Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Times They Are A-Changin - Bob Dylan At The White House

Earlier this month, Bob Dylan performed “The Times They Are A-Changin” at the White House as part of a celebration of the music of the civil rights movement. Here is his performance at the White House:

Here is Dylan performing the same song in the early years of his career.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima – Uncommon Valor Was A Common Virtue

Today marks the anniversary of the flag raising on Iwo Jima. Here is a clip from a World War II documentary showing video of the soldiers raising the flag. At the time, the photographer didn’t know he was capturing an image that would become so symbolic of the war itself. Sadly, he was tragically killed later that same day.

We take for granted that we can see images of men and women in uniform fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan on our evening news as part of a 24 hour news cycle. During World War II, most images of the war were relayed in newspapers or newsreels.

After the battle of Iwo Jima, Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, USN said, “The battle of Iwo Jima has been won.  Among the Americans who served on Iwo, uncommon valor was a common virtue.” Surely this is true of those who carry on the tradition and responsibility of military service today. Thank you to all the men and women who serve our country.

[Image via Sligocameraclub]

Monday, February 22, 2010

USA! USA! USA! Do You Believe in Miracles?

Today marks the 30th anniversary of Team USA’s miraculous victory over Russia at the 1980 Winter Olympics. The 1980 US Men’s Hockey Team was made up of collegiate and amateur players when they played the Soviet Union on February 22, 1980. At the time, the Soviet Union team was considered the best hockey team in the world. Facing incredible odds, the US won the game 4-3. Most people incorrectly assume that they won the gold medal as a result of this game. The Olympic hockey tournament was set up as a round robin at the time, not a single elimination tournament like today. After beating the Soviet Union, the US had to beat Finland in order to win the gold, which they did with a score of 4-2.

Here is a clip showing the final seconds of the famous US-Soviet Union match. Do you believe in Miracles?

After last night’s US win over Canada, do you think the USA can bring home the gold in men’s hockey this year?

[Image via Murdoconline]

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Building a Bridge - Nixon in China

From February 21-28, 1972, President Richard Nixon visited China to begin a process of normalizing diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China. The two nations had been foes since the end of World War II, when the United States started to create distance between itself and communist nations. American politicians feared the spread of communism across Europe and Asia. Many campaigned on the promise to stop this spread and to eliminate any cooperation between the United States and communist countries.  A young Richard Nixon was one such politician, who became Eisenhower’s vice-presidential nominee in 1952 on a strong anti-communist stance. This background makes Nixon’s visit to China in 1972 all the more remarkable.
            Nixon became the first sitting president to visit China. During his trip, Nixon visited Beijing, Hangzhou and Shanghai, and was initially greeted by Chairman Mao himself. Supposedly, Mao’s first words to Nixon were “Our common old friend, Generalissimo Chiang Kai-Shek, doesn’t approve of this.”  The United States had previously backed Chiang Kai-Shek’s Chinese government then exiled in Taiwan in the civil struggle between Chiang Kai-Shek’s government and Chairman Mao’s People’s Republic of China. Nixon’s visit marked a shift in this thinking, as the United States planned to back out and let the Chinese settle the dispute themselves.
            The most quoted antic dote from Nixon’s visit has little to do with the substance of Nixon’s meetings with Chinese officials and more to do with Nixon’s sight seeing. When Nixon stood before the Great Wall of China he said, “this truly is a great wall.”
            At the end of his historic visit to China, President Nixon offered his own views on the importance of the visit and its implications for future US-China relations:
This was the week that changed the world, as what we have said in that Communique is not nearly as important as what we will do in the years ahead to build a bridge across 16,000 miles and 22 years of hostilities which have divided us in the past. And what we have said today is that we shall build that bridge.

Nixon’s visit to China has been written about in scores of books, but here is an example of a different interpretation. Here is a clip from an opera entitled “Nixon in China” by American composer John Adams.


