Tag Archive | Freedom

1776: A Poignant, Patriotic, and Comical Musical

The Fourth of July is a hotly anticipated day for us Americans. It means the peak of summer! Grills, baseball, vacation, beach time, fireworks, and time to celebrate with friends and family. It is a wonderful day. Though I have to remind myself that the holiday is called Independence Day and we’re celebrating more than just summer being awesome. It is also the birthday of the United States. 

It’s been 241 years to the day since the founders of the United States got together in Philadelphia and signed the Declaration of Independence, committing treason against the greatest empire in the world at the time, and boldly claiming freedom to make their own brand new nation. The American Revolution is a remarkable story and almost certainly the most astounding revolution in human history. It makes for excellent books, plays, movies, TV shows, and myths. Plenty of all have been made throughout the years. I recently watched one of the best: a musical film released in 1972 that focuses on the month long stretch from June to July of 1776 when the Continental Congress aggressively debated whether they would separate from the British Empire. The film is, appropriately, called 1776. It is an adaptation of a 1969 musical that won the Tony Award for Best Musical. If you are a fan of musicals, and appreciate the gravity and humor of the American Revolution, you owe it to yourself to watch this film. 

It centers on John Adams (played by William Daniels) trying to propose and pass American Independence through a useless, do nothing Congress that is spinning its wheels and voting on silly matters that aren’t worth the attention. He seeks and receives help from Benjamin Franklin (Howard Da Silva) who quips and sleeps his way through the whole film while being a lovable womanizer, Thomas Jefferson (Ken Howard), who mostly sits quietly but delivers powerful prose and wisdom when called upon, and Abigail Adams (Virginia Vestoff), who appears to John through letters as a calming prescence, a respit from the idiocy of Congress, and a chance to sort out thoughts on the given situation. Throughout the film,  those seeking independence have to wrestle with those seeking to maintain the status quo of British citizenship and slavery, like John Dickinson (Donald Madden) and Edward Rutledge (John Cullum). 

The film stays in Philadelphia and is only concerned with the proposal, discussion, debate, and signing of the Declaration of Independance. George Washington and Alexander Hamilton do not appear at all in person. Washington is only referred to through his depressing dispatches, and there are no battle scenes shown. The action is the political discussions surrounding the Congress. 

The most praised aspect of the film is the consistent mockery and humor at the expense of government, different states, and the characters themselves. Rightly so. This is a funny movie. Everyone is a charicature. John Adams is an Oompa Loompa from puritan Boston that yells and is obnoxious. Ben Franklin is an old womanizer who sleeps all film but is actually the wisest man there. The North Carolina delegation constantly yields to South Carolina and the South Carolinians are elegant jerks. 

On top of the characterization, the lyrics and lines are also filled with excellent humor. 

When saying why he should not write the Declaration, Roger Sherman explains “I don’t know a participle from a predicate. I am just a simple cobbler from Connecticut.” 

When Jefferson’s wife (yes there are historical innacuracies; we’ll talk about those later) shows up and relieves his stress, as it were, Adams comments on their choice of timing and asks Franklin: “Are they going to…? In the middle of the afternoon!?”

Franklin responds: “Not everyone’s from Boston, John.”

And when asked about the New York delegation’s lack of direction in voting, one representative responds: “Have you ever been to a meeting of the New York legislature? Everyone talks very loud and fast, no one listens to each other, and thus, nothing ever gets done.” 

The writing is top notch and it makes for an entertaining time. 

The music is only ok though. The lyrics are the best part of it. The choreography is rather simple and the notes themselves are not too complex. They weren’t trying to make a hard musical in those ways, but I can’t help but point out these issues. And as much as I like Daniels as Adams, I can’t help but find his singing voice disappointing. It’s not a deal breaker, but for the lead of the film, they could’ve gotten someone who’s a better singer. Other than that, the technicals of the film are exactly what can be expected from an early 70’s musical. The sets are on point, the costumes are excellent and the sound design works wonderfully. Everything technically is upto standards and works well. 

