport you back to an earlier time.
It can happen to you with a television series too and all the while including the music for the time. Two are streaming right now that put the viewer back in the 1980s during the time of President Ronald Reagan and the Cold War. It’s a period in history when Eastern Bloc governments looked over the Iron Curtain, across the border, to the Western capitalistic democracies. And as the Eastern bureaucrats observed with suspicion all of those Western politicians, the Eastern powers asked one important question, “What are the decadent westerners up to today?” But in the case of both shows, and with most propaganda, nothing is as it seems, and you shouldn’t believe everything you see, hear or read. Everyone can be manipulated.
The Amazon streaming program “Comrade Detective” is a parody of a Romanian detective show from the 1980s but was produced in 2017. The over dubbing is done by actors Channing Tatum, Jenny Slate, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and others but uses Romanian actors.
It’s a hyper critical, smirking Romanian show from the Cold War days so the propaganda drenches the show in all its communist glory. The jabs are not subtle and some are just laugh out loud moments. One scene in particular is comical when the two detectives enter the US Embassy. They walk in and look to the right and see two overweight embassy workers eating hamburgers and milk shakes at a table with about 30 more burgers on a plate waiting for them to finish. We get it, “Americans are lazy and like to eat.”
The detectives walk up to the Ambassador’s office and enter a room that looks like a Royal Palace VIP dining room. The detectives walk a good 30 seconds across the room to the Ambassador’s desk where a huge picture of Ronald Reagan adorns the wall behind her. Translation, “the United States needs a lot of room and we want your country for extra room to park all of our Yachts.”
Comrade Detective runs in a short 6 series story arc and is introduced as a show from Romania and has propaganda in it like many Western media shows showing communists as the bad guys in the Cold War days. In the middle of all of the political jabs and culture humor, the detectives manage to solve a crime.
This is a show worth a look to see the result of a show if it were produced by a communist cold war country film studio and showed how they would have perceived the United States and all its excesses. In this case though, like in some alternate universe, the show was produced by the capitalist bad guys, the creative Americans.
Another show streaming on Hulu is Deutschland 83 and has additional seasons followed by the year it is portraying. It is a popular spy show in Germany and must be scene with subtitles in English. The extra work reading subtitles is worth the extra work because the show hooks you from the beginning.
The show starts from the premise of an East German soldier involuntarily recruited to practice the spy craft in Western Germany. The series is closely related to the United States show, The Americans, in that is takes viewer inside the intelligence world and the dangers associated with it. The young military recruit that the East German spy agency kidnaps from his family to do the dirty work of spying is constantly making mistakes and must be saved by fellow spy network colleagues.
Deutschland 83 is like Comrade Detective in that the interesting part is how the other side perceives the west. One show takes stereotypes to the extreme while the othershows how the spycraft worked when missiles were pointed at each region. Showing the Chess match, the give and take, the back and forth,and hiding in dark shadows creates the must see part of this series.
The conclusion from both shows is that unfamiliarity breeds trustworthiness but .we shouldn’t take any thing fed to us at face value, whether it be from government propaganda or commercial media.
The International Olympic Committee attempts to sprint from politics every year but since the beginning of the modern games in 1896, it has always hit a wall. Right out of the starting blocks from the first Olympics, international leaders didn’t want to play nicely. As the committee wants to be neutral, try as they want to be, nations and individuals can’t keep the focus on just athletics.
The 1896 games in Athens, Greece, was a small event by today’s standards with only a few hundred athletes participating. This year’s games saw more than twice as many participants just from the United States alone. Nevertheless, the organizer of the first modern Olympic Games, Pierre de Coubertin, had trouble convincing Germany and France to send athletes due to left over animosity from the Franco-Prussian War 20 years earlier. From there, protests, boycotts and a nation’s headlining bad behavior have been the normal rather than the exception.
The list is long of politics interfering with the high concept of competition among several nation’s athletes at a designated city. It seems that politicians and national leaders couldn’t resist making a statement by using the Olympics as a platform. Instead of doing their jobs, they took the easy way out and boycotted. To use a current term, leaders weaponized the Olympics.
Olympic Boycott Matrix
Spain and Ireland
Spain due to differences with host nation/Ireland due to the division of Northern Ireland from the team (Note: US considered boycott due to reports of mistreatment of Jews.)
Liechtenstein, the Netherlands, Spain, and Sweden/Egypt, Lebanon, and Iraq/People’s Republic of China
Soviet Invasion of Hungary/Suez Crisis/Refused to participate with The Republic of China (Taiwan)
People’s Republic Of China, North Korea and Indonesia
Boycott of first Games held in an Asian country after the IOC declared it would disqualify athletes who competed in the 1963 Jakarta-held Games of the New Emerging Forces.
26 African Nations
Due IOC refusing to ban New Zealand for participating in a Rugby tour in in then banned South Africa.
US and 62 other countries
Soviet invasion of Afghanistan
Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc countries
Soviet Union stated, “for security reasons” but generally known as retaliation for US 1980 boycott.
