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Archive for February, 2011

28 February

Who Do You Think You Are?


Who Do You Think You Are is a television program that was originally in the UK starting in 2004.  Last year they brought the program to the states.  I first heard about it when listening to BBC History Magazine Podcast where they mentioned the UK program.  Then later when listening to another podcast, History According to Bob, I heard that the show was in the US and had some good programming according to Bob.  I trust Bob, so I looked for it on Hulu and found it.  The first season is now only available to Hulu Plus subscribers (a fee service), but the new ones are available to watch for free, for a limited time.  Here is a link to the Hulu page for Who Do You Think You Are, where the go over Vanessa William’s family history.  It is very interesting.  If you really like and and want more, the first season is available at Amazon where you can Pre-Order for March 15 or watch instantly via Amazon Instant video.

28 February

February Recap: Top 5 Post this Month


This was an interesting month.  I started posting every day this month.  I think the articles have some really good content.  I learned a lot writing the articles and it was fun for me.  I hope you learned something and had some fun too.  Oh, before I forget, now that we know who the big winners were from the Academy Awards yesterday, check out who won at the very first Oscar’s in 1929.

The two most popular post this month were not from this month.  They were:

Other popular post from this month included:


25 February

The Very First Academy Awards Ceremony 1929


Every year we gather around our television sets to watch Academy Awards (this year Sunday, Feb 27 8PM EST, 5PM EST on ABC), also called the Oscars. This awards ceremony was developed by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) to recognize those working in the film industry who have performed their job excellently. The formal ceremony is televised to over 200 countries and is the oldest award ceremony in media.

The Academy itself is composed of roughly 6,000 film industry professionals from around the world; however the majority are based in the United States. The idea of the AMPAS began with the then head of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Louis B. Mayer. The original goal of the organization was to mediate labor disputes and improve the industry’s image.

Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. was elected as the first president of the Academy. One of his first jobs was to bestow awards of merit for distinct achievement. Mayer asked MGM art director, Cedric Gibbons to design the now famous Oscar trophy. Sculptor George Stanley was paid $500 to execute the original statue from Gibbons’ design. Trivia tidbit: Because of a metal shortage during World War II, Oscar statuettes were made of painted plaster. The very first ever Academy Awards nominees were notified via telegram in February 1928. The awards would be for films made in 1927 and 1928.

The Ceremony was held on May 16, 1929 at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel in Los Angeles, California. 207 people showed up. They paid $5 a ticket. It was not broadcast on radio or television; however, fans of the celebrities did show up to watch them step out of their luxury vehicles. Douglas Fairbanks, the president of the Academy, made the official award presentations. Twelve awards were presented at the dinner and 20 additional certificates of honorable mention were given to runners-up in each awards category.

And the winners were…

Best Picture – Wings

Unique and Artistic Production – Sunrise – A Song of Two Humans

Best Director, Comedy Picture – Lewis Milestone for Two Arabian Knights

Best Director, Dramatic Picture – Frank Borzage for 7th Heaven

Best Actor in a Leading Role – Emil Jannings for The Last Command and The Way of All Flesh

Best Actress in a Leading Role – Janet Gaynor for 7th Heaven, Street Angel and Sunrise – A Song of Two Humans

Best Writing, Original Story – Ben Hecht for Underworld

Best Writing, Adapted Story – Benjamin Glazer for 7th Heaven

Best Cinematography – Charles Rosher and Karl Struss for Sunrise – A Song of Two Humans

Best Art Direction – William Cameron Menzies for The Dove and Tempest

Best Engineering Effects – Roy Pomeroy for Wings

Best Writing, Title Writing – Joseph Farnham (no specific film)

Honorary Awards

Charles Chaplin “For versatility and genius in acting, writing, directing and producing The Circus “.

Warner Brothers Production “For producing The Jazz Singer, the pioneer outstanding talking picture, which has revolutionized the industry”


25 February

Book Review: A Little History of the World


I have been reading A Little History of the World by E. H. Gombrich. I wasn’t able to finish it. It was just too boring. It reads like a children’s bedtime story. So, while this may be a great children’s book, I don’t think it speaks to adults as well.

I wanted to like this book so much. It has great reviews on Amazon, 75 with an average of r 4.5 out of 5 stars. On goodreads, a social book readers website, the book has 755 ratings with an average of 4.01 out of 5. It is clear that people love this book. I just couldn’t get into it. First of all, it’s a book for children. It was originally published in German 70 years ago. It has been translated into many different languages. Also, Gombrich was never a historian. This is revealed in the story of how he came to write this book, which is in the introduction. It says that he was reading something from a publisher friend of his that was about to be published as a children’s history book, and he thought it was terrible. His friend the publisher challenged him to do better. He accepted the challenge and this book is the result of that wager.

