Archive for the ‘historyish’ Category

I took a trip down through corn and big sky to the Illinois state capitol, Springfield.

Springfield was originally named Calhoun after Secretory of War, John C. Calhoun from South Carolina.  About 10 years later, when Calhoun became the 7th Vice President under John Quincy Adams, and then again under Andrew Jackson, and maybe around the time that Calhoun became a staunch advocate of secession, the fact that he called slavery a “positive good” instead of a “necessary evil,” and that he spoke outright in favor of nullification, a state’s ability to void any federal law they found not to their liking, the citizens of Calhoun found their town’s namesake to be not to their liking, and renamed their town Springfield.

That was about the time this guy got here, where he would stay for almost two decades.

It was here he practiced law after having taught it to himself.  It was here he put his feet up on November 6th, 1860, his kids spilling ink on his law office walls, that he learned that he was elected President of the United States.

Lincoln freed the slaves, set a new direction for the country approaching its centennial, and kept these United States united, all while being under constant attack from his wealth of enemies, watching his sons die, as well as nearly 600,000 Americans, about 4% of the population at the time, yet he had the drive and vision to see a higher cause.

I’m totally in the bag for good ol’ Abe… But more on that later.

But check this out…

(Not my picture...)

I didn't take this one...

A face divided…

Cover up the right side of his face (his right) and you see happy Lincoln.  That man knew how to laugh, how to tell stories.

Now cover up the left side of his face (his left) and see sad Lincoln.  That men felt each one of those 600,000 deaths…

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In the early nineties, the town of Paris, Texas constructed a 65 foot replica of the Eiffel Tower. The tower attracted road trippers looking for the odd and out-of-place, as well as fit in nicely with the town’s occasional Bastille Day sidewalk sales.

After construction was completed, the town of Paris, Tennessee put up their own tower, theirs five feet taller, a massive 70 foot replica.

Texas, never to be belittled, out-shone, or messed with, did what they could to extend their tower to reach above 70 feet.

How do you get an already built tower to climb five more feet?

Their solution:

Photo taken from here.

Oh, Texas… Vast is my love.

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i drove a toyota corolla that isn’t mine into the texas state capital and before thirty hours were up I managed to slip in four films with my future roommate, combine that with a shot of guy talk and suddenly you know exactly how a well put together mise-en-scene can make 103 degrees outside seem like an early autumn.

lists should always be questioned yet scanning the top lines of one-through-tens is often our most efficient way of becoming conversational masters on a given subject without doing the back-work.

that being said, rent a couple of these, and just make sure your air conditioner is up for a challenge.  

i can guarantee this is back-work you won’t regret.

à boute de souffle (1960) – jean seberg 

if the stripped shirts don’t get you, that smile will.  if you ever wondered why the rates of high school female french students with pixie cuts is higher than their spanish counter parts, don’t necessarily look to amélie.  if starting a film movement, 1960s paris, a live-free-die-young mentality, and a bogie reference to melt hearts isn’t enough to get you watching, i’ll tell you this: at the end of the film, you’ll know why “new york harold tribune” could be a wet dream. (tps)

2046 (2004) – faye wong

i first remember faye wong in chungking express leaning over a counter and whispering “chicken salad.” she had me right there.  wong kar wai is in the very good habit of bolstering his already sumptuous images with actors who somehow manage to still be the focus of our attention.  wong takes on a number of roles in wai’s hk tribute- the dream android, the coy mistress, the unrequited lover- but all of that seem accessory to her precise touch and her perfect form.  the film tends to open around her, leaving enough rope for most actors to hang by, but finding wong unperturbed; she steps with a daring confidence through each vignette, serving as the welcome catalyst to a film never about her, but always reliant. (tvs)

how to steal a million (1966) – audrey hepburn

if her father in the film traffics replicas of art and beauty, he definitely created one statuette that will be good for the ages.  the lace clad legs, in my book, could get away with far more than just larceny. hepburn, though always worthy of admiration, adds in a sultry touch not necessarily worthy of an oscar nod, but definitely some toe curling. (tps)

une femme est une femme (1961) – anna karina

somehow godard’s most playful, uninhibited, and well-executed work is now relegated to the back-burner of this prodigious legacy.  but nowhere in the jlg canon can you find so perfect a symbiosis between the new wave star and his chosen muse.  karina’s performances go straight to the heart of what 1960s france has to offer a viewer- whether  running through the louvre or upholding the subversive element, giving androids a better name or singing the strip tease, karina is an exuberant and vivacious screen presence, addictive even to her most subtle pout.  she’s is on top of her game in femme, between her sailor suit, burnt roast, and book amalgams you’ll have a hard time making your first viewing your only one.  (tvs)

