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Opinion | ‘1917’ Turns a Horrific War Into an Uplifting Hero’s Journey - The New York Times
By Cathy Tempelsman
Ms. Tempelsman is a writer.

Feb. 8, 2020
- “The Myth of the Great War,” by John Mosier . Describes the“slaughter of the infantry” as “almost exclusively a British achievement.”
World War I was a disaster, but Sam Mendes’s Oscar-nominated epic paints a dangerously misleading picture of the conflict.......Mendes said that “1917” called for “a different kind of storytelling.” He described the “Great War” as “a chaos of mismanagement and human tragedy on a vast scale.”......If only he had told that story. Instead, “1917” left me uneasy. Mr. Mendes paints an uplifting and dangerously misleading picture of the war.......The fictionalized premise is this: General Erinmore (Colin Firth) sends two British soldiers on an urgent mission. They have until dawn to deliver a vital message: The Second Battalion is about to walk into a trap, and the attack must be called off. The general warns one of the soldiers, Lance Corporal Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman), “If you don’t get there in time, we will lose 1,600 men — your brother among them.”
Right away, “1917” suggests a concern for the sanctity of human life from the top down. The reality was something else: an appalling indifference as the British high command sent hundreds of thousands of their young men to die..... the camera pans bodies and limbs strewn about battlefields. But photos of the maimed in World War I reveal truly grotesque wounds that are sanitized in “1917.” We see soldiers with bandaged eyes, but not the dreadful blisters from mustard gas as it was absorbed by woolen uniforms.
And what about shell shock? By that point in the war, the British high command was stymied by “womanish” recruits who showed signs of breakdown (hysteria, horrible tics, dreadful nightmares) despite having no physical wounds. The commanders’ answer was to shame the men and order them back to the front.....Instead of creating emotional truths, Mendes does the opposite. By disguising the brutal truths of the war, he sentimentalizes and even valorizes it — a war in which disregard for human life led to approximately 8.5 million military deaths around the world, and an estimated 21 million wounded.......“1917” provides escape from the true carnage of the “Great War.” Instead, it might have forced us to question the endless, inconclusive conflicts that have followed, and the butchery and sacrifice they inflict. We don’t need to feel better about World War I’s slaughter. We need to feel worse......If we’re going to avoid the stain of endless, senseless wars in the future, we have to tell stories that focus on the horror, rather than false heroics and filmmaking feats of wonder.
film_reviews  filmmaking  historical_dramas  massacres  movie_reviews  playwrights  sanitization   whitewashing  writers  WWI 
5 days ago by jerryking
Opinion | 1919: The Year of the Crack-Up
Dec. 31, 2018| The New York Times By Ted Widmer, distinguished lecturer at the Macaulay Honors College of the City University of New York.

In his essay “The Crack-Up,” F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote, “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.”
1919  African-Americans  F._Scott_Fitzgerald  history  WWI  second-class_citizenship  segregation  Woodrow_Wilson  Paris  turning_points 
january 2019 by jerryking
What the lessons of 1918 can teach today’s world leaders
NOVEMBER 1, 2018 | Financial Times | Simon Kuper.

The Armistice of 1918 is a model for how not to treat other countries. The historian Margaret MacMillan points out that Germany’s humiliation didn’t mechanically cause the second world war: there were 20 years in-between. Still, visiting Compiègne, you inevitably think of contemporary parallels. Here are some lessons for world leaders gathering in Paris next week to commemorate 1918:

• In international relations, treat even your opponents like long-term business partners.
• Nationalist passions are easy to excite and hard to put back in the bottle.
• A humiliated country will look for scapegoats — and some people will jump from angry words to violence.
• Prosperity is fragile.
• Wars beget wars. Foch helped beget Hitler; the Middle Eastern borders drawn at Versailles helped beget today’s conflicts in the region; the Korean war isn’t dead yet either, and the American civil war lives on as a north-south culture clash....Still, peace in the region cannot remain the EU’s selling point. Precisely because Europeans have come to take peace for granted, they now (rightly) ask: “What have you done for me lately?”
• Absence of war is always a political achievement.
anniversaries  Armistice  Brexit  fragility  humiliations  leaders  lessons_learned  Margaret_McMillian  Simon_Kuper  WWI 
november 2018 by jerryking
Why big companies squander good ideas
August 6, 2018 | | Financial Times | Tim Harford

