The World at War: The Complete Series

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XWgwd3NQh5w

"Down this road on a summer day in 1944, the soldiers came. Nobody lives here now. They stayed only a few hours. When they had gone, the community, which had lived for a thousand years, was dead. This is Oradour-sur-Glane, in France. The day the soldiers came, the people were gathered together. The men were taken to garages and barns, the women and children were led down this road, and they were driven into this church. Here, they heard the firing as their men were shot. Then they were killed too. A few weeks later, many of those who had done the killing were themselves dead, in battle. They never rebuilt Oradour. Its ruins are a memorial. Its martyrdom stands for thousands upon thousands of other martyrdoms in Poland, in Russia, in Burma, China, in a world at war."

– Sir Laurence Olivier reading the opening lines to "The World at War," 1973

World War II officially ended on September 2, 1945, almost 72 years ago.  Anyone officially old enough to fight in that year would be ninety years old now.  In context, when I was a child in the 1980's, there were still thousands of World War I veterans still alive, but they were in their 90's.  Now, the experience of fighting in that First World War has passed from living memory.   The 1980's don't seem that long ago.

Fortunately, there are many excellent chronicles of the time in the last century when we faced, and overcame, the greatest threat to human civilization since the Black Plague.  Standing tall among the many excellent documentaries on the subject is the epic "The World at War," which first aired on ITV in the United Kingdom in 1973 and 1974, and eventually syndicated on PBS during the 1980's.

The World at War is special for a number of reasons, and not just because it is one of the most acclaimed series in television history.  It is narrated by the great Sir Laurence Olivier, commonly regarded as the finest actor of his generation.  It was made at a time when many persons with important first-hand knowledge of the War were still alive, such as Winston Churchill's personal secretary.

Most importantly, the documentary never loses sight of the human toll of the War. It successfully avoids the shallow, rah-rah heroism so often seen in films about the War, especially in the 50's and 60's. The War was a fight against evil, there's no denying that, but it's nothing to be celebrated.

The World at War is rightfully acclaimed, but it has its ups and downs too. The Burma episode feels like it goes on forever and the series itself focuses more heavily on the European War than the Pacific. Even so, the highlights greatly outnumber the missteps. The episode about The Battle of Britain is simply titled, and described, as "Alone." The episode about Stalingrad contains no battle footage, but it doesn't need any. The episode on the Holocaust is one of the most awarded episodes of television ever broadcast. The final episode ties everything up masterfully, with Olivier's voiceover hauntingly asking us to remember.

The twenty-six episode series is available from a couple of different sources, and well worth your time. Evil, after all, never really goes away, and destroying it is a ghastly affair. By remembering the War, it underlines the importance of stopping evil before it gains power. Learning this lesson is the best way to honor those who were lost.

(C) 2017 D.G. McCabe

 

Game of Thrones Power Rankings, Season 7, Episode 5

Only two episodes to go!  In most seasons, the penultimate episode has been a barnburner, so I’m pretty pumped for next week.  Although I have fantasy football drafts scheduled for an hour before the next two episodes. I’m probably going to autodraft if they take more than an hour.  But I digress.  You aren’t here to listen to my fantasy football related dilemma, you’re here for power rankings:

1. House Targaryen (Last Week, #1)

No question about it – Daenerys has won the war against Cersei before it even started.  I don’t fault her for executing the Tarleys either, since she gave Randyll a clear choice and then Dickon practically volunteered to be executed.  Randyll betrayed his prior liege-lord based on little more than xenophobia after all, and Daenerys still gave him a chance to live.  It seems he forgot that he served Daenerys’ father during Robert’s Rebellion.

2. House Stark (Last Week, #3)

While the episode focused in on Jon leading a ragtag group worthy of an old western or Kurosawa movie, we also learned that he is the true king of Westeros, his father having married his mother and all.  I’m a little concerned about Littlefinger’s treachery, but the show can only delay the Stark women for so long on a subplot with such an obvious solution.  Heads, spikes, walls.

3. The White Walkers (Last Week, #4)

Ice zombies?  These silly northmen.  They’re just like some dead idiot that only we know or care about here in our ivory tower.

4. The Night’s Watch (Last Week, #6)

I would get out of there too Sam.  I’m not thrilled with Sam’s whining, especially when his life-partner is revealing very important information to him, but it kind of fits his character.