manon des sources (1986) – emmanuelle béart

as much as the 200 year old farm house and always nutritious mediterranean sun draws me back to the south of france, if this film were all i knew of my beloved country, i’d perhaps love it just as much. there must be something about french vowels that can make mouths shaped just so.  you gotta give it to any woman who can make a sequel more memorable than its first starring the french film god.  granted, this film came out in 1986 and should be every farm aide’s fantasy, just hopefully not taken to the extreme taken in the film (fabric should not be used that way), and even after 20 + years, the woman has shown some staying power.  still a french vogue cover girl (which often means a lot more skin than its tame american counter part), check out what an h&m ad looks like in france. (tps)

leri, oggi, domani (1963) – sophia loren

if you’re ever feeling fortunate, stop.  recollect the year 1963, remember than in it the insufferable marcello mastroaini scored not once, but twice on this list.  shortly after his stint tooling round with the lovely ms cardianale shotgun in his roadster marcello hopped the train to meet up with de sica and dive in to his next assignment: barking in bed while sophia loren gave him a tour of the room.  loren masters each sequence of the film (yesterday, today, and tomorrow for us inglesi) delivering with verve as the sympathetic call girl, the flighty superstar, and (especially!) and indomitable populist matron.  she throws herself into each sequence with a contagious abandon that leaves you at turns stunned, breathless. (tvs)

blow (2001) penelope cruz

hunter s. thompson, another face if jd, once said, “i hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity to anyone, but they’ve always worked for me.”  thompson had it all, including the tragic ending, as did george jung in blow, with one added benefit… take a torrid affair between two of the darkest and smokiest out there and add in a few flash cuts of whips, cuffs and chains, and suddenly tragic endings seem oh so utterly worth it. (tps)

8 1/2 (1963) – claudia cardinale

the only time i believed a director when he told me he was in love came somewhere around the 19-second mark of this trailer when felini brings us claudia, the ostensible missing link in guido anselmi’s doomed production: the vestal white, the perfect smile, the evident restraint of guido’s reaction gives clear signal that our boy is done.  but cardinale would have that effect on about 60% of the human population.  her role is small, making a total of four appearances, but when she’s onscreen you remember every crevice, hoping in some way that a more detailed topography of the image will keep her there a second longer.  cardinale, in a few photogenic minutes, steals the movie right from under felini’s nose, and to his endless credit, the maestro doesn’t seem to mind one bit. (tvs)

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In March of each year, as dear old St. Patrick has his day, as iron-on t-shirt graphics of shamrocks appear and bros take a half-day off work to start drinking in the early afternoon, the Chicago River is dyed a kelly green so brilliant that people without disposables or digitals take low resolution photos with their cell phone cameras.

Perhaps more brialliant, however, is the environmentally friendly vegetable dye that is used in lieu of the formally used oil-based dye that brought many of the river’s fish floating to the top, side up. Jean Baptiste Pointe du Sable would have been worried to see his river turn bright green and then for the next week, fade to a puke. Being the first European settler to call Chicago home, du Sable set up his abode at the mouth of the Chicago River, the joint between it and Lake Michigan. Considered by many to be the father of Chicago, du Sable and his Native American counterparts would be confused by the current elaborate system of locks used to reverse the flow of the river, directing it away, instead of toward, Lake Michigan. At the turn of the 20th century, industrial revolutionaries devised a way to reverse the flow of the then known-as “stinking river,” so that the massive amount of unchecked sewage and pollution would not flow directly into the city’s fresh water source.

The Chicago River, sewage packed and dyed green, now flows briskly into the Des Plaines River, into the Mississippi and finally, down to the Gulf of Mexico.

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When Hemingway was 29 years old, his young life in Paris ended. On a warmer than usual March night, after too much wine and absinthe, Hemmie made his way into the shared bathroom down the hall from his bedroom on the rue Mouffetard, and, not bothering to turn on the light, after relieving himself, confused the flush chord for the chord of a skylight which quickly came crashing down on his head.

His record of past injuries and maladies at the hospital that night would have read as such: multiple cuts to the right eye, gorged tonsils, internal hemorrhaging, third degree burns from a water heater, kidney trouble, hand injury from punching through a glass case, broken arm in a car crash, groan muscles torn during a bull run, laceration from a charging horse, torn ligament in his right foot, anthrax, malaria, hemorrhoids, broken toe from kicking a door, jaundice, and a self-inflicted gunshot wound that happened while fishing.

These are just a few of the scraps and bruises Hemingway picked up before his thirtieth birthday. And this trend continued, until, well, the story ended.

What’s your list? What do your scars say about the way you lived, how fiercely you’ve done so?

