Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Movie Review: Lawless


I went to see the move Lawless the other night and was quiet pleased.  A friend recommended the movie to me and told me I would like to see it because it was just MY THING.

Well.....it was MY THING and more....mainly because it is real history based on true story.  

The movie is based on the book The Wettest County in the World that has been aptly described as a fictional account of a very real time.  Matt Bondurant, the author, writes of his family including his grandfather....the main characters of the book.... and calls his work a parallel history using family stories, archival records, news clippings and court transcripts.

The movie is termed a gangster film and to a certain extent that's a correct description.....The movie opens in 1931 when the three Bondurant boys are making and selling moonshine in Franklin County, Virginia.  While violence is just part of the business things get dicey when a corrupt lawman wants a cut and the Bondurant boys don't want to play.  Apparently, making moonshine was a huge business......hence the title of Matt Bondurant's book.....because it's estimated that 90 people out of 100 were making moonshine or had some connection with the making of it in Franklin County.

Of course, the Bondurant boys were breaking the law....but while watching the movie we don't really care.  In this instance they are the bad boys girls seem to like and root for.

The movie stars Shia LaBeouf and one of my new favorite leading men....Tom Hardy....who plays the seemingly invincible Forrest Bondurant.    I'm seriously thinking I need to hunt through Netflix and view some of Hardy's other cinematic offerings.....if you know what I mean.  




Violence?  Yes, the movie is full of it....so was the book, but the moonshine business  was a violent business after all.  The book....reviewed by Lauren Bufferd at BookPage mentions the book is "extremely graphic, with multiple descriptions of physical injury, brutality and sadistic behavior."

The movie is rather graphic, too.

One of the events the movie mentions but doesn't go into any detail about is the Great Franklin Moonshine Conspiracy trial of 1935....with good reason.

Per this article the conspiracy began....in 1928 when then Franklin County Sheriff Peter Hodges divided the county into districts and assigned a deputy to each district.  The deputy's job was to enlist people to operate stills and then collect protection money - $25 per still, $10 per load of whiskey and $5 for a filing station.  

And while folks like me and historians....want to write scholarly works on the subject the fact of the matter is they can't because many of the court documents regarding the conspiracy is missing.

This article states.....But the events of the 1930s have produced no scholarly study, in part because court files and the official trial transcript inexplicably disappeared in the 1950s.  Finding the missing documents has become the personal mission of T. Keister Greer, A Rocky Mount lawyer who retired  last year after practicing 42 years.   Greer, 69, has written to the survivors of the attorneys involved in the conspiracy trial, scoured court records and searched state archives.   He even sifted through 100 boxes containing the personal papers of the Judge John Paul, who presided at the trial.  The last reference to the transcript that Greer has found is a 1945 notation that the document was wired to the clerk of the U.S. District Court in Harrisonburg.  "Then," Greer said, "it simply disappears from the face of the earth.".....Greer said a review of the trial transcript - prepared for the appeal of one defendant - could shed new light on the conspiracy trial and on a subsequent trial for jury tampering.

You really have to wonder......what happened to those court documents and why?

A really talented teacher might want to build a mini-unit around the Franklin County experience with Prohibition and include a mystery lesson component surrounding the court records.

The book is reviewed here.

Rolling Stone reviews the movie here.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Historical Hats


I began my morning yesterday realizing I had a few things to do that didn't have anything to do with any of my goals or work....making appointments for others....finding paperwork for others....washing clothes for others....and thinking about two or three projects I needed to finish up for others.

It's not that I mind doing these things...hardly.  I like to help, but more and more I find my day is full doing a list of things that don't have anything to do with a table of contents I must flesh out, articles to write, and seeing writing opportunities......or at least answering the emails when the opportunities seek me out.

Just a normal day for me as I grew more frustrated by the minute, but this time my thinking and my realizing left my brain, moved down my arms and out my fingers to a Facebook status that said, "I wear too many hats that aren't mine...some by misguided choice, some that are inherited and some are foisted upon me.  I'm going to stop.  Take your friggin' hat and wear it yourself....'

Later, while I was working out at the gym I thought about my status, and then my mind wandered to hats in general.

