Tagged: history

Poems from the Vault.

Just another oldie plucked from the shelves of the Vault. Thanks for reading.

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Theatrical Thursday – Glory (1989).

Period films are often challenging ordeals. Many factors come into play when transferring a fact based story to the big screen, from costumes, to historical accuracy, to the ever-present “will anyone pay to watch this” dilemma. The American Civil War stands among the pivotal moments in our nation’s history, so it stands as no surprise that there have been a plethora of flicks based on that time period made over the years, from the infamous Birth of a Nation in 1915, the legendary Gone with the Wind, and 2003’s Gods and Generals.

 

It was 1989 when a powerful gem named Glory was released into theaters, chronicling the formation of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, an all black regiment mustered in 1863. Directed by Edward Zwick, the movie featured some serious star power in Denzel Washington, Matthew Broderick, Morgan Freeman, Andre Braugher, Cary Elwes, and a host of recognizable faces. Incorporating a triumphant score by James Horner, the film succeeds in painting a multi-layered picture of the trials and hurdles that had to be overcome by black and white troops in the Union Army following the Emancipation Proclamation passed into law by President Lincoln.

 

The film carefully creates a vivid portrait of the main characters, with the simmering tensions of the war serving as a commanding backdrop. I remember getting misty-eyed in the theaters when I saw this film as a kid, and the message that it conveys holds true today. Definitely worth a watch.

Storytime Saturday, featuring an excerpt from an as yet nameless tale.

Take a gander, if you’d like, and let me know what you think.  Happy weekend; stay creative.

He rode slowly and haughtily toward the beast; his approach was strewn with pride at felling such a mighty animal. The others rode the clearing, picking off the last of the exhausted herd, and he reached the animal as it writhed its last frenetic movements. The beast lay dying, an arrow through its chest, drawing its last breaths. He watched the king dismount and walk toward him with knife drawn. His last view consisted of the king, knife in hand, approaching him and drawing the glistening blade across his neck, thus finishing the job. The hunt was over, and the men cheered with pride at their success.

The camp was ripe with the talk of the day; bold stories intermixed with tall fables resounded over the group, and each man enjoyed his share of the well cooked venison. The fires simmered and the king made his rounds with the men, hearing each man’s tale with a warm smile and a ready ear.  

Saturdaydreaming – Where’s the history these days?

When The History Channel launched in 1995, I thought I was in heaven. I remember seeing an advertisement for the channel some months before it first aired, and I just about shit my pants out of pure joy; an entire channel devoted solely to history? It sounded like a dream! And for a long time, it was. At any given time, you could flip that bad boy on and spend hours watching specials on WWII, the Civil War, and all sorts of historically relevant goodness. The network even launched History International, which focused more on world events. It was a great time to be a history fan, no doubt, with all of those gems tucked neatly into one amazing channel.
Then the reality TV boom hit, and just like that, the fabled joy of historical television went the way of the passenger pigeon. I was flipping channels this morning and happened to see a WWII documentary on- and I did a double take. The History Channel was actually showing history? Was my brain playing a trick on me? What’s the world coming to? The channel has gone the way of MTV (and seemingly every other channel, for that matter), and almost exclusively airs reality programming. It’s all day Appalachian Outlaws (you’ve gotta be be kidding me on that one), Mountain Men, Ax Men, Ice Road Truckers, Swamp People (c’mon now), Pawn Stars, and a slew of absolute junk that has zero to do with anybody’s history. It makes me wonder why the hell I don’t have a show…I couldn’t do any worse than The Legend of Shelby the Swamp Man, right? Why even call it the History Channel, then?
I do think that it’s an absolute crime that kids today (and the majority of adults for that matter) know more about Snookie and the Housewives, Bieber, and the Kardashians than they do about the events that have shaped the climate of the world they live in. And a channel like the History Channel, the ultimate platform for promoting the genre, only showing shock value garbage like Cajun Pawn Stars, is pure blasphemy. It’s a testament to the consistent dumbing down of the American public at the hands of mainstream media. As long as folks keep watching Duck Dynasty, networks will keep putting that meal onto our plates. I’m not insulting anyone for their viewing tastes, mind you, but rather the lack of variety or intellectual fare available. As in, what are we really learning from Storage Wars? As it stands, no channel really shows much of anything anymore- it’s pretty much a steady stream of reality TV; channels like the History Channel (or Discovery, A&E, and other channels that have abandoned any attempt at real life relevance) have the power to fill a great void, but manage to maintain a viewer base with shows created purely for the wow factor (Honey Boo Boo, anyone?). It says a lot when the American public knows more about who won American Idol than they do about who won the Civil War. That’s just my take on it.

Theatrical Thursday – Glory (1989).

