Rebel Yell by S. C. Gwynne

rebel-yell-the-violence-passion-and-redemption-of-stonewall-jackson-by-s-c-gwynneIn Rebel Yell: The Violence, Passion, and Redemption of Stonewall Jackson, S. C. Gwynne brings to life Confederate General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson in a vivid narrative that is rich with military history, biographical detail, and personal conflict. Gwynne’s Jackson is not a man of myth–he is often petty, uncompromising, stubborn, and very human.

No one was perhaps a more unlikely war hero than Professor Thomas Jackson of the Virginia Military Institute. He was awkward and distant, fanatically religious and a hypochondriac. He believed one arm was longer than the other, a “deficiency” he tried to self-correct his whole life.

He was not only secretive with those under his command, but he could be petty and jealous as well. While briefly stationed in Florida after the Mexican War, he frequently quarreled with his commanding officer, Major William H. French. He finally accused French of adultery, despite circumstantial evidence and the harm his unfounded accusation would cause the man’s marriage and reputation. During the Civil War, he court-martialed Brigadier General Richard B. Garnett for ordering a retreat despite being outnumbered, pressed on three sides, and low on ammunition. General Robert E. Lee later had to order Jackson to release Garnett from arrest.

Jackson’s military victories propelled him to national fame in the fledgling Confederacy, but it won him the respect of his Northern opponents as well. Jackson wasn’t always a brilliant tactician, however. During the Peninsula Campaign, Jackson’s corps arrived in virtual secrecy in time for the Seven Days Battles. But Jackson’s men hardly participated, and Jackson himself was sleep deprived and often incoherent.

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Rolling Plains of Gold

Custer State Park, 13329 U.S. 16A, Custer, South Dakota 57730. (605) 255-4515

Female Marketing Exec Defends Misogynist Film

Ok so my headline is kinda tongue-in-cheek, but listen to Paramount Pictures’ President of Marketing and Distribution Megan Colligan’s bizarre defense of the grotesque infanticide, cannibalism, and violence in Darren Aronofsky’s Mother (2017):

“This movie is very audacious and brave. You are talking about a director at the top of his game, and an actress at the top her game. They made a movie that was intended to be bold… Everyone wants original filmmaking, and everyone celebrates Netflix when they tell a story no one else wants to tell. This is our version. We don’t want all movies to be safe. And it’s okay if some people don’t like it.”

Not sure what Netflix production she’s referring to. 13 Reasons Why (2017)? Must have missed the graphic infant dismemberment and cannibalism in that one. I could see maybe arguing the brutal scenes were necessary for the story (such as it was), but “audacious and brave” and “bold”? Brave? Did the filmmakers take personal risks to tell a story no one else wanted to tell? Give me a break!

What bold statement does this film make? That human beings abuse the earth? Oh boy, we’ve never heard that before. Couldn’t have conveyed that message without stripping Jennifer Lawrence’s character and repeatedly punching her in the face.

Truthfully, I wanted to like this film. The preview was compelling and it looked like it had a lot of promise. I like Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem. It was just so boring and unnecessary. Only the last twenty minutes are worth talking about, and only because of how graphic it was.

Mother! still has an F rating on Cinemascore. No other recent release even falls below a B minus.

All-American Diner Tour: The Orange Top Diner in Tuxedo, New York

Along a lonesome highway in the middle of nowhere, in a town that’s seen better days, The Orange Top Diner is a real slice of Americana. It is a country-style diner with limited counter seating but plenty of booths and tables. Diner cartoons hang on the walls and a faded photograph of a family of raccoons rescued from a dumpster hangs over the register.

State Route 17 and Interstate 87 run parallel to Harriman State Park and follow the Ramapo River. East of Tuxedo Lake sits the once prosperous village of Tuxedo. It resembles a ghost town these days, with boarded-up businesses along the highway, but The Orange Top Diner stubbornly hangs on.

The usual diner crowd of old timers drinking coffee was there to greet me on my visit. I ordered the Big Boy Special–two pancakes with one egg and meat for $7.75. They must not have a lot of fat people in town if that’s considered the “big boy,” but it was enough to fill me up. My scrambled egg and bacon was piled on top the pancakes, but the bacon was delicious and the grease didn’t spoil my pancakes like at some other places.

The Orange Top Diner has a typical diner menu. The food is simple and affordable, though dinner items are on the pricey side. Only one breakfast item, steak and eggs, is priced above $10.00. Their signature sandwich special, the “Happy Waitress,” is an open-faced American grilled cheese sandwich topped with bacon and tomato, with French fries, cole slaw, and pickles for $8.25.

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Mother! A Pretentious Danse Macabre

 Mother! (2017), staring Jennifer Lawrence as the titular character and Javier Bardem as her husband, Him, is writer/director Darren Aronofsky’s nihilistic allegory for Biblical creation and the rape of nature. Though marketed as a psychological thriller, Aronofsky told Vanity Fair after the Toronto International Film Festival the film is “about how it must feel to be Mother Nature.” It was partially inspired by Shel Silverstein’s picture book The Giving Tree. No, really.

The story itself isn’t very interesting. A writer lives with his much younger wife in an old octagonal farm house on the prairie. Uninvited house guests interrupt their solitude. Their transgressions worsen, climaxing in a murder that leaves a permanent, bloody scar in the floor. Things settle down again after Mother becomes pregnant, but then crescendo into an orgy of violence and depravity as the writer’s fans take over the house and begin worshiping him.

It’s difficult to say for what audience Mother! was intended. People who enjoy long, boring interludes punctuated by moments of extreme violence? It’s not for the squeamish or easily triggered, but it’s not a work of genius either. For my part, it was painful to see talented actors and actresses, including Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer, wasted on this pretentious monstrosity.

Throughout the film, and especially in the final act, Mother is marginalized, tormented, brutalized, and violated. At one point, her clothes are torn open and she is repeatedly punched in the face. Finally, her heart is torn from her burnt chest. I think it’s a little bizarre that A-list actress Jennifer Lawrence, who prides herself on playing strong female leads and on being a role model for young women, would agree to star in her boyfriend’s deranged snuff film.

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Civil War Ballads: I’m Going to Fight Mit Sigel

This tongue-in-cheek song was written by John F. Poole (1833-1893) to the tune of “The girl I left behind me.” The 97th Regimental String Band recorded a version, “I Goes To Fight Mit Sigel,” for their 1999 album Songs of the Civil War, Vol. 7: Brass Mounted Army. The song is an unflattering portrayal of German-American soldiers in the Union army, written in a mock-German accent from the perspective of a German volunteer. The title is a reference to Union Major General Franz Sigel.

I’ve come shust now to tells you how
I goes mit regimentals;
To schlauch dem voes of Liberty
Like dem old Continentals;
Vot fights mit England long ago
To save de Yankee Eagle,
Un now I gets mine sojer clothes,
I’m going to fight mit Sigel.

Ven I comes from de Deutsche Countree,
I vorks some dimes at baking,
Den I keeps a lager bier saloon,
Un den I goes shoe-making;
But now I was a sojer been
To save de Yankee Eagle;
To schlauch dem tam Secession volks,
I’m going to fight mit Sigel.

I gets ein tam big rifle guns,
Un puts him to mine shoulder,
Den march so bold. like big jack horse,
Un may been someding bolder;
I goes off mit de volunteers,
To save de Yankee Eagle,
To give dem rebel vellers fits,
I’m going to fight mit Sigel.

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