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I guess this means I will have to do a review..but I’ll be happy to do so!
For about 18 years, I have relied on using primary sources to teach history. The Internet made it possible. It is, after all, the information super highway. But for teachers, the Internet is a portal to another world, a wormhole if you, please. Before the Internet, access to primary sources was rare unless you bought a book, traveled to a museum, historical site, or an educational institution. In fact, those sources were only accessed by historians and were often closed to the public. One could only see a document behind a glass cover/shield.
Beginning in the late 1990s, companies like Jackdaws and Discovery Enterprises, Ltd. began producing collections of primary source materials for teachers to use. Now, any Social Studies catalog is filled with primary source collections from events as far back as Ancient Greek. For US history, however, these collections can change how one teaches and how students learn.
Digressing back to the effect of the Internet, in recent years, libraries and other educational institutions are now putting these primary documents online for the public to peruse and use. The John F. Kennedy Library put an amazing amount of sources from the Cuban Missile Crisis online a few years ago. I have found collections from the McCarthy era, the Civil War, the Black Hawk War, the rise of Barbed Wire in DeKalb, Illinois, and a ton of sites with documents about Lincoln and the Civil War.
More recently, the John F. Kennedy Library has added a collection of materials regarding the admission of James Meredith to the University of Mississippi. This seminal event almost galvanized the nation and inspired thousands of young African-Americans to attend traditionally white southern schools like the University of Alabama.
The collection contains amazing documents from Meredith, the Kennedy administration, the courts, and the Mississippi establishment. It is quite expansive and quite in-depth. As a teacher, these documents can provide a plethora of activities and teachable moments through decision making and analysis. Using these documents makes history come alive. As a teacher, you could create a series of dilemmas to face from many different viewpoints – and that’s what teaching history is about is to understand that there often 3 or more sides to every story – not just two.
I am in the process of using the Meredith microsite to create a 3-4 day simulation lesson. It will be filled with decisions, cartoons, video, letters, court cases, and most importantly, critical thinking.
I also found several space race exhibits and documents online. Educational institutions across the country are creating the digital portals. Whether it is Eastern Illinois University, Northern Illinois University, or presidential libraries like George W. Bush or Dwight Eisenhower, digital primary source access is changing how history is taught, but more importantly, how history is actively learned.
In the past two years, I have co-written two chapters for two books on history education. Well, the first one is out! It is a much more formal style of writing than what is written here on the blog. Here is the link to the book’s website: http://www.infoagepub.com/products/Educating-About-Social-Issues-in-the-20th-and-21st-Centuries-Vol-2.
The chapter I co-wrote, The Vietnam War: Dilemmas of Power, is about teaching the social issues surrounding the Vietnam War at home and abroad. It is an annotated bibliography. My co-author is Mary Beth Henning of Northern Illinois University.
The second chapter I co-wrote, by the same publisher, will be out in the spring, and is about teaching history through the integration of literature.
For most artists, the art they put out is the art that stays out. They do not get to do it over. The Beatles never went back and re-recorded “A Day in the Life” nor was “Gimme Shelter” ever redone. Picasso, DaVinci, and Michelangelo never went back and redid any painting, fresco, or statue. However, several notable musical artists have reinterpreted their works over the years including Bob Dylan, Sting, and Eric Clapton. All three changed arrangements, tempos, and melodies to classic songs. One of my favorite bands, Rush, has done something similar in the past few weeks.
On September 27, 2013, the Hall of Fame Canadian rock band Rush released a remixed version of their 2002 album, Vapor Trails. Rumored to be in the works since 2009, the remix was something the fans, and the band, had been clamoring for several years. The results are spectacular! The sound clarity is amazing! Since I downloaded it this past week, I have been enjoying sounds I never knew existed, harmonies that were hidden, and a bass sound that now pulsates softly in a sea of sonic heaven.
The First Attempt: The Original Album
The original Vapor Trails was a comeback album released in 2002. Six years between Rush albums was an eternity for Rush fans and the band. Its story begins in 1996. Shortly after Rush the album Test for Echo tour ended, Drummer Neil Peart’s daughter was killed in a car accident and ten months later his wife tragically passed away from cancer. The devastating loss sent Neil and the band into a tailspin. Even Geddy Lee thought the band might never record again. Neil went on journey of exploration and discovery by traveling across the Americas on a motorcycle. Peart would put his devastation behind and marry again in 2000. In early 2001, he and the band began assembling.