Period films are often challenging ordeals. Many factors come into play when transferring a fact based story to the big screen, from costumes, to historical accuracy, to the ever-present “will anyone pay to watch this” dilemma. The American Civil War stands among the pivotal moments in our nation’s history, so it stands as no surprise that there have been a plethora of flicks based on that time period made over the years, from the infamous Birth of a Nation in 1915, the legendary Gone with the Wind, and 2003’s Gods and Generals. It was 1989 when a powerful gem named Glory was released into theaters, chronicling the formation of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, an all black regiment mustered in 1863. Directed by Edward Zwick, the movie featured some serious star power in Denzel Washington, Matthew Broderick, Morgan Freeman, Andre Braugher, Cary Elwes, and a host of recognizable faces. Incorporating a triumphant score by James Horner, the film succeeds in painting a multi-layered picture of the trials and hurdles that had to be overcome by black and white troops in the Union Army following the Emancipation Proclamation passed into law by President Lincoln. The film carefully creates a vivid portrait of the main characters, with the simmering tensions of the war serving as a commanding backdrop. I remember getting misty-eyed in the theaters when I saw this film as a kid, and the message that it conveys holds true today. Definitely worth a watch.

 

 

 

Men of Distinction – George Bridgetower (1778-1860)

A product of mixed parentage (his father was likely from Barbados, and his mother from Germany), George Augustus Polgreen Bridgetower was born in Poland in 1778 and became one of the foremost violinists in Europe at the time, studying under esteemed tutelage, playing alongside Beethoven, and performing regularly in the famed concert halls.  
In his youth, he gained a favorable reputation performing in England and France, and the British Prince Regent, George IV, took him under his wing; under this assistance, he studied alongside several respected musicians and performed extensively.  

While in Austria, he met and played with Ludwig van Beethoven; Beethoven was so taken by his skill that he dedicated his Violin Sonata No. 9 in A major to Bridgetower. After the piece was performed for the first time, in 1803, Beethoven gratefully gifted his tuning fork to Bridgetower. The friendship was short lived, however. Bridgetower allegedly insulted a woman who happened to be Beethoven’s friend, and as a result, Beethoven severed their relations and re-dedicated his sonata, previously dedicated to Bridgetower, to violinist Rudolph Kreutzer. Kreutzer himself never played the piece, deeming it too difficult, according to contemporary accounts. 

Bridgetower later returned to England, married, joined the Royal Society of Musicians, attended Trinity Hall (earning his degree of Bachelor of Music), and continued to perform extensively. A talented musician unfortunately relegated to the dusty footnotes of history (his name would have been undoubtedly well remembered had Beethoven’s sonata continued under the title of Bridgetower Sonata), although his skill as a virtuoso earned him much renown in his era.
Look him up!



Men of Distinction – John Blanke (active 1501-1511).

While the prevalence of Africans in Europe is well known, many accounts have been relegated to dusty footnotes, poorly documented, or lost entirely to history.  John Blanke, musician, was more than likely brought to England as part of Catherine of Aragon’s retinue in 1501, and as such, is among the earliest recorded Africans in England during the time period. 

Existing court records document his wages; 8d per day under Henry VII, as well as a document listing 20 shillings during November 1507. 

The Westminster Tournament Roll, a 60 foot long manuscript commemorating the royal festivities celebrating the birth of Henry VIII’s son in 1511, depicts an African twice; it has been determined that this man, shown with trumpet in hand and wearing the royal arms, is John Blanke.  Unfortunately, little else is known of Mr. Blanke, but his importance to history is tremendous.

Look him up!


Men of Distinction – Robert Smalls (1839-1915).

Enslaved African who, through courageous effort, became the first captain under service to the United States, distinguished politician, and entrepreneur.
In 1862, he was serving as ship’s pilot on the Confederate military transport vessel CSS Planter, when the ship’s captain and officers disembarked to spend the evening ashore. Smalls donned the captain’s uniform and a hat resembling the one that the captain wore, and with the help of various crew, managed to slip the vessel through Confederate lines and to the Union blockade. As a result, he was hailed a hero in the North, and was awarded $1500 as his share of the ship’s prize.  
While serving in the US Army in 1863, the Planter came under fire in a skirmish; Captain Nickerson, in command of the vessel, was inclined to surrender the ship to the enemy. Wary of the potentially dangerous terms of surrender, Smalls instead assumed command of the ship and sailed the vessel out of harm’s way. For his action under fire, he was elevated to captain in place of Nickerson, becoming the first captain under service to the United States.
After the war, he continued to serve his country, having been elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives, the South Carolina Senate, the South Carolina Militia (earning the rank of major general), and the US House of Representatives, serving multiple terms. He was also an entrepreneur of note, acquiring considerable holdings.
Look him up!