Home vs. the Theater

   Here is a Would You Rather question: if given the choice between watching the movies of your choice, would you rather be alone in a theater or alone in your home?  Either way, it costs the same.  No matter which option you choose, you are alone.  Which one is it for you?  Would you choose option one or two?  I have a hard time knowing what I would choose. Continue reading “Home vs. the Theater”


Birth of a Nation: The First Movie Blockbuster

   Why was Birth of a Nation such a fantastic hit in its day and even continues to be?  Perhaps it has to do with the fact that it is a little over three hours long, it is about the civil war and the Reconstruction, and, finally, it has specific characters who draw our attention.  It has to do with characters who fall in love but are separated because of the war, a family waiting for the war to end and their worry of a loved one potentially dying to come to a stop, three sons finding friends, love, during a war, but also having to deal with problems put in their way, and enslaved blacks wanting to be free.  This is only a little bit of why this movie is still amazing to watch.

   Birth of a Nation was the first silent black-and-white American three-hour-long movie.  It was published in the year 1915.  Directed by D. W. Griffith and based on the novel by Thomas Dixon’s work — The ClansmanBirth of a Nation is about a family or two who live in the times of the Civil War.  These families are the Camerons and the Stonemans.  One family resides in the South, another in the North.  Therefore, when separation and war hit, these families are then fighting against each other.  Several months or so before the war, the two families come together.  Not only is there friendship between the sons of the families, but love begins in both sides of the family throughout the movie.  A Cameron son and a Stoneman daughter parallel a Stoneman son and a Cameron daughter.  However, love shows up in the movie in several different ways, not just between friends and loved-ones who are separated by North and South.  There is the love of a mother for her three sons during the war.  Also, the love of her daughters as well, as she and her husband try to protect them during a raid.  There is the love of the Stoneman and his daughter and the Cameron sisters with their brothers.  We sit on the edge of seats to see what will be the turnout of this.  What will happen?  Will the brothers live?  Will the families reunite?  Who will be there?  The questions go on and on but they keeps us watching the movie.  D. W. Griffith knew what he was doing.

   Throughout the movie, we are locked in.  Even today.  Although, it is a silent movie, the dialogue of some scenes are shown on the screen, making the movie a little more understandable.  There is the part of love and family and friendship.  There is the thing about the blacks.  A character who plays black goes down into the South and tries to free the slaves.  This is after the fact of the war.  Lincoln is murdered, Lynch, the black from the North, tries to free those blacks still loyal to their old owners.

   The Birth of a Nation is definitely worth your time to watch it.  To see America’s first major blockbuster is a must do.  Scene after scene, I assure you, you will be glued.  The movie gives us that feeling of what it must have been like during the Civil War and after.  You will not regret watching the movie.  It may take a while to watch, but I think there will be some scenes that will stick with you for a long time.

P.S.  I do have to add:  While Birth of a Nation was a good movie, with its amazing actors, I do have to say that with the KKK in the second half, it made it less enjoyable.  But that was how it was back then.

Bierce, London, or O. Henry?

   With his work, To Build a Fire, would Jack London be my choice over two other authors?  With Devil’s Dictionary, would I prefer Ambrose Bierce over London and one other?  Are William Sydney Porter’s, also known as O. Henry, works such as The Gift of the Magi, The Cop and the Anthem, and The Last Leaf, more enjoyable than Bierce’s or London’s?  Which of three authors did I enjoy the most this week?

   To Build a Fire was about a man who lived in a very very very cold climate.  It was way below zero outside, and yet, he decided he needed to have dinner with a group of boys.  He ventured out and began to freeze.  Along with a dog, the man began to slowly freeze to death.  Eventually the man wanted to kill the dog to make him warm, however that is not how the story would end.

   I did not enjoy this story as much as I thought I would.  Having no idea about it, I thought, To Build a Fire, would be about cavemen or someone who just happened to make a fire.  Not this sad story.  I still enjoyed it slightly, but it is not my cup of tea, honestly.  That leaves two contestants.

   Ambrose Bierce and The Devil’s Dictionary is just enjoyable, funny, and cynical.  However, he is just funny if you do not know him and what his work is actually about.  Bierce was a pessimist.  He looked at the negative and stuck with it.  He did not believe man could reform for good.  He was a Darwinist.  Meaning, he believed that man did not have a reason for his existence.  That we are all here because we are a mistake.  (Another time…maybe).  However, when reading his work, I put that aside and tried to enjoy all of his funny definitions.  I did.  I laughed.  And a few of the definitions will stick.  However, I also could see his cynical side with some the definitions.