My first introduction to hats was at Greenbriar Mall west of Atlanta when I was five or six.  Mother frequented  Rich's department store....an Atlanta mainstay....quite often.   Well, actually......very, very often.  She knew most of the clerks by name, and they knew her, too.    I can close my eyes and actually walk around the store in my mind I was so familiar with the layout.  

Right in the center of the store were the escalators with the bakery on one side and the hat department as well.  Every now and then if I caught Mom in the right mood she would give the clerk a smile, and they would let me sit down at the table and chair in the hat department and try on a few. 

I generally went for the flimsy, wide-brimmed pastel creations...but secretly I really loved the veiled concoctions.   At the time I just knew I liked them....now I know I liked them because they were deliciously sexy...add in a pair of matching leather gloves you can only remove by unbuttoning five or six covered buttons, and.....

Oh my....




In another life I had to have worn hats....I MUST have....and mourn the fact that they just aren't worn that much anymore....at least not in the circles I travel.  

I turned away from my hat desires to think about other hats....hats in history.

Historical hats....

There had to be some.....right?

Earlier this year the Victoria and Albert Museum had an exhibit regarding hats.  Of course, since the exhibit ....a collaboration between the museum and Stephen Jones....was in Great Britain the collection included hats belonging to former queens including Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother.

When we think of Queen Victoria we tend to think of a rather large aging lady in black as she spent the last several years of her life mourning the passing of her husband, Prince Albert, but for many years she dressed very colorfully including fancy bonnets.  The collection at the Victoria and Albert Museum included a bonnet from the 1840s....a construction made of plaited horse hair and salmon pink ribbon.   You can just make it out along the bottom half of this picture.  




The beige tulle and lace hat worn in the late thirties by Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother was also in the collection.   She wore the hat for a series of well known photographs taken by Cecil Beaton on the grounds of Buckingham Palace.  
Turning towards American History the most iconic man's hat would have to be Abraham Lincoln's use of the top hat.  Lincoln was already a tall man.  It is said he was taller than most no matter where he went, so wearing a top hat was like a six foot woman deciding to wear five inch heels.  

This hat is the one President Lincoln wore on the last night of his life...April 14, 1865.  It's on display at the Smithsonian Institute.  




My research indicates President Lincoln bought this particular hat from J.Y. Davis, a Washington hat maker.  Notice the black silk band....Lincoln had this added to the hat in remembrance  of his son Willie.  

Following the assassination the War Department took possession of the hat and other items left behind at Ford's Theater.  From there the hat became the property of the Patent Office and later was transferred to the Smithsonian where it has remained.  In those days the employees of the Smithsonian Institute were instructed not to exhibit the hat and not to mention that it was there because of the furor it might cause in those early years following the President's death.

The hat remained in a basement storage room for almost thirty years before it was finally displayed in 1893 when the Lincoln Memorial Association borrowed the top hat for an exhibition.  

Of course, today....it's one of the most popular artifacts of American History the museum owns.

Unfortunately, another iconic hat in American History is also connected to an assassination ....the Kennedy assassination.

The American public was first introduced to the pillbox hat during the Kennedy inauguration.

This article states:

[The hat was] a fawn-colored domed pillbox created by a then unknown 29-year-old named Roy Halston Frowick.   The hat sat tilted toward the back, nearly doubled the size of her head, frankly, and creating a pretty contrast to her striking dark looks.  She was nothing the country had ever seen.   A fashionable, beautiful and highly cultured First Lady, one who not only spoke fluent French but effortlessly shopped in Paris and New York.   Across the country, women unanimously agreed:  This young woman was their new fashion icon.  For his part, Halston had no idea what was coming.

Jackie Kennedy also wore a pillbox hat on that fateful date in Dallas, Texas.




The pillbox hat First Lady Jackie Kennedy wore the day her husband was assassinated is as iconic as the pink suit.  

This article from 2011 advises the suit was turned over to the National Archives, but the hat is missing and remains missing to this day.

Somewhere inside the hospital [that fateful day in Dallas], the hat came off.  "While standing there I was handed Jackie's pillbox hat and couldn't help noticing the strands of her hair beneath the hat pin.  I could almost visualize her yanking it from her head," Mary Gallagher, the First Lady's personal secretary, who accompanied her to Dallas, wrote in her memoir....

