What I don’t know about WWII could fit in a U-boat

World War II Monument

I finally watched Band of Brothers this year, something I’ve been meaning to do for, oh, ten years. Band of Brothers is a TV mini-series about an American airborne infantry company that fought in Europe during World War II. I’d stumble across it occasionally during a Labor Day marathon on TBS, but I wanted to watch it from the beginning, so I never stopped to watch for long.

It’s a good series, and it’s fun to play “spot the future star” while watching. There’s James MacAvoy! Simon Pegg just delivered a telegram! Jamie Bamber fought Nazis before he fought cylons! Moriarty from Sherlock just arrived! That guy looks sort of like Michael Fassbender, probably because he *is* Michael Fassbender.

Spoiler alert: President Roosevelt dies before the end of the war. I preface this with the words “spoiler alert” because I am the nitwit who was shocked by this plot development. Yes, I graduated from high school. I even got all A’s. Oh, Kentucky public school system, how you have failed me. I should have been able to figure it out on my own because I knew Truman had to make the decision to nuke Japan. So, obviously Roosevelt was out of the picture by then. The problem with my history education is that the teachers always ran out of time before they got to modern history. So if you wanted to learn about the French and Indian war, you were good. If you wanted to learn anything about events that directly affected today’s foreign policy, good luck to you!

I have the decency to be embarrassed about this, so I’ve decided to educate myself about World War II. After some Googling, I decided The World at War TV mini-series was the best source. There are 26 episodes, each one 52 minutes long, so it lasts almost as long as the war itself. It was created in the 70’s, so there were able to interview lots of people who were actually involved in the war. It was evidently a landmark achievement in documentary filmmaking at the time for its thorough exploration of the topic. It was created by a British team, so they cover everything leading up to the war, whereas most American films about World War II act like it started on December 7, 1941.

I’ve only watched the first eight episodes, but I’ve already learned a lot that I should have already known. Stalin was on our side! There was fighting in Alaska! France had a huge line of underground forts that did absolutely no good! When invading Russia, check The Weather Channel first!

My only complaint so far is that the interviews are not subtitled, which makes them harder to understand. This was a world war after all, so even though most of the interviews are in English the interviewees accents are French, German, Russian, and Japanese, just to name a few. Even the American accents sometimes sound a bit odd, which further makes me believe accents change over the years. (I’d recently been surprised to learn that what we consider an American accent is what a British accent used to sound like.)

I’ve still got many, many hours to watch, but hopefully it will expand my knowledge of the war beyond what I’ve learned in movies and Emmy-award winning mini-series. No spoilers, please!

National Air and Space Museum: They provided the planes and I brought the baggage.

National Air and Space Museum

When I visited my dad last month I had a five-hour layover between the time my train pulled into Union Station in Washington, DC and the time my flight back to Raleigh departed. I decided to spend my layover at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.

The thing that complicated my sightseeing was that I had to wheel my carry-on suitcase everywhere along with my backpack full of bricks (aka my laptop). I had to lug all this stuff with me on the Metro, up the escalator, and across the pebble-textured sidewalk that made my suitcase bounce like popcorn cooking in a pan. Overall, it gave me a greater appreciation for what wheelchair-bound individuals must deal with on a daily basis. Now, I won’t pretend that dragging a suitcase around all day gave me an understanding of what it’s like to be paralyzed, which is undoubtedly a complicated experience both physically and emotionally. However I did find myself thinking about things I normally don’t, like searching for the ramp to the front entrance instead of using the stairs. I also decided not to go into the life-size space station exhibit, even though I really, wanted to, because you had to go up and down a crowded, narrow stairway to see it. It just wasn’t worth the trouble. I also had to stop, sit and take lots of breaks because dragging all that crap around is tiring.

The Air and Space Museum has lots of exhibits, but the real attraction is all the airplanes and spacecrafts that they have on display, mostly hanging from the ceiling. It allows you to get a sense of how big these machines are, which you don’t quite grasp when you see them on TV. I was most excited to see SpaceShipOne (all one word, according to Wikipedia, so it must be true), the privately developed spacecraft that won the Ansari X Prize in 2004.

SpaceShipOne

Honestly, I don’t think it’s any bigger than a school bus, but it’s been in outer space! I also browsed through exhibits about the Wright Brothers, the early space programs, military aircrafts, and even a gallery of flight-related artwork.

Visable spectrum in stained glass

I also loved this stained glass window that represents the electromagnetic spectrum. I like me some art with my science. The ROYGBIV section is what is visible to the human eye, and everything else is ultraviolet, infrared, x-rays, gamma rays, and other stuff I should probably remember better from science class.

I think it’s possible to see everything in the museum in a day, but I got tired before that happened. Instead I decided to get some gelato at a place Yelp recommended before heading back to the airport. I headed north across the mall and was disappointed to see that it was anything but scenic at the moment.

Less than scenic mall

I also happened to pass the sculpture garden of one of the Smithsonian museums, so I sat down by the fountain to rest for awhile. (Dragging around luggage is seriously exhausting!)

Sculpture Garden

I finally arrived at Pitango Gelato, where the server had a sexy, foreign accent, as if a man serving me sugar and cream wasn’t sexy enough. They gave me a tiny little spoon, which was cute and also helped make the dessert last.

Pitango Gelato

After that I got on the Metro and waited at Reagan National airport for my flight. The wi-fi was free and seriously fast. I was able to watch part of a movie on Netflix streaming while I waited. Color me impressed. Then I flew home on a plane that wasn’t extraordinary enough to make it to a museum, but did the job of getting me home just fine.