   The Devil’s Dictionary is a dictionary of certain words.  Bierce took regular words, but changed their meaning to something more comical or negative.  However it is still funny to read.  But not my choice to read in my free time.  Though perhaps one day, I will.

   That leaves Porter/O. Henry.  He has a lot of short stories.  Perhaps his most famous one, The Gift of the Magi, is my favorite.  He took his stories seriously, making them believable and enjoyable.  With some funny endings and in betweens, Henry makes his stories lovable and read worldwide.   He was more positive with his stories than Bierce and London.  He focused on love over pride among many others, but this is why I enjoyed his works more than the other two authors.

When Describing Other Characters in Your Story

   With the details of the main character’s appearance, looks, personality, family, etc. done and written well enough to convey what you, the author, wishes, is it important to describe the other characters the same?  Should you?  Should you not?  Is it really important?  Does it matter?  The answer: it is all up to you.

   Now, some of your readers may skim over that description of a less important character.  Then, there are some of us readers who like to know exactly what everyone looks like in the story.  This makes it easy for us to picture the scene in our mind’s eye a little better.  However, there are those of us who like to let our imagination run free in a story.  Whether it be what area, place, building, etc., the characters may be at, or just simply what we believe the characters would look like.  Then again, it really depends on the writer.  It is all up to him and/or her.

   Here is what I believe: don’t just describe the main character, unless the character is unimportant and does not have a huge part in the story.  If you do not agree with that, at least give the less important characters a tiny bit of description.  Again, this helps different sorts of readers.  This helps readers get their imagination running, or others a little bit of what they want to help them make the picture.  Very unimportant characters, however, do not need a description.

   This is what I try to goal when storywriting: describe the main character, get the audience to have something in common with said main character, etc.  However, if there is a crush my character likes, I would describe the crush’s looks.  If there is a bully because he/she looks absolutely stunning and picks on the less ugly, I would add some of her/his looks when talking about him/her.  I do not have to go full out, telling their measurements, etc.  Give the protagonist(s) the main and biggest spotlight, and don’t be afraid to give a little to other characters.

   What I am really trying to get out with this is the following:  describe what YOUR character looks like, and if you picture any other characters that have to do with the main character’s story specifically, add that.  That is pretty much it.  It is all up to you in the end.  I just advise you, if you picture a scene, character, etc. in extreme detail, add that into the story.  It is your imagination, your book, your story, your characters, etc.  Make it yours.

More of Mark Twain?

   Would I read more of Mark Twain’s literary works?  With their sense of humor, enjoyable descriptions, funny exaggerations, etc.  would I wish to continue reading some of his works?  I hope it is obvious, by now, of which my answer would be.

   It is, of course, yes.  As we know already, I love reading.  Reading is amazing.  One of favorite and probably my best pastime.  I also love comedy.  And reading it, gives me a chance to use my imagination and make it even more hilarious.  Thus, this is what I did with Twain’s stories I read this week.

   Having previously read The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, I knew a bit of Twain’s writing style.  However, being older and understanding a bit more of literary works, I found Mark Twain’s Sketches New and Old a bit more funny and enjoyable.  I was laughing after every page.

   My favorite sketch was of Twain himself.  At age thirteen, he was told he was in charge of a newspaper for a day.  He changed everything — adding humor.  It is an enjoyable story.  He continues on with such humor and makes all of his works enjoyable.

   However, being introduced to Hal Holbrook’s Mark Twain Tonight! I found myself enjoying his, Twain’s, stories more.  It almost seems as if Twain’s works were to be read to an audience, instead of read by a reader.  However, I will take either way.  As long as I read/listen more of Mark Twain, I know I will be entertained.

Lincoln’s “We Have to Continue the War” Speech

When reading Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg address, we should be reminded of something. If you really know your biblical books, you should be able to recognize something else. The way the sixteenth President of the United Union States worded the document was in such a way similar to that of the King James Version Bible.

It was very short. The man who spoke before Lincoln, spoke for two hours. Lincoln stood up and sat back down about two-five minutes later. This was a crowd pleaser in some ways. However, not many people in Lincoln’s time or who were even listeners of the speech remembered or quoted his speech. It was confusing to listen to. Newspapers then added it to their papers. When read, Lincoln’s address was easy to follow and more memorable.