I’ve always liked camping. I’ve gone my entire life, and each time, I’ve needed a cooler full of food, pots and pans, a five gallon jug of water, changes of clothes, sandals and boots, A GIANT TENT, sleeping bags, mosquito repellent, you get the idea. When I go camping, I go prepared. But right now, and this is new in my life, I think I’m ready to be much, much more uncomfortable. Next camping trip, nothing but a bottle of absinthe and an endless sky of stars.

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Here in France, the kids are on vacation for the next two weeks because why the hell not?  It’s February!  Let’s stop going to school!  It will be a nice contrast to the three weeks they took off in December and January, and the two weeks they will take off in April.  That all being said, I am accompanying three chillins to the America of Americas here in France, the emporium of American Glory, I am going to EURO Disney .  Yes, soon I will feel at home on Main Street U.S.A. where the rocks play music though the cotton candy will be called “barbe à papa” which translates to “papa’s beard” which is a far weirder image to eat than simply a candy version of the cotton plant.  

Most laking to me, however, will be The Hall of Presidents from Disney World in Orlando.  In Orlando, The Hall of Presidents features animatronic figures of every past and current president. Each of the forty-four U.S. presidents is called by name where they wave or nod or blink assertively and all other presidents turn to acknowledge their fellow office holders.  The show ends first, with the current president giving an excerpt from a famous speech and then… well… First I’ll say that I was there a little over a year ago and  the excerpt used for W. was a selection from an always inspirational “No Child Left Behind” speech.   Yet after the current president, Abe Lincoln stands and delivers a speech, one that has been revised from the original (C’mon.  You seroiusly think you know better than Lincoln?  You can’t revise that shit.).  The audio-animatronic Abe blinks, gestures, forms syllables with his mouth and refers to a sheet of paper to remind him of his next line. This is yet another historical inaccuracy as Abraham Lincoln was a God, and Gods needn’t refer to notes.

And on that note, who knows what speech of Obama’s is being used o’er in Orlando?  I’d be curious to know.  What are your guys’ favorites?  I should also note that all over France now are “Learn English with Obama” computer programs.  They teach English through Obama speeches and using only his voice.  I just like that we went from W. to the model of English rhetoric.

And make sure to check out Obama’s speech  in Springfield, Illinois at a banquet for Lincoln’s bicentennial.

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Happy 200th, Abe.

Today is Abraham Lincoln’s 200th birthday.  I think of this man as a God, but more on that tomorrow.  But for now, I wanted to talk a little about him and Walt Whitman who adored his commander-in-chief and apparently, if not mythically, Abraham Lincoln adored him too.  An anecdote exists where Lincoln, in his Springfield law office, picked up a copy of Leaves of Grass, began reading it to himself, and was so entranced after half an hour that he started over again, reading it aloud to his colleagues.  Later on, I see Seward, Bates and Chase called into the oval for some poetry, Seward totally into it and the others growning. 

Lincoln, for Whitman, represented the culmination of the “I” of Song of Myself, a self-made man who gave alms to all the asked, a rugged individual yet still able to obtain the height of intellectualism.  He was “one of the roughs” but also, for Whitman, “a kosmos,” with the whole range of qualities that the term applied.  Whitman and Lincoln, in fact, had much in common.  Both rose to greatness from humbled backgrounds, and both were largely self-taught.  The cultural tastes of both ran the gamut from high to low.  Like Whitman, Lincoln loved to recite Shakespeare and hear the grand arias but also had a weakness for minstrel shows.  Whitman’s favorite singing group, the Hutchinsons, helped elect Lincoln in 1860 by singing at Republican rallies, and during the war they entertained the Union troops.  Both the president and the poet took delight in plays, even cheap melodramas and farces.  There were temperamental similarities too: both were generally calm men given on occasion to explosions – of anger in Whitman’s case, of laughter in Lincoln’s.  Both delighted in low humor and slang.  Both had an amused curiosity about spiritualism: Whitman attended séances and Lincoln did as well in the White House ordered by his wife after the death of their son in 1862.  Two of Whitman’s favorite orators, Cassius Clay and John Hale, became part of Lincoln’s administration, the former as minister to Russia, the latter as minister to Spain. 

Most importantly, both Whitman and Lincoln tried to cure America’s problems through oratorical language.  Whitman’s quintessential work, Leaves of Grass, was a sprawling poetry collecting that brought together cultural images in their variety and particularity.  Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address was a terse, 262-word speech that soared beyond particulars into a transcendental realm of political abstractions.  Both were written in the name of union, equality, and cultural retrieval.

So enough of that…  Most most most important, are the following videos… For some reason, there are a whole bunch of videos of five year olds reciting Whitman’s “Oh Captain My Captain.”  

and this next one is not for our younger viewers…


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