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Monday, September 24, 2007

Well, Slap a Pickle on Me and Call Me a Grilled Cheese Sandwich...


Stunned, I am stunned to see good documentary-making going on here.

I am a long-time loather of Ken Burns' "documentaries". His various stylistic conceits, which others see as cool, I see as crap unscholarly, anti-historical and just plain confusing and a pain in the ass to watch if you are trying to put anything into a recognizable historical context. His 'Civil War' series had me foaming at the mouth within fifteen minutes.

However, just as a broken clock is bound to be right twice each day, somehow or other Burns gets it right with his new documentary about America in World War II, titled simply 'The War', which began last night and runs, as far as I can tell, for most of the rest of the month. It is compelling, moving and thought-provoking.

My wife calls me the most militarily-inclined pacifist she has ever known. It's true- military history fascinates me. I want to know why people wage war, and how they feel about doing it- not the generals, but the enlisted people on the line. For one reason or another I feel that's very important to understand. Two good books that make good reading for those interested in the topic of war and how it is viewed by the individual soldier are "Closing with the Enemy. How GIs Fought the War in Europe, 1944-45" by Michael D. Doubler, and "The World Within War. America's Combat Experience in World War II" by Gerald F. Linderman. I read the first one a month ago and am about halfway through the second one at the moment.

One thing Burns' documentary seems to be doing is deflating the myth of WWII as a "Good War". It was certainly a "Necessary War", but there is absolutely no such thing as a "Good War", and there never has been. I'll be interested to see, in the very long run, how this film affects Americans perceptions of the current war in Iraq.

As stunned as I find myself to say it, Burns' 'The War' is damned good tv and well worth watching.

21 comments:

Mike said...

I can't stand Ken Burns either and for that very reason I didn't even plan on watching his new documentary. Now you are telling me I might have missed something?

Damnit!

Oh well, it's PBS. They'll run it to death.

Malach the Merciless said...

War, unh, good God Y'all.

Sara Sue said...

Mercy, mercy me. I'll have to rent it from Netflix when it comes out. Please tell me it doesn't have his usual panel of historians yammering on. A couple of those people make my ass crave stove wood.

Pope Benedict XVI said...

Pickle in a cheese sandwich brings back memories of the seminary, yes, yes.

jgodsey said...

i havent' seen 1 historian yet. all interviews are with folks who were there. and good thing too. cause 1000 wwii vets die every day.

i always thought of myself as a militarily-inclined pacifist - i read and seen tons of WWII stuff and indeed this is better than most. it focuses on real experiences, not causes and effects. it has yet to get overly maudlin either.

Kerstin said...

I watched. And was incredibly impressed by the events portrayed last night.

Another good one to watch is "White LIght/Black Rain: The Destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki." An incredible documentary told from the survivors POV.

Preposterous Ponderings said...

Grilled Cheese Sandwich!

Phoebe Fay said...

The stuff about the documentary is all well and good, but... who the hell puts pickles on a grilled cheese sandwich?

That's just un-American.

C.Rag said...

We romanticize war so much. That's why we don't support soldiers' emotional health.

AngryMan said...

I have a hard time agreeing that there is no such thing as a good war. First, Star Wars. Second, the Dominion-Federation-Klingon-Cardassian War in DS9. Need I say more?

Colonel Colonel said...

Mike- yes, and then "give" the boxed dvd as a premium for a contribution of 5x its' retail price at pledge time.

Malach- Can I get fries with that?

Sara- no, no butt-plug historians.

Popey- did you ever work in Wisconsin?

Gods- It's not maudlin, yet they have Bill Mauldin. Quite a feat.

Kerstin- I'll have to check that one out.

PrePondering- BLT! BLT! BLT!

Phoebe- why do you hate America?

C.Rag- Are you suggesting that some of our soldiers might need, um, help of various types when they get home??? See my response to Phoebe, and don't go anywhere until the black van arrives.

Angryman- Well, you got me there. The Dominion-Federation-Klingon-Cardassian War did indeed kick Big War Butt!

Kerstin said...

I came back to say that I just LOVE that lady from Mobile, whose brother was at Midway (I think). She has such a soothing voice and her accent makes me think of my grandmother.

Oh, and if you watched last night, that guy talking about the B-17's...and how they couldn't drop a bomb on France, much less drop one in a pickle barrel? I was laughing for a good ten minutes over that.

Colonel Colonel said...

Kerstin- I guess if you lined France from one end to the other with pickle barrels, it might have worked.

Mike said...

Okay...I confess. I love dill pickles on my grill cheese sandwich. Go ahead, declare Jihad on my ass.

Tequila Mockingbird said...

did the documentary about the civila war say anything about the south rising again? all this Jena 6 BS has me thinking...

Beach Bum said...

My extended family thinks I'm crazy to like dill pickles in my grill cheese but an old girlfriend in Colorado introduced me to it while I ws stationed at Fort Carson, almost married that women.

Colonel Colonel, great blog and I'm adding you to my list when I get home. I haven't caught the new Burn's documentary, yet. I did like the civil war one he did but the baseball one left me cold.

As far as the Federation-Dominion war the producers buttheads had a perfect. almost surefire blockbuster idea but yet they offered up the crappy "Star Trek:Insurrection". I left the movie theater wanting to phaser someone to death.

Colonel Colonel said...

Mike- I think the consensus is that Phoebe is out to lunch on this one. She had better give up now and come Over to the Dark Side, where we are all happy, well-fed, and not a little pickled.

T-Bird- Welcome over! I only watched 15 minutes of the 'Civil War' series before blowing a hole in the tv. Charlie Daniels notwithstanding, I'm not eating grits and hush puppies yet.

Beach Bum- Welcome also! I had been looking forward to 'The Civil War', but was very disappointed. My specific problem was that he made heavy use of quoted material without telling us who the people were who were being quoted- he told us their names, but I wanted to know whether 'Charles Tucker' was a South Carolina volunteer cavalryman or a Maine storekeeper. I've read a lot of Civil War history, so I knew, for instance, exactly who Mary Chestnut was, but I got quite frustrated with all the unattributed quotatin' goin' on. Perhaps if I'd stayed with it I'd have enjoyed it, but then I would not have had the fun of complaining about it all these years.

Cissy Strutt said...

Cornichons for me.

Sirdar said...

Sorry but I don't know who Sam Burns is. I sometimes enjoy watching documentaries on history and yes, even war history. The only problem with some of the history documentaries is that history isn't always factual. History is written by the winners, not the losers. There are always 3 sides to every story. The winners side, the losers side, and what really happened.

Phoebe Fay said...

Eh, you're all a bunch of pickled degenerates. But, do what you like. Adulterate your cheesy goodness however you want. Just keep yer paws off of MY sammiches.

Colonel Colonel said...

Cissy- we love cornichons, but we eat them whole, slightly chilled. Hey, I wrote that entire sentence without making a joke about big pickles vs. small pickles...

Sirdar- ok, you're invited to our next Kurosawa film festival.

Phoebe- Why do you hate America?