Tuesday, February 4, 2014

War on the big screen

"And the young people ask, what are they marching for? And I ask myself the same question."

My cup runneth over.

No, forget the cup. I'm drinking straight from the fire hose.

And I love it. Mostly.

On Monday I watched Saving Private Ryan. All 169 minutes of it, the first hour on the treadmill, and that hour went by fast. It was gripping. It was a movie I had avoided, for the very reason I avoid most movies. Violence. I can take sex and curses. You can keep violence.

But this was homework. It was the assigned movie for week three of the Colgate University class I am taking online, The Advent of the Atomic Bomb. It was interesting to watch Saving Private Ryan in the context of Gallipoli, which was last week's movie assignment.

I might even say, Saving Private Ryan picked up where Gallipoli ended. OK, it was a different beach, 29 years later. But it was a continued assault by allied forces against a coastline defense, our troops storming an embankment under heavy fire and suffering massive savage injuries and casualties.

According to Wikipedia, the 27-minute long opening sequence depicting the Omaha Beach landings was named the "best battle scene of all time" by Empire magazine and was ranked number one on TV Guide's list of the "50 Greatest Movie Moments".

I just kept reminding myself that the carnage I was watching involved a lot of make-up and fake blood. But the movie, like Gallipoli, is a fictionalized dramatization of real-life events. Again according to Wiki, WWII veterans have called the film a very realistic depiction of combat.

The movies are just one element of the online course. I'm keeping up more or less with most of the online content, but I'm already 4 chapters behind in the textbook and I'll have to read 7 chapters by the end of this week to be caught up.

At least I'm not a real-life Colgate student. This class would be a 40-hour a week undertaking for me. Among other things - mandatory postings on the discussion boards, a timeline project, a twitter project, weekly supplemental materials - this month the students have to write a paper, produce a Powerpoint presentation, review and critique all of the other group presentations (a total of seven). The instructions for the assignment are 10 pages long.

Right now I'm having trouble connecting this week's move to this weeks discussion direction, to focus on the scientific interests of the early to mid-1930s, and especially on the emigration of Eastern European scientists from their homelands in response to the growing threat of Hitler's regime. We are to "explore this unique intersection of science and politics and its importance in the development of nuclear weapons."

I'm eager to talk about the movie, but it seems to be ahead of the topic at hand. The message board has been very quiet so far, just one post along the lines of "most of the physicists and chemists really just wanted to practice science," so perhaps the students also are wrestling with the dichotomy.

In other entertainment news, I'm sad that Season 3 of Sherlock Holmes is over after just two weeks (3 Sundays). After waiting a year to see how Sherlock was going to be resurrected, we have to wait another year to see how Moriarty is going to be resurrected. Frankly, I for one did not miss him.

I did especially love the scene in Downton Abbey this week where Mary and Branson are in the nursery before dinner and Isobel pops in. She tells Mary she wants her to be happy. Mary responds that she isn't ready to be happy. Isobel reminisces about how very much she loved and was in love with the long dearly departed Dr. Crawley. Her musings stir a consanguine chord in both Branson and Mary, who confess how greatly they loved Sybil and Matthew. Isobel sums it up, "aren't we the lucky ones." as Mary and Branson nod agreement.

And if you're not a Downton devotee, and don't know the back story, well, I can't help you much there.

My new camera arrived. It's red. Very red. The battery is charging. I have homework for my digital photography class too. Forty images shot in RAW format in manual mode, illustrating one of the elements of design - lines, texture, perspective, contrast, etc. I also got a retractable USB drive for my class. It's red too.

Honestly, the USB drive is not bigger than the camera. I tried re-sizing the pictures 6 ways from Tuesday. No dice.

Now I just hope I can figure out how the light meter on the camera works.

I'm about 65 bead pairs into the 100 pairs of Team Beads I'm making for Beads of Courage. I need at least one really good torch session, but realistically I know I'm not going to get in 35 more pairs this week without making myself crazed. I can mail them in two shipments and that's probably what I'll do.

I'd rather have sent them all this week, but that fire hose isn't showing any signs of drying out.

When I was a young man I carried my pack
And I lived the free life of a rover
From the Murray's green basin to the dusty outback
Well, I waltzed my Matilda all over

Then in 1915 my country said son
It's time you stopped rambling, there's work to be done
So they gave me a tin hat, and they gave me a gun
And they marched me away to the war

And the band played Waltzing Matilda
As the ship pulled away from the quay
And amidst all the cheers, the flag-waving and tears
We sailed off for Gallipoli

And how well I remember that terrible day
How our blood stained the sand and the water
And of how in that hell that they called Suvla Bay
We were butchered like lambs at the slaughter

Then a big Turkish shell knocked me arse over head
And when I woke up in my hospital bed
And saw what it had done, I wished I was dead
Never knew there were worse things than dying

For I'll go no more waltzing Matilda
All around the green bush far and free
To hump tent and pegs, a man needs both legs
No more waltzing Matilda for me

So they gathered the crippled, the wounded, the maimed
And they shipped us back home to Australia
The legless, the armless, the blind, the insane
Those proud wounded heroes of Suvla

And as our ship pulled into Circular Quay
I looked at the place where my legs used to be
And thanked Christ there was nobody waiting for me
To grieve, to mourn and to pity

But the band played Waltzing Matilda
As they carried us down the gangway
But nobody cheered, they just stood and stared
Then they turned all their faces away

And now every April I sit on me porch
And I watch the parade pass before me
And I see my old comrades, how proudly they march
Reviving old dreams of past glories

And the old men march slowly, old bones stiff and sore
They're tired old heroes from a forgotten war
And the young people ask, what are they marching for?
And I ask myself the same question

But the band plays Waltzing Matilda
And the old men answer to the call
But as year follows year more old men disappear
Someday no one will march there at all

Waltzing Matilda, Waltzing Matilda
Who'll come a-waltzing Matilda with me?
And their ghosts may be heard as they march by that Billabong
Who'll come a-waltzing Matilda with me?

(Eric Bogle, Scottish-born Australian singer-songwriter, 1971.)

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Thanks for your comment! I will post it as soon as I receive it. Liz