Friday, October 19, 2012

Wordle: JFK Inaugural Address

With the presidential election only about a month away I wanted to show you the latest 'Wordle' to help us determine what we should be looking for in a great American President. This one is based on John F. Kennedy's inaugural address which is considered one of the great speeches in American history. Kennedy focused on freedom, liberty, peace, and what we as a society can do to achieve this together.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

YouTube History: Drunk History


If you are a fan of history and humor and well tragic things then you have to check out "Drunk History" on YouTube. Produced by Funny or Die the premise involves individuals getting incredibly drunk and discussing a historical event on camera. Created by Derek Waters the initial concept is pretty funny, however what makes it even better is the fact that famous actors and actresses such as Michael Cera, Will Ferrell, Don Cheadle, John C Reilly, and Jack Black reenact the narrators story exactly how it is said. These videos are must sees however I do caution that parental guidance is suggested as the drunkenness and cursing is a bit excessive.

The Duel between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr... Starring Michael Cera

Benjamin Franklin and the Discovery of Electricity... Starring Jack Black and Clark Duke

Oney Judge and the Washington Family... starring Danny McBride

President William Henry Harrison and his Inaugural Address... starring Paul Schneider

The Friendship of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass... starring Will Ferrell, Don Cheadle, and Zooey Deschanel

The story of Nikola Tesla... starring John C Reilly and Crispin Glover

Although I do not condone the drunkenness, vulgar speech, and sketchy historical narrative, I have to admit that this is pretty hilarious. All these videos are on YouTube and therefore accessible by anyone. 

Friday, October 5, 2012

Today in History: 50th Anniversary of James Bond

A group of my friends were sitting around talking the other day and discussing movies that defined our generation. Since we are all on the back side of Generation X or the front side of Generation Y movies such as “Tommy Boy”, “Dumb and Dumber”, and “Billy Madison” came to mind. Teenagers and young adults may think immediately of “Harry Potter” or movies with Will Ferrell. Even back in the 80's you had generational defining movies such as “Back to the Future” and “The Breakfast Club” that connected peoples’ memories to a time period of their lives. Yet there is no movie franchise that crosses every generation over the last 50 years like those that star the one and only Bond, James Bond.

The mastermind behind this character, Ian Fleming, actually developed his characters name from the ornithologist James Bond whose book “Birds of the West Indies” was a favorite of Fleming’s. Fleming developed the idea of a British spy from various people he came across as a member of the Naval Intelligence Division during World War II. From the perspective of a post-world war, pre-Cold War era, Fleming finished his first Bond book in 1953 titled “Casino Royale.” The popularity of his books slowly grew and the appeal of a movie adaptation was apparent. Then on October 5, 1962 “Dr. No” was released in Britain, the first in a long standing continual series about the British secret agent James Bond.

But the real question we need to ask ourselves is what historical influence has James Bond had on society. You first have to see the importance James Bond played on the British people. He was a hero, a hero during a time in which the British Empire was waning. Bond helped make Britain a major player during the Cold War era in a fictional world when Great Britain was far from it now in the real world. James Chapman, a professor of the history of art and film, is a leading expert on James Bond. His book “License to Thrill” highlights the importance of Bond on the British people especially during the Cold War. To go beyond that idea is the notion of America’s role in the series. The United States seemed to always be involved in some way but as the second hand or the fool to the superior British MI6 agent but it never seemed to matter to American audiences. The widespread popularity of the films is thanks in no part to the American audience that runs to go see the newest Bond films that emerge. This is why the Bond series is second only to the Harry Potter series in gross international sales. Does anyone else find it interesting that the top two films series of all-time are both of British origin?

Chapman also explored in his book the changing tied in society, especially when it comes to women. This affected the way in which Bond interacted with the opposite sex. Just look at how women were portrayed in the Sean Connery and the Roger Moore movies, compared to that of the women in the Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig films. Instead of sexual objects the Bond girls become more as Bond’s equal. Other more obvious changes occurred in the films such as technology and the problems in which Bond encountered. We see Sean Connery dealing directly with Cold War era problems and then we see Pierce Brosnan’s first movie, “GoldenEye”, directly addressing the idea that the Cold War is over and his old-fashion way of doing things might not work in this modern era, how wrong ‘M’ was. However one thing Chapman points out is that the basic formula of the Bond films is something that has not changed and does not seem to need fixed in any way. The popularity of James Bond is still high around the world. The BBC did an excellent story on the influence and significance of James Bond over the last 50 years. I highly recommend watching it.