The biggest issue to be taken with it is the historical innacuracies. Jefferson’s wife did not actually go to Philadelphia during the time of the real thing, and the voting on the idea actually took place on July 2nd, before signing the declaration on the 4th. There are more, but I won’t harp on them. This isn’t trying to be a true to life adaptation of the real events, it is trying to show the atmosphere of the times and the gravity of declaring independence. And it does that well. 

While I praised the humorous tone of the film early, 1776 also has moments that are played stone cold seriously. This is honestly where the film is at its best for me. The debate scene between the proposal of Independence and the formation of the committee for writing a Declaration of Independence is played straight and the tension of the moment is perfect. “Molassas to Rum” is a scathing commentary on the nature of the slave trade and slavery in the south and is the best number in the movie. Cullum plays it up as Rutledge and shines. The thing he’s promoting are horrible, but it is supposed to grab your attention and it does. 

On the subject of slavery, this film shows excellent awareness of how murky an issue it was in those days. Adams and Jefferson wanted to remove slavery from the new nation, but the economy of the southern states depended upon it. If removed, the Deep South would’ve folded completely and the economic problems after the war would have likely been even worse. Adams acknowledged that “Future generations will never forgive us.” Franklin answered “That may be so, but without a country that won’t matter much.” It was an absolutely impossible moral dilemma and the way it is shown in this film is enlightening and sobering. 

The ending of the film is also sobering and jarring. The signing of the Declaration is played completely straight and with an air of “oh crap what are we doing” hanging over the scene. You’d think it’d end on a high note, but it doesn’t. It ends in a somber mood, as if to say “the fight has yet to be won”. That’s absolutely the correct way to end the film. The founders were committing treason against the greatest empire in the world and the greatest power since Rome. They knew they would likely fail. And by all rights, they should have failed. But they didn’t. 

When I think about why I celebrate Independence Day, I always think about how unlikely it is that the country should exist. The debate, the wars, the odds, the fight against human nature, nothing on paper says that America should exist today, let alone should have escaped the first months of its existence. This country has been through an unbelievable journey and it began in Philadelphia back 241 years ago. 

Hamilton is a more entertaining look at America’s founding and nature. But 1776 is a more accurate portrayal of the atmosphere of the country’s founding. It benefits from a tight focus on one location and particular month, excellent writing and a healthy dose of comedy balanced by sobering reality. If you have not seen this film, take some of your Independence Day to watch it. 

Yay Finals? 

Yeah, it’s that time of year again. Classes are over, there’s suddenly a ton of free time on people’s hands that was formerly occupied by class. However, that doesn’t mean I’m not busy. Oh yes, it’s exam time. Yay! 

Eh only sorta. It’s a reminder that the semester is almost over, but it’s also the hardest sprint of the semester. The hardest exams, the most material to know for a long two hours. For me, I have to do this three different times. Sweet. 

If you’ve read the posts I’ve had on my blog the past few months, you’ll know that I’ve had a long semester. I’m just happy that the semester is almost over. And I’ve got an amazing summer ahead of me. It’ll be a great weight lifted off my shoulders when the semester is finally completely over. 

The summer will bring me to the cape for a great summer of baseball and adventures. But before I get there, I have to finish my work today and this week. Saints Joseph, Thomas Aquinas, and Joseph Cupertino, pray for us with exams! 

Oh, and a heads up, I’m likely not posting anything here until after my last exam next week Friday. 

Lenten Hiatus

Hey folks. So if you haven’t noticed, I’ve not been posting on here for a while. Why? Well there’s a lot of chaos in my head. It’s hard for me to sort out my head in many ways. Also, I feel very dry. Sorta separate from God, the sorta spiritual dryness that Mother Theresa spoke of experiencing. My posts always revolve around some cool sports thing, or some person I get to meet, or something of that sort, but I don’t feel like I’m making a huge stride forward. I’m just sorta stuck. And I don’t feel as though I can provide good content on this blog now. Well I’ve got a very good opportunity to clear up and get going in the right path soon: Lent. It’s the time of year where we take a chance to pray, reflect, make sacrifices, and offer ourselves up for God’s work. The season ends on Easter, the day of Jesus’ resurrection. I have a weird feeling about this Lent. As if something is gonna click for me that I’ve been waiting and looking for that will free me up and get me moving in the right direction again.

Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of really good things in my life now. I’ve got good friends, a chance to learn at a good school, opportunities for fun jobs, and many other good things. And the basics, like a roof over my head and food. The problem is my mindset over the last few weeks. In large part, I’ve not gotten to see or talk to some of my best friends recently. One’s headed out to boot camp soon, one’s life is getting busy and I don’t get to see her as much, and one has a story way too complicated to tell here. I’m adjusting to not seeing or hearing from these people, and I miss them. I’ve been stuck in neutral for the last few weeks, and I’m looking for a good trigger to get me going. I think Lent might be the best thing for me. I’ve found it rejuvenating in the past. The Lents I’ve spent here at BU have done wonders for me, with last year being probably the best one for me. I got more involved in the Catholic community on my campus, learned more about being a good friend than I had most other places, and got closer to God than I have ever been. It didn’t hurt that I did a good job in my classes and had a clear definition of my goals in the classroom, which I admit I’ve gotten away from and need to get back to.

So I’m gonna use the Lenten season to get on track. This means I won’t be writing on here for a while, probably not until at least Easter. Hopefully I’ll be back in good form and in the right direction after the season. Lent begins this coming Wednesday. I know what I’m doing for my Lenten observances this year.

A. A dating fast. I’m still not over my recent breakup and I still have things to sort out there. I’m looking forward to the chance to lighten my head after a tough time that has damaged one of the best friendships I’ve had really at any point in my memory.

B. No drinks but water. Part of my mental state might me that I’ve not done the best job of treating myself well physically. I have been working out, which is good. But I’ve not been eating or drinking that well recently. Lots of soda, sugary stuff, and unhealthy food and drinks. Maybe a physical reset would be good for me.

C. Daily Scripture Readings. This seems to be a sort of obvious one. If I want to be working towards holiness, it seems appropriate to read the tales of holy men and women myself, and where would I find the best cases of holy men and women? The Bible of course. I don’t have an exact plan of how I’ll do that but I’ve got a few possibilities.

When I created this blog back in March of last year, the idea was to track my growth in happiness over 100 days. I did so successfully. I decided to revisit the challenge again in November, and I’m happy that I made that choice. But now I need to get out of neutral. Maybe Lent can help me get there and I can have a lent that produces the way last one did, hopefully better though. Last Easter was a beautiful time for me. And I need to rediscover that unbridled joy and bliss that I’ve been missing. Until Easter, I hope you all find goodness and joy in your lives and may God bless all of you!

Gym Time to Heal

I’ve been saying I need to get in shape for a while now. I had some success after I graduated from high school, and moments of real consistent workouts here at BU. But they are often streaky and not long term minded.

I need to get a bit tougher minded and I’ve got a great chance to do it now. For years now, I’ve been struggling with an addiction to pornography. It’s inhibited more development and more chances for me to reach my full potential as a boyfriend, prayerful man, and student(among other things). The good thing I’ve figured out is that I’m not in this fight alone. My good buddy Tim is traveling this path with me, and he offered a good alternative: Workouts. They get energy pumping, they get the body working, and they’re good for the soul. We worked out Tuesday night and plan to make it more habitual next semester. My arms are a tad sore, but the workout was so worth it.

I’ve been following my friend Alison’s blog, Daily Moves and Grooves, and I admire her dedication to regular exercise, healthy living, honest growth, and a better life. I want that. Hopefully I’ll walk with Tim and Alison into a better life and get free. Please pray for me there.

Federalism: Happy Days are here again!

This is the first time I’ve done political posts on consecutive days with this blog. But today it is necessary, because it is a fascinating story! Two days ago, the Supreme Court ruled on a case in Michigan regarding that state’s ban on Affirmative Action. It ruled that the ban, which had been passed by a proper referendum, was reasonable and could not be overturned by the court.

In recent days, much of the discussion has centered around whether or not the ban itself was just. The scathing dissent by Justice Sotomayor was all about how the ban was unjust and unreasonable. And most of the stories I’ve read are all about the debate over Affirmative Action.

I personally do not agree with Affirmative Action, and I do not believe that it is truly fair. I believe in a meritocracy, or at least as close as we can come to it, and I believe that Affirmative Action will not help us get there.

