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January 19th, 2012

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07:58 pm - we are a band of brothers who rally 'round the flag once again
January Nineteenth, Two Thousand and Twelve.

Well, I did it. Finally finished the last episode of Ken Burns' Civil War miniseries and I cannot say as I have ever passed twelve hours with such rapt attention, even watching as I did in bursts of two or three episodes per night. However, such symptoms have manifested themselves in me as makes me wonder how I ever was able to watch television before. For when I now set fingers to keyboard, I do so in either the voice of a gallant young Confederate or an earnest and committed Union soldier. Sometimes they switch off in mid-sentence, as they just did now. It is altogether unsettling at first, though one gets used to it as one must.

I am further unsettled by the now-constant underscoring brought about by repeated exposure to the same musical motifs throughout the series. These tunes, glorious standards all, are fine and pleasing to the ear when heard for about an hour and a half every week. After lengthy viewing and listening, however, one begins to wonder if the fiddler and the fifer on the battlefield were supposed to know anything other than "The Battle Cry of Freedom" or "The Bonnie Blue Flag". For reasons known only to the heavenly creator, I am blessedly immune from both "Dixie" and "The Battle Hymn of the Republic", but the other two have so insidiously ingrained themselves in my subconscious that every thought I think and daily task that I undertake is now done with a mournful piano piece underneath. Small daily victories become Phyrric; momentary setbacks become lamentable failures. And every finality is set to the chorus with the high harmonies on top, itself a culmination of a slow and sad--but expertly played--build.

Moreover, I have come away from the viewing most impressed with the ability of the people in the middle of the 19th century to write letters of such a constant length as can be spoken to the tune of Ashokan Farewell, a song written one hundred and twenty years later, and reach their natural conclusions just as the song reaches its own. It is as if invisible hands were at work here, bringing the rambles to their most poignant and concise point just as the violin hangs on the note near the end, letting one final thought linger as the song finishes and the screen fades to black. This letter does not work that way. I have tried it.

D. Spatchel

(7 comments | Leave a comment)


[User Picture]
Date:January 20th, 2012 01:03 am (UTC)
I've seen parts of that series and you've dutifully caught its voice, its tempo, it's quiet grace and ubiquitous style
[User Picture]
Date:January 20th, 2012 01:26 am (UTC)

Now to cure this affliction: imagine that same music and writing style as the narration of a Hype Williams video. Example:

"My dearest Booty-eesha,

I hardly express in words the horrors to which I have been participant. The lead singer has arrived in a vehicle that will clearly be returned to the luxury rental shop on Santa Monica Boulevard well coated in VSOP and body oil..."
[User Picture]
Date:January 20th, 2012 04:05 am (UTC)
I see what you did there! Nicely done!
[User Picture]
Date:January 20th, 2012 02:20 am (UTC)
Somewhere, on some cassette tape, I still have bits of the piece you did in high school (was it high school?) in this genre. All I remember is the bit about the soldier who writes his wife to tell her he's having an affair with the barrel of his rifle.
[User Picture]
Date:January 20th, 2012 03:59 am (UTC)
It is altogether unsettling at first, though one gets used to it as one must.

I can't wait to read this journal once you get to the Jazz Age.
[User Picture]
Date:January 20th, 2012 04:08 am (UTC)
More Americans killed in the civil war than all other wars combined, to date.

That's a statistic that's stuck with me since college and is still true today.

It helps that we were on both sides of it.
[User Picture]
Date:January 20th, 2012 09:16 pm (UTC)
I moved my laptop toward and away from my face in a parabolic shape as I read this to get that true Kenburnsian feeling.

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