.....Organisations from newspapers to oil majors to computing giants have persistently struggled to embrace new technological opportunities, or recognise new technological threats, even when the threats are mortal or the opportunities are golden. Why do some ideas slip out of the grasp of incumbents, then thrive in the hands of upstarts?.....“Disruption describes what happens when firms fail because they keep making the kinds of choices that made them successful,” says Joshua Gans, an economist at the Rotman School of Management in Toronto and author of The Disruption Dilemma. Successful organisations stick to their once-triumphant strategies, even as the world changes around them. More horses! More forage!

Why does this happen? Easily the most famous explanation comes from Clayton Christensen of Harvard Business School. Christensen’s 1997 book, The Innovator’s Dilemma, told a compelling story about how new technologies creep up from below: they are flawed or under-developed at first, so do not appeal to existing customers. Holiday snappers do not want to buy digital cameras the size of a shoebox and the price of a car.

However, Christensen explains, these technologies do find customers: people with unusual needs previously unserved by the incumbent players. The new technology gets better and, one day, the incumbent wakes up to discover that an upstart challenger has several years’ head start — and once-loyal customers have jumped ship.
............Within academia, Rebecca Henderson’s ideas about architectural innovation are widely cited, and she is one of only two academics at Harvard Business School to hold the rank of university professor. The casual observer of business theories, however, is far more likely to have heard of Clayton Christensen, one of the most famous management gurus on the planet.

That may be because Christensen has a single clear theory of how disruption happens — and a solution, too: disrupt yourself before you are disrupted by someone else. That elegance is something we tend to find appealing.

The reality of disruption is less elegant — and harder to solve. Kodak’s position may well have been impossible, no matter what managers had done. If so, the most profitable response would have been to vanish gracefully.

“There are multiple points of failure,” says Henderson. “There’s the problem of reorganisation. There’s the question of whether the new idea will be profitable. There are cognitive filters. There is more than one kind of denial. To navigate successfully through, an incumbent organisation has to overcome every one of these obstacles.”

......Henderson added that the innovators — like Fuller — are often difficult people. “The people who bug large organisations to do new things are socially awkward, slightly fanatical and politically often hopelessly naive.” Another point of failure......The message of Henderson’s work with Kim Clark and others is that when companies or institutions are faced with an organisationally disruptive innovation, there is no simple solution. There may be no solution at all. “I’m sorry it’s not more management guru-ish,” she tells me, laughing. “But anybody who’s really any good at this will tell you that this is hard.”
Apple  blitzkrieg  disruption  ideas  IBM  innovation  iPod  missed_opportunities  hard_work  Rotman  Steve_Jobs  theory  Tim_Harford  upstarts  large_companies  WWI  Xerox  Walkman  Clayton_Christensen  organizational_change  organizational_structure  MPOF  militaries  digital_cameras 
september 2018 by jerryking
On the Vimy anniversary, it’s time we all learned the name Arthur Currie - The Globe and Mail
Special to The Globe and Mail
Published Sunday, Apr. 09, 2017

we should celebrate Sir Arthur Currie and, perhaps, take a cue from our Australian cousins and consider promoting him to the rank of field marshal in the name of the soldiers of the Canadian Corp he led.
leadership  recognition  WWI  anniversaries  soldiers  Vimy  generalship  nation_building  history  Canadian  Canada  memorials  commemoration  militaries 
april 2017 by jerryking
Canada beware: We are suffering a great depression in commodity prices - The Globe and Mail
Special to The Globe and Mail
Published Friday, Jan. 15, 2016

The Great Depression of the 1930s used to be understood as a worldwide structural crisis that was partly an adjustment to the great expansion of crop acreage and other primary industries undertaken to meet the demands of the First World War. Unfortunately the history of those years now tends to be viewed through the distorting lenses of economists fixated on monetary policy and financial crisis management.

