Monday, January 15, 2018

Dark Tales from American History

Began a sunny Martin Luther King Jr. Day with some reading. I don't have anything on Martin Luther King Jr. himself, but Colliers Harvest of Holidays has a section on United Nations Day with essays and poems on peace that work for this holiday, too. King was an advocate for peace all his life, and actually did win the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1964.

Ran another Dr. Seuss special while eating breakfast. The Hoober Bloob Highway may be the most unique Seuss cartoon out there. Mr. Hoober Bloob and his walking mandolin assistant have to show a newborn child all the ins and outs of being human, from where you live to having fun to figuring out what you're going to do with your life, before they send him down to Earth.

Worked on writing for the next couple of hours. BB ducks out of the confrontation between Han Shaftoe and his son Sir Kylo Ren, formerly Ben Boy Blue. The little girl dodges trolls invading the main factory floor and rushes upstairs to the Toymaker's office. She finds him calmly painting a doll and demands he comes downstairs. Trouble is, like Luke in the current movie, he doesn't think his rushing into battle is going to solve anything. BB drags him downstairs to show him otherwise.

Broke at 1 for lunch and to get ready for work. Did another episode of She-Ra as I got organized. Bow's friend Sorrowful the cowardly dragon becomes one of "The Prisoners of Beast Island" when he's captured by Catra and the Horde. Bow feels guilty for not watching over him more closely and goes after him.

It was still sunny when I headed to work. Though clouds moved in later, it never rained, or did anything worse than look a little gloomy. It wasn't even windy. It was cold, probably in the lower 30's, which is really pretty normal for this time of year. Though we weren't that bad when we came in and were dead by the time I left, rush hour did get busy. I bagged when we were busy, but mostly did carts and the outside trash.

Did two episodes of sitcoms set during the 40's and 50's during dinner. Radio station WENN of Remember WENN gets its first black actor in the early first season episode "The Emperor Smith." Waiter and aspiring actor George Smith takes over for regular Mackie Bloom when he damages his voice as the "man of mystery" Lord Branley. However, the show is set in late 1939. People wouldn't have accepted him as the dashing leading man in a steamy soap opera. The cast has to keep his identity a secret from the press, especially obnoxious reporter Walter Snell.

Race relations in the mid-20th century are also discussed in the Happy Days third season episode "Fonzie's Friend." Fonzie's found a drummer for Richie's big Hawaiian-themed party - a black guy named Sticks. Richie doesn't mind having the guy, and even finds a date for him. Though he and Fonzie may think Sticks is cool, most of Milwaukee's teen population doesn't agree. Even Fonzie's cool can't overcome their parents' prejudice.

Ended the night with 12 Years a Slave.  Based after an 1853 memoir, this tells the story of Solomon Northrup (Chiwetel Ejlofor), a free man in New York who was kidnapped and sold as a slave in Louisiana in 1841. He ends up at the plantation of a man named Epps (Michael Fassbinder), who brutally beats his slaves. Solomon endures harsh lashings from Epps, but he does make friends with favored slave Patsy (Lupita Nyong'o). After a bad season, he and Epps' other slaves are rented out to a plantation owned by Judge Turner (Bryan Batt). Turner takes a liking to him, and even lets him play the violin at a wedding. Solomon tries to get two letters out to his family after he's able to earn money with his violin playing. His first attempt is unsuccessful, but he does better when he befriends Canadian worker Samuel Bass (Brad Pitt) who disagrees with Epps' treatment of his slaves. It's him who finally finds the shopkeeper who is able to return Solomon home to his family.

Wow. This story of a very dark and tragic part of American history was a surprise hit in 2013 and deservedly won Oscars for Best Picture, for Nyong'o's touching performance, and for the stark screenplay by John Ridley. I really like Hans Zimmer's score, including the period-appropriate banjo music.

This harrowing tale isn't for kids, but adults with an interest in American, African-American, or 19th-century history will find much to enjoy.

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