Stop Time. Plenty of Spanish in this one! Lucio is the father of four who has sought sanctuary in the First Congregational Church at Amherst, Massachusetts. He was born in Guatemala, left school early, and then went to pick coffee in Mexico at the age of 15. He left for America at the end of 1999 but was arrested as an undocumented migrant while in Dunkin’ Donuts on a trip with his children. He lived in the church for 1128 days, until the court gave him a stay on his deportation while his case was heard. He was one of 70 undocumented migrants who sought sanctuary in churches during Trump’s presidency.
One, If By Land (14 minutes) looks at the journey of three undocumented immigrants. One is a woman travelling with a coyote across the Mexican border, for the sake of her five year old son who she has left behind. Second is a Chinese migrant who arrives by ship, jumping into the water near New York only to find himself handcuffed in a hospital when he regains consciousness. Third is the imagined story of the Angolan migrant who stowed away on a plane flying to London, who fell to his death from the wheel well.
Crisis. A short (15 minutes) film about a young Korean man working in his father’s restaurant in Croatia during the COVID lockdown. As he rides around Zagreb making home deliveries, he encounters various people who look down on him but he still has dreams of enrolling to study, rather than taking over his father’s restaurant as his father wants him to do.
Voices and Locks. This 20 minute Turkish film has two children, one Armenian and one Turkish, growing up in a remote village. Gaspar (I think the Armenian boy) returns back home after 40 years in America, suffering from what looks like Parkinson’s Disease, hoping to recapture his childhood memories. But the village has been taken over by the Turkish authorities, who confiscate their land and search for gold that they (incorrectly) assume the impoverished Armenians have buried.
Un barco para mi mamá. A very short (6 minutes) black and white film where a mother recounts her two attempts to get into the United States. They are caught and deported after the first one, and the second time they go through a tunnel to get across. I don’t know whether the second time was successful or not.
Revisionist History I’ve telling everyone I meet about a three-part series of podcasts on Malcolm Gladwell’s Revisionist History program about the Minnesota Starvation Project. In the first episode, The Department of Physiological Hygiene, he describes what this experiment was about: during the last year of WWII 36 men volunteered to undertake a year-long experiment in what happens when you are put on a starvation diet that results in a loss of 25% of your body weight? Three months were spent measuring and regulating calorific intake and output, then six months on a very stringent diet and exercise regime, then three months to return to health. In Episode Two, The Rise of the Guinea Pigs, Gladwell challenges the scientific consensus that such an experiment would never be conducted today for ethical reasons. He digs deeper into the process by which the experiment was set up, and found that the volunteers were genuinely volunteers- they were conscientious objectors who wanted to do something for the war effort but did not want to fight. Most of what we know about nutrition and starvation comes from this experiment, why not repeat it with genuine volunteers (as these men were) now that we could monitor what was happening with much more precision than was done sixty years ago? (I don’t agree). Episode Three The Mennonite National Anthem looks more closely at the volunteers’ motivations for enlisting in the experiment, many of which related to their religious beliefs. They look at one volunteer, Lester Glick, who kept a diary throughout, and using the oral histories provided by many of the participants, note that none of them regretted their involvement. This is really good.
The History Listen (ABC)The Loveday Trilogy Part I looks at German Oskar Speck, who decided in 1932 to paddle his kayak single-handed to Cyprus but then kept on going- all the way to Australia. By now, Hitler’s National Socialist Party was the government of Germany so his relationship with Nazism is confused but either way, he ended up in Loveday Internment Camp as an enemy alien. Fancy going all that way, only to end up interned!
Now and Then When the news came out that Rudy Giuliani was drunk on election night, Heather Cox Richardson and Joanne Freeman dive back into American history to see other times when the tide and tenor of American politics may have been affected by alcohol. Alcohol in American Politics starts with Franklin Pierce (never heard of him), but moves onto Warren Harding’s hypocrisy during Prohibition, Teddy Kennedy’s alcoholism that led to Chappaquiddick and Gerald Ford hiding his addictions under the cover of his wife Betty.
The Ancients Much as I might want it, it’s almost impossible for me to even conceive of a mindset where race is completely irrelevant. But in this episode Race in Antiquity it seems that this might have been the case in Egyptian, Greek and Roman cultures. The Kushite pharaohs, Septimus Severus, Peter the Great’s son – being ‘black’ was described much the same way that being ‘blonde’ might be described today. Features Luke Pepera who is writing a book Motherland: 500,000 Years of African History, Cultures, and Identity (big topic!) which will be published next year.
History Hit In Russia Falters in Ukraine: Parallels with World War I historian Alexander Watson, author of the award-winning book The Fortress: The Great Siege of Przemysl, talks about the Eastern front during WWI- the one that we hear less about. Although he is cautious not to say “history is repeating”, there certainly are parallels. After the Russo-Japanese war, Russia made a huge investment in its army in an attempt to project great-power status. The Russian people were never as enthusiastic about the war as the political elites were, and there were draft riots in 1914 (I think of the lines of cars leaving Russia in the wake of its recent draft). Russia came into WWI ostensibly to protect Serbia (I think of Putin designating Ukraine “Little Russia” and the need to “defend” the territories annexed through his recent “referendum”). Because of the huge size of the Russian army, people thought that its force would be overwhelming (just as many thought would be the case with Ukraine). The parallels (so far) stop once the elites lose legitimacy after 1916 and a string of defeats, and once revolution breaks out. Dare we hope?
Nothing on TV It’s time to hear a good Aussie voice, and who better than Robyn Annear. She hasn’t done a podcast for ages, so I’m having to delve into her back catalogue. Clean Hands starts off with the theft of soap from the front entrance to the Melbourne Public Library (now State Library of Victoria) – the soap was carefully cut into small pieces the size of a domino, but people were quite annoyed by the thefts. But not as outraged as they were when people stole the books, cutting out the Melbourne Public Library stamp on p. 91 (always), and erasing the stamp on the front and back pages. The Melbourne Public Library was open to everyone, which was a principle quite unusual at the time, and one which Redmond Barry vigorously defended. There were suggestions that there be a special room for people who just came into the library to lounge instead of read, but that never happened either. Although thinking back to nights at SLV, before the roof was opened up and everything was plunged into an eternal twilight lit by little green lamps, I think that there were many people there then too, in overcoats and smelling of alcohol, who were not actually ‘reading’.