North Korea, Cuba and Ethiopia
Due to North Korea not being considered as a co-host for Olympics
Security in the Olympic Village didn’t become an issue until the Black September terrorist attack on the Israeli team at the 1972 Munich Olympics. The killing of Israeli team members competing in the games demonstrated to the world what criminals could do given an international stage. It’s a tragedy that organizers have been vigilant to prevent it from happening again.
In addition to boycotts, the list of bans, protests, terrorists’ attacks and other political events are a part of the historical record. These boycotts and protests and worse, terrorist incidents, have never been effective and probably delayed a resolution by angering countries who were banned or were targets. Boycotting never worked that well either. For instance, the US and other countries’ 1980 boycott of the Soviet Olympics for the Afghanistan invasion didn’t resolve the issue near term. The Soviets didn’t exfiltrate that country until 1988 and not until after the Soviet government realized it was hemorrhaging hard currency to support a pro-communist government against the rebels.
This article explains the ineffectiveness of Olympic political events.
One of the more effective but subtle protests occurred at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics by Czechoslovakian gymnast Vera Caslavska. The games were televised extensively then by international media and broadcasted worldwide, including America’s ABC Sports. Caslavska had earned many medals, many of them gold, by the 68 Olympics. The Soviets had invaded Czechoslovakia due to increased social freedoms, the loosening of travel restrictions, and more freedom of the press by their country’s leadership.
This “Prague Spring” brought on the Soviet tanks moving in and a harsh crack down. Caslavaska, a blonde, television ready, charismatic gymnast, bowed her head and looked down on the podium stand when the Soviet anthem was played and the flag raised. The whole world knew what the gesture meant and it was effective. This article gives an interesting comparison to the other medal stand protest by John Carlos and Tommie Smith of the United States in the same Olympics.
When countries began boycotting and corrupting the games beyond what it was meant to be, then individual athletes followed the example. This prompted the Rule 50 by the IOC. What is Rule 50? Let’s go to the slow motion replay.
Rule 50 in the Olympic Charter document governs advertising, demonstrations, propaganda and states among other things that “No kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas.” Rule 50 was added in 1975. It was a way to keep demonstrations from overtaking the reason for everyone getting together in the first place; competing in athletic events. When the media rushes to an event, the cameras, announcers, and writers are just waiting for a story and for someone to make a statement.
Sometimes, the athletes are the only adults in the room. Take 1936 for example, when Adolf Hitler wanted to showcase German efficiency, Aryan athleticism and engineering, the world met for the Berlin games. Jesse Owens competed against Luz Long in the long jump and after the competition, when Owens placed first and long second, Long was the first to congratulate him. Long befriended Owens and walked out of the stadium as friends. Long did this in front of the Nazi power elite. Owens and Long became friends until Long’s death during World War II.
The athletes seem to set the example by acting humanely and with respect toward other nation’s competitors. Maybe the athlete knows what kind of sacrifice and hard work is needed just to make it the Olympics, let alone medal at one. This year’s 2021 games at Tokyo has shown many examples of athletes giving each other a fist bump or even an embrace despite these COVID times. Maybe national leaders can learn something from their behavior.
Museums remember and recognize the past whether it be art, history or inventions. Some just mean more than others as in the Airborne and Special Operations Museum in the heart of Fayetteville, NC, at 100 Bragg Boulevard. You can’t miss it because Iron Mike is standing tall in front of the museum’s entrance.
The Covid-19 virus caused many museums to close for several months while the world fought the deadly contagious virus. Now, many museums are opening back up with restrictions and the Airborne and Special Operations museum is one of them. This museum shows a different kind of war but just as deadly nonetheless. More than that, in addition to combat and direct action casualties, service men and women have had to also deal with infectious diseases such as Trench Fever, Typhoid and others during the course of a war’s timeline. Sometimes, the diseases they have to endure are not over even if they survive and make it back home. That’s a reality for any country’s service men and women.
Museums are important for remembering, admiring, honoring and also to generate discussions for historical bad behavior and cautionary inaction toward evil. When diplomacy, discussion, and negotiations fail, elected officials, dictators and other forms of nation governments turn to the military to fix it. Because of this hard truth, it’s vital and right to recognize service men and women as well as others who put themselves in danger to solve disputes started by political leaders.
The Airborne and Special Operations museum takes you through the history of wars and significant battles and their roles in the engagements. At the time of the visit, the traveling Korean War Memorial was in place to see. In addition to the museum, a visitor could take in the memorial’s coverage over a large land mass and its appreciation of the job of the everyday ground soldier.
It’s good that the various museums across the globe and in the United States are beginning to open.
The museum rolls out many exhibits to look over and many are surprisingly large. It’s worth a trip but in my view. I think many museums not matter how small are worth a visit for many reasons.
The expression “drunk with power” is available for all of us to use for a reason. History shows us when psychopaths gain power bad things happen.
Two serial programs in the documentary show classification are available on Netflix that demonstrate the power of intimidation and the spoken word. The two programs cover the career path of tyrants and what happens at the end of the road to perdition.
“One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship.” ― George Orwell, 1984
The first series “How to Become a Tyrant”, as the title suggests, is a step by step game plan outlining how past dictators rose to power. The most important attribute on the road to tyranny may be PATIENCE. One episode points to many examples of potential tyrants planning and deferring their time to strike .
