Monthly Archives: January 2010

Howard Zinn

“[Political leaders] have learned nothing from the history of the twentieth century, from a hundred years of retaliation, vengeance, war, a hundred years of terrorism and counterterrorism, of violence met with violence in an unending cycle of stupidity.”

– A People’s History of American Empire

I’m not usually affected by famous deaths.  The last famous person whose death I was really upset about was Joe Strummer.  And when Bob Dylan goes, let’s just say I might be in mourning for a year.  Each of these three has had an impact on my adult outlook viewpoint that is irreversible.  (They also happen left-wing which isn’t coincidental that I would be attracted to each of their works.)

I first read A People’s History of the United States a couple of years for a class presentation focusing on writing for race, religion, and politics.  I figured this would be the perfect book for such a course.  I was right of course, because my presentation extended over an hour and created a lot of open dialogue.  The part that initiated the most discussion?  Zinn suggests that the bombing of Japan was actually the first move in the Cold-War against Russia.  (Russia had secretly agreed to declare war on Japan on August 8th 1945, and The US dropped the bomb on August 6th, thus leaving Japan to surrender to the US.)

If Zinn had only written A People’s History he would be cemented as first-class historian.  But he regularly gave speeches to colleges and universites – urging students to act.  His basic philosophy was that reading and retaining history was not enough.  Students had to act and live up to their social responsibility. According to the Boston Globe, during his last lecture at Boston University he ended class early to join him – about a 100 did.  

Too often in this culture, we’re all obsessed with ourselves and forget the larger cultural and political context.  What I learned most from A People’s History wasn’t dispelled myths or revelations about specific events (such as the Bomb.)  (Though that information is important and vital.)  It was that history is written by the people who live through it and it is not always dictated by the governments.  The only way to achieve change is to make it ourselves.

Of course it also depends on what we do with it that matters most.

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Leno, Conan Etc

I haven’t really watched any late-night TV in a while.  But I find the whole Leno/Conan debate to be problematic and disturbing.  It’s obvious that NBC stuck with Leno for multiple reasons.  First of all, it’s all about money.  When he hosted the Tonight Show, for the better part of the decade he consistently had better rating than Letterman.  Also, Leno is less controversial than Letterman – he is nicer in his jokes.  

But that doesn’t mean that I would consider Leno a nice-guy.  It’s obvious that his new show lacks a punch.  It’s been critically mauled, and yet he has the balls to bitch about his contract?  He gets what he wants, by having his show moved back to late-night.  Meanwhile, Conan is left in limbo.  He was never given a chance by NBC.  So it’s no surprise that he’s taken the high-ground and refused to move his show.

I also find fault with the NBC affliates who bitch that people turned off the station when Leno’s new incarnation came on, and didn’t lead into the news. Bah, I say.  Do these people really think that News station are owed any loyalty?  Maybe a few decades ago, I’d say.  But really, most of the local news is sensationalization without offering any real substance.  One of the Baltimore stations offers “The I-Team” which basically “investigates” faux-problems which apparently everyone in the Baltimore area should know about.  One segment focused on buying used mattresses from a shady-looking store in the hood.  Really?  Thanks for the update I-Team.  

Now thanks to the demise of Leno’s new show, we’re going to get a bunch of craptastic new shows on NBC.  The NBC affliates will still keep giving us stuff like the I-Team. Leno will get his old time slot, and the real talent Conan will be stuck.

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I’m officially going on the record to say that movie blows.  For once, I actually agree with the Vatican, and the conservative right about something – Avatar is a piece of shit.  

Thank you Mr. James Cameron for convincing the world that by having great effects and no story you can make a great movie. The same goes for you George Lucas.

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