Here’s your trailer for Captain America: The First Avenger

Some day I’ll get past my irritation over the fact that Marvel’s next movie labels Captain America as “The First Avenger,” even though any self-respecting comic book geek knows that Cap didn’t join the Avengers until issue #4. But today is not that day. Still, the trailer for Captain America: The First Avenger looks pretty damn cool.

See? That is pretty damn cool. It makes sense to me that this film takes place during World War II, as Captain America in modern times was always an uncomfortable character to watch. Much like Superman, he was born during a period in our history when the lines of morality were much clearer. My memories of ol’ Cap as the leader of the Avengers were mostly feelings of annoyance over how he held the team back from really kicking ass.

Of course, even that was more pleasant than the dismal 1990 Captain America movie, featuring Cap’s arch-nemesis, Red Skull, as a swarthy Italian super-villain. It’s gonna be hard for Hugo Weaving to top that.

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Here’s some stuff I enjoyed this week

Here’s a fresh batch of some quality interweb finds I’ve come across over the last 7 days (it’s been a slow week):

  • Ever wanted to lick Professor Dumbledore? Now’s your chance, with the latest set of stamps from the Royal Mail celebrating famous wizards and witches. (Guardian)
  • It’s nice when journalists agree with everything I say; like Michael J. West, who agrees with me that artists like Robert Glasper represent jazz’s best hopes for the future. (Washington CityPaper)
  • If there is one good thing to come from the latest YouTube viral abomination — and there is just one thing so far — it’s this Bob Dylan-esque cover of tone-deaf tween singer Rebecca Black’s insipid good-time anthem, “Friday.” (StumbleUpon via YouTube)
  • I helped retrieve a lost World War II-era tank from a bog this weekend. What did you do? (Militaarne Hiiumaa)
  • Everybody loves useless facts. Here are a bunch about America that I assume are true even though I didn’t read them on Wikipedia. (Ray Bromley)
  • See, Photoshop can be really cool. Like these current photos of famous World War II locations combined with pictures at the same spot from the war. (9GAG)
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Farewell, Corporal Buckles

America’s last living link with World War I is gone. Frank Buckles, the oldest remaining U.S. veteran of the Great War, died yesterday at age 110. Buckles was one of only three remaining veterans of WWI throughout the world.

Buckles, born in 1901, enlisted with the U.S. Army in August 1917 after being turned down by the Marine Corps and the Navy. He was only 16 years old but, like many of his era, lied about his age in order to serve his country. In fact, after being rejected by recruiters in his native Kansas, Buckles traveled to Oklahoma City and kept at it until the Army agreed to take him. He was one of more than 4.7 million Americans to sail to Europe as part of the American Expeditionary Forces.

Buckles joined the First Fort Riley Casual Detachment and shipped out for England in December 1917, but his unit was held in reserve. Desperate to join the fighting in France, Buckles looked for any opportunity to see some action. He spent six months driving transport motorcycles and ambulances before finally finding his way to France in the summer of 1918.

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Time Capsule: Past State of the Union Addresses

Ronald Reagan, 1988 State of the Union Address

As Barack Obama prepares to deliver his annual State of the Union address to Congress, I thought it a good time to take a look back at this most unique event in American politics. So I’ve gathered images from previous presidential SOTU addresses, from President Woodrow Wilson’s in 1918 to President Obama’s in 2010. I couldn’t find any for Warren G. Harding, and Herbert Hoover made no public appearances before Congress (probably a good move).

Appearing in this gallery are Presidents Barack Obama (2010), George W. Bush (2008), Bill Clinton (1999), George H.W. Bush (unknown date), Ronald Reagan (1988), Jimmy Carter (unknown date), Gerald Ford (1975), Richard Nixon (1971), Lyndon Johnson (1968), John F. Kennedy (1963), Dwight Eisenhower (1960), Harry S. Truman (1953), Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1941), Calvin Coolidge (1923), and Woodrow Wilson (1918).