“Dictatorship, by whatever name, is founded on the doctrine that the individual amounts to nothing; that the State is the only one that counts; and that men and women and children were put on earth solely for the purpose of serving the state.” ― Harry S. Truman
The second serial program is “Tokyo Trials”, a program that calls into question how to deal with a nation’s leadership after the destruction. With insight and historical records from the Japanese Word War II war crimes trials in Tokyo from 1946 to 1948, the documentary asks the question “Who is responsible and for how much” of the killing and aggression.
Back to how the tyrant becomes one. The Tyrant documentary features several historical heads of state who .have used a blow torch of destruction over the years. These range from the obvious, Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin, to Muammar Gaddafi , Idi Amin, and Saddam Hussein. More than presenting names, the show covers how these bad guys rose to power and what was the strategy that got them to their zenith.
The overall roadmap to gaining power is covered in six steps that are the episodes of the series. The check off list for becoming a tyrant is:
Crush Your Rivals
Reign Through Terror
Control the Truth
Create a New Society
As the show suggests, seizing power is not as simple as it seems. The key rests in the restless messenger and the message. The “my enemies are your enemies” strategy and the ability to be one with the people serves the future dictator well. However, this “I’m with you because I am you” tactic can change to “Appointed by God” or “I am God” as in the case of North Korea’s Kim Dynasty.
The “How to Become a Tyrant” programs are narrated by one of the best voices out there, Peter Dinklage. Yes, the Peter Dinklage of “Game of Thrones” lore. The sardonic and derisive tone of the script language and Dinklage’s delivery obscures the true sadistic nature of the tyrants that made the list for the show. They even bring up a few you may have forgotten over the years.
This brings up the last one, Rule Forever. Holding on to power may be more difficult than gaining it and as history shows, retribution can be a cold, hard truth–Looking at you Muammar Gaddafi and Nicolae Ceaușescu.
All of this to bring up the second docu-drama, the Tokyo Trials on Netflix.
It’s the testimonial part. Once the fire has been doused, if the tyrant gets a chance, there some explaining to do or finger pointing, if the judges buy the defense.
Because once the storm is over, there will be a reckoning. And if a Tyrant is lucky to live through the initial outrage, after the re-taking of power, sometimes the victors are magnanimous and have trials to determine crime and punishment for the responsibility all of the destruction.
The Tokyo Trials demonstrates to the viewer how the trial judges from 11 nations applied civilized law to an uncivilized idea, the engaging of war against nations and crimes associated with waging war as a political strategy. Beginning in 1946 and lasting more than 2 years, testimony from several war defendants were heard, before sentences were handed down. The judges considered crimes of aggression, conventional war crimes as well as crimes against humanity.
The program’s producers use historical footage edited with trial recreations to form an accurate scholarship of the proceedings. The allied judges reference the Nuremberg trials often through the series for comparison with the Japanese and German war criminals.
Back to the tyrants. The interesting part to me when watching the How to be a Tyrant series is that the play book can be applied to everyday tyrants we have to deal with during our day to day activities. To a lesser degree, let’s face it, there are tyrants waiting to strike everywhere. Remember patience is a key attribute.
Here’s the List
Office Tyrants (Stop Crushing Your Rivals)
Social Media Virtual Meeting Tyrants (Stop Trying to Control the Truth)
Family Tyrants (Stop Trying to Seize Power)
Bar and Pub Tyrants (Stop Reigning through Terror)
Highway Tyrants (Stop Trying to Rule Forever)
Community Organization Tyrants (Stop Trying to Create a New Society)
That’s just the short list. So for all of these tyrants,let someone else be in charge for once!
It’s been a while since my last post on this blog. Several months to be specific. I have several reasons for this. I was writing for another website and settling in to a new management position with my company. The main point is I am getting back to posting about topics that I want to address.
You could call me the delta variant of blog posters. I may go away for a few months but I will always reappear because I never want to get to far away from writing about the madness that is the everyday world.
I have a couple of postings that I am working on and will post them in the next few days, Thanks for clicking in while I was away.
The EARN IT Act or its proper name, Eliminating Abusive and Rampant Neglect of Interactive Technologies (or EARN IT) Act, if passed, will hold the IT industry responsible for the online exploitation of children and other criminal activity.
The bipartisan legislation, sponsored by Senators Lindsey Graham, SC, Richard Blumenthal, CT, Josh Hawley, MO, and Dianne Feinstein, CA, creates incentives in the form of liability protection with their cooperation with the law and due diligence toward fighting exploitation.
As Senator Lindsey Graham said at the introduction, “This bill is a major first step. For the first time, you will have to earn blanket liability protection when it comes to protecting minors. Our goal is to do this in a balanced way that doesn’t overly inhibit innovation, but forcibly deals with child exploitation.”
This legislation is admirable in its desire to eradicate child exploitation and sites that harbor these images on the internet. It could give lawmakers the green light to many other activities.
Another side of the issue has surfaced and it’s the privacy aspect of the issue. As with all legislation, privacy rights groups fear the law will be exploited for tracking all internet activity.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation’s (EFF) website sees it as a privacy issue as well as government interference with business practices.