The pink suit, blood-stained and perfectly preserved in a vault in Maryland, is banned from public view for 100 years.  The pillbox hat...is lost, last known to be in the hands of [Gallagher], who won't discuss its whereabouts... 

....[At some point following the assassination], a box arrived at the National Archives, where such treasures as the Constitution and the Bill of Rights are kept.  In it were the suit, blouse, handbag, shoes, and even her stockings, along with an unsigned note on the letterhead of Janet Auchincloss, Jacqueline Kennedy's mother:  "Jackie's suit and bag worn November, 22, 1963.

No hat.

One has to wonder about the  hat.....

Ah.........yet another mystery in history.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

A Business Degree Is Always a Smart Choice

I've always advised students you can't go wrong with a business degree.   It gives you several ways to go with a career and employers always like to see a candidate with a business degree.   

Lots of different people have business degrees such as Danny Glover, John Elway and Trisha Yearwood all have business degrees.   Lionel Ritche and Kevin Costner do, too.   


Via: DeVry University

Monday, September 03, 2012

Facing the Past


A year ago I took a short ride to my former elementary school   We had heard the school was in a state of demolition having finally been abandoned by Fulton County.  After the county stopped using the building as an elementary school and then as a police officer training facility and then as a place to store voting machines...they just packed up and left it....all alone.

The last lesson had been taught, the last kickball kicked and the last lunch tray washed years and years before.

During the summer of 2006 I visited my old friend....my elementary school....and she was looking pretty good.   A little tired and worn out, but holding her own.  You can read about my visit back then here and see a few pictures I posted

However, once the building was abandoned....she took a turn for the worse.  It wasn't long before the roaches and the vermin took over...and I don't just mean the kind that crawl on four or more legs. 

Crack addicts, vagrants looking for shelter broke in.....all of the copper pipes were taken as well as fixtures of any value and old glass....doors and transoms....the very tall windows.....the types of things "they don't make like that anymore."

And at some point the community...if it can be called that....began using my school as a dumping ground.  Quite frankly, I can't call my old community a "community" because how can you treat an old building....a school that was so integral to the community for so long.....like this?




The playground was no better.



A slow...agonizing death.

You can't even drive up the driveway anymore because of the junk.   The state of the building took my breath away....



It was hard to climb those steps...the same steps I sat on as a child waiting to be sorted out for kickball teams.

.....and of course by climbing those steps I was confronting the past.




We walked the hall...the oak hall that had gleamed because James, our janitor always had the floor buffer out and working away.  

I though about that as we traversed the hallway...a hallway now littered with insulation and torn ceiling tiles...piles of trash....torn up pieces of sheet rock.  At some points along the hallway we were literally tottering on piles of debris and very uncertain as to what was underneath.....even if anything would be underneath to support us.

I walked by doors I had opened and closed as a child...and transoms now broken.






There were huge holes ripped out of the flooring revealing the dark underbelly of my school....a building that had always been safe for me, but now....was quite dangerous as we gingerly walked down the hallway.



We have to face our past sometimes...the good and the bad...just like we have to face an unknown future.  There are holes.   We might get around them....some of them we fall through.....but the holes are inevitable.   Some of us get stuck in the holes....some of us eventually climb out and forge ahead to the next pile of debris or inevitable hole.

For all the joys of life..and are there many.....there will be debris.....there will be holes.

A whirlwind of events swirled around my head as I kept going down the hall.  

Why didn't I notice him more?

Why did he die at such a young age?

Where is she now?

That was so important to me then...when did it change?

This is what is left of my fifth grade classroom...the first year I had a boyfriend....a boyfriend who actually returned my feelings.



The back parking lot where I planted flowers and other plants during my fourth grade year....you would never know that now.




My first grade classroom...the room where I read about Alice and Jerry and their little dog Jip......where I poured over Richard Scarry's Busytown books and had to sit still for math.  


 

The walkway...now overgrown where I sat as a child waiting on my mother to pick me up.




As we drove away I whispered goodbye and took one last picture.


 I won't go back.  Ever.  It's too hard to see what my school was allowed to become. 

I'm content with my memories, but I know deep in my heart I'll continue to wrestle with my questions because apparently I've reached that season of life.....

But it is hard facing the past....good and bad.

It always is....

I'm ready for the season to change.