The variety of television channels available now is seemingly without number, my Radio Times is full of them. I do record programmes, the most interesting items are usually on at nine o’clock in the evening, yes, clearly that is the time more people are sitting down to relax. The iPlayer and the ability to record programmes are an essential part of my media. One channel I’ve discovered recently is PBS America, it is staggeringly good, of course the Americans have been making moving pictures for about a hundred years. There is a cultural heritage and enormous respect for the ability to tell a story using the medium of film. In Britain we are still wedded to the book as the principle means of understanding our own cultural history.
PBS America is, dare I use the word, an educational channel ( yes that reminds me of the Open University). It is the combination of still pictures, the words of influential actors in the story and the words of those caught up in events over which they have no control. The Civil War in the 1860s is the programme which to me expressed vividly the tragic pity of war. It was told as if we were in the middle of the events narrated so clearly, as if they happened yesterday. I have watched war stories before but usually the killing and the dying are somewhat in the distance. Even the Second World War, during which I was a child, has seemed apart from ordinary life, something of another time, another place.
An extraordinary large team of people, under the producer, Ken Burns are responsible for a brilliant series of programmes and all the sources used are listed. These programmes should be part of the academic curriculum in universities and sixth form centres in Britain. I would guess they already are in the USA. I have been interested in history as long as I can remember, it is not an old irrelevant story. It still influences the way we think and behave today. There was a time when girls were thought to be beyond education, their brains were different, this was accepted as the rational truth. Also the cost of educating ordinary working people was seriously considered to be a huge expense and therefore quite unnecessary.
The last episode dealt with the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863, this battle resulted in the largest number of casualties in the entire war, forty-six thousand deaths, the most costly battle in US history. Women worked behind the lines on both sides. There is still considerable disagreement as to which side won. Lincoln fought to maintain the Union and to free the slaves, the Confederates fought for their independence and for the right to own slaves. The UK is geographically a small cohesive country, America is a huge continent containing different types of climate and different economic systems, the Gulf states are very different from the New England states on the north-east coast.
I have been a teacher and a lecturer for a number of years. I am married with two sons. I'm interested drama, films, TV, books, society in general, poverty and riches and political systems.
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