5. House Baratheon (Last Week, NR)

Yay! Gendry’s back!  Yes I know that’s Stannis’ sigil but I’m not making another one.  After all, Gendry could become a wight next week.

6. House Lannister (Last Week, #8)

A little realpolitik goes a long way this week for House Lannister.  Outgunned and outmanned, and maybe having a future after all, Cersei is starting to think of a better strategy than going right into the dragon’s mouth.

7. House Greyjoy (Last Week, #5)

The utility of the crazy pirate storyline is fast coming to an end.  Next time we see Euron he might be getting his head chopped off.

8. The Brotherhood without Banners (Last Week, NR)

Out of Jon’s team of merry men, Thoros and Beric seem to be the obvious candidates for casualties.  Beric is dead already and Thoros really doesn’t add all that much to the story.  If the Hound bites it we’re denied Clegane-bowl, but I wouldn’t put that past the show’s writers either.

Also receiving votes: House Arryn, the Dothraki, the Wildlings, Ser Pounce, dragon-love, lion-love, fermented crab-love, and warhammers.

(c) 2017 D.G. McCabe

 

 

 

 

Game of Thrones Power Rankings, Season 7, Episode 4

In an effort to avoid spoilers in the first paragraph, I’d just like to point out that due to alliances and defeats, we’re really down to only down to about 11 or 12 rankable groups at the moment.  Here’s a new rule: if one of the subgroups (groups allied with someone else) does something important, they can make the rankings.  This opens up a return to the rankings for the Dothraki, Wildlings, and a few other random ones.  That will make things more interesting than ranking groups that haven’t done anything in a couple of weeks, every week. Anyway that’s enough preamble – power rankings time!

1. House Targaryen (Last Week, #7)

The destruction!  The carnage! Fire and Blood indeed!  I want to point out too, that the Targaryen plan no longer relies on naval superiority.  This kind of diminishes the threat posed by Euron Greyjoy’s fleet.2. The Dothraki (Last Week, NR)

Sure they are squarely in Daenerys’ camp, since they believe she’s a goddess and all.  But to leave them off the rankings this week would be a disservice to the effectiveness of their rampage.

3. House Stark (Last Week, #2)

In any other week, the Starks would be #1.  They didn’t burn any armies to the ground this week, but they’re in a great position.  Their leadership now consists of a king, a political savant, an assassin, and a wizard.  And Jon is getting close to getting the Mother of Dragons to understand that the real threat isn’t Cersei…

4. The White Walkers (Last Week, #3)

…it’s these guys.

5. House Greyjoy (Last Week, #4)

Euron could still  cause problems along the edges.  However, since Daenerys no longer needs naval superiority for her invasion, there’s only so much he can do against her.

6. The Night’s Watch (Last Week, #5)

Sam stays on the countdown, if only because he didn’t have to get pushed around by Slughorn, I mean the Archmaester, this week.

7.  House Arryn (Last Week, #6)

Littlefinger’s days look numbered.  His sole purpose right now appears to be keeping the Vale in the fold, but how much sway does he really have over Robin Arryn while he’s in Winterfell?

8. House Lannister (Last Week, #1)

Did anyone really think a big crossbow was going to take down a huge dragon?  The Lannisters have no army and control of one city, which is now under siege with no food.  Does the Iron Bank rescue them, or cut their losses now that they’ve gotten their gold?  If I were them, I’d choose the latter.

Also Receiving Votes: The Wildlings, The Brotherhood without Banners, Ser Pounce, House Reed (so long Meera!), cave paintings, the many lives of Theon Greyjoy (who should be dead about 5 times by now), and crossbows (which can only do so much).

(c) 2017 D.G. McCabe

 

 

Game of Thrones Power Rankings, Season 7, Episode 3

For better or worse, much of the plot of the first three episodes could have lasted seven. That's what happens when you have a show with such rich source material. For television purposes, however, things need to be moved forward, and rich backstory sometimes needs to be replaced with moving the plot along faster.  Anyway, here are this week's Power Rankings:

1. House Lannister (Last Week #3)

It's surprising that the queen racking up early victories is Cersei and not Daenerys. Raiding the Tyrell treasury may have been her most important victory, since it gets the Iron Bank off of her back. Going forward, it may not be so easy. Ambitious Tyrell bannermen won't like the Tarleys being put in charge, and Dorne still wants revenge. Their army is spread thin too, between years of war and no reliable allies in the Riverlands.

