The Great War week-by-week

Today is Thursday, which means there is a new posting from Indy Neidell and the crew at The Great War. In case you have not seen or heard of this, Neidell and his colleagues are chronicling the First World War week by week as it happened one hundred years earlier. The series began on 28 July and has been going ever since. Yours truly learned about it in mid-November and spent most of Thanksgiving weekend catching up. One thing I like about the series is that it is covering the war from a truly world wide perspective. There is especially a great deal of coverage of the war in Eastern Europe. Neidell has an interesting perspective; he is an American currently living in Sweden.

Mediakraft Networks, the production outfit behind the series, has a unique relationship with British Pathé to use the latter’s extensive library of moving imagery. The film clip up top is the introduction from this past July. One may or may not want to watch the entire series–and it is running through November 2018–but here is a link to the entire run so far. It is worth ten minutes a week.

What can one say in 2:00 minutes?

I am sorry about the lack of posts recently. I have been so busy on other projects that something had to give. I have been making strides these past few weeks on the manuscript of the book about Theodore Roosevelt Senior. He was was quite the man. It feels good to be making progress. I promise to share as I get farther along.

Here is something special. I first saw this add for a UK bread company years ago. Earlier today it popped up when I was searching for something else. My favorite part is when he comes across the 1953 coronation party for Queen Elizabeth, turns the corner and meets the Mod girls. The carload of blokes celebrating the 1966 World Cup victory is the icing on the cake.

I am assuming the fireworks toward the end are for 2000 New Year Celebration. Wow, that was a long time ago now. Enjoy.

Rod Serling’s Carousel

One of the most poignant moments in the entire series-run of The Twilight Zone is the scene from “Walking Distance” where middle-aged Martin Sloan meets the young boy he once was on the carousel at the local park. Adult Martin is next admonished by his father about the danger and futility of trying to live in the past. I loved the episode when I first saw it as a teenager all those years ago; now that I too am middle-aged, and so much of my own past is irretrievably gone, I grasp the poignancy in a way I previously had not.

Rod Serling spent most of his youth in Binghamton, NY and in many ways he never left. The town is infused in all of his writing. The carousel in the episode is not the one from Serling’s hometown but it is similar. The one in Binghamton was built in 1925, the year after Serling was born. A few years ago it received a facelift, which included paintings inspired by Serling and his television show. Now, a filmmaker named Jonathan Napolitano is making a film about that restoration.

Coming Soon: A Sam Rayburn doc

Here is something to look forward to in 2014. It appears a documentary of Sam Rayburn is in the works. Indeed it is not just in the works, judging by the trailer above production seems to be nearing completion. I cannot say how happy I am to see this. When I lived in North Texas I visited his home and museum in Bonham not once, but twice.

Last month a few of us at work got on a discussion of Rayburn when we were watching the JFK assassination footage. Rayburn was part of the post-Civil War migration from the South to the Midwest, and lived long enough to push the legislation through that made it possible for the astronauts to land on the moon. I do not know much more than what I have gleaned from the website. I hope the film gets a national release and the full treatment. Rayburn deserves a better place in our consciousness than he has now.

Crosby’s Christmas

Dreaming of vinyl . . .

Dreaming of vinyl . . .

Here is something you don’t hardly see anymore even though it was once ubiquitous in most American households: a 45 single of Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas.” Crosby’s rendition of the Irving Berlin standard has sold in excess of 50 million copies since its release in the early 1940s. My favorite “other” version is Pink Martini’s; unlike most groups they include the first, lesser known verse in their rendition. The disk above was donated for the book sale in the library where I work. Some lucky bloke will go home with this for all of one buck. This morning a few of us were passing it around as if it were the Rosetta Stone. Note what good condition it is in. It even comes in its own original paper sleeve. And yes, it was cool.

The humble VCR

Parenting PatchOne of my vivid memories of the 1980s was the airing of the final episode of MASH in February 1983. Incredible as it sounds, that was more than thirty years ago. For those under a certain age it would be difficult to understand the cultural significance of this event. There was once a time, young reader, when millions of Americans sat down each week, watched television shows such as this, and talked about them the next day around the water cooler or in the school cafeteria. That is difficult to imagine in the internet/satellite/200 channel cable universe we live in today. And yet it was not that long ago.

That winter night college students skipped their evening classes, parents cut the PTA meeting short, and folks hurried home to make sure they did not miss the 2 1/2 hour finale. The reason people were so intent on not missing it is because if you missed it, well, you missed it. I remember fifteen years ago, in 1998, a friend skipping the Seinfeld finale to play softball. Why bother?, he explained. One can tape it and watch later. In the early 80s a VCR was still prohibitively expensive–as in several thousand dollars–for most people. Still, that was changing quickly. Terry Teachout bought his first VCR around this time, and in a Wall Street Journal piece explains how the device changed his very perceptions of art and culture:

What changed my point of view? The VHS videocassette recorder, which was introduced to the U.S. by JVC in 1977. Like many other Americans, I bought my first VCR in 1983, six years later, right around the time that prices were coming down. “Citizen Kane” and “Grand Illusion” were the first “classic” films of which I owned VHS copies. I’d never seen either one before, and I’ll never forget how thrilling it was to be able to view them at will.

(image/Parent Patch)

Sunday morning coffee

It is early Sunday. I am having my coffee and enjoying the quiet before heading off to Governors Island in a little bit. It is going to be a beautiful day, mid 70s and bright skies. You can feel that fall is around the corner. It will be a great day to be outside.

I got a chance to see Good Ol Freda this week. I would recommend the documentary to those who like the Beatles and want to watch a film that captures the excitement of Beatlemania. Ironically, the traits that made Freda such an important part of the Beatles’s inner circle–her tact, her loyalty, and sense of discretion–are what keep the film from being better. She was, and is, so loyal, that you don’t come away with much more than you already knew. Still, because I suspected as much going in, I cannot say I was surprised or disappointed with the film. If anything, it makes me admire her that much more. It’s no wonder the Beatles trusted her so implicitly. It would have been so easy for her to air the dirty laundry, and you have to admire her for not doing so. Like the Beatles at their best, Frida Kelly appeals to your better nature. Go see it if you can.

In the meantime, we will wait for Mark Lewisohn’s Tune In, which will be hitting bookstores in about six weeks. The pr machine is starting to kick into gear. I’ll let Mark Lewisohn explain. Enjoy your Sunday.