The decision on Affirmative Action is not the piece of the decision that actually makes me happy. The part of the decision that makes me happy is not being talked about and it’s not surprising that it’s not being discussed. The ruling was effectively that it’s not just to overturn a ban voted on in a proper referendum by the people of a given state, town, or county. The precedent that sets is that a referendum will stand, period.

As discussed by people like Jay Severin on TheBlaze and legal professor Alan Dershowitz, this is the first time a decision like that has come down in a long time, where Federalism has been promoted instead of torn down and opposed.

This is what I’m happy about. Federalism made a serious comeback in this decision. It was a beautiful victory for individual freedom, liberty, and personal responsibility to make your opinion heard in the political world. This will have a big effect on the midterm election this fall, with people taking up more referendums in their home states. And yes, there are college students like me who exist! It’s a miracle!

I’m also intentionally using “Happy Days are Here Again” because that song is a liberal theme, and I’m using it against them now. Just showing my inner troll.

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America the Beautiful, thoughts on my home.

I’m a proud American. That comes as no surprise to anyone who knows me, and probably little surprise to anyone learning about me via this blog. I had a few conversations with people today about what makes the nation so amazing.

First the picture I have tonight is one of an American flag that I found laying on the side of the road. It’s an old flag that has seen better days. I was saddened to see it laying there. It stands for so much! And it is a symbol of a lot if good things. It hurts to see it laying on the side of the road. I picked it up and took it home.

Throughout the day, I had a few conversations about different aspects of America. The first was over lunch with a friend who considers herself a liberal. We discussed America as it is and where we ought go. What I got out of this discussion was that in this country we can have debates and we can have genuine disagreements and still be friends. It’s a beautiful thing to see that.

The next discussion was with my roommate who is an immigrant from India. We discussed the differences between America and India and how he loves America in the way that only an immigrant can. As much as I love America, there is probably no one who can love the country more than a real immigrant to this country. How beautiful is it that our home is built off immigrants in that truly unique American way?

The third discussion was with a friend who teaches in an English as a Second Language class. She told me about the stories she heard from her students, about their experience in the US versus their home, or why they came here, or why they’re learning English, or what they want to do with this gift of America. She posted one if her stories in her blog which you can se here. http://whynotsmiletoday.wordpress.com/2014/04/11/day-35-dramatization-by-the-ilp-am-class/ Hearing all those stories makes me love my home even more and makes me that much happier to be in this nation! It makes me understand the value and power of our flag even more. I can’t help but feel happy when I see all this.

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Politics in the bookstore.

Today was my last day at home before returning to Boston. So what did I do with my day? Well I went for a drive with my dad, went out for a nice walk around the town reservoir on what was an absolutely glorious spring day in New England. It was a day that made me happy to be alive. And I didn’t crash the car so I could stay alive for it!

I went to Mass and dinner with my family after that at our favorite Italian restaurant, Rizzuto’s. After that, we went and spent some time in one if my favorite places, Barnes and Noble. I’m a big fan if books of all sorts. They are the universal sign of knowledge, a great thing to give as a gift, and a way to learn more or be entertained (preferably both!) My grandpa was a publisher for all his working life when he wasn’t in the military. And in his house still there is a book in almost every room. My dad got his love of books and learning from him and passed it on to me and my brother.

My favorite sections in the bookstore are (if you can believe it) are the sports, history, and politics sections. I’m always intrigued about learning more history and more cool stories to tell to people. And I feel like those are the sections with the stories I’m most interested in.

While we were out on a walk in the reservoir, my dad told me about a book called “Why Nations Fail” which is a political science book about the institutional argument within comparative politics. We agreed that we’d find me a copy of that book. Dad then began to explain his theory of political theory that centers around the two major arguments in modern politics, freedom and equality. He has been thinking of writing a book on that topic. And after he basically told me two chapters of his book, I’m convinced he’s going to write it and it’s gonna be in Barnes and Noble someday. I’m very excited for that day. It will be very fitting for my dad to have his book published. I did find the Why Nations Fail book and have enjoyed reading it so far. I hope it continues to teach me new things.

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