They thought that the crisis of 2008 might become a replay of the 1930s. For the most part they have not realized that it is today’s global depression in commodity prices that has eerie echoes of the great crack-up. If it’s true that we have overexpanded our productive capacity to meet the demands of Chinese growth, and if that growth is now going to slow, or even cease, then history is worrisomely on the verge of repeating itself....One sign of the beginning of wisdom is to be able to shed illusions. Make no mistake. Right now, the world is experiencing a great depression in commodity prices, led by the collapse of oil, that represents an enormous shrinkage in the valuation of our wealth. As a country whose wealth is still highly dependent on the returns we can get from selling our natural resources, Canada is very vulnerable. In a time of price depression, our wealth bleeds away.
'30s  adjustments  commodities  commodities_supercycle  economic_downturn  Great_Depression  historians  history  illusions  Michael_Bliss  natural_resources  overcapacity  pricing  overexpansion  slow_growth  wisdom  WWI 
january 2016 by jerryking
2014’s lessons for leaders: Don’t make assumptions, do make hard decisions - The Globe and Mail
Special to The Globe and Mail
Published Friday, Dec. 26 2014,

Life has a way of lifting you by the lapels and giving you a good shake. Stuff happens, and when it does, it can throw all the steady paths predicted by pundits, pollsters and economic forecasters into the trash heap....Canadians are fixated on who the winners and losers of the "where will oil prices head" game ...but we need to lift our heads a bit. Russia’s falling ruble and the debt crisis of its elites and their companies have rightly grabbed headlines. But a couple of countries, notably Nigeria and Venezuela, are now in political crisis, and their very stability is at risk in the days ahead.

One of the implications of the 2008 world economic crisis is that regional and world institutions have much less room to manoeuvre and help sort things out. it will be harder for those agencies (EU, IMF) to do as much as is required. Stability doesn’t come cheap....a healthy dose of reality and skepticism is always a good idea. In a useful piece of advice, Rudyard Kipling reminded us that triumph and disaster are both imposters. People draw too many conclusions from current trends. They fail to understand that those trends can change. And that above all, they forget that events can get in the way....One clear lesson is for leaders everywhere to learn the importance of listening and engagement. The path to resolution of even the thorniest of problems...involves less rhetoric and bluster and a greater capacity to understand underlying interests and grievances. ... Engagement should never mean appeasement.
Bob_Rae  pundits  decision_making  leaders  unintended_consequences  predictions  WWI  humility  Toronto  traffic_congestion  crisis  instability  listening  engagement  unpredictability  Rudyard_Kipling  petro-politics  imposters  short-sightedness  amnesia_bias  interests  grievances  appeasement  hard_choices 
december 2014 by jerryking
N.Y. Military Museum Recognizes the Harlem Hellfighters - WSJ
by Leslie Brody Nov. 28, 2014

They were in heroes in France during World War I, only to be treated as second-class citizens when they returned to New York.

Now, the Harlem Hellfighters, a black infantry regiment that won awards for valor, are getting a new life online thanks to a project posting their personnel records on a museum website....The unit was originally formed as the 15th Colored Regiment of the New York National Guard, according to New York University Professor Jeffrey Sammons. Started in 1916, it was the first black National Guard unit recognized by New York, and one of the few black regiments that saw combat during World War I.

Because of racism in the military, the unit was kept separate from the rest of the state’s National Guard and trained separately, according to Mr. Sammons, co-author of a book on the subject, “Harlem’s Rattlers and the Great War: The Undaunted 369th Regiment and the African American Quest for Equality.”

The unit was sent to Europe to dig ditches, unload ships and build railroads but was deployed in combat in 1918 when the French military needed reinforcements, Mr. Sammons said.