As a children’s book I think this might be good. Hard to tell, since my little girl is only 2, I think it is too soon to regale her with this kind of content. But I will keep my copy and see how she responds to it in the coming years. There are lots of comments from amazon reviews like, “Wonderful Book for Homeschoolers” or “Bedtime Stories of History”. Some of those reviews say it is great for adults too, but I just can’t agree. To me there just is not enough there to keep me engrossed. I’m not looking forward to reading this when I’m away from it.

I think the goodread’s reviewer David Giltinan summed it up best in his review:

I can’t bring myself to jump on the warm and fuzzy bandwagon of approval of this deeply flawed book. It is what it is – a condensation of all of human history into sequential “stories” suitable for “children“. [my emphasis] Supposing for the moment that this is not an inherent recipe for disaster, what is baffling is the number of reviewers who claim to see something in this work “for adults”.

Have you read this book? What did you think? Please share your review in the comments section below. Better yet, if you have kids do you read this to them and what do they think about it?

24 February

Podcast Review: The History of Rome


Rome - Colosseum

The History of Rome by Mike Duncan posted its first episode on Sunday December 30, 2007 and for the last 4 years he has been rocking the podcast world. In 2010 his podcast won the Podcast Award in the education category. It is a pretty big deal to win the podcast awards. Congratulations to Mike!

On iTunes History of Rome has 1,121 ratings and an average rating of 5 out of 5 stars! Wow! History of Rome is currently number 4 on the top 10 podcast on iTunes.

For this review I listened to episode 127 – Commanding the Economy. The duration of the episode was 28 minutes and change. It was released on February 21, 2011. Mike seems to keep the podcast fairly frequent. At the beginning of the podcast is a 60 second plug for audible. Strangely this didn’t bother me though. Mike has an almost hypnotic voice. It has a strange ability to calm you. It’s like meditation with history. But that’s good, really.

After the plug for audible there some calming music played then Mike gets right into the episode content, see his description of the episode below:

Rome’s economy was in disarray when Diocletian came to power and he initiated major overhauls to get the system running again.

As I mentioned before Mike has a great voice. He doesn’t say what he does for a living, but if he is not in radio he should be, what a voice! Here is what I could find on the History of Rome website’s about page in regards to Mike:

Mike Duncan grew up outside of Seattle, WA and has a degree in Political Science and Philosophy from Western Washington University. His deep and abiding love for Roman history is matched only by his deep and abiding love for Seattle Mariners baseball. He recently married and now lives in Austin, TX.

Mike reads nice and slow, but not too slow, just right actually. He does a great job doing a summary/overview of what will be covered in this particular episode. I don’t want to ruin the podcast for you, so I’m not going to cover the content that Mike went over. At the end of the podcast the same calm music plays.

I’m going to stay subscribed to this one! I really enjoyed it and look forward to more from Mike.

While doing my research I found two other reviews that have been done on the History of Rome Podcast. Frank Yeats for Suite101 did a review on May 20, 2010 and Charles Odom from the Yahoo! Contributor Network did a review on April 6, 2009.

In addition to the website the History of Rome Podcast also has a Facebook group.

As mentioned earlier, the History of Rome won the Podcast Awards for 2010 in the Education category. There is a Youtube video of the awards ceremony here, skip to 18:20 in the video to see just the education category:

23 February

Youtube Time Machine


R.I.P. Christopher Reeve

Found a cool site and thought you would like it to. This site Youtube Time Machine (YTTM), finds videos from specific years and you can browse through them. I went to 1979, the year I was born and found a cool video with Christopher Reeve on the Johnny Carson show. You can see it below.

He is being interviewed for his role in Superman (only $10 on blu-ray right now!). They talk about the amazing graphics. It was a pretty cool watch. A while back I was asked to do a podcast on Superman and I think I ended up doing the history of the comic book for the most part. Mostly and origin story, but it occurs to me that really for my generation Christopher Reeve was Superman. I want to read his autobiography Still Me, or actually I really want to listen to it since he reads it. It was written in 1999 only four years after his near fatal accident. An description says:

Christopher Reeve begins his heroic reading of Still Me with a special introduction, including this message: “Now, this audiobook allows me to communicate with you in a very personal way, second only to being in the same room.” Personal indeed. Hearing Reeve tell his account of the near-fatal riding accident on Memorial Day 1995 is a life-altering experience.

