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Last week, the reward for having survived the US History AP exam was that we got to watch movies in class. The first video that our teacher chose to show to us was, as the title says, Iron Jawed Angels. Produced by HBO films, it chronicles the events of the struggle for women to achieve suffrage in the early 1900s.

Although I was prepared to get a good four days of naptime, I was gladly suprised. The acting is suberb, the music exciting and fresh, and the storyline great. Even better, it's true, and very eye-opening to some of the things that women suffragists went through in their struggle for equality. Hilary Swank portrays a great strong heroine. Of course, I've since looked up Alice Paul and Lucy Burns out of curiosity. Learn something new every day.

I'm also happy to find out that the opening song is Vertical Horizon's "Everything You Want" -- without the words. It sounds really good that way. Clips here. Hopefully a soundtrack will eventually be released.

Lead, follow, or get out of the way. And see the film.

Posted Sun 15 May 2005 12:15:26 PM UTC Tags: tags/history

I've always thought that a profession is just that: a profession. You choose one thing, and that's what you do. A person is a policeman, or an engineer, or a lawyer. Recently, though, while reading a few pieces of literature from the turn of the 19th century, I've come to think somewhat differently about writers.

Writers are a special kind of profession. Almost everybody writes, but not everybody is a writer. Writers, in fact, don't just write. It's impossible to just write. Writers are thinkers, too. Writers represent the views and values of a time period, and have an enormous span of influence. Take, for instance, Arthur Miller's The Crucible. It's amazing how much power writers have; this is illustrated well by how Miller used The Crucible to expose his views of the historical repeat that was going on with Senator McCarthy and Red Scare that was occurring at the time. If a writer is good at what he or she does, his or her writings affect thousands or millions of other people, and live on.

There are also numerous other examples of this that occurred around the same time, the Progressive Era, which include Upton Sinclair's The Jungle, about the Chicago meat packing industry (which later led president Teddy Roosevelt to push the Meat Inspection Act and the Pure Food and Drug Act though Congress), and Frank Norris' The Octopus, which exposed the wrongdoings of railroad companies against farmers.

In earlier time periods, people such as the Transcendentalists Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson expressed views of the time in works such as Walden and Self Reliance; their polar opposites, the Anti-Transcendentalists, which included Nathaniel Hawthorne and Herman Melville, did the same through The Scarlet Letter and other works. All of these writers were masterful at their art, but also philosophers of a sort.

Would the Progressive Era have been the same without muckraking novels of abuse? Would the early Greek time period have been the same without Plato and Aristotle leaving behind their legacies? People such as Socrates, who left no writings and yet live on, are few and far between, and there are some who believe that at least Socrates never really did live in the first place.

All sorts of people have been known for their writing; writers themselves can't just be good at the art of writing itself. It's the content that makes or breaks it. Writers have ideas. Ideas makes writers.

Posted Sun 06 Feb 2005 10:03:20 PM UTC Tags: tags/history