Public schools and some homeschooling curriculums require students to memorize this. But that seems to be where the learning of the document ends. Some teachers may speak about it a little, but they probably do not get into any depth. Such as the following I will be sharing with you.


“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
-Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address

This speech is so similarly structured and written like that of the Declaration of Independence, the King James Bible, and John Wycliffe’s first English Bible. In the first paragraph, the phrase, “that all men are created equal”, we find this in the Declaration of Independence. The last statement, “government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth”, hints at Wycliffe’s (1384) prologue statement, “This Bible is for the government of the people, for the people, and by the people.” So that the people may not perish but have everlasting life.

Like that of the KJV Bible, the way the words are put together, read, and thought of bring the reader who is familiar with both literary works to believe Lincoln had read the version of the Bible. He seemed to believe in God. However, he used this Christian language in way that he pointed to the North, claiming that what they were doing was right and the godly way.

“We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.”

With the sentences above, we can take this several ways. It may have seemed “proper that we should do this”. “This” could mean continuing the war of trying to unite and bring back the old United States, or just simply giving the speech in honor of the brave men who gave their lives.

“It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

These two sentences basically say the same thing. Let me put it in a few short and easily understandable words: “We, the living, should honor the dead, by continuing the war and winning.”

This speech may have seemed inspiring but was it right? Was it correct to continue the war? Why did Lincoln go to war? This is another essay, but let me hit some important points.

It was wrong to go to war. Just like Lincoln quoted at the beginning, the Declaration of Independence gave the South the right to secede. It was the Revolutionary War all over again. Lincoln and the North in some cases in the shoes of England. The South should have been left alone. But Lincoln knew the North would not make it long without the South. But he could have tried to make peace a different way with the South instead of going to war. There is more I could go on, but again, another time.


Weems’ Washington

   Mason Locke “Parson” Weems was a book writer.  At the time of President George Washington’s death, Weems got up and did his research.  Parson Weems wanted there to be books about the courageous and Patriotic men of the American Revolution.  He decided to take George Washington.  

   Because of this, Parson Weems became the first biographer of George Washington’s life.  However, not everything in the book was exactly true.  Maybe he believed it to be, or it was what he heard from people and took that as facts, or he was praising Washington with awe and wonder with the things he wrote.

   When we think of George Washington, we think of these: first President, important fighter in the American Revolutionary War, the Washington Memorial, honored man, etc.  Why?  Because he played important parts in the history of America.  He is the reason, along with many other brave men, we are here today and still not under the thumb of England.  He took the first step in being our first President.  He became a model for many men.  This is why some of us look at this man in amazement.

   Weems was definitely one of those kind of people.  He was very grateful for Washington and his roles.  But he took it a little too far.  He described Washington as a demigod.  He said as a young man, there were angels surrounding Washington.  Weems said he was a strategist at age of twenty-one, even though Washington used his head like any other good army leader and tried to stay out of the line of fire.  Weems said Washington should be a model for all men, young and old.  Be like Washington.  Live like him.  This was Weems.  He took his biography and made it into a hagiography.  A hagiography is basically looking at the life of someone and making him or her a saint.

   In Weems’ case, he made Washington sound like a saint who could do no wrong.  Washington, in Weems’ eyes, was perfect.  However, we today know this to not be the case.  Weems was the one who came up with idea of the cherry tree story.  Maybe he heard it from someone?  Maybe he thought this to be true?  Maybe something else?  We don’t know.  But we do know that this most likely did not happen.

   At age 6, Washington was given an axe as a gift.  He went and chopped down his father’s cherry tree.  When his father found out and demanded to know what happened, George replied, “Father, I cannot tell a lie…I did cut it with my hatchet.”  Maybe this really did happen, but Weems probably took it as something like this: Washington could never tell a lie ever again.  This story showed up in Weems’ fifth revision of the biography.

   Weems looked up at Washington as a great man.  We can too, but we have to remember he was not perfect.  He was the one who started the French and Indian War, by killing unharmful men.  Washington may be a good model for men, but please do realize Washington was not perfect.  He was human just like you and me.  He had his downs like us.  He was chosen for a unique calling only he could do, just like all of us are called to do.