I have been watching James Bond films since I was very young. I once owned them all on VHS and probably seen each of them at least five times if not more and the appeal for me has always been the way in which Bond carries himself in every situation. It’s probably why I love John Wayne movies as well. There is a sense of watching what it means to be a real man, handling everything that comes his way with poise and class. Allowing nothing to get in his way no matter the obstacle and every time he comes out ahead. Bond is a man’s man, every man wants to be him and every woman wants to be with him. 

Monday, October 1, 2012

The American Citizens Handbook: Part 2

As we examined in Part 1 of the The American Citizens Handbook we saw the purpose behind writing the handbook as a means to learn how to "pass on the torch of democracy and to make the nation better and stronger." In Part 2, we will begin to look at how the publishers of this handbook, National Council for the Social Studies, want teachers to commute to students on how to be a good citizen and can make this "nation better and stronger."

Good citizenry requires a set of established values that an individual follows in their everyday life. When asked what makes a good citizen the National Council of Social Studies sought the advice of the top leaders in the United States and asked them this very same question. From that survey they developed a 24-point list of what it takes to be a good citizen. Although the pronoun "his" is exclusively used it is referring to both genders and we remind ourselves this was written in a time when the man was seen as the primary engine for change within the country. 
  1. Believes in equality of opportunity for all people.
  2. Values, respects, and defends basic human rights and privileges guaranteed by the US Constitution.
  3. Respects and upholds the law and its agencies. 
  4. Understands and accepts the following democratic principles as guides in evaluating his own behavior and the policies and practices of other persons and groups, and judges his own behavior and the behavior of others by them: a) each individual possesses dignity and worth as a person. b) that governments exist by the consent of the governed. c) civil rights guaranteed by the Constitution. d) that government is by law, not by men. e) in a large diverse nation compromise is frequently necessary. f) people are intelligent enough to govern themselves
  5. Understands that, in the long run, people will govern themselves better than any self-appointed group would govern them.
  6. Puts the general welfare above his own whenever a choice between them is necessary.
  7. Feels that he has inherited an unfinished experiment in self-government which it is his duty and privilege to carry on. 
  8. Exercises his right to vote.
  9. Accepts civic responsibilities and discharges them to the best of his ability.
  10. Knows technics of social action and can cooperate with others in achieving such action. 
  11. Accepts the basic idea that in a democracy the majority has the right to make decisions under the Constitution. 
  12. Assumes a personal responsibility to contribute toward a well-informed climate of opinion on current social, economic, and political problems or issues. 
  13. Realizes the necessary connection of education with democracy.
  14. Respects property rights, meets his obligations in contracts, and obeys regulations governing the use of property.
  15. Supports fair business practices and fair relations between employers and employees.
  16. Assumes a personal responsibility for the wise use of natural resources. 
  17. Accepts responsibility for the maintenance and improvement of a competitive economic system assisted and regulated when necessary by governmental action. 
  18. Knows in general how other economic systems operate, including their political and social consequences. 
  19. Knows about, critically evaluates, and supports promising efforts to prevent war, but stands ready to defend his country against tyranny and aggression. 
  20. Is deeply aware of the independence of people and realizes that a good life can be attained only by the organized cooperation of millions of people all over the world. 
  21. Understands cultures and ways of life other than his own.
  22. Cultivates qualities of character and personality that have a high value in his culture. 
  23. Is a responsible family member and assumes his full responsibility for maintaining the civic standards of his neighborhood and community. 
  24. Recognizes taxes as payment for community services and pays them promptly.
This can be a pretty overwhelming list for today's American but in the 1940s and 1950s this would be a fairly common place idea. These virtues of what make a great American citizen can probably be seen as old-fashioned today. So the question would be why would many Americans see it that way? I believe it has to do with our view of truth. In our modern society we see truth as gray. Truth can be determined by the individual and their perspective which is gained through experience and background. The American of the 21st century will define the values of being a good citizen in their own individual way and we as a society are to honor that perspective. From the mid-20th century all the way back to early America society viewed values as very black and white. That's more than likely why the NEA (National Education Association) rejected this book by the 1970s as something they were wanting to produce. With the books focus on an old-fashioned narrow minded view of patriotism and Christian faith as a foundation for a good democracy (which we'll examine in Part 5), it is not surprise that this book was rejected by the progressive NEA that we see today. I wanted to examine this book because it is important to see how and what are students were being taught. It seems like a drastic change from what we teach our children today but the basic ideas of equality to all people, loyalty to America, and a basic knowledge of our history and current political system would be something that every student should aspire to learn. I would love to get peoples' reactions to these 24-points of being a good citizen. Tell me what you think?

Part 1: Introduction
Part 2: A List of Values
Part 3: The Hall of Fame of Great Americans
Part 4: Documents
Part 5: Conclusion
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