For political junkies, here’s a few interesting State of the Union facts:

  • Article II, Section 3, clause 1 of the United States Constitution authorizes the State of the Union Message, stating: “He [the President] shall from time to time give to the Congress Information on the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.”
  • George Washington delivered the first regular annual message before a joint session of Congress, in New York, on January 8, 1790.
  • Thomas Jefferson, who felt that a public speech such as this reeked a little too much of monarchy, changed the procedure followed by his predecessors with his first annual message (December 8, 1801).
  • Every president after Jefferson followed his lead and simply kept Congress informed of their activities with a long, written message.
  • Woodrow Wilson revived the SOTU as a public speech in 1913, although not every one since has been delivered personally.  22 of them, specifically, have been written only.
  • The message was generally known as “the President’s Annual Message to Congress” until well into the 20th century. Although some historians suggest that the phrase “State of the Union” emerged only after World War II, Franklin D. Roosevelt’s 1934 message is identified in his papers as his “Annual Message to Congress on the State of the Union.”
  • Two Presidents did not serve long enough to submit an annual message: William Henry Harrison, who died in 1841, 32 days after his inauguration, and James A. Garfield, who was assassinated in 1881 and served only 199 days.
  • The first SOTU broadcast on radio was President Calvin Coolidge’s speech in 1923.
  • The first televised SOTU address was delivered by Harry Truman in 1947.
  • Lyndon Johnson moved the address from its traditional midday slot to the evening in order to attract a large television audience.
  • Since the Cold War era, at least one member of the President’s Cabinet has been holed away in an undisclosed location during the address in order to ensure continuity of government in case the shit hits the fan.

Here’s some stuff I enjoyed this week

Here’s a fresh batch of some quality interweb finds I’ve come across over the last 7 days:

The ’30s and ’40s in living color, Part 2

November 2009 seems like ancient history to me, but that’s when I published part one of my look at some of the most interesting color photos from the 1930s and 1940s (as presented on Flickr by the Library of Congress).  I love looking at pictures like these because even with the most mundane subjects, seeing them in color brings them to life in a way we never could before (unless you were there I guess).

These photos were all taken between 1939 and 1944 by the United States Farm Security Administration (FSA) and later the Office of War Information (OWI).  Just click on a photo to see a larger version.

(Part 1 can be seen here.)

Railroad crossing along the Skyline Drive, Virginia (LOC)

Even in the ’40s no road sign was safe from the scourge of graffiti.  Although as one astute person pointed out, the markings on that railroad sign could very well be so-called “hobo markings”, shorthand communications between wandering workers to let each other know where one could find food, lodgings, etc.  Those of you who have seen the Mad Men episode “The Hobo Code” know what I mean. (Railroad crossing along the Skyline Drive, Virginia – Jack Delano)

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First at Vicksburg

America the Brave: A Selection of Veterans Day Images

First at Vicksburg

This post was originally published on Veterans Day 2008, and has proven to be one of my more popular entries.  So I’m bringing it back as my small tribute for this year.

Originally known as Armistice Day, the first Veterans Day was celebrated on November 11, 1938 — the 20th anniversary of the effective end of World War I.  Starting in 1954 the scope of the holiday was expanded to commemorate all those who had fought and served for the United States.

I don’t have any stirring essays in me, so my small tribute to our armed forces is this collection of images portraying the history of major American military conflict.  Thank you all for your service!

American Revolutionary War (1775–1783)

The Battle of Trenton - Hugh Charles McBarron, Jr.
The Battle of Trenton (December 26, 1776) was a turning point in the American Revolution, as General George Washington led his demoralized troops across the Delaware River and captured 1,000 Hessian soldiers. Washington and his soldiers followed up that surprise attack with another victory a week later in Princeton.

War of 1812 (1812-1815)

USS Constitution vs. HMS Guerriere
The vaunted British Royal Navy suffered a stunning defeat at the hands of the much younger and smaller U.S. Navy on August 19, 1812 when the USS Constitution bested the HMS Guerriere after a 35-minute battle. A year later the American defense of Fort McHenry in Baltimore inspired lawyer Francis Scott Key to compose the poem that became the basis for “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

Mexican–American War (1846-1848)

The Battle of Monterrey
The Mexican-American War was a politically contentious issue, although it did vastly increase both the size of the U.S. Army and the United States itself.  The Battle of Monterrey (September 21-24, 1846) was fought effectively to a stalemate, although a two-month armistice agreement signed between General Pedro de Ampudia (Mexico) and General Zachary Taylor (United States) saw the Mexican Army surrender the city of Monterrey.