An article on the site states, “(The Bill) grants sweeping powers to the Executive Branch. It opens the door for the government to require new measures to screen users’ speech and even backdoors to read your private communications—a stated goal of one of the bill’s authors.”
More than one senator agreed with that “stated goal.” At a recent hearing, tech company leaders from Apple and Facebook and others were grilled about warrant-proof data encryption. Congress concluded these companies protect terrorists, organized crime, and child abusers from criminal investigations and the proof needed to prosecute them.
The message sent in cold words at the hearing and forwarded to tech company managers was to “get on with it” and develop warrant- compatible encryption or congress will take up the matter and force them to do it.
As Senator Marsha Blackburn, TN, said at the hearing, “It is troubling to me to hear you say that giving the key to law enforcement would cause a weakness in the device that would be a bad trade-off.”
Blackburn summarized the issue, “Catching criminals is never a bad trade-off.”
The EFF article points out that the new legislation would undermine Section 230 of the 1996 Communications and Decency Act which generally states that you say or post something illegal online, the individual is responsible and not the provider, website or platform. The new bill would hold companies, providers, and websites responsible for lawsuits, civil damages and state criminal prosecutions.
The new law would require companies to put measures in place to identify, screen user’s posts and speech broadcasted and to also integrate back doors in order to gain access for investigations.
Section 230 also gives email users protection from forwarding messages without being prosecuted. Section 230 outlines many standard business practices that have been around several years. Congress is essentially saying it’s for the law to catch up with innovation.
Privacy advocates see this as a direct shell shot into the bow at the free speech protection vessel. The concern lies in the potential misuse by government officials, especially using the law in the wrong hands or wielded by a vindictive personality. See political axe to grind.
The other side, Senator Feinstein points out, “Technological advances have allowed the online exploitation of children to become much, much worse over recent years.”
Feinstein further explained, “Companies must do more to combat this growing problem on their online platforms. Our bill would allow individuals to sue tech companies that don’t take proper steps to prevent online child exploitation, and it’s an important step to protect the most vulnerable among us.”
As many as 70 groups representing survivors, families and stakeholders such as law enforcement, as well as the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC), Rights4Girls, and the National Center on Sexual Exploitation support the legislation.
Plenty of support exists for both sides of the issue. One argument is that the legislation, if passed, will break the end to end encryption used for the CIA (Confidentiality, Integrity and Availability) security triad.
An additional criticism from opponents accuses the government of using horrific child exploitation internet and email activity by criminals to pass legislation to digitally spy on the public. The 2020 version of the black helicopter.
If two parties want to solve an important issue, put aside the rhetoric and solve the problem, especially when the solution has bipartisan support. The EARN IT Act is not a binary issue. It’s not on or off. Right or Wrong. The arguments are not mutually exclusive. You can speak common language from both sides of the aisle. The government, tech companies, and advocacy groups must meet and hash out an agreement to both protect children and safeguard privacy for law abiding individuals.
More safeguards and child protections can be accomplished and should be supported by everyone.
At the same time, the media savvy public should not be wary of sending an email for fear of who is reading it in a big building in the center of Washington, DC, in a dark room with people standing behind the person, looking over both shoulders.
I figured this might be a good time to send out a few suggestions for your viewing pleasure. The streaming services are a goldmine concerning documentaries. As a huge fan of documentaries, these are my picks for some of the best out there. These are not listed by rating or any particular order because they are all good. They are only a click away.
Bobby Kennedy For President-Netflix
This extensive and fair documentary shows Bobby Kennedy from childhood to his last moments after the California primary in 1968. It is a study in a transformation from growing up, college life, his work on the congressional committees, running his brother John Kennedy’s Presidential campaign to his election as New York’s senator and his presidential run. Although his core personality traits remain as he matures into his 30s and beyond, Bobby Kennedy begins to harness how he uses them for the greater good. Revealing interviews with friends, colleagues and other people who met or knew him define this video portrait in a documentary that is an objective view of Kennedy’s personality and accomplishments. Like John Kennedy before him, you wonder what might have been after viewing this film.
Bobby Sands: 66 Days-Netflix
Good documentaries educate as well as create their own own mark on the genre. This is one. This is the story of the Provisional Irish Republican Army soldier Bobby Sands and his hunger strike while in HM Prison Maze in 1981. The story cuts back and forth from the start of Bobby Sands’ hunger strike, and why he began it, to the history of the conflict between England and Ireland as well as the Northern Ireland troubles. Sands was a person who had the courage to finish what he started and from there, the countdown to day zero begins. The compelling part of this story lies in the total commitment Bobby Sands had toward first volunteering for a hunger strike and then following through. The essential part of the film covers the timeline showing how the Northern Ireland Troubles came to this point of a hunger strike as well as the how that flash point started the road towards a peaceful solution we see today. This documentary is an education on different levels.
