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    Entries in history (2)

    Sunday
    Jul032016

    Founding Fathers, Ranked

    It's the long Independence Day holiday weekend here in the USA as we celebrate all things America and summer and cook outs, so why not a quick rundown of some of the folks that helped make this long weekend possible?

    So therefore I offer for your consideration this unresearched, incomplete, unscientific, completely subjective, and 100% accurate list of Founding Fathers, ranked.

    Here goes:

    10. Thomas Paine. Maybe not as well remembered as the folks who get their faces on currency and coins, but Paine's writing of Common Sense and other missives were critical to rallying support (and soldiers) for the impending War for Independence.

    9. Patrick Henry. Merits inclusion on the list for breaking out the money quote of the Revolution - "Give me liberty, or give me death." Sadly for Henry, the British obliged. With the death part I mean.

    8. Samuel Adams. Early rabble rouser with the Sons of Liberty and had a hand in the Boston Tea Party. Strong advocate for independence whose stock has climbed in more recent years by having a pretty decent beer named for him.

    7. James Monroe. The youngest of the group, he gets props for being the guy in the boat holding the flag in the famous 'Washington crossing the Delaware' painting. Later rose to the Presidency and created the Monroe Doctrine, an important and influential element of US foreign policy for decades.

    6. Alexander Hamilton. Pros: Helped create the American financial system and was the first US Secretary of the Treasury. Also the face of the underrated $10 bill. Cons: Killed in a duel by Aaron Burr. Seriously, a duel? How do you not find a better way to settle a beef?

    5. James Madison. Main writer of the US Constitution, which is a pretty amazing credit. Later became the 4th US President, showing some impressive ambition as I am pretty sure if I had written the US Constitution I would have closed up shop and hit the corporate speaking circuit.

    4. Thomas Jefferson. Principal author of the most famous political document in US history, the Declaration, so that has to give him a place on any such list. Also, as the third President negotiated the Louisiana Purchase for less than a year's worth of Timofey Mozgov, (nice one Lakers), and sent Lewis and Clark out on their adventure.

    3. Benjamin Franklin. First American Renaissance Man - inventor, businessman, diplomat, writer, etc. Pretty much could do it all. The colonial version of the 5-tool player. Bonus points for being the face of the $100 bill. That's a baller right there.

    2. John Adams. Great resume for JA. Worked on the Declaration of Independence, helped sort out the Treaty of Paris, became the first Vice President, and then the second President. Adams was an integral player in all the big events of the day. 

    1. George Washington. Pretty much a no-brainer pick for the top spot. General, leader, the first President, didn't let the other guys on this list make him the King. What's not to like about the guy?

    Of course you could disagree with these rankings, but you would be wrong.

    Happy holiday weekend!

    Monday
    Apr162012

    Titanic : Or, I'm comfortable not knowing

    Yesterday marked the 100th anniversary of the Titanic disaster, which accounts for the recent upsurge in news and events surrounding the ship's tragic fate, as well as the return of the incredibly popular 1997 movie, (now in 3D!) titled, aptly, Titanic.It's not just a movie!!!

    For a combination of reasons - the scale and luxury of the incredible ship itself, the many pronouncements of its 'unsinkability' prior to it well, sinking, the presence onboard of many of the time's super rich and elite, and finally the sheer scope and sadness of the tragedy that saw over 1,500 perish in the freezing sea; the Titanic story seems even more popular and in the societal conscious than ever before. The 1997 film played a significant role of course in cementing the Titanic story in our collective minds, it was for many years following its release the highest grossing film ever, and even now is still second in Worldwide box office receipts. With close to $2B in worldwide ticket sales and about 178,294 additional showings in the last 15 years on cable TV, chances are really, really high that everyone has seen this movie, or at least is familiar with it. It remains a legendary achievement in pop culture history.

    The popularity and ubiquity of the 1997 movie has also had some unexpected effects on the understanding and interpretation of the actual events of the Titanic in the minds of some observers. Namely, it turns out that lots of people, (mostly young people), did not realize that Titanic was not just a movie, but an actual historical event. There have been loads of articles posted about this, this one from the Gothamist is a good example, and they (mostly), take the same kind of condescending slant of 'Can you believe these dumb kids?' and 'Our culture is doomed once these numbskulls are in charge.'. After all, the reasoning goes, how can you not know the Titanic story, it has been told, re-told, revised, re-revised, told some more, dramatized, and finally re-dramatized pretty much endlessly for the last 100 years.

    So here's where I disagree with that kind of reasoning, particularly when it comes to 'adults' passing judgment on say the average 15 or 16 year-old that might not have realized that there was an actual Titanic, and not just the boat that Leo DiCaprio sailed on in 1997. The history of the Titanic is at best marginally interesting, and 100 years later the continued fascination with the tale is to me, kind of baffling. Yes, it was an amazing story; yes, there is some historical significance; yes, subsequent efforts to analyze, understand, and interpret the events have yielded some important insights; but the level to which this singular event has been elevated is in my view way out of rational proportion.  

    If the 1997 movie was the first and only introduction and experience to the story for say anyone under 25 years of age, I am perfectly fine with that. And I'd submit that there are likely about a thousand other subjects that we as a society should be concerned that our next generation of workers and leaders need to know more about, the details of an ocean liner sinking in 1912 fall really low on that list.

    Recently Naomi Bloom ran an excellent piece on the difficulty of keeping up with everything, and the importance of applying perspective, choice, and reasoning in the battle against an endless and unyielding stream of information.  The main point - you have to pick your spots, you can't know everything, and you have to decide what is truly relevant and meaningful. 

    If keeping up with every nuance in the 100-year old Titanic story seems valuable to you, then that is fantastic, but don't crack down on some 17 year-old that doesn't see it the same way, or even never gave the entire episode a second thought once the movie ended. There are likely about a million things I'd rather have that kid be familiar with, (cruise control is not the same as auto-pilot would be one), than knowing if John Jacob Astor made it to the lifeboat in 1912.