Archive for October, 2016

night living deadToday is the day — Halloween!  Did you know that Night of the Living Dead is being brought back to life?  A 4K restoration orchestrated by the Museum of Modern Art and supported by the Film Foundation will premiere at MoMA in a week in their “Save and Project” series!

Here is a fun activity for post-Trick or Treat recuperation: an interactive quiz called The Sounds of Horror from the New York Times.  Try it if you dare!

annex-grant-cary-arsenic-and-old-lace_09And if you just want to feel all autumnal and Halloweenish in a warm and comfy way, this old classic really has held up very well: Arsenic and Old LaceTry it out as the days start to get shorter and the last leaves are hanging on.  Frank Capra and his collaborators created quite a lively movie with this classic starring Cary Grant, Priscilla Lane, Raymond Massey, Peter Lorre, and an incredible cast of golden age character actors.  Or of course, there is animated fun to be had with the classic It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown or the more recent ParaNorman.  

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obamas-2008As we near election day in the United States, this also means that the days of the Barack Obama presidency are concurrently winding down.  As opposed to examining the initiatives and actions of the Obama Administration in current events lessons and Civics classes, educators and students will begin to integrate study of these momentous previous eight years into coursework that deals with contemporary history.  These investigations and evaluations of this administration must also be seen through the lens of public perception and the roles of media platforms in what we see, hear, and communicate about our government.  As has been noted on previous occasions in posts at mediateacher.net — such as in Media Literacy at the White House and The Presidential Inauguration and Imagesit’s not something that can be said too often in U.S. history, but President Obama’s tenure has been a game changer for media literate leadership.

How will the events of these years be seen through the prism of comparison and contrast with other eras and leadership examples?  Undoubtedly, perceptions will be made up of a mix of facts, perceptive analyses, partisan posturing, storytelling, advertising, and many variations in between.  It is clear that both President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama are already inspiring profound reflections on the major impact of their years in the White House, such as the piece titled “To the First Lady, With Love” from the New York Times Magazine, featuring “four thank-you notes to Michelle Obama, who has spent the past eight years quietly and confidently changing the course of American history,” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Gloria Steinem, Jon Meacham, and Rashida Jones.  

familyThe inspired, heartfelt testimonials that have been beginning to appear over recent months echo similar tributes seen at the end of another Democratic presidency that was marked by messages of change and fresh renewal (whether borne out by the reality of its achievements or not): the Kennedy administration.  Interestingly, this was also a presidency that consistently demonstrated the vital importance of media literacy to understand the contexts and legacy of political events in modern eras.  Television and film, including home movies, were to mark and shape the John F. Kennedy presidency and its legacy like no other previous administration, while the Obama presidency will be seen as having a relationship to the media platforms of its era like never before, particularly in the relationships of Internet, social media, and popular discourse, along with the explosion of the television experience.

Lin-Manuel Miranda, Michelle Obama, and Daveed Diggs at the White House

Lin-Manuel Miranda, Michelle Obama, and Daveed Diggs at the White House

In the midst of this, there is another rather intriguing parallel of note.  The Kennedy presidency was marked by the pastoral and cannily mystical term of “Camelot” (by President Kennedy’s widow Jacqueline Kennedy shortly after his assassination) to describe a feeling of the “moment” that embodies the time of the Kennedys in the White House: “Don’t let it be forgot, that once there was a spot, for one brief, shining moment that was known as Camelot” (Lerner and Loewe).  In an even more direct way with the current administration, a musical can be seen to embody the impact and times of the current presidency.  For one to describe that place of a shining home upon a hill, with its growing family, glamorous parties, and vegetable garden, yet inhabited by people whose skin color would have marked them as slaves in the years of the construction of this home, a term that comes to mind is “Hamiltonia.”

President Barack Obama relaxes on a sofa in the Oval Office with wife Michelle and daughters Malia and Sasha, Feb. 2, 2009. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza) This official White House photograph is being made available for publication by news organizations and/or for personal use printing by the subject(s) of the photograph. The photograph may not be used in materials, advertisements, products, or promotions that in any way suggest approval or endorsement of the President, the First Family, or the White House.

The Obama family in the Oval Office

For a musical to emerge that examines the roots of the country and in which the principals are played by people whose ethnicity reflects not that of the founding fathers but those who currently inhabit the White House, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton marks one occasion where the creative output of a culture and the zeitgeist embodied by its leaders are remarkably in sync.  The celebrations and honors by those who have been inspired and empowered by the examples and actions of Barack and Michelle Obama have only just begun; it seems clear that the impacts and legacy of their images and personas will continue to resound for generations to come.  For me, this striking, dynamic place and time of the Obama family in the White House might be called Hamiltonia. 

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Photo of Adam and Leonard Nimoy courtesy of Nimoy Archives/CBS

Photo of Adam and Leonard Nimoy courtesy  Nimoy Archives/CBS

In this time of  great tension, conflict, and debate related to issues of ethnicity, cultural understanding or lack thereof, and feelings of belonging to larger cultures among minority groups, a documentary released this month provides an interesting example of how these issues have been addressed in clever and innovative ways in American TV and movie history.  Among the many groundbreaking moments and characters from the Star Trek universe, from the kiss of Kirk and Uhura to the positive characters of Sulu and Chekov at times of intense conflict in Asia and across the Iron Curtain, it is clear that some of the most powerful explorations of diversity and of those whom many see as “different” or “outsiders” is embodied in the half-human, half-Vulcan Mr. Spock.  For the Love of Spocka documentary by his Leonard Nimoy’s son, Adam, has been released this month, and it explores the powerful impact of Nimoy on those with whom he worked as well as the role of Spock as an “Outsider” at a time when that was rarely, if ever, seen in popular media platforms, particularly television.  Here is an interview with Adam Nimoy about his work creating this documentary, along with this new article by Robert Ito: Spock: Half-Vulcan, Half-Human, All Outsider Role Model.   And on these pages, there was an earlier post, To Live Long and Prosper, which celebrated the legacy of actor and multi-media creator Leonard Nimoy.

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