20 Feet From Stardom-Netflix
A fascinating view telling the stories of the backup singers for several popular solo artists and groups. The personalities and voices from these singers make this documentary a captivating story. Interviews with Darlene Love, Sheryl Crow, Claudia Lennear and Merry Clayton and several more singers let the viewer know where they were on stage and why they remained in a supporting role. Legends Bruce Springsteen, Mick Jagger and Sting offer their viewpoints and praise. The interview with Darlene Love is especially entertaining. The film’s concert footage and interviews with some of the greats in the music business make this a fascinating look at the voices you’ve heard on the music track to your life. One last point—Lisa Fischer’s voice is fantastic.
Command and Control-Netflix
I read the book and watched this documentary about how the United States managed and controlled our nuclear capabilities during the Cold War period in American history. The book offers more detailed accounts of certain events that occurred during the tense stand off with the Soviet Union. The documentary focuses on one event that occurred in Damascus, Arkansas, in September of 1981 that caused a ground explosion at a Titan Missile complex. Accident investigations drill down to the cause of major disasters and 100 percent of the time these events happen due to a series of mistakes. In this case, it was due to ignoring standard operating procedures, not using the correct tool for a particular job and other command and control issues. It’s a story about how one mistake can lead to a catastrophe that could have lead to an even bigger disaster.
The Wrecking Crew-Hulu
The artists you thought were playing the instruments on all of those hit records weren’t. The musicians on all those Beach Boy hits, The Mamas and the Papas songs, Sonny and Cher records, The Righteous Brothers tunes and many more were men and woman on a exclusive list. They were guitarists, percussionists and keyboard players in the LA area that had the chops. Records producers and engineers needed people who could create and hit the notes when they needed it. Once more, these people could help produce a hit record on time and under budget when record companies looked at the bottom line. Names like Tommy Tedesco and Glenn Campbell showed up at the studio and delivered. In addition to the interviews, the audio from the recording sessions all those years ago is awesome. When you hear Brian Wilson creating the Good Vibrations music tracks with the Wrecking Crew, you will move forward in your chair.
Standing in the Shadows of Motown-Hulu
Much like the Wrecking Crew, this is a film about the Funk Brothers from the hit Motown years. These musicians created the Motown sound for the Temptations, The Supremes, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles and a whole lot more. When Berry Gordy formed Motown Records in Detroit, he did a smart thing. He went to all the Jazz and Blues clubs in the Detroit area and hired the best musicians to back up the tons of hit records his label would produce in the future. Another fascinating story about the people behind the hits who made the Motown sound.
The Dawn Wall-Netflix
This documentary explores the motivation, perseverance and obsession of free climber Tommy Caldwell and climbing partner Kevin Jorgeson’s attempt to scale the impossible 3000ft Dawn Wall of El Capitan. The cinemaphotography and the physical toll in taking on the climb makes the audience tired just watching it. The film is vertigo inducing just looking at some of the shots from where they stop and look down but also when they set up their overnight bed that hangs off the side of a flat mountain rock face. It’s an edge of your seat and edge of the cliff roller coaster ride.
Jerry Lewis: The Man Behind the Clown-Hulu
The comedy legend and philanthropist Jerry Lewis is featured in the documentary that offers more than just laughs. It’s a serious look into the life and personality of Jerry Lewis. He had to be the businessman as well as the funny man during his life and career. The film interviews friends and colleagues to find out what makes Jerry, well Jerry. The clown make up is off and real Jerry is revealed. if you think you know Jerry Lewis, this film will surprise you.
78/52: Hitchcock’s Shower Scene—Hulu
The 78 and 52 refers to 78 camera setups and 52 cuts. The shower scene in Psycho has been talked about and analyzed before for film documentaries and in just about every film school class. It is required viewing for film study the world over. Nevertheless, this documentary shows us new territory by interviewing the body double for Janet Leigh, as well as top film editors from the industry.. As a person who has worked in the video production and news editing business, this documentary was fascinating on many levels. The level of detail on story boarding, stage planning, and the creation of the music score demonstrates that Alfred Hitchcock was at the top of his craft. The editors and other experts in the documentary tell us how Hitchcock set audience up in the beginning of the film to illicit the shock of the seeing the shower scene. It is not hyperbole to say this scene changed film editing moving forward. Yes, Hitchcock broke the rules for this montage sequence, but he knew which ones he was breaking.
The great thing about the United States is eventually wrongs are righted. A few of these documentaries I have seen more than once, and this is one of them. This film tells the story of women pilots from the barnstorming days, then to the WWII pilots supporting the war effort and onto the Mercury 13. Who are the Mercury 13? I didn’t know this but there once was a program in the early 1960s for women astronauts when NASA first began its quest to get to the moon and return. The men who ran the program in the early 60s killed it. The prejudices, social mores of that time and the boys club mentality shut it down. Consequently, the first women into space was Russian Cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova. Here’s the great thing about this documentary, other than the interviews and footage of the great women pilots from that era, and that is they did better on the NASA tests than the men did. Well, there you have it. The women featured on this documentary were excellent pilots and maybe the best of them all was Jacqueline Cochrane. She’s feature here too but she didn’t get selected for the program. The story of the original Mercury 13 women astronaut candidates paved the way for all who followed and ushered in the success of women in NASA’s Shuttle program.
Bonus Documentary—The Keepers. One that will keep you thinking long after you watch it.
