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Posts Tagged ‘History’

When men have harnessed the winds, the waves, the tides and gravity, they will harness for God the energies of love, and then for the second time in the history of this world, man will have discovered Fire.
  —  Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
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On This Day In:
2018 Especially In The Middle East
2017 A Good Local
2016 Life Unlimited
2015 Still Trying
2014 Destiny, n.
2013 No Apologies
2012 Utterly Convinced
2011 A Key To Effectiveness
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Sometimes it is the people no one imagines anything of who do the things that no one can imagine.
  —  Alan Turing
Codebreaker” (2011)  —  movie review
Codebreaker is a “docu-drama” about the life of Alan Turing, the famous mathematician who lead the team which developed the computer which broke the “Enigma” German code machine back in World War II.  Turing is played by Ed Stoppard.  The “drama” portion of this film is mostly from the journals of Dr. Franz Greenbaum, who was the psychiatrist Turing was forced to see for counseling. Dr. Greenbaum is played by Henry Goodman.
This film was made for TV and was aired in 2011 in the UK under the title: “Britian’s Greatest Codebreaker“.  The title was changed and the film had a limited theatrical release in the US in 2012, so you may find it noted with either year of release.
The documentary portion of the film is interspersed into the drama and features a series of interviews with relatives of both Turing and Greenbaum, a few of Turing’s colleagues / contemporaries and some otherwise famous folks from mathematics and the computer industry.
Of course the “psych” interviews delve into Turing’s childhood, schooling and his homosexuality.  The documentary interviews try to give a lay-person’s explanation of some of Turing’s main computer breakthroughs.  For those who don’t know, Turing is considered one of the creators of both digital computers / computing, and of artificial intelligence (AI).
Turing is reputed to have died from suicide by poisoning.  This film does nothing to explicitly contradict that conclusion, but it offers slim insights into the conspiracy theory that Turing might have been killed off by the British government in the interest of state secrecy.  In any case, some 50 years after the fact, Turing was given a full pardon for his “crime” (indecent acts) as well as a formal apology from the British government.
Final recommendation: Strong to highly recommended.  Although no where near the “movie” which followed in 2014 (see below) for production value or drama, this made for television movie was just as interesting and probably more informative.  If you are interested in computers, AI or the history surrounding WWII, I think you’ll enjoy this film.
The Imitation Game”  (2014)  —  movie review
This is my third or fourth time viewing this movie and my initial review can be found here.
This movie is based on the book / biography: “Alan Turing: The Enigma” written by Andrew Hodges.  The movie is a dramatized version of “basically” historical events with liberties taken for “drama”.  Benedict Cumberbatch stars as Alan Turing, (Alex Lawther plays a young Alan Turing), Keira Knightley plays Joan Clarke (the female / “love” interest), Allen Leech plays John Cairncross (a Russian agent / collegue of Turing on the project), Rory Kinnear plays Detective Robert Nock, Mark Strong plays Stewart Menzies (the MI6 super-spy), Matthew Goode plays Hugh Alexander (one of the brilliant collegues), Charles Dance plays Commander Denniston (Turing’s commanding officer at Bletchley Park ).  The basic premise is that a brilliant Turing invents a general purpose computer to defeat the Nazi coding machine “Enigma”, thus saving lives by helping to end the war faster.  Their work is performed at Bletchley Park.  Turing (and the team) are successful, but because it is all TopSecret, there is no record of his achievements until much later (several decades) and Turing has committed suicide in the meantime.
The movie (and presumably the book) is based on fact. Turing was a real person; he was brilliant, he did come up with this codebreaking machine.  Also, he was homosexual; he was subject to hormonal “treatment” to “cure” his desires; he did die in 1954.  Beyond that, there are a number of points which are probably better handled in the “Codebreaker” TV movie reviewed above.  To begin with, I don’t believe he was autistic (as is implied in this movie).  I gather he had a mild stutter, but nothing like what is implied in the movie.  He was homosexual, but he was not as closeted as the movie implies.  My understanding is while he was open about it with his friends and colleagues, he was not what would be described as “flaming”.  He was “in love” with Joan Clarke and did propose to her and later break off the engagement.  By “in love” I mean he cared for her deeply, although it appears the relationship was more than Platonic but less than physical.  At any rate, as portrayed in the film, Turing does tell her he is gay and she did appear to not care (in real life) about his sexual preferences.
There are also a number of other factual inconsistencies: the character Hugh Alexander did handle most of the supervisory / administrative duties for the team.  He was not “really” Turing’s supervisor and Turing was uninterested in those duties and most office (and real) politics.  The character John Cairncross may or may not have been a Russian agent.  In either case, he and Turing did not work together and I’ve read it’s unlikely they even met or knew each other.  Finally, Turing was not add odds with Commander Denniston, but it seems there was some issue with funding, a letter was sent to Churchill by the team and Turing’s name was on the letter, but it was from the whole of the team, not just from Turing.
Okay.  So after all that, was the movie any good and did I enjoy it?  Yes and very much so.  I admit I am a fan of both Cumberbatch and Knightley. I also quite like Mark Strong as I see him in more things (the “Kingsman” series is top of this list).  Because I spent a career in computing, I already knew of Turing and some of his accomplishments, so it was nice to see it dramatized and put up on a big screen film.  Final recommendation: (still) highly recommended.  I am a fan of the two leads, the specific (codebreaking / history) and general (computing / WWII) topics are also of personal interest, so I had a natural predisposition to enjoy this film.  But, beyond my personal interests (biases), I do think this was a good film / drama and worth the time of anyone who happens to view it.
For those wondering about the movie’s title…  Turing wrote a paper about computing and artificial intelligence which proposed that if a person sat in front of typing instrument (what we today would call a terminal or workstation) and could type in a series of sentences and questions to “someone” at another workstation using normal language and could not tell the responses came from a machine, then the machine, was in fact, intelligent.  This is the simplified version.  The more complete version had three participants: the human testing / judging, a human responding, and a computer responding.  In this case, the judge had to decide which responder was human and which was the machine.  In some variations, the judge isn’t advised one responder is a machine until after completing several question / response cycles.  Basically, the test was evolving to add a blind control situation: the judge didn’t know there was a test or what was being tested until after the cycles.  I found it interesting that the producers of the movie would try to educate the audience about this aspect of computing and AI even though it had little to do with the premise of the movie, that is, a long-suffering individual genius breaking the German code machine.
As an aside (and final note), the movie shows Turing out running cross-country several times.  What isn’t specified is that he was a world class distance runner who nearly qualified for the British Olympic team in the marathon.  Again, nothing earth shaking, but I found the detail interesting.
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On This Day In:
2018 Until Integrity, Decency, Wisdom, And Humility Return
Just Tell (And Re-tell) The Big Lie Often Enough On Fox News
2017 To Laws, Not Office Or Individuals
Beast / General / Civil
2016 Patronage
2015 For Blogs, Too!
2014 Righteous Anger
2013 An Irish Blessing
2012 But Is It Worth It?
2011 Let Us Start