It was a touchy process and filled with emotion. Lee and guitarist Alex Lifeson were glad to be playing again with Peart. More importantly, they were glad to have their friend back. The next 15 months would be a laborious process, one which has haunted the band until the remix. In an interview, Alex Lifeson reflected on the process
We invested so much of our hearts into that record. It was hard work for the 15 months we worked on it, and there were times when we didn’t think we’d get through it. There were moments when we hated it. We threw out a bunch of songs and we re-wrote one song, Earthshine, three times.
Here are two interviews from 2002 with Lee and Lifeson.
Even before the release, a dichotomy arose. The songs were great, but the sound was horrible. To me, it sounded like mud at time. They was little dynamic. It sounded distorted. But as fan of Rush, you could tell there was something there that this could have been a great album. You just could not hear it in 2002.
The band concurred, In the same interview, Lifeson detailed the problem:
The original mastering was the problem. It was poorly done. At the time we should have remastered. It bothered us forever – particularly Geddy, who had the task of remastering of the original album and feels responsible for it. It irked him for many years. The original version is hard on your ears, because the mastering was pushed so hard, there’s distortion and so much compression – I found it very difficult to listen to it.
However, it was too late and too mind numbing for the band to get it right. Everything had already been booked for the next two years including a tour in Brazil. It would have to wait to be fixed. The album was going to be released.
The Remix Experiment
In 2009, I started getting into long distance bike riding. I would often add the leadoff track, “One Little Victory,” as well as other songs from Vapor Trails to my iPod because I truly believed them to be great songs despite the mix and master. I was doing some surfing on iTunes and found 2 remixed versions of songs from the album on a compilation album entitled, Retrospective 3. The sounds were unbelievable. The music ebbed and flowed. The distortion was gone. The listener could now hear the individual textures of each instrument. They did not blend together. They stood alone.
Many fans were ecstatic! The band loved the remixes done by Richard Chycki, too! In interviews, Geddy began talking about remixing the whole album at some point. He stated:
“It’s a terrible feeling that, due to lack of objectivity, you let an imperfect piece of work get out there [...] but the songs are very strong and people really responded to the record and people were welcoming us back. The sonic defects of it got lost in the excitement of the band’s return to functionality. It’s always been a bee in my bonnet.”
Vapor Trails 2
To over see the whole remix in 2011, the band hired Tool producer David Bottrill. Lee and Lifeson would put in their two cents about the remix while the band was on the Clockwork Angels Tour. Lee explained how Bottrill worked and the process:
“He understood what it should sound like so I’m very pleased with the end result. I think he’s finally brought some completion and some justice to some of those songs we’d put so much of our heart and soul into.”
On the band’s website, Lee added upon the release of the remix:
Vapor Trails was an album made under difficult and emotional circumstances – sort of like Rush learning how to be Rush again – and as a result, mistakes were made that we have longed to correct. David Bottrill’s remixes have finally brought some justice and clarity to this deserving body of our work. Every song has been given a new life, from the fire of ‘One Little Victory,’ ‘Secret Touch,’ and ‘Ceiling Unlimited’ to the melodic musicality of ‘Sweet Miracle’ and ‘How It Is’… these songs have been redeemed. Thank you David!”
Overall, I think the remixes do justice to most of the songs. I can now hear little parts I never heard before. The are little guitar parts, an array of acoustic guitars, mini-solos, vocal harmonies, but most of all I hear separation between the instruments. It is quite staggering to sit and listen to songs you thought you knew. At times, I find myself feeling like I am listening to a new album. On the initial track, I counted four distinct (electric and acoustic) guitar sounds playing at one time along with the flange on Neil’s snare, too, which I had never heard before. It is a great sonic treasure for me!
