A glowing piece on the WPA seems to be the highlight of the show, and there was one of those old time ditties accompanying the beginning of the segment that was really catching. I miss those. At any rate, I tried to do a google search to find it, but couldn’t. On the other hand, I did come up with this website, the Uncensored History of the Blues, which has a great podcast about the blues in the WPA era, including some songs. Pretty cool. Yet another bookmark in my already crowded folder.
Up now, Jesus Christ Superstar.
The movie review segment is pretty solid- Cadillac Records looks right in my wheelhouse, and Doubt will be a must see. Really, all someone has to do to get me to watch a movie is put Phillip Seymour Hoffman in a role. I think he may be the best actor in Hollywood, and if not the greatest, he is definitely my favorite. Hell, he made Charlie Wilson’s War as Gust Avrakatos, otherwise that was a pretty forgettable flick.
Jesus Christ. (Despite Tim’s chastisement), I LOVE JCS and I missed it! I am wasting my life with MTP, while reading HuffPo’s Dickipedia piece on Gregory. Actually, I was about to watch Meryl Streep being sick on Letterman video because I look just like her when sick.
This bodes poorly for my Sunday, but it’s a reminder that there is something far better on at 9am than MTP.
On WPA – they built a lot of public buildings, such as federal courthouses, post offices, and schools. They also built roads and bridges. They did quality work – but in 1950s, the conservative meme was to denigrate their work because it was funded by the government. When I was growing up, if anything was shoddy someone was sure to ask if it had been built by the WPA. But their work was a good as anything that had been done in this country before or after. Some of those buildings are still being used.
You can watch the original WPA film promoting its success ("Work Pays America!") in 1937 for free at the Prelinger archives in Archive.org.
"We Work Again", also from the WPA, focuses on African Americans. The narrator speaks in "we" form throughout, rather than "they", and mentions that "we" (African Americans) were the first to lose our jobs to Old Man Depression and the last to be given another job.
Man Against River shows (1937) how the WPA moved in to respond to the flooding of the Ohio river. Note the specific absents of whining complaints about why Mayor Nagin didn’t send the school buses. Or if you prefer, the aftermath of the 1938 New England hurricane.
But there was also "Frontiers of the Future" (1937) intended to prompt Americans to think that, yes, more good times lay ahead, and that all wasn’t despair and getting by. They visited with scientists (presumably actors, but who knows). Among the predictions: cars that would get 300 miles per gallon.
The Roosevelt Administration was conscious about the need to not only do things, but to show people what these programs were doing, and why, and to counteract all the Republican propaganda screaming about ‘socialism’ and ‘communism’ and ‘government tyranny’.
My guess is that Obama is similarly media savvy, but I want them to know very consciously that no matter what they do, the propaganda liar brigades will be out.
Note that at this phase of history, the WPA was not entirely being undermined by the normally treason-minded Southern conservatives, since the Southern Democrats were a key part of the New Deal coalition and thus could and did get massive spending in the South to drag our 1/3 of the country out of pre-Enlightenment 3rd world colonial agro-exporter conditions and into the modern USA.
You got that PSH shit right. When I saw "Charlie Wilson’s War" I had just kinda gotten hauled to the movies and didn’t know much about anything about it, except Tom Hanks was in it. I am watching the "Gust" character and thinking "Who is this guy? He’s quietly chewing up the scenery". I mean, it just didn’t even look like PSH. When I found out that it was him, then I knew I had just seen one of the greatest acting jobs that would never win any award.
If there is a God in this world, if he is a just God who wants all truths about scabrous and horrible people revealed, then someday, PSH will play Karl Rove and nail that asshole’s skin to his outhouse door, for we will truly KNOW Karl Rove for what he is, once PSH gets done with him.
Cadillac Records–right. Seeing the clip of Beyonce doing Etta James kinda makes me sad that all this great talent is out there, and it’s doing dreck instead of the great stuff it could be. But my wife says I’m just showing my age.
You might also want to check out "The Children Must Learn," a documentary inquiring as to what would be the material effect on poor people’s lives in Appalachia if a serious effort was made to educate the children, and particularly how this could improve if education was made more directly relevant to the community’s experience and lives. Presumably today’s conservatives would just figure on how to blame the teacher’s unions, since they are the root of all evils. Be warned, though — the music is mixed strong and almost never ceases.
And, BTW, go and read Charlie Wilson’s War…as great as PSH’s portrayal is, it doesn’t come close to the wildman Gust really was. The fact that a guy like him could even get in the CIA is both reassuring and alarming.
@BC: It’s interesing for me to discover how much people denigrated the WPA projects. Think of the icons built in that time – The Golden Gate Bridge, the Hoover (Boulder) Dam, Tennessee Valley Authority, Columbia River Project.
The TVA and CRP provide thousands of people power to this day. Thousands of people drive the Golden Gate Bridge daily. During the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989, it was the Bay Bridge that sustained damage – not the Golden Gate. Thousands of people a day visit the Hoover Dam project.
There are murals on buildings; and schools and city buildings that were bult during that time period that, as you noted, are still in use today.
Government CAN be the solution, especially when it’s used to better people’s lives.
@El Cid: Wow, El Cid, that is treasure trove of links. I will be spending my downtime looking through all of them!
but of course cbs had to trash up their wpa report with some schmuck from the american enterprise institute!
p.s. if you could put together a compilation of the original songs by the original artists (etta james, muddy waters, etc) featured in cadillac records, it would blow the covers away.