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Everyone has a photographic memory; some just don’t have the film.
  —  Steven Wright
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On This Day In:
2018 Bourne Wicked Blonde
First Things First
2017 This Explains A Lot
2016 Me Too
2015 A Proper Price
2014 Well Hard
2013 Because I Can
Eloquence, n.
2012 Why Bother?
2011 Peculiar Notions

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Image honoring those lost...

2019 Memorial Day

[On this holiday (especially), we should all take a few minutes to pause and to remember those who gave their lives in our defense.  A grateful nation remembers…  —  KMAB]
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On This Day In:
2018 You Cannot Pretend
2017 A Long Shadow
2016 Learning, Experience, Chances or Money
2015 The Critical State
2014 Dawn, n.
2013 Ouch!
2012 Just Lookin’ Around
Still Growing
2011 But Do You Want To?

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Books are the carriers of civilization.
Without books history is silent, literature dumb, science crippled, thought and speculation at a standstill.  They are the engines of change, windows on the world (as a poet said) lighthouses erected in the sea of time.  They are companions, teachers, magicians, bankers of the treasures of the mind.  Books are humanity in print.
  —  Barbara W. Tuckman
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On This Day In:
2018 Not Necessarily In This Order
Stock Market Sets More Records Under #DumbDonald
2017 An Accumulation Of Acts
2016 Here’s Lookin’ At You Kid
2015 How To Be Omnipotent
2014 The Promise Of Future Love
2013 Christian, n.
2012 Praise
Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood
2011 A Few More Lyrics From The Past
5 For The Price Of 1