He said the entire regiment won the high honor of a Croix de Guerre from the French government for its distinguished service, but then came home to have a parade in New York City that was separate from other events for returning veterans.
WWI  African-Americans  segregation  New_York_City  museums  heroes  France  second-class_citizenship 
november 2014 by jerryking
Going the distance to chronicle Canada’s necessary war - The Globe and Mail
The Globe and Mail
Published Tuesday, Sep. 23 2014

Tim Cook’s career arc as one of the country’s foremost popular historians is similarly shaped: He built his name writing about the First World War (At the Sharp End and Shock Troops, winner of the RBC Taylor Prize, are essential reading), but in recent years he has shifted focus elsewhere. “There’s not a lot left that I can write about the First World War,” he says. His latest book, The Necessary War, is the first in a two-volume series chronicling Canada’s role in the Second World War, which began 75 years ago this month.
historians  history  WWI  WWII  Canada  Canadian  books 
september 2014 by jerryking
What if the Kaiser had won the war? - The Globe and Mail
Special to The Globe and Mail
Published Saturday, Aug. 09 2014
WWI  Germany  history  counterfactual_history 
august 2014 by jerryking
First World War changed the lives of families around the world - The Globe and Mail
The Globe and Mail
Published Friday, Aug. 01 2014

Today, though, the students, like Ilya, are far more diverse. Many of their surnames reflect Asian or Eastern European origins. (Less than a third of Canadians now claim English or Scottish origins, according to the National Household Survey.)

As the country’s population shifts, experiences of the First World War in Asia, Eastern Europe and elsewhere will have a role in shaping our historical understanding of the period. So how is a clash of empires 100 years ago seen by today’s young Canadians, many of whom trace their pasts to countries thousands of miles from the European theatre and the legendary battles at Vimy Ridge and Ypres?

“In a personal, practical sense in some places it would have been easy to imagine there wasn’t a war on,” says Jonathan Vance, a historian at the University of Western Ontario.

And yet, in geopolitical terms, the events of 1914-1918 and their aftermath reshaped the globe. The war affected much of the Middle East, drawing new borders around countries and territories, including what is now Israel, which is where Ilya was born. It also splintered the British Empire, sparked the rise of Communism in the Soviet Union and China, and marked the ascension of the U.S. as the world’s leading power.

All of these events contributed to subsequent turmoil, violence and uncertainty that have led many families to seek out a new home in Canada.

“Whether we realize it or not, the event that was memorialized in [UTS’s bronze memorial plaque] shaped the world we live in, in every conceivable respect,” says Prof. Vance. “We are a product of those four or five years.”
WWI  Joe_Friesen  history  students  high_schools 
august 2014 by jerryking
Margaret MacMillan in Sarajevo, 100 years later - The Globe and Mail
SARAJEVO — Special to The Globe and Mail
Published Friday, Jun. 27 2014
Margaret_MacMillan  WWI  history  historians  Sarajevo 
july 2014 by jerryking
Nationalism and the lessons of World War I, 100 years on - The Globe and Mail
Jun. 29 2014

it should be our species’ fervent wish that we acknowledge two fundamental truths to emerge from the First World War.

The first truth is that the leading powers of the day must be cautious about pulling themselves and their allies into escalating conflicts. There is an element in well-armed countries that, energized by either a thirst for blood or a naiveté about the horrors of its shedding, wants to answer every terrorist attack, act of aggression or perceived threat with military-backed ultimatums. This was Austria-Hungary’s response to the assassination of Franz Ferdinand – it now serves as a reminder that an interconnected world, as ours most definitely was in 1914, can back into Armageddon as easily as march into it. World leaders who resist calls for military action aren’t necessarily showing weakness; they may be showing resolve and wisdom.

The second indelible truth is that nationalism, a product of the age in which the war started, is the single greatest threat to peace.
editorials  assassinations  WWI  war  hard_truths  nationalism  lessons_learned  anniversaries  history  Canada  centenaries  threats  ultimatums 
july 2014 by jerryking
Zombie Chronicler Max Brooks Turns to World War I Tale -
Steve Dollar
April 3, 2014

the story of the Harlem Hellfighters, the 369th Infantry Regiment, the first African-American unit to serve on the battlefield in World War I.

"If they had been a white unit, we'd be on our third remake of a movie by now," said Mr. Brooks. This week, "The Harlem Hellfighters" (Broadway Books) appeared as a graphic novel after Hollywood had long rejected it as a screenplay.

