Non Civil War Books and Movies

Jim Klag

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The Post
Steven Spielsberg directs an account of the Washington Post newspaper's decision to print the Pentagon Papers, a secret history of Vietnam, part of which was leaked to the NY Times and part to the Post, a case that ended up in the Supreme Court. The crisis comes at a fraught time: the Post is being taken public by Kay Graham, the owner, and Nixon's retaliation could scupper the paper.

Its Tom Hanks and his crew of hard charging reporters vs. the lawyers, the suits, the Nixon administration and their archrivals the New York Times, invariably referred to as the "god damn New York Times" or the "f--king Times." One theme is the aristocratic Graham finding her feet and asserting her authority over the all male boardroom.
I saw this one. Pretty good movie.
 

Matt McKeon

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Terror to the Wicked by Tobey Pearl
Pearl recounts the first jury trial in North America, or New England at least: the trial of Arthur Peach for murdering a Nipmuc man in 1638.

This is a genre of history very popular lately: taking a small scale, even obscure incident and using it as a nexus for the various trends and attitude of society of the time.

Pearl traces the influence of various competing Puritan theologies, the birth of the jury system, the culture of the Nipmucs and other Algonquin tribes and societies of New England, and their deteriorating relationship with the encroaching English. Famous Puritans, like John Winthrop, Roger Williams, Edward Winslow and hardcase Myles Standish all play a role, as well as well known Native Americans like Massasoit.

The weakness is that the records are incomplete from the 17th century, so we read a lot of variation of: "As Standish stood in the courtroom, he must have recalled his earlier....."

Very interesting. One takeaway is that the New England Indians, like the Nipmucs, are still alive and kicking in the 21st century, thank you very much.
 

diane

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That looks like a book I'd like to read! Thanks for putting it up. My dad had a family Bible that traced the history on his side from the start of the CW to 1623 - his distant ancestors were New England bands obliterated so quickly they hardly had time to get baptized! It's more than births and deaths - there was a reference to an ancestor being involved in the John Andre affair...I wish they'd written more on that.

Yes, the New England people are still there! I've been told I don't exist, too. My dad had a bumper sticker on his truck: Indians are not extinct. They're just treated that way.
 

Matt McKeon

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I've Loved You For So Long
Kristin Scott Thomas plays Juliette, a morose woman who comes to live with her sister and her family. "What's wrong with auntie," asks one daughter of the silent tense woman looking out the window, who has been "away on a long trip." Fifteen years to be precise: her sentence for murder. She has to try to start over, to get work, and connect with her sister and humanity in general. The main barrier is her own deadened feelings, and self loathing over the awful crime she committed. "Was it good?" asks a lout whom she had a one night stand. "No, not really," she replies. She looks out the window. "It doesn't matter." Occasional flash of resentment to her sister, for the world that continued on without her, for the gulf between her and normal people. "I understand," stutters a hospital administrator where she is being placed for a job. He can't look her in the eye. "What do you understand," she replies coldly, briefly rising out of her indifference.

A beautiful, moving picture, very highly recommended.
 

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I'm currently reading Legacy of Green a history of the Florida state park system. The author was the park service's director for two decades, but he wrote it in his retirement so he was under no obligation to white wash the history. He clearly did his research in the state archives too and doesn't disproportionately cover the years he was director. Florida today has 175 state parks (including preserves, trails, museums, and monuments) dating back to the 1930s and it has won some awards in modern times.

He does staunchly insist on using the term "War Between The States".
 

Matt McKeon

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1491 by Charles Mann
Mann surveyed the western hemisphere before the arrival of the Europeans, summarizing the debates and new evidence of the culture of the American Indians in both South and North America.

He describes societies, older, more numerous, more advanced technologically, more sophisticated in their interactions with the environment, and more thoughtful then generally believed. The Europeans landing in New England or Jamestown found societies shattered by diseases by smallpox and measles, the majority of their populations destroyed. The land wasn't pristine wilderness, but environments deliberately shaped to serve the needs of the Indians who inhabited them.

Outstanding, lots of good stuff, and very readable.
 

diane

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I'd very much recommend this book! It will up-end many long held fallacies regarding the pre-history (or whose-history) of this hemisphere. For instance, the lush forests encountered by Europeans on the American Atlantic coast were far from an untamed wilderness - they were well maintained, almost park land, to increase the game.
 

Jim Klag

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1491 by Charles Mann
Mann surveyed the western hemisphere before the arrival of the Europeans, summarizing the debates and new evidence of the culture of the American Indians in both South and North America.

He describes societies, older, more numerous, more advanced technologically, more sophisticated in their interactions with the environment, and more thoughtful then generally believed. The Europeans landing in New England or Jamestown found societies shattered by diseases by smallpox and measles, the majority of their populations destroyed. The land wasn't pristine wilderness, but environments deliberately shaped to serve the needs of the Indians who inhabited them.

Outstanding, lots of good stuff, and very readable.
This is a great book so far. About 1/3 thru it.
 

Joshism

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1491 by Charles Mann
Mann surveyed the western hemisphere before the arrival of the Europeans, summarizing the debates and new evidence of the culture of the American Indians in both South and North America.
"Fun" fact: modern estimates of Florida's population in 1491 are as much as 350,000. Following European contact Florida's population would not again reach that level until the railroad boom of the 1880s.
 

Matt McKeon

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Never Caught: The Washingtons' Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave, Oney Judge.
by Erica Armstrong Dunbar

This short book recounts the story of Ora Judge(called Oney), a young enslaved women who was the personal servant of Martha Washington. Towards the end of Washington's second term as president, Judge decided to abscond from slavery, upon learning that she would be willed to Mrs. Washington's granddaughter, a young woman that Judge considered a little too impulsive(my words). She left, boarded a coasting sloop and landed in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

Both the Washington's were infuriated by what they saw as a betrayal by Judge of their good treatment and little privileges, and using his power and influence, Washington attempt to entice, then capture Judge and return her to slavery, episodes that do his reputation no good. The fugitive staunchly refused to consider it, and eluded capture.

