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View Full Version : Ken Burns/The War; Minny connection


TominMaine
10-01-2007, 02:46 PM
Have you been watching Ken Burns' "The War" on PBS? I was a bit disappointed at first to learn it did not delve into the political history, strategy, etc. of the war, but rather tells it through the eyes of four American towns: Luverne, Minn., Mobile, Ala., Waterbury, Conn., and Sacramento, Calif. And it's very powerful.

I've been especially impressed with the columns of Al... somebody - can't remember the name at the moment - who was editor of the Rock County Star newspaper during the war years. Tom Hanks reads them in the documentary/ The writing is wonderful: conversational, thoughtful, philosophical, colorful, and not the cliched crap I would have expected.

Can any of the Minnesota boarders shed light on this guy, and this paper, and this town?

TominMaine
10-01-2007, 02:50 PM
Make that Al MacIntosh, Rock County Star-Herald.

Haggischomper
10-01-2007, 02:51 PM
I was a bit disappointed to see it started in 1941..... ;)

TominMaine
10-01-2007, 03:08 PM
Exactly. Just as for most Americans, World War I started in 1917.

It drives me nuts when conservatives like Bill O'Reilly call for a boycott of French products because France wouldn't back W.'s lunacy in Iraq. Hello? France knows something about war (with both world wars raging through the country), and about the inherent pitfalls of colonial occupation (Algeria and Vietnam). Its wisdom should have been sought and heeded.

But after watching the series for an episode or two, I realized Burns was trying to tell the story as it unfolded for most Americans. Most, it seems, were blissfully ignorant about what was going on in Europe, or at least believed the events couldn't touch them here.

on the beach 3
10-01-2007, 04:07 PM
Exactly. Just as for most Americans, World War I started in 1917.

It drives me nuts when conservatives like Bill O'Reilly call for a boycott of French products because France wouldn't back W.'s lunacy in Iraq. Hello? France knows something about war (with both world wars raging through the country), and about the inherent pitfalls of colonial occupation (Algeria and Vietnam). Its wisdom should have been sought and heeded.

But after watching the series for an episode or two, I realized Burns was trying to tell the story as it unfolded for most Americans. Most, it seems, were blissfully ignorant about what was going on in Europe, or at least believed the events couldn't touch them here.

Great point Tom, and sadly I believe most Americans to a degree, are still blissfully ignorant today when it comes to what's happening outside the United States.

Peace and Boat Drinks...

TominMaine
10-01-2007, 04:09 PM
Check out this link. But I still wonder if anyone here can shed some light on this town, this newspaper.

http://www.editorandpublisher.com/eandp/news/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1003595942

axeeugene
10-01-2007, 04:10 PM
Most, it seems, were blissfully ignorant about what was going on in Europe, or at least believed the events couldn't touch them here.

Which is exactly the problem I see with the documentary. I have unfailingly found Ken Burns's work to be unconscionably dull, stilted, and pedantic, to say nothing of woefully incomplete even as it often purports to portray its subjects definitively (thankfully not the case with this latest effort, where the episodes take pains to acknowledge their incomplete pictures).

But more important, to me, is the fact that the last thing this country needs is a history lesson told from the American Perspective. I saw a protest poster somewhere on TV this week, and it said, "WAR: How America Learns Geography." A sad truth indeed.

And now, we get one more round of "How America Made The World Safe From Nazism and For Democracy." Short memories and even shorter foresight: anyone in this country who can't see that The American Century is nearly over is a blithering fool, and they need to be shown something other than a Burns Back Slapper.

The Russians have a thing or two to say about who kicked Nazi ass and paid the price...

TominMaine
10-01-2007, 04:26 PM
But I, for one, learned by watching "The War" that Stalin wanted the second front opened sooner. Maybe I knew this at some point, but I'd forgotten how lopsided the Allies' effort was in the first few years, and how the Russians bore the heavier burden. Watching the show, I wondered how much impact this had on later U.S.-Soviet relations.

But you're right that Burns has a way of sentimentalizing -- and in the process, sanitizing -- the gruesome parts of history, and the complexities of the events leading up to war.

JoMama
10-01-2007, 05:18 PM
Great point Tom, and sadly I believe most Americans to a degree, are still blissfully ignorant today when it comes to what's happening outside the United States.

Peace and Boat Drinks...