" James Cagney —remember he did 'The Fighting 69th'? He would have done 'The Fighting 369th,'" Mr. Brooks said. Now, the story may finally come to the screen. Mr. Brooks said (and Sony 6758.TO -3.37% Pictures confirmed) that the studio had optioned the film rights for Will Smith's production company, with the author writing the script.

The Hellfighters' achievement is celebrated in the 257-page book, illustrated by comic-book artist Caanan White. They struggled with racism as well as the German troops they fought in the trenches alongside the French.
WWI  African-Americans 
april 2014 by jerryking
Fear the military with a timetable of its own - The Globe and Mail
Doug Saunders

The Globe and Mail

Published Saturday, Nov. 30 2013

We used to think that wars were triggered by heated tribal animosities, by the hubris of madmen, by struggles for resources or by powerful economic forces. None of these ideas have been much use in explaining the wars of the past century. All of them were swept away, during my student years, by the new concept formulated by British historian A.J.P. Taylor: the “timetable theory.”

Studying the First World War, Mr. Taylor found that none of Europe’s political leaders had sought a larger war, nor did it serve any of their national interests to enter one. But their huge military bureaucracies had drawn elaborate, clockwork plans to mobilize millions of soldiers on multiple fronts at short notice, and a minor confrontation in Bosnia set all these plans in motion on a continental scale.

This theory is given its ultimate test in Margaret MacMillan’s new book The War That Ended Peace: The Road to 1914, in which the Oxford University historian provides a definitive (and gripping) examination of the factors that led Europe into 30 years of largely unnecessary war. The timetable theory remains important though not crucial to her interpretation, but Dr. MacMillan adds a new dimension.

The danger, she finds, is a military that sees itself as autonomous from the country’s political leadership and civil service, combined with political leaders who are weak, self-interested or too eager to acquiesce to the military’s demands.
Doug_Saunders  timelines  WWI  Margaret_MacMillan  books  clockwork  history  bureaucracies  national_interests 
december 2013 by jerryking
For Canada, a victory worth remembrance -
Nov. 11 2013 | The Globe and Mail | J.L. Granatstein.

One great Canadian campaign, however, remains all but unknown. The Hundred Days, that short period running from Aug. 8, 1918, to the armistice on Nov. 11, saw the Canadian Corps score victory after victory against the toughest German defences on the Western Front. The Hundred Days was unquestionably the most decisive campaign ever fought by Canadian troops in battle, and if we remember the losses and pain on Remembrance Day, we should also remember the Canadian triumphs that dramatically shortened the First World War.
nation_building  history  WWI  Canadian  Canada  memorials  commemoration  J.L._Granatstein  veterans  soldiers  WWII  war  historians  Armistice  militaries 
november 2013 by jerryking
Historian Margaret MacMillan on what the ‘war to end wars’ can teach us -
Sep. 07 2013 | The Globe and Mail | Sandra Martin.
Her new book, The War that Ended Peace: The Road to 1914, will be out this fall – in anticipation of the 100th anniversary of the war next August.

Why are we still haunted by the First World War?

Because we still don’t know what to make of it. We’re still horrified by the loss, by the sense that it may have all been a mistake, by the sheer waste, and by what happened afterward. Nothing much was settled, it helped to brutalize European society, to breed ideologies like fascism and Bolshevism, to prepare the way for the horrors that came in the 1920s and 1930s and the Second World War. It’s also a war that created the modern world. It had its greatest impact on Europe, of course, but it shaped Canada and Australia, helped to speed the rise of the United States to superpower status, and redrew the map of much of the world. It was a watershed that remains one of the greatest historical puzzles.
history  historians  WWI  root_cause  Margaret_MacMillan  Syria  books  '30s  WWII  turning_points 
september 2013 by jerryking
Our lost and found memories of Vimy Ridge
Apr. 08, 2012 | The Globe and Mail | Jane Urquhart.

Battle of Vimy Ridge
Vimy  nation_building  history  WWI  Canadian  Canada  memorials  commemoration 
april 2012 by jerryking
The 21st century's Hiroshima ProQuest
Aug 6, 2005 | The Globe and Mail pg. A.17 | Preston ManningThe same science that can be used to develop genetically-based cures for human diseases can also be used to produce mutated smallpox bacteria or influenza viruses even more virulent than their predecessors and highly resistant to any known treatment. And if the sun of human progress should again become obscured by the storm clouds of war -- war itself transformed by the increasing scope and sophistication of terrorism -- how long will it be before the plan for utilizing mutated viruses and terrorist-induced pandemics as instruments of mass destruction appears on the underground blackboard of some terrorist cell capable of implementing it?