Another book on the to-read list. This blog is really starting to hurt my chances of getting through the ones that are already on there. This one is audio so it should go fast. Reeve followed up Still Me with another book in 2004 called: Nothing is Impossible: Reflections on a New Life. It has 4.5 stars our of 42 reviews. Sounds pretty good too! There is an audio version of this that Reeve reads himself again. I love it when authors do that.

22 February

31st Anniversary of Ice Hockey History


U.S. Olympic Hockey Team Helmet and Gloves, 1980

You may not know, but I am a huge fan of ice hockey. A little odd for someone who lives outside of Canada, but never the less a huge fan. So when I saw that it was the 31st anniversary of the Miracle on Ice today, I was very excited. Finally something that links my two great loves hockey and history.

Even though hockey is not as popular as other sports, see Google trends graph above, I still love it. This Olympic hockey game seems to be very well known. Of course, it helps that it was the Olympics and not a regular National Hockey League (NHL) game. And it also helps that there has been a movie made on the subject, not to mention a couple books. Like The Boys of Winter: The Untold Story of a Coach, a Dream, and the 1980 U.S. Olympic Hockey Team which Jim Craig, the USA team goalie wrote the forward to. Sport Illustrated even said, “It may be the single most indelible moment in all of U.S. sports history.” That is a pretty big statement.

The Winter Olympics that year took place at Lake Placid. The USSR, was the team to beat. They were unstoppable. In ’79 the USSR embarrassed the NHL All Stars in the final game of a challenge series; the score was 6-0 USSR. Ouch! The U.S. would need a great team if they were going to beat the USSR at the games.

The Coach

The man chosen to lead this team was Herb Brooks. He was a NCAA coach for Minnesota, where he led that team to three titles. He himself was a student of international studies and played for the U.S. in two Olympics. He was cut from the 1960 team at the last moment.

Brooks spent one and a half years working his team, making them into Olympians. His first step was to gather those troops. He held several tryout camps and gave the prospects psychological tests. The final team then spent four months playing exhibition games in Europe, Canada and the U.S. Brooks concentrated on speed, conditioning and discipline for his team, since matching the Europeans skill would be all but impossible in the time he was given.

These college players that Brooks had on his team didn’t like each other. They had come from competing colleges. It was a constant struggle to keep them from fighting. Brooks, got them to all hate him and with a common enemy things cooled down between the players. One of the defenders, Mike Ramsey once said of Brooks, “He messed with our minds at every opportunity.” Captain Mike Eruzione added, “If Herb came into my house today, it would still make me feel uncomfortable.”

Brooks was able to tap talent out of all his team members and with that skill and his training he had a winning team. Still, this USA team was seen as the underdogs. Brooks felt that a Bronze medal was in reach for his team. Before the Olympics he arranged for an exhibition game to be played against the USSR team. The U.S. team lost 10-3. Brooks took the blame saying that his game plan was too conservative.

The Games

The first game of the Winter Olympics for the U.S. team was against Sweden. They were tied 2-2 near the end of the game, but at the last moment Bill Baker scored, sending them to play Czechoslovakia, which went much better, they won 7-3. They turned up the heat and won two more games against Norway and Romania. Then they had a comeback win in a gripping game against Germany, that ended 4-2.

The Soviets dominated in almost every game. They did fall behind in the Finland and Canada games briefly before they came back to win those games. The outcomes of those games meant that the first team that the U.S. team would play against in the medal round was the USSR. They had to win or there would be no medal, not even the Bronze which Brooks had thought within their reach.

Center Mark Johnson and right wing Mike Eruzione would be remembered for their scoring, but without goalie Jim Craig they would not have had a chance. Craig kept them in the game. After the first period the score was 2-1, the USSR was winning. But a last minute goal late in that period was still being considered. Dave Christian got a lucky break when USSR goalie Tretiak gave a fat rebound and Christian knocked it in at the buzzer. The referees deemed it good and now the teams were tied after only 20 minutes.

When the USSR came back on the ice, they replaced their seasoned goalie with their backup Myshkin. Tretiak expressed his disappointment in the coaches decision in his book. In the second period, the Soviets were definitely playing much harder. The Americans were only able to get two shots at the goal and the USSR team scored, bringing the game to 3-2 at the end of the period.