Absolutely.
Get away from larger cities where there are lots of peoples talking to each other, exchanging ideas and information, and there is a vast wasteland of ignorance that believes 9/11 was instigated by Saddam Hussein.
Not a lot of deep thinkers, but there are a few.
Lots of pride amongst Americans, as the War series depicts how warfare reaches to the smallest of towns in the form of telegrams saying your son was killed.
Americans have seen all their bills go up, and a war started since the so-called Republican Revolution that Newt Grinch says was necessary, and Dickless Chainey is profiting off of.
These blokes BANK on ignorance and patriotic zeal, and they know how to pull the strings.
Fortunately, those strings have unraveled to the point where Americans realize that these goons' time is almost up. If Bush's installment into office doesn't ring in the halls of history as a hostile takeover, then history's bunk.

Haggischomper
10-01-2007, 06:19 PM
As an aside, anyone else think that Ken Burns is one weird looking dude?

Jedey
10-01-2007, 06:21 PM
Can any of the Minnesota boarders shed light on this guy, and this paper, and this town?You probably know from watching the show and I live in Minnesota. I had to look up where it's at, way down in the Southwest corner of the state. My guess the only thing going on is farming down there. Sorry I wasn't of more help.

Jedey
10-01-2007, 06:23 PM
As an aside, anyone else think that Ken Burns is one weird looking dude?He has that funny looking facial hair that looks like he used to be a woman.:eek:

Haggischomper
10-01-2007, 06:24 PM
Yeah, a woman or a plastic doll of some sort. Shit, he's even called Ken.

kmweiss
10-01-2007, 08:54 PM
I have seen a couple of episodes so far and like the show. Really enjoy listening to the people talk about their experiences -- the discussion of the Battan Death March was frightening. My 14 year old was also captivated.

I'm enormously proud of America's role in both World Wars. Heavy price was paid by all. Its always up for debate, but I always felt that Truman had to make the hardest decision (dropping the bombs) ever faced by a US President. Can't imagine what he was going through.

on the beach 3
10-01-2007, 10:32 PM
As an aside, anyone else think that Ken Burns is one weird looking dude?

He appears to be stuck in line at a Kansas concert circa 1975.

JoMama
10-01-2007, 11:03 PM
As an aside, anyone else think that Ken Burns is one weird looking dude?

He sure can't pick a head-rug that's for sure. I saw him on Letterman and he looked like he'd grabbed a wig off a manequin.

I'm with Axe: His work has never really impressed me a whole lot either. This series is the most interesting thing he's done. I have relatives who were in this war and they don't like to talk about it much.

jcarlile
10-02-2007, 09:31 AM
Well, I have to disagree with the lot of you....I always enjoy Ken Burns work very much. I'm watching the war, at least some of the episodes and while it's not up to the Civil War one, they are always interesting. IMO he's the best at what he does, and doesn't look at all strange...... Maybe you all (me included) should look in the mirror......... and maybe everyone (even those of us without advanced degrees!) can enjoy this look at ww2.
Sorry for being cranky, maybe the codeine is talking...:(

Ordinarygirl
10-02-2007, 09:55 AM
I'm a documentary geek, and Ken Burns fan, and have been watching The War. I actually like the perspective of telling the story thru the eyes of the four towns. It's such a massive topic, but using the towns as a vehicle makes it accessible to people. Occasionally I am wanting for an opposing perspective just for balance (but as we all know history is written by the victors).

I also enjoyed The West, and Ric Burns' New York series is magnificent.

I don't know a lot about Luverne, MN, but I'd say that there are/were hundreds of Minnesota towns just like it, and each had a local newspaper, with many of them boasting quality writiers like the one profiled in The War. Nothing special about Luverne, and maybe that's the point.

greekguy
10-02-2007, 09:55 AM
He appears to be stuck in line at a Kansas concert circa 1975.

Oddly enough, just two weeks ago, Kansas came to my hometown of Eagan, MN and rocked the house.

(I didn't actually go, but you know, how could they NOT rock the house).

Haggischomper
10-02-2007, 10:13 AM
Well, I have to disagree with the lot of you....I always enjoy Ken Burns work very much. I'm watching the war, at least some of the episodes and while it's not up to the Civil War one, they are always interesting.

I really liked the Civil War one. I have the big ol' book of the series and even the soundtrack cd.