Interesting view of life as a enslaved person of an elite family, and the schemes Washington used to evade the laws that were beginning to end slavery in Philadelphia. In the previous book I read Terror to the Wicked one of the murderers manages to escape to New Hampshire, which refuses to allow him to be extradited to stand trial out of sheer contrariness. Oney Judge Staines(she married in Portsmouth), benefited from the Granite State's inherent attitude of non cooperation by not following through with Washington's wishes.

Although she does quote them extensively, I wish Dunbar had included an appendix with the correspondence between Washington and the various agents he employed to get Oney, as well as the interview that Ora Judge Staines gave to the Liberator towards the end of her life.
 

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The Statues That Walked
Another look at Easter Island, Rapi Nui, a small, barren island with a remarkable collection of massive statuary. The two archeologists do a good job tracing the environment destruction of the forests of Rapi Nui, caused by rats mostly, not over foresting. They plausibly recreate how the small population survived the stark island before the Europeans wiped out most of the natives with disease, then slavery and sheep farming.

As far as the famed monuments, they speculate that it could have been "costly signaling" groups or clans demonstrating to others their wealth and power. Maybe. Good book, worth reading. Short, too.
 

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The Flat
Israeli Aaron Goldfinger and his family are cleaning out the Tel Aviv flat of his grandmother, who had died at age 98. They discover unsettling evidence of a long term relationship between his grandparents and a Nazi official, starting in the mid 1930s, and continuing after WWII. Goldfinger begins to investigate their connection with Leopold von Mildenstein, who wrote propaganda for Goebbels, and recruited Adolph Eichmann into his "Department of Jewish Affairs."

Early on, Goldfinger is speaking to an elderly relative about his discovery. The old lady smiles, "Third generation Germans ask questions. Second generation Germans are silent." she pauses, "you don't understand. I'm glad you don't understand."

A little slow moving, but fascinating.
 

Matt McKeon

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Just finished Stanislaw Lem's the Futurelogical Congress Its a surreal novel about a future where every emotion and activity is managed by psychoactive drugs. Lem wrote in Polish, so the translator did yeoman work coming up with punnish titles for the myriad drugs used to mask reality.

I'm a huge Lem fan, but had never read this before.
 

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Just finished Stanislaw Lem's the Futurelogical Congress Its a surreal novel about a future where every emotion and activity is managed by psychoactive drugs. Lem wrote in Polish, so the translator did yeoman work coming up with punnish titles for the myriad drugs used to mask reality.

I'm a huge Lem fan, but had never read this before.
how could you miss it?
 

Matt McKeon

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Get Your War On
On October, 2001, Andrew Rees started a simple cartoon strip, where a few clip art office workers spewed obscenity laced rants about the Bush administration and the "war on terror." Funny, angry. I found a collection of the first year or so in a used book store.
 

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The Underground Man
A mystery by Ross Macdonald, the penname for Kenneth Millar. Early Macdonald mysteries, featuring a detective named Lew Archer, were more typically "hardboiled" detectives in the Philip Marlowe mold. The later ones, written in the 60s, such as "Underground Man" are something different: torturously complex family dysfunction spanning generations, tightly plotted, often on the backdrop of bland California sunshine and ecological disaster. I love it and other Macdonald mysteries, "The Zebra Striped Hearse" or "Blue Hammer."

Not to be confused with John D. McDonald, a Florida based mystery writer.
 

Joshism

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I've started reading War: How Conflict Shaped Us by Margaret MacMillan. She's the author of two outstanding books related to World War I: The War That Ended Peace and Paris 1919. I'm through the Introduction and first chapter and so far it's okay, but seems a little meandering and if I had to write a one-sentence review on that it would be "Okay, so what's your point?" I likely wouldn't have picked up a book like this if not for the author. I'm willing to read on and see where it goes.
 

Matt McKeon

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The Family Plot by Cherie Priest

I picked up this book for two reasons, I love a good haunted house story, and Priest wrote Maplecroft, the H.P. Lovecraft/Lizzie Borden mashup that we all needed in these tough times.

I was disappointed by Family Plot. A four person salvage crew is stripping an old house due for demolition. Ghosts happen. The characters don't really come alive, the point of view never shifts from one person, who is given plenty of back story, but doesn't really go anyway with it. The other characters are one note.

Two funny parts, though: the crew is not discouraged by ghostly activity, which is (in this book), fairly common is the business of stripping old houses.

The second one, is after the ghosts prove threatening, one of the crew launches into an elaborate theory they the crew should be filming with their cellphones at all times, since in all the ghost hunter tv shows he's ever watched, you never actually see a ghost. "Cameras scare them off," he asserts. It's a hilarious moment because of his tremendous pride and confidence in his idea.
 

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I have loved Tony Hillerman's mysteries, set in the bleak but stunning environment of the southwest and featuring two investigators: Jim Chee, a young man studying traditional ceremonies, but must pursue his law enforcement career in a white world, and the coolly analytical Lieutenant Leaphorn. The plots often turn on Navajo culture, mythology and customs.

Hillerman died a few years back, and his daughter, Anna Hillerman has written novels with Chee, Leaphorn and a young Navajo woman, Bernadette Manuelito, a patrol officer, focusing mostly on Manuelito. They are similar in their settings and complex plots, but Manuelito is somewhat less compelling then the conflicted Chee.
 
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