Sunday, March 18, 2012

My Love Affair with History

History has always been a favorite subject of mine for some reason.  It might be because, in high school and college, I've had extraordinarily good luck with history professors.  But I think it's also just learning about big events that happened in real places to real people (an interesting perspective, I think, for someone who's so into filmmaking).  I just love the patterns that history forms and the way people break them (and in doing so, change the course of history).  Learning about the way people lived and survived and innovated and ahh!!  It's all so cool!  Today, I can't help thinking that there's not that much left to discover, so history is just going to stop being interesting to people in the future.  That's why I get really excited about things like someone possibly clocking a particle going faster than the speed of light (even though that ended up being sad).

For a while, around the high school/college turnover, I had decided that I had been born in the wrong decade.  I had entered my intense Beatles phase, and really wanted to be a part of Beatlemania (I later learned that there were even more reasons the 60s were so freaking cool).  I thought I should have been born in the 50s, so I could be a teenager in the 60s.  But then I started to realize that every decade had something that I wish I could have been around to see firsthand: the early 1900s with jazz and ragtime, the 20s and their high living before the Depression, the 40s and WWII, the 50s and the rise of rock n' roll, the 70s with the rise of punk (also the Vietnam war), the 80s (ish) and the rise of hip-hop, the 90s and the rise of grunge...

The more I learn about history, film, music, war, politics, etc., the more people there are who get added to my "people I wish weren't dead" list.  I have this weird idea in my head that, as long as someone's alive, I'll always have the chance of meeting them, even if it's a small chance.  So with that in mind, I've created my list (it's longer than this, but I can't think of all of them off the top of my head).

People I Wish Weren't Dead 
(In no particular order)
George Méliès- really interesting in film history-
basically invented special effects
John Lennon- I just wish he were still alive making music.
Sid Vicious- the Sex Pistols were a fascinating band to me, historically.
It's a shame that he died so young.

Paul Newman- I said no particular order...he's number one.
Best actor of his time, in my opinion (please don't refer to him as
"the salad dressing guy").  Very philanthropic too.
He's also one of the most beautiful people I've ever seen.

Frank Sinatra...he's just wonderful.
George Harrison- amazing guitarist.  Should also still be alive making music.

Winston Churchill- he was a great speaker and I also love how badass and
sharply witty he was (e.g. after a woman told him that she would
poison his drink if she were his wife, he said something like,
"Madame, if you were my wife, I'd drink it.") awesome.

George Gershwin- listening to him play piano brings tears to my eyes.  He was so incredibly talented.  Also died too young.  I absolutely love his work.  I'm actually listening to it as I write this.
Scott Joplin- King of Ragtime.  I just love his music and his style- it's amazing
Thomas Jefferson- a great president.  He was really interesting, and I love reading about cool
things he did, like teach himself to write with his opposite hand and things like that.
So, yeah.  Those are a number of people who I REALLY wish were still alive (no, I don't mean I wish Thomas Jefferson was alive and 269 years old).  I said under their photos why they were awesome, but really, I just wish they were alive so I could talk to them- just sit down and have a chat.  I think they'd all have really interesting things to say (particularly Churchill).

I know that a couple of those things above that I said I wanted to experience firsthand were wars.  I'm not actually saying that I want to experience war, per se, but I just think it would be interesting to be alive during such a tumultuous time.  When I really think about it, I don't actually wish I were born in a different time; I just wish I could go back in time and experience all of the things I know about now.  If I were just living it just like anyone else alive then lived it, it probably wouldn't actually be that cool, just like the fact that there are probably things going on right now, in this decade that people 50 years from now will wish they could have been around for.

Hm...I didn't do this on purpose, but (STOP READING THIS SENTENCE IF YOU HAVEN'T SEEN MIDNIGHT IN PARIS- skip to the next paragraph) I just came to the exact conclusion that the main character in Midnight in Paris comes to at the end of the movie...I guess Woody Allen was right...

But when I learn about a particularly juicy time or event in history, I get this pain in my chest, a sort of longing to know more about it, to soak it all up and experience it (as much as one can experience something that's already happened).  In the past 24 hours, I've watched two movies about the Vietnam war: Platoon and Full Metal Jacket.  They were different (but at the same time similar) representations of the war from the American soldiers' perspective, and both of them made me feel sick.  I've never really read or watched anything about Vietnam that affected me as strongly as these movies did (particularly Full Metal Jacket).
I knew that it was an awful time for American history, but I never really saw it laid out the way Kubrick did in his film (or Stone did in his).  It was incredible.  I felt a little guilty feeling so awed by the films because of the heavy content, but when I see a good movie like Full Metal Jacket, it also inspires me and fills me with this intense desire to create.  That is what I want to do with film: create something that can reach people on that deep of a level.


  1. awesome post.

    I know that ache in the chest feeling - it is longing and urgency and pressure and expansiveness, like you want to explode beyond the confines of yourself. And somehow, it is a feeling I treasure.

  2. A. Tessa, you were very much alive during a war. A big one, in fact.
    B. Why don't you be a history major????????????? Or a joint??????