Other Blog Posts
Tomorrowland: The Future Ain't What It Used to Be
Tomorrowland is a movie about the way that we think about the future, and as the old saying goes, the future ain’t what it used to be. There was a time not so long ago when we looked to the days to come and envisioned marvels; now when we look to the future, what we see is often bereft of hope. This is the central problem that Tomorrowland seeks to address, and it’s a question worth pondering.
Politics Ruins Everything
Recently, my fascination with New Orleans history and culture led me to a book titled The Mysterious Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau, by Ina Johnson Fandrich. The author's use of the language of academia concerning questions of race and power led me to consider the pernicious influence of politics on our ability to communicate with one another.
An Interview with Jane Getz (Transcription)
I had the opportunity to interview music producer,songwriter, and musician Jane Getz, about her new book Running With the Big Dogs. In the course of the interview we discussed Jane's experiences playing as a seventeen year-old jazz "sideman" in New York City in the 1960s.
Fitness & Free Will
For the past two and half years, I have been following a path of health and weight loss that has seen me doing things I never dreamed I was capable of. The lesson I learned from this, for perhaps the first time in my life, is that I truly am capable of achieving whatever I set my mind to.
Today we celebrate a miracle, purchased for us by giants.
I've noticed that in American popular culture, holidays tend to accrue movies that become "required viewing" around those times of the year. The whole genre of "Christmas Movies," for example, is vast—so vast that certain Christmas movies have begun to gravitate more toward Thanksgiving, which has become the unofficial start of the Christmas Season. A Miracle on 34th Street comes to mind as a movie which could appropriate be accounted either a Christmas movie or a Thanksgiving movie.
Other holidays have been slower to accrue any "required watching"; while the whole genres of Romance and Romantic Comedies are wide open for inclusion on Valentine's Day, I struggle to think of any individual titles which are uniquely suited to the holiday of romantic love. Ditto for Easter. Strangely enough, one of our lesser celebrations, Groundhog Day, has a movie all its own, perfectly titled so that no one has to miss the connection.
What, then, of Independence Day—the "Fourth of July", which we celebrate today?
While I cannot think of any movies, per se, there is one item that does come to mind, and I plan to make it a regular bit of Independence Day viewing from this point forward. In 2008, HBO aired a miniseries about the life of John Adams, the second President of the United States and one of the great founders of this nation—one of the giants I mentioned at the outset.
Based on David McCullough's great biography of Adams, "John Adams" tells the story of Adams from his rise to prominence as the defender of the British soldiers accused of murder in the Boston Massacre. The narrative covers a great deal of early American history, including Adams' friendship with Thomas Jefferson, as well as their acrimonious political rivalry later when both vied to succeed George Washington as President.
Perhaps the most compelling sequence, however, comes in the second installment: "Part II: Independence (1774 A.D. - 1776 A.D.)" In this episode, we see the furious and passionate debates in which the fate of this country was decided by a small handful of men over a hot summer in Philadelpha. These debates lead Adams to some personal lessons on humility and tact, lessons which I know I could stand to learn better. The episode concludes, with this:
That scene alone would make this episode required viewing for any July 4, but there is one more connection to be mentioned: On this day in 1826, fifty years to the day after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams died within hours of each other.
On his deathbed, John Adams is reported to have said, when asked if he knew what day it was, " Oh, yes; it is the glorious Fourth of July. It is a great day. It is a good day. God bless it. God bless you all." Later, he said "Mr. Jefferson still survives," but he was wrong; Jefferson had died at his home in Monticello a few hours earlier.
God bless this glorious Fourth of July. God bless these men who bestowed such gifts of liberty and self-determination on us. Never forget them.