Monthly Archives: November 2011

Speaking of Spielberg’s Lincoln, you can see Daniel Day-Lewis in Abe mode

…by clicking here.  Could use some latex to build up the facial protrusions, and the hair’s combed a little too neatly, but it’s not a bad visual impression.  I just hope they don’t try to water down the dialect.  The man didn’t sound like a newscaster.

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Filed under Abraham Lincoln, Civil War, History and Memory

Spielberg finds a general

Jared Harris is going to be playing Ulysses S. Grant in Spielberg’s Lincoln, according to Empire.  I’m not really familiar with Harris. Apparently he’s in Mad Men, a show I’ve never watched.

I’ve always said that if somebody put me in charge of casting a Civil War movie and gave me an unlimited budget, I’d want Russell Crowe to play Grant.  He’s a dead ringer.

Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division (LC-B813- 6371B)

If you’re going to cast an A-list actor like Crowe, though, it would probably be in a starring role, meaning you’d need some Grant-centric subject matter.  So who’s up for a Shiloh movie?

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Nineteenth-century paternalism redux

If you haven’t already read it, let me direct your attention to a post over at Dr. Brooks Simpson’s blog, in which he highlights a few recent examples of heritage-driven kookery at its finest.  My favorite: “… what past sins of slavery are you referring to? Slaves had free housing, free food, free clothing, free medical care, free child care, free old age care, and free job training. All they had to do in return was work 9 hours a day with Sundays off to attend church.”

Faced with criticism, a commenter offered up this interpretive gem: “There were isolated incidentces of rape and abuse by employers in Northern cities. The difference was, they received unfair and low wages while living in unhealthy conditions with the rats and sewers. Now regarding, the Slavee [sic] and servant help, they, in many ways were treated with much better living and working conditions……one of the draw backs, they could never leave the plantation……”

Sound familiar?  It should, because just a few days ago we noted an 1863 textbook from North Carolina which justified chattel slavery in exactly the same terms.  The more things change…

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Here’s an update on the Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail

from BlueRidgeNow.com.  Makes me wish I was back where I was about a month and a half ago, enjoying the stops along the way for myself.

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Filed under American Revolution, Museums and Historic Sites

Leftovers

Here are a few items of interest to digest along with your microwaved turkey remnants.

  • Wilson Library at UNC-Chapel Hill is hosting an exhibit of old North Carolina textbooks and the bizarre material contained therein.  The First Dixie Reader, published in Raleigh in 1863, extolled the idyllic lifestyle of the elderly female slave: “Many poor white folks would be glad to live in her house and eat what Miss Kate sends out for her dinner.”
  • The bicentennial of the War of 1812 is approaching, and the bureaucrats in Albany, NY couldn’t care less.
  • Some interesting stuff turned up when a bank employee opened up a box that had gone neglected.
  • The fate of (what’s left of) the historic K-25 plant in Oak Ridge, TN is in dispute.  The Department of Energy had promised to keep part of it intact, but now they want to tear down the whole thing.
  • Think historic preservation doesn’t make economic sense?  Think again.

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Filed under Historic Preservation, History and Memory, Tennessee History

Everything you’ve read about George Washington is probably more or less accurate, and here’s more of it

Among the things for which I can be thankful this season is the release of a book about George Washington by none other than Glenn Beck.  Whenever Beck dons his history teacher’s hat it makes for great blogging fodder, and the comments his fans leave are invariably entertaining.

It is thus with a girlish squeal of delight that I share the following ad copy:

Through these stories you’ll not only learn our real history (and how it applies to today), you’ll also see how the media and others have distorted our view of it. It’s ironic that the best-known fact about George Washington—that he chopped down a cherry tree—is a complete lie. It’s even more ironic when you consider that a lie was thought necessary to prove he could not tell one.

For all of his heroism and triumphs, Washington’s single greatest accomplishment was the man he created in the process: courageous and principled, fair and just, respectful to all. But he was also something else: flawed.

For Beck to carp about how “the media and others have distorted our view” of history is an exhibition of either striking disingenuousness or breathtaking chutzpah, since few media personalities can match his track record of erroneous historical statements.  This is the same man who insisted that pre-Columbian Indians wrote in Hebrew and built Egyptian-style pyramids, and that the Dead Sea Scrolls had something to do with Constantine.

Note the breathless overselling of common knowledge.  Brace yourself, because you’re about to get the Real George Washington At Last—and apparently he was a fallible but genuinely great human being who didn’t cut down a cherry tree.  Bet you haven’t heard that one before. 

This is standard operating procedure for history written by celebrity pundits and politicians.  Rehash general information from secondary sources, add a moral spin, simmer for two minutes, serve.

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Filed under American Revolution, History and Memory

Let’s have some historical biopics

I ran across a post suggesting some possible subjects for historical biopics. The LBJ idea is especially intriguing; I wouldn’t mind seeing a miniseries adaptation of Robert Caro’s work.

I’d also propose Frederick Douglass (great story), John Brown, Joseph Smith, and Daniel Boone as interesting film subjects.  Boone’s life in particular is full of dramatic material; the deaths of his sons, the rescue of his daughter, his captivity, and his court-martial would all make for powerful scenes, and then you could wrap it up in melancholy fashion with his abandonment of the Kentucky for which he gave up so much and migration to Missouri.

Personally, though, what I’d really like to see is an Andrew Jackson biopic along the lines of Patton, depicting both his greatness and his faults. I’d start out with his boyhood in the Revolutionary Waxhaws and the beating he took for defying a British officer, and then flash forward to the War of 1812.

Either that, or just adapt David Nevin’s novel 1812 as a miniseries.  I rarely read historical fiction—I don’t read much fiction at all, actually—but that was a genuinely great book, and anybody who could play Jackson the way Nevin managed to flesh him out would deserve a Golden Globe.

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Lincoln exhibit in Knoxville

The National Constitution Center’s traveling exhibit “Lincoln: The Constitution and the Civil War” is currently at the East Tennessee History Center in downtown Knoxville, along with some supplementary material from various historical collections in the region.  Go check it out if you have a chance.

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Filed under Abraham Lincoln, Civil War, Museums and Historic Sites, Tennessee History

Have a holly, jolly fratricidal war

Hightstown, NJ boasts a Civil War monument dedicated (in the words of its inscription) to the memory of local men “who gave their lives as a sacrifice for their country and humanity.”  This year the local dignitaries have decided to jazz it up with some Yuletide cheer.

The project, called Lights on the Square, calls for strands of garland lit with different colors to be draped from the top of the monument and anchored on the ground, mimicking the shape of a traditional Christmas tree and establishing Monument Square as an additional town center and holiday celebration site.

The project will start Nov. 25 with a lighting ceremony that will include additional lights in surrounding trees.

Sounds about as classy as a Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer sweater.

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What the hey?

So somebody has just informed me that when they click on certain individual posts here at the blog, they’re seeing YouTube advertisements beneath the text.  I’m not seeing them, even when I sign out out of my WordPress account.  Is anybody out there seeing video ads under the text when they click on the titles of posts to read them individually?  Because it’s not supposed to be happening, and if it is, I need to figure out what the heck is going on.

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