Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Posts Tagged ‘Ken Burns

A Weakness

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When there is a Ken Burns documentary on PBS, I seem to lose my ability to turn away. And when it is a series of 8 two-hour episodes over two weeks, my nights vanish in a blink.

Last night, I barely noticed the storm that rolled over us because I was fixated by episode 7 of “Country Music.” Luckily, we didn’t need to move to the basement for cover.

I never considered myself a “fan” of country music as presented by radio stations, but the portions of this epic documentary that I have seen in the prime time broadcasts this week and last are showing me how much of the music that I do like is interrelated. The performing artists, songwriters, and recording engineers frequently cross over the artificial boundaries created by radio stations and record companies intended to compartmentalize their “product” and maximize profits.

The music that works the best for me comes from the fringes of Country Music where there is more artistic control and less broad commercial appeal.

In general, I could say I have a weakness for Ken Burns’s documentaries, but this one on the subject of a particularly American style of music, much of which has occurred in my lifetime, is almost overpowering in its demand for my attention.

I hope the universe will forgive me for getting nothing productive accomplished while this show is making its broadcast debut.



Written by johnwhays

September 25, 2019 at 6:00 am

Powerful Stuff

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For the last week and a half I have been doing my best to catch the PBS broadcasts of the 10-part documentary film by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick, “The Vietnam War.” It is a dizzying experience. Even though the presentation is spread over two weeks, it compresses so much history and so many perspectives into each segment that the incomprehensible reality it depicts leaves me dumbstruck in a foggy haze of then and now.

As often happens for me, the review of significant historical events that happened during my lifetime, especially about those of which I successfully accomplished an embarrassing level of blissful ignorance while they were occurring, has a way of disrupting my self perceptions. I get a real sense that I would have been a very different person in my ensuing years if I had given certain events more of my attention.

At the same time, part of me has a sense that I already am that different person I seem to be imagining. I don’t know how it works. Did I mention it is dizzying?

I was certainly old enough to perceive the war in Vietnam as pointless and unwinnable, and thus developed a negative opinion of the political and military decisions being made that prolonged our participation.

This comprehensive documentary is educating me about details of the Vietnamese struggles for independence, the US fears of communism, and the corruption on both sides of the conflict. I value highly the opportunity to hear the perspectives of participants from the other side, which this film presents.

There is one additional aspect that is contributing to an overwhelming feeling this film is giving me. There are an uncomfortable number of moments when the depictions of the drama that played out fifty years ago (plus and minus) resonates uncannily with stories in the news today.

One example being the collusion by Nixon with a foreign government to influence his being elected. Sound familiar?

How could we ever let someone get away with that again?

I wish I knew.



Written by johnwhays

September 27, 2017 at 6:00 am