[Images via Cbertel and Northwestern]

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Let Presidents’ Week Continue! - Interesting Talk on Lessons We Can Learn From Past Presidents

TED is a small nonprofit devoted to ideas worth spreading. It initially started as a yearly conference that brought together people from the worlds of technology, entertainment and design to share ideas. Since then, it has grown in scope and breadth. In 2008, Doris Kearns Goodwin attended a TED conference to speak about what we all might learn from the lessons of past presidents. Here is her talk in its entirety:

[Image via nzedge

Monday, February 15, 2010

Happy Presidents’ Day!

The history of Presidents’ Day goes back to 1880, when Washington’s Birthday, February 22nd, was celebrated as a federal holiday within the District of Columbia. Washington Day was the first holiday created to honor an American in United States history. The holiday spread to all federal offices nationwide in 1885. On January 1, 1971, the holiday shifted from February 22nd to the third Monday in February by the Uniform Monday Holiday Act. This made the “Washington’s Birthday” holiday somewhat of a fraud as it was no longer celebrated on Washington’s actual birthday. Attempts to officially change the name of the holiday to “Presidents’ Day” initially stalled, but after advertisers began to recognize the day as “Presidents’ Day,” most states followed suit. The day shifted from a holiday in which Americans might pay tribute to Washington, to a day that pays tribute to the presidency itself. Most states interpret the holiday to honor two of our greatest presidents, George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, as their birthdays both fall in February (Lincoln’s birthday is February 12th).
            Interestingly, because the states have been left to acknowledge the holiday in their own way, it is celebrated differently across the country. For example, Alabama honors both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson on Presidents’s Day (even though Jefferson’s birthday is in April). Massachusetts also honors other presidents besides Washington, namely those with ties to the state including John Adams, John Quincy Adams, Calvin Coolidge and John F. Kennedy. In New Jersey, Illinois, Missouri and Connecticut, Lincoln’s birthday is still celebrated as a state holiday in addition to the federal holiday of Washington’s birthday.
            We might just think of Presidents’ Day as a day off of work or school (if you’re lucky), however, it really is a day to honor the presidency and all those in public service. To that end, here are some recipes to help you celebrate. I may attempt the Lincoln log, and I’ll get back to you on how that goes…
            Until then….Happy Presidents’ Day!

            To learn more about our nation’s presidents, visit the White House’s presidential database.

Lincoln Log Cake

1/2 c. flour
¼ c. unflavored cocoa powder
1 tsp. salt
4 eggs, room temperature
¾ c/ sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
Whipped cream

Mix eggs, sugar and vanilla. Beat at high speed until thick and light; approximately 10 minutes. Fold in dry ingredients. Bake in a 15 x 10 inch jelly roll pan lined with wax paper and greased at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes. Remove from oven and loosen sides of pan.

Turn out onto clean towel sprinkled with confectioners' sugar. Peel off wax paper - trim edges and cool 5 minutes. Roll up cake in towel for at least 1 hour. Unroll and spread with whipped cream. Roll up again. Place on serving dish. Frost with chocolate frosting. Run tines of fork length of log for bark effect. Cut in crosswise slices.
George Washington Recipe

Cherry Thumbprint Cookies

1 teaspoon vanilla
2 sticks butter or margarine
2 egg yolks
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
maraschino cherries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, mix together the vanilla, butter, egg yolks and brown sugar until creamy. Add the flour and salt and mix well.

Have the children roll the dough into 1" balls and place them on greased cookie sheets. Have the children make a thumbprint in each ball and then place a maraschino cherry in each thumbprint. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes. (Makes about 3 dozen cookies)

[Image via Presidentsresort]

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Latest Abe Lincoln Biographer? Bill O'Reilly

As we approach President's Day, a controversial newscaster announced that he plans to add to the long list of books that have already been written on one of our most famous presidents, Abraham Lincoln. 

