War of the Worlds Listening Party

On Halloween Eve, 1938 Orson Welles and his radio troupe “The Mercury Theatre on the Air” were putting the finishing touches on a play to air that night. They had struggled with adapting the book by H.G. Wells, “The War of the Worlds.” Their radio version just wasn’t keeping anyone’s interest. So they spiced it up by including some real names of towns and local institutions.  CBS radio executives quickly squashed those plans and demanded that Welles substitute fake names for those of real places. For instance, “Langley Field” became “Langham Field.” Welles was convinced this would doom the production to be received as a laughable mess. He could not have been more wrong.  Although reports of mass hysteria were exaggerated, the broadcast managed to convince some listeners that an alien invasion of Earth was in progress and that humans all over the world were in peril!

How could this happen? The Mercury Theatre on the Air was not the most popular radio program on Sunday nights. That distinction went to NBC’s Chase and Sanborn show which featured Edgar Bergen and his puppet Charley McCarthy.  So there was speculation that perhaps listeners tuned in late to the War of the Worlds and did not hear the disclaimer at the beginning. Also, it’s important to remember the political events of the time. The U.S. was in a general state of unease and concern over the goings on in Europe in the preceding months and radio was their trusted lifeline to know what Hitler was up to now. When radio presented the public with “information” they believed it. (Fake News was not yet a thing.)

The twenty-three-year-old Welles faced a firestorm of criticism the day after the broadcast when it became clear that some people panicked, especially those in areas near the reported epicenter of the alien landing in New Jersey.  Reports of people committing suicide and dying from heart attacks were never substantiated though, and a single lawsuit that was later filed against CBS was dismissed. The lesson learned for broadcasting was that radio was a powerful medium with tremendous responsibility to the public that should not be taken lightly.

On October 29th from 1:30- 2:30 Russell Memorial Library will host a War of the Worlds Listening Party to hear what all the fuss was about! Participants will take a mini alien home to remember the event and to remind themselves to carefully evaluate the information they receive from media sources in our present time.

Movie Review: Dunkirk

I’ll admit I didn’t know much about the battle before I decided to see the movie. My friend, a history buff, gave me a crash course before the movie, making me wish I learned more about it in school or elsewhere. The Battle of Dunkirk may have been a military failure for the European Allied Powers, but it still boosted morale for them, and for the British in particular. It’s the turning point in the war before the US joined it. The story had my interest before viewing the movie, and coming out of the movie the interest was exponentially higher; Dunkirk is easily one of the best movies I’ve ever viewed, and much of the public—and critics online—agree.

To be clear, Dunkirk is not something to watch if you need an escape. Expect an intense, stressful movie experience if you do view it. I already love movies, but found myself more engaged during this one than most. My eyes were wide the entire two hours; I rarely looked away from the screen. I didn’t even check my watch, which is a habit for me even during the most entertaining movies. Every few minutes I had to pause, ensure I could still breath, and unclench my jaw or my fists.

Continue reading “Movie Review: Dunkirk”

“A penny for the Guy”

Image result for plastic ono band

There’s nothing I can write about Guy Fawkes, or Guy Fawkes Day, that hasn’t already been written.  Yeah, yeah, yeah, I majored in history and all, but there simply isn’t, and I simply won’t.  If you don’t yet know the story of the Gunpowder Plot of 1605, there are plenty of books and web pages that can clue you in.  As my dad always used to fondly tell me whenever I asked him a question, “You look it up.”  I must have taken his advice to heart because I now do exactly that for a living. Continue reading ““A penny for the Guy””

Oral History – Everyone Has a Story

The Chesapeake Genealogy Enthusiasts met on November 9, 2015. Some attendees shared photographs along with memories. Kevin Clement presented the lesson, “Oral History.”

Oral history is a field of study where professionals collect systematically the testimony of living people about their personal experiences. Even though it has been argued that only trained professionals can conduct legitimate oral history, it is important for families to collect and maintain the oral memories of its members.

Families should consider preserving their own memories. My grandfather used to tell marvelous stories of his time as a missionary in Africa. I have shared a couple of these stories throughout my life, but I am positive that I do not give the tales the same flair that my grandfather had given them. How grand would it be if I had an audio or video recording of him telling these stories so I could replay the recording over and over again and hear his voice? It is too late since my grandfather passed away in 1978, but it may not be too late for others. Look to your relatives still living and begin recording their memories. More importantly, do not fail to record your own memories for future generations.

Graduation photo of my grandfather, Frank Manning, missionary and storyteller.

Continue reading “Oral History – Everyone Has a Story”

The Words of Warriors

Abraham Lincoln said…”Character is like a tree and reputation like its shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.”
Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) 16th President of the United States.

Napoleon Hill said…”Edison failed 10,000 times before he made the electric light. Do not be discouraged if you fail a few times.
Napoleon Hill (1883-1970) American speaker and writer.

Robert Frost said…”In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life. It goes on.”
Robert Frost (1875-1963) American Poet.