The Civil War and Movies

As any of you that have been reading along know, the last two weeks I have been interested in the Civil War.  Last night I watched Lincoln.  It was the second time I have seen it and it is really an extraordinary film.  Although there are a few scenes that seem a little too symbolic, and because of this aren’t believable as reality, overall it is really well done.  Maybe its best attribute is it really makes one think about the nature of politics.

Anyway, I wanted to watch another movie on that time period tonight.  I was doing an internet search and the truth is there are very few excellent movies that deal in that historical period.  I find that very strange.  Is that because we are afraid of really exploring a war in which half of the country was on the wrong side of justice?  Is it just that it is too long ago and, unlike World War II and Vietnam, we are too far removed from it?

It is becoming clearer and clearer to me that in order to understand modern America, one must be able to have some understanding of what happened during that time period.  Works of drama are more accessible than most history.  Good dramatizations can also often bring out certain truths, even if they contains slight elements of fiction, in ways that documentaries or even history books cannot.  They can connect people emotionally to something they might not otherwise understand or be interested in.

Lewis Black On Fox News and Black Friday

Lewis Black On Fox News and Black Friday

The above clip of Lewis Black on Black Friday exposes the absurdity of Fox News.  Apparently Fox News is coming down hard on workers that want off on Thanksgiving, but not on corporate stores that are forced to be open…

One day I hope that those that support the Republican Party, who aren’t rich, will wake up and see how it in no way, shape, or form represents the average American.

The Importance of Panning

The Importance of Panning

The above article is about how bands are mixed on record.  I think it is simple enough to follow that even someone that doesn’t understand recording could get something out of it.

I have mentioned that I am obsessed with AC/DC lately.  One of the things that I love about their records is the simplicity.  I especially love the sound of their guitars and the way that they are mixed.  All of AC/DC’s records feature the brothers Malcolm and Angus Young.  (Malcolm Young just retired, but he is on all of the band’s records except their soon to be released new record.)  On AC/DC records there are very few recorded tracks that the band can’t play live.  When you listen to their records you hear a band mixed like you were seeing them live.  When you see AC/DC live Malcolm’s amps are on stage left and Angus Young’s amps are on stage right.  When you listen to their music on a stereo or headphones you therefor hear Malcolm’s guitar on the left ear or speaker, and Angus’s guitar on the right.  Angus later adds his solos and they are mixed mostly in the middle or only slightly off to one side.

When something is only on one side or the other, or more on one side than the other, this is called panning.  When things were recorded in mono everything was equal in both speakers.  Stereo allows you split what instrument is on what speaker or side of your headphones.  This helps with clarity as everything is not fighting for the same space.

However, like with AC/DC, it can actually make a record more interesting as well.  You can listen to one of their records and tell what each brother is playing and how their guitars compliment each other.  I used AC/DC as an example not only because they are featured in the above article, nor because I am really enjoying them right now, but their mixes are really a simple and clear way to understand panning.  Listen to one of their songs sometime on headphones, and notice how each headphone features a different guitar that is complimenting the other one.  You will realize how well constructed the guitar parts.

If you have even the slightest interest in how a group of musicians can create something that is more than the sum of its parts, these kinds of records are a great place to start.

Fact Vs. Opinion

I watched the above Ted Talk the other day featuring journalist Michael Specter.  The talk focuses on people that refuse to listen to scientific facts, an example being those that are anti-vaccine.  The best part was when he talks about how people are entitled to their own opinions, but not their own facts.

We have had a cold spell in Texas recently and the usual people talk about how this disproves climate change.  Anyone that actually reads about this subject knows that weather and climate are two different things.  If someone doesn’t want to do anything about climate change, it may be foolish at best, but that is their opinion.  However, if they deny that it is taking place, they are completely ignorant of the facts.  It is either that or they are knowingly telling a lie.

Here is a link to NASA and other scientific bodies that agree that climate change is happening and that man is causing it:

NASA and Other Scientific Groups Agree Man-made Climate Change is Happening

We must Make America Somewhere No One Wants To Live

toby-turtle

We Must Make America Somewhere No One Wants To Live

A pretty funny article that is all too true about the current Republican leadership and their plans.  It says the Republican immigration plan is to turn America into, “somewhere no one wants to live.”

Hat tip to Kevin Russell

Off to Australia and Other Thoughts

australia_map

Posting has been a little slow the last two days.  I’m heading out for Australia on Saturday morning and I have been busy trying to get my shit together.  I am meeting my parents there.  They have been there for about two weeks already and have told me some interesting things about Australia.  Australia has, like most of the modern western world, universal healthcare.  They also have a high minimum wage.  Every Australian must also, by law, vote.  If they don’t vote they either get a fine or must do community service.  Most of the people that they have talked to there seemed stunned by the poverty that exists in the US.  I’m interested in talking to people when I get there about this sort of thing.  When you travel abroad it is constantly amazing at how closely people follow US politics in other countries, especially when we often know so little about those countries in return.

When I fly I like to take one serious book and one for fun.  I will continue reading S.C. Gwynne’s biography of Stonewall Jackson, that I have talked about here.  I also am going to read a biography of AC/DC that got really good reviews.  (I am obsessed with The Civil War and AC/DC at the moment.  Don’t question how my mind works!)  That biography is called The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC.

I just finished watching Ken Burns’s The Civil War last night.  The last episode was about what happened after Lee surrendered.  I couldn’t help but wonder if all of the accolades we bestow upon warriors is actually harmful to the warriors themselves.  In heaping praise on the profession of being a soldier, in making what they do be seen as a lofty profession, do we not make it easier for ourselves to put them in harms way?  I’m not saying we shouldn’t value what they do, nor am I a utopian.  There are some really bad people in the world and we need soldiers to keep us safe from those people.  I simply mean in making monuments to them, especially to generals and the like, and creating a sort of cult of worship, do we allow ourselves some kind of remove from what they are doing and what we are making them do?  Just questions without answers.

Well I will have internet in Australia.  I also hope to be on here more before I leave, but no promises.  If I’m being honest I can’t tell if I knew I needed to update my blog, or if I just wanted to put off cleaning my house for 20 minutes!