Fox News host and best-selling author Bill O'Reilly is working on "Killing Lincoln," a history book that will take readers "into Ford's Theater and into the mind of Lincoln's assassin, John Wilkes Booth," according to a statement from Henry Holt and Company.

For more information, go to the msn release.

What do you think of Bill O’Reilly as the next Lincoln biographer?

[Image via insidesocial]

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Haunting Images of 9/11 Released

Today, the NY Times website posted images of the World Trade Towers as they collapsed during the 9/11 attacks. These images are beyond haunting and show the size of the dust cloud that shrouded the city as the towers fell. The images were taken by the NYPD aviation unit, the only group allowed to fly within the city’s airspace after the attacks. ABC and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (who investigated the collapse) filed a Freedom of Information Act request to obtain copies of the photos. The curator of the National September 11 Memorial & Museum hopes to obtain more of the photos taken by the police  as he believes they are “absolutely core to understanding the visual phenomena of what was happening.”
 View the article that accompanied the photos here.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The British Invade…and No One Seems to Mind

After arriving in America on February 7 1964, the Beatles made their American television debut on February 9th to an estimated audience of 74 million viewers (roughly 40% of the population).  In the weeks before their appearance, the Ed Sullivan show received over 50,000 requests for tickets to fill a studio that held 703. The Beatles invaded and American culture would never be the same again.
Whether they liked the Beatles or not, people recognized that their appearance on Ed Sullivan was an event not to be missed. Some historians have even cited a dip in crime numbers across the country during the time of the show to depict the hold of the Beatles over American culture. Whether those numbers are accurate or not, it’s hard to deny that the show marked a major shift in American pop culture history. After the Beatles broke through in American markets, they were quickly followed by other British acts including the Rolling Stones and countless sound alikes. The Beatles began to compete with the American icons of rock and roll they originally modeled themselves on including Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry and countless others.
Now you may be thinking to yourself, “Hey, she just did a post on the Beatles two days ago, maybe she needs to get off this topic.” To which I say, this is my blog. Truth be told, had I been alive in 1964 I would have been recreationally stalking the Beatles just like the girls in the audience at the Ed Sullivan Show.
Where were you when the Beatles debuted on American television? If you’re closer to my age, how about your parents? Who’s your favorite Beatle?
Here is the Beatles 1st appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show where they performed “All My Loving,” “Till There Was You,” “She Loves You,” “I Saw Her Standing There,” and “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” Notice that during the performance, the television stations identified each band member by name. When the camera turned to John Lennon, the caption read “Sorry girls, he’s married.”

[Images via VirginMedia and MichaelManning]


Monday, February 8, 2010

Premiere of The Birth of a Nation

On February 8, 1915, D. W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation premiered in Las Angeles under the title The Clansman (it was based on a book of that name). The film has become more famous for its depiction of 20th century racial stereotypes than the history of the Civil War and Reconstruction era that it sought to depict. The NAACP protested the film from its debut, citing its racist depiction of African Americans. View an article from the Cleveland Advocate protesting the showing of The Birth of the Nation upon its initial release here
            The plot of the film revolves around two white families from the north and south during and after the Civil War. It recasts Lincoln as a figure sympathetic to the south and shows a post war south ruined by carpetbaggers, free men and radical Republicans. In the film, the south is only redeemed by the formation of the Ku Klux Klan. The Klan emerge as heroes in the film. In fact, due to their positive depiction in the film, the KKK used it a recruiting tool until the early 1970s.
            Black filmmakers who were unsuccessful in banning The Birth of a Nation set out to make their own films to correct the racism they saw in Griffith’s film. A group of independent black filmmakers released director Emmett J. Scott’s The Birth of Race in 1919 as a counter argument to Griffith’s depiction of African-Americans, but it was largely ignored.
 With such strong racism throughout the film, you might be asking why this film is remembered at all? Why don’t we just let it die off in historical memory? Well, the film is also one of the first in film history to make use of close-ups, the iris effect, cross cutting between scenes to create suspense, and featured an original score to be performed live in the theater by an orchestra. These innovations, among others, continue to land The Birth of a Nation on lists of the all time best films. The film was also one of the earliest attempts to construct a history using the medium of film, as opposed to print culture.
Birth of a Nation was the first film to be viewed in the White House, and when President Woodrow Wilson saw it he said it was “like writing history with lightning.” We may find the kind of history Griffith depicted in The Birth of a Nation to be morally repugnant, but it did lay a foundation for filmmakers to use film as a way of getting at historical issues and questions.