Voting empowers oneself. It gives someone the feeling that they have a say in what happens around them.
History makes the argument that Americans didn’t have a representative government until recently. The US Constitution was ratified on June 21st, 1788. They made some mistakes, left out a few disenfranchised members of society, and failed to address important issues. The wonderful thing about the US Constitution is the document can be changed.
The Constitution was changed in 1791 with the Bill of Rights and subsequently, several more amendments were added– important ones. The United States of America and its citizens and representatives acted as the editorial board and added more wisdom to make our government by and for the people even better.
It’s President’s Day, a time to celebrate George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and all the other leaders that have taken us this far. Some were better than others but, nevertheless, they served as best they could under their present-day environment.
These learned and successful men also kicked the can down the road on a few other issues in the name of getting the US Constitution ratified and creating a stable government.
The women’s suffrage movement celebrated their freedom to choose on August 18th, 1920 when the 19th Amendment became part of the United States Constitution. 132 years late but the error was corrected.
That is the day they could exercise their right to vote. With all battles and wars, the suffrage movement fuel was moved closer to the revolution spark with the formation of the United States under the US Constitution.
In a letter to John Adams on March 31 1776, Abigail Adams wrote, “…in the new Code of Laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make I desire you would Remember the Ladies, and be more generous and favourable to them than your ancestors.”
She continues her request with a warning, “Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the Husbands. Remember all Men would be tyrants if they could. If particular care and attention is not paid to the Ladies we are determined to foment a Rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any Laws in which we have no voice, or Representation.”
The framers messed up and didn’t follow her advice. That rebellion came soon enough with the leadership of Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. These leaders of the suffrage movement were determined and focused on their ultimate goal and recruited an army of women to accomplish it.
On President’s Day, it’s significant to remember that women didn’t have the right to vote for a President until 1920, 100 years ago. The fact baffles clear thinking people that it took a prolonged fight to give a fundamental right to a vital group of society, considering their role in America’s struggles and accomplishments.
The United States is a republic, not a democracy. The majority does not rule. A republic gives power to elected representatives to act on their interests.
A pure democracy argued Thomas Jefferson, “ …is nothing more than mob rule, where 51 percent of the people may take away the rights of the other 49.”
The argument could also be made that we didn’t have a fully representative government until 1920. How can you have full representation when significant segments of the population are left out? The first part got their voting rights in 1870 with the Fifteenth Amendment when African American’s were given the right to vote. It took another 50 years for the 19th Amendment to pass. For good measure, Lyndon Johnson passed the Voting Rights Act of 1965 because there were still people who wanted to deny people the right to walk in a polling place and vote. This legislation covered a wide spectrum of voting right abuses.
Native Americans also had a struggle for voting rights. Like black voters after the fifteenth Amendment, they also had to struggle against state-mandated literacy tests, poll taxes, fraud, and intimidation.
A Ken Burn documentary on the suffrage movement called “Not For Ourselves” features the struggle for voting rights and the two women who fought the difficult fight, Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. They fought the battle but passed away before their goal was realized in 1920. The documentary points out they were doing for all women after them. It’s worth a look if only to see the ridiculous arguments from the people fighting against women’s voting rights all those years after the US Constitution was ratified in 1788.
One last thought—the United States is not the only country that fought the battle. Women from England, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East fought and won their voting rights. In some places, the fight goes on.
We have an electoral college for many reasons such as counteracting voting fraud, creating a firewall against other election day shenanigans as well as resolving elections relatively soon. The electoral college number that is given to states is a representation of that population. The only way to get a true representation is for each segment to be given the right and the ability to vote, regardless of race, religion, and gender.
In this case, the Founding Fathers of the United States said, “Yes, we want a revolution.”
To prove it, rebels dumped tea in the Boston Harbor, protested the Stamp Act and wrote a “Declaration of Independence.” The citizens of the 13 colonies were just getting started.
Reading books about two important figures in history from opposing sides gives a reader a view into the minds of these figures and why certain decisions were made.
The books, Revolutionary: George Washington at War and The Kings and Queens of England offer two opposing views and offer some insight as to why Washington chose the revolutionary path and why King George the III preferred the hard-line approach in dealing with the colonials.
For George Washington, the author points out that London’s military elite refused to grant him a full commission after serving courageously during the French and Indian War. This caused GW to simmer with a hatred towards Britain’s establishment that drove him towards risking it all in a long revolutionary gambit that succeeded but not without gambling with his life, property and wealth.
The Kings and Queens of England cover all the Kings and Queens of England from Alfred The Great who succeeded to the throne in 871 to the current monarch, Queen Elizabeth the II, who succeeded to the throne in 1952. The author, Ian Crofton, has planned this book in sections so each monarch has a timeline of accomplishment or milestones, a biography and a description of their reigns for further explanation.
The section on King George III, who came to the throne in 1760 and lasted until 1820, describes his royal family and his mindset toward the colonies. His parents and grandparents, from the Hanoverian royalty tree, were more German than English and spoke German and spent more time in their Hanoverian Estates than in England.