American Civil War (1861-1865)
Pred. Lincoln with Maj. Gen. McClellan and staff at the Grove Farm after the Battle of Antietam - October 3, 1862.

Pred. Lincoln with Maj. Gen. McClellan and staff at the Grove Farm after the Battle of Antietam – October 3, 1862.

The Battle of Antietam (September 17, 1862) was the first major engagement of the Civil War to take place on Northern soil. Approximately 23,000 soldiers died that day, making it the single bloodiest day in American combat history. This photo shows President Abraham Lincoln visiting the battlefield on October 3.

Spanish–American War (April 25 – August 12, 1898)
Theodore Roosevelt and the Rough Riders atop San Juan Hill.

Theodore Roosevelt and the Rough Riders atop San Juan Hill, July 1898.

The Spanish-American War lasted for just over 100 days (April-August 1898) and is remembered mainly for two things — the controversial destruction of the USS Maine (which became a major pretext for the war) and the rise to fame of Theodore Roosevelt’s Rough Riders. Roosevelt rode a wave of popularity first to the governorship of New York (elected in November 1898) and then the White House (elected as William McKinley’s Vice President in 1900).

World War I (1914-1918)
American troops going forward to the battle line in the Forest of Argonne. France - September 26, 1918.

American tanks going forward to the battle line in the Forest of Argonne, France – September 26, 1918.

Despite a firm and official policy of isolationism during the first few years of World War I, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson could no longer ignore German aggression and Congress finally declared war on April 6, 1917. The Germans were convinced that it would take at least 18 months before America could muster enough forces to make an impact, and hoped to win the war in the interim.  By the summer of 1918, however, 10,000 Americans were arriving in France daily.

World War II (1939-1945)
African-American troops of a field artillery battery set up a 155mm howitzer in France (June 28, 1944).

African-American troops of a field artillery battery set up a 155mm howitzer in France (June 28, 1944).

Without question, World War II was our finest hour as a fighting nation since the American Revolution. As with World War I, the U.S. resisted involvement at first but eventually relented. This time the turning point was not a German act of hostility, but the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. During the war more than 16 million Americans served in the military, with 290,000 killed in action and 670,000 wounded.

Korean War (1950-1953)
Korean War (1950 - 1953)

Supporting the 8th ROK Army Division, a Sherman tank fires its 76 mm gun at KPA bunkers at “Napalm Ridge”, Korea, May 11, 1952.

It’s difficult to understand how a war that resulted in so many casualties was so easily forgotten in this country, but that seems to be the case for the Korean War.  Although the Koreans and Chinese suffered the most casualties, it is still important to remember that more than 36,000 Americans died and nearly 100,000 were wounded in the conflict.

Sadder still is that after all those deaths, the war is technically not even over. North and South Korea have never signed a peace treaty, and have been under a tentative cease fire agreement for more than half a century.

Vietnam War (1955-1975)
Vietnam War (1955 - 1975)

U.S. Paratroopers of the 173rd Airborne Brigade First Battalion rush a wounded soldier into an ambulance helicopter on June 29, 1965 during the Vietnam War.

I’ve spent a lot of time learning about the background and conduct of the Vietnam War, as well as debating whether we should have fought it in the first place. Certainly no war in our nation’s history — save the Civil War — has so sharply divided this country. But for at least one day I will put all that aside to remember the nearly 60,000 U.S. dead, 2,000 missing, and 300,000+ wounded. You will never be forgotten!

Gulf War (August 2, 1990 – February 28, 1991)
Gulf War (Operation Desert Storm) - 1990-1991

USAF aircraft of the 335th Fighter Squadron (F-16, F-15C and F-15E) fly over Kuwaiti oil fires set by the retreating Iraqi army during Operation Desert Storm in 1991.

In many ways, the first Gulf War (aka Operation Desert Storm) is still being fought, as many of the veterans from that war still suffer today. Speaking of which…

Iraq War (2003-2011)
U.S. Marines entering one of Saddam Hussein's palaces during Operation Iraqi Freedom, 2003.

U.S. Marines entering one of Saddam Hussein’s palaces during Operation Iraqi Freedom, 2003.

