‘Conversation About Race’ in American movies

A sweeping, thoughtful article on race and racism as reflected in American movies from Birth of a Nation to Django Unchained and the new 12 Years a Slave:

Such stories, of course, do not stay told. The moral, economic and human realities of slavery — to keep the narrative there for a moment — have a way of getting buried and swept aside. For a long time this was because, at the movies as in the political and scholarly mainstream, slavery was something of a dead letter, an inconvenient detail in a narrative of national triumph, a sin that had been expiated in the blood of Northern and Southern whites.

D. W. Griffith’s “Birth of a Nation” filmed in 1914.D. W. Griffith’s “Birth of a Nation” may look now like a work of reactionary racism, but it is very much an artifact of the Progressive Era, embraced by President Woodrow Wilson and consistent with what were then understood to be liberal ideas about destiny and character of the American republic. In Griffith’s film (adapted from “The Clansman,” a best-selling novel by Thomas Dixon), the great crime of slavery had been its divisive and corrupting effect on whites. After Reconstruction, the nation was re-founded on the twin pillars of abolition and white supremacy.



State’s fallen firefighters remembered in Capitol service

More than 200 Minnesota firefighters who died on the job will be honored in a day long memorial service at the state Capitol on Sunday.

The Pioneer Press reports this is the second year of the ceremony, held on the last Sunday of September, which is the state’s official day to honor its fallen firefighters. According to the Minnesota Fire Service Foundation, the names of the 208 Minnesota firefighters who died in the line of duty have are inscribed on columns on the Fallen Firefighter Memorial. The structure was constructed on the south side of the Capitol grounds last year.

Gov. Mark Dayton and firefighters from all over the state will be part of the gathering, as will families of those who are being honored for their sacrifice. KSTP reports that at least 30 members of one St Paul firefighter’s family plan to attend.

Southwest Patch has a schedule for the events of the day:

  • 10:45 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. – Non-denominational prayer service
  • Noon – Honor guard personnel will read the honor roll
  • 1:45 p.m. – Families enter the Capitol grounds and escorted to their seats.
  • 1:58 p.m. – Bells across Minnesota will ring to honor the state’s fallen firefighters.
  • 2 p.m. – Service begins and is scheduled to conclude at 3:30 p.m.

To Fight Religious Monuments, Atheists Plan Their Own Symbols


This article is from back in July in the NY Times, but I did find it interesting. A group vowing to put up monuments to protest other monuments they were unable to get down.

Atheists unveiled the nation’s first public monument to secularism outside a county courthouse in Florida last week — a 1,500-pound gray granite bench engraved with quotations extolling the separation of church and state. To Fight Religious Monuments

A historic TV moment: the “That’s My Boy!” episode from the Dick Van Dyke Show

This is not really a story about history ON television, but it does highlight a historic moment on American television from 1963– the year of the March on Washington, a year in which many white Americans were finally waking up to the existence of racial issues and racial discrimination in their communities.  And it comes in a most unlikely place:  an episode of the popular “Dick Van Dyke Show,” set in the white suburban town of New Rochelle, New York.


It’s worth noting how radical this must have felt 50 years ago:  As the article says:

It’s worth revisiting as a then-and-now study in how television effects transformation.

Today TV seems to push various envelopes with a vengeance, often clumsily so, trying for shock value in a world that is increasingly hard to shock. You have to admire the bravery and the unwillingness to tolerate any barrier, whether it be the one against gay characters or characters with disabilities or unsettling subjects like rape and child abuse. But you also sometimes are left mourning the lack of subtlety and art.

Music Meant to Torture Included Julio Iglesias

Music Meant to Torture Included Julio Iglesias

As most of us know, music (including Megadeth among other heavy metal bands) have been used in Iraq and Afghanistan to torture enemy combatants for over 10 years by our country’s military. A recently revealed article details new torture techniques by Chilean Army general Augusto Pinochet in the 1970’s including Cat Stevens and Julio Iglesias.