The succession moved to Hanover, now modern-day Germany, due to the Church of England Protestants and the Vatican Catholic troubles that began with King Henry VIII’s fight with the Pope over divorcing his first wife, Catherine of Aragon. With the death of Queen Anne in 1714 and the Stuart house, the House of Hanover began with King George I who spoke German and preferred living in his homeland rather than London.
By the time King George III ascended to the throne, he considered himself an Englishman and spoke the language rather than German. In fact, he was born in London in 1738.
The section on King George III outlines why he lost the colonies. It came down to bad advice from his inner circle and backing his ministers to a fault. The book on George Washington gives a scenario that might have prevented the American Revolution. If King George had visited the colonies on a goodwill tour, he might have been able to meet with a few of the Founding Fathers in Virginia, Philadelphia, and Boston and negotiated a settlement. King George was not about to travel to the United States because of the societal class ladder and ruling due to the divine right of God. That would have meant capitulating to the revolutionary element and showing weakness from the Crown.
The Washington book by author Robert. L. O’Connell describes the first days of the revolution after the British warships docked and invaded Boston and New York. He illustrates that the British commanders knew the terrain better than the Continental Army leaders. That bit of information is surprising since the reader would have thought it would have been the opposite. The defenders should know their own territory.
Revolutionary: George Washington at War and its author, O’Connell, research a specific time period in the Founding Father’s life. He researches Washington, the ambitious youth, the soldier, and how he was selected for the top military position. The book also covers how he made decisions, how he chose his staff and how he fought and strategized in battle. The one trait that comes forward throughout is that Washington listened to his commanders and subordinates. Many times, Washington wanted to attack but held back and regrouped to fight another day based on his war counsel’s advice.
Both books are worth the time spent for a good weekend read. Looking at leaders from both sides of the pond can shed light on how the colonies were lost and why the Founding Fathers pushed the issue.
Films released in the early days of Hollywood, specifically from the 40s, 50s and later give the audience a snapshot from the past. Films that are set in the era when they were filmed, show us cars, clothes, storefronts, street signs and everything retro that people like. Granted, many people from the buying public prefer cutting edge electronics, cars, and technological breakthroughs. Some consumers choose the past and everything associated with it such as classic cars, vintage houses, timeless music, and furniture from the 19th and 20th Centuries. It’s like looking at old photographs of your grandparents and seeing all of the old stuff in the pictures.
The classic Film Noir movie gives you all that. Presented to us for our viewing pleasure are old cars, small-town street fronts, New York City in the 1950s, classic furniture, street lingo as it was uttered back then, and one more thing. That would be the feature that is difficult to find in today’s movies–black and white photography shot to perfection in the best contrast shots ever seen on film.
With this in mind, here are some of the best Film Noir movies and why they are still popular today.
Gun Crazy is one of the best of all time. The movie title may not be politically correct for today’s politically charged environment, but it perfectly sums up the film. It’s about Guns, Guns, Guns, and Guns–and not the kind of gun show you see at the gym. This is about people who like guns, what people do with guns, people who like people who like guns and obsessiveness. The kind of obsession that makes you love crazy. The title characters portrayed by John Dall and Peggy Cummins, who is considered an all-time favorite Femme Fatale, demonstrate this so well you almost wish a psychiatrist was handy so they could see one in the middle of the movie. Cummins is sensational in this movie to the point that until her passing recently, she was invited to many seminars and Film Noir retrospectives to talk about the role. That’s saying something considering there are many brilliant actresses in the Film Noir genre.
John Dall loves guns, is a crackerjack shot and also loves the Peggy Cummins’ character, Annie Starr, who also can handle the iron with the best of them. You can see within the first few minutes after the film credits scroll away that Annie’s gunplay is top-notch and hits her targets whether it is a man or a cigarette in someone’s mouth. Annie Starr loves guns, worships money. Annie Starr should have a stop sign draped around her neck but Dall would run through it anyway without tapping the breaks. As the movie races along, the movie’s finish line doesn’t disappoint.
It has Barbara Stanwyck in it. Enough said. Well, it also starts out like many Film Noir classics with the audience realizing that something didn’t go well. From the moment Fred MacMurray walks in the door and sees Barbara Stanwyck at the top of the staircase, the audience knows he’s in trouble. You also know that because of the narration MacMurray provides when he starts dictating within the first few moments of the movie. The movie’s dialogue is classic for the double entendre back and forth between Stanwyck and MacMurray. I never saw speed signs the same way afterward. The toxic relationship between the two principle characters is just one part of the movie. The other significant character is Edward G. Robinson’s portrayal of the insurance investigator. It’s a classic story in several ways and worth seeing just for Stanwyck and MacMurray’s relationship.
Starring Robert Mitchum, who could be called one of the kings of the genre, and Jane Greer, another actress revered by the Film Noir community. Just to make sure it’s a classic, the movie also has Kirk Douglas as a major figure in the storyline. The movie has a strong supporting cast including Dickie Moore who doesn’t say a word in the movie but through his relationship with Mitchum’s character and his acting ability tells the audience all it needs to know. Jane Greer, known as The Queen of Film Noir, works her magic (incredible eyes even in black and white) on Mitchum and he tosses aside his job of finding Jane Greer and the money. Mitchum’s decisions catch up to him with the past interloping on his present good fortune.