Not since the Vietnam War has American military involvement been so controversial at home and around the world as with our 2003 invasion of Iraq. It will be years, however, before the long-term ramifications of the war will be known.

War in Afghanistan (2001-2014)
The War in Afghanistan (2001 - present)

U.S. Marine Corps Sergeant Kevin Healy exits an Italian Army CH-47 Chinook helicopter, November 2008.

Most recently the eyes of the nation were on our fighting men and women serving in Afghanistan. Our invasion of that nation (code named Operation Enduring Freedom) was prompted mainly by the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and had the initial goal of dismantling al-Qaeda and removing the Taliban from power. At 13 years this was the longest war in U.S. military history.

Thank you, veterans!

(watch this video for Veterans Day 2010, produced by the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs)

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GFS home movies: The Third Man

Due largely in part to a recent tweet from Roger Ebert, I decided to check out The Third Man recently.  It’s apparently considered to be pretty good, as evidenced by its inclusion on AFI’s original list of the 100 best American movies of all-time (it was at #57, but was cut from the most recent list).  I also wanted to check it out because I haven’t really taken the time to explore film noir as much as I’d like, and also I figured it had to be good since it had pre-puffy Orson Welles.

Score one for social networking, because it definitely is an enjoyable film and has held up fairly well since it was released in 1949.

So what’s it all about?  The film takes place in post-World War II Vienna, a defeated city divided into four occupied zones (American, British, French, and Russian), as well as an international zone.   The local economy is in tatters, and the black market is flourishing.  Anything and everything that can be sold illegally is.

Into this world steps American novelist Holly Martins (Joseph Cotten), who comes with a promise of employment with his friend Harry Lime (Welles).  Only problem is Lime is dead, struck down by an automobile that week.  Martins, who writes popular Westerns in the style of Zane Grey, attends Lime’s funeral and is noticed by the British Royal Military Police, led by Major Calloway (Trevor Howard). Calloway reveals a rather unpleasant fact about Lime – that he was involved in the black market – which sets Martins off.  He vows to prove Calloway wrong and seeks out people who knew Lime, in the hopes of clearing his good friend’s name.

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Book report: The Murrow Boys: Pioneers on the Front Lines of Broadcast Journalism

It’s hard to imagine, especially for those of my generation or younger, but broadcast news was not always a wasteland of vacuous celebrity gossip, shallow political “analysis”, or crude sensationalism.  There was in fact a time when the men and women who called themselves broadcast journalists were actually journalists first, broadcasters secondly.  A time when networks valued the insight and knowledge these broadcasters brought, with not nearly as much regard for profit.

And for a period of almost 20 years starting in the late 1930s, there was one group of broadcast journalists more insightful, knowledgeable, professional, and popular than all others.  They were the Murrow Boys, started and led by the legendary Edward R. Murrow.  While most people still know his name, the names of the crack team he assembled have been largely forgotten – they were Mary Marvin Breckinridge, Cecil Brown, Winston Burdett, Charles Collingwood, William Downs, Thomas Grandin, Richard C. Hottelet, Larry LeSueur, Eric Sevareid, William L. Shirer, and Howard K. Smith.  Under Murrow’s leadership these men (and woman) wrote the rules of modern broadcast journalism, risked their lives to bring the story of World War II to millions, and set standards of professionalism that seem to have been largely abandoned since.

The stories of each of the Boys is told (some in more detail than others, naturally) masterfully in The Murrow Boys: Pioneers on the Front Lines of Broadcast Journalism by co-authors Stanley Cloud and Lynne Olson.  After reading it I have a much greater appreciation for and knowledge of this group’s accomplishments in journalism, but additionally I was fascinated by how much they were able to accomplish in spite of their numerous vices and flaws.  Truly there was strength in numbers with Murrow’s Boys.

The book picks up in 1937.  While radio had already woven itself into the fabric of Americans’ lives, it offered little else besides entertainment.  News, such as it was, amounted to nothing more than uninformed commentary delivered by the likes of Boake Carter of the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS).  When Carter’s anti-Roosevelt, diatribes became too much for CBS owner William S. Paley, he was taken off the air for good.  Paley and his executive team understood the rising threat posed by Adolph Hitler, as did two recently hired CBS employees – Edward R. Murrow and William L. Shirer.

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