Chicago has always been known to outsiders as the second city. In comparison to New York City, Chicago always fell second in every
aspect of modern living and culture. Incorporated a city in 1837, Chicago was the fastest growing city in the history of the world until a few years ago. After a fire in 1871, the city reemerged with steel buildings and the modern skyline was born. Chicago, after all, was an innovator in a great many things because of its location far from the eastern shores. By the 1970s, Chicago also saw a new innovative theater troupe emerge out of a church basement. Taking its name from the Herman Hesse novel, the Steppenwolf Theatre Company would reshape theater in Chicago and across the country.
What made Steppenwolf Theatre different at the time of its inception was its emphasis on ensemble acting. For many years on Broadway, the stars and directors drove the business. Big names meant big business. Even in regional theater, an actor could be lured to act in the middle of nowhere if enough money was involved. Chicago, on the other hand, was not in the middle of nowhere. However, Steppenwolf’s roots would be. Highland Park is located on the shore of Lake Michigan, north of Evanston. But it would not be Evanston and Northwestern’s long history of actors where Steppenwolf would draw its actors. Instead, Illinois State University (ISU) in Bloomington-Normal was the foundation.
Beginning in 1974, Rick Argosh and Leslie Wilson went to Gary Sinise, a high school classmate, about staging Paul Zindel’s And Miss Reardon Drinks a Little. Over the course of the next year, the troupe put on three plays in a basement of church in Deerfield, Illinois: Grease, The Glass Menagerie, and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead. Argosh, who had been reading Herman Hesse’s Steppenwolf, christened the name of the ensemble. Sinise brought in former classmates Jeff Perry and Terry Kinney, then students at ISU. Kinney, Perry, and Sinise enjoyed their group so much that they decided when Perry and Kinney finished college, the three would pursue the ensemble group full-time.
In February 1975, the three founded Steppenwolf as a non-profit organization. The group began its season in Immaculate Conception Church and School in Highland Park, Illinois. The 88 seat facility saw the ensemble grow from the three founders to include H.E. Baccus, Nancy Evans, Moira Harris, John Malkovich, Laurie Metcalf and Alan Wilder. Kevin Rigdon was hired as the set designer. 1976 saw the company put on six plays.
Early reviews were mixed. The company often put on two plays in one night. Some were good, and some were bad, often on the same twin bill. John Malkovich’s acting caught the early praise of local papers then the Chicago Tribune in 1976. In 1977, the company kept expanding its ensemble to include Joan Allen. The company tended to stage 6 productions a year and the ensemble slowly grew to include names like Glenne Headly, Rondi Reed, Amy Morton, and John Mahoney.
In 1980, the company moved to 134-seat theater at the Jane Addams Hull House Center on North Broadway in Chicago. The move brought with it more spotlights, a bigger audience, more press, and more plays. With Gary Sinise named artistic director, the ensemble produced True West in 1982. The production would wind up in New York and Malkovich would wind up a star who drew attention to himself and the ensemble.
Throughout the 1980s, word of mouth spread about the intensity of the acting, the stark set design, and the unique nature of the plays. In 1982, the company moved to a theater on North Halstead, creeping closer and closer to downtown. In 1985, the company won a Tony Award for Regional Theatre Excellence. In 1988, the company broke open the doors and made itself a nationally recognized company for its production of Grapes of Wrath. Reinterpreting Steinbeck made a national name out of Sinise and brought name recognition for the entire ensemble.
In 1991, the company built its current theater, also on North Halstead. Sinise and Malkovich began to do movies and became stars in their own right on the big screen but they never left the ensemble. Joan Allen, Laurie Metcalf (Roseanne), and John Mahoney (Frasier) saw steady work as well in the movies and on TV. In 1998, President Clinton awarded the company the 1998 National Medal of Arts.
Here founding member Jeff Perry and Ensemble Members Laurie Metcalf, Amy Morton and Rondi Reed talk about the early years. It is a very interesting and funny interview and gives a lot of details of what it took to get the company off the ground.
John F. Kennedy’s Navy ID Card. He weighed a whopping 150 pounds. American Experience will be airing a new four-hour documentary on Kennedy’s life in November.
Here is the team photo of the 1920 Decatur Staley football team. At the end of the season, they would move to Chicago and become the Chicago Bears. Notice who is sitting in the center of the front row….George S. Halas.