The Concise Untold History of the United States


I read the Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick book The Untold History of the United States.  They have now released a companion book, that is shorter and more closely follows the TV series.  It is called The Concise Untold History of the United States.  The difference between the two books as Oliver Stone explained on his Facebook page:

“Concise Untold History” was released last week. At 306 pages, it faithfully renders the text of the 12-hour series. The original 618-page edition, with 90 pages of footnotes, is really closer to a primer that substantiates the details presented in the film. 

I am particularly passionate over this ‘Concise History,’ and find it poetic in keeping with the spirit of the series. It’s a light-weight paperback that can easily be carried around.  

I was really impressed with the first book.  I was a History Major and eventually graduated with a degree in American Studies.  I have seen at least some of the information that Stone and Kuznick wrote about corroborated in other sources.  I  don’t normally like to recommend a book I haven’t read, but if you are at all interested in what they have to say, but feel a little daunted in a 600 plus page book, this seems like a good place to start.  From what I saw of it the series was excellent as well.  After reading the first book and seeing about half of the series, I feel pretty safe saying this would be a very interesting read.

John Oliver Uses Dogs as Supreme Court Justices

This video from John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight is must see.  He is taking on the Supreme Court for not allowing cameras in the the court.  They release audio, but do not allow video.  The team at Last Week Tonight has created its own footage by using dogs as visual stand ins for the Supreme Court.  It is amazingly hilarious.  John Oliver is somehow always able to pull back the curtain and show the absurdity lurking behind.

Complex Fiction and Simple Reality

Tonight is my night off.  I got back from tour today and tomorrow I go back to canvassing.  I am marathon watching The Walking Dead and messing about.  I am only in the beginning of season 3.  There was a scene in the beginning of the season where one of the main characters had to kill other live human beings for the betterment of the group.  It was not played out as an easy decision.  I started thinking about how many modern dramas display complex moral decisions, that seem underneath the surface to be asking big questions.  Yes, even a show about zombies at times.

It seems that many Americans can handle watching shows that deal in moral complexity.  Why is it that so much of our drama is morally complex, but so little of our reality seems to be?  (And I am not just talking about the vapid and often quite unreal reality of reality TV.)  A great deal of the time our corporate media paints things in black and white, between good guys and bad guys.  Our leaders are often no less guilty.

Can this be because so many in power want it this way?  Many people, referring to this current crop of dramas, that started with The Sopranos and is still continuing today, refer to this as the golden age of TV.  (These shows obviously air between a great deal of meaningless nonsense.)  This golden age of TV is taking place during a time of political inaction as various sides are painted in simplistic terms.

I’m not saying there is a connection, though it may be that some people hunger for any kind of intellectual stimulation in a world that rarely seems to ask you to think.  There are always going to be people that want to put their heads in the sand, but if people were presented with more facts, then I have to believe more people would become engaged in the political discussion.  It’s too bad that so much of our discourse is dumbed down to the point that it just becomes meaningless background noise.

Twin Peaks Novel Next Year

“Twin Peaks” novel will reveal what happened during the show’s 25-year hiatus via @Salon

I am about to hit the highway towards Lubbock.   Posting will be slow today.  In the mean time there is more great news for Twin Peaks fans:  Co-creator Mark Frost will be publishing a novel next year that explains what has happened in the 25 years between the last season and this new one.   I will definitely be reading this when it comes out.  If you are a fan I recommend The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer

HBO To Offer Streaming In 2015

Tonight in the spirt of October I am catching up on The Walking Dead, while doing something far scarier:  Taxes!  I’m actually only in season two of the show.  I saw the first season when it was out, enjoyed it, but for whatever reason never went back.  I’m glad.  Now I have a good show that I can binge watch.  It almost seems antiquated to wait each week to watch a show, especially with Netflix releasing their seasons all at once.  I haven’t had cable for years.  It’s expensive when there are so many other great options.  Another big reason is that I also like to minimize commercials in my house.  I am much saner without commercials and cable news, trust me.  Today I just learned of a new reason to never have cable again:

HBO to Offer Streaming

HBO is now going to make streaming available apart from its regular cable subscription.  This will begin in 2015.  If I could stream Philadelphia Eagles games without having to subscribe to anything I could say without any doubt that I would never have cable again.  Make the dream real…

Last Week Tonight On Columbus Day

The always brilliant John Oliver show Last Week Tonight on Columbus Day.  I remember reading in Howard Zinn’s The People’s History of the United States about some of Columbus’s men riding the natives like horses.  The olden days!

Twin Peaks and the Uncanny

I’ve been looking up stuff on Twin Peaks ever since it was announced that it will be returning in 2016.  The scene above is interesting because Laura Palmer tells Agent Dale Cooper that she’ll be seeing him again in 25 years.  2016 will be 25 years since this episode aired.

But what also struck me was how unsettling the above imagery is.  I no longer find horror movies frightening for the most part, and for those of you that haven’t watched Twin Peaks is not a horror show in any traditional sense.  (It is a combination of genres that is really quite unique.)  There are some that are well done and suspenseful, but as an adult they don’t leave me with any lingering terror after I’m done watching them.  I used to be really scared of The Shining as a kid, but I watched it a couple years ago and found myself laughing at how insane and over the top it was.

However, David Lynch is a master of what is called the uncanny.  A definition of uncanny is:  strange or mysterious, especially in an unsettling way.

The uncanny is a feeling and feelings are abstract.  It can be as surreal as the imagery above or it can be a normal everyday thing that doesn’t quite add up.  Often in dreams it is never quite day and never quite night, and there is something haunting about this.  Lynch as a filmmaker, and the above imagery is not the best example of this, is able to create images that are more like real dreams than any filmmaker that I can think of.  It’s the combination of things that don’t belong together in a way that is troubling.  I think one of the many reasons why this show has remained fascinating for so many people for so long is there is something about the way that it affects our subconscious that leaves a lasting impression.