Brooks had prepped his team well. In the third and last period one of the main components of Brooks’ training came into play. Speed. The Soviet coach leaned heavily on his veteran players, but the U.S. players could catch them. Brooks’ team was faster. When the USSR did finally make a mistake an American player was there to make the most of it. That is exactly what Eruzione did when he scooped up a botched pass, skated to the top of the USSR zone and landed a wrist shot, making the score 4-3 USA.

The game began to roll down to the final moments and that’s when broadcaster Al Michaels said these now famous words:

“Eleven seconds. You got ten seconds, the countdown going on right now. Five seconds left in the game! Do you believe in miracles? Yes!”

The building erupted in applause. It was the first loss by a Soviet Union team in Olympic play in 20 years. The soviets had actually outshot the USA 39-16 shots on goal during the game, but it just wasn’t enough for the USSR. The USA team wasn’t done yet though. That was only the first game in the medals round, now they had to win against Finland.

In a practice game before the next medal game Brooks kept up his torment saying, “You’re too young. You can’t do this.” It seemed like he might be right, because in the first period the U.S. team was down 2-1. In the intermission, Brooks said to his team that if they didn’t win, “this will haunt you for the rest of your lives.” His players responded by three unanswered goals in the last period of the game.

This article is getting pretty long so I’ll just tell you that there is this great post at about where the players of the miracle team are now. It was published last year on the 30th anniversary of the great game.

Here is the last 5 minutes of that amazing game:

21 February

All 3 of Malcolm X’s Assassins are Free


On this day in 1965 Malcolm X was assassinated. Below you see a picture of the Manhattan’s Audubon Ballroom, this is where on February 21, 1965 39 year-old, Malcolm X was assassinated by three men. He was taken to New York’s Columbia Presbyterian Hospital where he was pronounced dead at 3:30pm. The main shooter was Thomas Hagan, He was shot in the leg by one of X’s bodyguards and almost beaten to death by the crowd while trying to escape.

All three of Malcolm X’s murders are now released from prison. Talmadge Hayer also known as Thomas Hagan, who was arrested at the scene of the shootings was released in 2010 and now goes by the name Mujahid Halim. He is interviewed in the second video below.

Eye witnesses at the crime scene identified the other two gunman as Norman 3X Butler and Thomas 15X Johnson. Both continue to maintain their innocence today. Butler, now goes by Muhammad Abdul Aziz, and was paroled in 1985. He became the head of the Nation of Islam’s Harlem’s Mosque in New York in 1998. Johnson, changed his name to Khalil Islam, was released from prison in 1987.

The Autobiography of Malcolm X Malcolm X Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention
The Autobiography of Malcolm X Malcolm X (Movie) Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention

Back in high school I read The Autobiography of Malcolm X.  It was an amazing book and if you have not read it I would highly recommend it.  I still remember the passage where he tells the story of how they used to break into houses.  But if the bathroom light was no they would skip that house.  His logic being that anyone can be using the restroom at any time of night.  So if you don’t want your house to be robbed while you sleep then turn on the bathroom light before you go to bed.  Great, great book!

Did you know that there is an official website of Malcolm X? Neither did I. Wow. I usually have to search wikipedia or some other source for information. I’ll tell you this much there was no conference of Vienna official website. But thats ok, I can see where would be a really long url. The website says:

The Official Web Site of Malcolm X has everything you want to know about this historical figure. Read his biography and read inspirational quotes from this talented speaker. Browse the photo gallery for pictures of Malcolm X throughout his life!

Free wallpapers and screen savers. What? You’ve got to be kidding me! This site has everything. The store link is not working, but there are links to posters from and links to books from an amazon store. Lots of affiliate links. At the bottom of the site it says copyright Estate of Malcolm X. Unbelievable! I am very impressed.

Below is a video clip from Spike Lee’s Malcolm X.

There is some actual audio recording from that fateful day and an interview with almadge Haye on youtube in this video:

19 February

History’s Downward Trend


What is wrong with the world today?  No one is interested in history anymore?  Just look at this horrible downward trend.  I’m afraid to compare this trend to Britney Spears or Justin Bieber, and yes I did have to look up how to spell his last name.  No idea what he is even famous for.  Just know he is famous.  What can we as history enthusiasts do to turn this tend upside down?

18 February

Join Us on Facebook and Twitter


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We’re social! But don’t worry we won’t overshare. Check us out on Facebook and Twitter! I will post to Facebook and Twitter as often as possible and try to make these services something you all will enjoy. Both of these are just one more way to contact me and interact with the rest of your history podcast fans.
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