Thanks for sticking around

Thank you

I’m almost halfway through my blog-a-day challenge and it looks like I might make it after all. I haven’t had to post any cat pictures at a minute to midnight yet either! This is at least partly due to the encouragement I have gotten from you guys in the comments section or on Twitter and Facebook. I honestly didn’t know if anyone was still checking in on me, but now I know there are at least a few dozen of you! I appreciate every single one of you, and your kind words mean a lot to me.

Looking over what I’ve written in the past few weeks, there are a least a few entries I think came out really well, and I would never have bothered to write them if I hadn’t made writing a non-negotiable daily task. Writing is like exercise, it’s easy to make an excuse about why you don’t have time for it, but you can usually squeeze it into your day if you decide it’s a priority. The two are also alike because most of the time I do not actually want to do them. I like having written something good and I like having done my exercise for my day, but the idea of actually doing the work is never as appealing as having done the work. Half the entries I’ve written this month have only come about because I looked at the clock and thought, “Damn, I have to write an entry for today!” Knowing that y’all are watching me has given me the extra bit of accountability necessary to meet my writing goals for this month. And like exercise, I’m always glad to have written even if the process of writing can be difficult. It is a workout for my brain, my most important muscle.

I’ve got a text file full of notes for possible blog entries. I’ve been keeping notes for months. It’s really just a matter of doing the work to make them real posts. 17 more days! Here I come!

The Fourth, the Fifth, the Minor Fall

Hallelujah

This is a total long shot, but I thought I’d put it out there. Does anyone have a recording of a BBC Radio 2 program that was broadcast in 2008 called “The Fourth, The Fifth, The Minor Fall” by Guy Garvey? The official BBC Radio 2 page is here but says the program is not available. You might have already figured it out from the title, but the program is about the Leonard Cohen song “Hallelujah,” examining why it’s so popular and timeless and covered by so many artists.

I found a clip called Part 1 on YouTube but none of the other parts are online. There’s also a 12-minute clip on YouTube featuring the Allison Crowe segment, but that’s it. I also looked at a few, um, underground resources, and none of them had a full version either.

If anyone reading this has a copy, I’d love to listen to it. I’m also happy to pay BBC Radio 2 for a copy if they’d make it available. Thanks!

ETA: Thanks, everyone! I was able to locate a copy.

The best way to watch the debates

See no evil

You don’t always have to see something to know it’s there. You can observe its effects on other objects and deduce its existence. That’s how Neptune and Pluto were discovered, not by direct observation but by the effect their gravity had on the orbits of other stellar objects. Similarly, you don’t have to watch the presidential debates to know they’re happening, you just have to read your Twitter stream. It’s far more entertaining anyway.

I don’t like conflict. I go out of my way to avoid confrontation. Watching two people go head to head about important political issues is not my idea of a fun evening. I can’t even watch The Amazing Race because I get stressed out that my favorite team will miss their flight. Watching Butler compete in the NCAA Tournament two years in a row nearly killed me. I much prefer not caring about sports. The idea of watching a confrontation that will affect whether I’ll be eligible for health insurance in 2014 in any other form than the North Carolina plan for high risk individuals is way, way, way, too tension filled for me to actually watch it live.

Thankfully I don’t have to. I have Twitter. And on Twitter people make clever jokes and create cute #malarky hastags and make me laugh about something I would otherwise be watching while curled up in a ball on the sofa. I don’t have to watch the event. I just watch other people’s opinions about the event to get a picture of it. It’s like the story format of Citizen Kane. You don’t ever get to meet Kane, but you learn a lot about him from everyone who knew him. Of course, that’s also the problem. You never get to meet Kane yourself, so you never get to make your own opinion. You’re going on what other people think, so you need to choose those people wisely. The people in my Twitter stream mostly share my political viewpoints, so those tweets are undoubtedly skewed towards one worldview. Hello, echo chamber (echo chamber [echo chamber])! But it also makes me wonder how much of our opinions are skewed by what other people think anyway. If all your friends like a TV show don’t you feel pressured to like it too? Do we ever come to our own opinions without at least some outside influence? Even if I watched the debates, wouldn’t the way I filter them be affected by what friends and pundits say?

Regardless, thank you Twitter! Or rather, thank you to all the funny, clever people who use Twitter. You make it much easier to get through an evening when all my TV shows are pre-empted.

Keep reading: 

Want second helpings? Devour more entries in the archives.

 
 
Chocolate & Vicodin: My Quest for Relief from the Headache that Wouldn't Go Away Half-Assed: A Weight-Loss Memoir

Jennette Fulda tells stories to the Internet about her life as a smartass, writer, chronic headache sufferer, (former?) weight-loss inspiration, and overall nice person (who is silently judging you). She was formerly known as PastaQueen. You can contact her if you promise to be nice.

Disclaimer: I am not responsible for keyboards ruined by coffee spit-takes or forehead wrinkles caused by deep thought.

My latest tweets

My latest tweets

Twitter: jennettefulda

  • Ew, just saw a TV ad for Ashley Madison that had guys singing about finding someone "other than my wife." No more Spike TV after midnight.
  • Blog post: What a waste. A valet waste. http://t.co/5wtOR89KWh
  • I find myself singing along to the songs at the grocery store a lot lately. I don't know what this means, but it can't be good.

Search

243

Newsletter

Sign up for my email newsletter and stay informed about the latest news and events.

Close

Learn to run...online! Up & Running online running courses