An early Stanley Kubrick directorial effort starring another Film Noir favorite, Sterling Hayden. This is an example of meticulous planning gone wrong due to unforeseen circumstances. Compartmentalizing responsibilities and parsing out information for those who need to know is one way of planning a heist. It makes you wonder if there is a perfect crime and how much planning should be involved if human nature is unpredictable. The story takes the audience on a ride and you find yourself rooting for Sterling Hayden all the way.
I AM big…It’s the pictures that got small–Norma Desmond
Another Sterling Hayden Film Noir classic. This one is another heist gone wrong but also involves a lawyer who is cash strapped due to his infidelities and other choices. This film is also remembered for Marilyn Monroe’s early screen performance as the “other” woman. Sterling Hayden portrays Dix Handley, the muscle behind the crime caper. Louis Calhern is the lawyer who finances the operation with an intent to double-cross. Like most film Noir classics, it all goes bad but the way it goes wrong for everyone is the fun part of watching the movie. The best acting turn is Sam Jaffe as the brains of the whole operation with one weakness that gets him at the end.
A Sam Fuller film, this would be higher on the list if not for the many outstanding films in the genre. Thelma Ritter as Moe Williams is a character in the movie that many can identify with as someone living a day to day existence trying to get one more paycheck to survive. She remarks at one point in the movie how tired she is, looking at her performance you believe every word she is saying. She was nominated for an Academy Award four straight times including this role and you understand why. She almost steals the film like she almost did in the James Stewart, Alfred Hitchcock vehicle, Rear Window. Richard Widmark’s main character light’s the firecracker at the beginning of the movie by pickpocketing the wrong victim’s purse on the subway. The events unfold with Widmark not yielding to any intimidation from both sides of the law enforcement aisle. He straddles both sides and gets some revenge so that, in the end, the anti-hero can call his own shots with help from Jean Peters, the girl he pickpockets on the subway at the beginning.
The movie opens not in the gritty city, but on a deserted highway in the middle of nowhere with a lady in distress trying flag a car down for a ride. Ralph Meeker as Mike Hammer sees her and stops and that’s where it all begins. Hammer wakes up two weeks later in a hospital room and must figure out what happened, why and who is responsible. Strother Martin with his eccentric one of a kind delivery is in the movie. Strother Martin as in the same Strother Martin from “Cool Hand Luke” and “what we have here is failure to communicate” movie fame.
Another Orson Welles classic, this film is a class in photography work, tracking shots, and how to use natural sound. The whole story of how they produced one of the longest tracking shots in movie history. The customs agent guard at the gate kept blowing his lines and they had to do the whole thing over again and again. Finally, the tracking shot was finished just before sunrise because Marlene Dietrich plays a memorable character and says the famous line about Welles’ character, “He was some kind of man…what does it matter what you say about people.” The film is legendary just because of the backstories associated with the production and editing process after the film was in the can. The film is confusing in some places because of a couple of reasons, Welles wanted it to be confusing and because of the studio executives butchering the editing process.
Adapted from a short story by Ernest Hemingway, this is the movie that catapulted Ava Gardner and Burt Lancaster to stardom. It also has Edmund O’Brien in it to keep the story flowing as the insurance investigator Jim Reardon. William Conrad shows up at a diner and eats up the screen in a bad guy portrayal that is memorable. Conrad and Charles McGraw, another Film Noir mainstay, show up at the diner and start harassing everyone in the place and even give the guy behind the counter a hard time just for good measure. They are looking for Swede Anderson played by Burt Lancaster. They want to find him and they are not going to ask questions first.
Sunset Boulevard is memorable for two reasons: the audience knows how it will end because of the first shot and because of William Holden’s narration and the other is Gloria Swanson and her portrayal of Norma Desmond. Many actresses turned down the role before Gloria Swanson accepted it. Swanson portrays the character to the max as a fading star trying to hold on to her last bit of fame and dignity. This movie threw some rocks directly at the whole Hollywood glass menagerie. The script took a magnifying glass to how people are used and then thrown out like trash at the end of their careers. As Norma Desmond retorts to Holden in one scene, “I AM big…It’s the pictures that got small.” The film has Buster Keaton, Jack Webb and Eric Von Stroheim in it as well as other stars from the silent era who didn’t have a place in talkies. The director Billy Wilder enjoyed poking the movie industry with his script he co-wrote with Charles Brackett and D.J. Marshman. To give the movie an even more surreal feel, Cecille B. DeMille shows up in a cameo to throw out some needling remarks about Norma Desmond.
Film Noir showed up in American movie theaters after World War II. With two World Wars behind them, the Korean War in progress and the Cold War about to heat up, the late 1940s and 1950s movie-going public wanted darker, gritty, realistic stories with even darker personalities. Positive, delightful story conclusions were still being made but audiences also wanted stories without cheerful conclusions. The audience preferred to take a walk down a dark alley and because of that some of the best movies of that time period were produced.
Honorable Mentions: Detour, Sweet Smell of Success, Criss Cross, They Live by Night, The Maltese Falcon.