Um, the greatest actor in Hollywood is Daniel Day Lewis. "There Will Be Blood." That’s my evidence.
The Grand Panjandrum
He’s no Ben Affleck.
@mellowjohn: The music is already available.
and it’s been on my ipod for quite a while. i was just saying that the entertainment industry would rather sell covers by big names than deliver the real thing.
South of I-10
Too funny – I just downloaded a great live Etta James cover of "Take it to the Limit" from iTunes and I stop by here and discover Etta James being discussed.
Just Some Fuckhead
PSH is pretty fucking awesome. My fave is still Billy Bob Thornton.
Same here John. Paul Giamatti, and Sean Penn are two more actors that guarantee my interest in a film.
I skipped Charlie Wilson’s war because of Julia Roberts. Nicole Kidman starring in a film will also keep me away.
Alas, I missed the segment on JCS, which I think is a brilliant work. I also wasted my time on MTP with D. Gregory who breathlessly rushed thru the program at a frenzied pace. Probably opening day jitters.
I love Beyonce but Etta James’ "At Last" is like Michelangelo’s David. There’s only one.
South of I-10
Okay, just checked out Cadillac Records on iTunes, and Beyonce singing "At Last" makes little baby jeebus want to cry.
joe from Lowell
I stepped over 2 WPA badges in the sidewalk on my walk to mass this morning.
70+ years later, those things and the concrete they were set in are still there. Getting my butt to church.
Comrade Mary, Would-Be Minion Of Bad Horse
Etta James covering Take it to the Limit live on Tom Snyder’s show in 1980.
(God, I miss that cheesy schmuck Tom so much, too. Where are all the eccentric originals in broadcasting these days?)
I haven’t tried this website because I don’t usually have a need to hook up the computer microphone, but there’s something called What’s the Name of That Song which claims that if you can hum or whistle the tune, it’ll match it up with its database. It might be amusing to try it (of course, it might equally be frustrating as hell).
Cadillac Records – the music is much better than the movie. Which isn’t necessarily a slight on the movie.
Beyonce is surprisingly good as an actor.
I want to see Doubt while it’s still in the theatres, which probably means before the end of the week, unfortunately. Dragged the Spousal Unit to a live performance this summer, and we were both awestruck, even though I grew up inside that mileu (in 1964, I was in the third grade of another St. Nicholas at the other end of the Grand Concourse) while my SU was raised by agnostics in a Midwestern suburb. Reviews of the movie seem to hover between vague disbelief (‘too ambiguous’) and haughty dismissal (‘Streep overacts’), and I’m not sure how much either reflects the actual film. The society where Sister Aloysius and Father Flanigan duel is very much structured around everything that *isn’t* said, not to mention the Irish Catholic version of the Jansenist heresy (basically, a more-Calvinist-than-the-Calvinists conviction that even the religiously "saved" can never be assured of salvation) — a mindset totally alien to our modern happy-face ideas of American positivism. Best analogy I can come up with is that it’s much like the world of a Kurasawa film.
You MISS those? Um, just how old ARE you, John?
Seriously, I don’t know what song they used, but there are plenty of stunning compilations of "old timey" American music out there that will blow your nut.
The 6-CD Anthology of American Folk Music (and its 2-disc sequel) should be in the homes of every citizen with any interest in our nation’s culture. These recordings of blues, country, hillbilly jazz, folk and gospel from the Twenties and Thirties are a crucial a part of our heritage as the Gettysburg address… and you can dance to more than a few of them.
Equally amazing, though less well known, is the two volume (thus far) American Primitive series, featuring tracks selected by folk guitar behemoth John Fahey. Volume One is all "primitive" gospel blues, rough and raw as a slug of homemade whiskey, while Volume Two (a double disc set) focuses on amazing roots recordings from artists who cut no more than a record or two before sinking into the swamp of oblivion. This one gets my nomination for the best CD release of this decade, worth the price tag for the tracks from the NuGrape Twins and Geeshie Wiley alone.
Forget about those discs from Coldplay, Beck, Jack Johnson or (yeccchh) Nickelback or Daughtry. You’ll be able to find ’em all used in a few months anyhow. Sink your hard-earned bucks in a piece of American history.
If anyone’s in the mood for a little history, one of the impressive (and today, nearly unknown) things that the WPA did was send workers out to interview former slaves and write down their stories. It was previously rather hard to find (even when scanned pages were made available, they were nearly illegible due to age), but the fine folks at Distributed Proofreaders and Project Gutenberg have made the narratives available.
I’m a little unsure about seeing "Doubt" — PSH is indeed fantastic and he no doubt hits it out of the park. But the absence of the amazing Cherry Jones, who I saw in the stage play and she was transcendent — well, as much as I like Meryl Streep, I’m just not sure I can believe her completely in the role…Amy Adams was kind of an inspired choice for the younger nun, tho, and I’ve read that the actress who plays the student’s mother stole the show. So probably enough to see it, I think.
On a side note, I thought "Milk" was amazing. Sean Penn was fantastic. The whole cast was great. I really appreciated that they didn’t sugarcoat the portrayal — they really showed Milk as a complete, complex person with real strengths and weaknesses. Very refreshing.