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To sin by silence when they should protest, makes cowards of human beings.
  —  Abraham Lincoln
[It is vitally important to continue resisting the programs of President Trump and the Republican Senate.  It is equally important to support the Democratic control of the House of Representatives.  Remember, if there is no clear election in the Electoral College in 2020, the decision of who will be the next President will fall to the House of Representatives.  I believe this is what the Republicans were actually hoping for when the “Anyone but Trump” Republican movement went silent.  They didn’t have to get Trump elected President in the popular vote.  The Republicans only had to tie up the Electoral College.  In which case, Paul Ryan most probably would have been “elected” President.  One: he was the Republican VP nominee in the prior election (2012).  Normally, when the ticket fails, the VP choice is the next one in line to be put forward.  And, two: Ryan was the Speaker of the House, which means he was already the “prime” person to be elevated from the House to the Oval Office.  When (in 2016) Florida went to the Republicans and the House was retained by the Republicans, they only needed one of the Rust Belt states and South Carolina to stop Clinton, irrespective of her national popular vote count.  The same conditions will be true in 2020, if the Republicans can somehow flip the House back to their control.
Added to that (final control of the Presidential election), the House also has primary responsibility for seat reapportionment after the 2020 census.  If Republicans flip control back (to themselves) they will use even more gerrymandering to reduce the value of the popular vote.  (Of course, this presumes the Republicans retain control of the majority of the State Houses, too.  Since they control 32 States to the Dems 14, it seems likely they will.)  Don’t misinterpret me.  The Democratic Party will also gerrymander, but they “generally” do so to increase the value of the popular vote.  They (the Democrats) “only” do this because the demographics of the future favor the the Democratic Party.  Basically, older (mostly white male) voters are dying and the younger voters (across all genders, ethnic breakdown, income and education levels) replacing them on the voting roles are trending to the Democratic Party.  And without newer ideas, the Conservative / Republican Party will continue to wither away.  IMHO: It is only “Dark Money” and the Citizens United decision which have propped the Republican Party up this far.
A word to the wise should suffice…   Stay engaged locally.   #Resist  —  KMAB]
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On This Day In:
2018 More Executive Time For #DumbDonald
2017 Watched The Inauguration
Two Geniuses
2016 Come Dance And Laugh With Me
2015 Looks Good To Me
2014 Desire For The Sea
2013 The Fierce Urgency Of NOW
Happy Inauguration Day!
2012 One Path
Sorrow And Joy
The Seven Year View
2011 Emergent Practicality

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The Court-Martial Of Billy Mitchell” (1955)  —  movie review
Today’s review is for an oldie but a goodie.  It’s a fictionalized version of mostly real events surrounding the court-martial of an Army officer who would later be considered a prophet and the “founder” of the Air Force: William (“Billy”) Lendrum Mitchell.   The movie stars Gary Cooper in the title role.  This is one of my two favorite war genre movies starring Cooper.  The other is another semi-biography: “Sergeant York“.  In this movie Mitchell is an Army General who gets busted in rank for disobeying orders by destroying a battleship to prove it can be done by aircraft with bombs.  (In real life, Mitchell did sink the battleship, but he didn’t disobey orders.  Also, he didn’t lose rank for that act.  He lost rank as a result of a general reduction in forces after the end of WWI.)  After the death of a naval aviator friend and a squadron of his former pilots, Mitchell makes public statements to the press bring disrepute to the armed services (Army and Navy).  For this, he is brought up on charges to be court-martialed.
I saw this movie a couple of times in my youth and remembered it generally as a courtroom / trial movie.  Because of the age of the movie and when I first saw it, I assumed it would be in black and white.  I can only guess that was because it (a black and white TV) was all we had when I was a child.  I was pleasantly surprised to find the movie is actually a “color” movie.
Besides Cooper, the movie stars Ralph Bellamy as Congressman Frank R. Reid (attorney for the defense) and Rod Steiger as Maj. Allan Guillion (the prosecutor) and multiple future 60’s / 70’s TV stars: Jack Lord as Lt. Cmdr. Zachary ‘Zack’ Lansdowne (the Navy officer / friend who dies), Elizabeth Montgomery as Margaret Lansdowne (Zack’s wife) and Peter Graves and Darren McGavin as a couple of Mitchell’s pilots.
The movie is interesting because it shows (accurately) that as early as the 1920’s that it was predictable the Japanese would attack Pearl Harbor using aircraft.  What it failed to predict (in the movie and in real life) was the use of carriers to deliver those aircraft.  Mitchell believed the aircraft would come from “nearby” islands.  In real life, Mitchell died before the attack on Peal Harbor, so he never saw his predictions come true.  He was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for service to his country.  The award was a bit unusual because it was awarded for his effort to promote aviation and not for any specific act of valor in the act of combat as is usually the requirement.
Final recommendation:  highly recommended movie.  Aside from the historical “prediction”, I found the movie to be very entertaining as a courtroom drama and as a view into the institution of the military and the integrity of the officers represented in the movie – both Mitchell and the court-martial board.  General MacArthur comes across particularly well in the behind the scenes “Board” arguments.   This surprised me as I am not a big MacArthur fan.  Finally, I want to give a shout out to Rod Steiger as one of the prosecuting officers.  This is one of my favorite of his roles, too.  I watched this movie on YouTube.  It is also available on DVD / disc and periodically on TV.
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On This Day In:
2018 Be Someone’s Kindling
2017 When The Moment Comes
2016 Changed Clothes Lately?
2015 Like Stone
2014 Resistance Is Futile
2013 Subtle Humor
To Look Behind Green Eyes
2012 The Path Is Endless
2011 Happy MLK, Jr Day!!!
A Factor Of Ten
Better Late Than Never?
Whoops!
Acceptable Beginnings
Slow Progress
Useful Confrontation
When Phenomena Are Different
Creative Avoidance
Thinking
Fast And Flexible
Surrender Certainty
Techniques
Vive La Difference
Destiny
Completeness
Art

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