Here is trailer of The Birth of a Nation:

[Image via moviegoings]

Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Beatles Are Coming!

Today in 1964, the Beatles arrived at JFK Airport in New York City to an enthusiastic welcome. The band had previously been offered chances to tour the United States, but refused to come until they had a #1 song on the American charts. They’d seen other British acts come to the states and fail because no one was familiar with their music. By 1964, the Beatles had a #1 hit with “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” and felt primed to take America by storm. Check out this video of their arrival at JFK, where they had a rabid reception from fans.           

Before 1964, George Harrison visited the states on his own to see his sister. For the rest of the band, it was their first time in the country that spawned a majority of their musical influences. Here is a British newsreel showing their first press conference after they landed. Notice the numerous questions about their “long” hair.

[Image via monroegallery]

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Golfing at the Most Exclusive Country Club in the World (make that Solar System)

On February 6, 1971 Astronaut Alan Shepherd hit a golf ball on the moon. His fellow astronaut Edgar Mitchell also threw a “javelin” during the same moonwalk. The golf ball and javelin landed in the same crater where they remain to this day.
For Alan Shepherd, this moonwalk and impromptu golf session were the icing on the cake of his astronaut career. He was an Annapolis grad who served on a destroyer during World War II. After the war, he worked as a test pilot and later became part of burgeoning space program. On May 5, 1961, Shepherd became to first American to be launched into space as part of Project Mercury. His flight in Freedom 7 lasted 15 minutes and took him a distance of 301 miles. As commander of the Apollo 14 landing, Shepherd became the fifth person to walk on the moon. In 1974, Shepherd retired from NASA and the U.S. Navy. I guess after you golf on the moon, what else is there to shoot for?

Take a look at Shepherd’s lunar golfing skills:

[Image via dailyradar]

Friday, February 5, 2010

Roosevelt, Bankruptcy and the Scary Side of Preservation

The NY Times recently published an article about the ongoing battle to secure the papers of one of FDR’s last secretaries, Grace Tully, for the Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum. Grace Tully began working for Roosevelt in 1929 when he was governor of New York, and served as his personal secretary from 1941 until his death in 1945. Her papers, which include photographs, official correspondence and handwritten notes, was left to her estate upon her death. Conrad M. Black, now serving time in a Florida prison for a fraud, bought the papers from her estate in 2001. His company, which at the time owned The Chicago-Sun Times, bought the papers from a rare-book dealer for an estimated $8 million. He was collecting the largest amount of FDR papers still in private hands for an FDR biography he planned to write. (“Franklin Delano Roosevelt: Champion of Freedom,” published in 2003).
In recent years, Black attempted to auction the papers off at Christies but was stopped when the government accused Black of selling documents which belonged to the National Archives. (The National Archives oversees Presidential Libraries) Still with me?  Since then, the papers have been stored at the Roosevelt Presidential Library, which all parties seem to think will be their eventual home. However, since the ownership of the papers is still being worked out, archivists and researchers have been forbidden to open the sealed boxes to explore what appraisers have called “very, very valuable papers.” I’m not sure how Cynthia Koch, the head of the Roosevelt Presidential Library, can stand having those priceless items so close and yet so far. If it were me, I’d be in there in the middle of the night with a flashlight Watergate style dying to find out what the secretary’s papers could tell us about such an extraordinary time in our nation’s history. Real nerd stuff. Maybe there are revelations in that collection which could confound, complicate, or confirm our understanding of FDR. Who knows? Only time will tell…