The third pebble

What exactly is the most disruptive and lethal dimension of the "dark side" of the life sciences -- the genetic equivalent of the first A-bomb -- and how might this destructive force be delivered to target populations to accomplish the political purposes of those desiring to unleash it?

While a terrorist attack on military or civilian populations utilizing such techniques would have immediate impacts on public health, the greater damage to human life and society will most likely be through the panic and terror that such a biological attack or pandemic will trigger throughout the general population. And this panic won't be transmitted by air, water, or utility system, but by the mass-communications network of 21st-century society, in particular the electronic media of radio, television, the Internet, cell phones, and personal computing devices. It is the electronic mass media that will most likely prove to be the B-29s of the age of genetics and bioterrorism.
life_sciences  genetics  viruses  ProQuest  Preston_Manning  21st._century  terrorism  threats  WWI  WWII  bioterrorism  panics  mass_media  virulence  pandemics  digital_media  dark_side 
october 2011 by jerryking
Canada’s most-decorated war hero finally gets his due

Last updated Friday, Sep. 23, 2011
Billy Bishop – please, step aside.

Canada’s most celebrated fighter pilot is about to share the podium with
another, much less heralded First World War hero – Lieutenant-Colonel
William G. Barker, VC.

According to the wording on a plaque being unveiled Thursday in
Toronto’s Mount Pleasant Cemetery, it is Mr. Barker, not Mr. Bishop, who
stands as “most decorated war hero in the history of Canada, the
British Empire, and the Commonwealth of Nations.”

“This man was the ace of all the aces,” says Ipsos pollster John Wright.
“He shot down 50 planes, was decorated 12 times for bravery, won the
Victoria Cross while single-handedly fighting off 15 enemy aircraft in
the final aerial battle of the war, and was wounded three times.
WWI  heroes  bravery  pilots  RCAF 
september 2011 by jerryking
Books of The Times - Miranda Carter’s ‘George, Nicholas and Wilhelm’ and World War I
March 23, 2010 | | By DWIGHT GARNER. Book review
Three Royal Cousins and the Road to World War I By Miranda Carter. This
is a book about ideas as well as history, and the big question Ms.
Carter poses is this one: To what degree can close personal
relationships, between royals or other world leaders, prevent war?

Illustrated. 498 pages. Alfred A. Knopf. $30.
WWI  book_reviews  royal_courts  personal_relationships  biographies 
march 2010 by jerryking
Underage soldier became Canada's oldest vet
Feb. 19, 2010 | The Globe & Mail | Tom Hawthorn
WWI  veterans  obituaries 
february 2010 by jerryking
An opportunity for all
Feb. 20, 2010 | The Globe and Mail | Editorial
WWI  veterans  editorials 
february 2010 by jerryking
Veteran was the last link to an era that defined Canada -
Feb. 18, 2010 | Globe & Mail | Michael Valpy. Note on the
passing of John Babcock at 109, the last known Canadian veteran of the
First World War – the last of the 650,000 men and women to serve in the
uniforms of their country's armed forces in the conflict of 1914-1918.
WWI  veterans  commemoration  history 
february 2010 by jerryking
Why it's important to reflect on Vimy - The Globe and Mail
09/04/07 |The Globe & Mail | Editorial. Marking the 90th
anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge. Only 25 per cent of Canadians
between the ages of 18 and 34, when asked this question -- "Canada's
most famous single victory in the First World War consisted of the
capture of a key ridge on the Western Front. What was this battle
called?" -- can correctly answer, "Vimy Ridge"? Learn more about
Canadian history --read every Pierre Berton book ever published. At
least pick up "Vimy".
Vimy  WWI  Canada  soldiers  Pierre_Berton  Canadian  nation_building  history  editorials  militaries 
may 2009 by jerryking

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