2. House Stark (Last Week, #1)

Jon is lucky that Davos is a great hype-man. He's not doing a bad job right now, but he really needs to stop being so modest. This woman was impressed by Daario after all, not the meek Ser Jorah. Meanwhile, at Winterfell, it was great to see a reunion, but Bran's been out in the woods too long. How about picking something a bit more mundane to demonstrate your power rather than the worst day of your sister's life?

3. The White Walkers (Last Week, #2)

Yep, keep demanding fealty, Daenerys. Never mind the hideous monsters lurking offstage, let's keep on keeping on about that Iron Throne quest.

4. House Greyjoy/Crow's Eye (Last Week, #4)

Naval superiority is important. Tyrion thought he had it, but so much for that. As for Euron himself, I'm actually enjoying his over the top mustache-twirling villain schtick. Euron is a monster in the books, but, like a bunch of other Ironborn characters, he's introduced too late to have much of an emotional impact.  The show is making him a just fun bad guy rather than getting too deep into his character, which is working pretty well so far.

5. The Knight's Watch (Last Week, #7)

Well, Sam, you could have killed us all, but we're super impressed with your doctoring skills. Here is a "punishment," where you have read and copy dozens of old scrolls. As if that's not one of your favorite activities.

6. House Arryn (Last Week, #8)

Everyone seems to be ignoring the only house with a huge army untouched by battle. Plus, Sansa hasn't had Littlefinger impaled yet.

7. House Targaryen (Last Week, #5)

Holy crap. In Tyrion's defense, his initial plan was sound because he thought he had naval superiority. It's the British model of conquest, after all. Base your operation out of a secure island and with a powerful navy you can strike where you want, when you want. If they went after a land foothold first they could have gotten boxed in really fast. Now they're boxed in anyway.

8. House Tyrell/House Martell (Last Week, Not Ranked)

The Tyrells and Dornish had run their course and neither was that strong of a ally for Daenerys when you come right down to it.

Leave it to Olenna to twist the knife on her way out.  Still, Westeros being Westeros it was always going to be hard for the Queen of Thorns to maintain control with dozens of ambitious lords like Randyll Tarley waiting in the wings.

As for the Dornish, the characters were introduced far too late in the series and far too clumsily for them to have the same impact they had in the books (which, by the way, was also harmed by their late introduction). The show cut the best Martell character completely, and severely watered down the second best one.  I'd be surprised if we hear from them again on the show.

Also receiving votes: The Brotherhood without Banners, Ser Pounce, epic voiceovers, gazing longingly across the hills of budget Ireland (filmed in Spain), and putting some aloe on it.

(c) 2017 D.G. McCabe

Game of Thrones Power Rankings, Season 7, Episode 2

The fast paced action that was promised has begun! Euron the crazy pirate appears to be a worthy adversary for the time being. Now, Power Rankings:


1. House Stark (Last Week, #3)

Who makes it to Winterfell first, Arya or Bran? Meanwhile, Sansa gets what she wants, and Jon pays a visit to his Aunt. Throw in a couple of impromptu reunions, and it was a strong week for the North.


2. The White Walkers (Last Week, #2)

The Night King hasn't made his move yet, so I can't move him up. He still has dead giants, so I can't move him down either.


3. House Lannister (Last Week, #4)

It didn't take long, and Cersei has righted the ship. Euron is a powerful ally, Tarley is at least thinking about Jaime's offer, and they have a rudimentary air defense. A few valuable hostages helps too.


4. House Greyjoy (Last Week, #6)

It's good to be the king, even if you're the king of bird poop covered rocks. Props to finally getting rid of some of the show's poorer adaptations too.


5. House Targaryen (Last Week, #1)

Daenerys has lost the element of surprise, a good number of ships, and possibly Dorne. Plus I'm convinced she won't believe Jon when he tells her about the Night King. This invasion will be harder than she thinks.


6. The Brotherhood (Last Week, #5)

In the Game of Thrones Power Rankings, you appear in the episode or you drop.


7. The Night's Watch (Last Week, #8)

I am the sword in the darkness. I am the watcher on the wall. I am the scalpel that cuts the gross infection off your body.


8. House Arryn (Last Week, #7)

This was a bad week for the assorted allies. Not awful for the Vale though, since Sansa appears to be more popular with them than Jon. They stay on the rankings for now.