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Day The Music Died…

On February 3, 1959, Charles “Buddy” Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson died in a plane crash near Clear Lake, Iowa. The three musicians were touring the mid-west together as part of “The Winter Dance Party” – a tour covering 24 midwestern cities in three weeks. The bus hired to take the musicians from city to city was faulty, and the heating system died out causing most of the musicians to develop frostbite. In an attempt to bypass another cold bus ride, Buddy Holly chartered a small plane to take his band from Iowa to their next tour stop in Moorhead, Minnesota. Each band member would be charged $36 for the plane ride.
            In what has become a subject of rock and roll legend, J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson asked one of Holly’s band members, Waylon Jennings, for his seat on the plane as he was suffering from the flu. Ritchie Valens had never flown in a plane before, and asked Holly’s other band mate, Tommy Allsup, if he could have his seat. Allsup said he would let a coin toss decide, and Valens won the seat. When Buddy Holly heard that his band mate Waylon Jennings would not be accompanying him on the plane, he teased, “Well, I hope your ol’ bus freezes up,” to which Jennings responded, “Well, I hope your ol’ plane crashes.” These words would haunt Jennings for the remainder of his life.
            The passengers boarded the plane around 12:40 AM and the plane took off around 12:55 AM. People observing the plane from the control tower in Clear Lake saw the taillight of the plane descend at 1:00 AM. That morning, search teams found the wreckage in a field near Clear Lake, Iowa; all three musicians and the pilot died instantly upon impact. An investigation blamed the crash on a combination of bad weather and pilot error. A large pair of horn rim glasses, like those worn by Buddy Holly, now marks the entrance to the crash site.
            Here is a newsreel showing crash site footage:

            The death of these musicians was a huge loss to rock music, and their legacies are apparent in the influence their music has had on other musicians. The Beatles cited Buddy Holly as a large influence, and they covered his music on Beatles for Sale. Don McLean wrote “American Pie” about “the day the music died.” In more recent years, Weezer named checked Buddy Holly in a song. To celebrate their memory, here is Buddy Holly performing “Peggy Sue” on the Arthur Murray Dance Party. I particularly enjoy the host’s defense of this new thing called rock and roll in her introduction.

[Images via ruhrtalcruising and wikimedia]

Monday, February 1, 2010

Sometimes You Have to Sit Down to Stand Up

To kick off a month in which we remember black history, we would be remiss in neglecting the importance of sit-ins to the civil rights movement. Sit-ins motivated activists, young people in particular, to take up the cause for equal rights by staging sit -ins at restaurants that only offered segregated service. Under the Jim Crow laws in the south, black and whites were expected to use different restrooms, water fountains, schools, and even be served at separate counters at restaurants (among countless other indignities). Sick of being segregated to lesser standards because of the color of their skin, African-American students in the south decided to combat these practices through peaceful protest.
On February 1, 1960, Franklin McCain, Joseph McNeil, Ezell Blair, Jr., and David Richmond (all freshmen at North Carolina A&T University) took seats at the lunch counter of a F.W. Woolworth’s in Greensboro, N.C. and requested service. The waitress refused their request because of their race. Nonetheless, the four sat steadfast until the close of the store. The next day, the four returned with about 25 more protestors. The sit-in inspired other similar sit-ins across the state, and eventually, throughout the south. By that July (and after an estimated loss of $200,000 worth of business), Woolworth’s integrated all of its stores and allowed blacks to be served at lunch counters.
Today, the site of the first sit-in at the Greensboro, N.C. Woolworth’s was re-opened as an international civil rights museum. Here is a video of the opening along with interviews of the four participants of the February 1st sit-in.

For more information, please visit the Civil Rights Movement Veterans’ timeline

[Image via americanhistory]