Most of the tragic events of 9/11 occurred within my eyesight, even from a far distance.
I had to walk down to the Brooklyn Bridge, joining the exodus of ash-covered humanity to the only rail terminal that was working in Brooklyn. I watched cartoons all night, trying desperately to avoid even looking at the news footage.
So imagine my raw senses when I’m teaching classes about 9/11 today. Many were small children when it happened. How can I use a chart or some damn educational fad from Teachers College about this? How dare these inhuman morons make me even rehash the events of that day. Where the hell were they?
Yet these kids had to know. They wanted to know. I would be a disgrace as a teacher if I didn’t share my experience. At that moment, it was better to just tell my story. I did, narrating every second of that day. It happened over and over, in many classes for many students. In some rooms, you could hear a pin drop. That’s the power of oral history.
My advice on this solemn day–sometimes its best to heave that plan book out the window. Shut the fuck up and let the witnesses tell the story. I assure you, they’ll never forget it.
This Day in History 12/28: The Birth of Commercial Motion Pictures
With all the hype of the holiday films this year, it’s good to see what really started all this in the first place.
On December 28, 1895, Auguste and Louis Lumiere, two early French filmmakers, gave a for-profit exhibition of their works in Paris. Their total runtime: about 6 minutes for 10 films average less than a minute each. We’re not talking epic filmmaking, but rather small snippets of everyday life: a train, a family eating, a gardener, builders, etc.
Though they did not invent motion pictures, the Lumieres were the first to exhibit their work for a price, thus beginning the modern motion picture industry. Attached is a selection of their early works that were shown in 1895. If you show them to students, a few points to remember:
(1) There was no soundtrack, originally. Turn down the volume to get the same effect.
(2) The next big motion picture moment was the Edison company’s 1901 “epic” The Great Train Robbery. It was considered “too long” at 11 minutes.
(3) The audiences would shit in their pants, literally, at seeing these images. Ask your students the last time a film made them empty their colon.
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