Also receiving votes: House Martell, House Tyrell, Hot Pie, Nymeria, Ser Pounce, icky scene transitions, and the unintentional humor of Theon peacing out.

(c) 2017 D.G. McCabe

Game of Thrones Power Rankings, Season 7, Episode 1

And we’re back!  After over a year we finally have some new Game of Thrones to discuss. Let’s jump right into the power rankings:


1. House Targaryen

The Mother of Dragons has made it all the way to Dragonstone. For now she has a massive coalition ready to burn cities to the ground. This would be great if only there weren’t a zombie horde waiting to pounce up north.


2. The White Walkers

They’re still coming. With zombie giants. At least Jon has the North convinced that they’re real. 


3. House Stark

I think Sansa underestimated the effectiveness of good cop/bad cop. Does she really think those kids will cross Jon when his sister/cousin has made it clear she’d rather sell of their homes and exile/hang them?  It’s clear people get second chances with Jon. No one gets a third with Sansa around. Meanwhile, Bran and Arya are still out there. Arya has a mission and skills granted, but she’s heading in the wrong direction.


4. House Lannister

Jaime is right, they don’t look like the winning side. Where does he go when his sister ultimately fails?


5. Brotherhood Without Banners

How long has the Hound had the ability to see into the flames? He’s been scared of fire all his life so we may never know.


6. House Greyjoy

You may have as many ships as Daenerys, Crow’s Eye, but she has three dragons and last I checked your ships are made of wood.


7. Houses Arryn, Tyrell, & Martell

Hitching your wagon to a bigger horse is a good strategy, but for these houses it’s an imperfect solution. What happens when Littlefinger turns on Jon or the Sand flakes turn on Tyrion?  House Tyrell is a better bet to stay in its coalition, but they’re vulnerable to Crow’s Eye hitting them from the west.


8. The Night’s Watch

Bowls for poop, bowls for soup, either way we don’t have time for Sam’s training montage and neither does he. The faster he gets out of the Citadel the better.

Also receiving votes: Essos, Ser Jorah, Ser Pounce, big maps on floors and tables, snappier banter, poisoned wine, the obsidian throne, and maybe our last “table setting” episode.

(C) 2017 D.G. McCabe 

Happy 150th Birthday, Canada!

As someone who grew up around Buffalo, New York, I’ve been long aware that July 1st is Canada Day, the day that Canadians celebrate the Constitution Act of 1867, which created the Dominion of Canada, a semi-autonomous colony of the British Empire.  While it would take a few more laws to create a fully independent Canada, the last being the Constitution Act of 1982, Canada Day is celebrated as the de-facto independence day of Canada.

Wait!  1867?  That was 150 years ago!  Happy sesquicentennial Canada!  To celebrate further, let’s point out some well-known, and not so well-known, Canadian pop culture facts.

Music

Well Known: Many popular musicians are Canadian.  In fact, by percentage of population, you are far more likely to become a famous musician if you are born north of the border than if you are born in the U.S.A. (pun intended).  Just ask Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Celine Dion, or for better or (mostly) worse, Justin Bieber.

Not So Well Known: 35% of all music played on Canadian radio stations must be Canadian Content, or “CanCon.”  For a primer on the bizarre world of CanCon, here’s an article from “the Ringer:” Strange Brew: The Weirdest Canadian Pop Music From the ’90s and ’00s.

Movies

Well Known: Dozens of popular American films have been shot in Canada, especially Toronto.  Recently I even caught a movie actually set in Toronto, “What If?” with Daniel Radcliffe, Zoe Kazan, and Adam Driver:

Not So Well Known: There is a unique Canadian film industry that stands apart from Hollywood.  Every ten years, the Toronto International Film Festival makes an all time, top ten list of Canadian films.  The most recent list can be found on Wikipedia here.

Television

Well Known:  Well, Fargo is shot in Calgary, so there’s that.  And no, St. Cloud, Minnesota does not look anything like Calgary.  Think college town, not city-city.

Not So Well Known: When I was a kid there was a show I used to watch on CBC (we got CBC in Western New York) called “The Raccoons.”  It was set in Western Canada and followed the adventures of Bert Raccoon and his friends.  Here, it’s on YouTube:

Anyway that’s what I have on Canada.

(c) 2017 D.G. McCabe

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